Trump Team Considers Nationalizing America's 5G Network (axios.com) 383

JoeyRox writes: "Trump national security officials are considering an unprecedented federal takeover of a portion of the nation's mobile network to guard against China, according to sensitive documents obtained by Axios." This is based on a PowerPoint presentation Axios has in their possession. Two options are described -- a national 5G network funded and built by the Federal government, or a mix of 5G networks built by existing wireless providers. A source suggests the first option is preferred and essential to protect against competition from China and "bad actors". The presentation suggests that a government-built network would then be leased out to carriers like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile.
The PowerPoint presentation was produced by a senior National Security Council official, and argues that the move is necessary because "China has achieved a dominant position in the manufacture and operation of network infrastructure," and "China is the dominant malicious actor in the Information Domain."

It also suggests America could export its secure 5G technology to protect its allies, and "Eventually this effort could help inoculate developing countries against Chinese neo-colonial behavior."

OnePlus Is Again Sending User Data To a Chinese Company Without User Consent (bgr.com) 152

In October 2017, a researcher caught OnePlus silently collecting all sorts of data from its users. Now, a new report says that there's still a OnePlus app that can grab data from the phone and send it to servers in China without a user's knowledge or express consent. BGR reports: The French security researcher hiding behind the name Elliot Alderson on Twitter detailed OnePlus's data collection practices back in October, and he has now discovered a strange file in the OnePlus clipboard app. A Badword.txt file contains various keywords, including "Chairman, Vice President, Deputy Director, Associate Professor, Deputy Heads, General, Private Message, shipping, Address, email," and others. The file is then duplicated in a zip file called pattern alongside six other .txt files. All these files are apparently used in "in an obfuscated package which seems to be an #Android library from teddymobile." Now, TeddyMobile is a Chinese company that works with plenty of smartphone makers from China. The company seems to be able to recognize words and numbers in text messages. And OnePlus is apparently sending your phone's IMEI number to a TeddyMobile server, too. It looks like the TeddyMobile package might be able to grab all sorts of data from a phone. Even bank numbers are apparently recognized. OnePlus has yet to issue a statement on the matter.

Breaking Up Amazon, Google, Apple, and Facebook Could Save Capitalism, NYU Professor Says (venturebeat.com) 237

An anonymous reader shares a VentureBeat report: If you want to get an idea of how quickly sentiment has shifted against U.S. tech giants, just listen to NYU professor Scott Galloway. [...] "After spending the majority of the last two years of my life really trying to understand them and the relationship of the ecosystem, I've become 100 percent convinced that it's time to break these companies up." It's an audacious claim from anyone, even more startling coming from someone who has been such a close and bullish observer of these tech giants. Yet for Galloway, it is clear that the four companies have simply become too big, and too powerful. "The premise of my book is that Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google are our new gods, our new source of love, our consumptive gods," he said. "And as a result of their ability to tap into these very basic instincts, they've aggregated more market cap than the majority of nation's GDP ... I think these entities are more powerful than any entity, with maybe the exception of China and the U.S."

[...] Galloway said he wasn't making his argument based on many of the current emotional outcries against the companies, though these are important to note. And he proceeded to list what he considers to be these giants' numerous sins. "There are reasons to be angry at them," he said. "They basically power fake news ... So the notion that our platforms have been weaponized by the intelligence unit of a foreign adversary was initially responded to by Facebook as crazy, that we were crazy for thinking that. Then we found out it was millions of people, and now we're finding out it was hundreds of millions of people who were exposed."


China Is Quickly Switching From Pirating To Streaming (cnn.com) 79

hackingbear shares a report from CNN: Not so long ago, China was an oasis for pirated music and videos. CDs and DVDs were easily copied and sold for cheap at roadside markets. If you had a computer and an internet connection, top selling albums and Hollywood movies were widely available for free online. That's changing fast as new technologies such as the convenient WeChat payment and a long-running crackdown on pirated content mean members of the country's growing, smartphone-wielding middle class are increasingly willing to pay to stream videos and music online. "When you have to spend two-to-three hours digging up pirated content, users are willing to pay a [small] amount of money to get non-pirated content," said Karen Chan, an analyst with research firm Jefferies. Across major Chinese video platforms, the monthly fee is about 20 yuan ($3); streaming music is even cheaper, ranging from 8 to 15 yuan ($1-$2) per month. Compare that with a basic monthly Netflix subscription in the U.S. at $8, or a Spotify one at $10. The rapid spread of digital payment platforms like Tencent's WeChat Pay and Alibaba-affiliated Alipay has also played a role, according to Xue Yu, an analyst with research firm IDC. The platforms created a market of young Chinese consumers comfortable with buying goods and services for a few yuan online, Xue said.

