Check out the brand new SourceForge HTML5 speed test! Test your internet connection now. Works on all devices. ×
The Courts

Wisconsin's Prison-Sentencing Algorithm Challenged in Court (engadget.com) 12

"Do you want a computer to help decide a convict's fate?" asks Engadget, telling the story of a Wisconsin convict who "claims that the justice system relied too heavily on its COMPAS algorithm to determine the likelihood of repeat offenses and sentenced him to six years in prison." Sentencing algorithms have apparently been in use for 10 years. His attorneys claim that the code is "full of holes," including secret criteria and generic decisions that aren't as individually tailored as they have to be. For instance, they'll skew predictions based on your gender or age -- how does that reflect the actual offender...?

[T]he court challenge could force Wisconsin and other states to think about the weight they give to algorithms. While they do hold the promise of both preventing repeat offenses and avoiding excessive sentences for low-threat criminals, the American Civil Liberties Union is worried that they can amplify biases or make mistakes based on imperfect law enforcement data.

The biggest issue seems to be a lack of transparency, which makes it impossible to determine whether convicts actually are receiving fair sentences.
Security

Religious Hacker Defaces 111 Escort Sites (softpedia.com) 66

An anonymous reader shares this article from Softpedia: A religiously-motivated Moroccan hacker has defaced 111 different web sites promoting escort services since last summer as part of an ongoing protest against the industry. "In January, the hacker defaced 79 escort websites," writes Softpedia. "His actions didn't go unnoticed, and on some online forums where escorts and webmasters of these websites met, his name was brought up in discussions and used to drive each other in implementing better Web security. While some webmasters did their job, some didn't. During the past days, the hacker has been busy defacing a new set of escort websites... Most of these websites bare ElSurveillance's defacement message even today... Most of the websites are from the UK."
His newest round of attacks replace the sites with a pro-Palestine message and a quote from the quran, though in January Softpedia reported the attacker was also stealing data from some of the sites about their users' accounts.
Television

Is The Future Of Television Watching on Fast-Forward? (washingtonpost.com) 145

The average American watches three hours of TV each day, and researchers have found that most people already prefer listening to accelerated speech. "After watching accelerated video on my computer for a few months, live television began to seem excruciatingly slow..." writes the Washington Post's Jeff Guo. "Movie theaters feel suffocating. I need to be able to fast-forward and rewind and accelerate and slow down, to be able to parcel my attention where it's needed..." Slashdot reader HughPickens.com distills some interesting points from Guo's article: You can play DVDs and iTunes purchases at whatever tempo you like, and a Google engineer has written a popular Chrome extension that accelerates most other Web videos, including on Netflix, Vimeo and Amazon Prime. Over 100,000 people have downloaded that plug-in, and the reviews are ecstatic. "Oh my God! I regret all the wasted time I've lived before finding this gem!!" one user wrote.

According to Guo speeding up video is more than an efficiency hack. "I quickly discovered that acceleration makes viewing more pleasurable. "Modern Family" played at twice the speed is far funnier -- the jokes come faster and they seem to hit harder. I get less frustrated at shows that want to waste my time with filler plots or gratuitous violence. The faster pace makes it easier to appreciate the flow of the plot and the structure of the scenes."

Guo writes that "I've come to believe this is the future of how we will appreciate television and movies. We will interrogate videos in new ways using our powers of time manipulation... we will all be watching on our own terms." Will this eventually become much more common? How many Slashdot readers are already watching speeded-up videos?
Government

IRS Gets Hacked Again, Forced To Scrap Their Entire PIN System (engadget.com) 92

The IRS has abandoned a system of PIN numbers used when filing tax returns online after they detected "automated attacks taking place at an increasing frequency," adding that only "a small number" of taxpayers were affected. An anonymous reader quotes the highlights from Engadget: The IRS chose not to kill the tool back in February, since most commercial tax software products use it... If you'll recall, identity thieves used malware to steal taxpayers' info from other websites, which was then used to generate 100,000 PINs, back in February... This time, the IRS detected "automated attacks taking place at an increasing frequency" thanks to the additional defenses it added after that initial hack... the agency determined that it would be safer to give up on a verification method that's scheduled for the chopping block anyway.
The Almighty Buck

