Businesses

Wisconsin State Legislature Signs Off On $3 Billion Foxconn Incentive Package (venturebeat.com) 158

On Thursday, legislators in the state of Wisconsin approved a nearly $3 billion incentive package for the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer, Foxconn, in exchange for it investing approximately $10 billion in the state and building a factory that could employ up to 13,000 workers. The legislation is now headed to Republican Governor Scott Walker's desk, where he is expected to give it his seal of approval. VentureBeat reports: The bill passed the Wisconsin State Assembly on a 64-31 vote, after previously passing the state senate on a 20-13 vote. The move signals the start of what will likely be an important experiment in just how much generous incentive packages can do to help create new tech hubs. Governor Walker has said that the Foxconn factory â" the company's first in the United States -- will help transform Wisconsin into "Wisconn Valley." While on a trade mission this week to Japan and South Korea, Governor Walker told reporters that many of the companies he met with on the trip were already "every interested in how they could come to Wisconsin and partner for that new ecosystem." However, there are still a few details that need to be finalized before Foxconn can start breaking ground -- most notably, where the company will build the factory. The factory was set to be built in either Kenosha or Racine County, Wisconsin, before Kenosha dropped out of the running earlier this week.
Facebook

Spain Fines Facebook Over Tracking Users Without Consent (tomshardware.com) 41

Spain's Data Protection Authority has issued a 1.2 million euro fine against Facebook after it found three instances when the company collected data without informing users, as required by European Union privacy laws. Tom's Hardware reports: The AEPD found multiple issues with how Facebook gathered data on Spanish users. One of the issues was that Facebook collects data on ideology, sex, and religious beliefs, as well as personal tastes and web surfing habits without informing the users about how that data will be used. A second issue was that Facebook wasn't obtaining specific and informed consent from the users because the data it was offering them about the collection was not sufficiently clear. The company has been tracking both users and non-users of the service through the Like button across the web without informing them about this sort of tracking, nor about what it plans to do with the data. The company has said that the collection is done for advertising purposes before, but some purposes remain secret, according to the Spanish Data Protection Authority. The AEPD said this sort of collection doesn't comply with the EU's data protection regulations.

Finally, the AEPD also noticed that Facebook has not been completely purging the data about users who had already deleted their accounts and that Facebook was making use of accounts' data that have been deleted for more than 17 months. Considering the data that has remained behind is no longer useful for the purpose for which it was collected, the agency considered this another serious infringement of EU privacy laws.

KDE

KDE Plasma 5.11 Beta Released (kde.org) 59

JRiddell writes: The original and best linux desktop has a new version, KDE Plasma 5.11 beta is out. UI improvements include a redesigned System Settings and notification history. Privacy improvements include Plasma Vault, which helps you store your files securely. Progress on Wayland support continues with many people now using it as their daily setup. The full changelog can be viewed here.
Security

ISPs Claim a Privacy Law Would Weaken Online Security, Increase Pop-Ups (arstechnica.com) 86

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The country's biggest Internet service providers and advertising industry lobby groups are fighting to stop a proposed California law that would protect the privacy of broadband customers. AT&T, Comcast, Charter, Frontier, Sprint, Verizon, and some broadband lobby groups urged California state senators to vote against the proposed law in a letter Tuesday. The bill would require Internet service providers to obtain customers' permission before they use, share, or sell the customers' Web browsing and application usage histories. California lawmakers could vote on the bill Friday of this week, essentially replicating federal rules that were blocked by the Republican-controlled Congress and President Trump before they could be implemented. The text and status of the California bill, AB 375, are available here.

The letter claims that the bill would "lead to recurring pop-ops to consumers that would be desensitizing and give opportunities to hackers" and "prevent Internet providers from using information they have long relied upon to prevent cybersecurity attacks and improve their service." The Electronic Frontier Foundation picked apart these claims in a post yesterday. The proposed law won't prevent ISPs from taking security measures because the bill "explicitly says that Internet providers can use customer's personal information (including things like IP addresses and traffic records) 'to protect the rights or property of the BIAS [Broadband Internet Access Service] provider, or to protect users of the BIAS and other BIAS providers from fraudulent, abusive, or unlawful use of the service,'" EFF Senior Staff Technologist Jeremy Gillula wrote.

Transportation

Hyperloop One Reveals 10 Strongest Potential Hyperloop Routes In the World (techcrunch.com) 142

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Hyperloop One wants to build a real, working Hyperloop -- but it'll need strong partners to make it a reality, across both industry and government. That's why, in part, it held a global competition requesting proposals for routes around the world. The winners of that competition have now been announced, and the resulting routes span the U.S., the U.K, Mexico, India and Canada. Hyperloop One has assessed each proposal from hundreds of teams who applied from around the world, examining the potential of each from the perspective of infrastructure, technology, regulatory environment and transportation concerns. As a result, it identified the strongest candidates [with four routes in the U.S., two routes in the U.K., one route in Mexico, two routes in India, and one route in Canada.]

The next step for each of these winning teams will be a validation process conducted with Hyperloop One to do some in-depth analysis on each route, establishing things like ridership forecast and building a fully fleshed out business case for each. Hyperloop One will be hosting workshops in each of the above countries to help with this process, and to meet with stakeholders and help establish necessary partnerships. Overall, Hyperloop One points out that these winning teams represent a combined population of almost 150 million people, with routes that would link up 53 urban centers around the world and span a total distance of 4,121 miles).

Bitcoin

Bitcoin Exchange BTCChina Says To Stop Trading, Sparking Further Slide (reuters.com) 70

Several Slashdot readers have shared this Reuters story: Chinese bitcoin exchange BTCChina said on Thursday that it would stop all trading from Sept. 30, setting off a further slide in the value of the cryptocurrency that left it over 30 percent away from the record highs it hit earlier in the month. China has boomed as a cryptocurrency trading location in recent years, as investors and speculators flocked to domestic exchanges that formerly allowed users to conduct trades for free, boosting demand. But that has prompted regulators in the country to crack down on the cryptocurrency sector, in a bid to stamp out potential financial risks as consumers pile into a highly risky and speculative market that has seen unprecedented growth this year. Just hours after BTCChina announced its closure, Chinese news outlet Yicai reported that the country plans to shut down all bitcoin exchanges by the end of September, citing financial sources in Shanghai.
Safari

Every Major Advertising Group Is Blasting Apple for Blocking Cookies in the Safari Browser (adweek.com) 442

The biggest advertising organizations say Apple will "sabotage" the current economic model of the internet with plans to integrate cookie-blocking technology into the new version of Safari. Marty Swant, reporting for AdWeek: Six trade groups -- the Interactive Advertising Bureau, American Advertising Federation, the Association of National Advertisers, the 4A's and two others -- say they're "deeply concerned" with Apple's plans to release a version of the internet browser that overrides and replaces user cookie preferences with a set of Apple-controlled standards. The feature, which is called "Intelligent Tracking Prevention," limits how advertisers and websites can track users across the internet by putting in place a 24-hour limit on ad retargeting. In an open letter expected to be published this afternoon, the groups describe the new standards as "opaque and arbitrary," warning that the changes could affect the "infrastructure of the modern internet," which largely relies on consistent standards across websites. The groups say the feature also hurts user experience by making advertising more "generic and less timely and useful."
Businesses

