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Charter Has Moved Millions of Customers To New -- And Often Higher -- Pricing
Posted by News Fetcher on August 03 '17 at 03:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's 70-percent-to-go department:
After Charter closed the acquisitions of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks in May 2016, it moved 30 percent of the customers it acquired onto new pricing plans, resulting in many people paying higher prices. "Before the merger, Charter had about 6.8 million customers; afterward, Charter had 25.4 million customers in 41 states and became the second-largest U.S. cable company after Comcast," reports Ars Technica. From the report: Charter came up with new prices and packages, and many customers saw their bills rise when their previous discounts expired and they were switched to non-promotional pricing. Now, 30 percent of the ex-TWC and ex-Bright House customers are paying different -- and often higher -- prices. Charter CEO Thomas Rutledge provided the update in an earnings call last week (hat tip to FierceCable). According to a Seeking Alpha transcript, Rutledge said: "In June, we finished the rollout of our new pricing, packaging, and branding across our national footprint with the last launch of Spectrum in Hawaii. We now offer a simple, straightforward, high-value product using a consistent and uniform approach across our 50 million passings under one brand, Spectrum. The new product is succeeding with consumers across our footprint. In the second quarter, our customers and PSU [primary service unit] connects were higher year-over-year. And as of the end of the second quarter, 30 percent of Time Warner Cable and Bright House legacy customers were in our new pricing and packaging, up from 17 percent at the end of last quarter. In areas where we've had Spectrum in place for at least three quarters, 43 percent of our residential customers have Spectrum package products."

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WikiLeaks Reveals CIA Tool For Hacking Webcams, Microphones
Posted by News Fetcher on August 03 '17 at 01:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's vault-7 department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Stack: WikiLeaks has released a new set of documents in the CIA Vault 7 leak, outlining the "Dumbo" hacking tool which allows control of webcams and microphones. The release explains that the tool is capable of completely suspending processes on webcams and corrupting video recordings. Dumbo's is tasked specifically with gaining and exploiting physical access to target computers used in CIA field operations, the release notes. According to WikiLeaks, the tool allows for the identification, control and manipulation of monitoring and detection systems, such as webcams and microphones, running the Microsoft Windows operating system. The technology first identifies all installed devices, whether they are connected locally, wirelessly, or across wired networks. Once Dumbo has detected all of these devices, it identifies all the related processes, which may include recording, monitoring or detection of video, audio and network streams. These operations can then be suspended by the operator. "By deleting or manipulating recordings the operator is aided in creating fake or destroying actual evidence of the intrusion operation," the release added. Dumbo does require direct access to the target computer and is run from a USB stick. The release states that it supports 32bit Windows XP, Windows Vista, and newer versions of Windows operating system. However, 64bit Windows XP and Windows versions prior to XP are not supported.

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Apple's Adoption Of HEVC Will Drive A Massive Increase In Encoding Costs Requiring Cloud Hardware Acceleration
Posted by News Fetcher on August 03 '17 at 01:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's growing-concern department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: For the last 10 years, H.264/AVC has been the dominant video codec used for streaming but with Apple adopting H.265/HEVC in iOS 11 and Google heavily supporting VP9 in Android, a change is on the horizon. Next year the Alliance for Open Media will release their AV1 codec which will again improve video compression efficiency even further. But the end result is that the codec market is about to get very fragmented, with content owners soon having to decide if they need to support three codecs (H.264, H.265, and VP9) instead of just H.264 and with AV1 expected to be released in 2019. As a result of what's take place in the codec market, and with better quality video being demanded by consumers, content owners, broadcasters and OTT providers are starting to see a massive increase in encoding costs. New codecs like H.265 and VP9 need 5x the servers costs because of their complexity. Currently, AV1 needs over 20x the server costs. The mix of SD, HD and UHD continues to move to better quality: e.g. HDR, 10-bit and higher frame rates. Server encoding cost to move from 1080p SDR to 4K HDR is 5x. 360 and Facebook's 6DoF video are also growing in consumption by consumers which again increases encoding costs by at least 4x. If you add up all these variables, it's not hard to do the math and see that for some, encoding costs could increase by 500x over the next few years as new codecs, higher quality video, 360 video and general demand increases.

