Geek Stuff

California Mayors Demand Surveillance Cams On Crime-Ridden Highways

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader shares an Ars Technica report: The 28 shootings along a 10-mile stretch of San Francisco-area highway over the past six months have led mayors of the adjacent cities to declare that these "murderous activities" have reached "crisis proportions." Four people have been killed and dozens injured. These five mayors want California Gov. Jerry Brown to fund surveillance cameras along all the on and off ramps of Interstate 80 and Highway 4 along the cities of El Cerrito, Hercules, Richmond, San Pablo, and Pinole.

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Mark Zuckerberg Is Dictator Of Facebook Nation; There's No Democracy Online: The Pirate Bay Founder

Slashdot -

Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg is the "dictator" of "the biggest nation in the world," says Peter Sunde, co-founder of the controversial website The Pirate Bay. Sunde, who appeared at The Next Web conference on Friday, added that there is "no democracy" online. From a CNBC report: "People in the tech industry have a lot of responsibilities but they never really discuss these things... Facebook is the biggest nation in the world and we have a dictator, if you look at it from a democracy standpoint, Mark Zuckerberg is a dictator. I did not elect him. He sets the rules," Sunde said. "And really you can't opt out of Facebook. I'm not on Facebook but there are a lot of drawbacks in my offline world. No party invitations, no updates from my friends, people stop talking to you, because you're not on Facebook. So it has real life implications."

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Controversial Surveillance Firm Blue Coat Was Granted a Powerful Encryption Certificate

Slashdot -

Joseph Cox, reporting for Motherboard (edited for clarity): A controversial surveillance company called Blue Coat Systems -- whose products have been detected in Iran and Sudan -- was recently issued a powerful encryption certificate by Symantec. The certificate, and the authority that comes with it, could allow Blue Coat Systems to more easily snoop on encrypted traffic. But Symantec downplayed concern from the security community. Blue Coat, which sells web-monitoring software, was granted the power in September last year, but it was only widely noticed this week. The company's devices are used by both government and commercial customers for keeping tabs on networks or conducting surveillance. In Syria, the technology has been used to censor web sites and monitor the communications of dissidents, activists and journalists.Blue Coat assures that it is not going to utilize the certificates to snoop on us. The Register reports: We asked Blue Coat how it planned to use its new powers -- and we were assured that its intermediate certificate was only used for internal testing and that the certificate is no longer in use. "Symantec has reviewed the intermediate CA issued to Blue Coat and determined it was used appropriately," the two firms said in a statement. "Consistent with their protocols, Symantec maintained full control of the private key and Blue Coat never had access to it. Blue Coat has confirmed it was used for internal testing and has since been discontinued. Therefore, rumors of misuse are unfounded."

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The NSA's Delightfully D&D-inspired Guide To the Internet

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"The NSA has a well-earned reputation for being one of the tougher agencies to get records out of, making those rare FOIA wins all the sweeter..." according to Muckrock.com, and "the fact that the records in question just so happen to be absolutely insane are just icing on the cake...." v3rgEz writes: In 2007, two NSA employees put together "Untangling the Web," the agency's official guide to scouring the World Wide Web. The 651-page guide cites Borges, Freud, and Ovid -- and that's just in the preface. MuckRock obtained a copy of the guide under an NSA Freedom of Information request, and has a write up of all the guide's amazing best parts. They're calling it "the weirdest thing you'll read today".

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62% Americans Get News On Social Media

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More people in the United States are now turning to social media instead of traditional media for news. According to Pew Research Center, which surveyed over 4,500 people with various backgrounds, an increasingly number of Americans -- 62% to be exact -- are getting their news from social media platforms such as Facebook, and Instagram. Of the 62% people, 66% of them get their news from Facebook, 23% from Instagram, 21% from YouTube, and 19% from LinkedIn. From a Huffington Post article: It's easy to believe you're getting diverse perspectives when you see stories on Facebook. You're connected not just to many of your friends, but also to friends of friends, interesting celebrities and publications you "like." But Facebook shows you what it thinks you'll be interested in. The social network pays attention to what you interact with, what your friends share and comment on, and overall reactions to a piece of content, lumping all of these factors into an algorithm that serves you items you're likely to engage with. It's a simple matter of business: Facebook wants you coming back, so it wants to show you things you'll enjoy.

