Here’s what happens when an Office 365 subscription expires

Here’s what happens when an Office 365 subscription expires

Microsoft’s pay-as-you-go Office 365 is, first and foremost, a subscription. And like other subscriptions — think newspapers (remember them?) or an online storage service — missing a payment doesn’t immediately mean you’re cut off.

Because it’s less expensive to retain a current subscriber than find a new subscriber as a replacement, providers sometimes go to great lengths to keep customers on the rolls.

When a business misses an Office 365 payment, or cancels the service, the applications and data don’t immediately disappear. Instead, Microsoft steps a customer through a three-stage process that gradually decreases both employee and administrator access, but for months leaves the door open to a renewal.

Here are the stages of an Office 365 breakup.

1-30 days after subscription ends: Expired

Microsoft dubs the first stage “expired,” but it could just as well be called “grace period,” since everything works as if the customer’s payments remain up to date.

Users have normal access to all Office 365 applications and services under the company’s plan. Already-installed applications can be launched, no data will be scrubbed from Microsoft’s servers — such as email messages or files stored on OneDrive for Business — and additional applications can be added to a user’s devices.

Note: macOS versions of Office provided via an Office 365 subscription do not include the 30-day grace period; they immediately enter the “Disabled” state. See below for details.

Administrators can access all functions from the Office 365 admin center portal, including assigning licenses to new or existing employees. If the firm plans to depart Office 365, data may be backed up.

The subscription can be renewed by the global or billing administrator during this 30-day span.

31-120 days after subscription ends: Disabled

During months two through four, the subscription sits in the “disabled” state. Another label could be “admin only,” as administrators can continue to access the admin portal. The IT staff can most effectively use this period to back up employee data stored on Microsoft’s servers. Admins cannot assign licenses to workers during the 90 days.

Users are unable to log into their Office 365 accounts and so are blocked from Office 365 services included in the plan, ranging from hosted email to OneDrive for Business. The locally-installed applications will drop into what Microsoft’s calls “reduced functionality,” meaning that most features and tools are unavailable. Files may be opened, viewed and printed, but not edited or saved. The applications may not launch from the desktop, but they will open after clicking on an appropriate document.

A subscription can still be renewed by the global or billing administrator during this stretch.

121 days and up: Deprovisioned

At the Day 121 mark, the Office 365 subscription is not only dead, it’s really, really dead.

No one, administrators included, can access service or applications, so backing up employee data is impossible.

In fact, Microsoft will begin to delete the subscription’s data from its servers starting on this date. The company does not provide a done-by deadline, saying, “You can expect data to be permanently deleted in a reasonable timeframe after the 120 days have elapsed.” Enterprises that want data erased as soon as possible may request “expedited deprovisioning” by calling support. Microsoft will then delete the pertinent data within three days.

Global or billing admins may not restore a subscription — and thus access to the cloud-based data and the Office applications — during this period. Assuming the firm wants to continue using Office, it must purchase new Office 365 subscriptions or standalone, perpetual licenses.

Troy Hunt: Life Is About to Get a Whole Lot Harder for Websites Without HTTPS

Troy Hunt: Life Is About to Get a Whole Lot Harder for Websites Without HTTPS

In case you haven’t noticed, we’re on a rapid march towards a “secure by default” web when it comes to protecting traffic. For example, back in Feb this year, 20% of the Alexa Top 1 Million sites were forcing the secure scheme:

These figures are from Scott Helme’s biannual report and we’re looking at a 5-month-old number here. I had a quiet chat with him while writing this piece and apparently that number is now at 28% of the Top 1 Million. Even more impressive is the rate at which it’s changing – the chart above shows that it’s up 45% in only 6 months!

Perhaps even more impressive again is the near 60% of web requests Mozilla is seeing that are sent securely:

Now that’s inevitably a lot of requests centred around the big players on the web who are doing HTTPS ubiquitously (think Gmail, Facebook, Twitter), but the trend is clear – HTTPS is being adopted at a fierce rate. Back in Jan I wrote about how we’d already reached the tipping point, in part because of browser measures like this:

Hi @Qantas, I just went to login to my frequent flyer account and the browser is warning me that it’s not secure. Is something wrong?

The “shaming” of websites serving login or payment forms insecurely began with Chrome in January then Firefox shortly afterwards (occasionally with rather humorous consequences). And it worked too – soon after that tweet, Qantas did indeed properly secure their site. The indignity of visitors being told that a site is insecure inevitably helps force the hand of the site operator and HTTPS follows.

But per the title of this post, life is about to get a whole lot harder for sites that aren’t already doing HTTPS across the board. Here’s what you’re going to see in only a few months’ time:

Let’s dissect what’s going on here: at the time of writing, we’re at Chrome 59 which behaves the same as Chrome 58 in the image above so non-secure sites have no visual indicator suggesting this (at least not unless they contain a login or payment form). However, once we hit version 62 all websites with form fields served over HTTP will show a “Not secure” warning to the user. Think about what that means – for example, this site will start to show a warning:

It has a search page therefore an input field. An insecure form means that the contents of the search may be intercepted and conceivably, that could contain data that the user would prefer didn’t fall into the hands of someone listening in on the connection.

This site will also show warnings:

Yes, it’s just an email field (no, not “eMail”, that’s fake spelling!) but again, when loaded insecurely it’s open to interception.

Now you may not consider information you enter into a route planner to be particularly sensitive, but how does the browser know that? They’re just text fields, anything could be going into them. Besides, this helps drive us forward to making everything eventually HTTPS which brings us to the other change in Chrome 62.

As indicated in their earlier graphic, all websites served insecurely whilst using incognito mode will show a warning. Chromium quite rightly explains that folks browsing incognito have a higher expectation of privacy so it makes sense to warn them when this is put at risk. But don’t think that this will just remain the domain of incognito, this is going mainstream:

Eventually, we plan to show the “Not secure” warning for all HTTP pages, even outside Incognito mode

Here’s an important observation on all this: at present, we know secure pages are secure because the browser tells us so. We know non-secure pages are not secure because the browser doesn’t tell us that they’re secure. Get it? It’s the principle of being insecure by default and that’s what we’re increasingly moving away from. Remember also that this applies to any website the browser loads so merely being behind the firewall browsing the intranet won’t keep the warnings away. If you’re not serving all those internal business systems over HTTPS then your internal users are going to be told that they’re “Not secure” too (and no, telling them to ignore warnings is not a behaviour you want to encourage).

The bottom line is this: if you’re serving anything over an insecure connection you need to be planning how you’re going to go HTTPS by default now. There’s a great appetite to go secure by developers themselves too; a few months ago I published a new Pluralsight course on What Every Developer Must Know About HTTPS and it went straight up into the Top 10 in a library of more than 6,000 courses. If you’re embarking on the journey to a secure transport layer, that’s a great place to start.

It’s taken us a while, but finally we’re getting to a “secure by default” web!

Report: Symantec looking to offload troubled certificate business | CIO Dive

Report: Symantec looking to offload troubled certificate business | CIO Dive

Dive Brief:

  • Symantec Corp. is reportedly contemplating selling its website certification business, according to a Reuters report, citing sources close to the matter.
  • The company is in talks with a few potential buyers and private equity firms, according to the report. Symantec declined to comment.
  • The move comes after some struggles with its certificate business. Earlier this year, Google said Symantec failed to properly validate at least 30,000 Secure Socket Layer (SSL) /Transport Security Layer (TLS) digital certificates over the last several years and that it planned to gradually remove trust in old Symantec SSL certificates and reduce the accepted validity period of newly issued Symantec certificates.

Dive Insight:

Being on Google’s naughty list is not good for any company. At the time of Google’s report, engineers stated that they “no longer have confidence in the certificate issuance policies and practices of Symantec.”

Google has worked to increase its policing of certificates used in its browser. Earlier this week, Google said it plans to fully distrust certificates issued by Chinese Certificate Authority WoSign starting with Chrome 61. Google accused WoSign of a number of violations.

For Symantec, Google downgrading trust in the company was a blight on its reputation, so offloading that business could potentially help Symantec move on. But the move could also be indicative of a broader shift for Symantec.

Large established security vendors — including Symantec, Cisco, IBM, Check Point and Intel — have a harder time competing against emerging vendors like Palo Alto Networks, Fortinet, Trend Micro, FireEye and Forcepoint, according to a Technology Business Research (TBR) report released in February. Symantec could therefore be looking to streamline its business and find a new niche where it can compete more effectively.

With two recent acquisitions — Skycure, a company that focuses on mobile threat defense, and browser isolation company Fireglass — in less than a week, Symantec is working to diversify its portfolio.

[I am sure services like Let’s Encrypt, which has provided over 100 million free server side certificates, is also eating away from the commercial market.  Starting next year Let’s Encrypt will be providing wildcard certificates.  This allows for the use of one certificate for multiple sites (* covers and Certificate management is a lot easier with them. Commercial certificate services charge a lot for them.]

