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Facebook Bug Tells Users They Are Dead
Posted by News Fetcher on November 11 '16 at 05:02 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's rest-easy department:
On Friday afternoon, many Facebook users logged into their accounts to see that the social media site declared them to be dead. Fortune's Jeff John Roberts reports that the bug has impacted their editor Rachel King: The lethal online epidemic is causing Facebook to display a small memorial message above users' regular homepage profile. In the case of my editor, Rachel King, Fortune tech writers who visited her page discovered a "Remembering Rachel King" message, and a wish to remember to remember and celebrate her life. I can assure you that Rachel is very much alive (and reminding me about the Oxford comma). But if you're wondering what it looks like, here's a screenshot. I'm still alive (for now) but it appears the bug is spreading quickly to others in the media, and has reportedly even affected the pages of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. While Friday's wave of Facebook fatalities was clearly a bug or a hoax of some sort, the social network does offer a function that allows people to turn the profile pages of loved ones into a "Memorial." The company has since fixed the bug and offered an apology: "For a brief period today, a message meant for memorialized profiles was briefly posted to other accounts. This was a terrible error that we now have fixed. We are very sorry that this happened and we worked as quickly as possible to fix it."

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FBI Operated 23 Tor-Hidden Child Porn Sites, Deployed Malware From Them
Posted by News Fetcher on November 11 '16 at 03:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's authorized-access department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Federal investigators temporarily seized a Tor-hidden site known as Playpen in 2015 and operated it for 13 days before shutting it down. The agency then used a "network investigative technique" (NIT) as a way to ensnare site users. However, according to newly unsealed documents recently obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union, the FBI not only temporarily took over one Tor-hidden child pornography website in order to investigate it, the organization was in fact authorized to run a total of 23 other such websites. According to an FBI affidavit among the unsealed documents: "In the normal course of the operation of a web site, a user sends "request data" to the web site in order to access that site. While Websites 1-23 operate at a government facility, such request data associated with a user's actions on Websites 1-23 will be collected. That data collection is not a function of the NIT. Such request data can be paired with data collected by the NIT, however, in order to attempt to identify a particular user and to determine that particular user's actions on Websites 1-23." Security researcher Sarah Jamie Lewis told Ars that "it's a pretty reasonable assumption" that at one point the FBI was running roughly half of the known child porn sites hosted on Tor-hidden servers. Lewis runs OnionScan, an ongoing bot-driven analysis of the Tor-hidden darknet. Her research began in April 2016, and it shows that as of August 2016, there were 29 unique child porn related sites on Tor-hidden servers. That NIT, which many security experts have dubbed as malware, used a Tor exploit of some kind to force the browser to return the user's actual IP address, operating system, MAC address, and other data. As part of the operation that took down Playpen, the FBI was then able to identify and arrest the nearly 200 child porn suspects. (However, nearly 1,000 IP addresses were revealed as a result of the NIT's deployment, which could suggest that even more charges may be filed.)

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Researchers Set To Work On Malware-Detecting CPUs
Posted by News Fetcher on November 11 '16 at 03:41 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's hardware-meets-software department:
Orome1 quotes a report from Help Net Security: Adding hardware protections to software ones in order to block the ever increasing onslaught of computer malware seems like a solid idea, and a group of researchers have just been given a $275,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to help them work on a possible solution: malware-detecting CPUs. This project, titled "Practical Hardware-Assisted Always-On Malware Detection," will be trying out a new approach: they will modify a computer's CPU chip to feature logic checks for anomalies that can crop up while software is running. "The modified microprocessor will have the ability to detect malware as programs execute by analyzing the execution statistics over a window of execution," Ponomarev noted. "Since the hardware detector is not 100-percent accurate, the alarm will trigger the execution of a heavy-weight software detector to carefully inspect suspicious programs. The software detector will make the final decision. The hardware guides the operation of the software; without the hardware the software will be too slow to work on all programs all the time."

