United States

US Government Warns Of 'Ongoing' Hacks Targeting Nuclear and Power Industries (reuters.com) 44

An anonymous reader quotes Reuters: The U.S government issued a rare public warning that sophisticated hackers are targeting energy and industrial firms, the latest sign that cyber attacks present an increasing threat to the power industry and other public infrastructure. The Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation warned in a report distributed by email late on Friday that the nuclear, energy, aviation, water and critical manufacturing industries have been targeted along with government entities in attacks dating back to at least May. The agencies warned that hackers had succeeded in compromising some targeted networks, but did not identify specific victims or describe any cases of sabotage. The objective of the attackers is to compromise organizational networks with malicious emails and tainted websites to obtain credentials for accessing computer networks of their targets, the report said.
According to the report, the Department of Homeland Security "has confidence that this campaign is still ongoing and threat actors are actively pursuing their objectives over a long-term campaign."
Businesses

NYT Op-Ed Argues Amazon 'Took Seattle's Soul' (bendbulletin.com) 130

New York Times columnist Timothy Egan was part of the paper's Pulitzer Prize-winning team in 2001. Now he's written an op-ed arguing Amazon "took Seattle's soul." An anonymous reader writes: Since Amazon arrived "we've been overwhelmed by a future we never had any say over," Egan writes, with a message for cities competing to be the site of Amazon's next headquarters. Amazon now owns as much office space as Seattle's next 40 biggest employers combined, according to an analysis by the Seattle Times, "a mind-boggling 19 percent of all prime office space in the city, the most for any employer in a major U.S. city...more than twice as large as any other company in any other big U.S. city."

Egan notes Amazon is offering 50,000 high-paying jobs and $5 billion worth of investments, "a once-in-a-century, destiny-shaping event," but "You think you can shape Amazon? Not a chance. It will shape you... What comes with the title of being the fastest growing big city in the country, with having the nation's hottest real estate market, is that the city no longer works for some people. For many others, the pace of change, not to mention the traffic, has been disorienting... [M]edian home prices have doubled in five years, to $700,000. This is not a good thing in a place where teachers and cops used to be able to afford a house with a water view... As a Seattle native, I miss the old city, the lack of pretense, and dinner parties that didn't turn into discussions of real estate porn.

Wages have risen faster in Amazon's Seattle than anywhere else in America, and while Amazon changed the city's character, it also poured $38 billion into the city's economy. (Besides Amazon's own 40,000 employees, it also attracted another 50,000 new jobs.) "To the next Amazon lottery winner I would say, enjoy the boom," Egan concludes, "but be careful what you wish for."
China

YouTube Suspends Account of Popular Chinese Dissident (freebeacon.com) 101

schwit1 brings news about an exiled Chinese billionaire with 500,000 followers on YouTube. The Washington Free Beacon reports:YouTube has suspended the video account of popular Chinese dissident Guo Wengui amid a mounting pressure from the Beijing government to silence one of its critics. According to a person familiar with the action, YouTube issued what the company calls a 'strike' against Guo, who since the beginning of the year has created an online sensation by posting lengthy videos in which he reveals details of corruption by senior Chinese officials. The suspension involves a 90-day block on any new live-stream postings of videos and was the result of a complaint made against a recent Guo video for alleged harassment. The identity of the person or institution who issued the complaint could not be learned... Other videos by Guo posted prior to the suspension remain accessible.
The suspension coincides with this week's once-every-five-years congress of the Chinese Communist party to reveal which top officials will serve President Xi Jinping, according to Financial Times, adding that "China's choreographed politics is not designed for public participation or questioning."
Education

Code Bootcamp Fined $375K Over Employment Claims and Licensing Issues (arstechnica.com) 44

An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: [O]ne of the most prominent institutions, New York's Flatiron School, will be shelling out $375,000 to settle charges brought by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office. The AG said the school operated for a period without the proper educational license, and it improperly marketed both its job placement rates and the salaries of its graduates. New York regulators didn't find any inaccuracies in Flatiron's "outcomes report," a document the company is proud of. However, the Attorney General's office found that certain statements made on Flatiron's website didn't constitute "clear and conspicuous" disclosure.

