By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
From a report: Within the past four years, Apple has managed to "dramatically reduce" the rate of iPhone-related repair fraud in its retail stores in China, according to The Information's Wayne Ma. The report is based on interviews with more than a dozen former Apple employees who spoke on condition of anonymity. In 2013, Apple is said to have discovered a highly sophisticated fraud scheme in which organized thieves would buy or steal iPhones, remove valuable components like the processor or logic board, swap in fake components, and return the "broken" iPhones to receive replacements they could resell. From the report: "Thieves would stand outside stores with suitcases full of iPhones with some of the original components stripped out and replaced with inferior parts, two of the people said. The fraudsters would hire people to pretend to be customers to return them, each taking a device to stand in line at the Genius Bar, the people said. Once the phones were swapped, the actors would pass the new phones to the fraudsters and get paid for their time, the people said."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's perils-of-AI department
Jeffrey Dastin, reporting for Reuters: Amazon's machine-learning specialists uncovered a big problem: their new recruiting engine did not like women. The team had been building computer programs since 2014 to review job applicants' resumes with the aim of mechanizing the search for top talent, five people familiar with the effort told Reuters. Automation has been key to Amazon's e-commerce dominance, be it inside warehouses or driving pricing decisions. The company's experimental hiring tool used artificial intelligence to give job candidates scores ranging from one to five stars -- much like shoppers rate products on Amazon, some of the people said. "Everyone wanted this holy grail," one of the people said. "They literally wanted it to be an engine where I'm going to give you 100 resumes, it will spit out the top five, and we'll hire those." But by 2015, the company realized its new system was not rating candidates for software developer jobs and other technical posts in a gender-neutral way. That is because Amazon's computer models were trained to vet applicants by observing patterns in resumes submitted to the company over a 10-year period. Most came from men, a reflection of male dominance across the tech industry. [...] Amazon edited the programs to make them neutral to these particular terms. But that was no guarantee that the machines would not devise other ways of sorting candidates that could prove discriminatory, the people said. The Seattle company ultimately disbanded the team by the start of last year because executives lost hope for the project, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
Microsoft said Wednesday it had joined the Open Invention Network (OIN), an open-source patent consortium. As part of it, the company has essentially agreed to grant a royalty-free and unrestricted license to its entire patent portfolio to all other OIN members. From the press release: By joining OIN, Microsoft is demonstrating its commitment to open source software (OSS) and innovation through collaborative development. With more than 2,650 members [Editor's note: the members include Google, IBM, Red Hat, and SUSE], including numerous Fortune 500 enterprises, OIN is the largest patent non-aggression community in history and represents a core set of community values related to open source licensing, which has become the norm. "Open source development continues to expand into new products and markets to create unrivaled levels of innovation. Through its participation in OIN, Microsoft is explicitly acknowledging the importance of open source software to its future growth," said Keith Bergelt, CEO of Open Invention Network. "Microsoft's participation in OIN adds to our strong community, which through its breadth and depth has reduced patent risk in core technologies, and unequivocally signals for all companies who are using OSS but have yet to join OIN that the litmus test for authentic behavior in the OSS community includes OIN participation." Erich Andersen, Corporate Vice President and Chief IP Counsel at Microsoft, said, "Microsoft sees open source as a key innovation engine, and for the past several years we have increased our involvement in, and contributions to, the open source community. We believe the protection OIN offers the open source community helps increase global contributions to and adoption of open source technologies. We are honored to stand with OIN as an active participant in its program to protect against patent aggression in core Linux and other important OSS technologies." Further reading: Why Microsoft may be relinquishing billions in Android patent royalties.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's major-bets department
Andy Rubin, the creator of Android operating system, is not giving up on his Essential company. The consumer electronics startup is putting most projects aside to focus on development of a new kind of phone that will try to mimic the user and automatically respond to messages on their behalf, Bloomberg reported Wednesday, citing people familiar with the plans. From the report: The company paused development of a planned home speaker, months after canceling a different smartphone that had been in the works, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the details are private. Sales of an earlier phone were disappointing, and the company is abandoning the effort partly because the product is too similar to others on the market. Essential had considered selling itself this year after a series of setbacks. The design of the new mobile device isn't like a standard smartphone. It would have a small screen and require users to interact mainly using voice commands, in concert with Essential's artificial-intelligence software. The idea is for the product to book appointments or respond to emails and text messages on its own, according to the people familiar with the plans. Users would also be able to make phone calls from the planned device.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's setting-precedence department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Wall Street Journal: Alphabet's Google on Tuesday said it filed an appeal of the European Union's $4.97 billion antitrust fine (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source) for allegedly abusing the dominance of its Android operating system for mobile phones. But Google said it has no plans to ask for so-called interim measures to pause application of the decision. Without further action, Google will have to meet a deadline at the end of October to end the behavior the EU says is anticompetitive or face additional fines of up to 5% of average daily global revenue for each day it doesn't comply. Google had promised that it would appeal the decision when the European Commission, the bloc's antitrust regulator, delivered it in mid-July. The commission said that Google broke the block's competition laws in part by strong-arming phone makers that use its free Android operating system to pre-install its namesake search engine, from which the company makes the bulk of its advertising revenue.
