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Uber Will Turn Your Smartphone Into An Automatic Crash Detector
Posted by News Fetcher on September 05 '18 at 05:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's safety-first department:
Uber is introducing a new safety feature called "Ride Check" that will use GPS, accelerometer, gyroscope, and other sensors inside a smartphone to detect whether there has been a vehicle crash. The Verge reports: In the event of a crash, the Uber app will automatically send a notification to a rider's phone to answer a series of questions. If they verify that there has been an accident, the rider will be prompted to call 911. Uber's team of safety operators may also reach out to ensure the rider is safe when the feature is triggered. The feature doesn't require any new permissions because it is linked to the driver's smartphone, rather than the riders. Drivers have the Uber app on more frequently than riders, who typically keep the app on in the background during trips.

Ride Check isn't just for crashes, though. The feature is also triggered if the vehicle stops for a prolonged or unusual period of time. Riders will receive a notification asking them if everything is alright, and based on their response, the app will present a series of options, including a call to 911. The ride-hail company also released a number of other features, including voice commands and an insurance hub for Uber drivers, new ways to mask addresses and phone numbers between riders and drivers, and two-factor authentication to protect a rider's account from malicious hacking.

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Researchers Used Sonar Signal From a Smartphone Speaker To Steal Unlock Passwords
Posted by News Fetcher on September 05 '18 at 04:10 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's first-of-its-kind department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: On Thursday, a group of researchers from Lancaster University posted a paper to arXiv that demonstrates how they used a smartphone's microphone and speaker system to steal the device's unlock pattern. Although the average person doesn't have to worry about getting hacked this way any time soon, the researchers are the first to demonstrate that this kind of attack is even possible. According to the researchers, their "SonarSnoop" attack decreases the number of unlock patterns an attacker must try by 70 percent and can be performed without the victim ever knowing they're being hacked. The attack begins when a user unwittingly installs a malicious application on their phone. When a user downloads the infected app, their phone begins broadcasting a sound signal that is just above the human range of hearing. This sound signal is reflected by every object around the phone, creating an echo. This echo is then recorded by the phone's microphone. By calculating the time between the emission of the sound and the return of its echo to the source, it is possible to determine the location of an object in a given space and whether that object is moving -- this is known as sonar. The researchers were able to leverage this phenomenon to track the movement of someone's finger across a smartphone screen by analyzing the echoes recorded through the device's microphone. There are nearly 400,000 possible unlock patterns on the 3x3 swipe grid on Android phones, but prior research has demonstrated that 20 percent of people use one of 12 common patterns. While testing SonarSnoop, the researchers only focused on these dozen unlock combinations. Ten volunteers were recruited for the study and were asked to draw each of the 12 patterns five different times on a custom app. The researchers then tried a variety of sonar analysis techniques to reconstruct the password based on the acoustic signatures emitted by the phone. The best analysis technique resulted in the algorithm only having to try 3.6 out of the 12 possible patterns on average before it correctly determined the pattern.

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Facebook Accuses BlackBerry of Stealing Its Voice-Messaging Tech
Posted by News Fetcher on September 05 '18 at 04:10 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's he-said-she-said department:
Facebook is suing BlackBerry, claiming the company stole its voice-messaging technology and other patented processes. The social media company is seeking unspecified damages for infringement of six patents. Bloomberg reports: In addition to the voice-messaging patent, Facebook cites infringement of patented technology that improves how a mobile device delivers graphics, video and audio and another that centralizes tracking and analysis of GPS data. In March, BlackBerry sued Facebook in federal court in Los Angeles, accusing the social media giant of infringing on its mobile messaging patents. BlackBerry claimed Facebook made unauthorized use of its technology in its own instant messenger service, Facebook Messenger, and in WhatsApp Messenger and Instagram.

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Amazon.com Suffers Search Glitch, Users Say
Posted by News Fetcher on September 05 '18 at 04:10 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's outage-report department:
An anonymous reader writes: If you go to Amazon.com right now and attempt to search for a product, no items are appearing in the search results. Attempts to submit any feedback are failing too, with no error or response of any kind on the page. This is happening regardless of browser, operating system or ISP. On Twitter, numerous people have corroborated the issue. It appears the issue began roughly 40 minutes ago. Amazon has yet to acknowledge the glitch. Interestingly, Amazon's international properties, such as Amazon India, are not facing this issue.

