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Your Phone May Send You 'Blue Alerts' To Warn You When Local Police Are In Danger
Posted by News Fetcher on December 19 '17 at 04:22 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's for-you-information department:
The FCC recently announced a new alert program called "Blue Alert" that will notify the public of threats to law enforcement in real time. "With the creation of a dedicated Blue Alert event code in the Emergency Alert System, state and local law enforcement will have the capability to push immediate warnings out to the public via broadcast, cable, and satellite providers, as well as to consumer smartphones through the Wireless Emergency Alert system," reports Android Police. From the report: Much like both the SILVER and AMBER alert programs, and utilizing the same notification system, Blue Alerts aim to warn the general public of threats to public safety and/or imminent danger. However, the police force focused alert system provides timely information to the public when police officers may be in danger. Chairman of the FCC and recent deregulator of the internet, Ajit Pai detailed the new FCC order saying, "Similar to the Amber Alerts that many are familiar with, Blue Alerts will enable authorities to warn the public when there is actionable information related to a law enforcement officer who is missing, seriously injured or killed in the line of duty, or when there is an imminent credible threat to an officer." The December 14 order from the FCC activates the Blue Alerts service for one calendar year to deliver the notifications over the Emergency Alert System, and for 18 months over the Wireless Emergency Alert system.

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Microsoft Removes Google's Chrome Installer From the Windows Store
Posted by News Fetcher on December 19 '17 at 03:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's gone-in-the-blink-of-an-eye department:
Not too long after Google published a Chrome app in the Windows Store, Microsoft removed it, claiming it "violates our Microsoft Store policies." The Verge reports: Citing the need to ensure apps "provide unique and distinct value," Microsoft says "we welcome Google to build a Microsoft Store browser app compliant with our Microsoft Store policies." That's an invitation that Google is unlikely to accept. There are many reasons Google won't likely bring Chrome to the Windows Store, but the primary reason is probably related to Microsoft's Windows 10 S restrictions. Windows Store apps that browse the web must use HTML and JavaScript engines provided by Windows 10, and Google's Chrome browser uses its own Blink rendering engine. Google would have to create a special Chrome app that would adhere to Microsoft's Store policies. Most Windows 10 machines don't run Windows 10 S, so Google probably won't create a special version just to get its browser listed in the Windows Store. Google can't just package its existing desktop app into a Centennial Windows Store app, either. Microsoft is explicit about any store apps having to use the Edge rendering engine.

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'Loapi' Cryptocurrency Mining Malware Is Causing Phone Batteries To Bulge
Posted by News Fetcher on December 19 '17 at 03:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's too-hot-to-handle department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Newsweek: Security researchers have discovered a new form of powerful malware that secretly mines cryptocurrency on a person's smartphone, which can physically damage the device if it is not detected. Researchers from the Russia-based cybersecurity firm Kaspersky investigated the malware, dubbed Loapi, which they found hiding in applications in the Android mobile operating system. The malware works by hijacking a smartphone's processor and using the computing power to mine cryptocurrency -- the process of confirming cryptocurrency transactions by completing complex algorithms that generate new units of the currency. Loapi physically broke a test phone used to study the malware, after two days of the device being infected with it. "Because of the constant load caused by the mining module and generated traffic, the battery bulged and deformed the phone cover," the Kaspersky blog states.

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Chinese Backdoor Still Active on Many Android Devices
Posted by News Fetcher on December 19 '17 at 01:41 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department:
Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: Many Android users may still have a backdoor on their device, according to new revelations made today by the Malwarebytes' mobile security research team. Their discovery is related to the Adups case from last year. Back in mid-November 2016, US cyber-security firm Kryptowire revealed it discovered that firmware code created by a Chinese company called Adups was collecting vasts amount of user information and sending it to servers located in China. According to Kryptowire, the backdoor code was collecting SMS messages, call history, address books, app lists, phone hardware identifiers, but it was also capable of installing new apps or updating existing ones. The backdoor was hidden inside a built-in and unremovable app named com.adups.fota, the component responsible for the phone's firmware-over-the-air update (FOTA) system.