For instance, Flatiron claimed that 98.5 percent of graduates were employed within 180 days of graduation. However, only by carefully reading the outcomes report would one find that the rate included not just full-time employees, but apprentices, contract workers, and freelancers. Some of the freelancers worked for less than 12 weeks. The school also reported an average salary of $74,447 but didn't mention on its website that the average salary claim only applied to graduates who achieved full-time employment. That group comprised only 58 percent of classroom graduates and 39 percent of those who took online courses.

The school's courses last 12 to 16 weeks, and cost between $12,000 and $15,000, according to a statement from the attorney general's office [PDF]. (Or $1,500 a month for an onine coding class). Eligible graduate can claim their share of the $375,000 by filing a complaint within the next thee months.
Businesses

Tech Companies To Lobby For Immigrant 'Dreamers' To Remain In US (reuters.com) 237

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Nearly two dozen major companies in technology and other industries are planning to launch a coalition to demand legislation that would allow young, illegal immigrants a path to permanent residency, according to documents seen by Reuters. The Coalition for the American Dream intends to ask Congress to pass bipartisan legislation this year that would allow these immigrants, often referred to as "Dreamers," to continue working in the United States, the documents said. Alphabet Inc's Google, Microsoft Corp, Amazon.com Inc, Facebook Inc, Intel Corp, Uber Technologies Inc, IBM Corp, Marriott International Inc and other top U.S. companies are listed as members, one of the documents shows. The push for this legislation comes after President Donald Trump's September decision to allow the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to expire in March. That program, established by former President Barack Obama in 2012, allows approximately 900,000 illegal immigrants to obtain work permits. Some 800 companies signed a letter to Congressional leaders after Trump's decision, calling for legislation protecting Dreamers. That effort was spearheaded by a pro-immigration reform group Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg co-founded in 2013 called FWD.us.
Government

The US Government Keeps Spectacularly Underestimating Solar Energy Installation (qz.com) 127

Michael J. Coren reports via Quartz: Every two years, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), America's official source for energy statistics, issues 10-year projections about how much solar, wind and conventional energy the future holds for the U.S. Every two years, since the mid-1990s, the EIA's projections turn out to be wrong. Last year, they proved spectacularly wrong. The Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group, and Statista recently teamed up to analyze the EIA's predictions for energy usage and production. They found that the EIA's 10-year estimates between 2006 to 2016 systematically understated the share of wind, solar and gas. Solar capacity, in particular, was a whopping 4,813% more in 2016 than the EIA had predicted in 2006 it would be. To be fair, there is a caveat here: The prediction in 2006 was that 10 years hence the U.S. would be generating just 0.8 gigawatts (GW) of solar energy. With such a low baseline figure, any increase will look huge in percentage terms. Nonetheless, there is an unmistakable trend in the data: The EIA regularly underestimates the growth in renewables but overestimates U.S. fossil-fuel consumption, which some critics see as an attempt to boost the oil and gas industry.
Bitcoin

Software Developer Creates Personal Cryptocurrency (wired.com) 95

mirandakatz writes: If you want to pick Evan Prodromou's brain -- as many people often do -- you'll have to pay him. And not just a consulting fee: You'll have to pay him in his own personal cryptocurrency, dubbed Evancoin. Currently, 20 days after his Initial Coin Offering, a single Evancoin is worth $45. As Prodromou tells Scott Rosenberg at Backchannel, "I'm not above a stunt! But in this case I'm really serious about exploring how cryptocurrency is changing what we can do with money and how we think about it. Money is this sort of consensual hallucination, and I wanted to experiment around that." The story goes on to explain what, exactly, goes into creating a personal cryptocurrency, and whether Evancoin could becoming a phenomenon that spreads.
Education

