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Facebook Says Breaking Up Facebook Won't Do Any Good
Posted by News Fetcher on May 12 '19 at 11:31 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's double-plus-unlike department:
Thursday Facebook's co-founder called for the government to break up the company. Saturday Facebook responded, according to an article shared by Slashdot reader soldersold:

Nick Clegg, Facebook's vice president for global affairs and communications wrote the piece, and in it, he agrees with Hughes that "companies should be held accountable for their actions," and that tech companies such as Facebook shouldn't be the ones handling all of the "important social, political and ethical questions" for the internet. But he notes that breaking Facebook up -- as Hughes calls for -- would be the wrong way to go. "The challenges he alludes to," Clegg writes, "including election interference and privacy safeguards, won't evaporate by breaking up Facebook or any other big tech company...." Zuckerberg also responded to the op-ed while in France, saying that "my main reaction was that what [Hughes is] proposing that we do isn't going to do anything to help solve those issues."

Notably, Clegg sidesteps what's probably the op-ed's main focus: Zuckerberg himself. Hughes notes that while the CEO is a good person, he holds far too much power at Facebook, and can't be held accountable there -- he calls the shots. "The government must hold Mark accountable," Hughes wrote.
The article also notes that Clegg "pushed back" against the argument that Facebook is a dominant monopoly, by "saying that its revenue only makes up 20 percent of the advertising marketplace..."

"He goes on to reiterate many of Facebook's regular talking points: that it's been a net-positive for the world by connecting everyone, allowing businesses to thrive and people to raise lots of money for important causes around the world."

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Microsoft Moves Windows 10 Closer To A Future Without Passwords
Posted by News Fetcher on May 12 '19 at 10:11 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's where-do-you-want-to-go-today department:
"Microsoft has very quietly confirmed the death of Windows 10 passwords this week," claims Forbes -- though I think they may be overstating things a bit:
Microsoft's crypto, identity and authentication team group manager, Yogesh Mehta, has made an announcement that he says puts "the 800 million people who use Windows 10 one step closer to a world without passwords...."
Mehta confirmed that with the release of the forthcoming Windows 10 May update, Windows Hello becomes a fully FIDO2 certified authenticator... [Windows Hello is "a biometrics-based technology that enables Windows 10 users to authenticate secure access to their devices, apps, online services and networks with just a fingerprint, iris scan or facial recognition."]

So does the arrival of FIDO2 certification for Windows 10 mean that passwords are now dead? Not quite. The death of the password for Window 10 could yet be a lingering and painful one. "We encourage companies and software developers to adopt a strategy for achieving a passwordless future and start today by supporting password alternatives such as Windows Hello," Mehta says, before admitting that to arrive in this future requires "interoperable solutions that work across all industry platforms and browsers."
I say painful, by the way, as there will no doubt be no shortage of stories about password security fails until the final nail is hammered into this authentication coffin.

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'Impossible' Research Produces 400 Years of Climate Data, Shows El Nino Now Stronger
Posted by News Fetcher on May 12 '19 at 08:51 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's we're-having-a-heat-wave department:
Long-time Slashdot reader William Robinson writes:
Using cores drilled from coral, scientists have been able to produce the first 400-year-long seasonal record of El Niño events. "This understanding of El Niño events is vital because they produce extreme weather across the globe with particularly profound effects on precipitation and temperature extremes in Australia, South East Asia and the Americas," reports Phys.org.

The results? A new category of El Niño "has become far more prevalent in the last few decades than at any time in the past four centuries," reports Scientific American. "Over the same period, traditional El Niño events have become more intense."

Obtaining this data was considered impossible, until a Melbourne PhD researcher realized that coral cores, like tree rings, captured the "signature" of El Niño events going back for several centuries, according to the article. They were then able to identify that signature using machine learning techniques, and after three years of work produced the 400-year record.
The study's lead author now says that "By understanding the past, we are better equipped to understand the future, especially in the context of climate change."

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Brain Scans Reveal A 'Pokemon Region' In Adults Who Played As Kids
Posted by News Fetcher on May 12 '19 at 08:51 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's gotta-recognize-em-all department:
"By scanning the brains of adults who played Pokemon as kids, researchers learned that this group of people have a brain region that responds more to the cartoon characters than to other pictures," reports the Verge.

"More importantly, this charming research method has given us new insight into how the brain organizes visual information."

