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Advertising

Inside the Booming, Unhinged, and Dangerous Malvertising Menace 61

mask.of.sanity writes: The Register has a feature on the online malicious advertising (malvertising) menace that has become an explosively potent threat to end-user security on the internet. Experts say advertising networks and exchanges need to vet their customers, and publishers need to vet the third party content they display. Users should also consider script and ad blockers in the interim. From the article: "Ads as an attack vector was identified in 2007 when security responders began receiving reports of malware hitting user machines as victims viewed online advertisements. By year's end William Salusky of the SANS Internet Storms Centre had concocted a name for the attacks. Since then malvertising has exploded. This year it increased by more than 260 percent on the previous year, with some 450,000 malicious ads reported in the first six months alone, according to numbers by RiskIQ. Last year, security firm Cyphort found a 300 percent increase in malvertising. In 2013, the Online Trust Alliance logged a more than 200 percent increase in malvertising incidents compared to 2012, serving some 12.4 billion malvertisement impressions."
Cellphones

Former Apple CEO Creates an iPhone Competitor 96

An anonymous reader links to Fast Company's profile of Obi Worldphone, one-time Apple CEO John Sculley's venture into smartphones. The company's first two products (both reasonably spec'd, moderately priced Android phones) are expected to launch in October. And though the phones are obviously running a different operating system than Apple's, Sculley says that Obi is a similarly design-obsessed company: "The hardest part of the design was not coming up with cool-looking designs," Sculley says. "It was sweating the details over in the Chinese factories, who just were not accustomed to having this quality of finish, all of these little details that make a beautiful design. We had teams over in China, working for months on the floor every day. We intend to continue that process and have budgeted accordingly." Obi is also trying to set itself apart from the low-price pack by cutting deals for premium parts. "Instead of going directly to the Chinese factories, we went to the key component vendors, because we know that ecosystem and have the relationships," Sculley says. "We went to Sony. It’s struggling and losing money on its smartphone business, but they make the best camera modules in the world."
Your Rights Online

Analysis Reveals Almost No Real Women On Ashley Madison 401

gurps_npc writes: Ashley Madison claimed to have about 31 million men and 5.5 million woman enrolled. Those odds are not good for the men, 6:1. But unfortunately, most of those 'women' were fake. This researcher analyzed the data and found only 12,000 actual, real women using Ashley Madison. That means for every 7750 men, there were 3 women. There are reports that Ashley Madison paid people to create fake female profiles. Their website admits that 'some of the users may be there for "entertainment purposes."' The article itself is well written, including a description of the analysis. A charitable person would say that Ashley Madison was selling a fantasy, not reality. But a realist would say Ashley Madison is just a thief stealing money from lonely, unhappy men.
Businesses

Will a Tighter Economy Rein In Startups? 103

Nerval's Lobster writes: It's been quite a ride for the stock market this week. In China, markets cratered; in the U.S., stocks dove for two days, only to rebound on Wednesday. That made many tech firms nervous, both about the Chinese economy (which some of them depend upon) and the continuing flow of money from VCs and investors. While the economic jitters don't seem to be affecting some tech firms' ability to implode themselves, more than one pundit is wondering whether the tech industry will shift into 'fear mode,' which could be bad for the so-called 'unicorns' that need funders to keep partying like it's 1999. Are we going to see money start drying up for startups?
Earth

Countries Gaming Carbon Offsets May Have Dramatically Increased Emissions 134

schwit1 writes: Abuse of the carbon offset system may have caused emissions to increase by as much as 600 million tons. That's the finding of a new report from the Stockholm Environment Institute, which investigated carbon credits used to offset greenhouse gas emissions under a UN scheme. As one of the co-authors of the report put it, issuing these credits "was like printing money." From the article: "In some projects, chemicals known to warm the climate were created and then destroyed to claim cash. As a result of political horse trading at UN negotiations on climate change, countries like Russia and the Ukraine were allowed to create carbon credits from activities like curbing coal waste fires, or restricting gas emissions from petroleum production. Under the UN scheme, called Joint Implementation, they then were able to sell those credits to the European Union's carbon market. Companies bought the offsets rather than making their own more expensive, emissions cuts. But [the studey] says the vast majority of Russian and Ukrainian credits were in fact, "hot air" — no actual emissions were reduced.
Data Storage

Oakland Changes License Plate Reader Policy After Filling 80GB Hard Drive 269

An anonymous reader writes: License plate scanners are a contentious subject, generating lots of debate over what information the government should have, how long they should have it, and what they should do with it. However, it seems policy changes are driven more by practical matters than privacy concerns. Earlier this year, Ars Technica reported that the Oakland Police Department retained millions of records going back to 2010. Now, the department has implemented a six-month retention window, with older data being thrown out. Why the change? They filled up the 80GB hard drive on the Windows XP desktop that hosted the data, and it kept crashing.