The Sideways Elevator Could Help Cities Build Higher – CityLab

The Sideways Elevator Could Help Cities Build Higher – CityLab

Half the world’s population already lives in cities, and that number is expected to jump to 70 percent by the end of the century. To accommodate the new urban dwellers, cities will have to build higher—and that will mean doubling down on ways to transport residents from the ground up into the sky.

The medieval town of Rottweil, in rural South Germany, may seem like an odd place to contemplate the high-tech future. (The locale’s claim to fame is breeding the Rottweiler dog.) But Thyssenkrupp, an industrial company based out of Essen, managed to do so last month, at a flashy event promising to change how we design, build, and occupy tall buildings.

“For 150 years, elevators have been dominated by ropes,” says Andreas Schierenbeck, CEO of Thyssenkrupp Elevator. It’s technology that by now, most of the world knows well: cables hoist a car up and down the elevator shaft, making stops along the way.

But with this promise of increasing urbanization, Thyssenkrupp sought to fill an opportunity to make tall buildings more efficient. Their new technology, known as MULTI, throws out the traditional elevator configuration in favor of a ropeless system that can move both horizontally and vertically. The conventional steel rope most elevators run on adds considerable weight to a building, and becomes more strained the taller you build, ultimately restricting a tower’s overall height. By eliminating the cables—and the height restrictions that come with them—Thyssenkrupp executives brag it’s a technology that could send “an elevator up to the moon.” Indeed, it’s the stuff of Star Trek and Willy Wonka—but it could eventually make its way to a city near you.

The company unveiled a functioning MULTI system at Thyssenkrupp’s 807-foot-tall concrete test tower, which has been a proving ground for the system over the past two-and-a-half years. The result is an elevator utilizing the same magnetic technology that moves Japan’s Bullet Train. In this model, elevator cars—not unlike train cars—move along magnetic tracks, uninhibited by traditional cables. Linear motors and a multiple-level brake system replace cables. Cabs are able to change direction from vertical to horizontal thanks to a rotating “exchanger.”

“We’ve been waiting for these developments for a while,” says Roger Soto, a design principal with the global architecture firm HOK. Soto led the design of the Capital Market Authority Tower in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which includes another Thyssenkrupp elevator innovation. When the 1,260-foot tower opens in 2018, it’ll utilize the company’s TWIN elevator system, in which two elevator cabs travel independently—one above the other—in the same shaft.

The elevator is “pretty critical” to skyscraper design, Soto explains, as it makes up the building’s core. But the current cable system takes up more space the higher you go. For the CMA Tower, the TWIN allowed HOK to build taller on a smaller floorplate: “The TWIN system allowed us to actually pack the elevators into the core in a way that made the tower more efficient and economical,” Soto explains.

The horizontal movement “is something I’m still trying to get my head around,” he says. “But I think the elevator can free us from certain constraints we have right now, and allow us to innovate in the way we conceive of towers.”

At the MULTI unveiling event, Antony Wood, executive director of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, spoke to the shifting trends already happening in skyscraper design. For one, most of the innovation has moved out of North American cities like Chicago and New York, and is happening across Asia and the Middle East. (The world’s tallest tower, Burj Khalifa, opened in 2010 and extends 2,717 feet in Dubai.)

We’re also using these towers differently. Instead of office towers built to symbolize a single company—the Chrysler and Sears towers, for example—they are often operating as mixed-use “mini cities” with a combination of residential, office, hotel, and public space. As Soto put it, “We’re thinking more about creating social connections in a vertical setting.”

Wood called the MULTI “the holy grail of elevators” to address such shifts. For one, the system allows multiple elevator cabins to operate on a loop, moving more people in a continuous flow. Eliminating the space traditionally reserved for elevator shafts, it also frees up square footage for more apartments or office space. Schierenbeck estimates the system can achieve up to a 50 percent higher transport capacity, while increase a building’s usable area by as much as 25 percent.

But at what point does an elevator become a totally different mode of transit? “This is technology that’s not really distinguishable as an elevator anymore,” says Daniel Safarik, the China Office Director at Council on Tall Buildings. “They’re more like transportation vehicles of some kind. If you can get an elevator to go sideways or diagonally, then what’s the difference between the car, the subway, and the elevator? They start to have a lot of the same properties.”

Safarik thinks the real innovation of the MULTI is the possibility to send elevators underground, where they could move horizontally to connect buildings and transit hubs. It’s been proposed before. Last year, London architecture firm Weston Williamson + Partners proposed a MULTI system that travelled underneath buildings vertically before descending down to Tube platforms, creating connections between stations. Innovative as it may sound, Safarik sees the “jurisdiction between what’s a building and what’s infrastructure” posing the biggest challenge to MULTI transforming cities in this way.

The stalwarts of the elevator industry have their own concerns. “Tradition still has a strong role here,” says Rick Sayah, vice president of the New Jersey elevator consulting firm Van Deusen & Associates. “The reproducibility of work is how we’re able to maintain safety, training and maintenance.” His questions, too, revolve around what the technology exactly is, and who should regulate it: “Is this an elevator? Is it a vertical extension of the transit system? Will it require a new paradigm of building code?” He believes it’ll be a challenge to build new safety codes around a technology that’s so unlike the traditional elevator.

Schierenbeck says that “in the last five years, Thyssenkrupp developed comprehensive functional safety concepts using a multi-step braking system capable to handle all possible scenarios of operation.” The company, which has yet to obtain a safety certificate for the technology, expects cars can begin testing with people inside in the next few months.

The East Side Tower in Berlin, designed by Netherlands-based OVG Real Estate, will be the first with a MULTI system. The company has released few details on the project, besides an anticipated opening in 2019.

Safarik, of the Council on Tall Buildings, believes the technology is likely to come to the United States as part of a hospital, campus, or government complex, where horizontal elevators can shuttle people from one building to the next. “It’s not particularly freaky to imagine,” he says. “It’s a logical thing, even if it has always been in the realm of science fiction.”

This Is Your Brain on Architecture – CityLab

This Is Your Brain on Architecture – CityLab

Sarah Williams Goldhagen was the architecture critic for The New Republic for many years, a role she combined with teaching at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design and elsewhere. She is an expert on the work of Louis Kahn, one of the 20th century’s greatest architects, known for the weighty, mystical Modernism of buildings like the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, and the Bangladeshi parliament in Dhaka.

Several years ago, Goldhagen became interested in new research on how our brains register the environments around us. Dipping into writing from several fields—psychology, anthropology, linguistics, and neuroscience—she learned that a new paradigm for how we live and think in the world was starting to emerge, called “embodied cognition.”

“This paradigm,” she writes in her magisterial new book, Welcome to Your World: How the Built Environment Shapes Our Lives, “holds that much of what and how people think is a function of our living in the kinds of bodies we do.” Not just conscious thoughts, but non-conscious impressions, feedback from our senses, physical movement, and even split-second mental simulations of that movement shape how we respond to a place, Goldhagen argues. And in turn, the place nudges us to think or behave in certain ways.

The research led Goldhagen to science-based answers for previously metaphysical questions, such as: why do some places charm us and others leave us cold? Do we think and act differently depending on the building or room we’re in? (Spoiler: yes, we do.)

Architects intuited some of these principles long ago. As Kahn once noted of the monumental Baths of Caracalla in Rome, a person can bathe under an eight-foot ceiling, “but there’s something about a 150-foot ceiling that makes a man a different kind of man.” As the peer-reviewed studies mount, however, this new science of architecture and the built environment is destined to have a profound effect on the teaching and practice of design over the next generation.

CityLab talked with Goldhagen about the book and why so much architecture and urban design falls short of human needs.

Your book is about how we experience buildings and places through “embodied cognition.” How did you first learn about it?

I fell in love with architecture the way most people fall in love with architecture, which is that I went to places that just astonished me and moved me. And so from very early on I sort of wondered: why does it do that? The arts have this effect on you, but architecture is so much more profound, I find, than any of the other arts.

At the time, there really was no intellectual paradigm for thinking about these questions. And then about 15 years ago, my husband handed me a book by someone who had written a previous book he had really liked. The title of the book was Metaphors We Live By. It’s co-authored by George Lakoff, who’s a cognitive linguist, and Mark Johnson, who’s a philosopher. The basic argument is that much of how our thought is structured emerges from the fact of our embodiment. And many of the ways those thoughts are structured are metaphorical.

There was an immediate light bulb: “Oh, people live in bodies, bodies live in spaces.” I started reading more and more about it and realized [that] what Lakoff and Johnson had figured out was in the process of being confirmed through new studies in cognition that had been enabled by new technologies. We’ve had in the last 20 years a kind of ocean of new information about how the brain actually works. Most of that was confirming the precepts of embodied cognition, and also going beyond it in certain ways, showing how multisensory our apprehension of the environment is.

