By BeauHD from Slashdot's that's-a-first department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: For the first time, EU authorities have announced plans to recall a product from the European market because of a data privacy issue. The product is Safe-KID-One, a children's smartwatch produced by German electronics vendor ENOX. According to the company's website, the watch comes with a trove of features, such as a built-in GPS tracker, built-in microphone and speaker, a calling and SMS text function, and a companion Android mobile app that parents can use to keep track and contact their children. The product is what most parents regularly look in a modern smartwatch but in a RAPEX (Rapid Alert System for Non-Food Products) alert published last week and spotted by Dutch news site Tweakers, European authorities ordered a mass recall of all smartwatches from end users citing severe privacy lapses. "The mobile application accompanying the watch has unencrypted communications with its backend server and the server enables unauthenticated access to data," said authorities in the RAPEX alert. "As a consequence, the data such as location history, phone numbers, serial number can easily be retrieved and changed." On top of this, authorities also said that "a malicious user can send commands to any watch making it call another number of his choosing, can communicate with the child wearing the device or locate the child through GPS."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's good-on-you department
Grant Thompson, the teenager that reported the FaceTime bug last week, will be eligible for the Apple bug bounty program. "Apple's bug bounty system is typically invite-only and limited to specific categories of security flaws, like accessing iCloud account data or demonstrating ways for iPhone apps to escape the security sandbox of iOS," reports 9to5Mac. "It appears the company is making an exception here given the embarrassingly public nature of the case, although further details about the reward have yet to be discussed." From the report: The FaceTime bug that made waves as result of 9to5Mac's coverage last week was actually first reported to Apple by Grant Thompson and his mother in Arizona a week earlier. However, deficiencies in the Apple bug reporting process meant that the report was not acted upon by the company. Instead, the teenager made headlines when his mother shared their Apple communications on Twitter. Their claims were later proved to be legitimate.
Around January 22, Apple Support directed them to file a Radar bug report, which meant the mother had to first register a developer account as an ordinary customer. Even after following the indicated steps, it does not appear that Apple's product or engineering teams were aware of the problem until its viral explosion a week later. CNBC reports that an unnamed "high-level Apple executive" met with the Thompsons at their home in Tucson, Arizona on Friday. They apparently discussed how Apple could improve its bug reporting process and indicated that Grant would be eligible for the Apple bug bounty program.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cause-and-effect department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: Rising temperatures in the Himalayas, home to most of the world's tallest mountains, will melt at least one-third of the region's glaciers by the end of the century (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source) even if the world's most ambitious climate change targets are met, according to a report released Monday. If those goals are not achieved, and global warming and greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rates, the Himalayas could lose two-thirds of its glaciers by 2100, according to the report, the Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment. Under those more dire circumstances, the Himalayas could heat up by 8 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees Celsius) by century's end, bringing radical disruptions to food and water supplies, and mass population displacement. Glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalayan Region, which spans over 2,000 miles of Asia, provide water resources to around a quarter of the world's population. One of the most complete studies on mountain warming, the Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment was put together over five years by 210 authors. The report includes input from more than 350 researchers and policymakers from 22 countries.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's controversial-programs department
Google hired gig economy workers to help build out a controversial AI program that the company had paired with the Pentagon to build, according to a new report from The Intercept. "The workers were hired through a crowdsourcing gig company outfit called Figure Eight, which pays as little at $1 an hour for people to perform short, seemingly mindless tasks," reports The Verge. "Whether the individuals were identifying objects in CAPTCHA-like images, or other simple tasks, the workers were helping to train Google's AI that was created as part of a Defense Department initiative known as Project Maven." From the report: Project Maven is a Pentagon project intended to use machine learning and artificial intelligence in order to differentiate people and objects in thousands of hours of drone footage. By employing these crowdsourced microworkers, Google was able to use them to teach the algorithms it was running how to distinguish between human targets and surrounding objects. According to The Intercept, these workers had no idea who their work was benefitting or what they were building.