Union Power Is Putting Pressure on Silicon Valley's Tech Giants (bloomberg.com) 116

An anonymous reader writes: Organized labor doesn't rack up a lot of wins these days, and Silicon Valley isn't most people's idea of a union hotbed. Nonetheless, in the past three years unions have organized 5,000 people who work on Valley campuses. Among others, they've unionized shuttle drivers at Apple, Tesla, Twitter, LinkedIn, EBay, Salesforce.com, Yahoo!, Cisco, and Facebook; security guards at Adobe, IBM, Cisco, and Facebook; and cafeteria workers at Cisco, Intel, and, earlier this summer, Facebook. The workers aren't technically employed by any of those companies. Like many businesses, Valley giants hire contractors that typically offer much less in the way of pay and benefits than the tech companies' direct employees get. Among other things, such arrangements help companies distance themselves from the way their cafeteria workers and security guards are treated, because somebody else is cutting the checks. Silicon Valley Rising, a coalition of unions and civil rights, community, and clergy groups heading the organizing campaign, says its successes have come largely from puncturing that veneer of plausible deniability. That means directing political pressure, media scrutiny, and protests toward the tech companies themselves. "Everybody knows that the contractors will do what the tech companies say, so we're focused on the big guys," says Ben Field, a co-founder of the coalition who heads the AFL-CIO's South Bay Labor Council. Labor leaders say their efforts have gotten some tech companies to cut ties with an anti-union contractor, intervene with others to ease unionization drives, and subsidize better pay for contract workers. "If you want to get people to buy your product, you don't want them to feel that buying your product is contributing to the evils of the world," says Silicon Valley Rising co-founder Derecka Mehrens, who directs Working Partnerships USA, a California nonprofit that advocates for workers. Tech companies have been image-conscious and closely watched of late, she says, and the coalition is "being opportunistic."
Businesses

Two Ex-Googlers Want To Make Bodegas And Mom-And-Pop Corner Stores Obsolete (fastcompany.com) 342

Elizabeth Segran, writing for FastCompany: While it sometimes feels like we do all of our shopping on the internet, government data shows that actually less than 10% of all retail transactions happen online. In a world where we get our groceries delivered in just two hours through Instacart or Amazon Fresh, the humble corner store -- or bodega, as they are known in New York and Los Angeles -- still performs a valuable function. No matter how organized you are, you're bound to run out of milk or diapers in the middle of the night and need to make a quick visit to your neighborhood retailer. Paul McDonald, who spent 13 years as a product manager at Google, wants to make this corner store a thing of the past. Today, he is launching a new concept called Bodega with his cofounder Ashwath Rajan, another Google veteran. Bodega sets up five-foot-wide pantry boxes filled with non-perishable items you might pick up at a convenience store. An app will allow you to unlock the box and cameras powered with computer vision will register what you've picked up, automatically charging your credit card. The entire process happens without a person actually manning the "store." Bodega's logo is a cat, a nod to the popular bodega cat meme on social media -- although if the duo gets their way, real felines won't have brick-and-mortar shops to saunter around and take naps in much longer. "The vision here is much bigger than the box itself," McDonald says. "Eventually, centralized shopping locations won't be necessary, because there will be 100,000 Bodegas spread out, with one always 100 feet away from you."
GNOME

GNOME 3.26 Released (betanews.com) 176

BrianFagioli shares a report from BetaNews: Today, GNOME 3.26 codenamed "Manchester" sees release. It is chock full of improvements, such as a much-needed refreshed settings menu, enhanced search, and color emoji! Yes, Linux users like using the silly symbols too! "System search has been improved for GNOME 3.26. Results have an updated layout which makes them easier to read and shows more items at once. Additionally, it's now possible to search for system actions, including power off, suspend, lock screen, log out, switch user and orientation lock. (Log out and switch user only appear if there's more than one user. Orientation lock is only available if the device supports automatic screen rotation.) These search features can be accessed in the usual way: click Activities and type into the search box, or simply press 'super' and start typing," says the GNOME Project. The full release notes are available here.
Earth

Climate Change Could Wipe Out a Third of Parasite Species, Study Finds (nytimes.com) 240

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled, alternative source): Recently, scientists carried out the first large-scale study of what climate change may do to the world's much-loathed parasites. The team came to a startling conclusion: as many as one in three parasite species may face extinction in the next century. As global warming raises the planet's temperature, the researchers found, many species will lose territory in which to survive. Some of their hosts will be lost, too. Researchers have begun carefully studying the roles that parasites play. They make up the majority of the biomass in some ecosystems, outweighing predators sharing their environments by a factor of 20 to 1. For decades, scientists who studied food webs drew lines between species -- between wildebeest and the grass they grazed on, for example, and between the wildebeest and the lions that ate them. In a major oversight, they didn't factor in the extent to which parasites feed on hosts. As it turns out, as much as 80 percent of the lines in a given food web are links to parasites. They are big players in the food supply.

Some researchers had already investigated the fate of a few parasite species, but Colin J. Carlson, lead author of the study and a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, and his colleagues wanted to get a global view of the impact of climate change. Some kinds won't lose much in a warming world, the study found. For instance, thorny-headed worms are likely to be protected because their hosts, fish and birds, are common and widespread. But other types, such as fleas and tapeworms, may not be able to tolerate much change in temperature; many others infect only hosts that are facing extinction, as well. In all, roughly 30 percent of parasitic species could disappear, Mr. Carlson concluded. The impact of climate change will be as great or greater for these species as for any others studied so far.
The study has been published in Science Advances.
Android

Target's Sales Floors Are Switching From Apple To Android Devices (gizmodo.com) 137

After three years of Apple products, Target is moving to Android devices for stocking, pulling items, and other essential sales floor duties. Target first outfitted its employees with Apple products in 2014, replacing PDAs with iPod Touches. Gizmodo reports: In Fall of 2016, Target stores began testing the Zebra TC51, which runs Android 6.0 Mashmallow and was confirmed to Gizmodo as "the new MyDevices for store team members chainwide" by a company spokesperson over email. On Reddit's r/Target page and the unofficial employee forum The Breakroom, the new devices have been met with enthusiasm -- and plenty of jabs at the old iOS scanners. "The current iOS my devices we have all sorts of issues, connection issues, scanner issues, and tons more," one Breakroom poster complained. On Reddit, a former store manager wrote that "the iPod hardware they used as on the floor scanners for employees died quickly and there was no way of swapping in new batteries. There were many hardware issues that came about with the ipods." While a Target spokesperson confirmed the company will still purchase some products from Apple -- iPads for online order pickups, iPhones for managers -- the sales floor is switching to Android, and the company is staffing up on Android developers to port over all the internal software stores use.
Government

Kaspersky Software Banned From US Government Systems Over Concerns About Russia (betanews.com) 91

