Technology News

Some Birds Are Excellent Tool-Makers

(3 days ago)
brindafella writes: Veterinary scientists from Viena have shown that Goffin's cockatoos can do an excellent job of remaking cardboard into tools to get rewards. This follows on from earlier experiments with the New Caledonian crow that can select tools for its purposes. So, birds are definitely not "bird-brained." "[The study] tells us that the cockatoos' mind is highly flexible and that they can modify their solution to a problem in order to save effort," said Alice Auersperg, a cognitive biologist at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna and lead author of the paper. The Australian Broadcast Company explains how the study was conducted: "[S]ix trained birds were given a piece of cardboard and placed in front of a cage that had food accessible through a small hole, but placed at different distances away. The birds used their beak to cut strips of cardboard they then used to reach the food. Importantly, when the food was close, the birds made a shorter strip. When it was far away, they made a longer strip. But when the researchers made the hole in the cage smaller, only one of the birds was able to fashion their cardboard tool to be narrow enough to fit through the hole. The successful bird was the only female in the group, and the researchers think she was able to do this because her beak was small enough to make a narrow tool."Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Facebook Filed a Patent To Predict Your Household's Demographics Based On Family Photos

(4 days ago)
An anonymous reader quotes a report from BuzzFeed News: Facebook has submitted a patent application for technology that would predict who your family and other household members are, based on images and captions posted to Facebook, as well as your device information, like shared IP addresses. The application, titled "Predicting household demographics based on image data," was originally filed May 10, 2017, and made public today. The system Facebook proposes in its patent application would use facial recognition and learning models trained to understand text to help Facebook better understand whom you live with and interact with most. The technology described in the patent looks for clues in your profile pictures on Facebook and Instagram, as well as photos of you that you or your friends post. It would note the people identified in a photo, and how frequently the people are included in your pictures. Then, it would assess information from comments on the photos, captions, or tags (#family, #mom, #kids) -- anything that indicates whether someone is a husband, daughter, cousin, etc. -- to predict what your family/household actually looks like. According to the patent application, Facebook's prediction models would also analyze "messaging history, past tagging history, [and] web browsing history" to see if multiple people share IP addresses (a unique identifier for every internet network). A Facebook spokesperson said in response to the story, "We often seek patents for[..]

EFF, MuckRock Partner To See How Local Police Are Trading Your Car's Location

(4 days ago)
v3rgEz writes: The Electronic Frontier Foundation and transparency non-profit MuckRock helped file over a thousand public records requests, looking into how local police departments were trading away sensitive data on where you drive and park, picked up by their use of automated license plate recognition devices. They've just published the results of those requests, including looking at how hundreds of departments freely share that data with hundreds of other organizations -- often with no public oversight. Explore the data yourself, or, if your town isn't yet in their database, requests its information free on MuckRock and they'll file a request for it. "[Automated license plate readers (ALPR)] are a combination of high-speed cameras and optical character recognition technology that can identify license plates and turn them into machine-readable text," reports the EFF. "What makes ALPR so powerful is that drivers are required by law to install license plates on their vehicles. In essence, our license plates have become tracking beacons. After the plate data is collected, the ALPR systems upload the information to a central a database along with the time, date, and GPS coordinates. Cops can search these databases to see where drivers have traveled or to identify vehicles that visited certain locations. Police can also add license plates under suspicion to 'hot lists,' allowing for real-time alerts when a vehicle is spotted by an ALPR network."Read more of this story at[..]

Bill Godbout, Early S-100 Bus Pioneer, Perished In the Camp Wildfire

(4 days ago)
evanak writes: Bill Godbout was one of the earliest and most influential supports of the S-100 bus in the mid-1970s. He passed away last week due to the Camp wildfire in Concow, California, according to a Vintage Computer Federation blog post. More than 50 other people also died in the fires, but chances are Mr. Godbout was the only one with a license to fly blimps. "Godbout was born October 2, 1939," the blog post reads. "He talked about his introduction to computing in an interview with InfoWorld magazine for their February 18, 1980 issue. 'My first job out of college was with IBM. I served a big-system apprenticeship there, but I think the thing that really triggered [my interest] was the introduction of the 8008 by Intel,' he said. 'I was fascinated that you could have that kind of capability in a little 18-pin package.'" Godbout's family has set up a GoFundMe campaign to support their needs in this difficult time.Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Apple's Siri May Soon Process Voice Locally On a Device, No Cloud Required

(4 days ago)
Proudrooster writes: "Apple wants Siri to become more useful to users when not connected to the internet, including the possibility of an offline mode that does not rely on a backend server to assist with voice recognition or performing the required task, one that would be entirely performed on the user's device," reports Apple Insider. Just give it 10 years and everything old is new again. Siri will join the ranks of Ford/Microsoft Sync and Intel Edison. Do any other phones/cars/speakers have this option right now? The new capabilities are outlined in a recently-published patent application that describes an "Offline personal assistant." "Rather than connected to Apple's servers, the filing suggests the speech-to-text processing and validation could happen on the device itself," reports Apple Insider. "On hearing the user make a request, the device in question will be capable of determining the task via onboard natural language processing, working out if the requested task as it hears it is useful, then performing it. "Read more of this story at Slashdot.

