Daily Digest (10/8)

IRS to Be Probed for Using Location Data Without Obtaining a Warrant; Chromecast Security Flaw Allows Attackers to Snoop Through TV Remotes; Google and Oracle in SCOTUS Case Over Copyright Issue; Google Faces Antitrust Suit in India. Click “Continue reading” below.

IRS to Be Probed for Using Location Data Without Obtaining a Warrant 

The inspector general for the Internal Revenue Service will investigate the agency for using a commercial tool that allows warrantless surveillance of mobile phones.

The inspector, J. Russell George, announced the probe in a letter disclosed Wednesday by Vice’s Motherboard site.

The news comes after two Democratic senators, Sen. Ron Wyden, Ore., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Mass., demanded a formal investigation into whether the IRS used location data to track Americans without a warrant, Motherboard reports.

“We are going to conduct a review of this matter, and we are in the process of contacting the (Criminal Investigation) division about this review,” George said in the letter to the senators.

According to the report, officials from the IRS Criminal Investigation unit told Wyden’s office in June that it had purchased location data from a contractor called Venntel, and that the agency had tried to use it to identify individual criminal suspects. 

The IRS wanted to find cellphones, track where they were at night, use that as a proxy on where an individual lived — and then try to identify people from other data sources, a Wyden aide told Motherboard. 

Sources (all external links):

Chromecast Security Flaw Allows Attackers to Snoop Through TV Remotes 

A security flaw in Comcast’s XR11, a popular voice-activated remote control for cable TV, allows attackers to remotely spy in on victims through remotes. 

The Chromecast device enables users to say the channel or content they want to watch versus keying in the channel number or typing a search, Threatpost reports. 

Researchers at Guardicore, a Boston-based cloud-security company, found a vulnerability in the remote that allows attackers to take over the device without interaction from the victim. 

“Few people think of their television remote controls as ‘connected devices,’” the researchers told Threatpost. “Fewer still would guess that they can be vulnerable to attackers — and almost no one would imagine that they can jeopardize their privacy.”

Comcast said it repaired the problem after Guardicore disclosed the flaw.


Google and Oracle in SCOTUS Case Over Copyright Issue

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in a copyright dispute between Google and Oracle over Google’s creation of the Android operating system, which is used on smartphones worldwide.

Google argued that it wrote millions of lines of new computer code to create the system, The Associated Press reports. It also said it used 11,330 lines of code and an organization that was part of Oracle’s Java platform.

However, Oracle is seeking more than $8 billion, claiming that Google “committed an egregious act of plagiarism”

It was not clear how the justices would rule, but some seemed concerned about what a ruling for Oracle could mean, AP reports. 

Google argued that the action was a common industry practice and was good for technical progress.


Google Faces Antitrust Suit in India 

Alphabet Inc.’s Google is facing a new antitrust case in India following allegations that the tech company has abused its Android operating system’s position in the smart-television market.

The case is Google’s fourth major antitrust challenge in India, Reuters reports. Google also is facing new antitrust challenges in the U.S. and a potential antitrust probe in China.

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has been looking into allegations since June that Google creates barriers for competitors seeking to use or develop Android versions of smart TVs, such as Amazon Fire TV’s operating system, Reuters reports. 

The CCI had directed Google to submit written responses to the allegations in the lawsuit, filed by two Indian antitrust lawyers, but the company has sought more time, according to the report.


— By DPN Staff