Why not just buy a cheap drive with an order of magnitude more storage space? Sgt. Dave Burke said, "We don't just buy stuff from Amazon as you suggested. You have to go to a source, i.e., HP or any reputable source where the city has a contract. And there's a purchase order that has to be submitted, and there has to be money in the budget. Whatever we put on the system, has to be certified. You don't just put anything. I think in the beginning of the program, a desktop was appropriate, but now you start increasing the volume of the camera and vehicles, you have to change, otherwise you're going to drown in the amount of data that's being stored."
Businesses

Life With the Dash Button: Good Design For Amazon, Bad For Everyone Else 246

vivaoporto writes: A scathing review published on Fast Company describes Amazon's Dash Button, the "Buy Now" button brought into the physical world as "the latest symptom of Amazon's slowly spreading disease", "an unabashed attempt to disconnect customers from the amount of money we're spending." The author's criticism centers on Amazon's lack of focus on customer experience, a core UI that doesn't make sense, limited and expensive product selection and a store UX "no longer designed for your convenient shopping", but rather "designed for their profitable selling."
United Kingdom

Met Office Loses BBC Weather Forecasting Contract 119

An anonymous reader writes: UK weather forecasts could be run on computers in New Zealand, as the BBC announced that the UK Met Office lost a forecasting contract it held for almost 100 years. The Guardian reports: "The Met Office has lost the contract it has held for close to a century to provide weather forecasts to the BBC, bringing to an end one of the longest relationships in British media. The broadcaster said it was legally required to open up the contract to outside competition in order to secure the best value for licence fee payers. The meteorological service said it was disappointed by the BBC’s decision to put out to tender the contract, which has been in place since the corporation’s first radio weather bulletin on 14 November 1922. Steve Noyes, operations and customer services director at the Met Office, said: 'Nobody knows Britain’s weather better and, during our long relationship with the BBC, we’ve revolutionised weather communication to make it an integral part of British daily life.'"
NASA

Calls For Funding NASA Commercial Crew Grow 71

MarkWhittington writes: As summer starts to give way to fall and the end of the current fiscal year draws nigh, demands that NASA's commercial crew program be fully funded are being heard with greater frequency and urgency. Astronaut Scott Kelly took time off from his year-long sojourn on the International Space Station to entreat Congress to pony up. IO9 was a little more caustic, stating "Dammit, Congress: Just Buy NASA its Own Space Taxi, Already." Monday, Slate became the latest media outlet to take up the cause

The situation is depressingly familiar to those who have followed the fortunes of the space program since the Apollo moon landings. When President Obama started the commercial crew program in 2010, NASA estimated that it would take a certain amount of money to get government funded and commercially operated spacecraft running by 2015. Then the space agency would no longer be dependent on Russia for rides to the International Space Station.

Congress has decided to allocate less money than NASA feels it needed for commercial crew. This situation is not unusual, as Congress often does this to space projects. However, the politics surrounding the creation of the commercial crew program, which featured the abrupt cancellation of the Constellation space exploration program, has exacerbated the conflict between NASA's will and Congress' won't. President Obama did not consult Congress when he cancelled President Bush's return to the moon program. Congress has displeased ever since.
Censorship

Proposed Rules Would Require Gov't Registration For Malaysian Press Sites 39

Malaysia's Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak has proposed mandatory government registration for web sites operating within Malaysia. This comes after the Malaysian government blocked the online Sarawak Report, and suspended a newspaper called the The Edge "for allegedly posting unverified information." Officials accused these news outlets of publishing inaccurate documents about a corruption scandal that linked the Prime Minister to 1MDB, a state-managed investment firm that reportedly lost billions of taxpayers’ money. ... The proposal to require news websites to register is seen by some as part of the government’s response to the rising outrage over the corruption issue.
Businesses

Not All Uber Drivers Like Surge Pricing, Either 245

CNET reports that Uber's practice of surge pricing, which sometimes raises the ire of passengers, isn't universally acclaimed by the company's drivers, either. "[M]ost Uber riders," according the the linked article, "despise surge pricing," though it's not clear quite how that "most" is arrived at. From the piece: They've complained about running up bills totaling hundreds of dollars, and have criticized the company for using surge pricing during emergencies, like Hurricane Sandy and the Sydney hostage crisis. The San Francisco Better Business Bureau gave Uber the grade of an F because of complaints related to surge pricing. And New York lawmakers have even proposed legislation to put limits on how high fares can go. Now some drivers, like [San Francisco Uber driver Peter] Ashlock, are also having second thoughts on surge pricing." On the other hand, what system would you propose to better reward drivers for working at high-demand times?
United Kingdom

UK Government Signs New Deal With Oracle 54

An anonymous reader writes: The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) has signed a deal with Oracle that should allow it to cut down on spending and licensing costs with the software provider. The three-year partnership will see the two collaborate to deliver services to public sector bodies including the National Health Service. A few weeks ago the government announced it would be cutting back on its use of Oracle software, but the new deal instead extends the existing agreement. CCS CEO Sally Collier explained: "The enhanced MoU will deliver savings across government and allow easier and more effective procurement of Oracle products and services. It lays the foundation of a more collaborative relationship between government and Oracle."
The Almighty Buck