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IMDb Sues California To Overturn Law Forcing Them To Remove Actors' Ages
Posted by News Fetcher on November 11 '16 at 02:22 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's attempts-to-combat-age-discrimination department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) is suing California over a law forcing the website to remove the ages of actors on request, saying it is unconstitutional. California passed a law in September ruling that "a commercial online entertainment employment service provider" would be required to remove details of the age of any of its subscribers within five days, on the request of the subscriber. The law was intended to fight age discrimination in the film industry and had been campaigned for by actors' groups. The president of the union Sag-Aftra wrote in August that actors "face blatant age discrimination every day as websites routinely used for casting talent force birth dates and ages on casting decision-makers without their even realizing it." However, IMDb's suit (pdf) claims that the law "does not advance, much less achieve" the goal of reducing age discrimination, and that it violates both the first amendments and commerce clause of the U.S. constitution. IMDb also claims it separately violates federal law "because it imposes liability on IMDb based on factual content that is lawfully posted by its users." The website criticizes the state of California for passing the law, saying it has "chosen to chill free speech and undermine public access to factual information." IMDb says it is being unfairly targeted and that the law does not deal with the main cause of age discrimination. The case claims the law is both too broad -- as it includes all film professionals, rather than just those who could expect to be the target of age discrimination such as actors -- and too narrow, as it fails to impose the same restrictions on the "myriad other sources of the same information," such as Wikipedia, Google or specialist websites that list the birthdays of famous people. IMDb also says that subscribers to its paid professional service, IMDb Pro, have been able to edit or remove biographical details about themselves on the site since 2010.

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BlackBerry's Keyboard is Coming Back for One Last Dance
Posted by News Fetcher on November 11 '16 at 02:22 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's one-more-time department:
BlackBerry has officially stopped making its own phones, but the company has one last treat for die-hard fans: a new phone sporting its trademark physical keyboard. According to Bloomberg: Chief Executive Officer John Chen had hinted at the phone in September, but hadn't confirmed it until Thursday, when he spoke to Emily Chang in an interview on Bloomberg TV. "We have one keyboard phone I promised people," Chen said. "It's coming." Under Chen, BlackBerry has gradually shifted from smartphones to software and said in September it would completely stop producing, stocking and distributing its own phones. Instead, it will license the BlackBerry brand to outside companies to put on phones they build themselves. The physical keyboard is BlackBerry's best-known smartphone feature, with many former users still lamenting its absence as they clumsily tap out e-mails on their iPhones and sign off with words like "pardon the typos."

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Computer Issue Affecting Some Airlines Resolved: American Airlines
Posted by News Fetcher on November 11 '16 at 01:01 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's timely-fixes department:
American Airlines said Friday Sabre had faced a brief technical issue that impacted multiple carriers. The issue has, however, been resolved. From a report on NBC Chicago: A technical issue at with a computer IT firm briefly caused technical problems for airlines in the United States early Friday afternoon, according to American Airlines. It was one of several air carriers affected by the outage at Sabre, which tweeted about 12:45 p.m. ET that it was working on recovering from unspecified issues customers were facing. American didn't provide more details about what systems and airlines were affected. Reports on Twitter indicated outages at American, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue; all three responded to several tweets about saying computers, kiosks or the website not working.

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UK Bookstores Found Selling Banned US Bomb-Making Handbooks
Posted by News Fetcher on November 11 '16 at 01:01 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's sudden-interest department:
Three major online retailers in the UK have been listing a number of bomb-making manuals on their websites. Engadget adds:These books were originally made back in the 1960s for US military personnel and include titles like Improvised Munitions Handbook, Boobytraps, and Explosives and Demolitions. But since the end of the Vietnam War, these books have become popular resources for terrorists of all stripes. Thomas Mair, the man who assassinated Labour MP Jo Cox, reportedly owned a copy of Improvised Munitions, for example. The surfacing of these books for sale on the WH Smith, Amazon UK and Waterstones websites, has at least one of the companies scrambling to scrub the listings. WH Smith shut down its entire website for more than four hours on Thursday to eliminate the offending material, however it appears they are still available on Amazon and Waterstones.