There was an immediate light bulb: “Oh, people live in bodies, bodies live in spaces.” I started reading more and more about it and realized [that] what Lakoff and Johnson had figured out was in the process of being confirmed through new studies in cognition that had been enabled by new technologies. We’ve had in the last 20 years a kind of ocean of new information about how the brain actually works. Most of that was confirming the precepts of embodied cognition, and also going beyond it in certain ways, showing how multisensory our apprehension of the environment is.

Another thing is differentiated, non-repetitive surfaces. [The psychologist and author] Colin Ellard did a study of how people respond: He basically put sensors on people and had them walk by a boring, generic building. Then he had them walk past something much more variegated with more ways to [engage] visually and therefore motorically. He found that people’s stress levels, measured by cortisol, went up dramatically when they were walking past the boring building.

The reason I emphasize non-conscious [cognition] is because most people are very bad at knowing why we’re feeling or thinking the things we are. You could be walking past that boring building and you ascribe your stress to a bad conversation you had with someone the other day. But cognition is embodied, and you’re standing next to this soul-desiccating place, and that’s what’s going on.

The book is peppered with the findings of scientific research on how the environment shapes us and our lives. The brains of London cab drivers actually change after they memorize the city’s geography. The design of a school can account for up to 25 percent of a child’s rate of learning. Why haven’t these findings upended architectural education?

I had architectural education very much in mind when I was writing the book. I taught in architecture schools for 15 years, good ones. The most obvious part of the answer is that architectural training is really, except for the technical and engineering part of it, based in the Beaux-Arts design tradition. Nobody’s really looking at the sciences.

Number two, the information which I draw in the book to construct this paradigm of how people experience the built environment comes from a lot of different disciplines. Cognitive neuroscience, environmental psychology, evolutionary psychology, neuroanthropology, ecological psychology. In most cases, the studies that I was looking at and ended up finding most useful were not necessarily about the built environment. It was up to me to look at a study on how people respond to water surfaces versus mirrors, and then figure out what that meant for the design of the built environment.

Another reason is that in the academy, the effect of poststructuralism and identity politics has been to hammer into people’s heads the notion of cultural relativism: “You can’t possibly say things about how people experience the world because it’s all culturally constructed, socially constructed; it differs by gender, by locale.” And so the other dimension was that talking about individual experience, even if it’s related to social experience, but from an embodied-cognition point of view, meant that you were apolitical. Because you were talking about something very subjective and individual. So it was kind of forbidden territory.

The embodied-cognition approach is universalizing, although you make it clear that any design guidelines arising from it leave room for different social and cultural responses. Is it easier, or harder, to take this approach now than it would have been 10 or 15 years ago?

I don’t think it’s coincidental that I’m not in the academy and I wrote this book. I don’t want to sound like I’m attacking architectural education because there are plenty of people out there doing great things. This book basically started with an essay on Alvar Aalto and embodied cognition and metaphors, in a book edited by Stanford Anderson. I presented this when I was still teaching at Harvard, and people went nuts. They just went crazy. “Wait a minute, you’re making all these universalist claims!”

My response to that was, and remains, “Sure, there are a lot of things that are socially constructed. All you have to do is read my earlier work; it’s not like I disagree with those ideas. The fact is that humans live in bodies, and brains work in certain ways.”

There’s this dichotomy between those who [think] about architecture in social and political terms, and those who [think] about subjective experience, and never the twain shall meet. One of the things the book does is basically dissolve that opposition. The critical wink is the work of this [psychologist] Roger Barker, who had researchers assigned to kids. [The researchers] followed them around and took notes. Breakfast, school, chess club, ballet. The conclusion was they could tell more about the kids by looking at where they were than by looking at who they were. Their individual psychology mattered a lot less in terms of their experience and behavior than the environments they were in.

So there isn’t this opposition between looking at it as a social construct versus experiential construct. It’s all the same thing. It’s a continuum.

One thing I kept thinking while reading the book was how little agency we really have. Have you gotten pushback on that? I can imagine some people saying, “No way is the environment shaping my thoughts to this degree.”

If people thought that, they didn’t say it to me. I think people are more ready to accept it than they were 10 or 15 years ago. The mind-body connection has become so apparent. We know now, for example, that how we hold our body affects our mood. If you’re depressed and your shoulders are hunched forward, you’ll actually help yourself if you straighten up.

The second thing is behavioral economics, which I think has been really key, and has been adopted into policy. People don’t make decisions logically. They make decisions based on association and fallacious heuristics. I think that has paved the way for people to recognize, “I don’t have as much agency as I thought I did.” The paradox is, with a book like this, I’m hoping to enhance people’s agency with their awareness of it.

You argue that “enriched environments” should be a human right, included in the UN’s Human Development Index. What has to happen next for human-centered design to become not a luxury, but the norm?

Well, a lot. One of the reasons the book is targeted to a general audience is that basically, we need a real paradigm shift in how we think about the built environment. It’s kind of analogous to the paradigm shift that happened in the 1960s and the way people thought about nature.

When I was really young kid, nature was nature. It was forests, trees, lakes, rivers. Then people begin to use the word “environment.” It was a political and social construct, and emphasized the interrelatedness of all these different components within nature. That was a response to pesticides, air pollution, and so on. Now, kids get education in the environment from the time they’re in first grade. They start learning about climate change, visit waste treatment plants. That’s the kind of paradigm shift that needs to happen about the built environment. Then it suddenly becomes of general public health importance.

What concretely needs to happen: One, architectural education. Two, real-estate development. Three, building codes, zoning codes, all these things need to be reviewed according to these kinds of standards. Four, architects need to not be so skittish in thinking about human experience and learn more about it. It’s a much larger problem than just, “Architects should do better.” It’s not a professional disciplinary problem, it’s a larger social problem. We also need more research.

I was at a book event where Richard Roberts [a former New York City housing commissioner] said, “I’m going to recommend to every public official I know that they read this book.” I’ve had a lot of architects tell me that they gave the book to clients.

That seems smart.

Yeah, no joke. We need general education about the built environment that starts very early on. So there are a lot of things that need to change. But they can.

22,000 people accidentally signed up to clean toilets because people don’t read Wi-Fi terms

22,000 people accidentally signed up to clean toilets because people don’t read Wi-Fi terms

Let’s be honest, how many of us really read the terms and conditions when we sign up for anything? Well, 22,000 people unwittingly signed up to carry out 1,000 hours of community service in exchange for free Wi-Fi. Oops!

Public Wi-Fi provider Purple added a spoof term to its T&Cs on its network of branded hotspots to illustrate the “lack of consumer awareness” of what people are signing up to when accessing free Wi-Fi portals.

In agreeing to the spoof T&Cs, people unwittingly agreed to a “community service clause” which signed them up to clean portaloos, hug stray cats, and paint snails’ shells. Wow.

The user may be be required, at Purple’s discretion, to carry out 1,000 hours of community service. This may include the following. Cleansing local parks of animal waste. Providing hugs to stray cats and dogs. Manually relieving sewer blockages. Cleaning portable lavatories at local festivals and events. Painting snail shells to brighten up their existence. Scraping chewing gum off the streets.

Surprisingly, only one person during the two-week-long prank spotted the term.

The prank forms part of Purple’s announcement that it’s the first General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliant Wi-Fi provider, falling in line with the UK government’s new legislation which comes into force in May 2018. The new GDPR laws will introduce a condition requiring “unambiguous consent” before users’ personal or behavioural data can be used for marketing purposes.

“Wi-Fi users need to read terms when they sign up to access a network. What are they agreeing to, how much data are they sharing, and what license are they giving to providers? Our experiment shows it’s all too easy to tick a box and consent to something unfair,” says Gavin Wheeldon, CEO of Purple.

Thankfully, the company has no intention of forcing anyone to clean loos or paint snail shells. What a relief.

Building a Battery-Free Cellphone – IEEE Spectrum

Building a Battery-Free Cellphone – IEEE Spectrum

Batteries can be a real drag. They’re expensive and must be constantly recharged. Though some battery-free sensors can passively transmit small amounts of data, most consumer electronics today still rely on bulky batteries to store power.

A team from the University of Washington has built a battery-free cellphone that can harness power from radiofrequency (RF) waves sent to it from a nearby base station. The phone not only harnesses the power it needs to operate from those waves, but can also place a voice call by modifying and reflecting the same waves back to the base station, through a technique known as backscattering.

The UW team has shown their device (built from off-the-shelf components) can use harvested power to place a call from a distance of 9.4 meters away from a customized base station. They also built a version outfitted with photodiodes that collect ambient light to passively power the device, allowing them to place a call from a distance of 15.2 meters.

