Let’s continue our look back at some of the news stories we’ve covered here at GaS in 2016 as well as following up on later developments. In March the Department of Defense launched a challenge for “white hat hackers” to try to breach their computer systems. Sensibly enough it was limited to approved US participants (after a background check) attacking a specific system that didn’t contain the most sensitive data. Of 1,400 entrants, 250 claimed to have found a vulnerability and the DoD paid out bounties on 148 unique vulnerabilities. In November the DoD launched a program by which security researchers could report vulnerabilities without the fear of prosecution, so long as they hadn’t harmed a network, withdrawn data, compromised privacy or gone public with their findings.
Google surprised the tech world by hiring Chris Poole, better known as 4chan founder “moot.” Initially it appeared he’d work on Google+ but later reports said he was assigned to Area 120, a Google project to help develop small businesses with creative tech ideas.
A company created the world’s darkest material, Vantablack, which absorbs 99.965 percent of the visible radiation spectrum. Surrey NanoSystems upset some folks by giving a man named Anish Kapoor the exclusive right to use the material for art. That prompted a rival artist to create a paint he called “the pinkest pink” and require buyers to confirm that “you are not Anish Kapoor, you are in no way affiliated to Anish Kapoor, you are not purchasing this item on behalf of Anish Kapoor or an associate of Anish Kapoor. To the best of your knowledge, information and belief this paint will not make its way into the hands of Anish Kapoor.”
In April, the Supreme Court approved changes to rule 41, a part of US law that covers the way search warrants work with federal criminal procedures. The change meant a judge in one district could “issue a warrant to use remote access to search electronic storage media and to seize or copy electronically stored information located within or outside that district” – in other words to remotely hack it. While supporters said the move was needed to cover cases where police were too far away from a computer or didn’t know where it was located, critics questioned whether it breached the Fourth Amendment and how it would work if a computer turned out to be located outside the US. Despite the efforts of some senators, Congress failed to block the change by a December 1 deadline and the revised rule is now in effect.
A new head of the AMC chain suggested movie theaters could have dedicated screenings where customers were allowed and even encouraged to use cellphones during a movie. It took just two days of hostile public response before Aron admitted he’d misjudged his audience and confirmed that texting will not be allowed in any theaters.