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Tim Berners-Lee Warns About the Web's Three Biggest Threats
Posted by News Fetcher on March 12 '17 at 09:01 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's next-28-years department:
Sunday was the 28th anniversary of the day that 33-year-old Tim Berners-Lee submitted his proposal for the World Wide Web -- and the father of the web published a new letter today about "how the web has evolved, and what we must do to ensure it fulfills his vision of an equalizing platform that benefits all of humanity."

It's been an ongoing battle to maintain the web's openness, but in addition, Berners-Lee lists the following issues: 1) We've lost control of our personal data. 2) It's too easy for misinformation to spread on the web. 3) Political advertising online needs transparency and understanding. Tim Berners-Lee writes:

We must work together with web companies to strike a balance that puts a fair level of data control back in the hands of people, including the development of new technology like personal "data pods" if needed and exploring alternative revenue models like subscriptions and micropayments. We must fight against government over-reach in surveillance laws, including through the courts if necessary. We must push back against misinformation by encouraging gatekeepers such as Google and Facebook to continue their efforts to combat the problem, while avoiding the creation of any central bodies to decide what is "true" or not. We need more algorithmic transparency to understand how important decisions that affect our lives are being made, and perhaps a set of common principles to be followed. We urgently need to close the "internet blind spot" in the regulation of political campaigning.

< article continued at Slashdot's next-28-years department >

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Canadian Millennials Struggle As College Degrees Don't Guarantee Jobs
Posted by News Fetcher on March 12 '17 at 06:20 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's fast-track-to-side-hustles department:
"CBC News is reporting on how millennials are finding that education only guarantees debt, not a stable job. Not even in STEM," writes Slashdot reader BarbaraHudson, adding "The irony -- one of the teachers touting the values of further education is herself part of the gig economy." An anonymous reader summarizes the article, which reports that 33% of the engineers in Ontario are now underemployed.
"I actually thought that coming out of school I would be a commodity and someone would want me," said one 21-year-old mechanical engineering graduate. "But instead, I got hit with a wall of being not wanted whatsoever in the industry." He's applied for 250 engineering jobs, resulting in four interviews, but no job offer, and he's since broadened his job search to the deli counter at the local grocery store, because "It's a job."

"More than 12% of Canadians between the ages of 15 and 24 are unemployed," reports CBC News, "and more than a quarter are underemployed, meaning they have degrees but end up in jobs that don't require them. The latest numbers from Statistics Canada show that the unemployment rate for 15-to-24-year-olds is almost twice that of the general population... A 2014 Canadian Teachers' Federation report found nearly a quarter of Canada's youth are either unemployed, working less than they want or have given up looking for work entirely."
The article also points out that the number of students enrolled in Canadian universities has more than doubled since 1980, from 800,000 to over two million.

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Millions of Smart Meters May Over-Inflate Readings by up to 600%
Posted by News Fetcher on March 12 '17 at 03:32 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's not-so-smart-after-all department:
"Lab tests carried out by Dutch scientists have shown that some of today's 'smart' electrical meters may give out false readings that in some cases can be 582% higher than actual energy consumption," reports BleepingComputer. An anonymous reader quotes their report:
The study involved several tests conducted on nine different brands of "smart" meters, also referred to in the industry as "static energy meters." Researchers also used one electromechanical meter for reference... Experiments went on for six months, with individual tests lasting at least one week, and sometimes several weeks. Test results varied wildly, with some meters reporting errors way above their disclosed range, going from -32% to +582%...

The results of the study also matched numbers posted on an online forum by a disgruntled Dutchman complaining about high energy bills... Researchers blamed all the issues on the design of some smart meters, and, ironically, electrical devices with energy-saving features. The latter devices, researchers say, introduced a large amount of noise in electrical current waveforms, which disrupt the smart meter sensors tasked with recording power consumption...
Long-time Slashdot reader ClarkMills points out the researchers estimate that "potentially inaccurate meters have been installed in the meter cabinets of at least 750,000 Dutch households," while the article suggests that worldwide, "the numbers of possibly faulty smart meters could be in the millions,especially after some governments, especially in the EU, have pushed for smart meters to replace classic electromechanical (rotating disk) meters."