Vacationing Security Researcher Exposes Austrian ATM Skimmer (carbonblack.com) 152

While vacationing with his family in Vienna, Ben Tedesco (from security company Carbon Black) discovered an ATM skimmer "in the wild", perfectly crafted to look like the original card reader. New submitter rmurph04 shares Ben's story: I went to grab some cash from an ATM. Being security paranoid, I repeated my typical habit of checking the card reader with my hand as I have hundreds of times. Today's the day when my security awareness paid off!
Ben's blog post includes a video demonstrating the ATM skimmer, as well as close-ups showing the device had its own control board, strip reader, and even its own battery.
EU

UK Tech Sector Reacts To Brexit: Some Anticipate Slow Down, Some Contemplate Relocation 445

In the aftermath of the United Kingdom voting to leave the European Union, UK's technology industry is reassessing its position, with many of them considering moving to a continental location. According to reports, Samsung, LG, and Acer have noted that the UK leaving the EU will affect their operations. From a BBC report:As news of Brexit broke, tech firms including BT, TalkTalk and software firm Sage reported share price falls. [...] "I have concerns that the local market might slow down," said Drew Benvie, founder of London-based digital agency Battenhall. From a report on The Guardian:Britain's financial technology sector is particularly hard-hit, with the prospect of losing access to European markets an unappealing one. "Fintech" has long been one of the UK's most promising growth areas, in part due to London's position as the financial capital of Europe. [...] Not one of the 14 billion-dollar tech firms based in the UK the Guardian asked said leaving the EU would be good for their business.Toby Coppel, the co-founder of venture capital firm Mosaic, said: "The next entrepreneur who's 22 years old, graduating from a technical university in Germany may, instead of moving to London to do their Fintech startup, decide to go to Berlin instead. I think that's one of the biggest concerns I have about the trajectory of the London technical ecosystem."
Ubuntu

Ubuntu-Based Peppermint 7 Released (peppermintos.com) 67

Softpedia reports on the newest version of Peppermint OS, "a lightweight, stable, elegant, and fast computer operating system based on GNU/Linux and Open Source technologies." An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes their report: It's a bit earlier than expected, but the Peppermint OS 7 GNU/Linux distribution has been officially unveiled...based on the Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus) operating system [with] a lot of packages from the Ubuntu 16.04 LTS distro, which means that it will also be a long-term support release.... "Along with the shift to the 16.04 (Xenial) code base, Peppermint 7 continues our policy of choosing the best components from other desktop environments, wherever that may be, and integrating them into a cohesive whole with our own software," reads today's announcement.
"Team Peppermint" says they're switching to Firefox as their default browser for site-specific browser functionality (similar to Chrome's -app mode) after Google dropped their 32-bit version of Chrome and moved to PPAPI plugins "which effectively ends Flash support in 32-bit Chromium"... But you can also still choose Chrome or Chromium for site-specific browsing (and the OS comes in 32-bit and 64-bit editions).
Security

Crypto Ransomware Attacks Have Jumped 500% In The Last Year (onthewire.io) 36

Kaspersky Lab is reporting that the last year saw a 500% increase in the number of users who encountered crypto ransomware. Trailrunner7 shares an article from On The Wire: Data compiled by Kaspersky researchers from the company's cloud network shows that from April 2015 to March 2016, the volume of crypto ransomware encountered by users leapt from 131,111 to 718,536. That's a massive increase, especially considering the fact that ransomware is a somewhat mature threat. It didn't just burst onto the scene a couple of years ago. Kaspersky's researchers said the spike in crypto ransomware can be attributed to a small group of variants. "Looking at the malware groups that were active in the period covered by this report, it appears that a rather short list of suspects is responsible for most of the trouble caused by crypto-ransomware..."

It's difficult to overstate how much of an effect the emergence of ransomware has had on consumers, enterprises, and the security industry itself. The FBI has been warning users about crypto ransomware for some time now, and has consistently advised victims not to pay any ransoms. Security researchers have been publishing decryption tools for specific ransomware variants and law enforcement agencies have had some success in taking down ransomware gangs.