People Sensitive To Caffeine's Bitter Taste Drink More Coffee, Study Finds

(4 days ago)
An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: A team of researchers conducted their analysis using data stored in something called the UK Biobank. More than 500,000 people have contributed blood, urine and saliva samples to the biobank, which scientists can use to answer various research questions. The volunteers also filled out questionnaires asking a variety of health-related questions, including how much coffee they drink. Part of what determines our sensitivity to bitter substances is determined by the genes we inherit from our parents. So the researchers used genetic analysis of samples from the biobank to find people who were more or less sensitive to three bitter substances: caffeine, quinine (think tonic water) and a chemical called propylthiouracil that is frequently used in genetic tests of people's ability to taste bitter compounds. Then they looked to see if people sensitive to one or more of these substances drank more or less coffee than people who were not sensitive. To the researchers' surprise, people who were more sensitive to caffeine reported increased coffee consumption compared with people who were less sensitive. The result was restricted to the bitterness of caffeine. People sensitive to quinine and propylthiouracil -- neither of which is in coffee -- tended to drink less coffee. The effect of increased caffeine sensitivity was small: it only amounted to about two tablespoons more coffee per day. But by analyzing so many samples, the researchers were[..]

Man Spoofs GPS To Fake Shop Visits For Profit, Gets Caught

(4 days ago)
AmiMoJo writes: A man in Japan used GPS spoofing to fake 2.7 million visits to shops in the Aeon Kyushu chain. Each visit rewarded him with 2 "WAON" points, with the total worth around 5.3 million yen ($45,000). The man used 45 laptops to continually spoof GPS readings and launch the Aeon Kyushu app, collecting 2 points each time.Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Hacker Says They Compromised ProtonMail; ProtonMail Calls BS

(4 days ago)
A hacker going by the name AmFearLiathMor is claiming to have hacked ProtonMail and stolen "significant" amounts of data. They have posted a ransom demand to an anonymous Pastebin but it reads like a prank, as it states that the alleged hackers have access to underwater drone activity and treaty violations in Antarctica. Lawrence Abrams writes via BleepingComputer: According to the message, a hacker going by the name AmFearLiathMor makes quite a few interesting claims such as hacking ProtonMail's services and stealing user's email, that ProtonMail is sending their user's decrypted data to American servers, and that ProtonMail is abusing the lack of Subresource Integrity (SRI) use to purposely and maliciously steal their user's passwords. After reading the Pastebin message (archive.is link), which is shown in its entirety below minus some alleged keys, and seeing the amount of claims, the first thing that came to mind was a corporate version of the sextortion scams that have been running rampant lately. As I kept reading it, though, it just felt like a joke. ProtonMail posted on Twitter that this is a hoax and that there is no evidence that anything states is true. The encrypted email service provided a statement to BleepingComputer: "We believe this extortion attempt is a hoax, and we have seen zero evidence to suggest otherwise. Not a single claim made is true and many of the claims are unsound from a technical standpoint. We are aware of a small number of ProtonMail[..]

Mark Shuttleworth Reveals Ubuntu 18.04 Will Get a 10-Year Support Lifespan

(4 days ago)
At the OpenStack Summit in Berlin last week, Ubuntu Linux founder Mark Shuttleworth said in a keynote that Ubuntu 18.04 Long Term Support (LTS) support lifespan would be extended from five years to 10 years. "I'm delighted to announce that Ubuntu 18.04 will be supported for a full 10 years," said Shuttleworth, "In part because of the very long time horizons in some of industries like financial services and telecommunications but also from IoT where manufacturing lines for example are being deployed that will be in production for at least a decade." ZDNet reports: Ubuntu 18.04 released in April 2018. While the Ubuntu desktop gets most of the ink, most of Canonical's dollars comes from server and cloud customers. It's for these corporate users Canonical first extended Ubuntu 12.04 security support, then Ubuntu 14.04's support, and now, preemptively, Ubuntu 18.04. In an interview after the keynote, Shuttleworth said Ubuntu 16.04, which is scheduled to reach its end of life in April 2021, will also be given a longer support life span. When it comes to OpenStack, Shuttleworth promised again to support versions of OpenStack dating back to 2014's IceHouse. Shuttleworth said, "What matters isn't day two, what matters is day 1,500." He also doubled-down on Canonical's promise to easily enable OpenStack customers to migrate from one version of OpenStack to another. Generally speaking, upgrading from one version of OpenStack is like a root canal: Long and painful but necessary. With[..]