Mark Wilson writes: The Department of Homeland Security has told US government agencies to remove Kaspersky software from their systems. The directive was issued because of concerns about influence exerted over the company by the Russian government. Government agencies have been given three months to identify and start to remove Kaspersky's security products. Kaspersky has constantly denied connections to the Russian government, but the US is simply not willing to take the risk.
Security

Equifax Had 'Admin' as Login and Password in Argentina (bbc.com) 123

Reader wired_parrot writes: The credit report provider Equifax has been accused of a fresh data security breach, this time affecting its Argentine operations. The breach was revealed after security researchers discovered that an online employee tool used by Equifax Argentina was accessible using the "admin/admin" password combination.
Privacy

Trump Administration Sued Over Phone Searches at US Borders (reuters.com) 138

The Trump administration has engaged in an unconstitutional practice of searching without a warrant the phones and laptops of Americans who are stopped at the border, a lawsuit filed on Wednesday alleged. From a report: Ten U.S. citizens and one lawful permanent resident sued the Department of Homeland Security in federal court, saying the searches and prolonged confiscation of their electronic devices violate privacy and free speech protections of the U.S. Constitution. DHS could not be immediately reached for comment. The lawsuit comes as the number of searches of electronic devices has surged in recent years, alarming civil rights advocates.
Books

Ask Slashdot: What Are You Reading This Month? 312

An anonymous reader writes: Hey folks! Could you share what are some books (or book) you're reading this month? Maybe it's the book you've already started, or you intend to begin or resume later this month? Thanks!
Facebook

The Fake News Machine: Inside a Town Gearing Up for 2020 (cnn.com) 225

CNN has a story on Veles, riverside town in Macedonia, which back in the day was known to make porcelain for the whole of Yugoslavia. But now, as an investigation by the news outlet has found, it makes fake news. Veles has become home to dozens of website operators who churn out bogus stories designed to attract the attention of Americans. Each click adds cash to their bank accounts. From the report: The scale is industrial: Over 100 websites were tracked here during the final weeks of the 2016 U.S. election campaign, producing fake news that mostly favored Republican candidate for President Donald Trump. One of the shadowy industry's pioneers is a soft-spoken law school dropout. Worried that his online accounts could be shut down, the 24-year-old asked to be known only as Mikhail. He takes on a different persona at night, prowling the internet as "Jesica," an American who frequently posts pro-Trump memes on Facebook. The website and Facebook page that "Jesica" runs caters to conservative readers in the U.S. The stories are political -- and often wrong on the facts. But that doesn't concern Mikhail. "I don't care, because the people are reading," he said. "At 22, I was earning more than someone [in Macedonia] will ever learn in his entire life." He claims to have earned up to $2,500 a day from advertising on his website, while the average monthly income in Macedonia is just $426. The profits come primarily from ad services such as Google's AdSense, which place targeted advertisements around the web. Each click sends a little bit of cash back to the content creator. Mikhail says he has used his profits to buy a house and put his younger sister through school. [...] That site was blocked a few months ago after Facebook and Google started cracking down on fake news sites. Mikhail is now retooling his operation, with his sights set firmly on the 2020 presidential election.
The Almighty Buck

$782,000 Over Asking For a House in Sunnyvale (mercurynews.com) 266

An anonymous reader shares a report: A house in Sunnyvale just sold for close to $800,000 over its listing price. Your eyes do not deceive you: The four-bed, two-bath house -- less than 2,000 square feet -- listed for $1,688,000 and sold for $2,470,000. "I think it's the most anything has ever gone for over asking in Sunnyvale -- a record for Sunnyvale," said Dave Clark, the Keller Williams agent who represented the sellers in the deal. "We anticipated it would go for $2 million, or over $2 million. But we had no idea it would ever go for what it went for." This kind of over-bidding is known to happen farther north in cities including Palo Alto, Los Altos and Mountain View. But as those places have grown far too expensive for most buyers, future homeowners have migrated south to Sunnyvale, a once modest community that now finds itself among the Bay Area's real estate hot spots.
Businesses

The iPhone Is Guaranteed To Last Only One Year, Apple Argues In Court (vice.com) 435

Reader Jason Koebler writes: Last month, Greg Joswiak, Apple's VP of iOS, iPad, and iPhone Marketing, told Buzzfeed that iPhones are "the highest quality and most durable devices. We do this because it's better for the customer, for the iPhone, and for the planet."
But in a class-action court case over the widespread premature failure of tens of thousands of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus devices, Apple argues that the company cannot guarantee any iPhone for more than a year. In a motion to dismiss, Apple argued that "to hold Apple's Limited Warranty substantively unconscionable simply because Plaintiffs expect their iPhones to last the length of their cellular service contracts 'would place a burden on [Apple] for which it did not contract.'"

Bitcoin

North Korea Is Dodging Sanctions With a Secret Bitcoin Stash (bloomberg.com) 188

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: North Korea appears to be stepping up efforts to secure bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, which could be used to avoid trade restrictions including new sanctions approved by the United Nations Security Council. Hackers from Kim Jong Un's regime are increasing their attacks on cryptocurrency exchanges in South Korea and related sites, according to a new report from security researcher FireEye Inc. They also breached an English-language bitcoin news website and collected bitcoin ransom payments from global victims of the malware WannaCry, according to the researcher. Kim's apparent interest in cryptocurrencies comes amid rising prices and popularity. The same factors that have driven their success -- lack of state control and secretiveness -- would make them useful fund raising and money laundering tools for a man threatening to use nuclear weapons against the U.S. With tightening sanctions and usage of cryptocurrencies broadening, security experts say North Korea's embrace of digital cash will only increase. The 15-member Security Council on Monday approved sanctions aimed at punishing North Korea for its latest missile and nuclear tests. U.S. officials said the new measures would cut the country's textile exports by 90 percent, restricting its ability to get hard currency.
Government

Department of Energy Invests $50 Million To Improve Critical Energy Infrastructure Security (helpnetsecurity.com) 51

Orome1 shares a report from Help Net Security: Today, the Department of Energy (DOE) is announcing awards of up to $50 million to DOE's National Laboratories to support early stage research and development of next-generation tools and technologies to further improve the resilience of the Nation's critical energy infrastructure, including the electric grid and oil and natural gas infrastructure. The electricity system must continue to evolve to address a variety of challenges and opportunities such as severe weather and the cyber threat, a changing mix of types of electric generation, the ability for consumers to participate in electricity markets, the growth of the Internet of Things, and the aging of the electricity infrastructure. The seven Resilient Distribution Systems projects awarded through DOE's Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium (GMLC) will develop and validate innovative approaches to enhance the resilience of distribution systems -- including microgrids -- with high penetration of clean distributed energy resources (DER) and emerging grid technologies at regional scale. The project results are expected to deliver credible information on technical and economic viability of the solutions. The projects will also demonstrate viability to key stakeholders who are ultimately responsible for approving and investing in grid modernization activities. In addition, the Department of Energy "is also announcing 20 cybersecurity projects that will enhance the reliability and resilience of the Nation's electric grid and oil and natural gas infrastructure through innovative, scalable, and cost-effective research and development of cybersecurity solutions."
Earth

