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Businesses May No Longer Sue Customers Over Negative Reviews
Posted by News Fetcher on December 15 '16 at 02:17 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's thanks-Obama department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Next Web: A few months I wrote about the Consumer Review Fairness Act. In a nutshell, this offers legal protections to consumers who leave negative reviews on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor. You can now call out the restaurant who gave you food poisoning, or a bed-bug infested hotel without the risk of being dragged into a civil court. The long-overdue bill explicitly bans non-disparagement clauses in contracts between businesses and patrons. Over the years, there's been a rash of people getting sued after speaking their mind online. Today, President Obama signed off on the Consumer Review Fairness Act. It's now law. As great as this is for consumers, it's even better for the likes of TripAdvisor and Yelp, whose business model relies on people being able to speak their minds.

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Verizon Changes Its Mind and Will Kill Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 on January 5th
Posted by News Fetcher on December 15 '16 at 02:17 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's change-in-heart department:
Verizon has just announced that it plans to roll out Samsung's upcoming Note 7 update, which permanently stops the recalled smartphone from charging and disables its wireless radios, on January 5th. Only last week, the leading US carrier took a controversial stance when it said it would "not be taking part in this update because of the added risk this could pose to Galaxy Note 7 users that do not have another device to switch to." From a report on The Verge: The company was particularly concerned about nuking the Note 7 during the holiday travel season, something that its US rivals also seemed to take into consideration when scheduling a roll-out date for the update. AT&T is waiting until the very same day. Sprint will release it on January 8th. And T-Mobile's going first among major US carriers on December 27th. Verizon still seems to think it's making the right decision pushing things off a bit for the same reasons. "We want to make sure you can contact family, first responders, and emergency medical professionals during the holiday travel season."

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Microsoft Taps Here and TomTom To Expand Into Connected Data
Posted by News Fetcher on December 15 '16 at 12:53 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's joining-forces department:
You can't build a good self-driving car without good maps. Microsoft seems to realize this, and it's teaming up with TomTom and Here to ensure the next generation of cars comes with some quality maps. From a report: Integrating the two companies' maps, traffic data and navigation software into Azure, Microsoft hopes to support developers looking to build and manage 'location aware' mobile, web and IoT applications. Speaking of the new deal, TomTom CEO Harold Goddijn noted how location services are rapidly becoming a critical component in a wide range of applications and enterprise-grade solutions. He said that the Microsoft partnership would help to extend the TomTom technology to a wider developer community, over a cloud platform they are already familiar working with. Peggy Johnson, EVP of Business Development at Microsoft added: 'Making TomTom's services available through the Microsoft Azure cloud platform will allow developers and our customers to make location a core part of their cloud-based applications..." Netherlands-based TomTom already supplies location services and real-time traffic data to many global tech companies. Notably, it has partnered with Apple Maps since 2012 and has also held a contract with Uber since the beginning of 2015.

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Fitbit Won't Kill Off Pebble Services At Least Until 2018
Posted by News Fetcher on December 15 '16 at 12:53 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's buying-more-time department:
Earlier this week, Fitbit announced that it was buying up the assets of smartwatch maker Pebble, and a lot of questions still exist around exactly how Pebble's existing products will work. Today a member of Pebble's developer team attempted to address some of those questions. From a report on The Next Web: In a blog post, it noted that it will keep Pebble software and services running through 2017. Jon Barlow, who was previously on Pebble's Developer Evangelist team and is now part of Fitbit's transition effort, wrote: "To be clear, no one on this freshly-formed team seeks to brick Pebble watches in active service. The Pebble SDK, CloudPebble, Timeline APIs, firmware availability, mobile apps, developer portal, and Pebble appstore are all elements of the Pebble ecosystem that will remain in service at this time. Pebble developers are welcome to keep creating and updating apps. Pebble users are free to keep enjoying their watches."

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Facebook Is Clamping Down On Fake News, Partners With Fact Checkers To Flag Stories
Posted by News Fetcher on December 15 '16 at 11:35 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's fighting-fake-news department:
After weeks of criticism over its role in spreading fake news during and after the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, Facebook said today it is taking concrete steps to halt the sharing of hoaxes on its platform. From a report on Slate: The company announced on Thursday several new features designed to identify, flag, and slow the spread of false news stories on its platform, including a partnership with third-party fact-checkers such as Snopes and PolitiFact. It is also taking steps to prevent spammers and publishers from profiting from fake news. The new features are relatively cautious and somewhat experimental, which means they may not immediately have the intended effects. But they signal a new direction for a company that has been extremely reticent to take on any editorial oversight of the content posted on its platform. And they are likely to evolve over time as the company tests and refines them. First, it's trying to make it easier for users to report fake news stories. The drop-down menu at the top right of each post in your feed will now include an explicit option to report it as a "fake news story," after which you'll be prompted to choose among multiple options, which include notifying Facebook and messaging the person who shared it.

