By BeauHD from Slashdot's irony-at-its-finest department
schwit1 shares an exclusive report via BuzzFeed: The fingerprint-analysis software used by the FBI and more than 18,000 other U.S. law enforcement agencies contains code created by a Russian firm with close ties to the Kremlin, according to documents and two whistleblowers. The allegations raise concerns that Russian hackers could gain backdoor access to sensitive biometric information on millions of Americans, or even compromise wider national security and law enforcement computer systems. The Russian code was inserted into the fingerprint-analysis software by a French company, said the two whistleblowers, who are former employees of that company. The firm -- then a subsidiary of the massive Paris-based conglomerate Safran -- deliberately concealed from the FBI the fact that it had purchased the Russian code in a secret deal, they said. The Russian company whose code ended up in the FBI's fingerprint-analysis software has Kremlin connections that should raise similar national security concerns, said the whistleblowers, both French nationals who worked in Russia. The Russian company, Papillon AO, boasts in its own publications about its close cooperation with various Russian ministries as well as the Federal Security Service -- the intelligence agency known as the FSB that is a successor of the Soviet-era KGB and has been implicated in other hacks of U.S. targets.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's behind-the-scenes department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: If you've read our coverage of the Electronic Frontier Foundation's "Stupid Patent of the Month" series, you know America has a patent quality problem. People apply for patents on ideas that are obvious, vague, or were invented years earlier. Too often, applications get approved and low-quality patents fall into the hands of patent trolls, creating headaches for real innovators. Why don't more low-quality patents get rejected? A recent paper published by the Brookings Institution offers fascinating insights into this question. Written by legal scholars Michael Frakes and Melissa Wasserman, the paper identifies three ways the patent process encourages approval of low-quality patents:
-The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is funded by fees -- and the agency gets more fees if it approves an application.
-Unlimited opportunities to refile rejected applications means sometimes granting a patent is the only way to get rid of a persistent applicant.
-Patent examiners are given less time to review patent applications as they gain seniority, leading to less thorough reviews.
None of these observations is entirely new. But what sets Frakes and Wasserman's work apart is that they have convincing empirical evidence for all three theories. They have data showing that these features of the patent system systematically bias it in the direction of granting more patents. Which means that if we reformed the patent process in the ways they advocate, we'd likely wind up with fewer bogus patents floating around.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's technical-difficulties department
According to The Wall Street Journal, Nintendo is pushing back the introduction of larger 64GB game cards for the Switch. Nintendo had planned to make them available during the second half of 2018, but has reportedly told developers that they would have to wait. The reason is reportedly due to technical issues. Kotaku reports: As Kotaku previously reported, Nintendo's Switch games keep their size slim, with downloads for Super Mario Odyssey, Arms and Splatoon 2 ranging from 2-6GB. However, third party developers have been releasing bigger, data-heavy games, outpacing the Switch's 24GB of usable onboard memory. The Journal notes that Nintendo has already sold over 10 million Switch consoles, meaning developers could continue to flock to the platform, regardless.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's blast-from-the-past department
New submitter Jose Deras writes: Nearly 35 years ago, Apple released its first computer with a graphical user interface, called the Lisa. Starting next year, the Computer History Museum will release the Apple Lisa OS for free as an open-source project. According to a new report from Business Insider, the Computer History Museum will release the code behind the Apple Lisa operating system for free as open source, for anyone to try and tinker with. The news was announced via the LisaList mailing list for Lisa enthusiasts. "While Steve Jobs didn't create the Lisa, he was instrumental in its development. It was Jobs who convinced the legendary Xerox PARC lab to let the Apple Lisa team visit and play with its prototypes for graphical user interfaces," reads the report. "And while Apple at the time said that Lisa stood for 'Local Integrated System Architecture,' Jobs would later claim to biographer Walter Isaacson that the machine was actually named for his oldest daughter, Lisa Nicole Brennan-Jobs." "Then-Apple CEO John Sculley had Jobs removed from the Lisa project, which kicked off years-long animosity between the two," continues the report. "Ultimately, a boardroom brawl would result in Jobs quitting in a huff to start his own company, NeXT Computer. Apple would go on to buy NeXT in 1996, bringing Jobs back into the fold. By 1997, Jobs had become CEO of Apple, leading the company to its present status as the most valuable in the world."