Why Bats Crash Into Windows (nature.com) 117

According to a new report published in the journal Science, Bats slam into vertical structures such as steel and glass buildings because they appear invisible to bats' echolocation system. Nature reports: Bats rely on echolocation to navigate in the dark. They locate and identify objects by sending out shrill calls and listening to the echoes that bounce back. Greif and his colleagues tested the echolocation of 21 wild-caught greater mouse-eared bats (Myotis myotis) in the lab. The researchers placed a featureless metal plate on a side wall at the end of a flight tunnel. The bats interpreted the smooth surface -- but not the adjacent, felt-covered walls -- as a clear flight path. Over an an average of around 20 trials for each bat, 19 of them crashed into the panel at least once. The researchers also put up smooth, vertical plates near wild bat colonies, and saw similar results. The animals became confused owing to a property of smooth surfaces called "acoustic mirroring." Whereas rough objects bounce some echoes back towards the bat, says Greif, a smooth surface reflects all echolocation calls away from the source. This makes a smooth wall appear as empty space to the bats, until they are directly in front of it. Only once a bat is facing the surface are their perpendicular echoes reflected back, which alerts the bat to its mistake. This explains why some bats attempted to swerve out of harm's way at the last second -- but often too late.
Education

A New Way to Learn Economics (newyorker.com) 297

John Cassidy, writing for The New Yorker: With the new school year starting, there is good news for incoming students of economics -- and anybody else who wants to learn about issues like inequality, globalization, and the most efficient ways to tackle climate change. A group of economists from both sides of the Atlantic, part of a project called CORE Econ, has put together a new introductory economics curriculum, one that is modern, comprehensive, and freely available online. In this country, many colleges encourage Econ 101 students to buy (or rent) expensive textbooks, which can cost up to three hundred dollars, or even more for some hardcover editions. The project is a collaborative effort that emerged after the world financial crisis of 2008-9, and the ensuing Great Recession, when many students (and teachers) complained that existing textbooks didn't do a good job of explaining what was happening. In many countries, groups of students demanded an overhaul in how economics was taught, with less emphasis on free-market doctrines and more emphasis on real-world problems.
Businesses

Equifax Lobbied For Easier Regulation Before Data Breach (wsj.com) 104

WSJ reports: Equifax was lobbying lawmakers and federal agencies to ease up on regulation of credit-reporting companies in the months before its massive data breach. Equifax spent at least $500,000 on lobbying Congress and federal regulators in the first half of 2017, according to its congressional lobbying-disclosure reports. Among the issues on which it lobbied was limiting the legal liability of credit-reporting companies. That issue is the subject of a bill that a panel of the House Financial Services Committee, which oversees the industry, discussed the same day Equifax disclosed the cyberattack that exposed personal financial data of as many as 143 million Americans. Equifax has also lobbied Congress and regulatory agencies on issues around "data security and breach notification" and "cybersecurity threat information sharing," according to its lobbying disclosures. The amount Equifax spent in the first half of this year appears to be in line with previous spending. In 2016 and 2015, the company's reports show it spent $1.1 million and $1.02 million, respectively, on lobbying activities. While the company had broadly similar lobbying issues in those years, the liability matter was new in 2017.
Businesses

Are Top US Startups Really Startups? (om.co) 57

Veteran technology reporter and columnist Om Malik writes: Pitchbook, a data research company has come up with a list of top 14 most valuable startups in the United States. There are no real surprises -- they are all ranked by valuation and they all are valued at north of $4 billion. They are all household names -- barring Outcome Health and Samumed. And they have been around forever. They have thousands of employees and many have billions in revenue. What they are not is liquid on public markets. They have not IPO'd. In a different Silicon Valley, they will all be public companies and they won't be deemed startups. Revenue, growth, relative size, market share -- pick a metric (except for lack of profits in many cases) and you know they aren't really startups. So can we stop calling them startups -- and instead maybe call them VC-backed private companies -- otherwise the label startup loses its meaning.
The Almighty Buck

Why Must You Pay Sales People Commissions? (a16z.com) 235

An anonymous reader shares an article: Sales is highly competitive work. That word -- "competitive" -- is the key to a high-performing sales organization. In order to be great at sales, you must outsell the competition. The competition might be a product from another company; it might be an internal project at the target company; or it might be the undying desire of the target customer to do absolutely nothing, which is often the toughest competitor of them all. At the end of the day, it's all a fight. And how do you get the most fight out of an organization? By offering a prize. As the old boxing saying goes, "This is prize fighting. No prize, no fight." Prizes and competition are critical to building a healthy sales culture. So what's an unhealthy sales culture? One that's governed by politics. Sales people must sell into highly political environments to succeed and that's why they don't want to live in one. If you do not evaluate and pay on what sales people sell, then what do you evaluate and pay on? Getting along with others? Kissing the boss' butt? Talking a big game but delivering nothing? Sounds like politics and sales people instinctively know it. When a CEO says, "we're going to evaluate you on things consistent with the culture" the sales person hears: "we are going to toss out objective financial metrics for the subjective will of the king." Great entrepreneurs are great innovators, and innovators love to innovate. But before you innovate on sales compensation, make sure you understand the strengths of the old system.
Businesses

Google Rival Yelp Claims Search Giant Broke Promise Made to Regulators (wsj.com) 61

Online-reviews firm Yelp alleged that Google is breaking a promise it made as part of a 2012 regulatory settlement to not scrape content from certain third-party sites including Yelp, escalating its yearslong battle against the search giant. Yelp said in a letter late Sunday to Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Maureen Ohlhausen that Google is using Yelp photos for local-business listings in its search results, despite Yelp's formal request that Google not pull such content from its site. From a report: As part of a December 2012 settlement to end an FTC investigation into Google, the tech giant agreed to not use content, including photos and user reviews, from third-party sites that opted out of such scraping. Google's commitment lasts through 2017 and applies to a variety of its products, including its local-business listings. "This is a flagrant violation of Google's promises to the FTC, and the FTC should reopen the Google case immediately," said Luther Lowe, Yelp's public-policy chief. Yelp has emerged as a leading critic of Google because the site believes the search giant unfairly uses its influence to stifle competitors.
Businesses

Amazon's Whole Foods Price Cuts Brought 25 Percent Jump In Shoppers (bloomberg.com) 94

According to Foursquare Labs, which compiled location information from shoppers' mobile devices during the first two days after Amazon completed its acquisition of Whole Foods and compared the data with the same period a week earlier, the electronic commerce company boosted customer traffic to Whole Foods by 25 percent. Bloomberg reports: Amazon acquired the upscale chain last month for $13.7 billion, a move that has brought turmoil to the supermarket industry and sent shares of grocery rivals tumbling. The same day it completed the acquisition, the e-commerce giant cut prices by as much as 43 percent on a range of items. Organic fuji apples were marked down to $1.99 a pound from $3.49 a pound, for instance. Organic avocados dropped to $1.99 each from $2.79. The traffic data is an optimistic sign that Amazon can succeed in the brick-and-mortar world. In some areas, the jump in customers was dramatic. At stores in Chicago, 35 percent more shoppers visited Whole Foods stores, Foursquare found. It's not surprising that curious shoppers visited the stores immediately after the takeover, particularly after a bevy of media coverage, according to Jennifer Bartashus, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. What's left to be seen is whether they will start consistently shopping more at Whole Foods stores.
The Almighty Buck