In the Android case, the European Commission has ordered Google to stop making phone manufacturers pre-install its search app and the Chrome web browser if they want to pre-install Google's Play store, which is the main way to download Android apps. The bloc also ordered Google to end restrictions that discourage manufacturers from selling devices that run unofficial versions of Android. It contends both restrictions illegally constrained competing search engines and operating systems. Google has argued that Android, which is free for manufacturers to use, has increased competition among smartphone makers, lowering prices for consumers. The company has said the allegation that it stymied competing apps is false because manufacturers typically install many rival apps on Android devices, and consumers can easily download others.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's sharp-as-a-tack department
According to a report published in the journal Nature Geoscience, Jupiter's Moon Europa may be home to a forest of tall, jagged ice spikes, which may complicate future missions looking for possible alien microbes. ScienceAlert reports: Few moons in the Solar System are as intriguing as Jupiter's moon Europa. A global ocean of salt water almost certainly surrounds the moon - and it holds more water than any ocean on Earth. Above this immense sea, where surface temperatures dip to minus 300 degrees Fahrenheit (-184 degrees Celsius), a crust of water ice forms a shell. Astronomers predict that Jupiter, which bombards the moon with intense radiation, causes the entire moon to groan with gravity's tug. Europa's liquid water is a tempting target for future missions looking for possible alien microbes. But before a future lander can search for microscopic ET, the probe might have to contend with a forest of tall, jagged ice spikes. Their research suggests Europa is an icy hedgehog world, covered in ice formations rarely found on Earth. On our planet, ice takes several forms, as varied as needle ice, rime, parking lot slush and more exotic lumps.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's stories-with-happy-endings department
Patrick Klepek tells the story of a PlayStation Network user who had their 13-year-old account stolen via what appears to be a social engineering scheme against Sony. Klepek managed to track it down and start negotiating for its release. An anonymous Slashdot reader shares an excerpt from the report: 1,200. That's how much someone is asking for a PlayStation Network account I've been investigating for the past few weeks. "Secure," the person calls it, claiming the account will "never be touched" by the original owner again. "He won't be getting it back," they claim. More than a thousand dollars? That's a little rich for my blood, and so I counteroffer: $700. "Btc?" they respond, accepting my bid. (BTC refers to bitcoin. The majority of transactions like this take place using cryptocurrency; it's generally harder, but not impossible, to trace.) I didn't purchase the account, of course. But I could -- anyone could, if they only knew where to look. This account wasn't on a shady market because someone was clumsy with their digital security. They had a strong password and two-factor authentication. When they were notified about problems with their account, they called Sony and asked for help. Despite all this, despite proving their identity over and over, they lost access to their PSN account, including any trophies earned or any games purchased. It was gone...well, sort of. The original owner no longer had access, but this person -- the individual asking for $1,200 but who quickly and without hesitation dropped to $700 -- did.[...]More than likely, Sony itself is a victim of a clever social engineering scheme, in which a user, or series of users, repeatedly spammed their representatives, until it found someone willing to accept the limited information they did have, and calculated the system would eventually lock the account in their favor. Even a "failed" social engineering attempt can be a success, if the person calling comes away with new information about the account. Every company in the world can fall victim to social engineering, as there are no true fail safes. But Sony's setup seems especially ripe for it. Why didn't the system get flagged as "sensitive" sooner? Why can a user flip off two-factor authentication over the phone? How can an account get abandoned, when it's still active? There are ways Sony could have prevented this from happening. In the end, the original account owner was magically handed the account. "Sony promised that they were going to set it up so no reps could make any changes," the account owner said, "but they are still investigating how this happened."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's never-say-never department
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report on Monday saying that the world's electrical utilities need to reduce coal consumption by at least 60 percent over the next two decades through 2030 to avoid the worst effects of climate change that could occur with more than 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming. While that reduction seems out of reach, Bloomberg crunched some numbers and found that "it's possible to meet consumption-cut targets on the current path." From the report: The conventional wisdom is that this isn't possible, as rising demand from emerging economies, led by China and India, overwhelms the switch from fossil fuels in richer countries. That may underestimate the changing economics of energy generation, though. For one thing, it assumes that Asian countries will continue to build new coal-fired plants at a rapid rate, even though renewables are already the cheaper option in India and heading that way in China and Southeast Asia. For another, the falling cost and rising penetration of wind and solar is so recent that we're only just starting to see how they damage the business models of conventional generators. Thanks to the deflation of recent years, renewables already produce energy at a lower cost than thermal power plants. That causes the overall price of wholesale electricity to fall, reducing a conventional plant's revenue per megawatt-hour. When this drops below the generator's operating costs, the only away to avoid losing money is to switch off altogether. As a result, capacity factors -- the share of time when the plant is on and producing electricity -- decline as well, further undermining returns.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's what-will-they-think-of-next department