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Slashdot Asks: Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?
Posted by News Fetcher on August 03 '17 at 12:32 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's blame-game department:
Teens today are more likely to be lonely, depressed and immature than any previous generation, according to analysis published in The Atlantic. According to the professor of psychology who did the analysis, who also has been researching generational differences for 25 years, the culprit is the smartphone. From the article: The advent of the smartphone and its cousin the tablet was followed quickly by hand-wringing about the deleterious effects of "screen time." But the impact of these devices has not been fully appreciated, and goes far beyond the usual concerns about curtailed attention spans. The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers' lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health. These changes have affected young people in every corner of the nation and in every type of household. The trends appear among teens poor and rich; of every ethnic background; in cities, suburbs, and small towns. Where there are cell towers, there are teens living their lives on their smartphone. What do you folks think?

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For 20 Years, This Man Has Survived Entirely By Hacking Online Games
Posted by News Fetcher on August 03 '17 at 12:32 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's to-each-his-own department:
An anonymous reader writes: A hacker says he turned finding and exploiting flaws in popular MMO video games into a lucrative, full-time job. Manfred's character is standing still in the virtual world of the 2014 sci-fi online multiplayer game WildStar Online. Manfred, the real life person behind the character, is typing commands into a debugger. In a few seconds of what seems to be an extremely easy hack, Manfred's virtual currency skyrockets up to more than 18,000,000,000,000,000,000, or 18 quintillion. I'm watching this hack in a demo video recorded by Manfred as I stand next to him in a Las Vegas bar on Thursday. Manfred, who asked me not to reveal his real name, says he has been hacking several video games for 20 years, making a real-life living by using hacks like the one I just witnessed. His modus operandi has changed slightly from game to game, but, in essence, it consisted of tricking games into giving him items or currency he doesn't have a right to have. He would then sell those items and currency to other players (for real money) or wholesales them to online gray markets, such as the Internet Game Exchange, that then would sell those goods to individual players. At the current exchange rate, Manfred estimates he has $397 trillion worth of WildStar gold. This is obviously an outlandish number, but, essentially, his income was only limited by the real-life market for the in-game currency. When I spoke to Manfred ahead of his talk at the Def Con hacking conference, he said he wanted to go in, give his demo, and go out "as a ghost," never to be seen or heard from again. He said he wanted to be "invisible," just like he's been for the past two decades. He said he's found more than 100 publicly unknown vulnerabilities in more than 20 online video games, making hacking and trading virtual goods into his full time job.

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UK Security Researcher Who Stopped WannaCry Outbreak Arrested in US
Posted by News Fetcher on August 03 '17 at 11:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's chaos-ensues department:
Zack Whittaker, reporting for ZDNet: A security researcher who in May stopped an outbreak of the WannaCry ransomware has been arrested and detained after attending the Def Con conference in Las Vegas. Marcus Hutchins, 23, a British national, was arrested at Las Vegas airport on Wednesday by US Marshals, several close friends confirmed to ZDNet. A friend told ZDNet that he was "was pulled by Marshals at the lounge" after clearing security. He was briefly detained in a federal facility in Nevada until he was moved. "We went to see him this morning and we had already been moved," said the friend. Hutchins is now understood to be in custody at an FBI field office in the state. Motherboard first broke the story on Thursday. Update: A Motherboard reporter tweets, "Here's the indictment accusing @MalwareTechBlog of running the Kronos banking malware."