Enterprise targets now account for 13% of ransomware attacks, with attackers typically charging tens of thousands of dollars, the article reports, and "Recent attacks on networks at the University of Calgary and Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center have demonstrated the brutal effectiveness of this strategy."
Transportation

Austin Is Conducting Sting Operations Against Ride-Sharing Drivers (examiner.com) 226

Since the Uber and Lyft ride-sharing apps stopped service in Austin, drunk driving has increased, riders are hunting for alternatives, and the police are conducting undercover sting operations against unauthorized ride-sharing drivers. With Chicago also considering new restrictions on ride-sharing apps, Slashdot reader MarkWhittington shares this report from Austin: With thousands of drivers and tens of thousands of riders who once depended on ride-sharing services in a lurch, a group called Arcade City has tried to fill the void with a person-to-person site to link up drivers and riders who then negotiate a fare. Of course, according to a story on KVUE, the Austin city government, and the police are on the case. The Austin Police Department has diverted detectives and resources to conduct sting operations on ride-sharing drivers who attempt to operate without official sanction. Undercover operatives will arrange for a ride with an Arcade City driver and then bust them, impounding their vehicle and imposing a fine.
"The first Friday and Saturday after Uber was gone, we were joking that it was like the zombie apocalypse of drunk people," one former ride-sharing driver told Vocative.com. Earlier this month the site compared this year's drunk driving arrests to last years -- and discovered that in the three weeks since Uber and Lyft left Austin, 7.5% more people have been arrested for drunk driving.
EU

Web Petition For 2nd EU Referendum Draws Huge Interest (ap.org) 577

From an Associated Press report:An online petition seeking a second referendum on a British exit from the Europe Union has drawn more than 1.6 million names, a measure of the extraordinary divisiveness of Thursday's vote to leave the 28-nation bloc. The online petition site hosted by the House of Commons website even crashed Friday under the weight of the activity as officials said they'd seen unprecedented interest in the measure, which calls on the government to implement a rule that stating if that if "remain" or "leave" camps won less than 60 percent of the vote with less than a 75 percent turnout "there should be another referendum."According to reports, this is the biggest surge of support Parliament's website has ever seen. Looking at the keywords people were hitting up on Google after the news first broke, it was clear that a considerable portion of the population was clueless about the whole situation.
Communications

Snowden Finally Identified As Target of Investigation That Ended Lavabit (washingtontimes.com) 73

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Washington Times: Three years after a government investigation forced the shuttering of Lavabit, a Texas-based email provider, its CEO revealed Friday that an account belonging to Edward Snowden spurred the probe that put his company out of business. "Ladar Levison shut down his encrypted webmail service in August 2013 amid an FBI investigation focused on one of his company's nearly half-a-million customers," reports The Washington Times. "A gag-order that has just recently been vacated in federal has legally prevented him up until now from confirming the account in question was registered to none other than the NSA contractor attributed with one of the largest intelligence leaks in U.S. history. U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton nullified the mandatory non-disclosure orders in a June 13 court filing that went unnoticed until Lavabit released a statement Friday. Officially, the consent order approved by Judge Hilton in the Eastern District of Virginia earlier this month removes all gag-orders concerning Lavabit and Mr. Levison with regards to a grand jury investigation that led the FBI to Mr. Snowdenâ(TM)s email account. 'While Iâ(TM)m pleased that I can finally speak freely about the target of the investigation, I also know the fight to protect our collective freedom is far from over,' Mr. Levison said in a statement. He said he plans to discuss the case further during the DefCon security conference in Las Vegas this summer."
NASA