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Debian Update: Stretch Frozen, Bug-Squashing Parties Planned
Posted by News Fetcher on March 12 '17 at 03:32 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Debian-daily-news department:
"Debian project leader Mehdi Dogguy has written a status update concerning the work going on for the first two months of 2017," reports Phoronix. An anonymous reader quotes their report:
So far this year Debian 9.0 Stretch has entered its freeze, bug squashing parties are getting underway for Stretch, the DebConf Committee is now an official team within Debian, a broad Debian Project roadmap is in the early stages of talk, and more.

Bug-Squashing Parties have been scheduled this week in Germany and Brazil, with at least two more happening in May in Paris and Zurich, and for current Debian contributors, "Debian is willing to reimburse up to $100 (or equivalent in your local currency) for your travel and accommodation expenses for participating in Bug Squashing Parties..." writes Dogguy, adding "If there are no Bug Squashing Parties next to your city, can you organize one?"

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Can Crowdfunding Bring Back The Netbook?
Posted by News Fetcher on March 12 '17 at 02:02 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's taking-on-tablets department:
"The mini-laptop's market niche got swamped by the iPad and the phablet," writes Salon, since the stripped-down hardware of tablets made them cheaper to produce. But now netbooks could be making a grassroots-fueled comeback, "thanks to the lower costs in electronics manufacturing and the fact that individual investors can come together to crowdfund projects." An anonymous reader quotes Salon:
Michael Mrozek, the Germany-based creator of creator of the DragonBox Pyra, says "I never understood why they were gone in the first place. I have no idea why you would use a tablet. I tried one, and it's awkward to use it for anything else than browsing the Web"... He has already managed to raise several hundred thousand dollars through a private pre-order system set up on his geek's paradise online store. Once those initial orders have been filled, Mrozek said he will probably start up a mainstream crowdfunding campaign for his Linux handheld... "The niche was always there, but thanks to the Internet and crowdfunding, it's easy to reach everyone who's interested in such a device so even a niche product still gets you enough users to sell it. That wasn't possible 10 years ago."

Meanwhile, in just under two weeks Planet Computer raised $446,000 on Indiegogo, more than double the original $200,000 goal for their netbook-like Gemini computer (with a keyboard designed by the creator of the original Psion netbook). Planet's CEO Janko Mrsic-Flogel says "It's a bit like Volkswagen bringing back the Beetle," and predicts that the worldwide demand for netbooks could reach 10 million a year.

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Nick Denton Predicts 'The Good Internet' Will Rise Again
Posted by News Fetcher on March 12 '17 at 12:42 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's gawking-at-Gawker's-founder department:
Gawker founder Nick Denton argued today that the future will be rooted in sites like Reddit which involve their reader community -- even if there's only a handful of subtopics each user is interested in. "There's a vitality to it and there's a model for what [media] could be," he told an audience at the South by Southwest festival.

But when it comes to other social media sites, "Facebook makes me despise many of my friends and Twitter makes me hate the rest of the world," Denton said. And he attempted to address America's politically-charged atmosphere where professional news organizations struggled to pay their bills while still producing quality journalism. An anonymous reader quotes PCWorld:
The internet played a huge role in this crisis, but despite it all, Denton thinks the web can be the solution to the problems it created. "On Google Hangouts chats or iMessage you can exchange quotes, links, stories, media," he said. "That's a delightful, engaging media experience. The next phase of media is going to come out of the idea of authentic, chill conversation about things that matter. Even if we're full of despair over what the internet has become, it's good to remind yourself when you're falling down some Wikipedia hole or having a great conversation with somebody online -- it's an amazing thing. In the habits that we enjoy, there are the seeds for the future. That's where the good internet will rise up again."

