By BeauHD from Slashdot's heads-up department
Researchers from Checkpoint Software have identified a massive adware campaign that invaded the Google Play Store with more than 200 highly aggressive apps that were collectively downloaded almost 150 million times. "The 210 apps discovered by researchers from security firm Checkpoint Software bombarded users with ads, even when an app wasn't open," reports Ars Technica. "The apps also had the ability to carry out spearphishing attacks by causing a browser to open an attacker-chosen URL and open the apps for Google Play and third-party market 9Apps with a specific keyword search or a specific application's page. The apps reported to a command-and-control server to receive instructions on which commands to carry out." From the report: Once installed, the apps installed code that allowed them to perform actions as soon as the device finished booting or while the user was using the device. The apps also could remove their icon from the device launcher to make it harder for users to uninstall the nuisance apps. The apps all used a software development kit called RXDrioder, which Checkpoint researchers believe concealed its abusive capabilities from app developers. The researchers dubbed the campaign SimBad, because many of the participating apps are simulator games.
"With the capabilities of showing out-of-scope ads, exposing the user to other applications, and opening a URL in a browser, SimBad acts now as an Adware, but already has the infrastructure to evolve into a much larger threat," Checkpoint researchers wrote. The top 14 apps were collectively downloaded a whopping 75 million times, with the No. 1 app receiving 10 million installs and the next 13 getting 5 million downloads each. The next 53 each received 1 million downloads. The remainder received 500,000 or fewer downloads each. Checkpoint has a full list of all the apps here.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-and-shiny department
Last night, Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled the company's brand new electric SUV, the Model Y. The car is only slightly larger than the Model 3 and shares 75% of its parts, leaving many people wanting more. But, as USA Today reports, "The ho-hum reaction to Tesla's new electric SUV is, oddly enough, exactly what the company needs. [F]or a company that needs a little less pizzazz and a little more substance to make good on its promise to become a sustainable force in the auto industry, the Model Y hit the right marks." From the report: It's essentially a crossover version of the Tesla Model 3 compact car, bearing the design hallmarks of a hatchback and sharing the same architectural platform as its car sibling. That Tesla devotees weren't rewarded with sizzling new features on the Model Y illustrates that the company is getting serious about selling vehicles. After all, a compact SUV is precisely what Americans want: a driveable vehicle that puts safety first and flash second. Versions with five and seven seats will be available, with starting prices ranging from $39,000 for the base version to $60,000 for a performance model. If Musk had tried to break new technological barriers or adopt outlandish styling on the Model Y, he would have risked making the vehicle too difficult to manufacture and unappealing to conventional SUV buyers.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's no-longer-a-priority department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Daily Beast: First Look Media announced Wednesday that it was shutting down access to whistleblower Edward Snowden's massive trove of leaked National Security Agency documents. Over the past several years, The Intercept, which is owned by First Look Media, has maintained a research team to handle the large number of documents provided by Snowden to Intercept journalists Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald. But in an email to staff Wednesday evening, First Look CEO Michael Bloom said that as other major news outlets had "ceased reporting on it years ago," The Intercept had decided to "focus on other editorial priorities" after expending five years combing through the archive. "The Intercept is proud of its reporting on the Snowden archive, and we are thankful to Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald for making it available to us," Bloom wrote. He added: "It is our hope that Glenn and Laura are able to find a new partner -- such as an academic institution or research facility -- that will continue to report on and publish the documents in the archive consistent with the public interest." Poitras reprimanded First Look Media for its decision to shut down its archives, and lay off 4 percent of its staff who had maintained them. "This decision and the way it was handled would be a disservice to our source, the risks we've all taken, and most importantly, to the public for whom Edward Snowden blew the whistle," she wrote.
