By BeauHD from Slashdot's white-knuckle-ride department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Time: The amount of ice circling Antarctica is suddenly plunging from a record high to record lows, baffling scientists. Floating ice off the southern continent steadily increased from 1979 and hit a record high in 2014. But three years later, the annual average extent of Antarctic sea ice hit its lowest mark, wiping out three-and-a-half decades of gains -- and then some, a NASA study of satellite data shows. Serreze and other outside experts said they don't know if this is a natural blip that will go away or more long-term global warming that is finally catching up with the South Pole. Antarctica hasn't showed as much consistent warming as its northern Arctic cousin.
At the polar regions, ice levels grow during the winter and shrink in the summer. Around Antarctica, sea ice averaged 4.9 million square miles (12.8 million square kilometers) in 2014. By 2017, it was a record low of 4.1 million square miles (10.7 million square kilometers, according to the study in Monday's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Antarctic sea ice increased slightly in 2018, but still was the second lowest since 1979. Even though ice is growing this time of year in Antarctica, levels in May and June this year were the lowest on record, eclipsing 2017, according to the ice data center.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's going-back-to-the-stone-age department
On June 27, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan cybersecurity bill that will study ways to replace automated systems with low-tech redundancies to protect the country's electric grid from hackers. Called The Securing Energy Infrastructure Act (SEIA), the bill establishes a two-year pilot program identifying new security vulnerabilities and researching and testing solutions, including "analog and nondigital control systems." The U.S Department of Energy would be required to report back to Congress on its findings. Utility Drive reports: The increase in distributed energy resources can serve load more efficiently, but also offers potential attackers more potential entry points. "Our connectivity is a strength that, if left unprotected, can be exploited as a weakness," Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, who sponsored the bill with Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, said in a statement. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho cosponsored the bill. The House measure is being introduced by Reps. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., and John Carter, R-Texas.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's something-has-to-be-done department
Officials from Lake City, Florida, have fired an IT employee last week after the city was forced to approve a gigantic ransomware payment of nearly $500,000 last Monday. The employee, whose name was not released, was fired on Friday, according to local media reports, who cited the Lake City mayor. ZDNet reports: Lake City's IT network was infected with malware on June 10. The city described the incident as a "triple threat." In reality, an employee opened a document they received via email, which infected the city's network with the Emotet trojan, which later downloaded the TrickBot trojan, and later, the Ryuk ransomware. The latter spread to the city's entire IT network and encrypted files. Hackers eventually demanded a ransom to let the city regain access to its systems. The city's leadership approved a ransom payment last Monday, which was paid the next day, on Tuesday. The city's IT staff started decrypting files on the same day.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's sharing-is-caring department
carbonnation writes: As Spock so elegantly opined, "Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." Today Stanford U researchers presented the clearest proof to date that self-sacrifice can also benefit wind farms. In their demonstration at an Alberta wind farm, one turbine sacrifices a fifth of its generating potential to enable better performance by neighboring turbines, boosting the group's collective output. And all it takes to harness this altruistic behavior is a small (but intelligent) tweak to their control systems. "It is called 'wake steering' because rotors are turned about their towers to point slightly away from the oncoming wind and thus deflect their wakes away from downstream turbines," reports IEEE Spectrum. "To determine the best yaw angle for their experiment, the Stanford team fed five years of wind speed, wind direction and power generation data from the six test turbines to their proprietary optimization algorithm. Combining that data with a simple wind model, the algorithm projected that yawing each of the five upstream turbines about 20 degrees to the north would maximize the group's generation from the northwest winds."
