Earth

Reid Hoffman, Bill Gates, Others Ante Up Another $30 Million To Change.org the World (fortune.com) 39

theodp writes: Fortune reports that LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman is "leading a $30 million funding round in Change.org, a for-profit petition and fundraising website focused on social and political change." Joining Hoffman in this round, as well as an earlier $25 million round in 2014, is Bill Gates. Change.org, Hoffman explained in a Friday LinkedIn post, "helps enable a world where you don't need to hire a lobbyist to have real impact on the issues and policies that matter to you." He added, "In its decade of existence, Change.org petitions have resulted in more than 21,000 victories, i.e., instances in which a government agency, corporation, or other entity has changed a regulation or a policy in the face of a Change.org petition urging it to do so." Last year, Hoffman joined Gates and some of the biggest names in tech and corporate America who threw their weight behind a Change.org petition that tried to get Congress to fund K-12 Computer Science education. The Change.org petition fell short of its 150,000-signature goal despite claims of support from 90% of the parents of the nation's 58 million K-12 schoolchildren (based on a Google-funded survey of 1,685 parents), widespread press coverage (including a full-page ad in petition signer Jeff Bezos's Washington Post), lobbying efforts by the tech coalition that organized the petition (which counts LinkedIn and Microsoft among its members), and even some free PR from Change.org.
Mozilla

Firefox Marketing Head Expresses Concerns Over Google's Apparent 'Only Be On Chrome' Push (medium.com) 184

Eric Petitt, head up Firefox marketing, writing in a blog: I use Chrome every day. Works fine. Easy to use. There are multiple things that bug me about the Chrome product, for sure, but I'm OK with Chrome. I just don't like only being on Chrome. And that's what Chrome wants. It wants you to only use Chrome. Chrome is not evil, it's just too big for its britches. Its influence on the internet economy and individuals is out of balance. Chrome, with 4 times the market share of its nearest competitor (Firefox), is an eight-lane highway to the largest advertising company in the world. Google built it to maximize revenue from your searches and deliver display ads on millions of websites. To monetize every... single... click. And today, there exists no meaningful safety valve on its market dominance. Beyond Google, the web looks more and more like a feudal system, where the geography of the web has been partitioned off by the Frightful Five. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon are our lord and protectors, exacting a royal sum for our online behaviors. We're the serfs and tenants, providing homage inside their walled fortresses. Noble upstarts are erased or subsumed under their existing order. (Footnote: Petitt has made it clear that the aforementioned views are his own, and not those of Mozilla.)
Windows

Windows Switch To Git Almost Complete: 8,500 Commits and 1,760 Builds Each Day (arstechnica.com) 194

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Back in February, Microsoft made the surprising announcement that the Windows development team was going to move to using the open source Git version control system for Windows development. A little over three months after that first revelation, and about 90 percent of the Windows engineering team has made the switch. The Windows repository now has about 4,400 active branches, with 8,500 code pushes made per day and 6,600 code reviews each day. An astonishing 1,760 different Windows builds are made every single day -- more than even the most excitable Windows Insider can handle.
Intel

Intel Drops Thunderbolt 3 Royalty, Adds CPU Integration and Works Closely With Microsoft (windowscentral.com) 106

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Windows Central: Over the last few days, Thunderbolt 3 has been a hot topic amongst Windows users especially with its notable absence with the new Surface Pro and Surface Laptop. Part of the problem is adoption, integration, cost, and consumer confusion according to Microsoft. Intel is aware of the current roadblocks to Thunderbolt 3 implementation, which adds 40Gbps data transfers along with charging and display support for USB Type-C. Today, the company announced numerous changes to its roadmap to speed up its adoption, including: Dropping royalty fees for the Thunderbolt protocol specification starting next year; Integrating Thunderbolt 3 into future Intel CPUs. The good news here is that Intel is dropping many of the roadblocks with today's announcement. By subtracting the licensing costs for Thunderbolt 3 and integrating into the CPU, Intel can finally push mass adoption. Getting back to Microsoft, Intel noted that the two companies are already working closely together with the latest Creators Update bringing more OS support for the protocol. Roanne Sones, general manager, Strategy, and Ecosystem for Windows and Devices at Microsoft added that such cooperation would continue with even more OS-level integration coming down the road.
Technology