Arkansas Will Pay Up To $1,000 Cash To Kids Who Pass AP Computer Science A Exam 101

theodp writes: The State of Arkansas will be handing out cash to high school students who pass an Advanced Placement test in computer science. "The purpose of the incentive program is to increase the number of qualifying scores (3, 4, or 5) on Advanced Placement Computer Science A exams," explained a press release for the Arkansas Advanced Placement Computer Science A Incentive Program (only 87 Arkansas public school students passed the AP CS A exam in 2016, according to College Board data). Gov. Asa Hutchinson added, "The Arkansas Department of Education's incentive for high scores on the AP Computer Science A exam is a terrific way to reward our students for their hard work in school. The real payoff for their hard work, of course, is when they show their excellent transcripts to potential employers who offer good salaries for their skills." The tiered monetary awards call for public school students receiving a top score of 5 on the AP CS A exam to receive $1,000, with another $250 going to their schools. Scores of 4 will earn students $750 and schools $150, while a score of 3 will result in a $250 payday for students and $50 for their schools. The program evokes memories of the College Board's Google-funded AP STEM Access program, which rewarded AP STEM teachers with a $100 DonorsChoose.org gift card for each student who received a 3, 4, or 5 on an AP exam. DonorsChoose.org credits were also offered later by tech-bankrolled Code.org and Google to teachers who got their students coding.
Media

Body Camera Giant Wants Police To Collect Your Videos Too (fastcompany.com) 58

tedlistens shares a report from Fast Company: Axon, the police supplier formerly known as Taser and now a leading maker of police body cameras, has also charged into police software with a service that allows police to manage and eventually analyze increasingly large caches of video, like a Dropbox for cops. Now it wants to add the public's video to the mix. An online tool called Citizen, set to launch later this year, will allow police to solicit the public for photos or video in the aftermath of suspected crimes and ingest them into Axon's online data platform. Todd Basche, Axon's executive vice president for worldwide products, said the tool was designed after the company conducted surveys of police customers and the public and found that potentially valuable evidence was not being collected. "They all pointed us to the need to collect evidence that's out there in the community."

[But] systems like Citizen still raise new privacy and policy questions, and could test the limits of already brittle police-community relations. Would Citizen, for instance, also be useful for gathering civilian evidence of incidents of police misconduct or brutality? [And how would ingesting citizen video into online police databases, like Axon's Evidence.com, allow police to mine it later for suspicious activity, in a sort of dragnet fashion?] "It all depends," says one observer, "on how agencies use the tool."

Security

Student Expelled After Using Hardware Keylogger to Hack School, Change Grades (bleepingcomputer.com) 133

Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: Kansas University (KU) officials have expelled a student for installing a hardware keylogger and using the data acquired from the device to hack into the school's grading system and chang his grades. KU did not release the student's name to the public, but they said the keystroke logging device had been installed on one of the computers in its lecture halls. The student used data collected from the device to change F grades into A grades. Professors said the incident would not have been noticed if the student didn't get greedy about modifications. The hardware device the student used was a run-of-the-mill hardware keylogger that anyone can buy on Amazon or eBay for prices as low as $20. Speaking to local media, various KU professors said they hope not to see any copycats in the near future.
Businesses

Japan's SoftBank Says It Could Invest as Much As $880 Billion in Tech (recode.net) 39

SoftBank could commit as much as $880 billion to tech investments in the coming years, a gargantuan, unprecedented amount of cash that would amount to a seismic shift in tech-sector finance. From a report: "The Vision Fund was just the first step, 10 trillion yen ($88 billion) is simply not enough," CEO Masayoshi Son said in an interview with The Nikkei Asian Review that was published late Thursday. "We will briskly expand the scale. Vision Funds 2, 3 and 4 will be established every two to three years." Son's comment confirms a Recode report that his Vision Fund -- which is sinking $100 billion into the technology sector worldwide -- was only the first in a series of investments that he plans to make in young companies. "We are creating a mechanism to increase our funding ability from 10 trillion yen to 20 trillion yen to 100 trillion yen," Son told the outlet. That comes out to about $880 billion. Companies that SoftBank either completely owns or has major or minor stakes in include Vodafone Japan, Yahoo! Japan, India's Snapdeal, India's Ola, Sprint Corporation, and India's Flipkart. The company is expected to become a major stake holder in Uber as soon as next week.
Security