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Theranos To Close Shop
Posted by News Fetcher on September 05 '18 at 02:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's case-closed department:
Major Blud writes: Multiple news outlets are reporting that Theranos, the company that promised to revolutionize healthcare with new blood-testing devices, is closing shop. The company "was unable to sell itself and is now looking to pay unsecured creditors its remaining cash of about $5 million in the upcoming months," reports CBS News. The CEO, Elizabeth Holmes, and President/COO Ramesh Balwani recently settled a civil suit with the SEC, which charged them with massive fraud related to them seeking investment based on misleading information regarding the accuracy of their "Edison" diagnostic equipment. According to The Wall Street Journal, investors lost almost $1 billion in the company. At one point, it was valued at almost $10 billion.

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EU To Move Ahead With Cultural Quotas For Streaming Services
Posted by News Fetcher on September 05 '18 at 02:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's preferential-treatment department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: The European Union is set to move ahead with a plan to enforce pan-European quotas on streaming services like Amazon Prime Video and Netflix to support production of locally produced film and video content. Roberto Viola, the European Commission's directorate general of communication, networks, content and technology told Variety that the new rules are on track to be approved in December. The proposals will require that streaming services give over at least 30% of their on-demand catalogues to original productions made in each EU country where a service is provided (individual EU Member States could choose to set the content bar even higher, at 40%).

Streaming services will also have to ensure visibility and prominence for local content -- so no burying the 'European third' in a dingy corner of the site where no one will find it, let alone stream it. The EU lawmakers' intention is to stand up for cultural diversity against the might of Hollywood and the flattening power of platforms -- in the latter case by making platforms invest in local content production rather than just doing the easy thing of fencing yet more Marvel superhero movies.

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Benin Becomes the Latest African Nation Taxing the Internet; Citizens and Advocates Denounce the Move
Posted by News Fetcher on September 05 '18 at 01:30 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's world-dispatch department:
Benin has joined a growing list of African states imposing levies for using the internet. From a report: The government passed a decree in late August taxing its citizens for accessing the internet and social-media apps. The directive, first proposed in July, institutes a fee of 5 CFA francs ($0.008) per megabyte consumed through services like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter. It also introduces a 5% fee, on top of taxes, on texting and calls, according to advocacy group Internet Sans Frontieres (ISF). The new law has been denounced, with citizens and advocates using the hashtag #Taxepamesmo ("Don't tax my megabytes") to call on officials to cancel the levy. The increased fees will not only burden the poorest consumers and widen the digital divide, but they will also be "disastrous" for the nation's nascent digital economy, says ISF's executive director Julie Owono. A petition against the levy on Change.org has garnered nearly 7,100 signatures since it was created seven days ago.

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Amazon.com Faces Search Glitch, Users Say
Posted by News Fetcher on September 05 '18 at 01:30 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's outage-report department:
An anonymous reader writes: If you go to Amazon.com right now and attempt to search for a product, no items are appearing in the search results. Attempts to submit any feedback are failing too, with no error or response of any kind on the page. This is happening regardless of browser, operating system or ISP. On Twitter, numerous people have corroborated the issue. It appears the issue began roughly 40 minutes ago. Amazon has yet to acknowledge the glitch. Interestingly, Amazon's international properties, such as Amazon India, are not facing this issue.

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Uber To Ban Riders With Four-Star or Lower Ratings in Australia and New Zealand
Posted by News Fetcher on September 05 '18 at 01:30 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
Uber is to block customers in Australia and New Zealand from its ride service if they have a low passenger rating. Riders rated four-out-of-five stars or lower will be banned for six months. Ratings are based on feedback left by drivers after each journey. BBC: The move is aimed at improving passenger behaviour, the company said. Uber told the BBC that Australia and New Zealand had been identified as a place to bring in the rule after feedback from drivers. The same policy was introduced in Brazil earlier this this year, Uber said, but it's the first time the control has been rolled out in an English-speaking market. An Uber spokeswoman declined to be drawn on exactly how many of its 2.8 million users in Australia and New Zealand currently had ratings of below 4.0 -- but conceded it was only "a few thousand." The "vast majority" -- believed to be more than 90% -- had ratings of at least 4.5, the company said. The policy will kick in on 19 September and passengers will receive several warnings before they are banned.