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Verizon Explores Lower Price or Even Exit From Yahoo Deal
Posted by News Fetcher on December 15 '16 at 11:35 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's in-the-aftermath department:
Verizon is reconsidering its $4.8 billion purchase of Yahoo, according to Bloomberg. Citing a source, the publication claims that Wednesday's announcement by Yahoo -- theft of info from one billion users -- has led Verizon to consider scrapping the deal entirely. From the report: While a Verizon group led by AOL Chief Executive Officer Tim Armstrong is still focused on integration planning to get Yahoo up and running, another team, walled off from the rest, is reviewing the breach disclosures and the company's options, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing private information. A legal team led by Verizon General Counsel Craig Silliman is assessing the damage from the breaches and is working toward either killing the deal or renegotiating the Yahoo purchase at a lower price, the person said. One of the major objectives for Verizon is negotiating a separation from any future legal fallout from the breaches. Verizon is seeking to have Yahoo assume any lasting responsibility for the hack damage, the person said.

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China Takes Action On Thousands Of Websites For 'Harmful', Obscene Content
Posted by News Fetcher on December 15 '16 at 10:04 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's purifying-the-internet department:
China has shut down or "dealt with" thousands of websites for sharing "harmful" erotic or obscene content since April, the state's office for combating pornography and illegal publications announced on Thursday. From a report on Reuters: The office said 2,500 websites were prosecuted or shut down and more than 3 million "harmful" posts were deleted in eight months up to December during a drive to "purify" the internet in China and protect youth, the official Xinhua news agency reported. The government has tightening its grip on Chinese cyberspace in recent months, in particular placing new restrictions on the fast-growing live-streaming industry. The state has a zero-tolerance approach to what it considers lewd, smutty or illegal content and has in past crackdowns removed tens of thousands of websites in a single year.

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Uber: We Don't Need a Permit For Self-Driving Cars
Posted by News Fetcher on December 15 '16 at 10:04 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's bending-the-rules department:
Uber has a simple approach to business: Don't ask for permission, but be prepared to seek forgiveness. Its foray into self-driving cars in California is no different. From a report on CNET: Confirming news that CNET broke Tuesday, the ride-hailing company officially announced Wednesday that it's rolling out a fleet of self-driving cars to passengers in San Francisco, making California only the second state in which Uber offers such services. But Uber didn't run the plan past the California Department of Motor Vehicles, which requires a permit for such cars. Now, the DMV told Uber to cut it out... or else. "It is illegal for the company to operate its self-driving vehicles on public roads until it receives an autonomous vehicle testing permit," the DMV wrote in a letter to Uber on Wednesday. "Any action by Uber to continue the operation of vehicles equipped with autonomous technology on public streets in California must cease." [...] The DMV warned Uber a month ago that it needed a permit to operate self-driving cars in the state, according to Brian Soublet, the department's chief legal counsel, who held a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. Soublet said he told the company the same thing Tuesday before its launch. But Uber didn't appear to listen. "We understand that there is a debate over whether or not we need a testing permit to launch self-driving Ubers in San Francisco," Anthony Levandowski, Uber's vice president of self-driving technology, wrote in a blog post Wednesday. "We have looked at this issue carefully and we don't believe we do."

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Instagram Has Doubled Its Monthly Active User Base in Two Years
Posted by News Fetcher on December 15 '16 at 08:43 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's growth department:
It appears that the rise of Snapchat and all its Spectacles fun have yet to slow Instagram's growth: the Facebook-owned company today announced that it has reached 600 million monthly active users, doubling its figure from 2014. From a report on The Verge: Of that statistic, 100 million monthly active users were added in the past six months -- Instagram's last milestone announcement was back in June of this year. Since then, Instagram introduced one of its biggest feature to date: Instagram Stories, a near-carbon copy of Snapchat. It also added the ability to delete followers from your private account and filter out abusive words this month, alongside an ephemeral live video function to users in the US.