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University Bans BitTorrent To Stop Flood of Infringement Notices
Posted by News Fetcher on November 11 '16 at 11:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's unfortunate-notices department:
A university in Canada has taken sweeping action in an effort to stem the tide of piracy notices. Following changes to Canada's copyright law in early 2015, ISPs are now required to forward copyright infringement notices to their customers. Over the past years, copyright owners have aggressively targeted users and ISPs with volumes of notices to generate more revenue. TorrentFreak adds:The phenomenon has also been felt at the University of Calgary, which acts as a service provider to thousands of students. Inevitably, some of those students have been using their connections to obtain music and movies for free, which has led to the university receiving large numbers of notices. So, in an effort to reduce the instances of alleged infringement, the university has recently banned BitTorrent usage on several Wi-Fi networks. Speaking to student newspaper The Gauntlet, vice-president finance and services Linda Dalgetty said that the effect was felt immediately. During the first eight days of the ban, the university received 90% fewer notices than usual. "I think what we're finding is it has definitely made a difference. But we have to monitor that, because statistically, we have to go through a longer time frame than eight days," Dalgetty said.According to Dalgetty, reducing the number of infringement notices wasn't the only consideration. The volume of traffic and other threats were also on the agenda. "The more streaming we have on the campus, the more it impacts network performance and that takes away the user experience for other pursuits," she said. "The third [reason] is security. The more streaming we have, the [higher chance] of inadvertently downloading something that would create issues."

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Judge Orders Amazon Refunds for Children's In-app Purchases
Posted by News Fetcher on November 11 '16 at 11:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's fix-things department:
A federal judge has directed Amazon to set up a year-long process to reimburse parents whose children made in-app purchases without permission, but rejected a U.S. regulator's request for a $26.5 million lump-sum payout. Reuters reports:U.S. District Judge John Coughenour, in Amazon's hometown of Seattle, issued his order more than six months after finding the online retailer liable, in a case brought by the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC in July 2014 accused Amazon of making it too easy for children to run up bills while playing games such as "Pet Shop Story" and "Ice Age Village" on mobile devices, resulting in an estimated $86 million of unauthorized charges.

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AT&T Will Offer a Lower-Quality Video Option But Without a Discount
Posted by News Fetcher on November 11 '16 at 10:21 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's dvd-quality-in-2016 department:
After T-Mobile and Sprint introduced lower-cost wireless plans in return for customers accepting lower quality video streaming, AT&T is following suit. An anonymous reader shares a Fortune report:The second-largest wireless carrier said it would introduce a feature starting next year called "Stream Saver" to let customers voluntarily downgrade streaming video from any service -- including YouTube and Netflix -- to DVD quality. But AT&T will not lower prices or give a discount to customers activating the lower-quality stream, which would use much less data than watching a typical high-definition video stream. The data used will also still count against a customer's monthly data allowance. AT&T emphasized that the optional feature was intended to help customers use less data, essentially stretching their monthly allowance to go further. "Stream saver lets them enjoy more of what they love," David Christopher, chief marketing officer in AT&T's entertainment group, said in a statement. "And, they are in control -- it's their choice on how to use this innovative feature."

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Alibaba Breaks Records, Sells $17.7 Billion on Singles' Day
Posted by News Fetcher on November 11 '16 at 10:21 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's china-power department:
Alibaba broke its Singles' Day sales record with room to spare, offering assurances about the strength of the Chinese consumer despite the nation's economic slowdown. From a report on Tech in Asia:As the clock struck midnight, Alibaba announced its final total for 2016's Singles Day sales frenzy: US$17.7 billion. Alibaba has beaten its own sales totals each year since the sales began, and this year was no different. It passed last year's US$14.3 billion high-water mark early in the evening, a sign that this year's growth wasn't going to be quite as explosive as previous years' (in 2015, Alibaba hit the previous year's mark at midday). In the end that proved true, as Alibaba fell just short of the US$20 billion target some had been expecting it to surpass. Still, nearly US$18 billion is nothing to sneeze at.

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Tesla Tells Germany that 98% of Drivers Don't Find the Term 'Autopilot' Misleading
Posted by News Fetcher on November 11 '16 at 08:57 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's your-call department:
An anonymous reader writes:Tesla has responded to Germany's request to stop using the word "autopilot" in its advertising, due to safety concerns, by carrying out a survey of Tesla-owners in Germany. It says that the overwhelming majority of customers it surveyed did not find the term confusing. Last month, German transport minister Alexander Dobrindt had asked Tesla to stop using "autopilot" in its messaging, as he felt the term implied that drivers could operate their vehicles without applying their attention to the roads. Tesla responded by saying that "autopilot" had been used in aerospace for a long time to describe a system that works in conjunction with a human operator. "Just as in an airplane, when used properly, autopilot reduces driver workload and provides an added layer of safety when compared to purely manual driving," a spokesperson said at the time. Without divulging exact numbers, Tesla has now said that it has "worked with a third party" to survey owners of its cars in Germany to "better understand how they perceive Autopilot." The company found that 98 percent of those surveyed "understand that when using Autopilot, the driver is expected to maintain control of the vehicle at all times."