For the study, published Monday in the journal Nature Human Behavior, researchers recruited 11 adults who were "experienced" Pokemon players -- meaning they began playing between the ages of five and eight, continued for a while, and then played again as adults -- and 11 novices. First, they tested all of the participants on the names of pokemon to make sure the pros actually could tell a Clefairy from a Chansey. Next, they scanned the participants' brains while showing them images of all 150 original pokemon (in rounds of eight) alongside other images, like animals, faces, cars, words, corridors, and other cartoons. In experienced players, a specific region responded more to the pokemon than to these other images. For novices, this region -- which is called the occipitotemporal sulcus and often processes animal images -- didn't show a preference for pokemon.

It's not that surprising that playing many hours of Pokemon as a kid would lead to brain changes; looking at almost anything for long enough will do the same thing. We already know that the brain has cell clusters that respond to certain images, and there's even one for recognizing Jennifer Aniston... The results support a theory called "eccentricity bias," which suggests that the size of the images we're looking at and whether we're looking at it with central or peripheral vision will predict which area of the brain will respond.

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A Tectonic Plate May Have Peeled Apart - and That Could Shrink the Atlantic
Posted by News Fetcher on May 12 '19 at 07:31 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's continental-divides department:
pgmrdlm quotes National Geographic: For years, João Duarte has puzzled over a seemingly boring underwater expanse off the coast of Portugal. In 1969, this site spawned a massive earthquake that rattled the shore and sparked a tsunami. But you would never know why just from looking at the broad, featureless surface of the seabed. Duarte, a marine geologist from the Instituto Dom Luiz at the University of Lisbon, wanted to find out what was going on.

Now, 50 years after the event, he may finally have an answer: The bottom of the tectonic plate off Portugal's coast seems to be peeling away from its top. This action may be providing the necessary spark for one plate to start grinding beneath another in what's known as a subduction zone, according to computer simulations Duarte presented in April at the European Geosciences Union meeting.

If confirmed, the new work would be the first time an oceanic plate has been caught in the act of peeling—and it may mark one of the earliest stages of the Atlantic Ocean shrinking, sending Europe inching toward Canada as predicted by some models of tectonic activity.

"Duarte is not the first to propose these curious happenings off Portugal's coast," the article points out, "but it's the first time there are data to back it up."

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Why Airpods Are An Environmental 'Tragedy'
Posted by News Fetcher on May 12 '19 at 06:10 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's wrong-to-repair department:
Vice's "Future Relics" column asks what people 1,000 years from now will think when they keep discovering abandoned Airpods from 2019:
For roughly 18 months, AirPods play music, or podcasts, or make phone calls. Then the lithium-ion batteries will stop holding much of a charge, and the AirPods will slowly become unusable. They can't be repaired because they're glued together. They can't be thrown out, or else the lithium-ion battery may start a fire in the garbage compactor. They can't be easily recycled, because there's no safe way to separate the lithium-ion battery from the plastic shell. Instead, the AirPods sit in your drawer forever...
According to the headphones review team at Rtings.com, AirPods are "below-average" in terms of sound quality. According to people on every social media platform, AirPods are a display of wealth. But more than a pair of headphones, AirPods are an un-erasable product of culture and class. People in working or impoverished economic classes are responsible for the life-threatening, exhaustive, violent work of removing their parts from the ground and assembling them. Meanwhile, people in the global upper class design and purchase AirPods.

Even if you only own AirPods for a few years, the earth owns them forever. When you die, your bones will decompose in less than a century, but the plastic shell of AirPods won't decompose for at least a millennia. Thousands of years in the future, if human life or sentient beings exist on earth, maybe archaeologists will find AirPods in the forgotten corners of homes. They'll probably wonder why they were ever made, and why so many people bought them. But we can also ask ourselves those same questions right now.
Why did we make technology that will live for 18 months, die, and never rot?

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/e/ Announces 'Un-Googled' Android Smartphones
Posted by News Fetcher on May 12 '19 at 04:50 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's independence-day department:
"This will probably be the first fully 'un-Googled' Android-based smartphone to hit the market ever," writes Slashdot reader getupstandup1:

The /e/ smartphone will start to ship soon, on high-grade refurbished smartphones. While more and more people are concerned about privacy, it's interesting to see such initiatives, especially considering that it was started by someone who is coming from the Linux distro world.
Gaël Duval started this non-profit project after realizing "he was more and more using proprietary software -- Apple and Android," and "felt trapped inside those Internet giants' ecosystems that use personal data to fuel their business models," according to the /e/ web site.
"We think that /e/ can have a global, worldwide impact as a major open source project in the public interest. It will help by freeing users from personal data spying and advertising. /e/ is about freedom and privacy in the digital world."