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Twitter Built a Messaging App But Never Released It
Posted by News Fetcher on December 15 '16 at 08:43 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's interesting-moves department:
Twitter spent more than a year building a stand-alone instant messaging app that never ended up seeing the light of day. The product -- which provided a single interface for tweets and instant messages -- was built by Twitter's Indian engineering team at its office in Bengaluru, reports BuzzFeed News. The company shelved the app when it shut down its engineering center in the country in September, according to sources familiar with the matter who spoke to BuzzFeed News. The app was envisioned as a tool to ease new users on to Twitter's flagship platform. It did this by allowing users to subscribe to groups based around topics such as news, politics, and sports. The people within the groups could chat among themselves, and subscribe to additional accounts, pulling their tweets into the conversation. This kind of functionality is already available in Slack channels, and was tested in Facebook's now-defunct Rooms app (which itself may be making a comeback, if recent reports are to be believed).

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Donald Trump To Tech Leaders: 'No Formal Chain Of Command' Here
Posted by News Fetcher on December 15 '16 at 07:23 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's meeting-the-president-elect department:
A confab of tech titans had a "productive" meeting with President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower on Wednesday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told CNBC, as Trump moved to mend fences with Silicon Valley before taking office in January. Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Intel, Oracle, IBM, Cisco and Tesla were among the C-suite executives in attendance, with Apple CEO Tim Cook and Tesla CEO Elon Musk expected to get private briefings, according to transition staff. From the report: "We want you to keep going with the incredible innovation," Trump said. "There's no one like you in the world. ... anything we can do to help this go along, we're going to be there for you. You can call my people, call me -- it makes no difference -- we have no formal chain of command around here." At the meeting, Trump introduced billionaire Wilbur Ross, his Commerce secretary pick, and Goldman Sachs executive Gary Cohn, his choice for director of the National Economic Council. "They're going to do fair trade deals," Trump said. "They're going to make it easier for you to trade across borders, because there are a lot of restrictions, a lot of problems. If you have any ideas on that, that would be great."

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Another One Bites the Dust: Cisco Discontinues Its $1B Cloud Initiative as AWS, Azure and Others Expand
Posted by News Fetcher on December 15 '16 at 07:23 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's curious-case-of-cloud-services department:
Cisco will abandon its InterCloud cloud-computing offering on March 31 and will move any InterCloud workloads to other, unnamed cloud providers, including "in some cases, public cloud." From a report on GeekWire: Cisco's pull-back from the cloud scene marks the latest example of smaller participants -- many of them hardware-makers -- bailing in the face of huge growth by Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, and to some extent by Google Cloud, IBM and other, smaller public-cloud services. Hewlett-Packard in 2015 abandoned its efforts to be a public-cloud company. Then, Hewlett-Packard Enterprises essentially shut down its much-ballyhooed Helion cloud offering earlier this year. VMware still offers its vCloud Air hybrid-cloud service, though it has agreed to partner with AWS, which it once viewed as its arch-rival for cloud workloads. "We do not expect any material customer issues as a result of this transition," Cisco said in response to a request for comment. "For the last several months, we have been evolving our cloud strategy and our service provider partners are aware of this."

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Iceland Seeking 'Supercritical Steam' For Power Source
Posted by News Fetcher on December 15 '16 at 06:01 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's whole-new-ball-game department:
New submitter FatdogHaiku writes: Already getting over 25% of its electrical power from geothermal sources, Iceland hopes to break new ground using "supercritical steam" from a 5 km deep borehole. Is it just me, or does this sound like the start of a movie where everything that can go wrong does in fact go wrong? It's not like they are new to the tech, but working with geologic sources at 450C to ~600C is a new ball game for anyone. It should be noted that Iceland also uses direct geothermal for most of its space heating. "In this area at Reykjanes, we typically drill to 2km or 3km depth to harness the steam, to run power plants and produce clean, renewable electricity," explained Asgeir Margeirsson, CEO of the Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP). "We want to see if the resources go deeper than that." The "supercritical steam" holds more energy than a liquid or a gas. The team wants to bring it up to the surface to convert into electricity, as they believe it could produce up to 10 times as much energy as the steam from conventional geothermal wells.

