Social Networks

First Evidence That Social Bots Play a Major Role In Spreading Fake News (technologyreview.com) 144

An anonymous reader writes: Researchers from Indiana University in Bloomington provide an answer for how social bots play a major role in spreading fake news. MIT Technology Review reports: "At issue is the publication of news that is false or misleading. So widespread has this become that a number of independent fact-checking organizations have emerged to establish the veracity of online information. These include snopes.com, politifact.com, and factcheck.org. These sites list 122 websites that routinely publish fake news. These fake news sites include infowars.com, breitbart.com, politicususa.com, and theonion.com. 'We did not exclude satire because many fake-news sources label their content as satirical, making the distinction problematic,' say researcher Chengcheng Shao and co. Shao and co then monitored some 400,000 claims made by these websites and studied the way they spread through Twitter. They did this by collecting some 14 million Twitter posts that mentioned these claims. At the same time, the team monitored some 15,000 stories written by fact-checking organizations and over a million Twitter posts that mention them. Next, Shao and co looked at the Twitter accounts that spread this news, collecting up to 200 of each account's most recent tweets. In this way, the team could study the tweeting behavior and work out whether the accounts were most likely run by humans or by bots. Having made a judgment on the ownership of each account, the team finally looked at the way humans and bots spread fake news and fact-checked news.

'Accounts that actively spread misinformation are significantly more likely to be bots,' say Shao and co. 'Social bots play a key role in the spread of fake news.' Shad and co say bots play a particularly significant role in the spread of fake news soon after it is published. What's more, these bots are programmed to direct their tweets at influential users. 'Automated accounts are particularly active in the early spreading phases of viral claims, and tend to target influential users,' say Shao and co."

AMD

AMD Confirms Linux 'Performance Marginality Problem' On Ryzen (phoronix.com) 120

An anonymous reader writes: Ryzen customers experiencing segmentation faults under Linux when firing off many compilation processes have now had their problem officially acknowledged by AMD. The company describes it as a "performance marginality problem" affecting some Ryzen customers and only on Linux. AMD confirmed Threadripper and Epyc processors are unaffected; they will be dealing with the issue on a customer-by-customer basis, and their future consumer products will see better Linux testing/validation. Ryzen customers believed to be affected by the problem can contact AMD Customer Care. Michael Larabel writes via Phoronix: "With the Ryzen segmentation faults on Linux they are found to occur with many, parallel compilation workloads in particular -- certainly not the workloads most Linux users will be firing off on a frequent basis unless intentionally running scripts like ryzen-test/kill-ryzen. As I've previously written, my Ryzen Linux boxes have been working out great except in cases of intentional torture testing with these heavy parallel compilation tasks. [AMD's] analysis has also found that these Ryzen segmentation faults aren't isolated to a particular motherboard vendor or the like, contrary to rumors/noise online due to the complexity of the problem."
Transportation

Pilotless Planes Could Save Airlines $35 Billion Per Year, But Passengers Aren't Willing To Fly In Them Yet (fortune.com) 313

An anonymous reader shares a report from Fortune: Autopilot is hardly a rarity in the world of commercial air travel. But when it comes to a fully automated flight, most people say "hard pass," at least for now. The pilotless plane could save airlines as much as $35 billion per year, according to a new survey from UBS, reducing the cost of highly skilled employees ($31 billion), related training ($3 billion), and fuel ($1 billion). The deployment of autonomous technology could result in significant fare cuts, an estimated one-tenth of the total in the U.S. And yet 54% of passengers refuse to board a remote-controlled plane, according to the survey of 8,000 air passengers. That sentiment will change over time, the investment bank notes. By the middle of the century, the majority may be willing. But UBS said passengers won't do it today, even if ticket prices were lower -- a big hurdle to airlines, which the bank estimates could see profits double by using the technology. Much like the automotive industry, most passengers don't realize that there are quite a few autonomous systems already in place on today's aircraft -- including those that land the plane.
Businesses

Can Elon Musk Be Weaned Off Government Support? (thehill.com) 269

mi shares an opinion piece written by Jenny Beth Martin via The Hill: A study published in 2015 by The Los Angeles Times revealed that just three of Musk's ventures -- SolarCity Corp. (which manufactured and installed solar energy systems before its 2016 merger with Tesla Motors Inc.), Tesla Motors Inc. (which manufactures electric vehicles), and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX (which builds rocket ships) -- had received $4.9 billion in government subsidies to that point in time. By now, Musk's various ventures have sucked well over $5 billion from government coffers. Worse: in order to induce car buyers to spend their money on electric vehicles, the federal government offers a $7,500 rebate on the purchase price. Some states enhance that rebate with rebates of their own. In California, for instance, purchasers of electric vehicles get a state-funded rebate of $2,500 more.

Slashdot reader mi asks: "Why are you and I subsidizing Elon Musk's products and when will his businesses be able to compete on their own?"

Youtube

YouTube Adds Mobile Chat, Because Google Doesn't Have Enough Messaging Apps (venturebeat.com) 25

Krystalo writes: YouTube today rolled out the ability to share videos with contacts directly in its mobile app for Android and iOS. Users can chat about shared videos using text, react with emoji, like messages with a heart, reply with other videos, and invite more friends to the conversation (up to a maximum of 30 people per group message). YouTube first started testing letting groups of users share and talk about videos in May 2016. The company then pushed the feature to Canada in January 2017 as a test, since Canadians share more videos online than any other nation. After some tweaks, the Google-owned company is now pushing it out to all its Android and iOS users. "We've been improving the feature since our experiments began last year," a YouTube spokesperson told VentureBeat. "For example, we've made changes to the chat visual; and we've made the video stick to the top of the chat when scrolling down, to allow replying and chatting while watching a video; and we'll continue making improvements." With the new update, YouTube has become yet another Google messaging app, on top of Android Messages, Allo, Duo, Hangouts Chat, and Hangouts Meet.
Network

Data Cap Analysis Found Almost 200 ISPs Imposing Data Limits in the US (arstechnica.com) 41

An anonymous reader shares a report: BroadbandNow, a broadband provider search site that gets referral fees from some ISPs, has more than 2,500 home internet providers in its database. BroadbandNow's team looked through the ISPs' websites to generate a list of those with data caps. The data cap information was "pulled directly from ISP websites," BroadbandNow Director of Content Jameson Zimmer told Ars. BroadbandNow, which is operated by a company called Microbrand Media, plans to keep tracking the data caps over time in order to examine trends, he said. The listed caps range from 3GB to 3TB per month. That 3GB cap seemed like it couldn't be accurate, so we called the ISP, a small phone company called NTCNet in Newport, New York. A person answering the phone confirmed that the company lists 3GB as its cap, but said it is not enforced and that customers' usage isn't monitored. The cap is essentially a placeholder in case the ISP needs to enforce data limits in the future. [...] BroadbandNow excluded mobile providers from its list of ISPs with data caps, since caps are nearly universal among cellular companies. The list of 196 providers with caps includes 89 offering fixed wireless service, 45 fiber ISPs, 35 DSL ISPs, 63 cable ISPs, and two satellite providers. Some offer Internet service using more than one technology. Some of the providers are tiny, with territories covering just 100 or a few hundred people.
Transportation

London is Using Optical Illusions To Make Cars Slow Down (fastcompany.com) 172

An anonymous reader shares a report: London has an interesting idea to curb speeding -- magic. The British capital has painted optical illusions on its streets as part of a pilot program to get drivers to slow down, podcast 99% Invisible notes. The idea is both pretty simple and pretty clever: use a little sleight of hand to paint the streets to look like they have speed bumps on them, but don't use finite city resources to actually build speed bumps into the road. The 18-month pilot program was launched in September of last year, according to the BBC, and the city is still determining whether the black-and-white stencils are as effective as actual bumps to deter drivers from exceeding 20mph (as if traffic in London ever goes faster than 20 mph).
Businesses

