Week in Review: March 30, 2016

by Muira McCammon

Akamai: Quarterly State of the Internet Report Takes Stock of Global Trends

Akamai began publishing its State of the Internet report back in 2008. The most recent quarterly State of the Internet report released by Akamai revealed that India has an average connection speed of 2.8 Mbps, which lags substantially behind the global average of 5.6 Mbps. With an average speed of 26.7 Mbps, South Korea continues to have the fastest broadband speed in Asia-Pacific region. Additionally Akamai analyzed average mobile connection speeds aggregated at a country/region level and found that they “ranged from a high of 26.8 Mbps in the United Kingdom to a low of 1.3 Mbps in Iran in the fourth quarter, while average peak mobile connection speeds ranged from 153.3 Mbps in Australia to 7.4 Mbps in Iran." The report also includes a section on Internet disruptions—including those that are accidental (i.e. ship anchors damaging buried fiber), natural (i.e. earthquakes), or political (i.e. governments shutting off Internet access).

Apple/FBI: Standoff Simmers But Big Questions Remain

The U.S. government announced that it had successfully gained access to the contents of Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone, but the standoff between Apple and the FBI persists. Security experts wonder if Apple’s lawyers will attempt to learn how the FBI unlocked Farook’s device; some reporters have suggested that Apple could demand the Department of Justice to reveal this information in a separate ongoing case in Brooklyn. Eliza Sweren-Becker, an attorney at the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project said, “Even though the FBI no longer needs Apple’s help in that case, the FBI’s request was part of a sustained government effort to exercise novel law enforcement power.” Reporters remain unsure who helped the FBI unlock the iPhone, though many individuals continue to suspect that the Israeli firm Cellbrite was involved. Cellbrite has declined to comment .

Belgium: Expert Discovered Bug in Instagram and Received Bounty from Facebook

Belgian security expert Arne Swinnen discovered a vulnerability in Instagram while logging into one of his older accounts, which was locked and needed to be verified. On his blog, Swinnen summarized the issue: “Missing authentication combined with a simple Insecure Direct Object Reference vulnerability allowed to overtake a selection of temporary locked Instagram accounts.” The issue impacted accounts that were locked due to inactivity, spam or failed password entry attempts. Over a million Instagram accounts are said to been affected by the bug. Ten days after Swinnen alerted Facebook about the problem, he received a bounty of $10,000. (Facebook acquired Instagram in April 2012 for approximately $1 billion in cash and stock.) Additional information about the patched bug is available here in [FR] and [EN].

Vietnam: Blogger Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison for Posting Anti-Govt Content on Multiple Platforms

Nguyen Huu Vinh, a blogger and former police officer, and his assistant faced charges of “abusing the rights to freedom and democracy to infringe upon the interests of the state” under Article 258 of Vietnam’s Penal Code. Human rights activists have pushed to eliminate Article 258 for years now, but it remains in effect. On March 23, 2016, the People’s Court of Hanoi sentenced the Vietnamese blogger to five years in prison. Vinh maintained a blog that he set up in 2007 and was affiliated with two other popular websites. His projects provided updates on social and economic issues as well as critiques of the Vietnamese government. Presiding Judge Nguyen Van Pho remarked that Vinh’s articles "distort the lines and policies of the party and law of the state and vilify individuals." Tran Quoc Thuan, an attorney representing the two writers, said, “The prosecutor gave very weak evidence which was countered by defense lawyers, and the prosecutor could not answer our arguments. But the most surprising thing of the trial is that they gave Vinh five years in prison, which is almost the maximum." Activists gathered outside the court to call for Vinh’s freedom. “We are all here outside the court,” explained one protestor, Can Thi Theu, “We and all the foreign reporters can’t get in. I see many people who support Ba Sam and Minh Thuy here. Policemen and security forces have surrounded us.” In a statement, Shawn Crispin, a spokesman at the Committee to Protect Journalists, weighed in on the trial: "Today's harsh convictions of bloggers Nguyen Huu Vinh and Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy are inconsistent with Vietnam's obligations as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”