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'Productivity Is Dangerous'
Posted by News Fetcher on December 19 '17 at 01:41 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's perspective department:
Vincent Bevins, writing for The Outline: So every morning, I get messages asking me to click through to articles like "How I Optimized My Morning Routine To Get More Done Than ever -- before 8 a.m.!" The people posting links like this have a sickness, and we need to stop it before it gets out of hand. Of course, if you actually click through to this trash, it's a bit shocking to see what they actually do. Some guy is proud that he set aside his social life so that he could unleash four extremely psychologically damaging apps on the world by the age of 30. Or it's like, "Congratulate Lisa on her new job as advertising director for Nestle in Africa." Here's a productivity idea: Just, fucking, don't make shitty apps, or do advertising for Nestle, or really for anything. I often see shit like, "Ten Habits I Have QUIT to Get More Done," and I think, "Maybe quit writing posts like this." If you're waking up at 4 a.m. to write 1,000 words about how you write 1,000 words every day, what are you actually getting done? Just stay in bed. Whenever I am back in the Protestant centers of modern capitalism (New York or London, basically), it's especially jarring to remember what it feels like to treat being busy as if it were a virtue.

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Tesla Big Battery Outsmarts Lumbering Coal Units After Loy Yang Trips
Posted by News Fetcher on December 19 '17 at 12:21 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's next-level department:
The Tesla big battery is having a crucial impact on Australia's electricity market, far beyond the South Australia grid where it was expected to time shift a small amount of wind energy and provide network services and emergency back-up in case of a major problem. From a report: Last Thursday, one of the biggest coal units in Australia, Loy Yang A 3, tripped without warning at 1.59am, with the sudden loss of 560MW and causing a slump in frequency on the network. What happened next has stunned electricity industry insiders and given food for thought over the near to medium term future of the grid, such was the rapid response of the Tesla big battery to an event that happened nearly 1,000km away. Even before the Loy Yang A unit had finished tripping, the 100MW/129MWh had responded, injecting 7.3MW into the network to help arrest a slump in frequency that had fallen below 49.80Hertz.

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Apple Seems To Have Forgotten About the Whole 'It Just Works' Thing
Posted by News Fetcher on December 19 '17 at 12:21 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, writing for ZDNet: "It just works." This is the phrase that Steve Jobs trotted out year after year to describe products or services that he was unveiling. Well, Steve is now long gone, and so it the ethos of "it just works." 2017 was a petty bad year for Apple software quality. Just over the past few weeks we seen both macOS and iOS hit by several high profile bugs. And what's worse is that the fixes that Apple pushed out -- in a rushed manner -- themselves caused problems. A serious -- and very stupid -- root bug was uncovered in macOS. The patch that Apple pushed out for the root bug broke file sharing for some. Updating macOS to 10.13.1 after installing the root patch rolled back the root bug patch. iOS 11 was hit by a date bug that caused devices to crash when an app generated a notification, forcing Apple to prematurely release iOS 11.2. iOS 11.2 contained a HomeKit bug that broke remote access for shared users. And this is just a selection of the bugs that users have had to contend with over the past few weeks. And it's not just been limited to the past few weeks. There's no such thing as perfect code, and sometimes high-profile security vulnerabilities can result in patches being pushed out that are not as well tested as they could be. But on the other hand, Apple isn't some budget hardware maker pushing stuff out on a shoestring and scrabbling for a razor-thin profit margin.