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Russian Banks Floored by Withering DDoS Attacks
Posted by News Fetcher on November 11 '16 at 08:57 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's internet-of-poorly-connected-things department:
An anonymous reader shares a report on The Register: At least five Russian banks weathered days-long DDoS attacks this week. A wave of assaults began on Tuesday afternoon and continued over the next two days. Victims including Sberbank and Alfabank both confirmed DDoS attacks on their online services, RT reports. The attacks were powered by compromised IoT devices, according to an unnamed Russian Central Bank official. Early indications are that the Mirai IoT botnet that disrupted DNS services for scores of high-profile websites might be behind the latest attacks but this remains unconfirmed. DDoS attacks on Russian banks are far from unprecedented. The last attack on this scale affected eight major banks in October 2015. David Kennerley, director of threat research at Webroot, commented: "These latest DDoS attacks are extremely similar to the recent ones targeted at Dyn last month, and really drives home the security issues of the Internet of Things. While attacks like these are complicated, there's still an element of basic security that could have reduced success -- password management.

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Mark Zuckerberg Says Fake News on Facebook Affecting the Election Is a 'Crazy Idea'
Posted by News Fetcher on November 11 '16 at 07:38 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's hoaxes-on-facebook department:
A lot of questions are emerging about Facebook's role in this year's election cycle, especially given the proliferation of sensationalistic and even outright fake news stories, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has responded. From a report on Fortune: "I think the idea that fake news on Facebook -- of which it's a very small amount of the content -- influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea," he said on Thursday at the Techonomy conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif., just two days after Donald Trump was elected president, according to media reports. "There have been hoaxes on the Internet, there were hoaxes before," he said. "We do our best to make it so that people can report that, and as I said before, we can show people the most meaningful content we can."

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Facebook To Stop Ads that Target, Exclude Races
Posted by News Fetcher on November 11 '16 at 07:38 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's fixing-things department:
An anonymous reader shares a USA Today report: Facebook says it will no longer allow advertisers to exclude specific racial and ethnic groups when placing ads related to housing, credit or employment. "We are going to turn off, actually prohibit, the use of ethnic affinity marketing for ads that we identify as offering housing, employment and credit," Erin Egan, Facebook's vice president of U.S. public policy, told USA TODAY. Facebook will also require advertisers to affirm that they will not place discriminatory ads on Facebook and will offer educational materials to help advertisers understand their obligations, Egan said. The policy changes came after discussions with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Illinois) and the Congressional Black Caucus, and Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

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Kaspersky Lab Files Complaint Against Microsoft for Giving Unfair Advantage To Windows Defender
Posted by News Fetcher on November 11 '16 at 06:13 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's unfair-advantage department:
Russian antivirus vendor Kaspersky Lab has asked antitrust regulators in various countries (including the European Union and Russia) to make Microsoft stop giving an unfair advantage to Windows Defender, Eugene Kasperky wrote in a blog post. From a report on Myce: Microsoft is making it hard for independent anti-virus vendors to compete with Windows Defender, Microsoft's own antivirus application built-in to Windows 8 and Windows 10, according to founder of Kaspersky Lab, Eugene Kaspersky. For example, when users upgraded to Windows 10, their own antivirus product was disabled and Windows Defender was enabled by default. Another showcase of Microsoft's way of making it harder to compete is that antivirus companies only received a week to make their antivirus software compatible with Windows 10. And even when the antivirus software was compatible, Windows Defender would be enabled nevertheless.You can read Eugene's blog post here.