To show his support for news institutions, Denton has also purchased a paid subscription to the New York Times' site.

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Notepad++ Update Fixes 'CIA Hacking' Issue
Posted by News Fetcher on March 12 '17 at 12:42 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's attacks-on-text-editors department:
Free software Notepad++ (released under the GNU General Public License) received a new update this week which was announced under the headline "Fix CIA Hacking Notepad++ Issue". The CIA documents in WikiLeaks' 'Vault 7' included a "Notepad++ DLL Hijack" document which affected the popular Windows editor for text and source code. "It's not a vulnerability/security issue in Notepad++, but for remedying this issue, from this release (v7.3.3) forward, notepad++.exe checks the certificate validation in scilexer.dll before loading it," reads the announcement. From the Notepad++ web site:

If the certificate is missing or invalid, then it just won't be loaded, and Notepad++ will fail to launch.Checking the certificate of DLL makes it harder to hack.

Note that once users' PCs are compromised, the hackers can do anything on the PCs. This solution only prevents from Notepad++ loading a CIA homemade DLL. It doesn't prevent your original notepad++.exe from being replaced by modified notepad++.exe while the CIA is controlling your PC.

The update also includes "a lot of enhancements and bug-fixes," and if no critical issues are found, "Auto-updater will be triggered in few days."

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Australian Farmers Switch To Diesel Power As Electricity Prices Soar
Posted by News Fetcher on March 12 '17 at 11:23 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's energy-alternatives department:
"As power prices rise, some farmers have been forced to turn off the pumps," reports the Australian Broadcast Corporation. Long-time Slashdot reader connect4 shared their report from the coast of Queensland, where the price of pumping water to sugarcane fields has doubled.

Local irrigators council representative, Dale Hollis, says right now, irrigators have two options. "They have to switch off the pumps and go back to dryland [cropping], and that impacts upon the productivity of the region and impacts on jobs" he said. "The second option is to go off the grid and look at alternatives." Another option is solar and there are plenty of farmers installing panels, but many growers irrigate at night and can't afford the millions of dollars it could take to buy battery storage. That's pushing many of them back to a dirtier option. "Right now, diesel stacks up," Mr Hollis said.

The head of farm operations for a sugar producer says it's now 30% cheaper to pump water with diesel than electricity, even before you count the subsidy from the federal government, and they expect to save even more money as energy prices go up.

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Volkwagen Finally Pleads Guilty On 'Dieselgate' Charges
Posted by News Fetcher on March 12 '17 at 10:02 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's car-makers-in-court department:
Friday Volkswagen admitted in court that they'd committed fraud in their diesel emissions tests, also pleading guilty to falsifying statements and obstruction of justice. An anonymous reader quotes CNET:
It marks the first time VW admitted guilt in any court in the world, according to a VW spokesman speaking to Reuters. The judge overseeing the case in the U.S. District Court in Detroit accepted the plea and will issue a sentence at a hearing on April 21. "The agreements that we have reached with the US government reflect our determination to address misconduct that went against all of the values Volkswagen holds so dear," Volkswagen said in an emailed statement... The road to Dieselgate's conclusion still has plenty of pavement, though. The company is still under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and Internal Revenue Service. And that's in the US alone.

"VW AG is pleading guilty to all three counts because it is guilty on all three counts," the company's general counsel told the judge. Reuters also reports that VW offered to buy back half a million vehicles just in America, and agreed to spend up to $25 billion in the U.S. to address claims from unhappy owners.

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Hyperloop One Reveals Test Track Progress
Posted by News Fetcher on March 12 '17 at 08:40 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's live-from-Las-Vegas department:
Hyperloop One has released the first photographs of its "proof of concept" test track near Las Vegas, Nevada, and there's now also a couple short videos online.
Slashdot reader angry tapir quotes Computerworld:
The company revealed its progress on Tuesday at the Middle East Rail conference in Dubai, sharing pictures and footage of its Nevada development site dubbed "DevLoop." Taking Elon Musk's Hyperloop concept of a levitating pod in a low-pressure tube, Hyperloop One has developed what is so far the only full-scale, full-system Hyperloop test site...and says it plans to test the entire apparatus this year.
In addition, Investopedia reports that Hyperloop One has now also signed letter of intent agreements to investigate the feasibility of building more hyperloop systems in Finland and the Netherlands.