"Late Thursday evening, Greenwald tweeted that both he and Poitras had full copies of the archives, and had been searching for a partner to continue research," reports The Daily Beast.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's for-the-record department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Scientists in India observed the highest-voltage thunderstorm ever documented with the help of a subatomic particle you might not hear much about: the muon. The researchers operate the GRAPES-3 telescope, which measures muons, particles that are similar to electrons but heavier. Specifically, the Gamma Ray Astronomy at PeV EnergieS Phase-3 (GRAPES-3) muon telescope measures high-energy particles from outer space called cosmic rays. It typically picks up 2.5 million muons each minute, mapped on a 13-by-13 grid across the sky. But during thunderstorms, it experiences quick changes to the amount of muons it receives. The GRAPES-3 researchers added electric field monitors to the experiment, and devised a way to turn these muon fluctuations into measurements of the voltage of passing storms.
A storm on December 1, 2014, led to a relatively enormous 2 percent decrease in the amount of muons that the experiment received. According to their methods, published in Physical Review Letters, this would be equivalent to a 1.3-billion-volt electric potential in the thunderhead. This doesn't refer to a single lightning bolt, but rather the strength of the electric field caused by positively charged water molecules carried by convection to the top of the cloud while negatively charged ice remains lower down. For comparison, most lightning bolts have 100 million volts of electric potential between their ends. Subway tracks carry less than 1,000 volts.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
An anonymous reader shares a report: With help from outside researchers, Amazon's economists are working on a way to measure inflation using thousands of transactions across its own platform. Automatically analyzing product descriptions allows them to better assess the quality of a dress or a juicer or a bathmat, theoretically creating a more accurate, up-to-date index of how much things cost. That's just one way Amazon is using the squad of economists it has recruited in recent years. The company has turned so many businesses, from retailing to cloud computing, inside out. Now Amazon is upending the traditional role of economists within companies, as well as the field of economics.
Amazon is now a large draw from the relatively small talent pool of PhD economists, which in the United States grows by about only 1,000 new graduates every year. Although the definition of "economist" is fuzzy, the discipline is generally understood as the study of how people use resources and respond to incentives. In the past few years, Amazon has hired more than 150 PhD economists, making it probably the largest employer in the field behind institutions like the Federal Reserve, which has hundreds of economists on staff. It was the only company with a recruiting booth at the American Economics Association's annual conference in January, handing out free pens and logoed stress balls.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's marching-forward department
California was declared totally drought free for the first time in more than seven years this week, following unusually abundant winter rains and snowfall statewide, according to the government's weekly report on U.S. drought conditions. From a report: The U.S. Drought Monitor's latest survey reflected an astonishing turnaround - at least for now - from a severe, prolonged dry spell that reduced irrigation supplies to farmers, forced strict household conservation measures and stoked a spate of deadly, devastating wildfires. A relatively small swath of California's southern-most region, including most of San Diego County, remains labeled "abnormally dry" on the drought map index, as does a tiny patch at the state's extreme northern end along the Oregon border. But this week marks the first time since mid-December of 2011 that 100 percent of the state has been classified as being free of drought, defined as a moisture deficit severe enough to cause social, environmental or economic ills. Conditions were classified as normal across 93 percent of the state.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's growing-popularity department
WordPress now powers over 1/3rd of the top 10 million sites on the web, according to W3Techs. From a blog post: Our market share has been growing steadily over the last few years, going from 29.9% just one year ago to 33.4% now. We are, of course, quite proud of these numbers! The path here has been very exciting. In 2005, we were celebrating 50,000 downloads. Six years later, in January 2011, WordPress was powering 13.1% of websites. And now, early in 2019, we are powering 33.4% of sites. Our latest release has already been downloaded close to 14 million times, and it was only released on the 21st of February.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