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Microsoft's Outlook and Skype Are Facing Outages
Posted by News Fetcher on September 05 '18 at 12:10 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's outage-report department:
People from all corners of the world are reporting connectivity issues when using Microsoft Skype and Office 365's Outlook, they said on Wednesday. The users are seeing a "Throttled" error message when attempting to access either of the aforementioned services, they said. From a report: The weird text box pops up in the chat software and cloud-backed email client, preventing people from sending messages, and talking to contacts. This is, according to Microsoft, due to a botched update to Azure's backend authentication systems. The internal upgrade was introduced as its engineers brought servers knocked out by storms in Texas back online. Outlook Web Access is said to be unaffected. According to mailing list chatter among IT bods and other sysadmins seen by The Register in the past hour, as well as tweets and Reddit threads, the outage is hitting businesses and subscribers at least throughout America, Canada, the UK, and Europe. Microsoft Office 365 tweeted just before 3 p.m. ET that the company has rolled back an update that was causing the throttling. It is testing to be sure that the problem is resolved.

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Official Chrome Extension of Cloud Storage Service Mega Caught Stealing Passwords, Cryptocurrency Private Keys
Posted by News Fetcher on September 05 '18 at 10:50 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department:
The official Chrome extension for the MEGA.nz file sharing service has been compromised with malicious code that steals usernames and passwords, but also private keys for cryptocurrency accounts, ZDNet reports. From the report: The malicious behavior was found in the source code of the MEGA.nz Chrome extension version 3.39.4, released as an update earlier today. Google engineers have already intervened and removed the extension from the official Chrome Web Store, and also disabled the extension for existing users. According to an analysis of the extension's source, the malicious code triggered on sites such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft, GitHub, the MyEtherWallet and MyMonero web wallet services, and the IDEX cryptocurrency trading platform. The malicious code would record usernames, passwords, and other session data that attackers would need to log in and impersonate users. If the website managed cryptocurrency, the attacker would also extract the private keys needed to access users' funds.

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Bernie Sanders Introduces 'Stop BEZOS' Bill To Tax Amazon For Underpaying Workers
Posted by News Fetcher on September 05 '18 at 10:50 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
A public spat between Amazon Sen. Bernie Sanders over workers' wages escalated Wednesday as the Vermont independent introduced a bill aimed at taxing big companies whose employees rely on federal benefits to make ends meet. From a report: Sanders' Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies Act (abbreviated "Stop BEZOS") -- along with Khanna's House of Representatives counterpart, the Corporate Responsibility and Taxpayer Protection Act -- would institute a 100 percent tax on government benefits that are granted to workers at large companies. The bill's text characterizes this as a "corporate welfare tax," and it would apply to corporations with 500 or more employees. If workers are receiving government aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), national school lunch and breakfast programs, Section 8 housing subsidies, or Medicaid, employers will be taxed for the total cost of those benefits. The bill applies to full-time and part-time employees, as well as independent contractors that are de facto company employees.

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Facebook, Twitter Execs Admit Failures, Warn of 'Overwhelming' Threat To Elections
Posted by News Fetcher on September 05 '18 at 09:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
Openly recognizing their companies' past failures in rare displays of modesty, Facebook and Twitter executives touted new efforts to combat state-sponsored propaganda across their platforms before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, acknowledging that the task is often "overwhelming" and proving a massive drain on their resources. Gizmodo: In opening remarks on Wednesday, Facebook's chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, acknowledged that Facebook had been "too slow to act" in 2016 against the Kremlin-backed campaign that was designed to sow discord among American voters. "That's on us," she said, describing Moscow's meddling as "completely unacceptable" and a violation of Facebook's values "and of the country we love." "We're investing for the long term because security is never a finished job," Sandberg added, noting that Facebook has increased its security and communications staff to 20,000 people, doubling it over the past year. "Our adversaries are determined, creative, and well-funded," she said. "But we are even more determined -- and we will continue to fight back." Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, meanwhile, portrayed the matter as not just a threat to democracy, but as a threat to the overall health and security of his business, saying that above all else, Twitter's goal is to serve a "global public conversation." Dorsey also acknowledged a range of threats faced by his company, including widespread abuse, manipulation by foreign powers, and "malicious automation" (i.e., bots). "Any attempts to undermine the integrity of our service is antithetical to our fundamental rights," he said, calling freedom of expression a "core tenant" upon which the Twitter is based. Google, which was also asked to appear before the committee, chose not to do so. An empty chair was left at the table next to Sandberg and Dorsey to signify Google's absence.