Figure Eight, which was previously known as Crowdflower, is one of the largest platforms that employs microworkers. On its website, Figure Eight says its platform "combines human intelligence at scale with cutting-edge models to create the highest quality training data for your machine learning (ML) projects." By partnering with these microworker outfits, Google could quickly and cheaply build out its AI. "You upload your data to our platform and we provide the annotations, judgments, and labels you need to create accurate ground truth for your models," the website reads. Google decided against renewing its contract with the Defense Department last June after over 3,000 employees signed a petition in protest of the company's involvement in Project Maven. The deal is set to end in March 2019.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's waiting-patiently department
The Electronic Frontier Foundation argues that police should not be allowed to force you to turn over your passcode or unlock your device. "The Fifth Amendment states that no one can be forced to be 'a witness against himself,' and we argue that the constitutional protection applies to forced decryption," writes the EFF. Last week, the non-profit digital rights group filed a brief making that case to the Indiana Supreme Court, which is set to decide if you can be forced to unlock your phone. From the report: The case began when Katelin Eunjoo Seo reported to law enforcement outside of Indianapolis that she had been the victim of a rape and allowed a detective to examine her iPhone for evidence. But the state never filed charges against Seo's alleged rapist, identified by the court as "D.S." (Courts often refer to minors using their initials.) Instead, the detective suspected that Seo was harassing D.S. with spoofed calls and texts, and she was ultimately arrested and charged with felony stalking. Along with a search warrant, the state sought a court order to force Seo to unlock her phone. Seo refused, invoking her Fifth Amendment rights. The trial court held her in contempt, but an intermediate appeals court reversed. When the Indiana Supreme Court agreed to get involved, it took the somewhat rare step of inviting amicus briefs. EFF got involved because, as we say in our brief filed along with the ACLU and the ACLU of Indiana, the issue in Seo is "no technicality; it is a fundamental protection of human dignity, agency, and integrity that the Framers enshrined in the Fifth Amendment."
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's big-day-for-Tesla department
Thelasko shares a report from Electrek: Tesla hasn't been known for making many acquisitions, but we've now learned that it has reached an agreement to acquire ultracapacitor and battery component manufacturer Maxwell based in California. The all-stock transaction worth over $200 million was announced by Maxwell this morning and we reached out to Tesla to confirm the news. [...] Tesla's acquisition of Maxwell might have little to do with ultracapacitors. The automaker might be more interested with Maxwell's dry electrode technology that they have been hyping recently. Maxwell claims that its electrode enables an energy density of over 300 Wh/kg in current demonstration cells and they see a path to over 500 Wh/kg. This would represent a significant improvement over current battery cells used by Tesla and enable longer range or lighter weight, but that's not even the most attractive benefit of Maxwell's dry electrode. They claim that it should simplify the manufacturing process and result in a "10 to 20% cost reduction versus state-of-the-art wet electrodes" while "extending battery Life up to a factor of 2." Many companies have been making similar claims about batteries. Tesla, specifically Elon and JB, have often complained that they couldn't verify those claims. If Tesla is willing to pay $200 million for Maxwell, I have to assume that they verified the claims and they believe the technology is applicable to their batteries. On a semi-related note, Tesla has also reached a deal with Electrify America to deploy Powerpacks at over 100 charging stations operated by the latter. "Demand charges, a higher rate that an electric utility charges when a user's electricity needs spike, are resulting in incredible costs for charging station operators," reports Electrek. "The use of energy storage at charging stations in order to shave the peak usage is a solution to those demand charges." "[Electrify America] announced today that they will deploy Tesla Powerpack systems consisting of 'a 210 kW battery system with roughly 350 kWh of capacity' at over 100 charging stations," the report says. "The system will be designed to be modular in order to increase the capacity if needed."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's heed-thy-warning department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Yoshua Bengio, a Canadian computer scientist who helped pioneer the techniques underpinning much of the current excitement around artificial intelligence, is worried about China's use of AI for surveillance and political control. Bengio, who is also a co-founder of Montreal-based AI software company Element AI, said he was concerned about the technology he helped create being used for controlling people's behavior and influencing their minds. Bengio, a professor at the University of Montreal, is considered one of the three "godfathers" of deep learning, along with Yann LeCun and Geoff Hinton. It's a technology that uses neural networks -- a kind of software loosely based on aspects of the human brain -- to make predictions based on data. It's responsible for recent advances in facial recognition, natural language processing, translation, and recommendation algorithms.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's no-good-very-bad-day department