They're now asking interested phone-buyers to "register" their interest in one of their high-grade refurbished (Samsung) smartphones "by clicking on the button located underneath your smartphone of choice, and leaving your contact details so we can come back to you when these phones will be available."

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Software Executive Decries 'Toxic Certainty Syndrome'
Posted by News Fetcher on May 12 '19 at 12:50 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's reply-hazy-try-again department:
Michael Natkin is the VP of software engineering at the 3D printer company Glowforge. In a recent post on the company blog, he argues that the tech industry has "glorified overconfidence" with its philosophy of "strong opinions, loosely held":

The idea of strong opinions, loosely held is that you can make bombastic statements, and everyone should implicitly assume that you'll happily change your mind in a heartbeat if new data suggests you are wrong. It is supposed to lead to a collegial, competitive environment in which ideas get a vigorous defense, the best of them survive, and no one gets their feelings hurt in the process. On a certain kind of team, where everyone shares that ethos, and there is very little power differential, this can work well. I've had the pleasure of working on teams like that, and it is all kinds of fun...
Unfortunately, that ideal is seldom achieved. What really happens? The loudest, most bombastic engineer states their case with certainty, and that shuts down discussion. Other people either assume the loudmouth knows best, or don't want to stick out their neck and risk criticism and shame. This is especially true if the loudmouth is senior, or there is any other power differential... Even if someone does have the courage to push back, in practice the original speaker isn't likely to be holding their opinion as loosely as they think. Having stated their case, they are anchored to it and will look for evidence that confirms it and reject anything contradictory. It is a natural tendency to want to win the argument and be the smartest person in the room.
As a fix, he suggests adding a degree of uncertainty to statements -- which makes it easier for you to adjust them later while also explicitly encouraging feedback.
For example, in announcing the blog post on Twitter, Natkin wrote that "I'm about 60% sure it's useful."

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Bitcoin-Trading 'Seasteader' Now on the Run For His Life
Posted by News Fetcher on May 11 '19 at 08:50 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's scourge-of-the-high-seas department:
An American bitcoin trader and his girlfriend became the first couple to actually live on a "seastead" -- a 20-meter octagon floating in international waters a full 12 nautical miles from Thailand.

Long-time Slashdot reader SonicSpike shared this article from the libertarian Foundation for Economic Education describing what happened next:

[W]hile they got to experience true sovereignty for a handful of weeks, their experiment was cut short after the Thai government declared that their seastead was a threat to its national sovereignty... Asserting that [their seastead] "Exly" was still within Thailand's 200-mile exclusive economic zone, the government made plans to charge the couple with threatening Thailand's national sovereignty, a crime punishable by death. However, before the Thai Navy could come detain the couple, they were tipped off and managed to escape. They are now on the run, fleeing for their lives.

Venture capitalist and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel has donated over $1 million to the Seasteading Institute -- though news about this first experiment must be discouraging. "We lived on a floating house boat for a few weeks and now Thailand wants us killed," one of the seasteaders posted on his Facebook feed.

Last week the Arizona Republic reported that since the Thai government dismantled his ocean home, he's been "on the run" for over two weeks.

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GDB 8.3 Released
Posted by News Fetcher on May 11 '19 at 06:11 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's GNU-De-Bugger department:
"Release 8.3 of GDB, the GNU Debugger, is now available," according to an announcement on the info-gnu mailing list:

GDB is a source-level debugger for Ada, C, C++, Go, Rust, and many other languages. GDB can target (i.e., debug programs running on) more than a dozen different processor architectures, and GDB itself can run on most popular GNU/Linux, Unix and Microsoft Windows variants. GDB is free (libre) software.
GDB 8.3 includes support for new native configurations (also available as a target configuration) for RISC-V GNU/Linux and RISC-V FreeBSD.

The announcement warns that Native Windows debugging "is only supported on Windows XP or later," and that "the Python API in GDB now requires Python 2.6 or later."