To place or receive a call, the entire device consumes just 2 to 3 microwatts of power. The group’s design supports only voice calls—there’s no data plan—but its creators say it would still prove quite useful in certain circumstances.

“Imagine a scenario where your phone died but you could at least have enough power to make a 9-1-1 call,” says Vamsi Talla, who built the phone while a post-doc in electrical engineering at the University of Washington. “That could be a lifesaver.”

Many of today’s passive sensors transmit data only occasionally–perhaps every minute or so—due to power constraints. Or, in the case of RFID tags, some passive sensors must be very close to a reader to harness enough power to transmit a message.

In a conference paper published earlier this month, Talla, who now serves as chief technology officer of Jeeva Wireless, and his colleagues call their design “a major leap” toward the creation of battery-free devices. Ultimately, they want to build devices that can constantly transmit or receive data and voice calls over long distances without batteries.

“Now we’re showing the world that a battery-free device doesn’t have to be a sensor, but it can be a whole system where in real-time, you can actually do something useful,” Talla says.

Raj Rajkumar, a professor in electrical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, says the research is “another interesting step in the evolution of wireless power transmission.” He also noted that follow-up studies would need to evaluate the safety of transmitting power to mobile devices in this way.

For now, the UW device only works with customized base stations within close range of the user. Being near a base station may not always be possible for users who need to place an urgent call. But Talla says this could change with the anticipated rollout of 5G networks, in which providers are expected to dramatically increase the density of base stations—at least in cities.

He also expects to achieve greater distances at other frequencies. In their initial tests, the base station broadcast a single tone on the 915 megahertz frequency band to the device.

To place a call, the battery-free phone uses an electret microphone to generate an analog signal. An electret microphone contains a diaphragm with a fixed electrostatic charge. Within the microphone, the diaphragm forms a capacitor with a metal plate. When a person speaks, mechanical vibrations from their voice cause the diaphragm to change shape relative to the metal plate. This affects the capacitance of the device and generates a small voltage.

The microphone connects to an antenna through a RF switch. The voltage from the microphone travels to the antenna, where it directly alters the amplitude of the single tone embedded in the RF wave. The altered signal is then reflected back to the base station using backscattering techniques. These methods reduce the phone’s power consumption by three or four orders of magnitude compared to a traditional radio.

The phone’s design was inspired in part by the Great Seal Bug, a passive surveillance device planted in the desk of the U.S. Ambassador to Moscow by Russian authorities in the late 1940s. The UW phone is also half-duplex, which means a user can either listen or talk, but can’t do both at the same time. A microcontroller manages the RF switch, connecting the microphone to the antenna when a user presses a button to talk, and connecting the earphones when the user wants to listen.

To minimize power consumption, the team moved much of the processing that would typically be performed on a phone to their customized base station. Smartphones today contain components that convert analog sound to digital signals before transmission, and other components that convert the digital signals received from a base station to analog sound.

In the UW system, the base station performs these conversions and connects to the nationwide cellular network, forwarding calls or sending signals it receives back to the user. Talla says the group will continue to refine the technology through a licensing agreement with Jeeva Wireless.

Squirrels remember problem-solving techniques two years on

​​Squirrels remember problem-solving techniques two years on

Squirrels, with their nut-burying habits and uncanny knack of finding them later, are known for their ability to recall important details. But scientists have discovered a new squirrel trait they see as a different kind of memory skill, an ability to remember problem-solving techniques from almost two years earlier.

“This is not just remembering where things have been left, it shows they can recall techniques which they have not used for a long time,” said Dr. Théo Robert from the University of Exeter, co-author of the new study. “It’s also different from what we see in the wild because they’re remembering things for longer than the few months of memory needed to find hidden food.”

The new discovery came by way of an experiment conducted by Robert and his colleagues at the University of Exeter. Working with five grey squirrels, the team tasked the animals with pressing levers in order to get their mitts on some tasty hazelnuts. The first time around, the squirrels took an average of eight seconds to complete the task. With practice, they eventually reduced their hazelnut retrieval time to just two seconds.

Then, 22 months later, the team presented the same squirrels with a modified version of this same task. The puzzle appeared differently, but actually required the same technique to obtain the hazelnuts and at first this threw the squirrels off. They hesitated for an average of 20 seconds before even beginning the task, something the researchers attribute to a neophobic response, or a fear of new things.

But once the squirrels got going, they were able to retrieve the hazelnuts in just three seconds on their first try, and then finally in an average of two seconds. This, the researchers say, is evidence of the squirrels’ long-term memory skills as they recalled and applied the same technique used in the earlier challenge.

“This might be why grey squirrels can survive very well in towns and cities,” says Dr. Pizza Ka Yee Chow, of Exeter’s Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour. “For example, they’re very good at getting food from bird feeders. People may try different types of bird feeders to keep the squirrels away, but this research shows grey squirrels can not only remember tricks for getting food but can apply those skills in new situations.”

[Squirrels don’t remember where they put the nuts.  They know the types of places they use for nut storage.  They are just as likely to hit some other squirrel’s nuts as their own. As long as there are enough stored nuts in aggregate then it works.

The real test is how to apply this work to human primary and secondary students to minimize the knowledge loss over the summer months.]

The Best Keyboard Ever Is Back


The Best Keyboard Ever Is Back

You may not know the Model F by name, but you know it by sound—the musical thwacking of flippers slapping away. The sound of the ’80s office. The IBM Model F greeting the world in 1981 with a good ten pounds of die-cast zinc and keys that crash down on buckling metal springs as they descend. It’s a sensation today’s clickiest keyboards chase, but will never catch. And now it’s coming back.

The second coming of the high-quality Model F (not to be confused with its more affordable plastic successor, the Model M) isn’t a throwback attention grab from IBM, nor a nostalgia play from Big Keyboard. Instead, it’s the longtime work of a historian in love with the retro keyboard’s unparalleled sound and feel, but frustrated by the limitations of actual decades-old tech.

The Model F Keyboards project, now taking preorders for the new line of authentic retro-boards, was started by Joe Strandberg, a Cornell University grad who’s taken up keyboard wizardry as a nights-and-weekends hobby. He started as a collector and restorer of genuine Model F keyboards—originally produced from 1981 to 1994—a process that familiarized him with their virtues and their flaws.

“The first family computer we had was an IBM PC,” Strandberg told me. “And, I know from this from watching old home movies: The first keyboard I typed on was a Model F.” It’s a simple story, and one that’s familiar to plenty of nerds of a certain age (including me). But it’s not rose-colored glasses that make you remember that 1980s keyboard fondly. It really was the best.

All keyboards work by the same basic principle. When you press a key, you engage a mechanism that completes a circuit, telling the computer to put a character on the screen. Most modern day keyboards, like those you find on a laptop, are “membrane” keyboards. These keys are thin plastic slabs suspended over rubbery domes that squish when you depress them, completing the circuit. They can be made well, but have very short throw (the distance the keys travel down before they bottom out) and virtually no click. You’ll be hard-pressed to find any keyboard nerd that’s particularly fond of them.

Modern-day mechanical keyboards are different. Instead of rubber domes, they tend to use individual switches with innards made of plastic and metal. Cherry is the brand name to know in this world, offering switches of varying design to provide different feelings—stiffer sprints for firmer pushback, and, of course, keys designed to clack. The modern-day standard for “clickiness” are Cherry’s Blue switches. Each one contains two plastic parts that smack against each other on the way down, offering a signature click.

But both of these mechanical solutions are a shadow of their predecessor, IBM’s buckling spring. As detailed in the now-expired 1978 patent, these keyboards use a spring that buckles (go figure) as the key atop it is depressed. This buckling motion then torques a small plastic paddle beneath it, and the paddle slaps into the printed circuit board (PCB) and metal plate underneath. It’s that thwacking that both completes the circuit and gives a buckling spring keyboard its irreproducible sound.

It’s a sound and sensation Strandberg has spent years dissecting, and it shows in his lyrical description: “You’ve got huge pieces of steel, the flippers slapping and resonating between two metal sandwich layers. It’s a musical kind of interaction.”

It’s wildly difficult to reproduce. Some keyboard enthusiasts have endeavored to squeeze the buckling spring mechanism into a modern form, but to lukewarm results. They face engineering challenges but also rightful skepticism as to whether it’s even possible. Strandberg is certainly wary of such an approach. “There really is no buckling spring self-contained switch,” he says. “A self-contained switch would lose the richness from the steel plates.”

Strandberg takes a more holistic tack: build the physical form of an old Model F Keyboard in its entirety, exactly like they used to be made in the 1980s, or at least as close to that standard as possible. Working with a factory in China, Strandberg has carefully overseen the reproduction process one step at time, from the springs to the unique powder-coating on the keyboard’s zinc case. Despite the expense (Strandberg estimates spending $100,000 to revive the tooling necessary for the production run), it was the only viable option given the kind of abuse your average keyboard takes on a daily basis. “With 3D printing,” he says, “the keyboard wouldn’t last a year.”