Fitness Trackers Out of Step When Measuring Calories, Research Shows (theguardian.com) 81

Fitness devices can help monitor heart rate but are unreliable at keeping tabs on calories burned, research has revealed. From a report on The Guardian: Scientists put seven consumer devices through their paces, comparing their data with gold-standard laboratory measurements. "We were pleasantly surprised at how well the heart rate did -- under many circumstances for most of the devices, they actually did really quite well," said Euan Ashley, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Stanford University and co-author of the research. "At the same time we were unpleasantly surprised at how poor the calorie estimates were for the devices -- they were really all over the map." The team tested seven wrist-worn wearable devices -- the Apple Watch, Basis Peak, Fitbit Surge, Microsoft Band, Mio Alpha 2, PulseOn, and Samsung Gear S2 -- with 31 women and 29 men each wearing multiple devices at a time while using treadmills to walk or run, cycling on exercise bikes or simply sitting.
Microsoft

Microsoft To Launch Its Netflix-Style Game Pass On June 1; Live Gold Subscribers Get Early Access (polygon.com) 35

Microsoft announced today that Xbox Game Pass, a new subscription service that would allow Xbox One owners to download and play a selection of games for a flat monthly fee, will launch on June 1. From a report: Xbox Live Gold subscribers, however, can access the service starting today, May 24. Microsoft is offering a 14-day free trial of Xbox Game Pass, giving Gold subscribers a chance to preview the service at no cost prior to launch. Xbox Game Pass offers "unlimited access to over one hundred great Xbox One and Xbox 360 titles" for $9.99 per month.
Books

Amazon Brings Its Physical Bookstore To New York (usatoday.com) 36

Amazon's first New York City bookstore, Amazon Books, will open to the general public on Thursday morning, marking Amazon's highest-profile move into bricks-and-mortar retail to date. Even as the book shop is a physical bookstore, some "Amazon" elements can be felt. From a report: While some may be excited that this is an "Amazon Store," similar to Apple and Microsoft's respective flagship stores located just blocks away, Amazon says its goal for the new store is the same as it was when the online retail giant first started two decades ago: To sell books. "We have this 20 years of information about books and ratings, and we have millions and millions of customers who are passionate," said Jennifer Cast, vice president of Amazon Books. "It really is a different way to surface great books." The 4,000 square-foot-store features roughly 3,000 books, all with their covers facing out in order to better to "communicate their own essence," Cast says. The company's recommendation system makes a physical appearance in the bookstore through an "if you like this" section, which combines the data Amazon gathers on the books listed with human curators to recommend new books. To someone who walks in to browse, it feels like a high-tech Barnes and Noble.
Businesses

Open19 Launches Open Hardware Project Targeting Edge Computing (datacenterfrontier.com) 15

miller60 writes: The Open19 Foundation launched today, positioning its open hardware designs as a platform for edge computing, and an alternative to the Open Compute Project and hyperscale designs. The Open19 designs were created by the data center team at LinkedIn, citing its focus on a 19-inch rack and licensing terms that it said allow participants better control over their intellectual property. Open Compute develops the 21-inch Open Rack but is also supporting several designs for 19-inch racks, including the Project Olympus concept contributed by Microsoft, LinkedIn's parent company. According to Fortune, the Open19 Foundation is a new group established by LinkedIn, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and General Electric. Its purpose is to make it easier for businesses to buy data center hardware and to encourage companies to build data center hardware more uniformly so that it fits in standardized data racks. The racks themselves are used by businesses to house their computing gear, such as servers and routers. The 19-inch rack is the most commonly used.
Microsoft