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Ask Slashdot: How Would You Host Your Own Email Server?
Posted by News Fetcher on May 11 '19 at 04:51 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's me-mail department:
"It has become too easy to take Linux and FOSS for granted," warns a Linux Journal editorial by Doc Searls, complaining, for example, that today "We collaborate inside proprietary environments, such as Slack and Google Hangouts."
Long-time Slashdot reader whh3 wants to live differently -- and to model a different set values:

After reading the recent Doc Searls article in Linux Journal, I realized that I need to get back to my roots. The first step will be to build/setup/run my own email server for my vanity domain.
The problem is, I haven't run my own email server since the 90s. It was easy back then -- there was much less SPAM and self-hosted email servers didn't have to jump through hoops to make sure that they weren't blacklisted as senders.
So, I am reaching out to this great community to find out if there are any good tutorials on modern-day best-practices for self hosting an email server. Any tips/tricks/pointers would be great appreciated!

A lot's changed in 20 years -- but for such a basic form of online communication, is it still possible to roll your own? Or are we trapped in a world where private conversations about valuing open source software take place inside Google's proprietary Gmail client.
Leave your own suggestions in the comments. How would you host your own email server?

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Experimental Device Generates Electricity From the Coldness of Space
Posted by News Fetcher on May 11 '19 at 03:31 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's thermodynamic-resources department:
"An international team of scientists has demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to generate a measurable amount of electricity in a diode directly from the coldness of the universe," writes Phys.org.

An anonymous reader quotes their report:

The infrared semiconductor device faces the sky and uses the temperature difference between Earth and space to produce the electricity... In contrast to leveraging incoming energy as a normal solar cell would, the negative illumination effect allows electrical energy to be harvested as heat leaves a surface. Today's technology, though, does not capture energy over these negative temperature differences as efficiently. By pointing their device toward space, whose temperature approaches mere degrees from absolute zero, the group was able to find a great enough temperature difference to generate power through an early design.
The group found that their negative illumination diode generated about 64 nanowatts per square meter, a tiny amount of electricity, but an important proof of concept, that the authors can improve on by enhancing the quantum optoelectronic properties of the materials they use. Calculations made after the diode created electricity showed that, when atmospheric effects are taken into consideration, the current device can theoretically generate almost 4 watts per square meter, roughly one million times what the group's device generated and enough to help power machinery that is required to run at night.

By comparison, today's solar panels generate 100 to 200 watts per square meter.

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PowerToys Are Back! Microsoft Reboots the Utilities As an Open Source Project
Posted by News Fetcher on May 11 '19 at 02:11 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Windows-10-versus-Windows-95 department:
Mark Wilson writes: Microsoft is bringing back PowerToys for Windows 10 — and this time it is open source. If the name doesn't mean anything to you, you probably weren't a Windows 95 user, but if this was your computing era, you'll remember tinkering with the likes of TweakUI, Send to X, QuickRes and numerous other delightful utilities.

Now the collection of utilities is back, rebooted for Windows 10 and due to be released as an open source project. At the moment, there are two tools being worked on — a "maximize to new desktop" widget, and the Windows-key [keyboard] shortcut guide — but ten more are under consideration and due for release this summer.

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Russia-Linked Hackers Using Sophisticated Backdoor To Hijack Exchange Servers
Posted by News Fetcher on May 11 '19 at 02:11 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Microsoft-malware department:
wiredmikey quotes SecurityWeek: The Russia-linked threat group known as Turla has reportedly been using a sophisticated backdoor to hijack Microsoft Exchange mail servers, ESET reported... The malware, dubbed LightNeuron, allows the attackers to read and modify any email passing through the compromised mail server, create and send new emails, and block emails to prevent the intended recipients from receiving them. According to ESET, LightNeuron has been used by Turla — the group is also known as Waterbug, KRYPTON and Venomous Bear — since at least 2014 to target Microsoft Exchange servers. The cybersecurity firm has analyzed a Windows version of the malware, but evidence suggests a Linux version exists as well.

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Feds Nab Exec On Allegations He Hacked To Steal Info About School Lunches
Posted by News Fetcher on May 11 '19 at 12:51 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's lunch-lady-land department:
"After a year-long investigation, a top California exec has been arrested by the FBI for allegedly hacking into a competitor's website and stealing their customer data in an effort to ruin their business," writes long-time Slashdot reader sandbagger.
"There is an unusual twist, however: this isn't the high-stakes world of big tech or high finance, but American school lunches."