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Ask Slashdot: Should We Hang Up on Conference Calls?
Posted by News Fetcher on September 05 '18 at 09:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's what-do-you-think? department:
Make everyone stand. Work to an agenda. Don't let people go on endlessly. There are plenty of suggestions on how to run meetings so they are not a waste of time. People pay less attention to a bigger waste of time: the multi-participant conference call, argues a story on Financial Times. The story -- shared by an anonymous reader and which may be paywalled -- makes a case against the need for conference calls: You know the drill. An invitation arrives in your inbox with a date and time, a list of participants, numbers for dialling in from different countries and a sign-in code (followed by the pound or hash sign). I have had dozens of these invitations to conference calls, particularly those to discuss forthcoming panels and events. None of the calls has contributed much to the eventual event. I know this because my role is often to chair the eventual event. This is the first difference between a conference call and a face-to-face meeting: it is clear who is chairing the meeting, whereas it is seldom clear who is chairing the call. On conference calls, there is usually someone listed as the organiser, with their own sign-in code (followed by the pound or hash sign), but they are often not the most senior person on the call. The organiser, I can say from experience, is seldom the person who is going to be chairing the planned event. Usually, they are the person who organised the call. That may be a senior person; it may be their personal assistant. The call organiser may take the leading role in the call. It is hard to tell because -- unless you have met several times before -- it is difficult to know who is speaking at any time. Unlike in a face-to-face meeting, you cannot see people's faces. As participants "arrive" in the conference call, they usually say, "Hi, this is Diane", or are announced by a recorded voice like entrants to a 19th-century ball -- "Simon Oates has joined the call" -- but after that you have to listen keenly for any voice marker (an accent, a shouty tone) that will help you identify who is talking. That is if you can remember who is on the call in the first place. What do you think?

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Amazon Accelerating Effort To Bring CS To More Than 133,000 US Schools
Posted by News Fetcher on September 05 '18 at 08:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department:
theodp writes: In addition to a monetary commitment of $10 million in cash and donations to Code.org, Amazon reports it's also accelerating the effort to bring computer science to all U.S. high schools by having employees spend time at Code.org, while maintaining employment at Amazon. According to the company's Day One blog, Amazon has lent its employees to help the tech-bankrolled nonprofit "gather data about computer science programs, or lack thereof, at every single school across the country." (There are over 133,000 schools in the United States.) Amazon added: "Putting this data on a map and combining it with what we know about the school's population, lets us see whether access to computer science courses are concentrated in wealthier schools or schools that are less diverse, and will help us bring access to the schools that need it most. [...] It will also ultimately support the much-needed pipeline for workers who are well versed in computer science." Earlier, Code.org noted it was compiling the national database for use by the nonprofit and the CS community to "make our shared vision [for every school to teach computer science] a reality," but didn't note the involvement of Amazon, which committed $50 million last fall to the White House's new computer science push (part of a larger $300 million tech sector commitment). Execs from Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and Infosys occupy four of Code.org's nine board seats and have contributed $33+ million to the nonprofit (Facebook has kicked in another $10+ million). Hey, it's what parents want!

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More Than 1 In 4 American Users Have Deleted Facebook, Pew Survey Finds
Posted by News Fetcher on September 05 '18 at 08:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's enough-is-enough department:
Gayle BAS writes: Nearly three-quarters of American Facebook users have changed how they use the social media app in the past year, following a barrage of scandals involving the abuse of personal data, foreign interference in U.S. elections and the spread of hateful or harassing content on the platform, Pew Research has found. According to the survey, over half of Facebook users ages 18 and older (54%) say they have adjusted their privacy settings in the past 12 months. Around four-in-ten (42%) say they have taken a break from checking the platform for a period of several weeks or more, while around a quarter (26%) say they have deleted the Facebook app from their cellphone. All told, some 74% of Facebook users say they have taken at least one of these three actions in the past year. The survey findings include: There are, however, age differences in the share of Facebook users who have recently taken some of these actions. Most notably, 44% of younger users (those ages 18 to 29) say they have deleted the Facebook app from their phone in the past year, nearly four times the share of users ages 65 and older (12%) who have done so. Similarly, older users are much less likely to say they have adjusted their Facebook privacy settings in the past 12 months: Only a third of Facebook users 65 and older have done this, compared with 64% of younger users. In earlier research, Pew Research Center has found that a larger share of younger than older adults use Facebook. Still, similar shares of older and younger users have taken a break from Facebook for a period of several weeks or more.

