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IRS: Identity Theft Protection a Tax Deductible Benefit - Even Without a Breach

Slashdot -

chicksdaddy writes: The U.S. Internal Revenue Service has announced that it will treat identity theft protection as a non-taxable, non-reportable benefit that companies can offer — even when the company in question hasn't experienced a data breach, and regardless of whether it is offered by an employer to employees, or by other businesses (such as online retailers) to its customers, the blog E for ERISA reports. In short: companies can now deduct the cost of offering identity theft protection as a benefit for employees or extending it to customers, even if their data hasn't been exposed to hackers. The announcement comes only four months after an earlier announcement by the IRS that it would treat identity theft protection offered to employees or customers in the wake of a data breach as a non-taxable event. Comments to the IRS following the earlier decision suggested that many businesses view a data breach as "inevitable" rather than as a remote risk. The truth of that statement was made clear to the IRS itself, which had to provide identity theft protection earlier this year in response to a hack of its online database of past-filed returns and other filed documents which ultimately affected over 300,000 taxpayers. The new IRS guidance could be a boon to providers of identity protection services such as Experian and Lifelock, though maybe not as much as one would expect. Data from Experian suggests that consumer adoption rates for identity theft protection services is low. Fewer than 10% of those potentially affected by a breach opt for free identity protection services when they are offered. For very large breaches that number is even lower — in the single digit percentages.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Tim DeChristopher on Bundy Takeover: Gov't is More Afraid of Civil Disobedience Than Armed Militias

Democracy Now! Videos -

The armed occupation of a federally owned wildlife outpost in remote Oregon has entered its second week. A self-styled right-wing antigovernment militia calling itself the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in support of two ranchers sentenced to prison for setting fires that burned federal land. Leaders of the occupation include Ammon and Ryan Bundy, the sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who refused to pay decades' worth of cattle grazing fees, prompting a standoff with federal rangers in 2014 in Nevada, during which an armed militia rallied to his support. A recent piece by the website Waging Nonviolence compares the federal government's handling of the Bundy case and that of Tim DeChristopher, a climate activist who spent 21 months in federal custody for posing as a bidder in 2008 to prevent oil and gas drilling on thousands of acres of land controlled by the Bureau of Land Management in his home state of Utah. DeChristopher joins us to discuss.

Police Agencies Using Software To Generate "Threat Scores" of Suspects

Slashdot -

Koreantoast writes: It's no secret that governments across the globe have been taking advantage of new technologies to create stronger surveillance systems on citizens. While many have focused on the actions of intelligence agencies, local police departments continue to create more sophisticated systems as well. A recent article highlights one new system deployed by the Fresno, California police department, Intrado's Beware. The system scours police data, public records, social media, and public Internet data to provide a "threat level" of a potential suspect or residency. The software part of a broader trend of military counterinsurgency tools and algorithms being repurposed for civil use. While these tools can help police manage actively dangerous situations, providing valuable intel when responding to calls, the analysis also raises serious civil liberties questions both in privacy (where the data comes from) and accuracy (is the data valid, was the analysis done correctly). Also worrying are the long term ramifications to such technologies: there has already been some speculation about "citizen scores," could a criminal threat score be something similar? At very least, as Matt Cagle of the ACLU noted, "there needs to be a meaningful debate... there needs to be safeguards and oversight."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Nanotech Could Make Incandescent Light Bulbs As Efficient As LEDs

Slashdot -

sciencehabit writes: Thomas Edison would be pleased. Researchers have come up with a way to dramatically improve the efficiency of his signature invention, the incandescent light bulb. The approach uses nanoengineered mirrors to recycle much of the heat produced by the filament and convert it into additional visible light. The new-age incandescents are still far from a commercial product, but their efficiency is already nearly as good as commercial LED bulbs, while still maintaining a warm old-fashioned glow.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Intel Skylake Bug Causes PCs To Freeze During Complex Workloads

Slashdot -

chalsall writes: Intel has confirmed an in-the-wild bug that can freeze its Skylake processors. The company is pushing out a BIOS fix. Ars reports: "No reason has been given as to why the bug occurs, but it's confirmed to affect both Linux and Windows-based systems. Prime95, which has historically been used to benchmark and stress-test computers, uses Fast Fourier Transforms to multiply extremely large numbers. A particular exponent size, 14,942,209, has been found to cause the system crashes. While the bug was discovered using Prime95, it could affect other industries that rely on complex computational workloads, such as scientific and financial institutions. GIMPS noted that its Prime95 software "works perfectly normal" on all other Intel processors of past generations."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

What's New In Linux Mint 17.3

LXer -

Linux Mint is one of the most popular Linux distributions. It's known for its simplicity, stability and ease of use. Linux Mint recently released Linux Mint 17.3 'Rosa' with many improvements, new features and updated software that make it more stable and reliable. In this article you'll know what's new in this release and how you can get it.