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Ubuntu Will Revert Window Controls To the Right-Hand Side in Next Release
Posted by News Fetcher on August 03 '17 at 11:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's change-in-heart department:
Following a survey carried out last month, Ubuntu will begin shipping with the minimise, maximise, and close buttons on the right-hand side of windows. From a report: In the survey 46.2% of people said they prefer their window controls on the left-hand side and 53.8% said they prefer them on the right. The decision comes after seven years of window controls being on the left, at the time it had plenty of detractors but Ubuntu founder, Mark Shuttleworth, maintained that the controls needed shifting to the left because they'd be in the way of the then newly introduced window indicators.

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Inside Mozilla's Fight To Make Firefox Relevant Again
Posted by News Fetcher on August 03 '17 at 09:52 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's to-the-future department:
News outlet CNET has a big profile on Firefox today, for which it has spoken with several Mozilla executives. Mozilla hopes to fight back Chrome, which owns more than half of the desktop market share, with Firefox 57, a massive overhaul due November 14. From the report: "It's going to add up to be a big bang," Mozilla Chief Executive Chris Beard promises, speaking at the company's Mountain View, California, headquarters. "We're going to win back a lot of people." "Some of the stuff they're doing from a technology perspective is amazing," says Andreas Gal, who became CEO of startup Silk Labs after leaving the Mozilla chief technology officer job in 2015. "I just don't think it makes a difference." [...] You may not care which browser you use, but the popularity of Firefox has helped keep browsers competitive and build the web into a foundation for online innovations over the last decade. Are you a fan of Google Maps, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube? That's partly thanks to Firefox. Mozilla's mission is to keep the web vibrant enough for the next big innovation even as companies offer mobile apps instead of websites, dump privacy-invading ads on you or try to confine your activity to their own walled gardens. [...] To Mozilla, each tap or click on a webpage in Firefox is more than you browsing the internet. It's a statement that you'd prefer a more open future where online services can start up on their own. The alternative, as Mozilla sees it, is a future where everyone kowtows to Apple's app store, Google's search results, Facebook's news feed or Amazon's Prime video streaming. That's why Mozilla bought billboard ads saying "Browse against the machine" and "Big browser is watching you," a jab at Google. [...] Improvements within a project called Quantum are responsible for much of the difference. One part, Stylo, accelerates formatting operations. Quantum Flow squashes dozens of small slowdown bugs. Quantum Compositor speeds website display. And Firefox 57 also will lay the groundwork for WebRender, which uses a computing device's graphics chip to draw webpages on the screen faster. "You can do user interface and animation and interactive content that you simply can't do in any other browser," says Firefox chief Mayo, speaking from his office in Toronto -- over video chat technology Firefox helped make possible. It all adds up to a very different engine at the core of Firefox. That kind of speedup can really excite web developers -- an influential community key to Firefox's success in taking on IE back in 2004.

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EPA Reverses Course on Ozone Rule
Posted by News Fetcher on August 03 '17 at 09:52 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's crucial-victories department:
The Trump administration said late Wednesday that it would not delay an Obama-era regulation on smog-forming pollutants from smokestacks and tailpipes (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source), a move that environmental groups hailed as a victory. From a report: The Environmental Protection Agency decision came a day after 16 state attorneys general, all Democrats, filed a lawsuit challenging the delay with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. It reversed a decision that Scott Pruitt, the E.P.A. administrator, made in June to put off an Oct. 1 deadline for designating which areas of the country met new ozone standards. In announcing the ozone policy change, the agency appeared to leave the door open to extending the deadline again. But, officials said, the agency will work with states to help them deliver the needed information.