Alphabet Unit Halts Glucose-Detecting Contact Lens Project

(4 days ago)
An anonymous reader shares a report from Reuters: Alphabet's life sciences division Verily said on Friday that it was putting on hold one of its oldest and highest-profile projects, a smart contact lens designed to help monitor sugar levels. The project, started in 2014, aimed to help diabetics better manage their blood sugar levels by embedding sensors on a contact lens to monitor the glucose levels in their tears. In a blog update, Verily cited here insufficient consistency in the correlation between tear glucose and blood glucose concentrations to support the requirements of a medical device. On the bright side, Alphabet and Verily said they would continue to work on two other "Smart Lens" projects -- one for presbyopia (far-sightedness), and another to improve sight following cataract surgery.Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Virginia To Produce 25K-35K Additional CS Grads As Part of Amazon HQ2 Deal

(4 days ago)
theodp writes: Developers! Developers! Developers! To make good on the proposal that snagged it a share of the Amazon HQ2 prize, the State of Virginia is also apparently on the hook for doubling the annual number of graduates with computer science or closely related degrees, with a goal to add 25,000 to 35,000 graduates (Amazon's HQ2 RFP demanded info on "education programs related to computer science"). To do that, the state will establish a performance-based investment fund for higher education institutions to expand their bachelor's degree programs, and spend up to $375 million on George Mason University's Arlington campus and a new Virginia Tech campus in Alexandria. The state will also spend $50 million on STEM + CS education in public schools and expanding internships for higher education students. Amazon is certainly focused on boosting the ranks of software engineer types. Earlier this month, Amazon launched Amazon Future Engineer, a program that aims to teach more than 10 million students a year how to code, part of a $50 million Amazon commitment to computer science education that was announced last year at a kickoff event for the Ivanka Trump-led White House K-12 CS Initiative. And on Wednesday, Amazon-bankrolled Code.org -- Amazon is a $10+ million Diamond Supporter of the nonprofit; CS/EE grad Jeff Bezos is a $1+ million Gold Supporter -- announced it has teamed with Amazon Future Engineer to build and launchHour of Code: Dance Party, a signature tutorial for[..]

BlackBerry Buys Cybersecurity Firm Cylance For $1.4 Billion

(4 days ago)
wiredmikey shares a report from SecurityWeek: BlackBerry on Friday announced that it has agreed to acquire endpoint security firm Cylance for $1.4 billion in cash. "We plan on immediately expanding the capabilities across BlackBerry's 'chip-to-edge' portfolio, including QNX, our safety-certified embedded OS that is deployed in more than 120 million vehicles, robot dogs, medical devices, and more," a BlackBerry company spokesperson told SecurityWeek. "Over time, we plan to integrate Cylance technology with our Spark platform, which is at the center of our strategy to ensure data flowing between endpoints (in a car, business, or smart city) is secured, private, and trusted." Cylance has raised roughly $300 million in funding [prior being acquired]. BlackBerry describes the "Spark platform" as a secure chip-to-edge communications platform "designed for ultra-security and industry-specific safety-certifications, such as ISO 26262 in automobiles."Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Dutch Government Report Says Microsoft Office Telemetry Collection Breaks EU GDPR Laws

(4 days ago)
"The Register reports that Microsoft has been accused of breaking EU's GDPR law by harvesting information through Office 365 and sending it to U.S. servers," writes Slashdot reader Hymer. "The discovery was made by the Dutch government." From the report: The dossier's authors found that the Windows goliath was collecting telemetry and other content from its Office applications, including email titles and sentences where translation or spellchecker was used, and secretly storing the data on systems in the United States. Those actions break Europe's new GDPR privacy safeguards, it is claimed, and may put Microsoft on the hook for potentially tens of millions of dollars in fines. The Dutch authorities are working with the corporation to fix the situation, and are using the threat of a fine as a stick to make it happen. The investigation was jumpstarted by the fact that Microsoft doesn't publicly reveal what information it gathers on users and doesn't provide an option for turning off diagnostic and telemetry data sent by its Office software to the company as a way of monitoring how well it is functioning and identifying any software issues. Much of what Microsoft collects is diagnostics, the researchers found, and it has seemingly tried to make the system GDPR compliant by storing Office documents on servers based in the EU. But it also collected other data that contained private information and some of that data still ended up on U.S. servers.Read more of this story at[..]

86 Organizations Demand Zuckerberg To Improve Takedown Appeals

(4 days ago)
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: An open letter to Mark Zuckerberg signed by 86 organizations and published on Tuesday implores Facebook to provide a clear, fast mechanism that allows users to appeal instances of content takedowns and account deactivations. The letter which was spearheaded by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Article 19, Ranking Digital Rights, and the Center for Democratic Technology (CDT) -- expanded upon the Santa Clara Principles published earlier this year, which called for all social media platforms to improve its transparency and responsiveness to flagged posts and appeals for removed content. In April of this year, Facebook launched appeals for posts that are removed on grounds nudity, hate speech, or graphic violence. The press release claims that one of Facebook's human content reviewers will review all appeals within 24 hours, and notify users if their appeal has been approved or denied. The open letter to Mark Zuckerberg also requests that all content takedown and deactivation appeals are reviewed by a human moderator, which Facebook claims that it already does. EFF Director of International Freedom of Expression, Jillian York, believes the undercurrent of content moderation on social media is the censorship or restriction of speech towards marginalized groups. "There are accounts, [and] there is content that is taken down frequently from social media, and we don't hear those stories as much because they're often[..]