But manufacturing is a painstaking process that has lead to continuing delays. In fact, the most recent preorder deadline just slipped from the end of June to the end of July. “I was initially expecting to get these shipped out at the end of last year and we’re probably looking at the end of this year,” Strandberg says. “They had to figure out how to do the powder coating to make it look like the old, bumpy, splotchy, IBM powder coating on the cases. That took them about two or three extra months. And the standards that IBM had for the keys were so precise that it’s taken them a few extra months to get the key molds precise.”

That attention to detail matters because quality is a Model F calling card. The first keyboard of its type to be released by IBM, the Model F made no compromises. It weighed nearly 10 pounds thanks to its metal case and cost a whopping $600 when debuted, which translates to some $1,700 today, the cost of a top-of-the-line gaming rig. It’s a number that will, maybe, help nerds (and their frustrated spouses) swallow the new Model F’s more modest $300 price point, which reaches up towards $400, depending on various optional embellishments.

It’s a cost plenty of people are willing to pay. Strandberg’s got preorders for more than 500 new keyboards, totaling a quarter of a million dollars in sales, all that with little more to show for his work so far than some videos of prototypes. The first prototypes off the assembly line only just made their way underneath the fingers of enthusiasts at a recent keyboard meet-up, to good initial reviews.

For anyone who longs to have the buckling spring back again, the options are limited. Authentic Model F keyboards go for hundreds of dollars online and require extensive modification before they’ll work with modern computer. Its successor, the Model M, is more readily available and easier to attach to today’s PCs and Macs, but has a cheaper plastic body.

Even thrift-store adventurers who find a functioning antique will be hamstrung by the ancient firmware that powers these old-school boards, firmware that doesn’t support modern features like programmability or the option to reassign keys. In fact, this arcane firmware was the bane of retrocomputing enthusiasts until just recently, when one endeavoring hacker managed to reverse-engineer the decades-old code by digging through IBM patents and released a modernized version as an open-source project. It was an act that effectively unshackled buckling spring technology from some 35 years of cyber-bondage. “It was the main thing that made the project finally feasible,” Strandberg says.

This new breed of Model Fs will be limited in number, though the deadline for ponying up for keeps slipping back due to the manufacturing delays. New Model Fs will be made, yes. But not in perpetuity. “Every run has enormous overhead,” Strandberg says. “Even if you have the molds already, you’re still paying the factory to configure all their machinery to make your parts.” Fortunately, Strandberg is planning on two runs. One for early birds, who are content to hop on board even with test units sight unseen, and a second run a year or two down the line for people who are perhaps a little more skeptical or skittish about the price.

To Strandberg, and the kind of people who would shell out a few hundred dollars for a limited edition keyboard, the case for the splurge is clear. “If you’re a writer, a programmer, someone who works in front of computer, you’re going to be there a good part of your day so why not type on the best? This is something that IBM spent millions of dollars developing, getting the perfect layout, getting the perfect shape and technology.” The original Model Fs have lasted for decades and many of them are still kicking, and Strandberg hopes his new ones—built meticulously in their image and with eyes set on the future—will last for at least that long, and beyond.

You can pre-order your own Model F until July 31st. Just remember to save a few bucks to buy some earplugs for your coworkers.

Home is where the hate is | Reveal

Home is where the hate is | Reveal

An early high-water mark of Donald Trump’s presidency came Feb. 28, with his first address to Congress. Midway through the speech, the new president turned to national security: “We are also taking strong measures to protect our nation from” – and here he paused for emphasis – “radical Islamic terrorism.”

Those words got him a standing ovation. A week later, he unveiled his second executive order banning entry for people from several Muslim-majority nations.

Trump frequently had excoriated his predecessor, President Barack Obama, and his chief political opponent, Hillary Clinton, as naive, even gutless, for preferring “violent extremism” to describe the nature of the global and domestic terrorist threat.

“Anyone who cannot name our enemy is not fit to lead this country,” Trump said at one campaign speech in Ohio. During another, in Philadelphia, he drove home the attack: “We now have an administration and a former secretary of state who refuse to say ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ ”

It was a strange place to make his point. The only Islamist terror attack in Pennsylvania over the past 15 years was committed by Edward Archer, a mentally ill man who shot and injured a police officer in early 2016, later telling investigators that he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. Far-right episodes of violent extremism were far more common.

Just two years before Trump’s Pennsylvania speech, anti-government radical Eric Matthew Frein ambushed two police officers in the township of Blooming Grove, killing one and wounding another, then led law enforcement authorities on a 48-day manhunt in the woods. (He was sentenced to death in April.)

Two months before that, police discovered that Eric Charles Smith, who ran a white supremacist church out of his home in the borough of Baldwin, had built a stockpile of some 20 homemade bombs.

In 2011, Eli Franklin Myers, an anti-government survivalist, shot two police officers, killing one, before being shot dead by state troopers in the small town of Webster. And in 2009, white supremacist Richard Poplawski opened fire on Pittsburgh police officers who had responded to a domestic dispute at his mother’s home, killing three and leaving two injured before surrendering. Poplawski, who was active on far-right websites, said he feared the police represented a plot by Obama to take away Americans’ guns.

This contrast, between Trump’s rhetoric and the reality of domestic terrorism, extends far beyond Pennsylvania. A database of nine years of domestic terrorism incidents compiled by The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute and Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has produced a very different picture of the threat than that advanced by the current White House.

  • From January 2008 to the end of 2016, we identified 63 cases of Islamist domestic terrorism, meaning incidents motivated by a theocratic political ideology espoused by such groups as the Islamic State. The vast majority of these (76 percent) were foiled plots, meaning no attack took place.
  • During the same period, we found that right-wing extremists were behind nearly twice as many incidents: 115. Just over a third of these incidents (35 percent) were foiled plots. The majority were acts of terrorist violence that involved deaths, injuries or damaged property.
  • Right-wing extremist terrorism was more often deadly: Nearly a third of incidents involved fatalities, for a total of 79 deaths, while 13 percent of Islamist cases caused fatalities. (The total deaths associated with Islamist incidents were higher, however, reaching 90, largely due to the 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood in Texas.)
  • Incidents related to left-wing ideologies, including ecoterrorism and animal rights, were comparatively rare, with 19 incidents causing seven fatalities – making the shooting attack on Republican members of Congress earlier this month somewhat of an anomaly.
  • Nearly half (48 percent) of Islamist incidents in our database were sting operations, more than four times the rate for far-right (12 percent) or far-left (10.5 percent) incidents.

Yet as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch pointed out in early February, Trump has yet to acknowledge the threat of right-wing violence:

Long before the 9/11 attacks, the worst terrorist attack on American territory occurred at the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. The bomber, Timothy McVeigh, and co-conspirator Terry Nichols were unabashed radical right-wing terrorists. But check the record. You won’t hear Trump use those words.

Instead, with his statements, policies and personnel, the president has exhibited an obsession with the Islamist threat to the homeland.

As a candidate, Trump promised to institute a “shutdown of Muslims.” As president, he has signed two executive orders barring immigrants and refugees from a list of Muslim-majority nations, both blocked by the courts.

Two of his most influential advisers, who he brought with him into the White House, were retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn – who, before his short-lived tenure as national security adviser, had a record of making such incendiary remarks as, “Fear of Muslims is rational,” and, “I don’t see Islam as a religion” – and chief strategist Stephen Bannon, who had called Islam a “religion of submission” and stoked fears that radical Muslims seek to create an “Islamic States of America.”

Trump brought in other figures associated with the demonization of Islam, from transition team adviser Frank Gaffney to national security adviser Sebastian Gorka.

While the president mostly failed to acknowledge a wave of post-election hate crimes targeting Muslims, Jewish institutions and communities of color, his team planned changes to the Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Violent Extremism program to focus it exclusively on the threat of Muslim radicals, including changing the program’s name to Countering Radical Islamic Extremism.

The president sometimes has appeared to grasp for data to justify this narrow approach. Intense protests and rapid court challenges greeted his first travel ban. By the time of his second, signed March 6, his staff had compiled information to justify it.

“According to data provided by the Department of Justice, the vast majority of individuals convicted of terrorism and terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country,” he claimed in the speech to Congress a week before signing the order. “We cannot allow our nation to become a sanctuary for extremists.”

But in examining incidents from 2008 through 2016, we could identify only 36 perpetrators or alleged perpetrators who were foreign born, 13 percent of the total. And only three came from a nation listed in his second travel ban. A Department of Homeland Security analysis likewise found that citizens of nations named in the ban are “rarely implicated in U.S.-based terrorism.”

The White House did not respond to interview requests or to detailed written queries.