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How Seven Movie Studios Forced A Pirated Movie Site Offline
Posted by News Fetcher on March 12 '17 at 08:40 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's lawyers-from-Los-Angeles department:
A major pirated movie site went offline last month after seven Hollywood studios won a preliminary court injunction. An anonymous reader quotes the Hollywood Reporter:

The MPAA-member studios sued the operators of PubFilm/PidTV in February, asking the court for a temporary restraining order to shut down what it described as a ring of six interconnected large-scale piracy sites. The suit was initially sealed, but was made public on Friday. Warner Bros, 20th Century Fox, Columbia Pictures, Universal, Disney, Paramount and Viacom are named as plaintiffs in the suit for direct and secondary copyright infringement, trademark infringement and unfair competition.
They're seeking statutory damages of $150,000 per infringement plus restitution of the sites' profits. So, depending on how many instances of infringement are discovered, the damages in this case could be astronomical. The studios claim the sites had more than 8 million visitors each month, nearly half of which were linked to IP addresses in the U.S... The sites are believed to be operated in Vietnam.

The court also ordered GoDaddy, VeriSign and Enom to disable all six domain names, to prevent the domains from being transferred, and to do it without communicating or warning the sites' owners first. In response, the defendants purchased a new domain, and then began publicizing it with ads on Google AdSense.

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Proof Daylight Saving Time Is Dumb, Dangerous, and Costly
Posted by News Fetcher on March 12 '17 at 05:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's time-to-revisit department:
From a report on Bloomberg: The case for daylight saving time has been shaky for a while. The biannual time change was originally implemented to save energy. Yet dozens of studies around the world have found that changing the clocks has either minuscule or non-existent effects on energy use. [...] The latest research suggests the time change can be harmful to our health and cost us money. The suffering of the spring time change begins with the loss of an hour of sleep. That might not seem like a big deal, but researchers have found it can be dangerous to mess with sleep schedules. Car accidents, strokes, and heart attacks spike in the days after the March time change. It turns out that judges, sleep deprived by daylight saving, impose harsher sentences. [...] Some of the last defenders of daylight saving time have been a cluster of business groups who assume the change helps stimulate consumer spending. That's not true either, according to recent analysis of 380 million bank and credit-card transactions by the JPMorgan Chase Institute.

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Backlash Builds Against Bill Gates' Call For A Robot Tax
Posted by News Fetcher on March 12 '17 at 04:20 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's taxation-for-automation department:
Bill Gates argued governments should tax companies that use replace humans with robots, which "provoked enough negative feedback to fry a motherboard," according to CBS News. Here's how they summarized some of the reactions:
"Why pick on robots?" former Treasury Secretary Summers asked in a Washington Post opinion piece, which called Gates "profoundly misguided." The economist argued that progress, however messy and disruptive sometimes, ultimately benefits society overall.Mike Shedlock, a financial adviser with Sitka Pacific Capital Management in Edmonds, Washington, wrote on his blog that robot owners, who likely would pay the tax, would simply pass it along by jacking up prices.The European Union's parliament in February rejected a measure to impose a tax on robots, using much the same reasoning as Gates' critics.

But even while acknowledging that technology can complement humans rather than replacing them, a Bloomberg columnist argues that "Gates is right to say that we should start thinking ahead of time about how to use policy to mitigate the disruptions of automation." So if we're not going to tax robots, then how should society handle the next great wave of automated labor?