Chatbot Lets You Sue Equifax For Up To $25,000 Without a Lawyer (theverge.com) 111

Shannon Liao reports via The Verge: If you're one of the millions affected by the Equifax breach, a chatbot can now help you sue Equifax in small claims court, potentially letting you avoid hiring a lawyer for advice. Even if you want to be part of the class action lawsuit against Equifax, you can still sue Equifax for negligence in small claims court using the DoNotPay bot and demand maximum damages. Maximum damages range between $2,500 in states like Rhode Island and Kentucky to $25,000 in Tennessee. The bot, which launched in all 50 states in July, is mainly known for helping with parking tickets. But with this new update, its creator, Joshua Browder, who was one of the 143 million affected by the breach, is tackling a much bigger target, with larger aspirations to match. He says, "I hope that my product will replace lawyers, and, with enough success, bankrupt Equifax."

Not that the bot helps you do anything you can't already do yourself, which is filling out a bunch of forms -- you still have to serve them yourself. Unfortunately, the chatbot can't show up in court a few weeks later to argue your case for you either. To add to the headache, small claims court rules differ from state to state. For instance, in California, a person needs to demand payment from Equifax or explain why they haven't demanded payment before filing the form.

Encryption

Virginia Scraps Electronic Voting Machines Hackers Destroyed At DefCon (theregister.co.uk) 194

Following the DefCon demonstration in July that showed how quickly Direct Recording Electronic voting equipment could be hacked, Virginia's State Board of Elections has decided it wants to replace their electronic voting machines in time for the gubernatorial election due on November 7th, 2017. According to The Register, "The decision was announced in the minutes of the Board's September 8th meeting: 'The Department of Elections officially recommends that the State Board of Elections decertify all Direct Recording Electronic (DRE or touchscreen) voting equipment." From the report: With the DefCon bods showing some machines shared a single hard-coded password, Virginia directed the Virginia Information Technology Agency (VITA) to audit the machines in use in the state (the Accuvote TSX, the Patriot, and the AVC Advantage). None passed the test. VITA told the board "each device analyzed exhibited material risks to the integrity or availability of the election process," and the lack of a paper audit trail posed a significant risk of lost votes. Local outlet The News Leader notes that many precincts had either replaced their machines already, or are in the process of doing so. The election board's decision will force a change-over on the 140 precincts that haven't replaced their machines, covering 190,000 of Virginia's ~8.4m population.
Businesses

The New Corporate Recruitment Pool: Workers In Dead-End Jobs (msn.com) 207

New submitter cdreimer writes: According a report from The Wall Street Journal (Warning: source may be paywalled, alternative source), corporations looking to hire new employees are opening offices in cities with high concentration of workers in dead-end jobs who are reluctant to locate but are cheaper to hire than competing locally in tight labor markets. From the report: "Pressed for workers, a New Jersey-based software company went hunting for a U.S. city with a surplus of talented employees stuck in dead-end jobs. Brian Brown, chief operating officer at AvePoint, Inc., struck gold in Richmond. Despite the city's low unemployment rate, the company had no trouble filling 70 jobs there, some at 20% below what it paid in New Jersey. New hires, meanwhile, got more interesting work and healthy raises. Irvine, Calif.-based mortgage lender Network Capital Funding Corp. opened an office in Miami to scoop up an attractive subset of college graduates -- those who settled for tolerable jobs in exchange for living in a city they loved. 'They were not in real careers,' said Tri Nguyen, Network Capital chief executive. He now plans a similar expansion in Philadelphia. Americans have traditionally moved to find jobs. But with a growing reluctance by workers to relocate, some companies have decided to move closer to potential hires. Firms are expanding to cities with a bounty of underemployed, retrieving men and women from freelance gigs, manual labor and part-time jobs with duties that, one worker said, required only a heartbeat to perform. With the national jobless rate near a 16-year low, these pockets of underemployment are a wellspring for companies that recognize most new hires already have jobs but can be poached with better pay and room for advancement. That's preferable to competing for higher-priced workers at home in a tight labor market."
Power

Volkswagen To Build Electric Versions of All 300 Models By 2030 (bloomberg.com) 168

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Volkswagen AG Chief Executive Officer Matthias Mueller announced sweeping plans to build electric versions of all 300 models in the group's lineup as the world's largest automaker accelerates the shift away from combustion engines and tries to draw a line under the emissions-cheating scandal. Speaking on the eve of the Frankfurt auto show, the CEO laid out the enormity of the task ahead, vowing to spend 20 billion euros ($24 billion) to develop and bring the models to market by 2030 and promising to plow another 50 billion euros into the batteries needed to power the cars. Volkswagen is throwing the fire power of its 12 brands behind the push, aiming to catch up with the likes of Tesla Inc. and transform from a battery-vehicle laggard into a leader. Underscoring the enormity of the shift taking place in the industry, Mueller said VW will need the equivalent of at least four gigafactories for battery cells by 2025 just to meet its own vehicle production. At 50 billion euros, the CEO announced one of the largest tenders in the industry's history for the procurement of batteries. By 2025, VW aims to have 50 purely battery-powered vehicles and 30 hybrid models in its lineup, with a goal of selling as many as 3 million purely battery-powered cars by then. The transformation will pick up speed after that to reach the 2030 goal as economies of scale and better infrastructure help bring down prices and accelerate sales.
Open Source

Equifax Blames Open-Source Software For Its Record-Breaking Security Breach (zdnet.com) 283

The blame for the record-breaking cybersecurity breach that affects at least 143 million people falls on the open-source server framework, Apache Struts, according to an unsubstantiated report by equity research firm Baird. The firm's source, per one report, is believed to be Equifax. ZDNet reports: Apache Struts is a popular open-source software programming Model-View-Controller (MVC) framework for Java. It is not, as some headlines have had it, a vendor software program. It's also not proven that Struts was the source of the hole the hackers drove through. In fact, several headlines -- some of which have since been retracted -- all source a single quote by a non-technical analyst from an Equifax source. Not only is that troubling journalistically, it's problematic from a technical point of view. In case you haven't noticed, Equifax appears to be utterly and completely clueless about their own technology. Equifax's own data breach detector isn't just useless: it's untrustworthy. Adding insult to injury, the credit agency's advice and support site looks, at first glance, to be a bogus, phishing-type site: "equifaxsecurity2017.com." That domain name screams fake. And what does it ask for if you go there? The last six figures of your social security number and last name. In other words, exactly the kind of information a hacker might ask for. Equifax's technical expertise, it has been shown, is less than acceptable. Could the root cause of the hack be a Struts security hole? Two days before the Equifax breach was reported, ZDNet reported a new and significant Struts security problem. While many jumped on this as the security hole, Equifax admitted hackers had broken in between mid-May through July, long before the most recent Struts flaw was revealed. "It's possible that the hackers found the hole on their own, but zero-day exploits aren't that common," reports ZDNet. "It's far more likely that -- if the problem was indeed with Struts -- it was with a separate but equally serious security problem in Struts, first patched in March." The question then becomes: is it the fault of Struts developers or Equifax's developers, system admins, and their management? "The people who ran the code with a known 'total compromise of system integrity' should get the blame," reports ZDNet.
Businesses