Netflix's First Takeover: a Comics Firm (bbc.com) 37

Netflix announced today that it is acquiring Mark Millar, a well-known name in the world of comics. As part of the deal, the on-demand streaming company said, it will be creating original movies and TV shows from the content. It's Netflix's first acquisition. From a report: Millarworld, founded by Mark Millar from Coatbridge, includes his portfolio of characters and stories such as Kick-Ass, Kingsman, and Old Man Logan. Mr Millar said he was still "blinking" over the news. He said it was only the third time a comic book purchase on this scale had ever happened, with Warner Bros buying DC Comics in 1968, and Disney buying Marvel in 2009. Mr Millar, who lives in Glasgow, started Millarworld as a creator-owned comic-book company nearly 15 years ago. He runs the company with his wife Lucy Millar. It is the first ever company acquisition in Netflix's history. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Mr Millar said: "I'm so in love with what Netflix is doing and excited by their plans. Netflix is the future and Millarworld couldn't have a better home."
Businesses

Amazon Owns a Whole Collection of Secret Brands (qz.com) 110

Mike Murphy, writing for Quartz: After decades of selling products -- and knowing exactly what people are buying, and when they are buying it -- Amazon has started cutting out the middle-man by selling self-produced items. Through its AmazonBasics house brand, it sells all sorts of small items, from iPhone chargers, to batteries, power strips -- even foam rollers, backpacks and washcloths. It's the sort of stuff that you might not be too brand loyal over -- who really minds whether it's a Duracell or a Panasonic battery? Amazon sees that a product is selling well, and may decide to work with manufacturers to make the product itself -- it's a tactic that is already worrying vendors, and can't bode well for partnerships in the long run. But those are the obvious instances. Now, Amazon is selling products across a wide array of categories, using a host of brands that do not exist outside the confines of amazon.com and do not make it clear that they are Amazon-made products. Trawling through over 800 trademarks that Amazon has either been awarded or applied for through the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Quartz identified 19 brands that are owned by Amazon and sell products or have product pages on amazon.com: Arabella, for lingerie products; Beauty Bar for cosmetics; Denali for tools; Franklin & Freeman for men's shoes; Happy Belly for fresh food; James & Erin for women's clothing; Lark & Ro for women's clothing; Mae for underwear; Mama Bear for baby products; Myhabit for consumer goods; North Eleven for women's clothing; NuPro for tech accessories; Pike Street for linen; Pinzon (by Amazon) for linen; Scout + Ro for kid's clothing; Single Cow Burger for frozen food; Small Parts for spare parts; Smart is Beautiful for clothing; and Strathwood for furniture.
Businesses

China Built the World's Largest Telescope, But Has No One To Run It (arstechnica.com) 122

An anonymous reader shares a report: China has built a staggeringly large instrument in the remote southern, mountainous region of the country called the Five hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST. The telescope measures nearly twice as large as the closest comparable facility in the world, the US-operated Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. According to the South China Morning Post, the country is looking for a foreigner to run the observatory because no Chinese astronomer has the experience of running a facility of such size and complexity. The Chinese Academy of Sciences began advertising the position in western journals and job postings in May, but so far there have been no qualified applicants. One reason is that the requirements are fairly strict: The candidate must have at least 20 years of previous experience in the field, and he or she must have taken a leading role in large-scale radio telescope project with extensive managerial experience. The candidate must also hold a professorship, or equally senior position, in a world-class research institute or university. Nick Suntzeff, an astronomer at Texas A&M University who helped lead the discovery of dark energy and is involved with construction of the optical Giant Magellan Telescope in Chile, said there are probably about 40 or so astronomers in the world who would qualify for such a job. Compared to other astronomy disciplines, radio astronomy is a relatively small field. "I am sure they will find someone," he said. "But most astronomers in the United States do not like to work abroad. It was hard to get people to apply to work in La Serena, something I could never understand, considering how beautiful it is and how nice the Chilean people are." Among the western community of astronomers there are also questions about the scientific purpose of the FAST telescope. As part of a recent National Science Foundation review of its facilities, US officials placed the similar Arecibo radio telescope near the bottom of its priorities list.
Australia

Buggy Software Made Us Miss Money Laundering Scam, Says Australian Bank (theregister.co.uk) 57

An anonymous reader shares a report: Australia's Commonwealth Bank has blamed a software update for a money laundering scam that saw criminals send over AU$70m (US$55m) offshore after depositing cash into automatic teller machines. News of the Bank's involvement in the laundering scam broke last week, when Australia's financial intelligence agency AUSTRAC announced that it had found over 53,500 occasions on which the Bank failed to submit reports on transactions over $10,000. All transactions of that value are reportable in Australia, as part of efforts to crimp the black economy, crime and funding of terrorism. The news was not a good look for the Bank (CBA), because most of the cash was deposited into accounts established with fake drivers licences. Worse still is that each failure of this type can attract a fine of AU$18m, leaving CBA open to a sanction that would kill it off. Today the bank has explained the reason for its failure: "a coding error" that saw the ATMs fail to create reports of $10,000+ transactions. The error was introduced in a May 2012 update designed to address other matters, but not repaired until September 2015.
Facebook

Inside the World of Silicon Valley's 'Coasters' -- the Millionaire Engineers Who Get Paid Gobs of Money and Barely Work (businessinsider.com) 226

Business Insider has explored what it calls the "least-secret secret" in the Valley -- "resters and vesters," or "coasters" referring to engineers who get paid big bucks without doing too much work, waiting for their stock to vest. From the report: Engineers can wind up in "rest and vest" jobs in a variety of ways. Manny Medina, the CEO of fast-growing Seattle startup Outreach, has been on all sides of it. He briefly was a coaster himself, and says he saw how Microsoft used it to great effect when he worked for the software giant. He has also tried to lure some "rest and vest" engineers to come work for him at his startup. Medina said he experienced the high-pay, no-work situation early in his career when he was a software engineer in grad school. He finished his project months early, and warned his company he would be leaving after graduation. They kept him on for the remaining months to train others on his software but didn't want him to start a new coding project. His job during those months involved hanging out at the office writing a little documentation and being available to answer questions, he recalls. "My days began at that point at 11 and I took long lunches," he laughs. "They didn't want you to build anything else, because anything you built would be maintained by someone else. But you have to stand by while they bring people up to speed." Years later, he landed at Microsoft and says he saw how Microsoft used high-paying jobs strategically, both within its engineering ranks and with its R&D unit, Microsoft Research. [...] "You keep engineering talent but also you prevent a competitor from having it and that's very valuable," he said. "It's a defensive measure." Another person confirmed the tactic, telling us, "That's Microsoft Research's whole model." At other companies it's less about defense and more about becoming indispensable. For instance, Facebook has a fairly hush bonus program called "discretionary equity" or "DE," said a former Facebook engineer who received it. "DE" is when the company hands an engineer a massive, extra chunk of restricted stock units, worth tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. It's a thank you for a job well done. It also helps keep the person from jumping ship because DE vests over time. These are bonus grants that are signed by top execs, sometimes even CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself. "At Facebook the 'OGs' [Original Gangsters] we know got DE," this former Facebook engineer said. OGs refer to engineers who worked at the company before the IPO. "Their Facebook stock quadruples and they don't leave. They are really good engineers, really indispensable. And then they start to pull 9-5 days," this person said.
United States

Net Neutrality Rollback Faces New Criticism From US Congress -- And 16 Million Comments (techcrunch.com) 147

An anonymous reader quotes TechCrunch's newest update on the FCC's attempt to gut net neutrality protections: 10 Representatives who helped craft the law governing the FCC itself have submitted an official comment on the proposal ruthlessly dismantling it... The FCC is well within its rights to interpret the law, and it doesn't have to listen to contrary comments from the likes of you and me. It does, however, have to listen to Congress -- "congressional intent" is a huge factor in determining whether an interpretation of the law is reasonable. And in the comment they've just filed, Representatives Pallon, Doyle et al. make it very clear that their intent was and remains very different from how the FCC has chosen to represent it.