The Register reports:

Chief financial officer of Choicelunch, Keith Wesley Cosbey, 40, was collared last month over claims that he illegally grabbed details from competitor The LunchMaster on what precisely youngsters across the San Francisco Bay Area like to eat and are allergic to. He has been charged with unlawful computer access and fraud, and identity theft. If found guilty, Cosbey faces up to three years behind bars.

According to the criminal complaint against him, filed in San Mateo County, Cosbey stole data on hundreds of students, and then sent it anonymously to the local government department that oversees the school lunch program in an apparent effort to undermine his competitor. The approach backfired, though, when the California Department of Education contacted The LunchMaster about the data leak, and the company searched its access logs, it is claimed. It apparently tracked the intrusion down to an IP address associated with Danville, California -- where Choicelunch is headquartered.
The LunchMaster then contacted the FBI, the San Francisco Chronicle reported...
The school lunch provider's CFO is now out on $125,000 bail, the article points out -- another reminder of the cutthroat competition for annual multi-million-dollar contracts with school districts.

< article continued at Slashdot's lunch-lady-land department >

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'Is TikTok a Chinese Cambridge Analytica Data Bomb Waiting to Explode?'
Posted by News Fetcher on May 11 '19 at 12:51 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's very-big-data department:
CBS News calls TikTok "the first major contender since Snapchat to possibly disrupt a market dominated by social media behemoth Facebook.

"The mere three-year-old startup even comes with a history of data-privacy controversies."
Created by China start-up ByteDance in 2016, TikTok has already been downloaded over 1 billion times globally, surpassing both Facebook and Instagram in app installs last year, according to analytics site Sensor Tower.... It's also more than just a plucky tech start-up. ByteDance, which owns TikTok, is the single largest start-up in the world, surpassing Uber in valuation with $78 billion. It has funding from some of the world's highest-profile investors, including Japanese conglomerate SoftBank (also an investor in Uber). However, TikTok has already come under fire from government regulators and parents for data-privacy concerns and what some critics call predatory practices on the app regarding children.

And additional concerns were raised this week by data rights advocate David Carroll, an associate professor of media design whose 2017 lawsuit against Cambridge Analytica indirectly led to a January criminal conviction of the administrators of Cambridge Analytica in the UK.

If the cataclysmic scandal taught us anything, it was that some of the secrets of the data trade wars are buried in the fine print no one reads. In preparation for when my kids begin asking about the hugely popular lip-sync app TikTok, I dug into its privacy policy and its recent revisions. If you joined TikTok before 2019, what I found should worry you... Having learned the crucial lesson of data sovereignty through my experiences with Facebook's favorite democracy-destabilizing personality quiz, I'm now hyper-sensitized to the question of where our personal data ends up... I did the thing that almost no one does: I read their privacy policy. I was alarmed to see this section, which in late 2018 stated that TikTok user data may be transferred to China.

< article continued at Slashdot's very-big-data department >

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After City Switched To a New Bodycam Vendor, Axon Threatened Its Credit Score
Posted by News Fetcher on May 11 '19 at 11:31 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's costs-of-a-camera department:
Long-time Slashdot reader v3rgEz shares an article from MuckRock:
The deal Fontana Police Department struck with Axon sounded simple enough: a trial of five inexpensive body cameras and, for each of them, a Professional subscription to the company's cloud storage system.
When the California city decided to use a different vendor years later, however, it found itself stuck continuing to pay $4,000 per year for an unused service. Exiting the contract, the department was told, could tarnish the city's credit rating -- even though the contract included a "termination for convenience" clause to avoid just that situation.
A police department lieutenant tells the site that they ultimately spent over $8,000 for the cloud subscription which they'd already stopped using. (Last year Axon made $160 million from the recurring payments for its data-storage products.)

The article also notes that Axon (the company formerly known as Taser, the stun gun manufacturers) now has "some form of customer relationship with 17,000 of the roughly 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the U.S., and it's actively working to grow its international customer base, making it one of the most ubiquitous providers of police technology."