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How The FBI Used Geek Squad To Increase Secret Public Surveillance
Posted by News Fetcher on March 12 '17 at 01:22 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's rights-vs-repairs department:
In 2011 a gynecology doctor took his computer for repairs at Best Buy's Geek Squad. But the repair technician was a paid FBI informant -- one of several working at Geek Squad -- and the doctor was ultimately charged with possessing child pornography, according to OC Weekly. An anonymous reader quotes their new report:
Recently unsealed records reveal a much more extensive secret relationship than previously known between the FBI and Best Buy's Geek Squad, including evidence the agency trained company technicians on law-enforcement operational tactics, shared lists of targeted citizens and, to covertly increase surveillance of the public, encouraged searches of computers even when unrelated to a customer's request for repairs. Assistant United States Attorney M. Anthony Brown last year labeled allegations of a hidden partnership as "wild speculation." But more than a dozen summaries of FBI memoranda filed inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse this month in USA v. Mark Rettenmaier contradict the official line...
Other records show how [Geek Squad supervisor Justin] Meade's job gave him "excellent and frequent" access for "several years" to computers belonging to unwitting Best Buy customers, though agents considered him "underutilized" and wanted him "tasked" to search devices "on a more consistent basis"... evidence demonstrates company employees routinely snooped for the agency, contemplated "writing a software program" specifically to aid the FBI in rifling through its customers' computers without probable cause for any crime that had been committed, and were "under the direction and control of the FBI."

The doctor's lawyer argues Best Buy became an unofficial wing of the FBI by offering $500 for every time they found evidence leading to criminal charges.

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Linux Foundation Chief: Businesses 'Will Fail' If They Don't Use Open Source Code
Posted by News Fetcher on March 11 '17 at 10:40 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's code-free-or-die department:
The luminaries speaking at the Google Cloud Next conference had some strong words about the importance of openness, innovation, and a rich developer community. An anonymous reader writes:
First Vint Cert said there's a "thread of openness" that runs throughout the internet, adding that "the internet, itself, has open characteristics" and thrives on "permissionless innovation." And Eric Brewer, vice president of infrastructure at Google, touched on the same themes, according to Tech Republic. "Linux, Brewer said, won some of the early internet wars because it was open, but also because it was the most innovative of its time. He also said that companies should work with open source for the value of the ecosystem and community, not just the value of the code." Then Linux Foundation executive director Jim Zemlin told the audience that business models were already changing to include open source, and ultimately made the argument that organizations that "don't harvest the shared innovation" of open source "will fail."

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Ask Slashdot: How Do You Make Novice Programmers More Professional?
Posted by News Fetcher on March 11 '17 at 07:51 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's coding-curriculum department:
Slashdot reader peetm describes himself as a software engineer, programmer, lecturer, and old man. But how can he teach the next generation how to code more professionally?

I have to put together a three-hour (maximum) workshop for novice programmers -- people with mostly no formal training and who are probably flying by the seat of their pants (and quite possibly dangerous in doing so). I want to encourage them to think more as a professional developer would. Ideally, I want to give them some sort of practicals to do to articulate and demonstrate this, rather than just "present" stuff on best practices... If you were putting this together, what would you say and include?
This raises the question of not only what you'd teach -- whether it's variable naming, modular programming, test-driven development, or the importance of commenting -- but also how you'd teach it. So leave your best answers in the comments. How do you make novice programmers more professional?

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Will Montana Become America's Third State To Ditch Daylight Savings Time?
Posted by News Fetcher on March 11 '17 at 05:01 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's falling-backward department:
"Okay...twice every year Slashdot disses Daylight savings time," writes turkeydance, bringing a story from Montana, where lawmakers are proposing that the state should stop setting their clocks forward by one hour every spring.
Similar legislation in several past sessions...failed to advance even out of committee. But SB206 passed committee unanimously and once on the floor, more than twice as many senators voted for it as against it. Now the House will take up SB206 during the session's second half, and likely with a renewed focus on the history of daylight saving time and what it would mean for Montana to become only the third state in the country not to observe it.
Daylight savings time has been opposed by a grassroots group of Montana farmers and ranchers, who have to sync their work schedule to the sun rather than the time on the clock, but similar legislation has also been introduced in Texas, California, Iowa, New Mexico, Michigan, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, and Washington.