"The law directs the FCC to look at ISP services as distinct from those services that ride over the networks. The FCC's proposal contravenes our intent... While some may argue that this distinction should be abandoned because of changes in today's market, that choice is not the FCC's to make. The decision remains squarely with those of us in Congress -- and we have repeatedly chosen to leave the law as it is."

In another letter Thursday, 15 Congressmen asked FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to extend the time period for comments. They note the proposed changes have received more than 16 million comments, more than four times the number of comments on any previous FCC item. The Hill reports that the previous record was 4 million comments -- during the FCC's last net neutrality proceeding in 2014 -- and "the lawmakers also noted that the comment period for approving net neutrality in 2014 was 60 days. Pai has only allowed a 30-day comment period for his plan to rollback the rules."
The Military

A US Spy Plane Has Been Flying Circles Over Seattle For Days (thedrive.com) 232

turkeydance shares Thursday's report from The Drive: A very unique U.S. Air Force surveillance aircraft has been flying highly defined circles over Seattle and its various suburbs for nine days now... The aircraft, which goes by the callsign "SPUD21" and wears a nondescript flat gray paint job with the only visible markings being a U.S. Air Force serial on its tail, is a CASA CN-235-300 transport aircraft that has been extensively modified... It is covered in a dizzying array of blisters, protrusions, humps and bumps. These include missile approach warning detectors and large fairings on its empennage for buckets of forward-firing decoy flares, as well as both microwave -- the dome antenna behind the wing and flat antenna modification in front of the wing -- and ultra high-frequency satellite communications -- the platter-like antenna behind the dome antenna. A communications intelligence suite also appears to be installed on the aircraft, with the antenna farm on the bottom of its fuselage being a clear indication of such a capability. But what's most interesting is the aircraft's apparent visual intelligence gathering installation...

This particular CN-235, with the serial 96-6042, is one of six that researchers commonly associated with the Air Force's top secret 427th Special Operations Squadron... The 427th occupies the same space with a host of other "black" U.S. military aviation elements, most of which are affiliated to some degree with Joint Special Operations Command and the Intelligence Community... [I]f the military placed the aircraft under civilian control to some degree and with an appropriate legal justification, the U.S. military could possibly fly it in support of a domestic operation or one focused on a foreign suspect or organization operating within the United States... It's also entirely possible, if not probable, that the aircraft could be involved in a realistic training exercise rather than an actual operation... The area could have simply provided a suitable urban area to test existing or new surveillance technologies, too, though this could spark serious privacy concerns if true.

Friday an Air Force Special Operations Command public affairs officer confirmed that the plane was one of theirs, describing its activity as "just a training mission," according to Russia Today.
Microsoft

High School Students Compete In 'Microsoft Office Championship' (latimes.com) 103

An anonymous reader writes: This week the L.A. Times described a 17-year-old from Virginia who'd spent several hours a day perfecting his technique in Microsoft Excel, "one of 150 students from 50 countries competing in the Microsoft Office Specialist World Championship" at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim. "At stake: cash, prizes and the clout that comes with being the best in the world at Excel, PowerPoint or Word. 'I'm going to do my best to bring it home for the United States,' John said as he prepared for the competition."

Microsoft's VP of Worldwide Education said the event helps students "to become more employable to companies that build their businesses around the Microsoft suite." For example, the article points out, "Past winners have gone on to attend Ivy League colleges and even work at, yes, Microsoft... Delaware resident Anirudh Narayanan, 17, prepared all summer to compete in the Excel 2013 category, 'looking up obscure facts just in case I might need to know it during the test.' He's hoping the skills he honed will help him at Carnegie Mellon University, where he will begin studying economics in the fall. 'I make sure I do a minimum of five hours a week in Excel,' Anirudh said. 'Then for a while I'll be on YouTube watching videos about Excel.'"

John eventually won the first-place prize in the Excel category -- which was $7,000 and an Xbox.
Star Wars Prequels

Warner Music Files Copyright Claim on A Silent 'Star Wars' Video On YouTube (wired.com) 73

rgh02 writes: Earlier this summer, popular YouTube channel Auralnauts received some unfortunate news: Warner/Chappell had filed a monetization claim on their "Star Wars Minus Williams" video through YouTube's Content ID System. More than anything, the Auralnauts were confused -- the video the music company was claiming rights over didn't have any music in it at all.
In fact, the video is almost entirely silent, augmented with a few awkward coughs as Han Solo and Luke Skywalker plod noiselessly toward Princess Leia in a two-minute scene where they're awarded ceremonial medallions. Wired's article describes it as "a tongue-in-cheek tribute" to John Williams' Star Wars score for the film's final scene, also reporting that it had been online for almost three years before Warner/Chappell music publishing claimed rights to all money the video would receive: When I tried to get Warner/Chappell's side of this story, the company offered no comment. But apparently my reporting helped bring the "Star Wars Minus Williams" copyright dispute to an unexpectedly speedy resolution. When Koonce told his YouTube partner manager that a journalist had interviewed him, YouTube stepped in and removed the copyright claim against the video.
YouTube has also created a "Fair Use Protection" program covering legal costs for channels they believe are unfairly targeted with video takedown notices. But the article points out that 95% of the time music companies just chose YouTube's "monetize" option to claim the ad revenue rather than asking that a video be blocked -- and that last year YouTube paid the music industry $1 billion. (Though the music industry insists that amount is still below what they're receiving from streaming music services.)
Chrome

Browser Extensions Are Undermining Privacy (vortex.com) 82

pizzutz writes: Chrome's popular Web Developer plugin was briefly hijacked on Wednesday when an attacker gained control of the author's Google account and released a new version (0.49) which injected ads into web pages of more than a million users who downloaded the update. The version was quickly replaced with an uncompromised version (0.5) and all users are urged to update immediately.
Lauren Weinstein has a broader warning: While the browser firms work extensively to build top-notch security and privacy controls into the browsers themselves, the unfortunate fact is that these can be undermined by add-ons, some of which are downright crooked, many more of which are sloppily written and poorly maintained. Ironically, some of these add-on extensions and apps claim to be providing more security, while actually undermining the intrinsic security of the browsers themselves. Others (and this is an extremely common scenario) claim to be providing additional search or shopping functionalities, while actually only existing to silently collect and sell user browsing activity data of all sorts.
Lauren also warns about sites that "push users very hard to install these privacy-invasive, data sucking extensions" -- and believes requests for permissions aren't a sufficient safeguard for most users. "Expecting them to really understand what these permissions mean is ludicrous. We're the software engineers and computer scientists -- most users aren't either of these. They have busy lives -- they expect our stuff to just work, and not to screw them over."
Bug

The NSA Intercepted Microsoft's Windows Bug Reports (schneier.com) 52

Bruce Schneier writes on his security blog: Back in 2013, Der Spiegel reported that the NSA intercepts and collects Windows bug reports... "When Tailored Access Operations selects a computer somewhere in the world as a target and enters its unique identifiers (an IP address, for example) into the corresponding database, intelligence agents are then automatically notified any time the operating system of that computer crashes and its user receives the prompt to report the problem to Microsoft... this passive access to error messages provides valuable insights into problems with a targeted person's computer and, thus, information on security holes that might be exploitable for planting malware or spyware on the unwitting victim's computer..."

