Senators propose smartphone antitheft 'kill switch' bill

Lawmakers' bids to require a smartphone "kill switch" seem to be gaining momentum.

Following the proposal of a California bill, a handful of senators have now proposed federal legislation to require carriers to provide a security feature on all cell phones that would render the devices inoperable if stolen.

The Smartphone Theft Prevention Act is being led by Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), along with three other senators, Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii). The idea is for users to be able to de-activate and remotely wipe their personal information from their phones if lost or … Read more

Calif. lawmaker to introduce smartphone 'kill switch' bill

A California senator plans to introduce a new bill that would require smartphones to enable a "kill switch," a security feature that would make a phone inoperable if it's stolen.

Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) announced Thursday that he will introduce the bill at the start of the 2014 legislative session in January, with the support of San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón.

"One of the top catalysts for street crime in many California cities is smartphone theft, and these crimes are becoming increasingly violent," Leno said in a press release. "We … Read more

US government releases draft cybersecurity framework

The National Institute of Standards and Technology released its draft cybersecurity framework for private companies and infrastructure networks on Tuesday. These standards are part of an executive order that President Obama proposed in February.

The aim of NIST's framework (PDF) is to create guidelines that companies can use to beef up their networks and guard against hackers and cybersecurity threats. Adopting this framework would be voluntary for companies. NIST is a non-regulatory agency within the Department of Commerce.

The framework was written with the involvement of roughly 3,000 industry and academic experts, according to Reuters. It outlines ways … Read more

French three-strikes law no longer suspends Net access

The French government has scrapped a provision that could cut off Internet access for those who downloaded copyrighted files illegally.

The so-called "three strikes" law brought first written warnings for infringement, then ultimately suspension of Internet access. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) applauded the law.

But the French government is now taking a new approach, focusing its antipiracy efforts on commercial piracy, such as Internet sites that profit from infringing, rather than individuals, according to a statement by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication Tuesday.

Although suspended Net … Read more

3D-printed guns may face regulations, bans in New York

New York lawmakers are the latest to crackdown on 3D-printed guns.

Both a member of the New York city council and a state assemblywoman have introduced two different pieces of legislation that would either regulate or ban the manufacture of 3D-printed guns, according to New York Daily News.

The bill for New York City was introduced by Council Member Lewis Fidler on Wednesday. This bill aims to make it illegal for people to produce any part of a firearm using a 3D printer unless they are licensed gunsmiths. Also, each weapon must be registered with the police within a 72-hour … Read more

3D-printed guns could be outlawed in California

With gun control battles raging among federal and state legislators, it was inevitable that the issue of 3D-printed handguns would come up, especially with such a gun now available.

California Senator Leland Yee announced Tuesday his plan to propose a law that would ban the technology used to create 3D-printed guns.

"While I am as impressed as anyone with 3-D printing technology and I believe it has amazing possibilities, we must ensure that it is not used for the wrong purpose with potentially deadly consequences," Yee said in a statement. "I plan to introduce legislation that will … Read more

Tech firms ask Congress for U.S. visa expansion

Immigration is a hot topic in Congress at the moment, and the tech industry is determined to have its say.

According to Reuters, a number of tech firms are lobbying to raise the official cap on H-1B visas, which allows citizens of other countries to stay in the United States for up to six years.

In order to secure such a visa, you need to have a "specialty occupation," advanced skills or a degree in a field which is lacking local talent. Demand has soared for the visa, which has an annual cap of 85,000. Because of … Read more

Reddit co-founder sharpens knife for CISPA fight

As Congress readies for what's sure to be a heated debate over the controversial cybersecurity bill CISPA, leaders in the tech community are speaking out.

Unsurprisingly, a known activist for Internet freedom and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian is one of those leading the charge. In a comical video released today in conjunction with digital rights advocate group Fight for the Future, Ohanian calls on tech CEOs to join his cause (see below).

"I'm hoping all of these tech companies take the stand that their privacy policies matter. Their users' privacy matters," Ohanian said in the video. &… Read more

GSA vulnerability highlights dangers of SSNs as IDs

Recently, the General Services Administration sent an e-mail alert to users of its System for Award Management (SAM), reporting that a security vulnerability exposed the users' names, taxpayer identification numbers (TINs), marketing partner information numbers, and bank account information to "[r]egistered SAM users with entity administrator rights and delegated entity registration rights."

The notice warned that "[r]egistrants using their Social Security Numbers instead of a TIN for purposes of doing business with the federal government may be at greater risk for potential identity theft." Also provided was a link to a page on the agency's siteRead more

Silicon Valley stymied on immigrant worker plan

Silicon Valley firms aren't going to get the immigration changes they want, at least not right away.

Straightforward fixes to a legal framework that just about everyone agrees is broken -- the fixes would let foreign engineers and scientists remain in the United States post-graduation -- have run aground on the usual shoals of special interest politicking and partisan bickering.

Technology companies were hoping for prompt action on a pair of bills introduced this year that would ease a shortage of skilled workers, in part by expanding the H-1B visa program. It's a bipartisan idea backed by Microsoft, … Read more