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's haunted-appliances department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Researchers at Trend Micro have found that certain models of Sonos and Bose speakers have vulnerabilities that leave them open to hijacking, as reported by Wired. The accessible speakers are being exploited by hackers that are using them to play spooky sounds, Alexa commands, and Rick Astley tracks. Only a small percentage of speakers by the two companies are actually affected, including some of the Sonos Play:1, the Sonos One, and the Bose SoundTouch. All it takes is for the speaker to be connected to a misconfigured network and a simple internet scan. Once the speaker is discovered via the scan, the API it uses to talk to apps can be utilized to tell the speakers to play any audio file hosted at a specific URL. Of all the models, between 2,500 to 5,000 Sonos devices and 400 to 500 Bose devices were found by Trend Micro to be open to audio hacking.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's two-can-play-that-game department
schwit1 shares a report from Business Insider (alternative source): Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Tuesday accused the U.S. of a "direct interference in our electoral process and internal affairs" following the State Department's criticism of Russia's decision to bar opposition leader Alexey Navalny from running in the upcoming presidential election against Vladimir Putin. "This State Department statement, which I'm sure will be repeated, is a direct interference in our electoral process and internal affairs," Zakharova wrote Tuesday on Facebook. In a statement shared with Business Insider on Tuesday night, a State Department spokesperson expressed concern over the Russian government's "ongoing crackdown against independent voices, from journalists to civil society activists and opposition politicians." "These actions indicate the Russian government has failed to protect space in Russia for the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms," the statement said. "More broadly, we urge the government of Russia to hold genuine elections that are transparent, fair, and free and that guarantee the free expression of the will of the people, consistent with its international human rights obligations." Zakharova pushed back. "And these people expressed outrage over alleged Russian 'interference' in their electoral process for an entire year?!" she said. "Pointing out that the Kremlin is interfering in its own election is not interference," adds schwit1.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's flip-flop department
Back in May, Google's AlphaGo AI defeated the human world champion Ke Jie in a three-part match. After it was over, Jie vowed never to play a computer again. But apparently something has changed his mind because Chinese news sources report that Jie will once again play an artificial intelligence at an AI tournament to be held in China in April 2018. Engadget reports: Ke Jie is one of the tournament's ambassadors, and he will play against the AI Tianrang. Normally, a human representative places pieces on behalf of the AI, but in this case, a robotic arm developed by Fuzhou University will fulfill that role. Tianrang previously ascended to the semi-finals of Japan's AI Go tournament, called AI Ryusei, earlier this month. Tencent's AI was the ultimate winner of that tournament. The complement of AI competitors for the Chinese tournament are Tianrang (Shanghai), DeepZenGo (Japan), CGI (Taipai) and more. Google DeepMind's AlphaGo has since retired from competition, so it will not be playing in the tournament.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's rough-time department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: For Indian techies, 2017 was the stuff of nightmares. One of the top employment generators until a few years ago, India's $160 billion IT industry laid off more than 56,000 employees this year. Some analysts believe this spree was worse than the one during the 2008 financial crisis. Meanwhile, hiring plummeted, with entry-level openings having more than halved in 2017, according to experts. Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Infosys, two of India's largest IT companies and once leaders in job creation, reduced their headcounts for the first time ever. Even mid-sized players like Tech Mahindra retrenched several employees.