The article talks about the (limited) value of this information with regard to specific target computers, but I have another question: how valuable would this database be for finding new zero-day Windows vulnerabilities to exploit?

Microsoft

Microsoft and PayPal Add 'Send Money' Feature To Skype (paypal.com) 49

BrianFagioli quotes BetaNews: Microsoft has partnered with PayPal for a new way to transfer funds using Skype... "Today, we're excited to announce that PayPal is now partnering with Skype to allow users in 22 countries to send money to other Skype users with PayPal via their Skype mobile app. With over one billion Skype mobile downloads to date globally, users will be able to use PayPal directly from their Skype app to seamlessly send money in the moment...across the country or internationally," says John Kunze, VP of Xoom, PayPal.
It's part of a push to make it easier to share money, PayPal writes: Over the past year, we've partnered with Apple, Slack and Microsoft to enable peer-to-peer payments with PayPal and Venmo in more places and in more contexts where people are connecting online and on mobile, such as a voice command with Siri, in chat with iMessage and Slack, and in email via Microsoft's Outlook.com.
The Almighty Buck

'World of Warcraft' Game Currency Now Worth More Than Venezuelan Money (theblaze.com) 189

schwit1 quotes TheBlaze: Digital gold from Blizzard's massive multiplayer online game "World of Warcraft" is worth more than actual Venezuelan currency, the bolivar, according to new data. Venezuelan resident and Twitter user @KalebPrime first made the discovery July 14 and tweeted at the time that on the Venezuela's black market -- now the most-used method of currency exchange within Venezuela according to NPR -- you can get $1 for 8493.97 bolivars. Meanwhile, a "WoW" token, which can be bought for $20 from the in-game auction house, is worth 8385 gold per dollar. According to sites that track the value of both currencies, KalebPrime's math is outdated, and WoW gold is now worth even more than the bolivar.
That tweet has since gone viral, prompting @KalebPrime to joke that "At this rate when I publish my novel the quotes will read 'FROM THE GUY THAT MADE THE WOW GOLD > VENEZUELAN BOLIVAR TWEET.'"
Businesses

Wells Fargo Sued Again For Misbilling Car Owners And Veterans (reuters.com) 75

UnknowingFool writes: A new class action lawsuit from a former Wells Fargo customer claimed the bank charged loan customers for auto insurance they did not need. With auto loans, the bank often requires that full coverage auto insurance be bought when the loan is made. However, lead plaintiff Paul Hancock says that Wells Fargo charged him for auto insurance even though he informed them he already had an insurance policy with another company. Wells Fargo also charged him a late fee when he disputed the charge. Wells Fargo does not dispute that it did this to customers and has offered to refund $80 million to 570,000 customers who were charged for insurance. The lawsuit however is to recoup late fees, delinquency charges, and other fees that the refund would not cover.
NPR describes Wells Fargo actually repossessing the car of a man who was "marked as delinquent for not paying this insurance -- which he didn't want or need or even know about." Friday the bank also revealed the number of "potentially unauthorized accounts" from its earlier fake accounts scandal could be much higher than previous estimates -- and that they're now expecting their legal costs to exceed the $3.3 billion they'd already set aside.

And Reuters reports that the bank will also be paying $108 million "to settle a whistleblower lawsuit claiming it charged military veterans hidden fees to refinance their mortgages, and concealed the fees when applying for federal loan guarantees."
Social Networks

FBI Tracked 'Fake News' Believed To Be From Russia On Election Day (cnn.com) 352

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN: The FBI monitored social media on Election Day last year in an effort to track a suspected Russian disinformation campaign utilizing "fake news," CNN has learned. In the months leading up to Election Day, Twitter and Facebook were the feeding grounds for viral "news" stories floating conspiracies and hoaxes, many aimed at spreading negative false claims about Hillary Clinton. On Election Day, dozens of agents and analysts huddled at a command center arrayed with large monitoring screens at the FBI headquarters in Washington watching for security threats, according to multiple sources. That included analysts monitoring cyber threats, after months of mounting Russian intrusions targeting every part of the US political system, from political parties to policy think-tanks to state election systems. On this day, there was also a group of FBI cyber and counterintelligence analysts and investigators watching social media. FBI analysts had identified social media user accounts behind stories, some based overseas, and the suspicion was that at least some were part of a Russian disinformation campaign, according to two sources familiar with the investigation.
Open Source

Linux Kernel Hardeners Grsecurity Sue Open Source's Bruce Perens (theregister.co.uk) 306

An anonymous reader shares a report from The Register: In late June, noted open-source programmer Bruce Perens [a longtime Slashdot reader] warned that using Grsecurity's Linux kernel security could invite legal trouble. "As a customer, it's my opinion that you would be subject to both contributory infringement and breach of contract by employing this product in conjunction with the Linux kernel under the no-redistribution policy currently employed by Grsecurity," Perens wrote on his blog. The following month, Perens was invited to court. Grsecurity sued the open-source doyen, his web host, and as-yet-unidentified defendants who may have helped him draft that post, for defamation and business interference. Grsecurity offers Linux kernel security patches on a paid-for subscription basis. The software hardens kernel defenses through checks for common errors like memory overflows. Perens, meanwhile, is known for using the Debian Free Software Guidelines to draft the Open Source Definition, with the help of others.

Grsecurity used to allow others to redistribute its patches, but the biz ended that practice for stable releases two years ago and for test patches in April this year. It offers its GPLv2 licensed software through a subscription agreement. The agreement says that customers who redistribute the code -- a right under the GPLv2 license -- will no longer be customers and will lose the right to distribute subsequent versions of the software. According to Perens, "GPL version 2 section 6 explicitly prohibits the addition of terms such as this redistribution prohibition." A legal complaint (PDF) filed on behalf of Grsecurity in San Francisco, California, insists the company's software complies with the GPLv2. Grsecurity's agreement, the lawsuit states, only applies to future patches, which have yet to be developed. Perens isn't arguing that the GPLv2 applies to unreleased software. Rather, he asserts the GPLv2, under section 6, specifically forbids the addition of contractual terms.

Robotics

MegaBots Is Finally Going To Take On Japan In the World's First Giant Robot Duel (qz.com) 38

A company called MegaBots released a video two years ago challenging a Japanese collective to a giant robot fight. About a week later, the Japanese group, Suidobashi Heavy Industry, agreed. Now, according to MegaBots co-founderes, Matt Oehrlein and Gui Cavalcanti, the battle is set to take place in September. Quartz reports: The battle would have happened a bit sooner, but apparently there have been "logistical issues at the originally-chosen venue," according to a release shared with Quartz by MegaBots. Unfortunately for fans hoping to see the battle in action -- presumably including those who backed the Kickstarter project to the tune of $550,000 to bring this robot to life -- the event will be closed to the public and recorded, for fears over the teams' ability to keep spectators safe. (One of the earliest conversations MegaBots had with Suidobashi was trying to figure out how the human pilots inside the robots would themselves "figure out how to not die.") Fans will be able to watch the fight on MegaBots' Facebook and YouTube sites, but it's not clear whether the fight will be live.
Education

Vermont Medical School Says Goodbye To Lectures (npr.org) 116

The University of Vermont's Larner College of Medicine has begun phasing out lectures in favor of what's known as "active learning" and plans to be done with lectures altogether by 2019. NPR spoke with William Jeffries, a dean at the school who's leading the effort, about the thinking behind this move. From the report: Why are lectures bad? Well, I wouldn't say that they're bad. The issue is that there is a lot of evidence that lectures are not the best way to accumulate the skills needed to become a scientist or a physician. We've seen much evidence in the literature, accumulated in the last decade, that shows that when you do a comparison between lectures and other methods of learning -- typically called "active learning" methods -- that lectures are not as efficient or not as successful in allowing students to accumulate knowledge in the same amount of time.