A cryptocurrency exchange in Canada has lost control of at least $137 million of its customers' assets following the sudden death of its founder, who was the only person known to have access to the offline wallet that stored the digital coins. British Columbia-based QuadrigaCX is unable to access most or all of another $53 million because it's tied up in disputes with third parties. Ars Technica reports: The dramatic misstep was reported in a sworn affidavit that was obtained by CoinDesk. The affidavit was filed Thursday by Jennifer Robertson, widow of QuadrigaCX's sole director and officer Gerry Cotten. Robertson testified that Cotten died of Crohn's disease in India in December at the age of 30. Following standard security practices by many holders of cryptocurrency, QuadrigaCX stored the vast majority of its cryptocurrency holdings in a "cold wallet," meaning a digital wallet that wasn't connected to the Internet. The measure is designed to prevent hacks that regularly drain hot wallets of millions of dollars. Thursday's court filing, however, demonstrates that cold wallets are by no means a surefire way to secure digital coins. Robertson testified that Cotten stored the cold wallet on an encrypted laptop that only he could decrypt. Based on company records, she said the cold wallet stored $180 million in Canadian dollars ($137 million in US dollars), all of which is currently inaccessible to QuadrigaCX and more than 100,000 customers. "The laptop computer from which Gerry carried out the Companies' business is encrypted, and I do not know the password or recovery key," Robertson wrote. "Despite repeated and diligent searches, I have not been able to find them written down anywhere." The mismanaged cold wallet is only one of the problems besieging QuadrigaCX. Differences with at least three third-party partners has tied up most or all of an additional $53 million in assets. Making matters worse, many QuadrigaCX customers continued to make automatic transfers into the service following Cotten's death. On Monday, the site became inaccessible with little explanation, except for this status update, which was later taken down. On Thursday, QuadrigaCX said it would file for creditor protection as it worked to regain control of its assets. As of Thursday, the site had 115,000 customers with outstanding balances.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's first-major-Silicon-Valley-IPOs-of-the-year department
Slack, the cloud-based messaging platform, has confidentially filed with regulators to go public in the U.S. "[Slack], previously reported to be pursuing a direct listing of its stock, said in a statement Monday that it had submitted a confidential filing with the [SEC]," reports Bloomberg. "Slack is working with Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Allen & Co. on the share sale." From the report: Slack plans to forgo a traditional initial public offering and instead intends to sell its shares to bidders in a direct listing, a person familiar with the matter said last month. While that would preclude the company from raising money by issuing new shares for sale, it would avoid some typical underwriting fees and allow current investors to sell shares without a lock-up period. The company is choosing the unusual method for going public because it doesn't need the cash or publicity of an IPO, the person said at the time. The share sale, which might take place toward mid-year, could value Slack at more than $7 billion, according to the person, who added that the San Francisco-based company's plans could still change.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
An anonymous reader shares a report: By 2050 there will be 9 billion carbon-burning, plastic-polluting, calorie-consuming people on the planet. By 2100, that number will balloon to 11 billion, pushing society into a Soylent Green scenario. Such dire population predictions aren't the stuff of sci-fi; those numbers come from one of the most trusted world authorities, the United Nations. But what if they're wrong? Not like, off by a rounding error, but like totally, completely goofed?
That's the conclusion Canadian journalist John Ibbitson and political scientist Darrel Bricker come to in their newest book, Empty Planet, due out February 5th. After painstakingly breaking down the numbers for themselves, the pair arrived at a drastically different prediction for the future of the human species. "In roughly three decades, the global population will begin to decline," they write. "Once that decline begins, it will never end." But Empty Planet is not a book about statistics so much as it is about what's driving the choices people are making during the fastest period of change in human history.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
It might look dangerous, but flames have kept switches moving and rails intact for a century. From a report: As if the horrors of the polar vortex were not already enough -- temperatures that look like typos, Canada Goose robbers, and something called frost quakes -- the nation's railroad system took a turn for the apocalyptic this week, too. Rails broke in three different places between Baltimore and Washington on Thursday, causing severe delays. Amtrak canceled dozens of trains passing through Chicago, and viral videos appeared to show commuter tracks in the city on fire. Of course, the tracks themselves were not burning -- they are made out of steel, prized for its tendency to rarely go up in flames. But the sight is still dramatic. The videos of the fires in Chicago last week show flames smoldering in patches of melted snow around the tracks.
Fires have been employed on railroads -- and remained the preferred fix for many a winter hazard -- for most of their roughly two-century history. While railroads have developed impressive tools for dealing with snow on the tracks, extreme temperatures remain a challenge. Though steel is flame-resistant, it's subject to cold, which can jam up railroads' many moving parts. When cold weather does wreak havoc on railroads, lighting fires on train tracks can serve a couple of uses. One is to thaw the switches that determine which track a train goes down, which is what Metra, the Chicagoland commuter-rail authority, said was going on this week. Switches are moving parts, and if ice gets into them, they can freeze in place. There are various types of switch heaters, which might use electric current or gas to melt ice -- or even an open gas flame, which is what's appearing in the Metra videos. Where there aren't switch heaters, crews might use temporary torchlike devices with a flame, the railroad equivalent of the smudge pots farmers use to keep citrus groves and apple orchards from freezing on cold nights.Read Replies (0)