Compared to the normal rate of forced attrition (i.e. asking non-performers to leave) of around 1% in earlier years, 2017 saw Indian IT companies letting go of between 2% and 6% of their employees, said Alka Dhingra, general manager of IT staffing at TeamLease Services. Infosys cut 9,000 jobs in January. "Instead of 10 people, what if we have three people to work on (a project). If we don't have the software, then some others will take the advantage (away from us)," Vishal Sikka, the former CEO of the Bengaluru-based company, said in February. Meanwhile, around 6,000 Indian employees at Cognizant reportedly lost their jobs to automation.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's assuming-control department
Vietnam is deploying a 10,000-member military cyber warfare unit to combat what the government sees as a growing threat of "wrongful views" proliferating on the internet, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, citing local media reports. From the report: Force 47 has worked pro-actively against distorted information, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported, citing Nguyen Trong Nghia, deputy head of the general politics department under the Vietnam People's Military. The disclosure of the unit comes as the Communist government pressures YouTube and Facebook to remove videos and accounts seen damaging the reputations of leaders or promoting anti-party views. Facebook this year removed 159 accounts at Vietnam's behest, while YouTube took down 4,500 videos, or 90 percent of what the government requested, according to VietnamNet news, which cited Minister of Information and Communications Truong Minh Tuan last week. The National Assembly is debating a cybersecurity bill that would require technology companies to store certain data on servers in the country.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department
Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: Attackers can use sound waves to interfere with a hard drive's normal mode of operation, creating a temporary or permanent denial of state (DoS) that could be used to prevent CCTV systems from recording video footage or freeze computers dealing with critical operations. The basic principle behind this attack is that sound waves introduce mechanical vibrations into an HDD's data-storage platters. If the sound is played at a specific frequency, it creates a resonance effect that amplifies the vibration effect. Because hard drives store vasts amounts of information inside small areas of each platter, they are programmed to stop all read/write operations during the time a platter vibrates so to avoid scratching storage disks and permanently damaging an HDD. Last week, scientists from the Princeton and Purdue universities published new research into the topic, expanding on the previous findings with the results of additional practical tests. The research team used a specially crafted test rig to blast audio waves at a hard drive from different angles, recording results to determine the sound frequency, attack time, distance from the hard drive, and sound wave angle at which the HDD stopped working.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Is there a link between polygamy and war? The Economist explores (might be paywalled): Men in South Sudan typically marry as often as their wealth -- often measured in cattle -- will allow. Perhaps 40 percent of marriages are polygamous. "In [our] culture, the more family you have, the more people respect you," says William, a young IT specialist in search of his second wife. Few South Sudanese see the connection between these matrimonial customs and the country's horrific civil war. If you ask them the reason for the violence, locals will blame tribalism, greedy politicians, weak institutions and perhaps the oil wealth which gives warlords something to fight over. All true, but not the whole story. Wherever it is widely practised, polygamy (specifically polygyny, the taking of multiple wives) destabilises society, largely because it is a form of inequality which creates an urgent distress in the hearts, and loins, of young men. If a rich man has a Lamborghini, that does not mean that a poor man has to walk, for the supply of cars is not fixed. By contrast, every time a rich man takes an extra wife, another poor man must remain single. If the richest and most powerful 10 percent of men have, say, four wives each, the bottom 30 percent of men cannot marry. Young men will take desperate measures to avoid this state. A non-paywalled, syndicated source for the article.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's always-watching department
The popular mobile application WeChat is poised to become China's official electronic personal identification system. "The government of Guangzhou, capital of the southern coastal province of Guangdong, started on Monday a pilot program that creates a virtual ID card, which serves the same purpose as the traditional state-issued ID cards, through the WeChat accounts of registered users in the city's Nansha district," reports South China Morning Post. From the report: It said that trial will soon cover the entire province and further expand across the country from January next year. The program's success would mark one of the most significant milestones for WeChat after it was initially rolled out by Tencent as a mobile messaging service in 2011, and then evolved into the country's largest social network, as well as a popular online platform for payments and money transfers. Shenzhen-based Tencent has estimated that WeChat, marketed as Weixin on the mainland, recorded 980 million monthly active users in the quarter ended September 30. The WeChat ID program was co-developed by the research institute of the Ministry of Public Security and Tencent's WeChat team, and supported by various banks and several other government departments. The project is expected to help deter online identity theft, as facial recognition technology is used to verify applicants before their virtual ID cards get authorized. Those verified will be able to use their WeChat ID to register in hotels and apply for government services without the need of bringing their physical ID cards.Read Replies (0)