Give us an example of a topic taught in a traditional lecture versus an "active learning" setting. A good example would be the teaching of what we would call pharmacokinetics -- the science of drug delivery. So, how does a drug get to the target organ or targeted receptor? A lot of the science of pharmacokinetics is simply mathematical equations. If you have a lecture, it's simply presenting those equations and maybe giving examples of how they work. In an active learning setting, you expect the students to learn about the equations before they get there. And when you get into the classroom setting, the students work in groups solving pharmacokinetic problems. Cases are presented where the patient gets a drug in a certain dose at a certain time, and you're looking at the action of that over time and the concentration of the drug in the blood. So, those are the types of things where you're expecting the student to know the knowledge in order to use the knowledge. And then they don't forget it.

The Internet

Supreme Court Moves Toward Digital With Online Court Filings (thehill.com) 20

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hill: Supreme Court case documents will soon be made available for the first time online. The court announced Thursday that it will launch an electronic filing system on Nov. 13 that will make "virtually all new filings" accessible to the public via the court's website for free. Court documents for the lower courts are typically available online through the Public Access to Court Electronics Records, which charges a fee per page. The court's announcement comes just days after the high court unveiled a newly designed website. Court watchers say it's a surprising, but welcome, jump into the 21st century for a court that's been reluctant over the years to advance its technologies.
Government

Apple Owns $52.6 Billion In US Treasury Securities, More Than Mexico, Turkey or Norway (cnbc.com) 93

randomErr shares a report from CNBC: If Apple were a foreign country, CEO Tim Cook might have considerable political clout in the United States. That's because the tech giant owns $52.6 billion in U.S. Treasury securities, which would rank it among the top 25 major foreign holders, according to estimates from the Treasury Department and Apple's SEC filings released Wednesday. Apple's stake in U.S. government securities as of June, up from $41.7 billion as of last September, puts it ahead of Israel, Mexico and the Netherlands, according to Treasury data released last month, which tracks up to May of this year. With $20.1 billion in short-term Treasury securities and $31.35 billion in long-term marketable Treasury securities, Apple still falls far below countries like China and Japan, which hold over a trillion dollars in U.S. government debt each -- which has caused considerable hand-wringing in Washington. Still, Apple is way above other big companies like Amazon, which owns less than $5 billion in U.S. government or agency securities combined, according to regulatory filings.
The Military

US Army Calls Halt On Use of Chinese-Made Drones By DJI (theverge.com) 45

Due to "an increased awareness of cyber vulnerabilities with DJI products," the U.S. Army is asking all units to discontinue the use of DJI drones. The news comes from an internal memo obtained by the editor of SUAS News. It notes that the Army had issued over 300 separate releases authorizing the use of DJI products for Army missions, meaning a lot of hardware may have been in active use prior to the memo, which is dated August 2nd, 2017. The Verge reports: SUAS News published a piece back in May of this year that made a number of serious accusations about data gathered by DJI drones. Author Kevin Pomaski starts out writing, "Using a simple Google search the data mined by DJI from your provided flights (imagery, position and flight logs) and your audio can be accessed without your knowing consent." However, he never follows up with evidence to demonstrate how this data becomes public or can be found through a Google search. Pomaski also point out, correctly, that when DJI users elect to upload data to their SkyPixel accounts through the DJI app, this data can be stored on servers in the U.S., Hong Kong, and China. This data can include videos, photos, and audio recorded by your phone's microphone, and telemetry data detailing the height, distance, and position of your recent flights. DJI provided the following statement to The Verge: "People, businesses and governments around the world rely on DJI's products and technology for a variety of uses including sensitive and mission critical operations. The Department of the Army memo even reports that they have 'issued over 300 separate Airworthiness Releases for DJI products in support of multiple organizations with a variety of mission sets.' We are surprised and disappointed to read reports of the U.S. Army's unprompted restriction on DJI drones as we were not consulted during their decision. We are happy to work directly with any organization, including the U.S. Army, that has concerns about our management of cyber issues. We'll be reaching out to the U.S. Army to confirm the memo and to understand what is specifically meant by 'cyber vulnerabilities.' Until then, we ask everyone to refrain from undue speculation."
Republicans

Silicon Valley Says Trump Plan To Reduce Immigration Will Hurt Economy (cbslocal.com) 273

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CBS Local: President Donald Trump's push to cut legal immigration to the United States in half is being met by opposition from Silicon Valley leaders, economists, and even some Republicans senators, who all say legal immigration is key to economic prosperity. The Trump administration Wednesday endorsed the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act or RAISE Act, a Senate bill introduced by two Republican senators earlier this year, that aims to cut all U.S. immigration in half. Business leaders, especially those in California's tech industry, say the bill will stymie their ability to fill jobs and grow the U.S. economy. California's economy is the sixth largest in the world and many attribute that success, in part, to immigration. The Information Technology Industry Council, which represents companies including Amazon, Apple, Adobe, Dell, Facebook, Hewlett-Packard, Google, Visa, Nokia, and Microsoft railed against the bill.

Dean Garfield, President and CEO of the council said, "This is not the right proposal to fix our immigration system because it does not address the challenges tech companies face, injects more bureaucratic dysfunction, and removes employers as the best judge of the employee merits they need to succeed and grow the U.S. economy." Garfield argues that the tech industry cannot find enough STEM-skilled Americans to fill open positions and that U.S. immigration policy "stops us from keeping the best and brightest innovators here in the U.S. and instead we lose out to our overseas competitors."

Businesses

Popular Password Manager LastPass Doubles Price of Its Premium Plan, Removes features From Its Free Service Tier (neowin.net) 156

An anonymous reader shares a report: In November, LastPass made a big change to its service, allowing users to keep track of their passwords across all their internet-enabled mobile and desktop devices, free of charge. In addition to the free tier, the cross-platform password manager - available on iOS, Android, and Windows 10 -- also offered a Premium plan with additional features, priced at $12 per year. Today, LastPass announced another wave of changes to its lineup for individual users -- but this time, the changes are unlikely to be welcomed with open arms by its customers. LastPass Premium has now doubled in price to $24 a year, which includes "emergency access, the ability to share single passwords and items with multiple people, priority tech support, advanced multi-factor authentication, LastPass for applications, and 1GB of encrypted file storage," along with all the other features of the Free tier. In a statement, the company said, "While LastPass Free continues to offer access on all browsers and devices and the core LastPass password management functionality, unlimited sharing and emergency access are now Premium features. Free users will be able to share one item with one other individual.
Google

Google in Talks To Transform Its Instant News Articles Into a Snapchat Rival (cnbc.com) 15

Google is talking to several publishers about a technology that's similar to Snapchat, according to a Friday report in The Wall Street Journal. From the report: The technology, dubbed "Stamp," could be revealed as soon as next week and contain content from Vox Media, CNN, Mic, the Washington Post and Time, the Journal reported. Stamp is a word play on Google's faster-loading "AMP" articles (the news stories that appear at the top of the page after a Google search), and the "st" in "stories." Snapchat's disappearing publisher content is in a section of the app called "Discover." The ephemeral feature of Snapchat is something Facebook has also mimicked with a feature called "Stories." The report comes on the heels of another report on Business Insider earlier this week which claimed that Google has been trying to acquire Snapchat for sometime. The company, according to a report, offered Snapchat $30 billion.
Security