Lock-Screen Bypass Bug Quietly Patched In Handsets

(4 days ago)
secwatcher shares a report from Threatpost: A design flaw affecting all in-display fingerprint sensors -- that left over a half-dozen cellphone models vulnerable to a trivial lock-screen bypass attack -- has been quietly patched. The flaw was tied to a bug in the popular in-display fingerprint reader technology used for user authentication. In-display fingerprint reader technology is widely considered an up-and-coming feature to be used in a number of flagship model phones introduced in 2019 by top OEM phone makers, according to Tencent's Xuanwu Lab which is credited for first identifying the flaw earlier this year. Impacted are all phones tested in the first half of 2018 that had in-display fingerprint sensors. That includes current models of Huawei Technologies' Porsche Design Mate RS and Mate 20 Pro model phones. Researchers said that many more cellphone manufacturers are impacted by the issue. The most popular phone in the U.S. that is impacted by this vulnerability is the OnePlus 6T. "[A]ll an attacker needs to carry out the attack is an opaque reflective material such as aluminum foil," reports Threatpost. "By placing the reflective material over a residual fingerprint on the phone's display the capacitance fingerprint imaging mechanism can be tricked into authenticating a fingerprint."Read more of this story at Slashdot.

NASA Decommissions the Kepler Space Telescope

(4 days ago)
Late last month, NASA announced that it would be retiring the Kepler space telescope after nearly ten years of service -- double its initial mission life. Now, as Space.com reports, the planet-hunting telescope has been officially decommissioned, "beaming 'goodnight' commands to the sun-orbiting observatory." From the report: "Kepler's team disabled the safety modes that could inadvertently turn systems back on, and severed communications by shutting down the transmitters," NASA officials wrote in a statement today (Nov. 16). "Because the spacecraft is slowly spinning, the Kepler team had to carefully time the commands so that instructions would reach the spacecraft during periods of viable communication." The final commands were sent from Kepler's operations center at the University of Colorado Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, NASA officials said. The commands got to the spacecraft via NASA's Deep Space Network, the system of big radio dishes the space agency uses to keep in touch with its far-flung probes.Read more of this story at Slashdot.

There Is No Link Between Insomnia and Early Death, Study Finds

(5 days ago)
A new report published in the journal Science Direct says there is no link between insomnia and early death. The researchers reportedly "reviewed 17 studies, which covered close to 37 million people, to compile their results," the BBC notes. From the report: This new report goes against what the NHS says, which claims that as well as putting people at risk of obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, that insomnia shortens life expectancy. The NHS recommends things like exercising to tire yourself out during the day and cutting down on caffeine. It also says smoking, eating too much or drinking alcohol late at night can stop you from sleeping well. Other recommendations include writing a list of things that are playing on your mind and trying to get to bed at a similar time every night. "There was no difference in the odds of mortality for those individuals with symptoms of insomnia when compared to those without symptoms," the study says. "This finding was echoed in the assessment of the rate of mortality in those with and without symptoms of insomnia using the outcomes of multivariate models, with the most complete adjustment for potential confounders, as reported by the individual studies included in this meta-analysis. Additional analyses revealed a tendency for an increased risk of mortality associated with hypnotic use."Read more of this story at Slashdot.

A New Senate Bill Would Hit Robocallers With Up To a $10,000 Fine For Every Call

(5 days ago)
Massachusetts Democratic Senator Ed Markey and South Dakota Republican Senator John Thune have introduced a bill on Friday that aims to ramp up the penalties on illegal robocalls and stop scammers from sending them. Gizmodo reports: The Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, raises the penalty for robocalls from $1,500 per call to up to $10,000 per call, and allows the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take action on illegal robocalls up to three years after the calls are placed, instead of a year. The Act also aims to push the FCC to work along with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and other agencies to provide information to Congress about advancements in hindering robocall and prosecuting scammers. Perhaps most importantly for us highly annoyed Americans, the bill would also force phone service providers to use call authentication that filters out illegitimate calls before they go through to consumers.Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Mid-Range Google 'Pixel 3 Lite' Leaks With Snapdragon 670, Headphone Jack