NASA Approves Five More Years For Hubble Space Telescope (newscientist.com) 46

An anonymous reader quotes a report from New Scientist: NASA has announced plans to extend operations of the famous space telescope for another five years, through to June 2021. That means it will still be on the job when its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) launches in 2018, giving astronomers a dual view of the universe. "Hubble is expected to continue to provide valuable data into the 2020s, securing its place in history as an outstanding general-purpose observatory in areas ranging from our solar system to the distant universe," said a NASA statement. Squeezing more life out of Hubble means it will overlap with NASA's next big telescope, JWST when it launches in 2018. While Hubble sees the cosmos in visible and ultraviolet light, JWST operates in the infrared. The various wavelengths can reveal different aspects of stars and galaxies, so using the scopes in tandem will enable astronomers to study the heavens in even greater detail.
Power

Sweden Tests World's First Electric Road For Trucks (inhabitat.com) 100

Kristine Lofgren writes: Electric vehicles are cool, but for industrial vehicles it can be a challenge to get very far on just electric power. That's why Sweden is testing out an electric road where e-vehicles can jump on, get juiced while they travel, and get back on the road. The country just opened a two kilometer test stretch in Sandviken on the E16 where electric vehicles can connect to an overhead system that is very similar to light rail. It's another exciting step towards a fossil fuel-free Sweden. Trucks can use the electric power while riding on the special electric road system -- on regular roads they operate as hybrid vehicles. The testing is scheduled to take place until 2018, which should give the country enough time to see how the technology functions in the real world. Sweden's energy and sustainable growth agencies will fund the project in addition to the transport administration.
Medicine

New Apps Let Women Obtain Birth Control Without Visiting a Doctor 272

HughPickens.com writes: With nearly 40 percent of all pregnancies in the United States unintended, birth control is a critical public health issue. For short-term methods, visiting the doctor for a prescription can be time-consuming and sometimes costly and for some, like teenagers, it can be intimidating or embarrassing. Now Pam Belluck reports at the NYT that a growing assortment of new apps and websites now make it possible to get prescription contraceptives without going to the doctor as public health experts hope the new apps will encourage more women to start, or restart, using contraception and help reduce the country's stubbornly high rate of unintended pregnancies, as well as the rate of abortions. At least six digital ventures, by private companies and nonprofits, including Planned Parenthood, now provide prescriptions written by clinicians after women answer questions about their health online or by video. All prescribe birth control pills, and some prescribe patches, rings and morning-after pills and some ship contraceptives directly to women's doors. "At first I didn't believe it," said Susan Hashem, who wanted to restart birth control pills without missing work for a doctor's appointment. Hashem used an app called Lemonaid and paid $15 for a doctor to review her medical information and send a pill prescription to a local pharmacy. "I thought it was just a setup to get money," Hashem said. But after she answered the health questions one evening, "a doctor actually contacted me after office hours," and the next morning, she picked up three months' worth of pills.
Businesses

Robot Pizza Company 'Zume' Wants To Be 'Amazon of Food' (bloomberg.com) 201

kheldan writes: Do you want robots making your pizza? Alex Garden, co-founder and executive chairman of Mountain View startup Zume, is betting you will. Garden, the former president of Zynga Studios, was previously a general manager of Microsoft's Xbox Live. Garden launched Zume in stealth mode last June, when he began quietly recruiting engineers under a pseudonym and building his patented trucks in an unmarked Mountain View garage. In September, he brought on Julia Collins, a 37-year-old restaurant veteran. She became chief executive officer and a co-founder. Collins was previously the vice president and CEO of Harlem Jazz Enterprises, the holding company for Minton's, a historic Harlem eatery. The company consists of an army of robot sauce-spreaders and trucks packed full of ovens. "In the back of Mountain View's newest pizzeria, Marta works tirelessly, spreading marinara sauce on uncooked pies. She doesn't complain, takes no breaks, and has never needed a sick day. She works for free." The pie then "travels on a conveyer belt to human employees who add cheese and toppings." From there, "The decorated pies are then scooped off the belt by a 5-foot tall grey automation, Bruno, who places each in a 850-degree oven. For now, the pizzas are fully cooked and delivered to customers in branded Fiats painted with slogans, including: 'You want a piece of this?' and 'Not part of the sharing economy.'" Garden says, "We are going to be the Amazon of food. [...] Just imagine Domino's without the labor component. You can start to see how incredibly profitable that can be."

Slashdot Top Deals