The Kronos Indictment: Is it a Crime To Create and Sell Malware? (washingtonpost.com) 199

Marcus Hutchins, the 23-year-old British security researcher who was credited with stopping the WannaCry outbreak in its tracks by discovering a hidden "kill switch" for the malware, was arrested by the FBI over his alleged involvement in separate malicious software targeting bank accounts. According to an indictment released by the US Department of Justice on Thursday, Hutchins is accused of having helped to create, spread and maintain the banking trojan Kronos between 2014 and 2015. Hutchins, who is indicted with another unnamed co-defendant, stands accused of six counts of hacking-related crimes as a result of his alleged involvement with Kronos. A preliminary analysis of those counts suggest that the government will face significant legal challenges. Orin Kerr, the Fred C. Stevenson Research Professor at The George Washington University Law School, writes: The indictment asserts that Hutchins created the malware and an unnamed co-conspirator took the lead in selling it. The indictment charges a slew of different crimes for that: (1) conspiracy to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act; (2) three counts of violating 18 U.S.C. 2512, which prohibits selling and advertising wiretapping devices; (3) a count of wiretapping; and (4) a count of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act through accomplice liability -- basically, aiding and abetting a hacking crime. Do the charges hold up? Just based on a first look at the case, my sense is that the government's theory of the case is fairly aggressive. It will lead to some significant legal challenges. It's hard to say, at this point, how those challenges will play out. The indictment is pretty bare-bones, and we don't have all the facts or even what the government thinks are the facts.
Communications

The FCC Is Full Again, With Three Republicans and Two Democrats (arstechnica.com) 81

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The U.S. Senate today confirmed the nominations of Republican Brendan Carr and Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel to fill the two empty seats on the Federal Communications Commission. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai congratulated the commissioners in a statement. "As I know from working with each of them for years, they have distinguished records of public service and will be valuable assets to the FCC in the years to come," Pai said. "Their experience at the FCC makes them particularly well-suited to hit the ground running. I'm pleased that the FCC will once again be at full strength and look forward to collaborating to close the digital divide, promote innovation, protect consumers, and improve the agency's operations."

Carr served as Pai's Wireless, Public Safety and International Legal Advisor for three years. After President Trump elevated Pai to the chairmanship in January, Pai appointed Carr to become the FCC's general counsel. Rosenworcel had to leave the commission at the end of last year when the Republican-led US Senate refused to re-confirm her for a second five-year term. But Democrats pushed Trump to re-nominate Rosenworcel to fill the empty Democratic spot and he obliged. FCC commissioners are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. esides Pai, Carr, and Rosenworcel, the five-member commission includes Republican Michael O'Rielly and Democrat Mignon Clyburn.

Earth

Cats and Dogs Contribute Significantly To Climate Change, Says UCLA Study (patch.com) 430

New submitter Zorro shares a report from Patch.com: When it comes to global warming, Fido and Fluffy are part of the problem, a new study by UCLA indicates. Pet ownership in the United States creates about 64 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, UCLA researchers found. That's the equivalent of driving 13.6 million cars for a year. The problem lies with the meat-filled diets of kitties and pooches, according to the study by UCLA geography professor Gregory Okin. Dogs and cats are responsible for 25 to 30 percent of the impacts of meat production in the United States, said Orkin. Compared to a plant-based diet, meat production "requires more energy, land and water and has greater environmental consequences in terms of erosion, pesticides and waste," the study found. And what goes in, must come out. In terms of waste, Okin noted, feeding pets also leads to about 5.1 million tons of feces every year, roughly equivalent to the total trash production of Massachusetts. The study has been published in the journal PLOS One.
Android

Google Now Permits Android Apps That Facilitate Gambling With Real Money (betanews.com) 44

Mark Wilson shares a report from BetaNews: Google has relaxed its rules surrounding real-money gambling apps in Google Play -- in some countries, at least. There has been a ban on apps and games that allow users to gamble with real money since 2013, but that has now changed. While there was previously a ban in place due to the difficulty in policing ages and complying with different gambling laws around the world, real-money gambling apps are now permitted in the UK, France and Ireland. The new rules stipulate that developers must submit their gambling apps for a special vetting process, and they must have an IARC content rating. Other rules include a ban on the use of Google payment services, a requirement to display information about responsible gambling, and a requirement to block underage use. The full list of requirements [can be viewed here].
Businesses

Monsanto Leaks Suggest It Tried To Kill Cancer Research On Roundup Weed Killer (rt.com) 242

Danny Hakim reports via The New York Times (Warning: article may be paywalled; alternate source): Documents released Tuesday in a lawsuit against Monsanto raised new questions about the company's efforts to influence the news media and scientific research and revealed internal debate over the safety of its highest-profile product, the weed killer Roundup. The active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, is the most common weed killer in the world and is used by farmers on row crops and by home gardeners. While Roundup's relative safety has been upheld by most regulators, a case in federal court in San Francisco continues to raise questions about the company's practices and the product itself.

The documents underscore the lengths to which the agrochemical company goes to protect its image. Documents show that Henry I. Miller, an academic and a vocal proponent of genetically modified crops, asked Monsanto to draft an article for him that largely mirrored one that appeared under his name on Forbes's website in 2015. Mr. Miller could not be reached for comment. A similar issue appeared in academic research. An academic involved in writing research funded by Monsanto, John Acquavella, a former Monsanto employee, appeared to express discomfort with the process, writing in a 2015 email to a Monsanto executive, "I can't be part of deceptive authorship on a presentation or publication." He also said of the way the company was trying to present the authorship: "We call that ghost writing and it is unethical." Mr. Miller's 2015 article on Forbes's website was an attack on the findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a branch of the World Health Organization that had labeled glyphosate a probable carcinogen, a finding disputed by other regulatory bodies. In the email traffic, Monsanto asked Mr. Miller if he would be interested in writing an article on the topic, and he said, "I would be if I could start from a high-quality draft." The article appeared under Mr. Miller's name, and with the assertion that "opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own." The magazine did not mention any involvement by Monsanto in preparing the article.

Power

Tests Show Workers At Hanford Nuclear Facility Inhaled Radioactive Plutonium (king5.com) 158

An anonymous reader quotes a report from King 5, a local news station for Seattle, Washington: On June 8 approximately 350 Hanford workers were ordered to "take cover" after alarms designed to detect elevated levels of airborne radioactive contamination went off. It was quickly determined that radioactive particles had been swept out of a containment zone at the plutonium finishing plant (PFP) demolition site. The work is considered the most hazardous demolition project on the entire nuclear reservation. At the time Hanford officials called the safety measure "precautionary." Officials from the U.S. Dept. of Energy, which owns Hanford, and the contractor in charge of the demolition, CH2M Hill, downplayed the seriousness of the event with statements including, it appeared "workers were not at risk", "(the alarm went off) in an area where contamination is expected" and there was "no evidence radioactive particles had been inhaled" by anyone.

The KING 5 Investigators have discovered those statements are incorrect. An internal CH2M Hill email sent to their employees on July 21 was obtained by KING. It states that 301 (test kits) have been issued to employees and of the first 65 workers tested, a "small number of employees" showed positive results for "internal exposures" (by radioactive plutonium). Sources tell KING the "small number of employees" is twelve. Twelve people out of 65 is 20 percent. Still outstanding are 236 tests. A communication specialist with CH2M Hill sent a statement that more positive results are expected. "We expect additional positive results because analytical tests like a bioassay can detect radiological contamination at levels far lower than what field monitoring can detect," said Destry Henderson of CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Company.

