FCC Votes to Overturn Net Neutrality Rules

Today’s topics include the FCC’s net neutrality vote; Google machine learning technology helping NASA discover two new planets; security firms warning not to underestimate Iranian attackers; and Facebook releasing new certificate transparency tools.

The Federal Communications Commission on Dec. 14 voted to reclassify broadband communications so that it falls under Title I of the Communications Act, reversing a similar action in 2015 in which the previous Commission had reclassified broadband under Title II at the direction of the White House.

During the meeting, which was briefly delayed by a security threat, some of the commissioners voiced their impassioned positions on net neutrality and on broadband as the means to access the internet, accusing other commissioners of ignoring the will of the people.

Commissioner Brendan Carr, however, supported the legislation, saying that internet service providers will not have new powers to control or filter the internet because those powers already exist. For the most part, there was little substantive debate about the issue of network neutrality during the open meeting before the long-expected party-line vote took place.

Machine learning technology from Google recently helped scientists at NASA discover two new planets far outside the solar system. One of the planets, Kepler-90i, is the eighth planet that NASA has discovered orbiting Kepler 90, a star similar to the sun some 2,545 light-years away from Earth.

NASA said, “Computers learned to identify planets by finding in Kepler data instances where the telescope recorded changes in starlight caused by planets beyond our solar system.” To achieve this, astrophysicists used a dataset of about 15,000 Kepler signals to create a machine learning model for separating planets from non-planets.

The model was built using the TensorFlow open-source software library that is at the heart of the machine learning functionality of many Google apps, including Photos, Translate and Inbox.

Attackers promoting Iran’s political agenda have become increasingly sophisticated in their attacks, warned security firms FireEye and ClearSky Cyber Security.

Last month, agents in an Iranian cyber-espionage threat group called APT34 exploited an MS Office vulnerability a week after it was patched by Microsoft, targeting a government organization in the Middle East. APT34, which corresponds to a campaign of attacks publicly attributed to the “OilRig” group, is a cyber-espionage operation with a history of focusing on goals that align with Iran’s political agenda, FireEye said.

Fred Plan, senior analyst with FireEye, told eWEEK that “One thing that sets the Iranian cyber-espionage groups apart is they are not that reliant on technical solutions.” Unlike the Chinese and Russians, “they do not … have a pile of zero days. They do a lot more basic social engineering.”

In December, Israeli cyber-security consultancy ClearSky Cyber Security placed a number of attacks against human-right activists and media organizations at the feet of Iranian attackers as well.

On Dec. 14, Facebook announced a series of new tools to help developers understand and monitor the status of issued SSL/TLS certificates. The Webhooks and a Graph API tools build on the Certificate Transparency Monitoring tool effort that Facebook announced in December 2016, where notification of newly issued SSL/TLS certificates are published to a CT log.

CT logs prevent mis-issuance of SSL/TLS certificates by enabling developers to identify when a certificate for their organization has been issued. The new Webhook API tool will help developers find the relevant information they need from CT logs in real time, while Facebook’s Graph API will enable developers to get more details about CT log domains.