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Department of Homeland Security Still Uses COBOL

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The Department of Defense has promised to finally stop managing the U.S. nuclear arsenal with floppy disks "by the end of 2017". But an anonymous reader shares Softpedia's report about another startling revelation this week from the Government Accountability Office: Another agency that plans to upgrade is the US Department of Veterans Affairs, which uses COBOL, a programming language from the '50s to manage a system for employee time and attendance. Unfortunately for the VA, there were funds only to upgrade that COBOL system, because the agency still uses the antiquated programming language to run another system that tracks claims filed by veterans for benefits, eligibility, and dates of death. This latter system won't be updated this year. Another serious COBOL user is the Department of Homeland Security, who employs it to track hiring operations, alongside a 2008 IBM z10 mainframe and a Web component that uses a Windows 2012 server running Java. Personnel files are serious business. A 2015 leak of the secret service's confidential personnel files for a Utah Congressman (who was leading a probe into high-profile security breaches and other missteps) led the Department of Homeland Security to discipline 41 secret service agents.

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EFF Warns of Harsher CFAA

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An anonymous reader writes: The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is "vague, draconian, and notoriously out of touch with how we use computers today," warns the EFF. But instead of reforming it, two U.S. Senators "are on a mission to make things worse..." The senators' proposed Botnet Prevention Act of 2016 "could make criminals of paid researchers who test access in order to identify, disclose, and fix vulnerabilities," according to the EFF. And the bill would also make it a felony to damage "critical infrastructure," which may include software companies and ISPs (since they're apparently using the Department of Homeland Security's definition). The harsher penalties would ultimately give prosecutors much more leverage for plea deals. But worst of all, the proposed bill even "empowers government officials to obtain court orders to force companies to hack computer users for a wide range of activity completely unrelated to botnets. What's worse is that the bill allows the government to do this without any requirement of notice to non-suspect or innocent customers or companies, including botnet victims... These changes would only increase -- not alleviate -- the CFAA's harshness, overbreadth, and confusion." The CFAA was originally written in 1986, and was partly inspired by the 1983 movie "WarGames".

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Vorke V1 is a $200 mini PC with 4GB RAM, Celeron J3160 processor

Liliputing -

Another day, another tiny desktop computer with a low-power processor and Windows 10 software. But the specs on these little desktops keep getting (a little) better.

Yesterday we highlighted the Beelink BT7, with an Atom x7 Cherry Trail processor, 4GB of RAM, and up to 320GB of storage. Today the folks at Geekbuying wrote in to let me know about a similar mini PC with a more powerful Celeron J3160 Braswell processor.

It’s called the Vorke V1, and it’s up for pre-order from Geekbuying or AliExpress for about $200.

Continue reading Vorke V1 is a $200 mini PC with 4GB RAM, Celeron J3160 processor at Liliputing.

Finnish Government Criticizes Microsoft For Job Cuts, 'Broken Promises'

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jones_supa writes: Softpedia reports: "Microsoft has recently announced a new round of job layoffs at its Mobile unit in Finland, as it moves forward with its restructuring and reorganization plan following the acquisition of Nokia's Devices and Services unit. The Finnish government has criticized Microsoft for turning to more job cuts in the country, pointing out that the company has a huge responsibility to help those who are being let go. Microsoft's latest job cut round included 1,850 people, 1,350 of which are said to be working in Finland. 'I am disappointed because of the (initial) promises made by Microsoft,' Finance Minister Alexander Stubb was quoted as saying by Reuters. 'One example is that the data center did not materialize despite the company's promise.'" He refers to Microsoft's promise in 2013 to invest $250 million in a data center located in Finland that was specifically meant to provide services to European customers. All of these worries are not unfounded as the employment situation in Finland is still quite terrible, and the decline of Nokia's former phone business certainly exacerbates the situation.

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ForcePhone App Uses Ultrasonic Tone To Create Pressure-Sensitive Batphone

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Stack: Researchers at the University of Michigan have created an app that makes any smartphone pressure-sensitive without additional hardware. The app, called ForcePhone, uses ultrasonic tones in the existing microphone and speaker hardware that respond to pressure for additional functionality for touchscreens. The app emits a high-frequency ultrasound tone from the device's existing microphone, which is inaudible to humans but can be picked up by the phone. That tone is calibrated to change depending on the pressure that the user gives on the screen or on the body of the phone. This gives users an additional way to interact with their device through the app alone. The additional functionality provided by ForcePhone can be used in a number of ways. Squeezing the body of the phone could take a user back a page, for example; or increased pressure on the touchscreen could act as a 'right-click' function, showing additional information on the app in use. Kan Shin, Professor at the University of Michigan, said, "You don't need a special screen or built-in sensors to do this. Now this functionality can be realized on any phone." He added, "We've augmented the user interface without requiring any special built-in sensors. ForcePhone increases the vocabulary between the phone and the user."