Next, since the researchers couldn't reprogram the control systems running at Pincher Creek, they repositioned the direction-tracking wind vanes atop the turbines' nacelles during the 10-day test and thereby tricked the control system to turn 20 degrees off the wind. The results were significant: power generation rose 13 percent under 7-8 meters per second (mps) wind speeds. "Steering had a still greater impact amidst slower northwest winds by reducing the times when the wind hitting turbines fell below the 5 mps -- the threshold at which they automatically shut down," the report adds. "For 5-6 mps winds wake steering boosted generation by up to 47 percent."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's under-the-radar department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: Facebook has been exploited to act as a distribution platform for a set of Remote Access Trojans (RATs) for years, researchers say. According to Check Point Research, a "large-scale" campaign has been operating under Facebook's radar since at least 2014 throughout a campaign related to politics in Libya. The aim of the operation has been to spread RATs including Houdini, Remcos, and SpyNote. Tens of thousands of victims from Libya, Europe, the US, and China are believed to have been compromised. The threat actor behind the campaign has used the political turmoil in Libya to their advantage. Libya's National Army commander, Khalifa Haftar, has been impersonated for years and a page apparently operated by the public figure was actually a central point for the distribution of malware.
The page impersonating Haftar was created in April 2019 and has since attracted over 11,000 followers. Posts were shared with political themes and links claiming to share leaked intelligence reports and material, but if someone interested in Libyan politics clicked on the URLs, they would instead be sent to malicious content. Malicious VBE and WSF files for Windows machines, as well as malware-laden APK files for the mobile Android operating system, would then be downloaded and upon execution would install a Trojan. The malware was hosted on public services including Google Drive, Box, and Dropbox. The researchers say over 30 Facebook pages have been spreading approximately 40 malicious links since 2014 and one of them has over 100,000 followers. "In order to avoid any suspicion, the pages in question would also publish legitimate content, most commonly related to news in Libya," the report adds. "Occasionally, other content -- such as download links to fake applications for watching football matches for free or malicious VPN services -- would also be released." Facebook says they have taken down the pages for violating their policies.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's nightmare-ahead department
sciencehabit shares a report: The day that squeamish humans -- and exterminators -- have long feared may have come at last: Cockroaches are becoming invincible. Or at least German cockroaches (Blattella germanica) are, according to a new study. Researchers have found that these creatures, which have long been a prevalent urban pest, are becoming increasingly resistant to almost every kind of chemical insecticide. Not all insecticides are created equal. Some degrade the nervous system, whereas others attack the exoskeleton; they also have to be left out for varying amounts of time. But many insects, including cockroaches, have evolved resistance to at least one of the most commonly-used insecticides. And because cockroaches live only for about 100 days, that resistance can evolve quickly, with genes from the most resistant cockroaches being passed to the next generation.
To test resistance in German cockroaches, researchers treated three different colonies in multiple apartment buildings in Indiana and Illinois over the course of 6 months. The populations were tested for their level of resistance to three different insecticides: abamectin, boric acid, and thiamethoxam. One treatment used all three pesticides, one after another, for 3 months before repeating the cycle. In another treatment, researchers used a mixture of insecticides over the full 6 months. A final treatment scenario used just one chemical that the selected roach population had a low resistance to for the entire time. Regardless of the different treatments, the size of most of the cockroach populations didn't drop over time, the researchers wrote last month in Scientific Reports.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-to-put-things-to-rest department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Amazon's taxes have become a campaign issue. In last week's Democratic debates, two different candidates (Cory Booker and Andrew Yang) called out Amazon for paying $0 in federal income taxes last year, even after listing $4 billion in profits. Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and President Trump himself have brought up the same point at various points on the campaign trail, always directed at Amazon. In a CNN interview after the second debate, Bernie Sanders singled the company out as an example of a broken tax code, saying simply, "I'm going to tax them."