Apple Suffers 'Major iPhone X Leak' 114

Details of new iPhones and other forthcoming Apple devices have been revealed via an apparent leak. From a report: Two news sites were given access to an as-yet-unreleased version of the iOS operating system. The code refers to an iPhone X in addition to two new iPhone 8 handsets. It also details facial recognition tech that acts both as an ID system and maps users' expressions onto emojis. One tech writer said it was the biggest leak of its kind to hit the firm. [...] "As best I've been able to ascertain, these builds were available to download by anyone, but they were obscured by long, unguessable URLs [web addresses]," wrote John Gruber, a blogger known for his coverage of Apple. "Someone within Apple leaked the list of URLs to 9to5Mac and MacRumors. I'm nearly certain this wasn't a mistake, but rather a deliberate malicious act by a rogue Apple employee." Neither Mr Gruber nor the two Apple-related news sites have disclosed their sources. However, the BBC has independently confirmed that an anonymous source provided the publications with links to iOS 11's golden master (GM) code that downloaded the software from Apple's own computer servers. It's a big blow to Apple, which uses surprise as a key element at its events. The leak could take some wind out of its sails as it looks to wow consumers. In 2012, Tim Cook had said the company was planning to "double down on secrecy." At the quarterly earnings call, he blamed the leaks about the upcoming iPhone models as one of the reasons that slowed down the sales of current generation iPhone models. However, an analysis published over the weekend found that Apple itself has been the source of several of these leaks in the years since. Earlier this year, the company held a meeting to boast about its internal progress to curb leaks. The hour-long recording of the meeting ironically got leaked. Nearly all details, except the final press renders of the new iPhone models, have leaked. In a subsequent post, Gruber wrote: The BBC doesn't say definitively that the leak was sent by an Apple employee, but I can state with nearly 100 percent certainty that it was. I also think there's a good chance Apple is going to figure out who it was. [...] That person should be ashamed of themselves, and should be very worried when their phone next rings. Moments ago, 9to5Mac reported about a new tvOS firmware leak, which appeared "to be out in the wild today" that details the upcoming features of the next generation Apple TV streaming device.
Google

Google Challenges Record EU Antitrust Fine in Court (reuters.com) 52

Google appealed on Monday against a record 2.4-billion-euro ($2.9 billion) EU antitrust fine, with its chances of success boosted by Intel's partial victory last week against another EU sanction. From a report: The world's most popular Internet search engine, a unit of the U.S. firm Alphabet, launched its appeal two months after it was fined by the European Commission for abusing its dominance in Europe by giving prominent placement in searches to its comparison shopping service and demoting rival offerings.
Businesses

How Techies Rescued Food Stamps (wired.com) 292

New submitter rgh02 writes: There is an endless variety of apps designed to manage life for the upper middle class, but most low-income Americans don't benefit from the same time-saving hacks. Thanks to new trends in civic technology, that's beginning to change. The 43 million Americans depending on food stamps are seeing the introduction of apps like Propel's Fresh EBT, which allows users to check balances, track deals, and organize budgets accordingly. And Propel is only one of several companies looking to disrupt outdated social programs, Tonya Riley reports at Backchannel. But the Trump administration, with its hiring freezes and budget cuts, poses threats to these advancements. Riley dives deep into the progress that's been made and how companies are navigating these obstacles.
AT&T

Hundreds of AT&T Wireless Workers and Supporters Plan To Protest at iPhone 8 Launch at Apple HQ 103

Hundreds of AT&T wireless workers and members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) will protest outside the launch of the iPhone 8 at Apple HQ on Tuesday, we were told. "Marking the start of a critical sales period that's expected to bring in billions for the telecom giant, workers are calling out AT&T's pay cuts for its retail employees and the company's rampant outsourcing and offshoring that undermine their job security and ability to provide quality customer service," the Communications Workers of America said in a press statement. Over the years, AT&T has increasingly handed over the operations of its retail operations to third-party dealers that now represent over 60 percent of all AT&T branded stores. On top of this, AT&T retail employees allege that they are seeing their pay decline by thousands of dollars because the company manipulates their commission structure.
Facebook

Why RSS Still Beats Facebook and Twitter for Tracking News (gizmodo.com) 108

An anonymous reader shares a report: One of the main reasons RSS is so beloved of news gatherers is that it catches everything a site publishes -- not just the articles that have proved popular with other users, not just the articles from today, not just the articles that happened to be tweeted out while you were actually staring at Twitter. Everything. In our age of information overload that might seem like a bad idea, but RSS also cuts out everything you don't want to hear about. You're in full control of what's in your feed and what isn't, so you don't get friends and colleagues throwing links into your feeds that you've got no interest in reading. Perhaps most importantly, you don't need to be constantly online and constantly refreshing your feeds to make sure you don't miss anything. It's like putting a recording schedule in place for the shows you know you definitely want to catch rather than flicking through the channels hoping you land on something interesting. There's no rush with RSS -- you don't miss out on a day's worth of news, or TV recaps, or game reviews if you're offline for 24 hours. It's all waiting for you when you get back. And if you're on holiday and the unread article count starts to get scarily high, just hit the mark all as read button and you're back to a clean slate.
China

Bitcoin Price Falls Again On Reports that China is Shutting Down Local Exchanges (cnbc.com) 115

China's clampdown on cryptocurrencies has reportedly taken a new direction -- to close down local bitcoin exchanges. From a report: Initial reports from Chinese media that the government plans to close down domestic cryptocurrency exchanges have seen the virtual coin shed more than $100 since Friday. Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal also reported Monday that that the country is planning to shut down digital currency exchanges. Bitcoin sunk to a low of $4,241 in late trading in the U.K. Friday, and reached a low of $4,108 on Monday, according to Coindesk data. It climbed to a record high of $5,000 dollars a little over a week ago, and has shot up by nearly 350 percent since the start of the year. The latest reported crackdown follows a decision by Chinese regulators -- including the People's Bank of China (PBOC) -- to ban initial coin offerings (ICOs). ICOs are a means of raising funds by selling off new digital tokens. A crackdown on ICOs would not affect the original cryptocurrency directly, but bitcoin still dropped more than $1,000 over a period of three days. China's latest move to shut down local exchanges would mark a new direction for the country in its efforts to regulate the market.
Government

Government Officials Begin Investigating Equifax Breach (thehill.com) 142

An anonymous reader quotes the Hill: The massive breach of credit rating firm Equifax is attracting scrutiny from government officials across the country. Lawmakers from both parties have expressed concern over the hack, which could have left vulnerable sensitive personal information for as many as 143 million people. The New York, Pennsylvania and Illinois attorneys general have announced formal investigations into the hack...