Plastic Pollution Is Killing Coral Reefs, 4-Year Study Finds (npr.org) 90

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: A new study based on four years of diving on 159 reefs in the Pacific shows that reefs in four countries -- Australia, Thailand, Indonesia and Myanmar -- are heavily contaminated with plastic. It clings to the coral, especially branching coral. And where it clings, it sickens or kills. "The likelihood of disease increases from 4 percent to 89 percent when corals are in contact with plastic," researchers report in the journal Science. Study leader Drew Harvell at Cornell University says the plastic could be harming coral in at least two ways. First, bacteria and other harmful microorganisms are abundant in the water and on corals; when the coral is abraded, that might invite pathogens into the coral. In addition, Harvell says, plastic can block sunlight from reaching coral. Based on how much plastic the researchers found while diving, they estimate that over 11 billion plastic items could be entangled in coral reefs in the Asia-Pacific region, home to over half the world's coral reefs. And their survey did not include China, one of the biggest sources of plastic pollution.

Researchers Warn of Physics-Based Attacks On Sensors (securityledger.com) 85

chicksdaddy shares a report from The Security Ledger: Billions of sensors that are already deployed lack protections against attacks that manipulate the physical properties of devices to cause sensors and embedded devices to malfunction, researchers working in the U.S. and China have warned. In an article in Communications of the ACM, researchers Kevin Fu of the University of Michigan and Wenyuan Xu of Zhejiang University warn that analog signals such as sound or electromagnetic waves can be used as part of "transduction attacks" to spoof data by exploiting the physics of sensors. Researchers say a "return to classic engineering approaches" is needed to cope with physics-based attacks on sensors and other embedded devices, including a focus on system-wide (versus component-specific) testing and the use of new manufacturing techniques to thwart certain types of transduction attacks.

"This is about uncovering the physics of cyber security and how some of the physical properties of systems have been abstracted to the point that we don't have a good way to describe the security of the system," Dr Fu told The Security Ledger in a conversation last week. That is particularly true of sensor driven systems, like those that will populate the Internet of Things. Cyberattacks typically target vulnerabilities in software such as buffer overflows or cross-site scripting. But transduction attacks target the physics of the hardware that underlies that software, including the circuit boards that discrete components are deployed on, or the materials that make up the components themselves. Although the attacks target vulnerabilities in the hardware, the consequences often arise as software systems, such as the improper functioning or denial of service to a sensor or actuator, the researchers said. Hardware and software have what might be considered a "social contract" that analog information captured by sensors will be rendered faithfully as it is transformed into binary data that software can interpret and act on it. But materials used to create sensors can be influenced by other phenomenon -- such as sound waves. Through the targeted use of such signals, the behavior of the sensor can be interfered with and even manipulated. "The problem starts with the mechanics or physics of the material and bubbles up into the operating system," Fu told The Security Ledger.


Two Twin Long-Tailed Macaque Monkeys Are the First Primates Cloned Using the Dolly Method (arstechnica.com) 61

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The twin long-tailed macaque monkeys are the first primates cloned using the same method that created the world's most famous sheep in 1996 -- a method called somatic cell nuclear transfer, or SCNT. The twins' genetic blueprints were swiped from fetal cells of another monkey. Researchers then popped the DNA into egg cells that they had also cleared of their DNA-containing nuclei. With a dash of compounds that spur embryo development, the reprogrammed cells developed into healthy baby monkeys in surrogate mother monkeys. The two were born about seven weeks ago in China and are developing normally so far, researchers reported Wednesday in the journal Cell. Though the overall SCNT method is the same as what was used for Dolly, researchers struggled for years to tweak it to work in primates. The procedure is delicate and required a lot of optimization -- not to mention DNA-swaps.

The researchers behind the cute clones, led by Zhen Liu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, first tried using DNA from adult monkey cells. They created 192 embryos this way, implanting 181 of them into 42 surrogates, leading to 22 pregnant monkeys. But this resulted in the live birth of only two monkeys, both of which died within hours. Next, the researchers tried using DNA from fetal tissue. They created 109 embryos, implanted 79 of them into 21 surrogates, leading to pregnancy in six of them. Two female monkeys, Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, resulted. The researchers attribute their success to new cell-imaging methods, tweaking the right mix of reprogramming compounds, and lots of practice.

