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Thursday, Dec 18th

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Telecom firm fails in first known FISA court surveillance challenge

telecom company fails FISA challengeFor the first known time since the U.S. government began collecting data about Americans’ phone calls in bulk after the 9/11 attacks, a telecommunications company has questioned those surveillance activities in court, according to a judge’s opinion unsealed on Friday.

That company, whose name was redacted from the opinion, did not directly challenge the government’s right to make companies turn over “telephony metadata” — information about the phone numbers customers dial and the time, data and duration of such calls.

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Ferry sinks in South Korea, nearly 300 still missing

Ferry sinks SeoulA multi-story ferry carrying 459 people, mostly high school students on an overnight trip to a tourist island, sank off South Korea's southern coast Wednesday, leaving nearly 300 people missing despite a frantic, hours-long rescue by ships and helicopters. At least three people were confirmed dead and 55 injured.

The high number of people unaccounted for — likely trapped in the ship or floating in the ocean — raised fears that the death toll could rise drastically, making it one of South Korea's biggest ferry disasters since 1993 when 292 people died.

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Online Security Flaw Exposes Millions of Passwords

password security flawAn alarming lapse in Internet security has exposed millions of passwords, credit card numbers and other sensitive bits of information to potential theft by computer hackers who may have been secretly exploiting the problem before its discovery.

The breakdown revealed this week affects the encryption technology that is supposed to protect online accounts for emails, instant messaging and a wide range of electronic commerce.

Security researchers who uncovered the threat, known as "Heartbleed," are particularly worried about the breach because it went undetected for more than two years.

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Hobby Lobby invests in contraception manufacturers

Hobby LobbyWhen Obamacare compelled businesses to include emergency contraception in employee health care plans, Hobby Lobby, a national chain of craft stores, fought the law all the way to the Supreme Court. The Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate, the company's owners argued, forced them to violate their religious beliefs.

But while it was suing the government, Hobby Lobby spent millions of dollars on an employee retirement plan that invested in the manufacturers of the same contraceptive products the firm's owners cite in their lawsuit.

Documents filed with the Department of Labor and dated December 2012—three months after the company's owners filed their lawsuit—show that the Hobby Lobby 401(k) employee retirement plan held more than $73 million in mutual funds with investments in companies that produce emergency contraceptive pills, intrauterine devices, and drugs commonly used in abortions. Hobby Lobby makes large matching contributions to this company-sponsored 401(k).

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Report: NSA kept tabs on 122 world leaders

NSA kept tabs on 122 world leadersIntelligence gathering by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) included the creation of a special databank which targeted 122 world leaders, according to new leaks reported on Saturday by German newspaper Der Spiegel and The Intercept, part of the tranche of documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden last year.

The undated document includes the name of Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel, whom the NSA targeted in more than 300 separate reports.

Other leaders listed in the databank include the leaders of Peru, Somalia, Syria, Guatemala, Colombia and Belarus.

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Dzhokhar Tsarnaev: Lawyers say older brother was asked to be FBI informant

Boston marathon suspectLawyers for suspected Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Friday said his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was the mastermind behind the incident that killed three people, and he was asked to be an informant for the FBI.

The lawyers said Tamerlan Tsarnaev had been encouraged by the FBI to observe and report on the Chechen and Muslim community and asked for the release of documents proving their assertion.

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The Security Cracks In Your Smartphone

smartphoneLaw enforcement's ability to depends on "exploits," hacker tricks that take advantage of vulnerabilities in the phones' operating systems. Many exploits are kept quiet, to be sold to criminals or security companies. Others leak out. Here's a list of some of the known cracks in the security of the two major types of smartphone.

Brute force attack: : The most direct way past a password is to throw a lot of guesses at it. If you're using Apple's basic four-digit PIN, it'll take no more than 10,000 guesses. That's a lot of guesses to enter by thumb; it's child's play for a computer. Apple for brute force attacks on its newest operating system, iOS 7, though hackers are most likely probing it for new vulnerabilities.

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