"We pay every penny we owe in corporate taxes including $2.6 billion over the past three years," Amazon said when reached for comment. "We've invested $270 billion in the US since 2010 and created more than 275,000 jobs." But there's an awkward truth behind the political back-and-forth: we don't know what Amazon's tax bill really is. Like every other company in America, Amazon's tax returns are private, legally considered to be a trade secret. We don't know which tax breaks they're taking, or how they've structured their finances to avoid various taxes in favor of others. If Amazon says its tax bill was lower because of investments, we simply have to take the company at its word.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department
Germany's cyber-security agency is working on a set of minimum rules that modern web browsers must comply with in order to be considered secure. From a report: The new guidelines are currently being drafted by the German Federal Office for Information Security (or the Bundesamt fur Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik -- BSI), and they'll be used to advise government agencies and companies from the private sector on what browsers are safe to use. A first version of this guideline was published in 2017, but a new standard is being put together to account for improved security measures added to modern browsers, such as HSTS, SRI, CSP 2.0, telemetry handling, and improved certificate handling mechanisms -- all mentioned in a new draft released for public debate last week. According to the BSI's new draft, to be considered "secure," a modern browser must follow the following requirements, among others: Must support TLS, must have a list of trusted certificates, must support extended validation (EV) certificates, must verify loaded certificates against a Certification Revocation List (CRL) or an Online Certificate Status Protocol (OCSP); the browser must use icons or color highlights to show when communications to a remote server is encrypted or in plaintext, connections to remote websites running on expired certificates must be allowed only after specific user approval; must support HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) (RFC 6797). Further reading: Germany and the Netherlands To Build the First Ever Joint Military Internet.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's what-America-will-dare,-America-will-do department
Gene Kranz may be the most famous flight director in NASA's history. He directed the actual landing portion of the first mission to put men on the moon, Apollo 11, and led Mission Control in saving the crew of Apollo 13 after an oxygen tank exploded on the way to the lunar surface. Now Kranz, 85, has completed another undertaking: the reopening of Mission Control at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. From a report: The room where Kranz directed some of NASA's most historic missions, heralding U.S. exploration of space, was decommissioned in 1992. Since then, it had become a stop on guided tours of the space center but had fallen into disrepair. Kranz led a $5 million multiyear effort to restore Mission Control in time for the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing on July 20.
"I walked into that room last Monday for the first time when it was fully operational, and it was dynamite. I literally wept," Kranz said in an interview with NPR. "The emotional surge at that moment was incredible. I walked down on the floor, and when we did the ribbon-cutting the last two days, believe it or not, I could hear the people talking in that room from 50 years ago. I could hear the controllers talking." The room also brought back memories for Kranz of a shared sense of purpose. "That group of people united in pursuit of a cause, and basically the result was greater than the sum of the parts. There was a chemistry that was formed," Kranz said. "[The room] also has a meaning related to the American psyche, that what America will dare, America will do," Kranz said.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
New documents obtained by Motherboard using a Freedom of Information request show how Amazon, Ring, a GPS tracking company, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service collaborated on a package sting operation with the Aurora, Colorado Police Department in December. From the report: The operation involved equipping fake Amazon packages with GPS trackers, and surveilling doorsteps with Ring doorbell cameras in an effort to catch someone stealing a package on tape. The documents show the design and implementation of a highly elaborate public relations stunt, which was designed both to endear Amazon and Ring with local law enforcement, and to make local residents fear the place they live. The parties were disappointed when the operation didn't result in any arrests. The Aurora Police Department received 25 Amazon boxes, Amazon-branded tape, and Amazon lithium ion stickers as a part of the operation. It also received 15 Ring doorbell cameras and 15 GL300W GPS trackers from 7P Solutions. "Operation Grinch Grab," as it was called internally, involved seven Aurora zip codes. These companies spent days with the Aurora Police Department preparing them for the operation, and discussing local news coverage and rewriting press releases.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's never-before department
The hospital technology, typically used to identify human ailments, captured perhaps the world's smallest magnetic resonance image. weiserfireman shares a report: Different microscopy techniques allow scientists to see the nucleotide-by-nucleotide genetic sequences in cells down to the resolution of a couple atoms as seen in an atomic force microscopy image. But scientists at the IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, Calif. and the Institute for Basic Sciences in Seoul, have taken imaging a step further, developing a new magnetic resonance imaging technique that provides unprecedented detail, right down to the individual atoms of a sample [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source]. The technique relies on the same basic physics behind the M.R.I. scans that are done in hospitals. When doctors want to detect tumors, measure brain function or visualize the structure of joints, they employ huge M.R.I. machines, which apply a magnetic field across the human body. This temporarily disrupts the protons spinning in the nucleus of every atom in every cell. A subsequent, brief pulse of radio-frequency energy causes the protons to spin perpendicular to the pulse. Afterward, the protons return to their normal state, releasing energy that can be measured by sensors and made into an image.