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Private Valuations Aren't Grounded in Reality, Study Finds
Posted by News Fetcher on August 03 '17 at 08:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's magic-trick department:
Unicorns aren't real, and neither are the valuations ascribed to many of the startups that say they're worth $1 billion or more, study finds. From a report: About half of private companies with valuations exceeding $1 billion, known as unicorns, wouldn't have earned the mythical title without the use of complex stock mechanics, according to a study by business professors at the University of British Columbia and Stanford University. The tools used to negotiate a higher share price with investors often come at the expense of employees and early shareholders, sometimes drastically reducing the actual value of their stock. The chasm between public and private valuations is a topic of increasing prominence following several disappointing listings. Among them is Blue Apron Holdings, which is trading well below the price venture capitalists paid in the last fundraising round. An often-overlooked explanation for the divide is buried in investor contracts. Blue Apron, which delivers meal kits to customers, gave stock preferences to Fidelity Investments and other backers in 2015 in exchange for a $2 billion valuation. The shares included a provision to receive additional equity if an initial public offering is set below a target price. Investors took advantage of the mechanism after Blue Apron's mediocre IPO.

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Thousands Show Up For Jobs at Amazon Warehouses in US Cities
Posted by News Fetcher on August 03 '17 at 08:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's making-ends-meet department:
Thousands of people showed up Wednesday for a chance to pack and ship products to Amazon customers, as the e-commerce company held a giant job fair at nearly a dozen U.S. warehouses. From a report on Associated Press: Although the wages offered will make it hard for some to make ends meet, many of the candidates were excited by the prospect of health insurance and other benefits, as well as advancement opportunities. It's common for Amazon to ramp up its shipping center staff in August to prepare for holiday shopping. But the magnitude of its current hiring spree underscores Amazon's growth when traditional retailers are closing stores -- and blaming Amazon for a shift to buying goods online. Amazon said it received "a record-breaking 20,000 applications" and hired thousands of people on the spot, and will hire more in the coming days. That number represented fewer than half of the 50,000 people it had said it planned to hire.

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Tesla Burns Through Record Cash To Bring the Model 3 To Market
Posted by News Fetcher on August 03 '17 at 07:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's dream-big-or-go-home department:
Dana Hull, reporting for Bloomberg: Tesla's Elon Musk keeps getting the green light to do what it takes to bring electric cars to the masses, regardless of how much it's going to cost. The company burned through $1.16 billion in cash in the second quarter by spending on capacity for its cheapest model yet and boosting battery output. Investors fixated instead on what Musk said is coming next: Hundreds of thousands of Model 3 sedan deliveries, installations of solar roofs and an all-new semi truck to add to the lineup. "This is the best I've ever felt about Tesla's future," Musk said on a conference call. The stock surged as much as 7.4 percent to $349.94 as of 9:45 a.m. Thursday in New York, the biggest intraday gain in four months. The chief executive officer has built a fanatical following of Tesla shareholders who continue to throw their support behind his clean-energy vision. It helps that consumers keep opening their wallets: The Model 3, which starts at $35,000, has racked up almost half a million reservations and is drawing more deposits by the day. The record negative free cash flow Tesla reported for the three months ended in June was almost double the $622 million it went through in the first quarter. With a little more than $3 billion in cash on hand, Musk told analysts the company is thinking about raising money through a debt offering.

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Mozilla's Send is Basically the Snapchat of File Sharing
Posted by News Fetcher on August 03 '17 at 07:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's mozilla-things department:
Mozilla has launched a new website that makes it really easy to send a file from one person to another. From a report: The site is called Send, and it's basically the Snapchat of file sharing: after a file has been downloaded once, it disappears for good. That might sound like a gimmick, but it underscores what the site is meant for. It's designed for quick and private sharing between two people -- not for long-term hosting or distributing files to a large group. It supports files up to 1GB, and after uploading something, it'll give you a link to send to someone else. That link will expire once they've downloaded it or once 24 hours have passed.