Daylight savings time was originally introduced as an energy-saving measure during World Wars I and II, and returned during the 1970s energy crisis. There's just one problem, reports Live Science. "No one really knows whether daylight saving time saves energy at all. Research is decidedly mixed on the subject, with some studies actually finding that daylight saving time boosts energy consumption."

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Munich's IT Lead: 'No Compelling Reason' To Switch Back To Windows From Linux
Posted by News Fetcher on March 11 '17 at 03:41 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's reason-not-found department:
"The man who runs Munich's central IT says there is no practical reason for the city to write off millions of euros and years of work to ditch its Linux-based OS for Windows," reports TechRepublic. Long-time Slashdot reader Qbertino summarizes a German-language article:
Karl-Heinz Schneider, lead of Munich's local system house company IT@M, goes on to claim, "We do not see pressing technical reasons to switch to MS and MS Office... The council [in their recent plans] didn't even follow the analysts' suggestion to stick with using LibreOffice." Furthermore, Schneider stated that "System failures that angered citizens in recent years never were related to the LiMux project, but due to new bureaucratic procedures..." and apparently decisions by unqualified personnel at the administrative level, as Munich's administration itself states.

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A Prenda Copyright Troll Finally Pleaded Guilty
Posted by News Fetcher on March 11 '17 at 03:41 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's lawyers-found-guilty department:
"One of the attorneys behind the Prenda Law 'copyright trolling' scheme has pleaded guilty to federal charges of fraud and money laundering," reports Ars Technica. Long-time Slashdot reader Freshly Exhumed shares this article from the law blog Popehat:
The factual basis section -- which Steele admits is true (as to facts he knows) or that the government can prove (as to facts he doesn't know directly) -- is a startling 16 pages long [PDF] and lavishly documents the entire scheme, complete with many details that accusers have been pointing out for years. In short, Steele admits that he and Hansmeier used sham entities to obtain the copyright to (or in some cases film) porn, uploaded it to file-sharing websites, and then filed "false and deceptive" copyright suits against downloaders designed to conceal their role in distributing the films and their stake in the outcomes. They lied to courts themselves, sent others to court to lie, lied at depositions, lied in sworn affidavits, created sham entities as plaintiffs, created fraudulent hacking allegations to try to obtain discovery into the identity of downloaders, used "ruse defendants" (strawmen, in effect) to get courts to approve broad discovery into IP addresses.
Facing a maximum of 40 years in prison, Steele could get his sentence reduced if he testifies against Hansmeier, according to the article, and "Steele appears to have pinned all of his hopes on that option... I've seen a lot of plea agreements in a lot of federal cases, and I don't recall another one that so clearly conveyed the defendant utterly surrendering and accepting everything the government demanded, all in hopes of talking his sentence down later."

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New 'USG' Firewalls Protect USB Drives From Malicious Attacks
Posted by News Fetcher on March 11 '17 at 02:22 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's sanitizing-your-sticks department:
A developer has created the USG, "a small, portable hardware USB firewall...to prevent malicious USB sticks and devices laden with malware from infecting your computer." An anonymous reader quotes ZDNet:
The problem is that most computers automatically trust every USB device that's plugged in, which means malicious code can run without warning... Cars, cash registers, and some ATMs also come with USB ports, all of which can be vulnerable to cyberattacks from a single USB stick. That's where the USG firewall comes in...a simple hardware serial link that only accepts a very few select number of safe commands, which prevents the device from executing system commands or intercepting network traffic. That means the data can flow from the USB device, but [it] effectively blocks other USB exploits.
The firmware has been open sourced, and the technical specifications have also been released online "to allow anyone to build their own from readily available development boards."

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