United States

The US Drops Out of the Top 10 In Innovation Ranking (bloomberg.com) 364

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: The U.S. dropped out of the top 10 in the 2018 Bloomberg Innovation Index for the first time in the six years the gauge has been compiled. South Korea and Sweden retained their No. 1 and No. 2 rankings. The index scores countries using seven criteria, including research and development spending and concentration of high-tech public companies. The U.S. fell to 11th place from ninth mainly because of an eight-spot slump in the post-secondary, or tertiary, education-efficiency category, which includes the share of new science and engineering graduates in the labor force. Value-added manufacturing also declined. Improvement in the productivity score couldn't make up for the lost ground.

South Korea remained the global-innovation gold medalist for the fifth consecutive year. China moved up two spots to 19th, buoyed by its high proportion of new science and engineering graduates in the labor force and increasing number of patents by innovators such as Huawei Technologies Co. Japan, one of three Asian nations in the top 10, rose one slot to No. 6. France moved up to ninth from 11th, joining five other European economies in the top tier. Israel rounded out this group and was the only country to beat South Korea in the R&D category. South Africa and Iran moved back into the top 50; the last time both were included was 2014. Turkey was one of the biggest gainers, jumping four spots to 33rd because of improvements in tertiary efficiency, productivity and two other categories. The biggest losers were New Zealand and Ukraine, which each dropped four places. The productivity measure influenced New Zealand's shift, while Ukraine was hurt by a lower tertiary-efficiency ranking.


Ecuador is Fighting Crime Using Chinese Surveillance Technology (scmp.com) 35

Ecuador has introduced a security system using monitoring technology from China, including facial recognition, as it tries to bring down its crime rate and improve emergency management, according to state-run Xinhua news agency. From a report: A network of cameras has been installed across the South American nation's 24 provinces -- keeping watch on its population of 16.4 million people -- using a system known as the ECU911 Integrated Security Service, Xinhua reported. Used by the country's police, armed forces and fire brigade, it went into operation in November 2016 and has an emergency response and monitoring system.

Trump Administration Approves Tariffs of 30 Percent On Imported Solar Panels (axios.com) 445

The Trump administration just approved tariffs of 30% on imported solar panels. Axios explains why it matters: "Most of the American solar industry has opposed tariffs on panels, saying they would raise prices and hurt the sector. A small group of solar panel manufacturers argued -- successfully -- that an influx of cheap imports, largely from China or Chinese-owned companies, was hurting domestic manufacturing. It's also part of President Trump's broader trade agenda against China." From the report: The tariffs would last for four years and decline in increments of 5% from 30%: 25%, 20% and finally 15% in the fourth year. The tariffs are lower than the 35% the U.S. International Trade Commission had initially recommended last year, per Bloomberg. This is actually the third, and broadest, set of tariffs the U.S. government has issued on solar imports in recent years. The Obama administration issued two earlier rounds of tariffs on a narrower set of imports. Monday's action also imposed import tariffs on washing machines, a much lower profile issue than solar energy.

China, Unhampered by Rules, Races Ahead in Gene-Editing Trials (wsj.com) 159

U.S. scientists helped devise the Crispr biotechnology tool. First to test it in humans are Chinese doctors (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative link). WSJ reports: In a hospital west of Shanghai, Wu Shixiu since March has been trying to treat cancer patients using a promising new gene-editing tool. U.S. scientists helped devise the tool, known as Crispr-Cas9, which has captured global attention since a 2012 report said it can be used to edit DNA. Doctors haven't been allowed to use it in human trials in America. That isn't the case for Dr. Wu and others in China. In a quirk of the globalized technology arena, Dr. Wu can forge ahead with the tool because he faces few regulatory hurdles to testing it on humans. [...] There is little doubt China was first out of the block testing Crispr on humans. Nine trials in China are listed in a U.S. National Library of Medicine database. The Wall Street Journal found at least two other hospital trials, including one beginning in 2015 -- a year earlier than previously reported. Journal reporting found at least 86 Chinese patients have had their genes edited.