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China Is Perfecting a New Method For Suppressing Dissent On the Internet
Posted by News Fetcher on August 03 '17 at 05:50 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cheerleading-content department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Vox: The art of suppressing dissent has been perfected over the years by authoritarian governments. For most of human history, the solution was simple: force. Punish people severely enough when they step out of line and you deter potential protesters. But in the age of the internet and "fake news," there are easier ways to tame dissent. A new study by Gary King of Harvard University, Jennifer Pan of Stanford University, and Margaret Roberts of the University of California San Diego suggests that China is the leading innovator on this front. Their paper, titled "How the Chinese Government Fabricates Social Media Posts for Strategic Distraction, Not Engaged Argument," shows how Beijing, with the help of a massive army of government-backed internet commentators, floods the web in China with pro-regime propaganda. What's different about China's approach is the content of the propaganda. The government doesn't refute critics or defend policies; instead, it overwhelms the population with positive news (what the researchers call "cheerleading" content) in order to eclipse bad news and divert attention away from actual problems. This has allowed the Chinese government to manipulate citizens without appearing to do so. It permits just enough criticism to maintain the illusion of dissent and only acts overtly when fears of mass protest or collective action arise.

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Verizon's New Rewards Program Lets It Track Your Browsing History
Posted by News Fetcher on August 03 '17 at 03:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's permission-to-track department:
The new "Verizon Up" rewards program released this week by Big Red awards users a credit for every $300 they spend on their Verizon bill that can be redeemed toward various rewards. The only catch is that Verizon requires you to enroll in Verizon Selects, a program that allows the company to track a huge chunk of your personal data. The Verge reports: That includes web browsing, app usage, device location, service usage, demographic info, postal or email address, and your interests. Furthermore, that data gets shared with Verizon's newly formed Oath combination (aka AOL and Yahoo), plus with "vendors and partners" who work with Verizon. Which is kind of a long list of people who have access to what feels like a fairly significant amount of your data. It's worth noting that Verizon has been operating under these terms and conditions for a while with an earlier rewards program called "Smart Rewards," which also required users to opt in to the Verizon Selects tracking program. But that doesn't make it any better that this is the trade-off you're forced to make to take advantage of the rewards.

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Being Outside Could Become Deadly In South Asia, Says Study
Posted by News Fetcher on August 02 '17 at 11:12 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-extremes department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ABC News: Venturing outdoors may become deadly across wide swaths of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh by the end of the century as climate change drives heat and humidity to new extremes, according to a new study. These conditions could affect up to a third of the people living throughout the Indo-Gangetic Plain unless the global community ramps up efforts to rein in climate-warming carbon emissions. Today, that vast region is home to some 1.5 billion people. While most climate studies have been based on temperature projections, this one -- published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances -- is somewhat unique in also considering humidity as well as the body's ability to cool down in response. Most of those at risk in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are poor farmworkers or outdoor construction laborers. They are unlikely to have air conditioners -- up to 25 percent in of India's population still has no access to electricity. In some areas that have been deforested for industry or agriculture, they may not even have very much shade.

< article continued at Slashdot's new-extremes department >

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Why the Bitcoin Network Just Split In Half and Why It Matters
Posted by News Fetcher on August 02 '17 at 08:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's two-is-better-than-one department:
In a report via Ars Technica, Timothy B. Lee explains why the Bitcoin network split into two and why it matters: On Tuesday, a faction of the Bitcoin community launched an audacious experiment: a new version of Bitcoin called Bitcoin Cash that's incompatible with the standard version. As a result, the Bitcoin network split into two mutually incompatible networks that will operate side-by-side. The confusing result is that if you owned one bitcoin before the split you own two bitcoins now: one coin on the original Bitcoin network, and a second coin on the new Bitcoin Cash network. The two coins have the same cryptographic credentials, but they have very different values if you sell them for old-fashioned dollars. On Wednesday morning, one standard Bitcoin was worth about $2,700, while -- on paper at least -- a unit of Bitcoin Cash was worth around $600. [...] For over a year, the Bitcoin network has been bumping up against a capacity limit hard-coded into the Bitcoin software. Each block in the Bitcoin blockchain -- the network's public, shared transaction ledger -- is limited to 1 megabyte. That artificial limit prevents the network from processing more than about seven transactions per second. Technically speaking, it would be trivial to change that 1 megabyte limit to a higher value. But proposals to do so have faced opposition from traditionalists who argue the limit is actually an important feature of Bitcoin's design that protects the network's democratic character. To participate in the network's peer-to-peer process for clearing transactions, a computer needs a copy of every transaction ever made on the Bitcoin network, which adds up to gigabytes of data per month. This argument has dragged on for more than two years with no resolution. So instead of continuing to bicker, a group of big-block supporters took matters into their own hands. They forked the standard, open-source Bitcoin client to create a rival version of the software.