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Lack of Penis Bone In Humans Linked To Monogamous Relationships and Quick Sex, Study Says
Posted by News Fetcher on December 15 '16 at 03:12 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's birds-and-the-bees department:
The penis bone can be as long as a finger in a monkey and two feet long in a walrus, but the human male has lost it completely. According to a new report published in Proceedings of the Royal Society, the lack of a penis bone in human males may be a consequence of monogamy and quick sex. The Guardian reports: Known as the baculum to scientists with an interest, the penis bone is a marvel of evolution. It pops up in mammals and primates around the world, but varies so much in terms of length and whether it is present at all, that it is described as the most diverse bone ever to exist. Prompted by the extraordinary differences in penis bone length found in the animal kingdom, scientists set out to reconstruct the evolutionary story of the baculum, by tracing its appearance in mammals and primates throughout history. They found that the penis bone evolved in mammals more than 95 million years ago and was present in the first primates that emerged about 50 million years ago. From that moment on, the baculum became larger in some animals and smaller in others. Kit Opie who ran the study with Matilda Brindle at University College London, said that penis bone length was longer in males that engaged in what he called "prolonged intromission." In plain English, that means that the act of penetration lasts for more than three minutes, a strategy that helps the male impregnate the female while keeping her away from competing males. The penis bone, which attaches at the tip of the penis rather than the base, provides structural support for male animals that engage in prolonged intromission. Humans may have lost their penis bones when monogamy emerged as the dominant reproductive strategy during the time of Homo erectus about 1.9 million years ago, the scientists believe. In monogamous relationships, the male does not need to spend a long time penetrating the female, because she is not likely to be leapt upon by other amorous males. That, at least, is the theory.

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The Pirate Bay, BitTorrent Websites To Be Blocked In Australia, Federal Court Rules
Posted by News Fetcher on December 15 '16 at 12:23 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's copyright-infringing department:
New submitter AnonymousCube writes: The Federal Court has made a ruling that will result in internet access for Australians being censored. Five websites are to be blocked after being deemed to be copyright infringing, most notable of which is The Pirate Bay. Internet service providers are given the choice of how they will implement blocking, but the result will be that when a user visits a blocked site they will be redirected to a warning page telling them the site cannot be accessed. Other sites being blocked are the BitTorrent websites Torrentz, TorrentHound, and IsoHunt, and the streaming service SolarMovie.

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Twitter Cut Out of Trump Tech Meeting Over Failed Emoji Deal, Says Report
Posted by News Fetcher on December 14 '16 at 08:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's deal-or-no-deal department:
According to Politico, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was "bounced" from Wednesday's meeting between tech executives and President-elect Donald Trump in retribution for refusing during the campaign to allow an emoji version of the hashtag #CrookedHillary. Trump's adviser Sean Spicer denied the report, saying "the conference table was only so big." Politico reports: Twitter was one of the few major U.S. tech companies not represented at Wednesday afternoon's Trump Tower meeting attended by, among others, Apple's Tim Cook, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg, and Tesla's Elon Musk -- an omission all the more striking because of Trump's heavy dependence on the Twitter platform. Trump's campaign also made a $5 million deal with Twitter before the election, in which the campaign committed "to spending a certain amount on advertising and in exchange receive discounts, perks, and custom solutions," the campaign's director of digital advertising and fund raising, Gary Coby, wrote in a Medium post last month. So the campaign objected when the company refused to allow the anti-Clinton emoji. Coby wrote that Dorsey personally intervened to block the Trump operation from deploying the emoji, which would have shown, in various renderings, small bags of money being given away or stolen. That emoji would have been offered to users as a replacement for the hashtag #CrookedHillary, a preferred Trump insult for his Democratic opponent. Spicer also objected to the company's refusal, telling the Washington Examiner in October that "while Twitter claims to be a venue that promotes the free exchange of ideas, it's clear that it's leadership's left wing ideology literally trumps that." POLITICO's source said Spicer, who's also the Republican National Committee spokesman, was the one who made the call to refuse an invitation to Dorsey or other Twitter executives to Wednesday's meeting.

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Newly Uncovered Site Suggests NSA Exploits For Direct Sale
Posted by News Fetcher on December 14 '16 at 05:36 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's buy-one-get-one department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: The Shadow Brokers -- a hacker or group of hackers that stole computer exploits from the National Security Agency -- has been quiet for some time. After their auction and crowd-funded approach for selling the exploits met a lukewarm reception, the group seemingly stopped posting new messages in October. But a newly uncovered website, which includes a file apparently signed with The Shadow Brokers' cryptographic key, suggests the group is trying to sell hacking tools directly to buyers one by one, and a cache of files appears to include more information on specific exploits. On Wednesday, someone calling themselves Boceffus Cleetus published a Medium post called "Are the Shadow Brokers selling NSA tools on ZeroNet?" Cleetus, who has an American flag with swastikas as their profile picture, also tweeted the post from a Twitter account created this month. The site includes a long list of supposed items for sale, with names like ENVOYTOMATO, EGGBASKET, and YELLOWSPIRIT. Each is sorted into a type, such as "implant," "trojan," and "exploit," and comes with a price tag between 1 and 100 bitcoins ($780 -- $78,000). Customers can purchase the whole lot for 1000 bitcoins ($780,000). The site also lets visitors download a selection of screenshots and files related to each item. Along with those is a file signed with a PGP key with an identical fingerprint to that linked to the original Shadow Brokers dump of exploits from August. This newly uncovered file was apparently signed on 1 September; a different date to any of The Shadow Brokers' previously signed messages.