Trump’s March executive order cites two specific terrorism convictions to bolster its claim that refugees constitute a significant threat to the United States:

For example, in January 2013, two Iraqi nationals admitted to the United States as refugees in 2009 were sentenced to 40 years and to life in prison, respectively, for multiple terrorism-related offenses. And in October 2014, a native of Somalia who had been brought to the United States as a child refugee and later became a naturalized United States citizen was sentenced to 30 years in prison for attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction as part of a plot to detonate a bomb at a crowded Christmas-tree-lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon.

On closer inspection, even those examples are flawed. The first involved two Iraqi men living in Bowling Green, Kentucky, who were convicted on charges of supporting terrorism in Iraq, not in the United States. (It was White House counselor Kellyanne Conway who had a month earlier mistaken the incident as an act of domestic terrorism she dubbed the “Bowling Green massacre.”) Moreover, people from Iraq were not barred by the March executive order.

The second case is one of the three incidents in our database involving people from countries included in the executive order, all of them from Somalia. Two of the incidents were pre-empted plots, one of which – the Portland “Christmas tree bomber” case the order cites – was an elaborate sting operation.

That sting targeted 19-year-old Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a naturalized citizen who grew up in Portland and suburban Beaverton, Oregon, having arrived as a refugee from Somalia’s civil war at age 3. Educated at local schools, he showed little interest in religion or politics until his teens, when he began attending services at a mosque led by a Wahhabi cleric in Portland.

Alienated at home, where his parents were going through a divorce, Mohamud began to visit extremist websites and, at 18, declared that he was heading off to a religious school in Yemen. His father panicked and called the FBI for help, setting in motion surveillance and, ultimately, the sting.

Mohamud was arrested at the annual Christmas tree lighting at Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland on Nov. 26, 2010, after trying to detonate a fake truck bomb supplied by undercover FBI agents. Convicted of a single count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, he was sentenced to 30 years.

The response to Mohamud’s father’s call for help – surveillance and a sting – underscores another disparity: the federal government’s disproportionate commitment of investigative resources to rooting out Islamist terrorism.

Even against this backdrop, the sting operation targeting Mohamud stood out.

No evidence was introduced in court that Mohamud had ever owned a weapon, participated in a political action or had any previous encounters with law enforcement. The FBI had not gleaned evidence that Mohamud even sought information about how to build a bomb.

He likely would have been incapable of attempting the crime without the financial, logistical and motivational support of the FBI informants and agents. In fact, a few weeks before the Christmas tree lighting, an FBI agent assigned to the case wrote that Mohamud “would not make any attempts to conduct a terrorist attack without specific direction from the (undercover employees).”

Evidence was even introduced at trial that FBI operatives had blocked him from traveling to a cannery job in Alaska to keep him involved in the plot they had designed.

By contrast, less than two days after the Christmas tree sting, another Oregon youth, Cody Seth Crawford, then 24, launched a homemade firebomb into the offices of the Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center in Corvallis, Oregon, a mosque where Mohamud sometimes prayed. The bomb caused thousands of dollars’ worth of damage, though no injuries.

Crawford had written anti-Muslim screeds on Facebook in the wake of Mohamud’s arrest: “I ha te (sic) the ji-had’st (sic), they should go and realize what life is about!!! This guy on the news was a really bad guy !!! He went to the mosque right in front of my house here in Corvali (sic).” When he was arrested, according to court documents, he told his arresting officer, “you look like Obama. You are a Muslim like him” who is “going to burn in Hell like other Muslims.”

Citing Crawford’s history of mental illness, a federal judge sentenced him to five years’ probation, and he is now free.

“I consider what happened in my case a total victory for me,” Crawford recently told Reveal. “I kicked the federal government’s ass in court.”

The Crawford case highlights something else in the data: While perpetrators of plots or attacks targeting on the broader public received three life sentences, seven death sentences and, among definite sentences, an average of 14.5 years in prison, no perpetrator of a plot or attack targeting a mosque or Muslims was ever sentenced to life or death, and they were sentenced, on average, to under nine years.

Muslims, it seems, are taken quite seriously as potential perpetrators, but far less so as victims.


More than a million violent crimes are committed each year in the United States, while annual domestic terrorism incidents number in the dozens. Yet acts of terrorism have a special significance, said former FBI agent Michael German, because each one not only targets particular victims, but also “is an attack on civil society itself.”

What distinguishes an act of terrorism from a violent crime, explains former federal counterterror official Daryl Johnson, is the ideological component of “the perpetrator’s motivation, his ideology and what he wanted the outcome to be. There needs to be a desire to instill fear among the general public, change government policy, or draw attention to a political or social cause.”

Domestic counterterrorism work is centered at the FBI. The bureau has a Domestic Terrorism Operations Unit plus an analysis unit, which together have dozens of personnel working out of FBI headquarters in Washington, according to law enforcement sources. These agents and analysts support the FBI’s 56 field offices, each of which has at least one analyst dedicated to domestic terrorism, as well as Joint Terrorism Task Forces in 104 cities.

The FBI coordinates with a variety of federal agencies – such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Marshals Service – that work domestic terrorism cases on an ad hoc basis. Other terrorist plots and acts are investigated and prosecuted only by state or local officials, who often bring more straightforward charges, such as murder, assault or arson. Still other terror cases never are prosecuted at all because no suspect is identified or the perpetrators are killed in the act.

But according to Johnson, who joined the Department of Homeland Security in 2004, the FBI formally tracks only the cases the FBI investigates itself – which risks leaving out many incidents that fit the federal criteria for domestic terrorism.

Johnson recalls a meeting in 2008 with his counterparts at FBI headquarters, where he talked about the militia movement resurgence that he and his colleagues at the Department of Homeland Security had noticed, based on tracking online activity and incident reports from state and local law enforcement.

“Well, the FBI checked their case data, and the FBI had only a half-dozen militia cases, and they compared that to the previous year, and there was no change, so to them, the militia threat was static,” Johnson said. “We saw the emergence of the second wave of the militia movement, and the FBI had no clue there was a second wave coming.”

The FBI declined to respond to an interview request or to detailed written queries.

While a variety of think tanks and journalistic organizations have compiled data that capture fragments of the domestic terrorism picture – Islamist attacks (The Heritage Foundation), deadly domestic terror attacks (the think tank New America), attacks on abortion clinics (the National Abortion Federation) and far-right plots and attacks (the Southern Poverty Law Center) – The Investigative Fund database is the only one that gathers incidents that span the full range of ideologies and that includes both plots and attacks and both federal and local prosecutions. It also catalogues each incident according to a diverse range of variables, such as target, ideology, movement affiliation, sentence, and whether federal charges or terrorism charges were filed. (See our methodology here.)

The database vividly illustrates the ways in which Islamist incidents have received disproportionate attention from federal law enforcement.

While a majority of the incidents were perpetrated by right-wing extremists (57 percent), the database indicates that federal law enforcement agencies focused their energies on pre-empting and prosecuting Islamist attacks, which constituted 31 percent of all incidents, a finding confirmed by counterterror experts.

For instance, 84 percent of Islamist incidents resulting in arrests involved terrorism charges, and all the law enforcement resources that implies, as opposed to 9 percent of far-right incidents.

While federal charges of some kind were filed in 91 percent of the Islamist incidents that led to arrests, federal prosecutors handled 60 percent of far-right cases, leaving many in the hands of state or local authorities.

Moreover, three-quarters of the Islamist incidents in the database were pre-empted plots, including elaborate sting operations, while 35 percent of far-right incidents were pre-empted, a much smaller ratio. That disparity, counterterror experts say, is an indication that far fewer investigative resources – such as analysts, paid informants and undercover operatives – have been deployed to halt far-right attacks.

Yet even though most Islamists were charged only in connection with plots, they often were sentenced as harshly as or more harshly than right-wing extremists, who mostly succeeded in committing acts of terror. Among the Islamist cases, 8 percent got life sentences, 2 percent got death sentences, and the average sentence for the other cases was 21 years in prison. Among far-right cases, 12 percent got life sentences, 5 percent got death sentences, and the average sentence for the rest was eight years.

German, the former FBI agent, is now a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security program and tours the country briefing local and federal law enforcement officers on domestic terror. In his presentations, he cautions officers against a worldview that “only sees a terrorist if he’s wearing a turban” and is blind to the threat from far-right extremists.

“The thing that strikes me most often is not just that they don’t know this information, but that they actively resist it,” he said. “They are incredibly hostile to it. That’s troubling to me. Not only are police given bad information, but they are trained or inclined to resist true information.

“When violence by minorities is characterized as terrorism, and therefore requiring more resources and more attention, but violence against minorities somehow doesn’t merit that same attention or resources, that is where we see overt discrimination.”