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Geekbench Results Visualize Possible Link Between iPhone Slowdowns and Degraded Batteries
Posted by News Fetcher on December 19 '17 at 11:01 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's mystery-intensifies department:
Earlier this month a post on social media which suggested that Apple might be deliberately downgrading performance on iPhone models with degraded battery was widely circulated. Benchmark Primate Labs' Geekbench has looked into the matter and is corroborating the claims. From a report: Primate Labs founder John Poole has plotted the kernel density of Geekbench 4 scores for iPhone 6s models running iOS 10.2, iOS 10.2.1, and iOS 11.2, visualizing an apparent link between lower performance and degraded battery health. The charts show that on iOS 10.2, the vast majority of iPhone 6s devices benchmarked similarly in performance. However, Poole explains that the distribution of iPhone 6s scores for iOS 10.2.1 appears multimodal, with one large peak around the average and several smaller peaks around lower scores. In other words, after iOS 10.2.1 was released last January, the performance of a percentage of iPhone 6s devices began to suffer.

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Facebook Will Use Facial Recognition To Tell You When People Upload Your Picture
Posted by News Fetcher on December 19 '17 at 11:01 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's next-up department:
If someone uploads a photo of your face to Facebook, the company usually knows that it's you thanks to facial recognition technology. Now Facebook won't just know it's you -- it'll tell you about the photo, too. From a report: Facebook is expanding its use of facial recognition technology and will now alert people that a friend, or a friend of a friend, uploaded a photo of them, even if they haven't been tagged in the picture. If anyone uploads a profile picture that includes your face, Facebook will alert you of that, too. "We're doing this to prevent people from impersonating others on Facebook," the company wrote on its blog Tuesday.

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New York City Moves To Create Accountability For Algorithms
Posted by News Fetcher on December 19 '17 at 09:42 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's moving-forward department:
The algorithms that play increasingly central roles in our lives often emanate from Silicon Valley, but the effort to hold them accountable may have another epicenter: New York City. From a report: Last week, the New York City Council unanimously passed a bill to tackle algorithmic discrimination -- the first measure of its kind in the country. The algorithmic accountability bill, waiting to be signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio, establishes a task force that will study how city agencies use algorithms to make decisions that affect New Yorkers' lives, and whether any of the systems appear to discriminate against people based on age, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or citizenship status. The task force's report will also explore how to make these decision-making processes understandable to the public. The bill's sponsor, Council Member James Vacca, said he was inspired by ProPublica's investigation into racially biased algorithms used to assess the criminal risk of defendants. "My ambition here is transparency, as well as accountability," Vacca said.

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Belgium Ends 19th-Century Telegram Service
Posted by News Fetcher on December 19 '17 at 09:42 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's end-of-an-era department:
Belgium's telegram service is about to stop. From a report: One hundred and seventy-one years after the first electrical message was transmitted down a line running alongside the railway between Brussels and Antwerp the final dispatch will be sent and received on 29 December. The fact that this 19th-Century technology is still up and running in the age of Instagram and Snapchat may seem rather odd -- especially when you consider that the UK, which invented the telegram in the 1830s, abandoned it as long ago as 1982. The United States followed suit in 2006 and even India, which had been by far the world's biggest market for the telegram, finally closed its system down in 2013.

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A Small Fintech Stock Surged 2,600 Percent in a Week After Announcing It's a Crypto Company
Posted by News Fetcher on December 19 '17 at 08:21 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's not-the-onion department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: Fintech plus cryptocurrency equals about $7 billion. That's how much the value of LongFin surged to after the microcap's stock rocketed by as much as 2,600 percent since debuting Wednesday. Most of the gains came since Friday, when the company issued a press release saying it bought Ziddu.com, "a blockchain-empowered global micro-lending solutions provider" that transacts only in cryptocurrencies. LongFin joins a growing list of little-known companies that have seen their values soar after simply announcing plans to join the digital currency craze that's pushed the value of bitcoin past $300 billion. The microcap rallies are reminiscent of the height of the dot.com bubble, when virtually any company that put tech in its name found favor on the public markets.