The Senate Commerce Committee announced on Thursday that it sent a letter to Equifax seeking answers about the extent of the breach and what Equifax is doing to mitigate its impact. In the House, Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) said that his committee would hold a hearing on the hacks at a to-be-determined date. Hensarling noted in a statement that such breaches are becoming "too common" and that consumers "deserve answers." House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said that his committee would hold a separate hearing on the matter as well.

Education

The Washington Post Pans Apple-Sponsored School Reform TV Special (washingtonpost.com) 162

Long-time Slashdot reader theodp writes: On Friday night, the Big Four Networks simultaneously aired EIF Presents: XQ Super School Live [YouTube], a commercial-free, one-hour TV special that championed Laurene Powell Jobs' mission to rethink the American high school. The closing credits listed Jobs as an Executive Producer, and noted that the chock-full-of-celebrities special was sponsored in part by her Emerson Collective and Apple.

"Surely Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hanks, Mahershala Ali, Justin Timberlake, Cate Blanchett and a bevy of other celebrities have nothing but laudable intentions by appearing on Friday night's live televised high school reform spectacular on four -- count them, four -- major networks (NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox)," writes the Washington Post's Valerie Strauss. "But when an hour of prime time on four networks is purchased, it's fair to ask whether that is a public service or propaganda."

The Post points out gently that "not everyone believes" in the need to "transform" high schools, while theodp notes "viewers were pitched XQ Super School Board Program kits, which XQ's website explains are designed to prepare individuals for a school board candidacy."

If this seems suspiciously political -- or at least a way to ensure schools are friendly to Laurene Powell Jobs' specific proposals -- the nonprofit's web site adds reassuringly that "XQ won't be endorsing or supporting particular candidates; we'll be supporting all candidates who stand with us in a shared commitment to rethink high school, so all young people can be educated as they deserve."
Security

Equifax Breach Provokes Calls For Serious Data Protection Reforms (wired.com) 193

Equifax's data breach was colossal -- but what should happen next? The Guardian writes: The problem is that companies like Equifax are able to accumulate -- essentially, without limit -- as much sensitive, personal data as they can get their hands on. There is an urgent need for strict regulations on what types of data companies can collect and how much data a company can possess, both in aggregate and about individuals. At the very least, this will lessen the severity and size of (inevitable) data breaches... Without putting hard limits on the data capitalists who extract and exploit our personal information, they will continue to reap the benefit while we bear the risks.
Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, adds, "we need to penalize companies that collect SSNs but can't protect [them]." Wired reports: Experts across numerous privacy and security fields agree that the solution to the over-collection and over-use of SSNs isn't one particular replacement, but a diverse array of authentications like individual codes (similar to passwords), biometrics, and even physical tokens to create more variation in the ID process. Some also argue that the government likely won't be the driving force behind the shift. "We have a government that works at a glacial pace in the best of times," says Brenda Sharton, who chairs the Privacy & Cybersecurity practice at the Goodwin law firm, which has worked on data privacy breach investigations since the early 2000s. "There will reach a point where SSN [exposure] becomes untenable. And it may push us in the direction of having companies require multi-factor authentication."
Meanwhile TechCrunch argues, "This crass, callow, and lazy treatment of our digital data cannot stand...": We must create new, secure methods for cryptographically securing our data... These old organizations -- Equifax was founded in 1899 and hasn't changed much since inception -- must die, to be replaced by solutions that (and I shudder to say this) are blockchain-based.
Earth

Uber Gives Free Rides to Shelters During Hurricane Irma (bloomberg.com) 38

One million households lost power in Florida, and at least three people died, after Hurricane Irma made landfall Sunday morning. Bloomberg reports how Uber tried to help: Uber Technologies Inc. is offering free rides to shelters near Tampa as Hurricane Irma barrels toward the Florida mainland. The City of Tampa's Office of Emergency Management publicized the free rides on its Twitter feed, @AlertTampa, and mobile news alert service. Uber's offer helps serve a vital need for transportation, as Tampa Bay area residents got late notice that the monster storm that changed track on Saturday and was heading their way. It also provided a chance for the company to burnish an image... Uber has also been criticized for using its so-called surge pricing in times of crisis.
Music

Can Blockchain Save The Music Industry? (wired.com) 129

An anonymous reader quotes Wired: Last fall, a group of music industry heavyweights gathered in New York City to do something they'd mostly failed to do up to that point: work together. Representatives from major labels like Universal, Sony, and Warner sat next to technologists from companies like Spotify, YouTube, and Ideo and discussed the collective issues threatening their industry... The participants of that confab would later form a group called the Open Music Initiative... "Pretty early on it was obvious that there's an information gap in the industry," says Erik Beijnoff, a product developer at Spotify and a member of the OMI.

That "information gap" refers to the data around who helped create a song. Publishers might keep track of who wrote the underlying composition of a song, or the session drummer on a recording, but that information doesn't always show up in a digital file's metadata. This disconnect between the person who composed a song, the person who recorded it, and the subsequent plays, has led to problems like writers and artists not getting paid for their work, and publishers suing streaming companies as they struggle to identify who is owed royalties. "It's a simple question of attribution," says Berklee College of Music's vice president of innovation and strategy, Panos A. Panay. "And payments follow attribution."

Over the last year, members of the OMI -- almost 200 organizations in total -- have worked to develop just that. As a first step, they've created an API that companies can voluntarily build into their systems to help identify key data points like the names of musicians and composers, plus how many times and where tracks are played. This information is then stored on a decentralized database using blockchain technology -- which means no one owns the information, but everyone can access it.

Robotics

Swarms Of Flying Robot Bees Could Monitor Weather, Collect Data (venturebeat.com) 60

An anonymous reader quotes VentureBeat: Native honeybees, one of the most prolific pollinators in the animal kingdom, are dying off at an unprecedented rate from Colony Collapse Disorder and threatening an ecosystem service worth about $15 billion. Supported by the National Science Foundation, the RoboBees project looks to minimize the loss of this critical resource with new microbots that can mimic the pollinating role of a honeybee... In a remarkable display of biomimicry, scientists have developed a flight-capable robot that's just half the size of a paperclip and weighs in at one tenth of a gram... The RoboBees project pushes the boundaries of research in a variety of fields, from micromanufacturing to energy storage and even the computer algorithms that control the robots by the swarm...

While the effect of a single robot might be miniscule, a coordinated group of hundreds, thousands, or millions of RoboBees could perform a host of unprecedented tasks. Aside from pollinating plants for agricultural purposes, the RoboBees could coordinate to digitally map terrain, monitor weather conditions, and even assist in relief efforts after a disaster, through data collection. While RoboBees are only intended as a stopgap measure for honeybee loss, the potential applications of the technology have the world holding its breath for the next breakthrough.