Consider, for example, the following incident in light of the investigative resources put into the Christmas tree sting in Oregon or any of dozens of other complex operations targeting would-be Islamist attackers: the June 8, 2014, rampage in Las Vegas by so-called Patriot movement extremists Jerad and Amanda Miller. They gunned down two police officers in a pizzeria, leaving a swastika and “Don’t tread on me” flag on one of the dead before killing a nearby civilian who attempted to intervene. Both were killed in a shootout with police.

Prior to their rampage, the Millers had left a public trail of warning signs suggesting that they posed a likely threat, yet there’s no indication that a single law enforcement officer or informant was ever assigned to monitor them.

The couple had drifted to Nevada from Indiana five months earlier. Not long after arriving, Jerad Miller was pulled over and ticketed for driving with a suspended license; he responded by calling the Indiana Department of Motor Vehicles, threatening to shoot anyone who tried to arrest him. The call triggered a visit by Las Vegas detectives who questioned Miller but reported no “ongoing or potential threat.”

The Millers then joined the anti-government standoff with law enforcement at the Bundy Ranch in April 2014, where Jerad Miller, who had several past convictions, including one for auto theft, was filmed by news cameras brandishing weapons – illegal for a convicted felon – and promising to retaliate if federal officers “bring violence to us.” The Bundys say they asked the couple to leave because their views were so fringe.

Throughout this period, Jerad Miller was posting anti-government rants on Facebook and YouTube under the username USATruePatriot, including one in the days before the killings that read, “To stop this oppression, I fear, can only be accomplished with bloodshed.”

Even after the rampage, terrorism was not the law enforcement focus. Instead, the Justice Department’s after-action report focused narrowly on the Las Vegas Police Department’s tactical response on the day of the shooting.

“If the Millers had placed ISIS flags over those police officers, instead of the ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ flag, what you probably would have seen is a deep investigation into where they got their weapons, and who they were associated with, and who knew they had the weapons and follow-on prosecutions,” German said.

Daryl Johnson is the picture of a federal intelligence analyst: conservative, detail-oriented, fact-driven and relentlessly serious. A Mormon and a Republican, he grew up in Virginia, attended Brigham Young University and began his intelligence career in the Army. He had long enjoyed a reputation as a no-nonsense analyst with a knack for getting it right.

“I wanted to make the country a safer place,” he said. “I have always been a good, red-blooded American patriot.”

When Johnson moved from Army intelligence to work in the intelligence division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in 1999, federal counterterrorism efforts were focused heavily on far-right radicals. This was in the wake of Timothy McVeigh’s 1995 truck bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, which killed 168 people and injured 680; Eric Rudolph’s 1996 backpack bombing of the Atlanta Olympics, which killed one person and injured 111, followed by his bombings months later of a lesbian nightclub and an abortion clinic; and white supremacist Benjamin Smith’s 1999 shooting spree directed at blacks, Asians and Jews in cities across Illinois and Indiana, which left two people dead and nine wounded.

In his book “Right-Wing Resurgence,” Johnson recalls driving to the site of the Oklahoma City federal building a few months after it was destroyed, where he saw “the makeshift memorial of teddy bears, flowers, and handwritten notes to those that perished,” he writes. The photo he took that day “serves as a constant reminder … of the terrifying threat of homegrown extremism.”

The attack also served as a national wake-up call.

“Threats from domestic terrorism continue to build as militia extremists,

particularly those operating in the western United States, gain new adherents,

stockpile weapons, and prepare for armed conflict with the federal government,” warned a report that the FBI’s Counterterrorism Threat Assessment and Warning Unit issued in 1996. “The potential for domestic right-wing terrorism remains a threat.”

The landscape changed dramatically after 9/11. Those attacks, coordinated by al-Qaida, heralded a fresh wave of international terrorist attacks and plots that required high levels of attention from federal authorities.

For several years after the trauma of that day, right-wing domestic terrorism subsided. A 2011 Heritage Foundation study, based on terrorism data collected by the RAND Corp., found that between 2001 and 2009, there were 91 homegrown terrorist attacks of all kinds against the United States, while there were 380 terrorist attacks against U.S. targets abroad. The terror threat seemed to have gone global.

Sept. 11 also sparked a massive rearrangement of the federal terrorism response, including the creation in 2002 of the Department of Homeland Security, under whose auspices federal counterterrorism efforts were to be combined. Johnson, from his perch at the ATF, could see the writing on the wall as the agency’s intelligence-gathering division underwent a major downshift.

“I resisted for a while, but joined DHS (the Department of Homeland Security) in 2004 just as it opened up its new domestic terrorism division,” he said.

He was recruited specifically for his background in non-Islamist terrorism, he recalls. By 2008, he says, he was overseeing an office with eight full-time analysts dedicated to tackling non-Islamist domestic terror threats. However, Johnson says that over time, in the face of “political pressure,” the section was dismantled.

The trend lines made no sense. Johnson’s staff was being downsized just as his team was observing a fresh uptick in domestic terrorism from right-wing radicals.

“The United States is engaged in a generational fight against terrorists who seek to attack the American people, our country, and our way of life,” David Lapan, a Department of Homeland Security spokesman, wrote in an email. “We reject criticism that DHS (the Department of Homeland Security) is overly focused on any particular group or element as we concentrate on all threats of terrorism to the Homeland.”

Lapan said that for the past two years, the department has used a national terrorism advisory bulletin “to highlight the continuing threat from all forms of terrorism, including homegrown violent extremists, many of whom are inspired online to violence by foreign terrorist organizations.”

What especially caught the attention of law enforcement analysts during Johnson’s tenure was far-right extremists’ increasing recruitment of members of the military and experienced veterans. That raised red flags, because if these recruits were radicalized into planning acts of terror, they would have the skills to execute them, as the examples of McVeigh and Rudolph, both military veterans, suggested.

Warnings included a July 2008 FBI assessment, titled, “White Supremacist Recruitment of Military Personnel since 9/11.” Though the report found that the number of identifiable neo-Nazis with military training was small, a little over 200, it added:

Military experience – ranging from failure at basic training to success in special operations forces – is found throughout the white supremacist extremist movement. FBI reporting indicates extremist leaders have historically favored recruiting active and former military personnel for their knowledge of firearms, explosives, and tactical skills and their access to weapons and intelligence in preparation for an anticipated war against the federal government, Jews, and people of color.

Johnson’s section noticed the same trend and produced a bulletin that was circulated in April 2009 to law enforcement officers around the nation. It alerted them to the rising risk of terrorist attacks by right-wing extremists and noted that the Department of Homeland Security “is concerned that rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to boost their violent capabilities.”

Unlike the FBI assessment, Johnson’s bulletin was distributed during the early months of the new Obama administration. This time, a media firestorm erupted. Conservative radio and television hosts from Rush Limbaugh to Michael Savage and Glenn Beck denounced the report, claiming it was “singling out troops” for vilification, along with “normal conservatives” who might share the same concerns that animated the radicals identified in the bulletin, such as opposition to abortion and federal control over public lands. On Fox News, William Kristol charged that Obama administration officials “think about veterans” as “pathological killers.” Once the American Legion, too, denounced the report, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano issued an apology.

The blowback had powerful long-term effects on the shape of counterterrorism policy. Because of the increasing focus on Islamist terrorism, Johnson’s team already had been reduced.

After the controversy, the office was stripped down to one full-time staffer; Johnson himself departed in April 2010. Efforts to counter far-right terror at the department were effectively dead. As The Washington Post later reported:

The analytical unit that produced that report has been effectively eviscerated. Much of its work – including a digest of domestic terror incidents and the distribution of definitions for terms such as “white supremacist” and “Christian Identity” – has been blocked.

The office employed only two full-time analysts for the rest of the Obama years. That small team hasn’t grown since the new administration arrived. Lapan, the homeland security spokesman, declined to provide specifics on personnel but confirmed that the department has “a small team of analysts dedicated to domestic terrorism.”

Congress also played a role in pushing counterterrorism work to focus exclusively on the threat of radical Islamist ideology. When the House Homeland Security Committee held hearings on domestic terrorism in early 2011, the committee chairman, Republican Rep. Peter King of New York, announced that they would have a narrow scope:

This Committee cannot live in denial, which is what some would have us do when they suggest that this hearing dilute its focus by investigating threats unrelated to Al Qaeda. The Department of Homeland Security and this committee were formed in response to the al Qaeda attacks of 9/11. There is no equivalency of threat between al Qaeda and neo-Nazis, environmental extremists or other isolated madmen. Only al Qaeda and its Islamist affiliates in this country are part of an international threat to our nation. Indeed by the Justice Department’s own record not one terror related case in the last two years involved neo-Nazis, environmental extremists, militias or anti-war groups.