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Microsoft Backs Bill To Give Harassment Cases Their Day in Court, Waives Its Own Arbitration Clauses
Posted by News Fetcher on December 19 '17 at 08:21 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's showing-the-way department:
Microsoft is throwing its weight behind a Senate bill that aims to ensure victims of workplace sexual harassment can make their case in court. In doing so, Microsoft has become the first Fortune 100 company to back the bipartisan effort to ensure that companies aren't able to keep such allegations from becoming public. From a report: The tech giant says it's also waiving its own arbitration requirements for harassment claims in the "small segment" of Microsoft employment contracts that contain them. Microsoft says it has never enforced an arbitration requirement in a sexual harassment case. However, the requirement does exist in employment contracts with some Microsoft corporate vice presidents, legal and corporate affairs employees, and company founders who joined Microsoft through acquisitions.

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US Says North Korea 'Directly Responsible' For WannaCry Ransomware Attack
Posted by News Fetcher on December 19 '17 at 07:02 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's pointing-fingers department:
The White House has publicly blamed North Korea for a ransomware attack in May that locked more than 300,000 computers in 150 countries. From a report: In an opinion piece published in The Wall Street Journal on Monday, Homeland security adviser Tom Bossert writes that after careful investigation, Washington can say that Pyongyang is "directly responsible" for the WannaCry virus. Bossert called the attack in which victims received ransom demands to unlock their computers "cowardly, costly and careless." "The consequences and repercussions of WannaCry were beyond economic," he wrote. "The malicious software hit computers in the U.K.'s health-care sector particularly hard, compromising systems that perform critical work. These disruptions put lives at risk." More details here.

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Think Twice About Buying Internet-connected Devices Off Ebay
Posted by News Fetcher on December 19 '17 at 07:02 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's know-what-you're-signing-up-for department:
If you're thinking about buying gadgets from auction sites such as Ebay, you will want to consider the potential risks. From a report: When you're buying from a third-party seller, it's a lot more difficult to tell where products have come from, whether you're getting exactly what you think you're getting, and if anything has been done to the product since it was manufactured. "It is possible for internet-connected devices to be tampered with and resold on the web," Leigh-Anne Galloway, lead cybersecurity resilience analyst at the cybersecurity firm Positive Technologies, told Quartz. "It's similar to buying a secondhand cellphone without it being restored to factory settings." In fact, buying a second hand gadget can potentially expose the user to some pretty extreme scenarios. "Cameras and IoT devices can contain spyware and malware, which can cause a plethora of problems for the user," Galloway added. "These devices could possibly listen to you, watch your every step, communicate with and attack other devices connected to the same local network, such as PCs, laptops, and TVs." Galloway said devices could also be used to perform botnet attacks -- where an unsecured internet-connected device is accessed by another computer and used along with other breached devices to take down websites or internet services, as what happened with the Mirai botnet attack in 2016.

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Internal FCC Report Shows Republican Net Neutrality Narrative Is False
Posted by News Fetcher on December 19 '17 at 05:40 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's false-alarm department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: A core Republican talking point during the net neutrality battle was that, in 2015, President Obama led a government takeover of the internet, and Obama illegally bullied the independent Federal Communications Commission into adopting the rules. In this version of the story, Ajit Pai's rollback of those rules Thursday is a return to the good old days, before the FCC was forced to adopt rules it never wanted in the first place. But internal FCC documents obtained by Motherboard using a Freedom of Information Act request show that the independent, nonpartisan FCC Office of Inspector General -- acting on orders from Congressional Republicans -- investigated the claim that Obama interfered with the FCC's net neutrality process and found it was nonsense. This Republican narrative of net neutrality as an Obama-led takeover of the internet, then, was wholly refuted by an independent investigation and its findings were not made public prior to Thursday's vote.

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Venezuela Will Force Bitcoin Miners To Register With the Government
Posted by News Fetcher on December 19 '17 at 03:00 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's violation-of-privacy department:
schwit1 shares a report from The Merkle: No one will be surprised to hear the Venezuelan government isn't too keen on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Since Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies can't be regulated or controlled by the government in any official capacity, they could damage the country's brittle economy even further. As a result, the government has imposed new rules for anyone mining cryptocurrency. To be more specific, all miners will now be taxed and required to register with the government. Being taxed is not entirely illogical, but the registration requirement is pretty worrisome, to say the least. The government shouldn't need to know who is doing what in regards to crypto trading and mining. Nevertheless, authorities want to know who is mining, where they are located, and what type of equipment they use. "That'll put food back on the shelves," adds schwit1.