AI

America's Data-Swamped Spy Agencies Pin Their Hopes On AI (phys.org) 62

An anonymous reader quotes Phys.org: Swamped by too much raw intel data to sift through, US spy agencies are pinning their hopes on artificial intelligence to crunch billions of digital bits and understand events around the world. Dawn Meyerriecks, the Central Intelligence Agency's deputy director for technology development, said this week the CIA currently has 137 different AI projects, many of them with developers in Silicon Valley. These range from trying to predict significant future events, by finding correlations in data shifts and other evidence, to having computers tag objects or individuals in video that can draw the attention of intelligence analysts. Officials of other key spy agencies at the Intelligence and National Security Summit in Washington this week, including military intelligence, also said they were seeking AI-based solutions for turning terabytes of digital data coming in daily into trustworthy intelligence that can be used for policy and battlefield action.
Earth

What's Causing The Hurricanes? (yahoo.com) 442

An anonymous reader quotes AFP: Hurricane Irma, now taking aim at Florida, has stunned experts with its sheer size and strength, churning across the ocean with sustained Category 5 winds of 183 miles per hour (295 kilometers per hour) for more than 33 hours, making it the longest-lasting, top-intensity cyclone ever recorded. Meanwhile Jose, a Category 4 on the Saffir Simpson scale of 1 to 5, is fast on the heels of Irma, pummeling the Caribbean for the second time in the span of a few days. Many have wondered what is contributing to the power and frequency of these extreme storms. "Atlantic hurricane seasons over the years have been shaped by many complex factors," said Jim Kossin, a NOAA hurricane scientist at the University of Wisconsin. "Those include large scale ocean currents, air pollution -- which tends to cool the ocean down -- and climate change"...

Some think a surge in industrial pollution after World War II may have produced more pollutant particles that blocked the Sun's energy and exerted a cooling effect on the oceans. "The pollution reduced a lot of hurricane activity," said Gabriel Vecchi, professor of geosciences at Princeton University's Environmental Institute. Pollution began to wane in the 1980s due to regulations such as the Clean Air Act, allowing more of the Sun's rays to penetrate the ocean and provide warming fuel for storms. Vecchi said the "big debate" among scientists is over which plays a larger role -- variations in ocean currents or pollution cuts. There is evidence for both, but there isn't enough data to answer a key question...

The burning of fossil fuels, which spew greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and warm the Earth, can also be linked to a rise in extreme storms in recent years. Warmer ocean temperatures yield more moisture, more rainfall, and greater intensity storms. "It is not a coincidence that we're seeing more devastating hurricanes," climatologist Michael Mann of Penn State University told AFP in an email. "Over the past few years, as global sea surface temperatures have been the warmest on record, we've seen the strongest hurricanes -- as measured by peak sustained winds -- globally, in both Southern and Northern Hemisphere, in both Pacific and now, with Irma, the open Atlantic," he added. "The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle. We're seeing them play out in real time, and the past two weeks have been a sadly vivid example."

The Courts

Should British Hacker Lauri Love Be Tried In America? (theguardian.com) 254

A 31-year-old autistic man in the U.K. is suspected of hacking U.S. government computer systems in 2013 -- and he has one final chance to appeal his extradition. An anonymous reader quotes the Guardian Even if Love is guilty, however, there are important legal and moral questions about whether he should be extradited to the US -- a nation that has prosecuted hackers with unrivalled severity, and one where Love could be sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison... His remaining hope for mercy is a final appeal against extradition in the high court in November. Love's hope is for a full and fair trial in Britain.

Even if he is found guilty in a British court of the most serious crimes in the US government's indictment, his legal team estimate that he faces just a few months in prison. Failure means Love will be flown to a holding facility in New York, placed on suicide watch and probably forced to take antidepressants, prior to a trial. If he refuses to accept a plea deal and is convicted, he will face $9m (£6.8m) in fines and, experts estimate, a prison term of up to 99 years, a punishment illustrative of the US's aggressive sentencing against hackers under the controversial Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Naomi Colvin, from the human rights group the Courage Foundation, tells the Guardian that "Lauri's case is critically important in determining the reach of America's unusually harsh punitive sanctions for computer crimes."
Privacy

TechCrunch: Equifax Hack-Checking Web Site Is Returning Random Results (techcrunch.com) 176

An anonymous reader quotes security researcher Brian Krebs: The web site that Equifax advertised as the place where concerned Americans could go to find out whether they were impacted by this breach -- equifaxsecurity2017.com -- is completely broken at best, and little more than a stalling tactic or sham at worst. In the early hours after the breach announcement, the site was being flagged by various browsers as a phishing threat. In some cases, people visiting the site were told they were not affected, only to find they received a different answer when they checked the site with the same information on their mobile phones.
TechCrunch has concluded that "the checker site, hosted by Equifax product TrustID, seems to be telling people at random they may have been affected by the data breach." One user reports that entering the same information twice produced two different answers. And ZDNet's security editor reports that even if you just enter Test or 123456, "it says your data has been breached." TechCrunch writes: The assignment seems random. But, nevertheless, they were still asked to continue enrolling in TrustID. What this means is not only are none of the last names tied to your Social Security number, but there's no way to tell if you were really impacted. It's clear Equifax's goal isn't to protect the consumer or bring them vital information. It's to get you to sign up for its revenue-generating product TrustID.
Meanwhile, one web engineer claims the secret 10-digit "security freeze" PIN being issued by Equifax "is just a timestamp of when you made the freeze."
The Courts

The Teen Malware Career Of Marcus Hutchins (itwire.com) 48

Slashdot reader troublemaker_23 writes, "A number of security researchers have dismissed an article by reporter Brian Krebs about Marcus Hutchins, the Briton who is awaiting trial in the US on charges of writing and distributing the Kronos banking malware, by pointing out that it has nothing to do with the case." An anonymous reader writes: Krebs investigated dozens of hacker forum pseudonyms, concluding "The clues suggest that Hutchins began developing and selling malware in his mid-teens -- only to later develop a change of heart and earnestly endeavor to leave that part of his life squarely in the rearview mirror." Krebs believes 15-year-old Hutchins registered a domain he'd later advertise as "mainly for blackhats wanting to phish," and in 2010 may have filmed YouTube videos about password-stealing malware. Krebs says the early activities are "fairly small-time -- and hardly rise to the level of coding from scratch a complex banking trojan and selling it to cybercriminals," though he believes Hutchins moved on to advertising exploit kits, password-stealers, and bot rentals.

Krebs also talked to 27-year-old Brendan Johnston, a friend of Hutchins who did time in prison in 2014 for selling Trojans, who "said his old friend sincerely tried to turn things around in late 2012... 'I feel like I know Marcus better than most people do online, and when I heard about the accusations I was completely shocked,. He tried for such a long time to steer me down a straight and narrow path that seeing this tied to him didn't make sense to me at all." Krebs stresses that Hutchins didn't try to hide the fact that he'd written malware, "which in the United States at least is a form of protected speech." And his essay concludes, "Let me be clear: I have no information to support the claim that Hutchins authored or sold the Kronos banking trojan."

Symantec's former cybersecurity czar Tarah Wheeler has now set up a new legal fund after it was discovered that most of the online donations to Hutchins' previous defense fund came from stolen or fake credit card numbers. Hutchins returns to court in October, and the new fund has already received more than $16,000 in donations from more than 200 contributors.

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