Apple has responded to Spotify's European Commission (EC) complaint. In a press release, the company said that Spotify "seeks to keep all the benefits of the App Store ecosystem ... without making any contributions to that marketplace." It added that the App Store has generated $120 billion for developers while offering users a secure platform, and that Spotify is seeking to side to sidestep the rules that every other app follows. From a report: "Spotify has every right to determine their own business model, but we feel an obligation to respond when Spotify wraps its financial motivations in misleading rhetoric about who we are," the company wrote. Spotify's main argument was that Apple's own music service, Apple Music, isn't subject to the same restrictions of its own app. "[A]pps should be able to compete fairly on the merits, and not based on who owns the App Store," wrote CEO Daniel Ek. "We should all be subject to the same fair set of rules and restrictions -- including Apple Music." It added that Apple had often stymied it on app updates and locked it out of Apple services, "such as Siri, HomePod and Apple Watch." Finally, it noted that Apple had blocked communication with its own customers on things like special offers. In response, Apple addressed each complaint point by point, while criticizing Spotify's treatment of musicians and artists. It said that it has approved nearly 200 app updates, and "the only time we have requested adjustments is when Spotify has tried to sidestep the same rules that every app follows."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's modern-day-journalism department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: How to fund ethical journalism in the Facebook era is the multi-billion dollar question of the hour, and a technology-focused consumer group by the name of Free Press believes it has a solution. The group has unveiled a new proposal that suggests taxing all online targeted advertising, then using that money to fund the nation's struggling news empires, big and small. The program would apply a 2 percent tax on companies generating more than $200 million in annual targeted-ad revenues, then use that money to create a "Public Interest Media Endowment." The $2 billion collected annually would then be managed by the government itself, or an outside, existing institution such as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Such a tax would most obviously apply to both social media giants, but also the giant telecom monopolies increasingly trying to elbow their way into the online ad space. This endowment, in turn, would help fund local journalism, investigative reporting, media literacy, noncommercial social networks, civic-technology projects, and "news and information for underserved communities," suggests the group. "The problem for journalism is that Facebook and Google control nearly 70 percent of this marketplace," Free Press Director Tim Karr told Motherboard via email. "And neither are news organizations. In fact, only one of the top ten digital advertisers in the U.S. (Verizon Media Group/Oath) is in the news business (HuffPost, Techcrunch), and then only partially so."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's drastic-times-call-for-drastic-measures department
Huawei has built its own operating system for phones, tablets and computers in case tensions between Huawei and the U.S. escalate even further than they already are. "The OS has been rumored for years, but Huawei confirmed its viability with the South China Morning Post, saying it could be used if the company were cut off from Android or Windows," reports Engadget. "It's seen as a last resort, but given the current discord between the U.S. and Huawei, it's not entirely surprising that the company has a plan B." From the report: Huawei began building the OS in 2012, after the U.S. banned Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE from using American products and services. This was reportedly seen as a way to prepare for "worst-case scenarios." Now, with Huawei suing the U.S. government and the U.S. saying it might punish Germany if the country works with Huawei on its 5G networks, those worst-case scenarios might not be too far-fetched. At the moment, this doesn't change much. Android and Windows are still the company's first-choice. "We fully support our partners' operating systems -- we love them and our customers love them," a company spokesperson told South China Morning Post. Still, given the state of the U.S.-Huawei relationship, this contingency plan could be significant.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's end-of-story department
Google is shutting down its Spotlight Stories immersive entertainment unit, according to an email sent out by Spotlight Stories executive producer Karen Dufilho Wednesday evening. "Google Spotlight Stories is shutting its doors after over six years of making stories and putting them on phones, on screens, in VR, and anywhere else we could get away with it," Dufilho said in her email sent to supporters of the studio. Variety reports: Spotlight Stories originally began as a group within Motorola, tasked with exploring the future of storytelling for mobile devices. The group then became part of Google's Advanced Technologies and Products (ATAP) group, and went on to produce a number of 360-degree videos and VR experiences with creators like Glen Keane, Justin Lin, Jorge Gutierrez and Aardman Animation, the makers of "Wallace and Gromit." "Pearl," a Spotlight Story from Patrick Osborne, the director of Disney's Oscar-nominated short film "Feast," was nominated for an Academy Award, and won a Creative Arts Emmy for Outstanding Innovation in Interactive Programming in 2017. Most recently, Spotlight Stories released "Age of Sail," an animated short film directed by Oscar-winning animator John Kahrs.
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