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By msmash from Slashdot's marching-forward department
From a blog post: For 25 years, the Robots Exclusion Protocol (REP) was only a de-facto standard. This had frustrating implications sometimes. On one hand, for webmasters, it meant uncertainty in corner cases, like when their text editor included BOM characters in their robots.txt files. On the other hand, for crawler and tool developers, it also brought uncertainty; for example, how should they deal with robots.txt files that are hundreds of megabytes large? Today, we announced that we're spearheading the effort to make the REP an internet standard. While this is an important step, it means extra work for developers who parse robots.txt files.
We're here to help: we open sourced the C++ library that our production systems use for parsing and matching rules in robots.txt files. This library has been around for 20 years and it contains pieces of code that were written in the 90's. Since then, the library evolved; we learned a lot about how webmasters write robots.txt files and corner cases that we had to cover for, and added what we learned over the years also to the internet draft when it made sense.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's growing-adoption department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Three and a half years ago, Mark Russinovich, Azure CTO, Microsoft's cloud, said, "One in four [Azure] instances are Linux." Next, in 2017, Microsoft revealed that 40% of Azure virtual machines (VM) were Linux-based. Then in the fall of 2018, Scott Guthrie, Microsoft's executive VP of the cloud and enterprise group, told me in an exclusive interview, "About half Azure VMs are Linux". Now, Sasha Levin, Microsoft Linux kernel developer, in a request that Microsoft be allowed to join a Linux security list, revealed that "the Linux usage on our cloud has surpassed Windows." Shocking you say? Not really. Linux is largely what runs enterprise computing both on in-house servers and on the cloud. Windows Server has been declining for years. In the most recent IDC Worldwide Operating Systems and Subsystems Market Shares report covering 2017, Linux had 68% of the market. Its share has only increased since then.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Border Gateway Protocol has served the internet well for decades. But when it goes wrong, you notice it. From a report: In a weeks-long stretch in 2014, hackers stole thousands of dollars a day in cryptocurrency from owners. In 2017, internet outages cropped up around the United States for hours. Last year, Google Cloud suffered hours of disruptions. Earlier this month, a large swath of European mobile data was rerouted through the state-backed China Telecom. And on Monday, websites and services around the world -- including the internet infrastructure firm Cloudflare -- experienced hours of outages. These incidents may sound different, but they actually all resulted from problems -- some accidental, some malicious -- with a fundamental internet routing system called the Border Gateway Protocol. The web is distributed, but it's also interconnected. It needs to be so that data can move around worldwide without all being controlled by a single entity. So every time you load a website or send an email, BGP is the system responsible for optimizing the route that data takes across these sprawling, intertwined networks. And when it goes wrong, the whole internet feels it.
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By msmash from Slashdot's growing-challenge department
Internships have long been an opportunity for inexperienced workers to try out different industries and build valuable contacts. For companies, it is a way to attract future talent. But increasingly interns are being asked to sign noncompete, nondisclosure and forced arbitration agreements, restrictions once reserved for higher-ranking employees [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled]. From a report: Advocates say legal covenants for interns help safeguard trade secrets such as customer lists in an era when it is easy to download information and share it, for instance on social media or with a competitor. But critics argue the agreements hamper young people's job opportunities and mobility even before they get a foot on the career ladder. [...] Ms. Dunne's [anecdote in the story] noncompete agreement stated that she couldn't work for a competitor in software or banking within 15 miles of Wilmington for a year after leaving TekMountain. Ms. Dunne said she was given the agreement on her first day. "I had no idea what I signed, they didn't explain it to me."
After leaving TekMountain, she did a separate three-month internship with nCino, a financial technology company in Wilmington. In a May 7 letter, TekMountain's parent, CastleBranch, laid out her obligations under the noncompete agreement, described the confidentiality of its proprietary information as "very serious," and asked for details about her relationship with nCino. Ms. Dunne said she didn't respond. The noncompete "eliminated a good portion of the companies in town in the industry I wanted to be in," said Ms. Dunne, who is relocating to the Washington, D.C., area for a new job. "I have to leave all of my friends behind and start over."Read Replies (0)