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Does Recycling Work?
Posted by News Fetcher on May 11 '19 at 11:31 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's recycling-versus-reusing department:
"It's a complicated question," admits a New York sustainability advocate:
If an item in a bin of recyclable materials is greasy, covered in food or, in the case of paper goods, soaking wet, the entire bin is typically rejected and sent to the landfill or incinerated... While we want to do the right thing, most of us don't know all the rules. Can you recycle that greasy pizza box? (No.) Plastic bottle caps? (It depends on the municipality.) Cereal boxes? (It depends.) The list of questions goes on... And many times it's difficult to find the correct answer. So, while we're throwing items in the recycling bin or diligently bringing them to a recycling center, we may be merely "wish-cycling" -- hoping that these items will somehow be recycled. Wish-cycled items eventually get sent to the landfill or clog recycling plant machinery...

Remember -- Recycling is a business. Your recyclables are typically collected and processed by a private waste management company looking to make a profit. The materials are then assembled into massive bundles (bales) for sale. For many years, China was the main buyer of recyclable material. In 2018, however, China passed its National Sword policy that sets impossibly low contamination standards on 24 types of imported waste material. These new standards have caused a drastic decline in the market for recyclable materials. According to the New York Times, plastic scrap exports "valued at more than $300 million in 2015, totaled just $7.6 million in the first quarter of [2018], down 90% from a year earlier."

What does all this mean? Facing increased prices to haul recyclables, some cities and towns have drastically scaled back or even stopped their services. And yes, you guessed it: bales of recyclable materials are ending up in landfills or being incinerated.

< article continued at Slashdot's recycling-versus-reusing department >

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MongoDB Database Containing Over 275 Million Personal Records Exposed and Hacked
Posted by News Fetcher on May 11 '19 at 10:11 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's dangerous-defaults department:
"An unprotected and public-facing MongoDB database containing over 275 million records of personal information on Indian citizens has been discovered on search engine Shodan," writes Slashdot reader helpfulhecker.

BleepingComputer reports that the detailed personally identifiable information was exposed online for over two weeks:
Security Discovery researcher Bob Diachenko discovered the publicly accessible MongoDB database hosted on Amazon AWS using Shodan, and as historical data provided by the platform showed, the huge cache of PII data was first indexed on April 23, 2019. As he found out after further investigation, the exposed data included information such as name, gender, date of birth, email, mobile phone number, education details, professional info (employer, employment history, skills, functional area), and current salary for each of the database records.

While the unprotected MongoDB database leaked the sensitive information of hundreds of millions of Indians, Diachenko did not find any information that would link it to a specific owner. Additionally, the names of the data collections stored within the database suggested that the entire cache of resumes was collected "as part of a massive scraping operation" for unknown purposes.

Two months ago Diachenko also helped uncover over 800 million exposed email addresses in another unprotected MongoDB database. And in January an investigation with TechCrunch also discovered millions of highly sensitive financial documents from tens of thousands of individuals who took out loans or mortgages.

The same month Diachenko also discovered an exposed 854 gigabyte MongoDB database filled with resumes from over 200 million job-seekers in China.

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Does Recyling Work?
Posted by News Fetcher on May 11 '19 at 08:51 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's recycling-versus-reusing department:
"It's a complicated question," admits a New York sustainability advocate:
If an item in a bin of recyclable materials is greasy, covered in food or, in the case of paper goods, soaking wet, the entire bin is typically rejected and sent to the landfill or incinerated... While we want to do the right thing, most of us don't know all the rules. Can you recycle that greasy pizza box? (No.) Plastic bottle caps? (It depends on the municipality.) Cereal boxes? (It depends.) The list of questions goes on... And many times it's difficult to find the correct answer. So, while we're throwing items in the recycling bin or diligently bringing them to a recycling center, we may be merely "wish-cycling" -- hoping that these items will somehow be recycled. Wish-cycled items eventually get sent to the landfill or clog recycling plant machinery...

Remember -- Recycling is a business. Your recyclables are typically collected and processed by a private waste management company looking to make a profit. The materials are then assembled into massive bundles (bales) for sale. For many years, China was the main buyer of recyclable material. In 2018, however, China passed its National Sword policy that sets impossibly low contamination standards on 24 types of imported waste material. These new standards have caused a drastic decline in the market for recyclable materials. According to the New York Times, plastic scrap exports "valued at more than $300 million in 2015, totaled just $7.6 million in the first quarter of [2018], down 90% from a year earlier."

What does all this mean? Facing increased prices to haul recyclables, some cities and towns have drastically scaled back or even stopped their services. And yes, you guessed it: bales of recyclable materials are ending up in landfills or being incinerated.

< article continued at Slashdot's recycling-versus-reusing department >

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