Finland Considers Minimum Income To Reform Welfare System 750

jones_supa writes: The Finnish government is considering a pilot project that would see the state pay people a basic income regardless of whether they are employed or not. The details of how much the basic income might be and who would be eligible for it are yet to be announced, but already there is widespread interest in how it might work. Prime Minister Juha Sipilä has praised the idea, and he sees it as a way to simplify the social security system. With unemployment being an increasing concern, four out of five Finns are now in favour of a basic income. Sipilä has expressed support for a limited, geographical experiment, just like Dutch city of Utrecht is executing this autumn.
Education

Stopping Universities From Hoarding Money 273

HughPickens.com writes: Victor Fleischer writes in the NYT that university endowments are exempt from corporate income tax because universities support the advancement and dissemination of knowledge. But instead of holding down tuition or expanding faculty research, endowments are hoarding money. Last year, Yale paid about $480 million to private equity fund managers for managing about $8 billion, one-third of Yale's endowment. In contrast, of the $1 billion the endowment contributed to the university's operating budget, only $170 million was earmarked for tuition assistance, fellowships and prizes. Private equity fund managers also received more than students at Harvard, the University of Texas, Stanford and Princeton.

Fleischer, a professor of law at the University of San Diego, says that as part of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act expected later this year, Congress should require universities with endowments in excess of $100 million to spend at least 8 percent of the endowment each year. Universities could avoid this rule by shrinking assets to $99 million, but only by spending the endowment on educational purposes, which is exactly the goal. According to a study by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity a minimum payout of 5 percent per annum, would be is similar to the legal requirement for private and public foundations. "The sky-high tuition increases would stop, and maybe even reverse themselves. Faculty members would benefit from greater research support. University libraries, museums, hospitals and laboratories would have better facilities," concludes Fleischer. "We've lost sight of the idea that students, not fund managers, should be the primary beneficiaries of a university's endowment."
Google

Google Targets Low-Cost Android One Phone At African Markets 43

jfruh writes: In order to meet its goal of bringing Android to five billion users, Google needs to get smartphones into the hands of people in the developing world. The company's Android One program aims to do just that. Already active in India, the program is now bringing an $88 smartphone to West Africa. “The software on Android One devices automatically updates to the latest version of Android and will get the Android M release after release. The goal is to provide a consistent and uncompromising smartphone experience, for everyone,” Google VP of product management, Caesar Sengupta, said.
Businesses

The Crowdfunded Board Game Renaissance 57

An anonymous reader writes: FiveThirtyEight has an article about the surging popularity of new board games, which is being boosted by campaigns on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Since Kickstarter came online in 2009, board games and card games have accrued $196 million in pledges, 93% of which went to successful projects. That's even better than video games have done, at $179 million and 85%. For an industry whose yearly sales don't tend to break $1 billion, those are impressive numbers. The article attempts to explain their success: "Designers show up, explain their game idea on a Web page, often with photos and a video, and ask for pledges. That lets a designer learn, in real time, what the demand for his game is. ... Second, they are democratizing tools. Internet crowdfunding has done the same thing for game designers that blogging platforms did for writers: turned them into publishers."
Bitcoin

Bitcoin Fork Divides Community 185

HughPickens.com writes: The Bitcoin community is facing one of the most momentous decisions in its six-year history. The Bitcoin network is running out of spare capacity, and two increasingly divided camps disagree about what, if anything, to do about the problem. The technical issue is that a block, containing a record of recent transactions, currently has a 1MB limit. Increasing the block size would allow more transactions on the network at once, helping it to scale up to meet growing demand. But it would also make it more difficult for ordinary users to host full network "nodes" that validate new transactions on the network, potentially making the digital currency more centralized as a result. Now Rob Price writes that two high-profile developers have released a competing version of the codebase that risks splitting the digital currency in two.

Gavin Andresen and Mike Hearn have released Bitcoin XT, an alternative version of the core software that supports increasing the block size when required. Bitcoin users will now be forced to decide between "Bitcoin Core" and Bitcoin XT, raising the prospect of a "fork," where the digital currency divides into two competing versions. According to Price, Core and XT are compatible right now. However, if XT is adopted by 75% of users by January 2016, it will upgrade to a larger block size that will be incompatible with Core — meaning that if the other 25% don't then choose to convert, it will effectively split the currency into two. So far, 7.7% of the network has adopted XT, according to website XTnodes.com. "Ultimately, how the dispute is resolved may matter more than the specific decision that's reached," says Timothy B. Lee. "If the community is ultimately able to reach a consensus, the process could become a template for resolving future disagreements. On the other hand, if disagreements fester for months — or, worse, if a controversial software change splits the Bitcoin network into two warring camps — it could do real damage to Bitcoin's reputation."
Programming

The 2015 Underhanded C Contest Has Begun 52

Xcott Craver writes: The 8th Underhanded C Contest is now underway. The goal of the Underhanded C Contest is to write C code that is as readable, clear, innocent and straightforward as possible, but which performs some malicious function that is not obvious from looking at the source code. This year's challenge is based on a real problem in joint development for nuclear treaty verification, and the prize is $1000.