In fact, during the two years preceding King’s hearing, The Investigative Fund database includes 27 terror incidents involving far-right forces and two involving animal rights extremists. In the two months before King made these remarks, a neo-Nazi left a backpack bomb along the intended path of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in Spokane, Washington, and another was arrested in Phoenix with a truckload of homemade bombs he intended to leave near the Mexico border. None of these were mentioned in the Justice Department report King cited.

King’s Democratic colleague, Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, urged King to examine “the homeland security threat posed by anti-government and white supremacist groups” and warned against “a narrow focus that excludes known threats.”

It was white supremacist Wade Michael Page’s rampage in Wisconsin the following year, in which he gunned down six Sikhs at worship, that finally moved the Senate to hold hearings on right-wing extremism. Johnson, by now a former counterterror official, was invited to testify.

“The threat from domestic terrorism motivated by extremist ideologies is often dismissed and overlooked in the national media and within the U.S. government. Yet we are currently seeing an upsurge in domestic non-Islamic extremist activity,” he said. “Today, the bulk of violent domestic activity emanates from the right wing.”

While federal officials were turning their attention away from the far right, the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups, had noticed something dramatic. While most such groups had collapsed after 9/11, the law center noticed an explosion of so-called Patriot groups that began in 2009, the first year of Obama’s presidency, and reached a peak in 2012, when the group counted 1,360 active Patriot groups and 1,007 hate groups, including the Ku Klux Klan, skinheads and neo-Nazis.

According to our database, during this same period, from 2008 to 2013, terror plots and actions by far-right groups outnumbered Islamist domestic terror cases by more than 2 to 1. Far-right extremists also inflicted three times as many deaths as Islamists during this period.

In October 2015, the Department of Justice belatedly announced plans to tackle the problem by creating a new domestic terrorism counsel to lead a long-dormant office intended to track trends and increase intelligence sharing about potential threats among U.S. attorney’s offices nationwide.

“Looking back over the past few years,” Assistant Attorney General John Carlin said in making the announcement, “we recognize that according to at least one study more people died in this country in attacks by domestic extremists than attacks associated with international terrorist groups.”

Eventually, FBI official Thomas Brzozowski was named to the position, which he used as a platform to raise awareness about the full scope of domestic terror threats.

“It is not just a function of a couple of militia-related guys taking over something out West. It’s not just a bunch of white supremacist in white hoods,” he told an audience at George Washington University in October. “It is not relegated toward a particular ideology. In fact, the nature of the underlying ideology is immaterial to how we approach domestic terrorism.”

The Department of Justice says he remains in the position, but he did not respond to interview requests and appears not to have spoken publicly since the Trump administration took office.


By now, the steady drumbeat of terror plots and attacks from the far right has begun to attract renewed attention, among them incidents involving the “sovereign citizens” movement, white supremacists, Patriot and militia movements, and anti-abortion fanatics, including some radical Christians. Their targets are police and military, Sikhs and Muslims, African Americans and Jews, power grids and transit hubs, abortion clinics and black churches and immigrant communities.

Despite law enforcement concerns about lethal attacks against police sparked by the Black Lives Matter movement – captured in the slogan “Blue Lives Matter,” along with dozens of bills extending hate crimes protections to police – only two incidents of domestic terrorism in the database can plausibly be attributed to a perpetrator with such sympathies. They are the December 2014 killings of two police officers in their patrol car in New York City and the July 2016 sniper shooting in Dallas, which left five officers dead and nine wounded.

Adherents of sovereign citizen ideology – whose animus against what they see as an illegitimate police state can be so extreme that they have been known to open fire on officers at traffic stops – pose a far more extensive threat to law enforcement officers. The FBI, in a 2011 report, had said the sovereign citizen threat “likely will grow.” Sovereign citizens alone, according to the database, have been responsible for 14 attacks on law enforcement from 2008 to 2016, which led to the deaths of nine officers and injuries to 12. Of the 40 total plots and attacks targeting police, 83 percent involved right-wing anti-government extremists, resulting in 23 fatalities.

The database catalogues an enormous number of far-right incidents, averaging more than a dozen a year. Consider this sampling, only one of which, the last, was prosecuted as terrorism:

July 27, 2008, Knoxville, Tennessee: Jim David Adkisson, the author of a manifesto urging violent war against liberals, opens fire inside a Unitarian church during the youth performance of a musical, killing two and wounding seven.

Feb. 26, 2009, Miramar Beach, Florida: Dannie Baker, a former Republican Party volunteer who believed that “Washington D.C. Dictators” wanted to “overthrow us with foreign illegals,” opens fire on a roomful of Chilean foreign-exchange students, killing two and injuring three. May 20, 2010, West Memphis, Arkansas: Sovereign citizen adherents Jerry and Joe Kane, a father-and-son duo, kill two officers when pulled over by police, then die in a shootout.

Jan. 18, 2011, Spokane, Washington: Neo-Nazi Kevin William Harpham plants a backpack bomb along the route of a Martin Luther King Day Jr. Day parade; no one is injured because it is spotted and defused.

Aug. 5, 2012, Oak Creek, Wisconsin: Wade Michael Page, a member of the neo-Nazi group Hammerskin Nation, kills six and wounds four during a shooting rampage in a Sikh temple before killing himself.

April 13, 2014, Overland Park, Kansas: Frazier Glenn Miller, a former grand dragon of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, embarks on a shooting rampage at two Jewish community institutions, killing three.

June 17, 2015, Charleston, South Carolina: Dylann Roof, a white supremacist radicalized online, joins a Bible study session at the Emanuel AME Church, then opens fire, killing nine black worshippers and wounding another.

Nov. 27, 2015, Colorado Springs, Colorado: Robert Lewis Dear opens fire on patients arriving at a Planned Parenthood clinic, then engages in a gunbattle with police, killing three people, including a police officer, and injuring nine. He says, “No more baby parts,” as he is arrested.

Oct. 14, 2016, Garden City, Kansas: Three Kansas militia members, Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright and Patrick Stein, are arrested for allegedly plotting to bomb an apartment complex, home to Somali immigrants. According to the FBI, which infiltrated the group, they called Muslims “cockroaches” and hoped to inspire other militia members.

Allen, Wright and Stein not only stockpiled a huge cache of semi-automatic weapons and ammunition, but they also plotted to construct and detonate four Oklahoma City-style truck bombs loaded with fertilizer and fuel in the center of the residential complex, then shoot survivors as they fled.

The scheduled day for their attack: Nov. 9, the day after the 2016 election. The men were motivated, Stein’s attorney said, by their belief that if Trump were to win, Obama would declare martial law to prevent him from taking office. In a voice recording of one of the plotters:

The only fucking way this country’s ever going to get turned around is it will be a bloodbath, and it will be a nasty, messy motherfucker. Unless a lot more people in this country wake up and smell the fucking coffee and decide they want this country back … we might be too late, if they do wake up. … I think we can get it done. But it ain’t going to be nothing nice about it.

In responding to news of the men’s arrest, Heidi Beirich, head of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, noted “an incredible increase in anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment over the past few years,” particularly “within the ranks of the anti-government movement.” The presidential campaign, she added, has “produced some of the rawest nativist appeals in recent memory.”

She says those appeals might have played a role in the surge of hate incidents since the election, including a wave of anti-Semitic threats and attacks and anti-Muslim hate crimes. Many incidents, she notes, “involved attackers who self-identified as Trump supporters or committed their acts in his name,” such as swastika-laden graffiti saying, “Make America White Again,” or an assault on a Muslim student and his Latino friend in which the attacker shouted Trump’s name.

While Trump, in his February address to Congress, did respond to these incidents in general terms, saying, “We are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms,” his policies appear to have sent a different message. In hundreds of the nearly 1,400 hate incidents around the nation that the Southern Poverty Law Center counted in the three months following the Nov. 8 elections, the perpetrators directly referenced the election or Trump.

In particular, his administration’s decision to focus the Countering Violent Extremism program exclusively on Islamists has been interpreted by many white supremacists as a green light.

“Donald Trump wants to remove us from undue federal scrutiny by removing ‘white supremacists’ from the definition of ‘extremism,’ ” Andrew Anglin, editor of the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, wrote in a post. “Donald Trump is setting us free.” He went on:

It’s fair to say that if the Trump team is not listening to us directly (I assume they are), they are thinking along very similar lines. …This is absolutely a signal of favor to us.

Daryl Johnson, the former intelligence analyst, warns that continuing to focus counterterrorism efforts disproportionately on Islamists risks fueling that threat.

“Muslim Americans already feel targeted and alienated,” he said. Reconfiguring the Countering Violent Extremism program around Islamists “pretty much validates their suspicions” and even risks aggravating extremism within the Muslim community.

“When you turn a blind eye to all the uptick in hate or wait a long time before you even address the hate incidents that we’ve been seeing against Muslims and against the Jewish community,” he said, “I think that just emboldens the far right in thinking that they have free rein to do whatever they want.”