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Scientists Confirm There Was Life On Earth 3.5 Billion Years Ago
Posted by News Fetcher on December 19 '17 at 12:21 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-kids-on-the-block department:
Paleobiologists have confirmed today that life forms existed some 3.5 billion years ago. The new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, uses the latest techniques to date the most aged remains available. Quartz reports: The research, led by paleobiologist William Schopf of the University of California-Los Angeles and geoscientist John Valley of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has been in the works for what seems a long time to most, but which the academics know is merely a blink of the eye in terms of life on Earth. The specimens in question, mostly now-extinct bacteria and microbes, were found in 1982 at the Apex Chert, a rock formation in Western Australia, in a piece of rock. In 1993, based on radiometric analyses of the rock, and the shape of fossils, Schopf dated them as biological beings that existed 3.45 billion years ago. The rock held the earliest direct evidence of life, Schopf thought, and inferred from it that creatures existed over a billion years earlier than anyone previously believed. But some scientists argued that this claim was too speculative and that the microfossils, invisible to the naked eye, were really just weirdly-shaped bits of rock, strange minerals that only seem to contain biological specimens but do not.

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Older Adults' Forgetfulness Tied To Faulty Brain Rhythms In Sleep, Study Says
Posted by News Fetcher on December 18 '17 at 08:20 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's faulty-wiring department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: Older brains may forget more because they lose their rhythm at night. During deep sleep, older people have less coordination between two brain waves that are important to saving new memories, a team reports in the journal Neuron. The finding appears to answer a long-standing question about how aging can affect memory even in people who do not have Alzheimer's or some other brain disease. The study was the result of an effort to understand how the sleeping brain turns short-term memories into memories that can last a lifetime, says Matt Walker, the author of the book Why We Sleep. "What is it about sleep that seems to perform this elegant trick of cementing new facts into the neural architecture of the brain?" To find out, Walker and a team of scientists had 20 young adults learn 120 pairs of words. "Then we put electrodes on their head and we had them sleep," he says. The electrodes let researchers monitor the electrical waves produced by the brain during deep sleep. They focused on the interaction between slow waves, which occur every second or so, and faster waves called sleep spindles, which occur more than 12 times a second. The next morning the volunteers took a test to see how many word pairs they could still remember. And it turned out their performance was determined by how well their slow waves and spindles had synchronized during deep sleep. Next, the team repeated the experiment with 32 people in their 60s and 70s. Their brain waves were less synchronized during deep sleep. They also remembered fewer word pairs the next morning. And, just like with young people, performance on the memory test was determined by how well their brain waves kept the beat, says Randolph Helfrich, an author of the new study and a postdoctoral fellow at UC Berkeley. The team also found a likely reason for the lack of coordination associated with aging: atrophy of an area of the brain involved in producing deep sleep. People with more atrophy had less rhythm in the brain, Walker says.

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WhatsApp Ordered To Stop Sharing User Data With Facebook
Posted by News Fetcher on December 18 '17 at 05:44 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's bad-intentions department:
France's privacy watchdog CNIL has ordered WhatsApp to stop sharing user data with its parent company Facebook. According to a public notice posted on the French website, WhatsApp has a month to comply with the order. The Verge reports: The query began after WhatsApp added to its terms of service last year that it shares data with Facebook to develop targeted advertising, security measures, and to gather business intelligence. Upon investigating these claims, the CNIL ruled that while WhatsApp's intention of improving security measures was valid, the app's business intelligence reason wasn't as acceptable. After all, WhatsApp never told its users it was collecting data for business intelligence and there's no way to opt out without uninstalling the app. That violates "the fundamental freedoms of users," said the CNIL.

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