A tight spot for Putin?

Deutsche Welle World News -

In an interview with "Bild" newspaper, Russian President Putin repeated familliar accusations against the West - but struck some new notes, too. Is a change in policy in the air? Christian Trippe reports from Moscow.

Breadwallet CEO Aaron Voisine: We Support Core's Scalability Road Map, but Bitcoin Does Need a Hard Fork

Bitcoin Magazine -

Breadwallet , according to CEO and co-founder Aaron Voisine, is one of the most popular mobile bitcoin wallets that signed the scaling “ road map ” proposed by Bitcoin Core developer Gregory Maxwell.

Speaking to Bitcoin Magazine, Voisine did emphasize, however, that Bitcoin’s block-size limit will need to be increased through a hard fork as well – and sooner rather than later.

“I’m concerned that it will become increasingly difficult to make hard forks. We should find a durable solution for scalability as soon as possible,” Voisine said.

The block-size dispute, which made headlines throughout 2015, represents a trade-off between the number of transactions the Bitcoin network can handle and its decentralization .

To increase the possible number of transactions, Maxwell’s road map – which found much support among developers – effectively combines a limited block-size increase with additional optimizations. Importantly, this plan heavily relies on Bitcoin Core developer Dr. Pieter Wuille’s Segregated Witness proposal , and, as such, does not require a hard fork any time soon.

“I’m quite excited about Segregated Witness. Breadwallet will support it as soon as it’s rolled out,” Voisine told Bitcoin Magazine. ”I am, however, a little concerned that it might delay the hard fork increase, which will still be necessary. It’s important to increase the maximum block size soon for bitcoin to become a major currency, and to maintain an acceptable user experience.”

As such, Voisine agrees with a recent opinion piece by Jeff Garzik and Gavin Andresen, in which the two prominent Bitcoin Core developers call for a block-size limit increase in order to maintain Bitcoin’s current low-fee policy. Allowing blocks to fill up, Garzik and Andresen contend, would constitute a radical change to Bitcoin’s economics which, in turn, could harm Bitcoin companies and drive users away.

“The risk of not increasing the max block size is far greater than the suggested centralization risk,” Voisine said. “Some developers have a strong status-quo bias when it comes to the network rules, but are failing to consider that the network behavior will change radically as use increases and the rules don’t change with it. With billions of dollars worth of value at stake, it is imperative that we take the conservative route and maintain the existing network behavior in the face of growing network use.”

To solve Bitcoin’s scalability issue, Maxwell’s road map envisions a future where most transactions are not recorded on the blockchain at all. Rather, they are conducted on layers built on top of Bitcoin’s blockchain, which some developers predict will have most of the benefits offered by “on-chain” transactions – plus some extra.

This vision is not shared by Breadwallet, however.

“These additional layers are interesting research projects, but the Bitcoin network needs to stand on it’s own,” Voisine said. “It’s ill-advised to let Bitcoin’s future rely on other networks, who’s decentralization, security and stability haven’t been fully researched and tested, and haven’t even been implemented yet.”

Instead, Voisine believes Bitcoin’s decentralization should be safeguarded through some of the added benefits of Segregated Witness, and other protocol optimizations. In particular, the Breadwallet CEO is excited about Fraud Proofs, a method enabled by Segregated Witness which would vastly increase the security of SPV clients (or “light wallets”) such as Breadwallet.

And while SPV clients would still not be quite as secure as full nodes, Voisine believes fee policy by miners and individual nodes would ensure the Bitcoin network can’t be abused by attackers.

“There is still the tried-and-true method of inducing users to pay transaction fees, through default network relay rules, and miner transaction selection rules,” Voisine explained. “Fees can be raised using these tools if needed, which will cause users to voluntarily economize on blockchain use at the cost of centralizing small value transactions by pushing them off chain.”

The post Breadwallet CEO Aaron Voisine: We Support Core's Scalability Road Map, but Bitcoin Does Need a Hard Fork appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

North Korea Expands Retaliatory Loudspeaker Propaganda

Slashdot -

jones_supa writes: North Korea has expanded its own loudspeaker broadcasts along the inter-Korean border as a counteraction to South Korea's retaliatory broadcasts critical of the communist nation, sources said Monday. In retaliation for North's nuclear test last Wednesday, South resumed its anti-Pyongyang broadcast campaign two days later, a form of psychological warfare detested by the communist country, where outside information is tightly blocked out. "The North initially operated its own loudspeakers at two locations and has now expanded to several locations," a government source said. "In fact, the anti-South loudspeaker broadcasts appear to be coming from every location where we are broadcasting." The North Korean broadcasts are not clearly audible from the South Korean side of the border, but mostly deal with internal propaganda messages and music promoting its leader Kim Jong-un. "We are not sure if it's an issue of electric power or the performance of the loudspeakers, but the sound is very weak," another government source said.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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