Here is a quick round-up of this week’s technology headlines and related stories you may have missed:
- China is beefing up its Internet controls. In an uncharacteristic move, Chinese officials admitted they were taking steps to block VPN traffic in the country, something that was previously tolerated. According to the New York Times, this has not only had an impact on foreign firms which use them to gain access to the Internet beyond the great firewall, but also Chinese netizens who use VPNs to access academic publications, apply for foreign universities, or run their tech start-ups. One netizen even compared the crackdown to something the North Korean government would do. The crackdown on content comes at the same time China is circulating a policy that requires tech companies, either foreign or domestic, to undergo security audits to mitigate against foreign espionage. While Chinese companies such as Huawei have needed to do this for some time to access certain market sectors in western economies, U.S. Chamber of Commerce is protesting that the Chinese regulations are overly broad and would be a barrier across large parts of the Chinese economy.
- The Regin malware that Symantec announced at the end of last year may be part of the Five Eyes signals intelligence infrastructure and could have some Australian origins. Der Spiegel reports that Kaspersky, the Russian computer security company, has detected similarities between QWERTY malware and Regin, with QWERTY being one module within the larger Regin infrastructure. Meanwhile, the Register is reporting that QWERTY could have Australian origins based on some of its that refers to "DSD", or Defence Signals Directorate, the former name of Australia’s signals intelligence agency.
- Facebook is catching a lot of flak for removing pages which depicted the picture of the prophet Muhammad from its social network in Turkey. A Turkish court ordered Facebook to remove the posts two weeks after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg expressed solidarity with the "Je Suis Charlie" protests in France and around the world. While free speech advocates are condemning the move, Facebook risked being banned from the country altogether if it didn’t comply with the ruling.
- Politico is reporting that the White House is preparing privacy legislation that would require technology companies to ask the permission of their users before collecting and sharing personal information on them. The draft legislation would also boost the powers of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to fine companies for privacy breaches. In a related development, the FTC released a report on the Internet of things this week which urged companies to consider the privacy and security implications of their products. The FTC concluded that legislation to manage these considerations would be premature, but it reiterated its call for "strong data security and mandatory breach legislation."