China's Smartphone Maker OnePlus Says Up To 40,000 Customers Were Affected by Credit Card Security Breach (theverge.com) 8

sqorbit writes: OnePlus, a manufacturer of an inexpensive smartphone meant to compete with the iPhone, states that data from 40,000 customers credit card information was stolen while purchasing phones from its website. Even as the company has just confirmed the breach, it says the the script stealing information had been running since November. It is not clear whether this was a remote attack or the attack happened from within the company. Credit purchases on the OnePlus site have been suspended and will remain that way while an investigation takes place. [...] Earlier this week, OnePlus had temporarily shut down credit card payments on its website following reports that customers' payment details were stolen after they bought goods through its online store. The company says it's disabling credit card payments "as a precaution," but will still be accepting purchases through PayPal. The investigation began after a poll posted by users on OnePlus' forums found that many customers had experienced the same problem.
United States

US Doctors Plan To Treat Cancer Patients Using CRISPR (technologyreview.com) 53

An anonymous reader shares a report: The first human test in the U.S. involving the gene-editing tool CRISPR could begin at any time and will employ the DNA cutting technique in a bid to battle deadly cancers. Doctors at the University of Pennsylvania say they will use CRISPR to modify human immune cells so that they become expert cancer killers, according to plans posted this week to a directory of ongoing clinical trials. The study will enroll up to 18 patients fighting three different types of cancer -- multiple myeloma, sarcoma, and melanoma -- in what could become the first medical use of CRISPR outside China, where similar studies have been under way. An advisory group to the National Institutes of Health initially gave a green light to the Penn researchers in June 2016, but until now it was not known whether the trial would proceed.

The World's Top-Selling Video Game Has a Cheating Problem (bloomberg.com) 191

China's Tencent Holdings is going after the cheaters and hackers that infest PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds as it prepares to bring the world's top-selling game to its home turf. From a report: Ahead of its official debut this year, the biggest gaming company on the planet has enlisted Chinese police to root out the underground rings that make and sell cheat software. It's helped law enforcement agents uncover at least 30 cases and arrest 120 people suspected of designing programs that confer unfair advantages from X-Ray vision (see-through walls) to auto-targeting (uncannily accurate snipers). Those convicted in the past have done jail time. Tencent and game developer Bluehole have a lot riding on cleaning things up for China, which accounted for more than half the game's 27 million users, according to online tracker Steam Spy. It's also the biggest source of cheat software, undermining a Battle Royale-style phenom that shattered gaming records in 2017 and surpassed best-sellers like Grand Theft Auto V. The proliferation of shenanigans threatens to drive away first-time users vital to its longer-term growth.

Bitcoin Watchers Running Out of Explanations Blame Slump on Moon (bloomberg.com) 157

If regulatory concerns aren't enough to explain Bitcoin's 50 percent slump from its record high reached last month, how about blaming it on the moon? An anonymous reader writes: The Lunar New Year, which marks the first day of the year in the Chinese calendar, is being cited by some as contributing to Bitcoin's slump as Asian traders cash out their cryptocurrencies to travel and buy gifts for the holiday that starts Feb. 16 this year. The festivity is celebrated not just in China, but in other Asian countries including Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea and Thailand. "The January drop is a recurring theme in cryptocurrencies as people celebrating the Chinese New Year, aka Lunar New Year, exchange their crypto for fiat currency," said Alexander Wallin, chief executive officer of trading social network SprinkleBit in New York. "The timing is about four to six weeks before the lunar year, when most people make their travel arrangements and start buying presents."

Philippine Lawmakers Worry China Telecom May Be a 'Trojan horse' (reuters.com) 27

An anonymous reader shares a report: Opposition members of the Philippine Congress raised concern on Wednesday that China Telecom Corp, which may enter the Philippine industry, could be a "Trojan horse" aimed at giving China access to state secrets. The Southeast Asian country aims to name a third telecom operator within the first quarter that will break the duopoly of PLDT and Globe Telecom State-run China Telecom has been named as a possible investor in that third entity. President Rodrigo Duterte, who has warned both PLDT and Globe to shape up or face competition, has welcomed Chinese entities specifically to become the third telecoms operator. Beijing has selected China Telecom to invest in the Philippines, according to Philippine officials, but it would need to partner with a local company as it cannot operate alone under the law. China Telecom's presence in the Philippines, however, does not sit well with some lawmakers, given China's telecommunications expertise and sophisticated technology.

