Good afternoon, Cyber Saturday readers.
I’m kicking off the new year with a first: I wrote the introduction to an upcoming book about “the unseen internet” published by Fortune’s sister TIME. This special edition, which covers hacking, cyberespionage, digital security, and more, goes on sale next week. You can preorder a copy here.
In lieu of today’s essay, I’ve produced a brief excerpt of the introduction—abridged for this newsletter—below.
Enjoy the long weekend—and stay safe.
Welcome to the Cyber Saturday edition of Data Sheet, Fortune’sdaily tech newsletter. Fortune reporter Robert Hackett here. You may reach Robert Hackett via Twitter, Cryptocat, Jabber (see OTR fingerprint on my about.me), PGP encrypted email (see public key on my Keybase.io), Wickr, Signal, or however you (securely) prefer. Feedback welcome.
Uber bug bounty or hacker hush-up? When a hacker under the alias “John Doughs” alerted Uber to some sloppy security practices that put the data of 57 million driver and rider accounts at risk in 2016, the ride-hailing firm triaged it as part of its bug bounty program. The New York Times has revealed new details about that controversial move, which critics have described as effectively a ransom payment to keep the hacker quiet. Some of the emails sent by the hacker to Uber could be interpreted as blackmail or extortion, complicating the narrative about whether Uber should have disclosed the incident as a data breach.
FISA fight. Despite conflicting tweets from President Donald Trump, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to reauthorize Section 702 of the the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which “allows the government to obtain the communications of foreigners outside the United States, including foreign terrorist threats.” The act, headed now to the Senate, allows intelligence agencies like the NSA to intercept texts and emails of non-Americans abroad in the interest of national security.
Bitcoin ups and downs. This week’s rollercoaster ride: Billionaire investor Warren Buffett dissed Bitcoin. JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon reiterated his distaste for digital gold. Kodak got into cryptocurrency mining. South Korea warned it may crack down on cryptocurrency exchanges. North Korea appeared linked to a shady cryptocurrency mining operation. KFC hopped on the Bitcoin bandwagon. Microsoft hopped back on too. Meanwhile, a Miami Bitcoin conference hopped off the Bitcoin bandwagon.
Ripple makes waves. Ripple inked a deal with international money transferrer MoneyGram to try using XRP, Ripple’s cryptocurrency (number three by total market value). The deal represents an opportunity for Ripple to demonstrate to banks and other financial firms that its XRP tokens, designed to facilitate foreign currency exchanges, can help them save costs. Meanwhile, Ripple is counter-suing the distributed ledger technology company R3 over a $12 billion dispute related to XRP options.
Don’t shoot the messenger. Microsoft is partnering with Signal, the encrypted messaging tech maker, to bring end-to-end encrypted chats to Skype with a snoop-thwarting feature called “private conversations.” The privacy-minded messenger Confide just added the ability to block screenshots of conversations taken on Apple iPhones. In order to comply with new data privacy laws, Apple is handing over its Chinese iCloud data center operations to a local company on February 28th. And Telegram, another private chat app, is reportedly looking to host a cryptocurrency sale.
Um, can I get a refund on this “smart” safe?
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—In a commentary for Fortune, Frederic Kerrest, cofounder of digital identity manager Okta, evaluates the potential of blockchain technologies to serve as a replacement for Social Security numbers. Kerrest says blockchains offer an “interesting solution,” but he warns that they are “intricate and unwieldy.”
ONE MORE THING
Skywalker on the “air gap.” Rian Johnson, the writer and director of the latest Star Wars flick, revealed to the Wall Street Journal that he drafted Episode VIII: The Last Jedi entirely on an air-gapped Apple Macbook Air. He avoided the Internet as a precaution against leaks and hacking attempts.