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Qualcomm To Manufacture Custom Chips For Chinese Market

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Stack: Qualcomm president Derek Aberle has suggested that the semiconductor giant is preparing to produce its own custom chips for the Chinese market. [A Wall Street Journal interview with] Aberle revealed that the American company had entered into a joint venture with the local government in Guizhou province to manufacture custom chips starting in the second half of 2016. According to Aberle, the Guizhou government owns 55% of the venture, while Qualcomm owns the remaining 45%. Aberle told the Wall Street Journal that he expects China's server demand to dwarf that of the U.S.. He said of the government-backed venture: "This is really going to be the primary vehicle from which we build our data center business in China. We are actually trying to create the company that is going to be able to win the market here as opposed to just licensing old technology."

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FDA Approves First Implant Treatment For Opioid Addiction

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An anonymous reader writes from a report via Bloomberg: The Food and Drug Administration cleared the first implant in the U.S. to treat heroin and opioid painkiller addictions. The product, Probuphine, may be used to treat addicts continuously for six months with the drug buprenorphine, according to a statement from the agency on Thursday. Titan Pharmaceuticals Inc. and partner Braeburn Pharmaceuticals are the two companies behind the implant and plan to bring it to the market just as Congress passed a bill aimed at addressing the opioid crisis. Buprenorphine differs from methadone in that it doesn't require a treatment program. Doctors can prescribe the implant to patients after they take a four-hour training program. The FDA rejected the implant in 2013 because the original dose that the companies proposed was too low to provide effective treatment. The companies decided to maintain the lower dose and attempt to gain approval by restricting use to patients who already were stable on such amounts. Meanwhile, employers are struggling to find workers who can pass a pre-employment drug test.

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Feinstein-Burr Encryption Legislation Is Dead In The Water

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An anonymous reader writes from a report via Reuters: After the San Bernardino terrorist attack, key U.S. lawmakers pledged to require technology companies to give law enforcement agencies a "back door" to encrypted communications and electronic devices. Now, the push for legislation is dead only months after the terrorist attack. In April, Senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein released the official version of their anti-encryption bill with hopes for it to pass through Congress. But with the lack of White House support for the legislation as well as the high-profile court case between Apple and the Justice Department, the legislation will likely not be introduced this year, and even if it were, it would stand no chance of advancing, said sources familiar with the matter. "The short life of the push for legislation illustrates the intractable nature of the debate over digital surveillance and encryption, which has been raging in one form or another since the 1990s," reports Reuters. Technology companies believe security would be undermined if it were to create a "back door" for law enforcement, while law enforcement agencies believe they need to monitor phone calls, emails, text messages and encrypted data in general for security purposes.

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Google Boosts Mobile Web Speed On Apple Devices With Accelerated Mobile Pages

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fortune: The Google iOS app for devices like the iPhone and iPad now supports the search giant's Accelerated Mobile Pages project, created to increase the loading times of news articles on the Internet. Now when users search for news from their Apple devices using the Google app, they should see streamlined news articles from media companies like The Washington Post that chose to participate in Google's web project. The AMP project is a Google-led initiative to standardize the software code behind each news article on the mobile web. AMP was designed to remove years of accumulated software code that has built up on online publishers' websites. As of Friday, iOS users should see a lightning bolt graphic and the letters "AMP" next to news articles from participating publishers in the "Top Stories" section of their search results in the Google app.

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FBI Raids Dental Software Researcher Who Found Patient Records On Public Server

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blottsie writes: Yet another security researcher is facing possible prosecution under the CFAA for accessing data on a publicly accessible server. The FBI on Tuesday raided Texas-based dental software security researcher Justin Shafer, who found the protected health records of 22,000 patients stored on an anonymous FTP. "This is a troubling development. I hope the government doesn't think that accessing unsecured files on a public FTP server counts as an unauthorized access under the CFAA," Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor and CFAA scholar told the Daily Dot. "If that turns out to be the government's theory -- which we don't know yet, as we only have the warrant so far -- it will be a significant overreach that raises the same issues as were briefed but not resolved in [Andrew 'weev' Auernheimer's] case. I'll be watching this closely." It was also reported this week via The Intercept that a provision snuck into the still-secret text of the Senate's annual intelligence authorization that would give the FBI the ability to demand individuals' email data and possibly web-surfing history from their service providers using those beloved 'National Security Letters' -- without a warrant and in complete secrecy.

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Possible Cellphone Link To Cancer Found In Rat Study

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An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: A giant U.S. study meant to help decide whether cellphones cause cancer is coming back with confusing results. A report on the study, conducted in rats and mice, is not finished yet. But advocates pushing for more research got wind of the partial findings and the U.S. National Toxicology Program has released them early. They suggest that male rats exposed to constant, heavy doses of certain types of cellphone radiation develop brain and heart tumors. But female rats didn't, and even the rats that developed tumors lived longer than rats not exposed to the radiation. The National Toxicology Program, part of the National Institutes of Health, is still analyzing the findings. But John Bucher, associate director of the program, said the initial findings were so significant that the agency decided to release them. A 29-year-old study published earlier this month from Australia reassures us that cellphones are reasonably safe, and do not cause cancer.