China Builds 'World's Biggest Air Purifier' That Actually Works (scmp.com) 138

The South China Morning Post shares an update on the status of an experimental tower in northern China, dubbed the world's biggest air purifier by its operators. According to the scientist leading the project, the tower -- which stands over 328 feet (100 meters) tall -- has brought a noticeable improvement in air quality. From the report: The head of the research, Cao Junji, said improvements in air quality had been observed over an area of 10 square kilometers (3.86 square miles) in the city over the past few months and the tower has managed to produce more than 10 million cubic meters (353 million cubic feet) of clean air a day since its launch. Cao added that on severely polluted days the tower was able to reduce smog close to moderate levels. The system works through greenhouses covering about half the size of a soccer field around the base of the tower. Polluted air is sucked into the glasshouses and heated up by solar energy. The hot air then rises through the tower and passes through multiple layers of cleaning filters. The average reduction in PM2.5 -- the fine particles in smog deemed most harmful to health -- fell 15 per cent during heavy pollution. Cao said the results were preliminary because the experiment is still ongoing. The team plans to release more detailed data in March with a full scientific assessment of the facility's overall performance.
The Almighty Buck

Bitcoin Plunges Below $12,000 To Six-Week Low Over Crackdown Fears (cnbc.com) 174

Bitcoin plunged to a six-week low Tuesday after comments from South Korea's finance minister renewed worries about a crackdown in one of the largest markets for digital currency trading. In a radio program interview, South Korean Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon said that "the shutdown of virtual currency exchanges is still one of the options" the government has. CNBC reports: Bitcoin dropped more than 17 percent to a low of $11,182.71 on Tuesday, falling below $12,000 for the first time since December 5, according to CoinDesk. CoinDesk's bitcoin price index tracks prices from cryptocurrency exchanges Bitstamp, Coinbase, itBit and Bitfinex. As of 12:13 p.m. ET, bitcoin was trading more than 13 percent lower at $11,759.73 a coin, according to CoinDesk. Trading in South Korean won accounted for about 4 percent of bitcoin trading volume, according to CryptoCompare. U.S. dollar-bitcoin trading had the largest share at 40 percent, the website showed. Other major digital currencies including ethereum and ripple also fell significantly. According to CoinMarketCap data, ethereum was trading at $1,051.83, down more than 20 percent in the last 24 hours, before lifting slightly to $1,117.72. Ripple fell almost 27 percent to $1.33 a token before recovering slightly to $1.36.

The Human Cost of the Apple Supply Chain Machine (bloomberg.com) 175

Apple is still struggling to improve working conditions at its supply chain factories. China Labor Watch and Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that Catcher, a key supplier for iPhone and MacBook casings, makes workers endure harsh safety conditions and unfair work terms in a factory in Suqian. According to observers and discussions with workers, the machines are not only loud, but spray fluid and metallic particles that frequently hit workers' faces only some of which have access to safety goggles and gloves. From the report: Hundreds throng a workshop where the main door only opens about 12 inches. Off duty, they return to debris-strewn dorms bereft of showers or hot water. Many go without washing for days at a time, workers told Bloomberg. "My hands turned bloodless white after a day of work," said one of the workers, who makes a little over 4,000 yuan a month (just over $2 an hour) in her first job outside her home province of Henan. She turned to Catcher because her husband's home-decorating business was struggling. "I only tell good things to my family and keep the sufferings like this for myself." "I asked for the earplugs many times but they didn't have any. The loud noise of 'zah-zah' made my head ache and dizzy," one of those employees told Bloomberg.

US Lawmakers Urge AT&T To Cut Commercial Ties With Huawei and Oppose China Mobile Citing National Security Concerns (reuters.com) 60

U.S. lawmakers are urging AT&T, the No. 2 wireless carrier, to cut commercial ties to Chinese phone maker Huawei Technologies and oppose plans by telecom operator China Mobile to enter the U.S. market because of national security concerns, two congressional aides told Reuters. From the report: The warning comes after the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump took a harder line on policies initiated by his predecessor Barack Obama on issues ranging from Beijing's role in restraining North Korea to Chinese efforts to acquire U.S. strategic industries. Earlier this month, AT&T was forced to scrap a plan to offer its customers Huawei handsets after some members of Congress lobbied against the idea with federal regulators, sources told Reuters. The U.S. government has also blocked a string of Chinese acquisitions over national security concerns, including Ant Financial's proposed purchase of U.S. money transfer company MoneyGram International.

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