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Spotify Is Writing Massive Amounts of Junk Data To Storage Drives
Posted by News Fetcher on November 11 '16 at 06:13 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's junk-data department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: For almost five months -- possibly longer -- the Spotify music streaming app has been assaulting users' storage devices with enough data to potentially take years off their expected lifespans. Reports of tens or in some cases hundreds of gigabytes being written in an hour aren't uncommon, and occasionally the recorded amounts are measured in terabytes. The overload happens even when Spotify is idle and isn't storing any songs locally. The behavior poses an unnecessary burden on users' storage devices, particularly solid state drives, which come with a finite amount of write capacity. Continuously writing hundreds of gigabytes of needless data to a drive every day for months or years on end has the potential to cause an SSD to die years earlier than it otherwise would. And yet, Spotify apps for Windows, Mac, and Linux have engaged in this data assault since at least the middle of June, when multiple users reported the problem in the company's official support forum. Three Ars reporters who ran Spotify on Macs and PCs had no trouble reproducing the problem reported not only in the above-mentioned Spotify forum but also on Reddit, Hacker News, and elsewhere. Typically, the app wrote from 5 to 10 GB of data in less than an hour on Ars reporters' machines, even when the app was idle. Leaving Spotify running for periods longer than a day resulted in amounts as high as 700 GB. According to comments left in the Spotify forum in the past 24 hours, the bug has been fixed in version 1.0.42, which is in the process of being rolled out.

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Dungeons & Dragons Inducted Into Toy Hall of Fame
Posted by News Fetcher on November 11 '16 at 02:11 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's role-playing-games department:
Snowgen writes: NPR reports that Dungeons and Dragons has been inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame at the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, NY: "The nomination process for the Toy Hall of Fame is open to the public -- but to get in, a toy has to be approved by 'historians, educators, and other individuals who exemplify learning, creativity, and discovery through their lives and careers.'" "More than any other game, Dungeons and Dragons paved the way for older children and adults to experience imaginative play," says Curator Nic Ricketts. "It was groundbreaking. And it opened the door for other kinds of table games that borrow many of its unique mechanics. But most importantly, Dungeons and Dragons' mechanics lent themselves to computer applications, and it had a direct impact on hugely successful electronic games like World of Warcraft." The report adds: "The list of 12 finalists for this year's honors had included bubble wrap, Care Bears, Clue, the coloring book, Nerf ball, pinball, Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots, Transformers and Uno. When it emerged in 1974, Dungeons and Dragons was groundbreaking, says curator Nic Ricketts of The Strong. In addition to its own merits, the game created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson established a pattern for how similar role-playing games might work -- both on table-tops and, eventually, on computers and other devices."

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China Launches World's First Pulsar Navigation Satellite
Posted by News Fetcher on November 10 '16 at 11:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's first-of-a-kind department:
hackingbear writes: After launching the world's first quantum communication satellite this year, China today successfully launched the world's first pulsar-based navigation satellite (Warning: may be paywalled, alternate source), which will conduct in-orbit experiments using pulsar detectors to demonstrate new technologies. The X-ray pulsar navigation satellite XPNAV-1 was sent skyward at 7:42 AM (local time) atop a Long March 11 solid-fueled rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China's northwest. China's new system is expected to be a significant improvement over the earth-based systems currently used by spacecraft as it would eliminate the time delay with sending signals back to Earth and processing.

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Trump Picks Top Climate Skeptic To Lead EPA Transition
Posted by News Fetcher on November 10 '16 at 08:50 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's close-your-eyes-and-pretend-it's-all-a-bad-dream department:
Billly Gates writes: Trump's transition team is steamrolling ahead to transition the government. Trump chose Myron Ebell to oversee environmental policies. Myron Ebell is chairman of the Cooler Heads Coalition, a group of climate change denialists and alarmists. Scientific American reports: "In a biography submitted when he testified before Congress, he listed among his recognitions that he had been featured in a Greenpeace 'Field Guide to Climate Criminals,' dubbed a 'misleader' on global warming by Rolling Stone and was the subject of a motion to censure in the British House of Commons after Ebell criticized the United Kingdom's chief scientific adviser for his views on global warming. More recently, Ebell has called the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan for greenhouse gases illegal and said that Obama joining the Paris climate treaty 'is clearly an unconstitutional usurpation of the Senate's authority.' He told Vanity Fair in 2007, 'There has been a little bit of warming ... but it's been very modest and well within the range for natural variability, and whether it's caused by human beings or not, it's nothing to worry about.' Ebell's views appear to square with Trump's when it comes to EPA's agenda. Trump has called global warming 'bullshit' and he has said he would 'cancel' the Paris global warming accord and roll back President Obama's executive actions on climate change."

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