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Malvertising Campaign Infects Your Router Instead of Your Browser
Posted by News Fetcher on December 14 '16 at 05:36 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's connected-devices department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer: Malicious ads are serving exploit code to infect routers, instead of browsers, in order to insert ads in every site users are visiting. Unlike previous malvertising campaigns that targeted users of old Flash or Internet Explorer versions, this campaign focused on Chrome users, on both desktop and mobile devices. The malicious ads included in this malvertising campaign contain exploit code for 166 router models, which allow attackers to take over the device and insert ads on websites that didn't feature ads, or replace original ads with the attackers' own. Researchers haven't yet managed to determine an exact list of affected router models, but some of the brands targeted by the attackers include Linksys, Netgear, D-Link, Comtrend, Pirelli, and Zyxel. Because the attack is carried out via the user's browser, using strong router passwords or disabling the administration interface is not enough. The only way users can stay safe is if they update their router's firmware to the most recent versions, which most likely includes protection against the vulnerabilities used by this campaign. The "campaign" is called DNSChanger EK and works when attackers buy ads on legitimate websites and insert malicious JavaScript in these ads, "which use a WebRTC request to a Mozilla STUN server to determine the user's local IP address," according to BleepingComputer. "Based on this local IP address, the malicious code can determine if the user is on a local network managed by a small home router, and continue the attack. If this check fails, the attackers just show a random legitimate ad and move on. For the victims the crooks deem valuable, the attack chain continues. These users receive a tainted ad which redirects them to the DNSChanger EK home, where the actual exploitation begins. The next step is for the attackers to send an image file to the user's browser, which contains an AES (encryption algorithm) key embedded inside the photo using the technique of steganography. The malicious ad uses this AES key to decrypt further traffic it receives from the DNSChanger exploit kit. Crooks encrypt their operations to avoid the prying eyes of security researchers."

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Most Businesses Pay Ransomware Demands, IBM Finds
Posted by News Fetcher on December 14 '16 at 04:12 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's give-into-demands department:
According to an IBM Security report released on December 14, 70 percent of businesses impacted by ransomware end up paying the attackers. The amount varies but a majority of business respondents said they paid tens of thousands of dollars. eWeek reports: The 23-page IBM Security study surveyed 600 business leaders and 1,021 consumers in the U.S. 46 percent of business respondents reported that they had experienced ransomware in their organizations. Of the 46 percent that have been impacted by ransomware, 70 percent admitted that their organization paid the ransom. The amount paid to ransomware attackers varies, but of those business respondents that paid a ransom, 20 percent paid over $40,000, 25 percent paid between $20,000 and $40,000 and 11 percent paid between $10,00 to $20,000. On the consumer side, IBM's study found that the propensity to pay a ransom varies depending on whether or not the victim is a parent. 55 percent of consumers that identified themselves as being parents said they would pay a ransom to recover access to photos that had been encrypted, versus only 39 percent for consumers that don't have children. In an effort to help organizations respond quickly to ransomware threats, IBM's Resilient Incident Response Platform (IRP) is being enhanced with a new Dynamic Playbook for ransomware. Ted Julian, Vice President of Product Management and Co-Founder at Resilient, an IBM Company, explained that the basic idea behind the Dynamic Playbooks is to help provide organizations with an automated workflow or 'playbook' for how to deal with a particular security incident.

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Microsoft Xbox One and Windows 10 Getting Dolby Atmos Surround Sound
Posted by News Fetcher on December 14 '16 at 04:12 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's three-dimensional-space department:
BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: When people think of the technology behind video games and movies, they often just focus on the visuals. True, when creating an immersive experience, the video is probably the most important aspect from a technological perspective. With that said, audio quality is very important too. Today, Microsoft announces that both Xbox One And Windows 10 will be getting Dolby Atmos support in future updates. If you aren't familiar, it is a surround sound technology with a focus on immersion. Don't have compatible audio hardware? Don't worry -- the Windows-maker is promising a "virtual" Atmos experience too. Larry Hryb, Xbox Live's Major Nelson said in a statement, "Xbox will be the first game console to feature Dolby Atmos and game developers are excited about using the new capabilities to make their games richer and more engaging. Atmos support for the Blu-ray app on Xbox is already available in Preview and will be released to GA soon -- and we're very excited now to offer Atmos support to games on Xbox One and Windows 10."

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