Walmart recently applied to patent biometric shopping handles that would track a shopper's heart rate, palm temperature, grip force, and walking speed. "The patent, titled 'System And Method For A Biometric Feedback Cart Handle' and published August 23, outlines a system where sensors in the cart send data to a server," reports Motherboard. "That server then notifies a store employee to check on individual customers." From the report: Over time, the server can build a database of data compared against store location and stress response, the patent says -- potentially valuable information for store planning. Other uses outlined in the patent include a pulse oximeter, for detecting when a customer's about to pass out, and a weight-triggered assisted push feature for propelling the cart itself. CBInsights suggests that these alerts could warn associates when several shoppers need help at the same time, or anticipate when arguments are about to break out.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's like-it-or-not department
Google intends to launch a censored version of its Search app for China sometime in the next six to nine months, according to a leaked transcript from a private employee meeting held last month. The Intercept's Ryan Gallagher today reported the company's Search engine chief, Ben Gomes, held a meeting to congratulate a room full of employees working on the platform, dubbed Project Dragonfly. From a report: According to The Intercept, Gomes talked about the launch timeline: "While we are saying it's going to be six and nine months [to launch], the world is a very dynamic place." He goes on to point out that the current political climate makes it difficult to pinpoint a definite timeline, but indicates employees should be ready to launch whenever a "window opens." These comments come in stark contrast to public statements given recently by both Gomes and Google's chief privacy officer, Kieth Enright.
Speaking to members of Congress last month, Enright tried to skirt the issue of the Dragonfly project by playing dumb. According to Wired he didn't quite deny involvement, and in fact admitted the company had explored the idea, but simply stated Google wasn't "close to launching" the censored Search engine and that he was "not clear on the contours of what is in scope or out of scope for that project." Gomes took the soft-denial a step further when he told the BBC "Right now all we've done is some exploration, but since we don't have any plans to launch something there's nothing much I can say about it."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's easy-as-1-2-3 department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: New computerized weapons systems currently under development by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) can be easily hacked, according to a new report published today. The report was put together by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), an agency that provides auditing, evaluation, and investigative services for Congress. The report detailed some of the most eye-catching hacks GAO testers performed during their analysis: "In one case, it took a two-person test team just one hour to gain initial access to a weapon system and one day to gain full control of the system they were testing. Some programs fared better than others. For example, one assessment found that the weapon system satisfactorily prevented unauthorized access by remote users, but not insiders and near-siders. Once they gained initial access, test teams were often able to move throughout a system, escalating their privileges until they had taken full or partial control of a system. In one case, the test team took control of the operators' terminals. They could see, in real-time, what the operators were seeing on their screens and could manipulate the system. They were able to disrupt the system and observe how the operators responded. Another test team reported that they caused a pop-up message to appear on users' terminals instructing them to insert two quarters to continue operating. Multiple test teams reported that they were able to copy, change, or delete system data including one team that downloaded 100 gigabytes, approximately 142 compact discs, of data."
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's ready-or-not-here-I-come department
Google's human-sounding AI software that makes calls for you is coming to Pixel smartphones next month in select markets, like New York, Atlanta, Phoenix, and the San Francisco Bay Area. Google Duplex, as it is called, will be a feature of Google Assistant and, for now, will only be able to call restaurants without online booking systems, which are already supported by the assistant. Wired reports: A Google spokesperson told WIRED that the company now has a policy to always have the bot disclose its true nature when making calls. Duplex still retains the human-like voice and "ums," "ahs," and "umm-hmms" that struck some as spooky, though. Nick Fox, the executive who leads product and design for Google search and the company's assistant, says those interjections are necessary to make Duplex calls shorter and smoother. "The person on the other end shouldn't be thinking about how do I adjust my behavior, I should be able to do what I normally do and the system adapts to that," he says.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-and-improved department
At its Pixel 3 launch event, Google announced a smart speaker called the Google Home Hub, featuring a 7-inch display to give you visual information, making it easier to control smart home devices and view photos and the weather. Interestingly, Google decided not to include a camera in this device for privacy reasons, as they want you to feel comfortable placing it in an intimate location, such as a bedroom. PhoneDog reports: Google explains that Home Hub will be able to recognize who is speaking to it using Voice Match to provide info for that specific person, which should help to make the device more useful in homes with multiple people. And when you're not using Home Hub, a feature called Live Albums will let you select certain people and have Google Photos create albums with images of these people. Another feature of Google's Home Hub is the Home View. With it, you can easily see and control your smart home devices. And then there's Ambient EQ, which uses a sensor that'll adjust the color and brightness of the Home Hub screen based on the ambient lighting. That includes dimming the screen at night when it's time for bed. Google Home Hub will be available for $149 in four colors -- Chalk, Charcoal, Aqua, and Sand. It will launch on October 22nd and each purchase will come with six months of YouTube Premium.Read Replies (0)