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Tesla Factory Workers Pushing For a Union Send Letter of Requests To Company's Board Members
Posted by News Fetcher on August 02 '17 at 05:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's ransom-letter department:
One of the many challenges facing Tesla right now is the escalating worker complaints about pay and safety. At its California factory, a move to unionize is gaining steam. Workers recently sent a letter to Tesla's independent board members requesting access to the automaker's safety plan as well as clarity on compensation and a promise of no retaliation against employees as they try to form a union. From a report via Phys.Org: The United Auto Workers is in the process of trying to unionize the 10,000 Tesla workers at the Fremont plant, alleging the company has a poor safety record -- a charge it vehemently denies.
"We're tired of suffering preventable injury after preventable injury. It impacts morale, it slows down production and it's of course traumatizing," said Michael Catura, a Tesla production worker who signed the letter. Starting pay for production associates in the Fremont facility is $18 an hour, far below the national average for auto workers of $25.58 and even farther below the living wage in Alameda County, California, where the average wage is $28.10, according to the letter sent by workers. In addition, the letter said the paths to promotion are not clear. "Many of us have worked for years with the vague promise of a raise, with nothing to show for it," said Richard Ortiz, who works in the paint shop. "We have no idea what the criteria is to move forward, and no idea of what defines success. We've raised these issues repeatedly, and have gotten no response," he added.

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CBS Delaying 'Star Trek: Discovery' To Maintain Quality
Posted by News Fetcher on August 02 '17 at 04:32 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's quality-control department:
New submitter Zorro shares a report from Fox News: The premiere of "Star Trek: Discovery" on CBS' subscription streaming service, CBS All Access, was postponed nine months to maintain the quality of the brand. Executive producer Alex Kurtzman told the Television Critics Association Tuesday that they "spent a lot of time" discussing how to create this new world for TV that felt authentic to the "Star Trek" universe. Also during that time, executive producer Bryan Fuller decided to exit the series as showrunner to focus on other projects. Kurtzman said "it became clearer and clearer" that the targeted January debut would "compromise the quality of the show," so it was pushed with the blessing of CBS Chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves.

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Man Used DDoS Attacks On Media To Extort Them To Remove Stories
Posted by News Fetcher on August 02 '17 at 04:32 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cease-and-desist department:
New submitter troublemaker_23 shares a report from iTWire: A 32-year-old man from Seattle who was arrested for mounting a series of distributed denial of service attacks on businesses in Australia, the U.S. and Canada, wanted articles about himself removed from various news sites, including Fairfax Media. According to an FBI chargesheet filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas (Dallas Division), Kamyar Jahanrakhshan tried to get articles removed from the Sydney Morning Herald, a site for legal articles known as Leagle.com, Metronews.ca, a Canadian news website, CBC in Canada and Canada.ca. The chargesheet, filed by FBI special agent Matthew Dosher, said Jahanrakhshan migrated to the U.S. in 1991 and took U.S. citizenship; he then moved to Canada about four years later and became a permanent resident there. He had a conviction for second degree theft in Washington state in 2005 and this was vacated in August 2011; he also had a 2011 conviction for fraud and obstruction in Canada. In each case, Jahanrakhshan, who was deported back to the U.S. as a result of the Canada crime, launched DDoS attacks on the news websites and then contacted them. Further reading: Ars Technica

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