(5 days ago)
The first alleged images of the rumored "budget" Pixel 3 have been leaked. The Pixel 3 Lite, as it is being called, looks very similar to the Pixel 3, although it features a plastic build construction, slower processor, and a headphone jack. 9to5Google reports: Just like the standard Pixel 3, there's a display that's roughly 5.56-inches in size, but this time it's an IPS LCD panel at 2220x1080 rather than an OLED panel. Obviously, there's also no notch to be seen on this alleged Pixel 3 Lite. There's a single front-facing camera as well as one speaker above that display, relatively thick bezels on the top and bottom, and a speaker along the bottom of the device as well. Perhaps most interesting when it comes to the hardware, though, is that there's a headphone jack on the top of the phone. That's certainly unexpected since the Pixel 2 dropped the jack and Google hasn't looked back since. Tests from Rozetked reveal some of the specifications running this device as well. That includes a Snapdragon 670 chipset, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage. Previous reports have pointed to a Snapdragon 710. Battery capacity on this device is also reported at 2915 mAh and there's a USB-C port along the bottom. It is rumored to include the same 12MP and 8MP cameras found in the standard Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, which will be a huge selling point for the affordable phone market. The price is expected to be around $400-500.Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Cheaper, Disc-Free Xbox One Coming Next Year, Report Says

(5 days ago)
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Microsoft is planning to release a disc-free version of the Xbox One as early as next spring, according to an unsourced report from author Brad Sams of Thurrott.com (who has been reliable with early Xbox-related information in the past). The report suggests the disc-free version of the system would not replace the existing Xbox One hardware, and it would instead represent "the lowest possible price for the Xbox One S console." Sams says that price could come in at $199 "or lower," a significant reduction from the system's current $299 starting price (but not as compelling compared to $199 deals for the Xbox One and PS4 planned for Black Friday this year). Buyers will also be able to add a subscription to the Xbox Games Pass program for as little as $1, according to Sams. For players who already have games on disc, Sams says Microsoft will offer a "disc to digital" program in association with participating publishers. Players will be able to take their discs into participating retailers (including Microsoft Stores) and trade them in for a "digital entitlement" that can be applied to their Xbox Live account.Read more of this story at Slashdot.

MiSafes' Child-Tracking Smartwatches Are 'Easy To Hack'

(5 days ago)
The location-tracking "MiSafe" smartwatch may not be as safe as the name proclaims. According to security researchers from Pen Test Partners, the watches are easy to hack as they do not encrypt the data they use or secure each child's account. The researchers found that they could track children's movements, surreptitiously listen in to their activities and make spoof calls to the watches that appeared to be from parents. The BBC reports: The MiSafes watch was first released in 2015. It uses a global positioning system (GPS) sensor and a 2G mobile data connection to let parents see where their child is, via a smartphone app. In addition, parents can create a "safe zone" and receive an alert if the child leaves the area. The adult can also listen in to what their offspring is doing at any time and trigger two-way calls. Pen Test Partner's Ken Munro and Alan Monie learned of the product's existence when a friend bought one for his son earlier this year. Out of curiosity, they probed its security measures and found that easy-to-find PC software could be used to mimic the app's communications. This software could be used to change the assigned ID number, which was all it took to get access to others' accounts. This made it possible to see personal information used to register the product, including: a photo of the child; their name, gender and date of birth; their height and weight; the parents' phone numbers; and the phone number assigned to the watch's Sim card.Read more of[..]

Google Cloud Executive Who Sought Pentagon Contract Steps Down

(5 days ago)
Diane Greene, whose pursuit of Pentagon contracts for artificial intelligence technology sparked a worker uprising at Google, is stepping down as chief executive of the company's cloud computing business (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). "Ms. Greene said she would stay on as chief executive until January. She will be replaced by Thomas Kurian, who oversaw product development at Oracle until his resignation in October. Ms. Greene will remain a board director at Google's parent company, Alphabet," reports The New York Times. From the report: The change in leadership caps a turbulent three years for Ms. Greene, who was brought on to expand Google's cloud computing business. Google Cloud has struggled to make major inroads in persuading corporate customers to use its computing infrastructure over alternatives like Amazon's A.W.S. and Microsoft's Azure. In a blog post published by the company, Ms. Greene said she had initially told friends and family that she was planning to run Google Cloud for only two years but stayed for three. Ms. Greene, a widely respected technologist and entrepreneur, said that after leaving Google Cloud, she planned to help female founders of companies by investing in and mentoring them. Ms. Greene joined Google in 2015 when it acquired Bebop, a start-up she had founded, for $380 million. Ms. Greene defended Google's pursuit of a Defense Department contract for the Maven program, which uses AI to interpret video images and could be[..]