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Firefox 62 Arrives With Variable Fonts, Automatic Dark Theme on macOS, and Better Scrolling on Android
Posted by News Fetcher on September 05 '18 at 06:52 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's shiny-new-features department:
An anonymous reader writes: Mozilla today released Firefox 62 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. The release builds on Firefox Quantum, which the company calls "by far the biggest update since Firefox 1.0 in 2004." Version 62 brings variable fonts, automatic dark theme on macOS, and better scrolling on Android. Firefox 62 for the desktop is available for download now on Firefox.com, and all existing users should be able to upgrade to it automatically. As always, the Android version is trickling out slowly on Google Play. The latest iOS version is available on Apple's App Store.

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TiVo Says It Will Discontinue Support For Dial-up Service Later This Month
Posted by News Fetcher on September 05 '18 at 06:52 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's end-of-an-era department:
BrianFagioli writes: Surprisingly, TiVo still offered dial-up access to some of its users, allowing them to download program guide information. Sadly, this week, the company started alerting those users that it will be discontinuing dial-up connectivity later this month -- the end of an era. TiVo sent the following email message Tuesday evening. "TiVo will be discontinuing our dial-up service on September 30, 2018. According to our records you may still have one or more TiVo devices connecting to the TiVo Service via dial-up. Your TiVo box will still be able to receive program guide data from the TiVo service via dial-up modem until September 30, 2018. Following September 30, 2018, your current subscription plan will remain active even if you are not using the TiVo Service. If you would like to continue using the TiVo Service, we have outlined several options for you below." Comically, the company suggests two alternatives -- use Ethernet or buy a Wi-Fi adapter. Look, while those are technically accurate options, if someone is still using dial-up connectivity with their TiVo in 2018, they probably don't have broadband access.

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New Software Can Predict Landslides Weeks Before They Happen
Posted by News Fetcher on September 05 '18 at 05:30 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's predicting-the-future department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Smithsonian: Australian researchers may have found a way to detect landslides as far as two weeks in advance, giving residents time to evacuate and engineers the opportunity to shore up slopes. Using AI and applied mathematics they've developed a software that can identify the subtle signs of an impending slide, signs that would be invisible to the naked eye. "Right now, a lot of the predictions [about where landslides will happen] are based on someone's gut instinct on the location," says Antoinette Tordesillas, a professor at the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Melbourne, who co-led the research. "We don't rely on gut instinct. We want to develop an objective method here." To develop the software, Tordesillas and her team used radar data from mining companies, which produce extremely detailed information of the surface movement of slopes. The team took the data and looked for patterns, eventually figuring out which networks of movements indicated unstable locations. They also used data from a landslide-prone Italian volcano to help develop the algorithm. The software can also incorporate data about other landslide risk factors, like rainfall and erosion, making the targeting even more precise. The data used for monitoring can come from radar based on the ground, on satellites or even in drones.

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Japan To Test Mini 'Space Elevator'
Posted by News Fetcher on September 05 '18 at 02:50 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's up-up-and-away department:
Zorro shares a report from Phys.Org: A Japanese team working to develop a "space elevator" will conduct a first trial this month, blasting off a miniature version on satellites to test the technology. The test equipment, produced by researchers at Shizuoka University, will hitch a ride on an H-2B rocket being launched by Japan's space agency from southern island of Tanegashima next week. The test involves a miniature elevator stand-in -- a box just six centimeters (2.4 inches) long, three centimeters wide, and three centimeters high. If all goes well, it will provide proof of concept by moving along a 10-meter cable suspended in space between two mini satellites that will keep it taut. The mini-elevator will travel along the cable from a container in one of the satellites. The movement of the motorized "elevator" box will be monitored with cameras in the satellites.

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