Facebook

Facebook Fights Fake News With Links To Other Angles (techcrunch.com) 157

Facebook is rolling out "Related Articles" that appear below news links to stories lots of people are posting about on Facebook, or that are suspected to be false news and have been externally fact checked by Facebook's partners. "Appearing before someone reads, Related Articles will surface links to additional reporting on the same topic to provide different view points, and to truthiness reports from the fact checkers," reports TechCrunch. From the report: If users see drastically different angles when they compare a story to its Related Articles, they might deem it suspicious and skip it, be less likely to believe or share it, or could click through the Related Articles and make up their own mind. That could reduce the spread and impact of false news without Facebook itself having to be the honesty police. Related Articles could also balance out some of the radical invective that can subtly polarize the populace. Pre-click Related Articles are rolling out in the U.S., Germany, France, and Nederlands today. These countries were chosen to get the roll out first because Facebook has established fact checking partnerships there. "We don't want to be and are not the arbiters of the truth. The fact checkers can give the signal of whether a story is true or false" says Facebook News Feed integrity product manager Tessa Lyons. Meanwhile, Facebook's machine learning algorithm has improved its accuracy and speed, so the social network will now have it send more potential hoaxes to fact checkers.
Security

WikiLeaks Reveals CIA Tool For Hacking Webcams, Microphones (thestack.com) 107

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Stack: WikiLeaks has released a new set of documents in the CIA Vault 7 leak, outlining the "Dumbo" hacking tool which allows control of webcams and microphones. The release explains that the tool is capable of completely suspending processes on webcams and corrupting video recordings. Dumbo's is tasked specifically with gaining and exploiting physical access to target computers used in CIA field operations, the release notes. According to WikiLeaks, the tool allows for the identification, control and manipulation of monitoring and detection systems, such as webcams and microphones, running the Microsoft Windows operating system. The technology first identifies all installed devices, whether they are connected locally, wirelessly, or across wired networks. Once Dumbo has detected all of these devices, it identifies all the related processes, which may include recording, monitoring or detection of video, audio and network streams. These operations can then be suspended by the operator. "By deleting or manipulating recordings the operator is aided in creating fake or destroying actual evidence of the intrusion operation," the release added. Dumbo does require direct access to the target computer and is run from a USB stick. The release states that it supports 32bit Windows XP, Windows Vista, and newer versions of Windows operating system. However, 64bit Windows XP and Windows versions prior to XP are not supported.
Businesses

For 20 Years, This Man Has Survived Entirely By Hacking Online Games (vice.com) 114

An anonymous reader writes: A hacker says he turned finding and exploiting flaws in popular MMO video games into a lucrative, full-time job. Manfred's character is standing still in the virtual world of the 2014 sci-fi online multiplayer game WildStar Online. Manfred, the real life person behind the character, is typing commands into a debugger. In a few seconds of what seems to be an extremely easy hack, Manfred's virtual currency skyrockets up to more than 18,000,000,000,000,000,000, or 18 quintillion. I'm watching this hack in a demo video recorded by Manfred as I stand next to him in a Las Vegas bar on Thursday. Manfred, who asked me not to reveal his real name, says he has been hacking several video games for 20 years, making a real-life living by using hacks like the one I just witnessed. His modus operandi has changed slightly from game to game, but, in essence, it consisted of tricking games into giving him items or currency he doesn't have a right to have. He would then sell those items and currency to other players (for real money) or wholesales them to online gray markets, such as the Internet Game Exchange, that then would sell those goods to individual players. At the current exchange rate, Manfred estimates he has $397 trillion worth of WildStar gold. This is obviously an outlandish number, but, essentially, his income was only limited by the real-life market for the in-game currency. When I spoke to Manfred ahead of his talk at the Def Con hacking conference, he said he wanted to go in, give his demo, and go out "as a ghost," never to be seen or heard from again. He said he wanted to be "invisible," just like he's been for the past two decades. He said he's found more than 100 publicly unknown vulnerabilities in more than 20 online video games, making hacking and trading virtual goods into his full time job.
United Kingdom

UK Security Researcher Who Stopped WannaCry Outbreak Arrested in US (zdnet.com) 176

Zack Whittaker, reporting for ZDNet: A security researcher who in May stopped an outbreak of the WannaCry ransomware has been arrested and detained after attending the Def Con conference in Las Vegas. Marcus Hutchins, 23, a British national, was arrested at Las Vegas airport on Wednesday by US Marshals, several close friends confirmed to ZDNet. A friend told ZDNet that he was "was pulled by Marshals at the lounge" after clearing security. He was briefly detained in a federal facility in Nevada until he was moved. "We went to see him this morning and we had already been moved," said the friend. Hutchins is now understood to be in custody at an FBI field office in the state. Motherboard first broke the story on Thursday. Update: A Motherboard reporter tweets, "Here's the indictment accusing @MalwareTechBlog of running the Kronos banking malware."
Update 2: New DOJ statement: Gregory J. Haanstad, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, announced that on July 11, 2017, following a two-year long investigation, a federal grand jury returned a six-count indictment against Marcus Hutchins, also known as "Malwaretech," for his role in creating and distributing the Kronos banking Trojan.
Ubuntu

Ubuntu Will Revert Window Controls To the Right-Hand Side in Next Release (neowin.net) 171

Following a survey carried out last month, Ubuntu will begin shipping with the minimise, maximise, and close buttons on the right-hand side of windows. From a report: In the survey 46.2% of people said they prefer their window controls on the left-hand side and 53.8% said they prefer them on the right. The decision comes after seven years of window controls being on the left, at the time it had plenty of detractors but Ubuntu founder, Mark Shuttleworth, maintained that the controls needed shifting to the left because they'd be in the way of the then newly introduced window indicators.
Mozilla

Inside Mozilla's Fight To Make Firefox Relevant Again (cnet.com) 276

News outlet CNET has a big profile on Firefox today, for which it has spoken with several Mozilla executives. Mozilla hopes to fight back Chrome, which owns more than half of the desktop market share, with Firefox 57, a massive overhaul due November 14. From the report: "It's going to add up to be a big bang," Mozilla Chief Executive Chris Beard promises, speaking at the company's Mountain View, California, headquarters. "We're going to win back a lot of people." "Some of the stuff they're doing from a technology perspective is amazing," says Andreas Gal, who became CEO of startup Silk Labs after leaving the Mozilla chief technology officer job in 2015. "I just don't think it makes a difference." [...] You may not care which browser you use, but the popularity of Firefox has helped keep browsers competitive and build the web into a foundation for online innovations over the last decade. Are you a fan of Google Maps, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube? That's partly thanks to Firefox. Mozilla's mission is to keep the web vibrant enough for the next big innovation even as companies offer mobile apps instead of websites, dump privacy-invading ads on you or try to confine your activity to their own walled gardens. [...] To Mozilla, each tap or click on a webpage in Firefox is more than you browsing the internet. It's a statement that you'd prefer a more open future where online services can start up on their own. The alternative, as Mozilla sees it, is a future where everyone kowtows to Apple's app store, Google's search results, Facebook's news feed or Amazon's Prime video streaming. That's why Mozilla bought billboard ads saying "Browse against the machine" and "Big browser is watching you," a jab at Google. [...] Improvements within a project called Quantum are responsible for much of the difference. One part, Stylo, accelerates formatting operations. Quantum Flow squashes dozens of small slowdown bugs. Quantum Compositor speeds website display. And Firefox 57 also will lay the groundwork for WebRender, which uses a computing device's graphics chip to draw webpages on the screen faster. "You can do user interface and animation and interactive content that you simply can't do in any other browser," says Firefox chief Mayo, speaking from his office in Toronto -- over video chat technology Firefox helped make possible. It all adds up to a very different engine at the core of Firefox. That kind of speedup can really excite web developers -- an influential community key to Firefox's success in taking on IE back in 2004.
United States