Trump Signs Bill That Creates the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency

(5 days ago)
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: U.S. President Donald Trump signed today a bill into law, approving the creation of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). The bill, known as the CISA Act, reorganizes and rebrands the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD), a program inside the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), as CISA, a standalone federal agency in charge of overseeing civilian and federal cybersecurity programs. The NPPD, which was first established in 2007, has already been handling almost all of the DHS' cyber-related issues and projects. As part of the DHS, the NPPD was the government entity in charge of physical and cyber-security of federal networks and critical infrastructure, and oversaw the Federal Protective Service (FPS), the Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM), the Office of Cyber and Infrastructure Analysis (OCIA), the Office of Cybersecurity & Communications (OC&C), and the Office of Infrastructure Protection (OIP). As CISA, the agency's prerogatives will remain the same, and nothing is expected to change in day-to-day operations, but as a federal agency, CISA will now benefit from an increased budget and more authority in imposing its directives. "Elevating the cybersecurity mission within the Department of Homeland Security, streamlining our operations, and giving NPPD a name that reflects what it actually does will help better secure the nation's critical infrastructure and cyber[..]

Linux 4.20 is Running Slower Than 4.19 On Intel CPUs

(5 days ago)
Freshly Exhumed writes: An intentional kernel change in Linux kernel 4.20 for enhanced Spectre mitigation is unfortunately causing Intel Linux performance to be much slower than with 4.19. That change is 'STIBP' (Single Thread Indirect Branch Predictors), which allows for preventing cross-hyperthread control of decisions that are made by indirect branch predictors. It affects Intel systems that have up-to-date microcode and CPU Hyper Threading enabled. Phoronix gives the evidence.Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Air Quality in San Francisco is So Bad that Uber Drivers Are Selling Masks Out of Their Cars

(5 days ago)
California's devastating wildfires are causing unhealthy air conditions for locals breathing in harmful fumes. From a report: In San Francisco, which currently has the second-worst-rated air quality out of any city in the world, one driver was spotted selling N95 respirator masks for $5 apiece. That's significantly above market rate. Right now you can buy a 10-pack of similar masks for about $13 on Amazon. But considering the masks are sold out at many local stores, riders may be willing to dish out the cash for immediate access to the protective gear. Further reading: California needs to reinvent its fire policies, or the death and destruction will go on.Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Alphabet unit halts glucose-detecting contact lens project

(5 days ago)
Alphabet Inc's life sciences division Verily said on Friday that it was putting on hold one of its oldest and highest-profile projects, a smart contact lens designed to help monitor sugar levels.

Amazon Has Everything it Needs To Make Massively Popular Algorithm-Driven Fiction

(5 days ago)
Thu-Huong Ha, writing for Quartz: Amazon's power in books extends way beyond its ability to sell them super cheap and super fast. This year, a little over 40% of the print books sold in the US moved through the site, according to estimates from Bookstat, which tracks US online book retail. (NPD, which tracks 85% of US trade print sales, declined to provide data broken out by retailer.) In the US, Amazon dominates ebook sales and hosts hundreds of thousands of self-published ebooks on its platforms, many exclusively. It looms over the audiobook scene, in retail as well as production, and is one of the biggest marketplaces for used books in the US. Amazon also makes its own books -- more than 1,500 last year. All that power comes with great data, which Amazon's publishing arm is well positioned to exploit in the interest of making books tailored exactly to what people want -- down to which page characters should meet on or how many lines of dialogue they should exchange. Though Amazon declined to comment specifically on whether it uses data to shape or determine the content of its own books, the company acknowledged that authors are recruited for their past sales (as is common in traditional publishing). "Amazon Publishing titles are thoughtfully acquired by our team -- made up of publishing-industry veterans and long-time Amazonians -- with many factors taken into consideration," says Amazon Publishing publisher Mikyla Bruder, "including the acquiring editor's enthusiasm, the[..]

Digital media company Technicolor explores options including sale: sources

(5 days ago)
Technicolor SA has been exploring options that include a full or partial sale of the French digital media company, as its set-top box business struggles because of higher prices for memory chips, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

Most ATMs Can Be Hacked in Under 20 Minutes

(5 days ago)
An extensive testing session carried out by bank security experts at Positive Technologies has revealed that most ATMs can be hacked in under 20 minutes, and even less, in certain types of attacks. From a report: Experts tested ATMs from NCR, Diebold Nixdorf, and GRGBanking, and detailed their findings in a 22-page report published this week. The attacks they tried are the typical types of exploits and tricks used by cyber-criminals seeking to obtain money from the ATM safe or to copy the details of users' bank cards (also known as skimming). Experts said that 85 percent of the ATMs they tested allowed an attacker access to the network. The research team did this by either unplugging and tapping into Ethernet cables, or by spoofing wireless connections or devices to which the ATM usually connected to. Researchers said that 27 percent of the tested ATMs were vulnerable to having their processing center communications spoofed, while 58 percent of tested ATMs had vulnerabilities in their network components or services that could be exploited to control the ATM remotely.Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Microsoft is Testing Ads in Mail App For Windows 10 in Select Markets