MasterCard Has Finally Realized That Signatures Are Obsolete and Stupid (fastcompany.com) 321

An anonymous reader shares a report: For years, credit card companies have relied on an illegible squiggly line as the frontline of defense against credit card fraud. Customers are forced to use a pen (how retro!) to scrawl their signature on bills at restaurants and sign digitally at cash registers -- as if somehow in the age of chips, PINs, biometrics, and online fraud alerts, a line on a page is still a great tool against fraud prevention. Personally, I have been known to sign on the dotted line with a doodle of a piece of tofu and no one has ever stopped me, because signatures mean very little in this digital age. Companies are finally seeing the light. Starting in April 2018, MasterCard cardholders will no longer be required to sign their name when they purchase something using their debit or credit cards. The company has been moving away from requiring signatures for a few years now, with only about 80% of purchases (typically over a certain dollar amount) requiring a signature these days. MasterCard did some digging, though, and per its press release, realized that most of their customers "believe it would be easier to pay and that checkout lines would move faster if they didn't need to sign when making a purchase."
Bitcoin

Bitcoin Nears $6,000 For the First Time (bloomberg.com) 116

Bitcoin closed in on another milestone Friday, as the digital currency approached $6,000 for the first time to put its gain in 2017 to above 500 percent. From a report: The push higher comes just three days after bitcoin suffered its biggest one-day drop in a month on rising concern that regulators are increasingly targeting digital currencies. It's added almost $500 in value in the past two days alone.
Microsoft

Microsoft's Market Value Hits a Dot-Com Era Milestone: $600 Billion (wsj.com) 95

An anonymous reader shares a report: Microsoft's value is returning to tech-bubble peaks. The software giant closed with a market value of $600 billion Thursday for the first time since January 2000, according to the Journal's Market Data Group. Shares rose 0.4 percent to $77.91, setting a fresh all-time high. For the year, Microsoft shares are up 25% and on track for their best year since 2013, as the firm continues its rebirth as a force in cloud-computing. The firm is the third-largest S&P 500 company in market value, trailing Apple (about $800 billion) and Google's parent company, Alphabet, (about $690 billion). In July, fellow technology and internet stalwarts Facebook and Amazon.com joined the trio as the only U.S.-listed companies valued at more than in the $500 billion. The last time Microsoft was over $600 billion back in 2000, it didn't stay there for long. The tech bubble would peak in March of that year, and the Nasdaq Composite Index wouldn't climb back to the level it reach that year until 2015.
Google

On the Google Book Scanning Project and the Library We Will Never See (theatlantic.com) 149

For a decade, Google's enormous project to create a massive digital library of books was embroiled in litigation with a group of writers who say it was costing them a lot of money in lost revenue. Even as Google notched a victory when a federal appeals court ruled that the company's project was fair use, the company quietly shut down the project. From an article published in April this year: Despite eventually winning Authors Guild v. Google, and having the courts declare that displaying snippets of copyrighted books was fair use, the company all but shut down its scanning operation. It was strange to me, the idea that somewhere at Google there is a database containing 25-million books and nobody is allowed to read them. It's like that scene at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie where they put the Ark of the Covenant back on a shelf somewhere, lost in the chaos of a vast warehouse. It's there. The books are there. People have been trying to build a library like this for ages -- to do so, they've said, would be to erect one of the great humanitarian artifacts of all time -- and here we've done the work to make it real and we were about to give it to the world and now, instead, it's 50 or 60 petabytes on disk, and the only people who can see it are half a dozen engineers on the project who happen to have access because they're the ones responsible for locking it up. But Google seems to be thinking ways to make use of it, it appears. Last month, it added a new feature to its search function that instantly connects you with eBook data from libraries near you. From a report: Now, every time you search for a book through Google, information about your local library rental options will be easily available. Yeah, that's right. Your local library not only still exists, but it has eBooks, which are things you can totally borrow (for free) online! Before, this perk was hidden somewhere deep within your local library's website -- assuming it had one -- but now these free literary wonders are all yours for the taking.

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