EPA Reverses Course on Ozone Rule (nytimes.com) 53

The Trump administration said late Wednesday that it would not delay an Obama-era regulation on smog-forming pollutants from smokestacks and tailpipes (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source), a move that environmental groups hailed as a victory. From a report: The Environmental Protection Agency decision came a day after 16 state attorneys general, all Democrats, filed a lawsuit challenging the delay with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. It reversed a decision that Scott Pruitt, the E.P.A. administrator, made in June to put off an Oct. 1 deadline for designating which areas of the country met new ozone standards. In announcing the ozone policy change, the agency appeared to leave the door open to extending the deadline again. But, officials said, the agency will work with states to help them deliver the needed information.
Businesses

Private Valuations Aren't Grounded in Reality, Study Finds (bloomberg.com) 74

Unicorns aren't real, and neither are the valuations ascribed to many of the startups that say they're worth $1 billion or more, study finds. From a report: About half of private companies with valuations exceeding $1 billion, known as unicorns, wouldn't have earned the mythical title without the use of complex stock mechanics, according to a study by business professors at the University of British Columbia and Stanford University. The tools used to negotiate a higher share price with investors often come at the expense of employees and early shareholders, sometimes drastically reducing the actual value of their stock. The chasm between public and private valuations is a topic of increasing prominence following several disappointing listings. Among them is Blue Apron Holdings, which is trading well below the price venture capitalists paid in the last fundraising round. An often-overlooked explanation for the divide is buried in investor contracts. Blue Apron, which delivers meal kits to customers, gave stock preferences to Fidelity Investments and other backers in 2015 in exchange for a $2 billion valuation. The shares included a provision to receive additional equity if an initial public offering is set below a target price. Investors took advantage of the mechanism after Blue Apron's mediocre IPO.
Businesses

Thousands Show Up For Jobs at Amazon Warehouses in US Cities (apnews.com) 175

Thousands of people showed up Wednesday for a chance to pack and ship products to Amazon customers, as the e-commerce company held a giant job fair at nearly a dozen U.S. warehouses. From a report on Associated Press: Although the wages offered will make it hard for some to make ends meet, many of the candidates were excited by the prospect of health insurance and other benefits, as well as advancement opportunities. It's common for Amazon to ramp up its shipping center staff in August to prepare for holiday shopping. But the magnitude of its current hiring spree underscores Amazon's growth when traditional retailers are closing stores -- and blaming Amazon for a shift to buying goods online. Amazon said it received "a record-breaking 20,000 applications" and hired thousands of people on the spot, and will hire more in the coming days. That number represented fewer than half of the 50,000 people it had said it planned to hire.
Businesses

Tesla Burns Through Record Cash To Bring the Model 3 To Market (bloomberg.com) 220

Dana Hull, reporting for Bloomberg: Tesla's Elon Musk keeps getting the green light to do what it takes to bring electric cars to the masses, regardless of how much it's going to cost. The company burned through $1.16 billion in cash in the second quarter by spending on capacity for its cheapest model yet and boosting battery output. Investors fixated instead on what Musk said is coming next: Hundreds of thousands of Model 3 sedan deliveries, installations of solar roofs and an all-new semi truck to add to the lineup. "This is the best I've ever felt about Tesla's future," Musk said on a conference call. The stock surged as much as 7.4 percent to $349.94 as of 9:45 a.m. Thursday in New York, the biggest intraday gain in four months. The chief executive officer has built a fanatical following of Tesla shareholders who continue to throw their support behind his clean-energy vision. It helps that consumers keep opening their wallets: The Model 3, which starts at $35,000, has racked up almost half a million reservations and is drawing more deposits by the day. The record negative free cash flow Tesla reported for the three months ended in June was almost double the $622 million it went through in the first quarter. With a little more than $3 billion in cash on hand, Musk told analysts the company is thinking about raising money through a debt offering.
China

China Is Perfecting a New Method For Suppressing Dissent On the Internet (vox.com) 151

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Vox: The art of suppressing dissent has been perfected over the years by authoritarian governments. For most of human history, the solution was simple: force. Punish people severely enough when they step out of line and you deter potential protesters. But in the age of the internet and "fake news," there are easier ways to tame dissent. A new study by Gary King of Harvard University, Jennifer Pan of Stanford University, and Margaret Roberts of the University of California San Diego suggests that China is the leading innovator on this front. Their paper, titled "How the Chinese Government Fabricates Social Media Posts for Strategic Distraction, Not Engaged Argument," shows how Beijing, with the help of a massive army of government-backed internet commentators, floods the web in China with pro-regime propaganda. What's different about China's approach is the content of the propaganda. The government doesn't refute critics or defend policies; instead, it overwhelms the population with positive news (what the researchers call "cheerleading" content) in order to eclipse bad news and divert attention away from actual problems. This has allowed the Chinese government to manipulate citizens without appearing to do so. It permits just enough criticism to maintain the illusion of dissent and only acts overtly when fears of mass protest or collective action arise.
Verizon

Verizon's New Rewards Program Lets It Track Your Browsing History (theverge.com) 84

The new "Verizon Up" rewards program released this week by Big Red awards users a credit for every $300 they spend on their Verizon bill that can be redeemed toward various rewards. The only catch is that Verizon requires you to enroll in Verizon Selects, a program that allows the company to track a huge chunk of your personal data. The Verge reports: That includes web browsing, app usage, device location, service usage, demographic info, postal or email address, and your interests. Furthermore, that data gets shared with Verizon's newly formed Oath combination (aka AOL and Yahoo), plus with "vendors and partners" who work with Verizon. Which is kind of a long list of people who have access to what feels like a fairly significant amount of your data. It's worth noting that Verizon has been operating under these terms and conditions for a while with an earlier rewards program called "Smart Rewards," which also required users to opt in to the Verizon Selects tracking program. But that doesn't make it any better that this is the trade-off you're forced to make to take advantage of the rewards.
Earth

Being Outside Could Become Deadly In South Asia, Says Study (go.com) 416

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ABC News: Venturing outdoors may become deadly across wide swaths of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh by the end of the century as climate change drives heat and humidity to new extremes, according to a new study. These conditions could affect up to a third of the people living throughout the Indo-Gangetic Plain unless the global community ramps up efforts to rein in climate-warming carbon emissions. Today, that vast region is home to some 1.5 billion people. While most climate studies have been based on temperature projections, this one -- published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances -- is somewhat unique in also considering humidity as well as the body's ability to cool down in response. Most of those at risk in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are poor farmworkers or outdoor construction laborers. They are unlikely to have air conditioners -- up to 25 percent in of India's population still has no access to electricity. In some areas that have been deforested for industry or agriculture, they may not even have very much shade.

For the study, the researchers carried out computer simulations using global atmospheric circulation models under two scenarios -- one in which the world comes close to meeting its goal of curbing emissions to limit Earth's average temperature rise to 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) above pre-industrial levels, and one in it continues emitting at current levels. Both scenarios play out dangerously for South Asia. But with no limit on global warming, about 30 percent of the region could see dangerous wet bulb temperatures above 31 degrees C (88 degrees F) on a regular basis within just a few decades. That's nearly half a billion people by today's population levels, though the full scale could change as the population grows. Meanwhile, 4 percent of the population -- or 60 million in today's population -- would face deadly highs at or above 35 degrees C (95 degrees F) by 2100. But if the world can limit global warming, that risk exposure declines drastically. About 2 percent of the population would face average wet bulb temperatures of 31 degrees C (88 degrees F) or higher.

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