(5 days ago)
Mark Wilson writes: Ads in your inbox. Sounds like something you'd expect from the likes of Google or Yahoo, but Microsoft appears to be about to get in on the act as well. And we're not talking about online ads in your Outlook.com account -- we're talking about ads in the Mail app that's included with Windows 10. A new report says that Microsoft is currently testing ads with Windows Insiders, so it could be just a matter of time before they spread wider. In a support page, spotted first by news outlet Thurrott, Microsoft says, "Consistent with consumer email apps and services like Outlook.com, Gmail, and Yahoo Mail, advertising allows us to provide, support, and improve some of our products. We're always experimenting with new features and experiences. Currently, we have a pilot running in Brazil, Canada, Australia, and India to get user feedback on ads in Mail."Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Google Cloud names Thomas Kurian to replace CEO Diane Greene

(5 days ago)
Former Oracle Corp product chief Thomas Kurian will replace Diane Greene as head of the cloud division at Alphabet Inc's Google in the coming weeks, Greene announced in a blog post on Friday, after a tumultuous year for the business.

Google Cloud names Thomas Kurian to replace CEO Diane Greene

(5 days ago)
Former Oracle Corp product chief Thomas Kurian will replace Diane Greene as head of the cloud division at Alphabet Inc's Google in the coming weeks, Greene announced in a blog post on Friday, after a tumultuous year for the business.

Russians impersonating U.S. State Department aide in hacking campaign: researchers

(5 days ago)
Hackers linked to the Russian government are impersonating U.S. State Department employees in an operation aimed at infecting computers of U.S. government agencies, think tanks and businesses, two cybersecurity firms told Reuters.

Google Maps Has Introduced So Many New Features and Design Changes in Recent Months That Getting Directions On It is Becoming an Increasingly Challenging Task

(5 days ago)
Earlier this week, Google announced it is bringing business messaging to Maps, the latest in a myriad of features it has introduced to its mapping platform in recent months. A business that wants to participate will need to use Google's "My Business" verification system and its associated app to send and receive messages. While that could prove useful to a number of businesses and customers, it has raised a concern as well. From a report: But that leads me to my third feeling: what the heck is going on with Google Maps? It is becoming overburdened with so many features and design changes that it's becoming harder and harder to just get directions in it. There's Group Planning, there's a social-esque "follow" button for local businesses, you can share your ETA, there's a redesigned "Explore" section, and there's almost no way to get the damn thing to show you a cross street near your destination without three full minutes of desperate pinching and zooming and re-zooming. It's becoming bloated, is what I'm saying. It's Google's equivalent of Big Blue, as Facebook nicknames its flagship app that does a thousand things across countless strange nooks and crannies. It's as though Google wants to kill off Yelp once and for all, but can't let anybody notice how hard it's trying to do that so it just slow rolls those things into Google Maps instead.Read more of this story at Slashdot.

U.S. regulator settles with tech startups over token sale violations

(5 days ago)
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Friday settled charges with two tech companies for improperly offering digital tokens, mandating that they register their offerings as securities and reimburse investors.

U.S. regulator settles with tech startups over token sale violations

(5 days ago)
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Friday settled charges with two tech companies for improperly offering digital tokens, mandating that they register their offerings as securities and reimburse investors.

Oracle veteran Thomas Kurian to replace Diane Greene as Google Cloud CEO

(5 days ago)
Former Oracle Corp product chief Thomas Kurian is replacing Diane Greene as chief executive of Alphabet Inc's Google Cloud, according to a blog post https://cloud.google.com/blog/topics/inside-google-cloud/transitioning-google-cloud-after-three-great-years from Greene.

Oracle veteran Thomas Kurian to replace Diane Greene as Google Cloud CEO

(5 days ago)
Former Oracle Corp product chief Thomas Kurian is replacing Diane Greene as chief executive of Alphabet Inc's Google Cloud, according to a blog post https://cloud.google.com/blog/topics/inside-google-cloud/transitioning-google-cloud-after-three-great-years from Greene.

A Leaky Database of SMS Text Messages Exposed Password Resets and Two-Factor Codes

(5 days ago)
A database which contained millions of text messages used to authenticate users signing into websites was left exposed to the internet without a password. From the report: The exposed server belongs to Voxox (formerly Telcentris), a San Diego, Calif.-based communications company. The server wasn't protected with a password, allowing anyone who knew where to look to peek in and snoop on a near-real-time stream of text messages. For Sebastien Kaul, a Berlin-based security researcher, it didn't take long to find. Although Kaul found the exposed server on Shodan, a search engine for publicly available devices and databases, it was also attached to to one of Voxox's own subdomains. Worse, the database -- running on Amazon's Elasticsearch -- was configured with a Kibana front-end, making the data within easily readable, browsable and searchable for names, cell numbers and the contents of the text messages themselves.Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Microsoft Store Starts Accepting Windows 10 on ARM Apps

(5 days ago)
Microsoft announced Friday that it is opening up its online apps store to 64-bit ARM app submissions from developers, further cementing its commitment to make Windows 10 on ARM a viable platform. From a report: Also, with the release of Visual Studio 2017 version 15.9 this week, developers can now create ARM64 apps using officially supported SDK and tools. Microsoft announced Windows 10 on ARM in December 2017 with three big feature promises: The screen turns on "instantly," unlike existing PCs; LTE is built right in; and the battery can last for days. But the unveiling came with a big caveat. These Always Connected PCs, as Microsoft and Qualcomm call them, were not coming anytime soon. [...] Microsoft wants to help address the performance problems by getting developers to rebuild apps for the platform. Developers can now use Visual Studio 15.9 to recompile UWP and C++ Win32 apps to run natively on Windows 10 on ARM devices.Read more of this story at Slashdot.