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SpaceX Successfully Lands A Falcon 9 Rocket At Sea For The Third Time

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An anonymous reader writes: SpaceX has successfully landed the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean for the third time in a row. The Verge reports: "It was the third time in a row the company has landed a rocket booster at sea, and the fourth time overall. The landing occurred a few minutes before the second stage of the Falcon 9 delivered the THAICOM-8 satellite to space, where it will make its way to geostationary geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). GTO is a high-elliptical orbit that is popular for satellites, sitting more than 20,000 miles above the Earth. The 3,100-kilogram satellite will spend 15 years improving television and data signals across Southeast Asia." The company landed its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship for the second time earlier this month. UPDATE 5/27/15: Frank249 writes in a comment: "Elon Musk just tweeted: 'Rocket landing speed was close to design max and used up contingency crush core, hence back and forth motion. Prob ok, but some risk of tipping.'" He went on to tweet: "Crush core is aluminum honeycomb for energy absorption in the telescoping actuator. Easy to replace (if Falcon makes it back to port)."

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Security Win: Burr-Feinstein Proposal Declared “Dead” for This Year

EFF's Deeplinks -

The anti-security proposal promoted by Senators Burr and Feinstein is “dead,” according to a Reuters report. The news agency spoke to sources within congressional offices, the administration, and the tech sector, who confirmed that the bill “likely will not be introduced this year and, even if it were, would stand no chance of advancing.”

The Burr-Feinstein proposal essentially sought to mandate that tech companies build less secure products so that law enforcement could more easily crack into our communications. The bill would require tech companies to ensure that they could provide the government with plain-text user data in response to a warrant—such as email messages, text messages, contacts, photos, browsing history, or anything else. This would derail a movement that’s been developing among tech companies to increasingly put users in control of their security by giving them the keys to lock their devices. We said at the time that the Burr-Feinstein plan was terrible for digital security, and security experts overwhelmingly agreed with us.

Thousands of EFF supporters spoke out to oppose the bill, and many others joined us in a campaign to pressure Obama to take a strong stance against encryption backdoors. That work paid off: according to Reuters reporting, congressional support has waned and the Obama administration’s decision not to endorse the bill was key to the proposal being scrapped for the year.

Make no mistake: those who seek to undermine our security won’t take today’s defeat lightly. They have many tactics, and the Burr-Feinstein bill was but one of them. Just recently, we’ve seen state-level bills attempting to ban encrypted tech products, attempts to push insecure technical standards, unofficial pressure on tech companies to undermine user security, lawsuits designed to force tech companies to defeat their own security, and now a strange and dangerous amendment to the federal rules of criminal procedure that seeks to give the government new avenues for hacking our computers. There’s also no guarantee the Burr-Feinstein bill won’t come back next year, perhaps with some tiny changes that attempt to paint the bill as a reasonable compromise without actually fixing the core problems.

The modern Crypto Wars are being fought on many fronts, but today is a win. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to everyone who spoke up against the Burr-Feinstein bill, and hope you’ll fight with us again in the next battle. Today is a great day to donate to EFF to ensure we’ve got the resources necessary to block whatever new attack on security appears on the horizon.

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Related Cases: Apple Challenges FBI: All Writs Act Order (CA)Apple All Writs Act (NY)
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Model X Owner Files Lemon Law Suit Against Tesla, Claims Car Is Unsafe To Drive

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An anonymous reader quotes a report from BGR: When designing the Model X, Tesla went more than a little bit overboard in trying to trick out its crossover SUV with as many bells and whistles as possible. Not only did Tesla's overly ambitious development delay the launch of the Model X, it has arguably resulted in a noticeably higher number of quality control issues than we're accustomed to seeing. Hardly a controversial point, even Tesla CEO Elon Musk has conceded that the company was far too zealous when developing the Model X. While some customers with frustrating Model X issues have noted that Tesla has been quick to fix any problems, one Model X owner from California has had enough. According to the Courthouse News Service, via Teslarati, Barrett Lyon recently filed a Lemon Law claim against Tesla, arguing that the car's problems are unfixable and that it's ultimately unsafe to drive. In addition to finding that the front door would often slam shut on his leg, Lyon's suit details a slew of other problems, including Auto Pilot problems, touch screen freezes and more. A Tesla Model S owner, on the other hand, reported that his vehicle went rogue causing an accident all by itself.

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