U.S. Senate bill vows to get tough on robocalls, up penalties

(5 days ago)
Two U.S. senators on Friday unveiled bipartisan legislation to toughen penalties on robocalls, make it easier for regulators to crack down on unwanted calls and compel mobile phone providers to adopt call authentication technologies.

Science is Getting Less Bang for Its Buck

(5 days ago)
Despite vast increases in the time and money spent on research, progress is barely keeping pace with the past. What went wrong? An anonymous reader shares a report: Today, there are more scientists, more funding for science, and more scientific papers published than ever before. On the surface, this is encouraging. But for all this increase in effort, are we getting a proportional increase in our scientific understanding? Or are we investing vastly more merely to sustain (or even see a decline in) the rate of scientific progress? It's surprisingly difficult to measure scientific progress in meaningful ways. Part of the trouble is that it's hard to accurately evaluate how important any given scientific discovery is. [...] With that in mind, we ran a survey asking scientists to compare Nobel prizewinning discoveries in their fields. We then used those rankings to determine how scientists think the quality of Nobel prizewinning discoveries has changed over the decades. As a sample survey question, we might ask a physicist which was a more important contribution to scientific understanding: the discovery of the neutron (the particle that makes up roughly half the ordinary matter in the universe) or the discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation (the afterglow of the Big Bang). Think of the survey as a round-robin tournament, competitively matching discoveries against one another, with expert scientists judging which is better. For the physics prize, we surveyed 93[..]

Kilogram Gets a New Definition

(5 days ago)
Scientists have changed the way the kilogram is defined. Currently, it is defined by the weight of a platinum-based ingot called "Le Grand K" which is locked away in a safe in Paris. On Friday, researchers meeting in Versailles voted to get rid of it in favour of defining a kilogram in terms of an electric current. From a report: The decision was made at the General Conference on Weights and Measures. But some scientists, such as Perdi Williams at the National Physical Laboratory in the UK, have expressed mixed feelings about the change. "I haven't been on this project for too long but I feel a weird attachment to the kilogram," she said. "I think it is such an exciting thing and this is a really big moment. So I'm a little bit sad about [the change]. But it is an important step forward and so the new system is going to work a lot better. It is also a really exciting time, and I can't wait for it to happen." Le Grand K has been at the forefront of the international system of measuring weights since 1889. Several close replicas were made and distributed around the globe. But the master kilogram and its copies were seen to change -- ever so slightly -- as they deteriorated. In a world where accurate measurement is now critical in many areas, such as in drug development, nanotechnology and precision engineering -- those responsible for maintaining the international system had no option but to move beyond Le Grand K to a more robust definition.Read more of this story at Slashdot.

The egos disbanded? Bridging the great advertising divide

(5 days ago)
Traditional advertising groups hope that their creative flair will prevail against the technological clout of consultancies encroaching on their business, but there are signs the two sides of the divide are moving closer together.

PlayStation Begins Collecting Amusement Tax From Chicago Users

(5 days ago)
schwit1 writes: PlayStation users in Chicago on Wednesday began paying a 9 percent tax on streaming content as the gaming company starts complying with a city levy. The Sony-owned company joins other streaming services including Spotify, Netflix and Hulu in complying with the charge, which took effect three years ago. The city's amusement tax, which used to apply mostly to concert and sporting event tickets, was extended to include streaming services in 2015. That includes charges paid for playing games, according to Chicago's Finance Department. Some tech companies have fought the additional 9 percent charge. Apple filed a lawsuit against the city in August alleging the tax on its music streaming services was illegal and discriminatory. That suit is pending in Cook County Circuit Court. Meanwhile, Apple is not collecting the tax. In 2015, a group of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Spotify, XBox Live and Hulu users sued Chicago in Cook County, alleging the tax violates federal law. The judge ruled in the city's favor in May, and the streaming service users appealed the decision. The case is pending in state Appellate Court.Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Volkswagen expects to be the most profitable maker of electric cars

(5 days ago)
Volkswagen Chief Executive Herbert Diess on Friday said he expected the multi-brand carmaking group to be the most profitable manufacturer of electric cars thanks to economies of scale.

European chipmakers see new growth drivers to weather volatile demand

(5 days ago)
European chipmakers tried to play down market concerns about a potential slowdown in global demand at an investor conference in Barcelona this week, striking an upbeat tone on orders from car and smartphone makers.
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