Microsoft's New Surface Pro Features Faster Intel Kaby Lake Processor, 13.5 Hours of Battery Life (thurrott.com) 65

On the sidelines of Windows 10 China Government Edition release, Microsoft also announced a new Surface two-in-one laptop. The latest addition to company's hybrid computing line up, the "new Surface Pro" sports an improved design, and houses a newer processor from Intel. From an article: The new Surface Pro features the same 3:2 12.3-inch PixelSense display as its predecessor, providing a resolution of 2736 x 1824 (267 ppi) and 10 point multi-touch capabilities. Surface Pro is based on faster and more reliable Intel "Kaby Lake" chipsets in Core m3-7Y30 with HD Graphics 615, Core i5-7300U with HD Graphics 620, and Core i7-7660U with Iris Plus Graphics 640 variants, which should make for a better experience. As with the previous version, the Core m3 version of the new Surface Pro is fanless and thus silent. But this is new: The Core i5 versions of the new Surface Pro are also fanless and silent. And a new thermal design helps Microsoft claim that the i7 versions are quieter than ever, too. The new Surface Pro is rated at 13.5 hours of battery life (for video playback), compared to just 9 hours for Surface Pro 4. That's a 50 percent improvement. urface Pro can be had with 4, 8, or 16 GB of 1866Mhz LPDDR3 RAM. The new Surface Pro is built around the USB 3-based Surface Connect connector and features one full-sized USB 3 port and one miniDisplayPort port. Microsoft also announced a new Surface Pen (sold separately), and claims that the new pen is twice as accurate (compared to the previous version). No word on the pricing but it will be available in all major global markets in the "coming weeks." The new Surface ships with Windows 10 Pro. (Side note: Earlier Microsoft used to market the Surface Pro devices as tablets that could also serve as laptops. The company is now calling the Surface Pro laptops that are also tablets.)
Microsoft

Microsoft Announces 'Windows 10 China Government Edition', Lets Country Use Its Own Encryption (windows.com) 108

At an event in China on Tuesday, Microsoft announced yet another new version of Windows 10. Called Windows 10 China Government Edition, the new edition is meant to be used by the Chinese government and state-owned enterprises, ending a standoff over the operating system by meeting the government's requests for increased security and data control. In a blog post, Windows chief Terry Myerson writes: The Windows 10 China Government Edition is based on Windows 10 Enterprise Edition, which already includes many of the security, identity, deployment, and manageability features governments and enterprises need. The China Government Edition will use these manageability features to remove features that are not needed by Chinese government employees like OneDrive, to manage all telemetry and updates, and to enable the government to use its own encryption algorithms within its computer systems.
Microsoft

Microsoft Says a Chinese 'Gaming Service' Company Is Hacking Xbox Accounts (theverge.com) 31

An anonymous reader shares a report: Since 2015, a Chinese gaming website has been hacking Xbox accounts and selling the proceeds on the open market, according to a complaint filed by Microsoft in federal court on Friday. On its website, iGSKY presents itself as a gaming service company, offering players a way to pay for in-game credits and rare items -- but according to Microsoft, many of those credits were coming from someone else's wallet. The complaint alleges that the company made nearly $2 million in purchases through hacked accounts and their associated credit cards, using purchases as a way to launder the resulting cash. On the site, cheap in-game points are also available for the FIFA games, Forza Horizon 3, Grand Theft Auto V, and Pokemon Go, among others.
Data Storage

Microsoft Wants To Use DNA For Cloud Data Storage (technologyreview.com) 50

Last July, researchers from Microsoft and the University of Washington said that they had successfully encoded about 200 megabytes of data onto synthetic DNA molecules. The company is now planning to take the technology commercial. "Computer architects at Microsoft Research say the company has formalized a goal of having an operational storage system based on DNA working inside a data center toward the end of this decade," reports MIT Technology Review. "The aim is a 'proto-commercial system in three years storing some amount of data on DNA in one of our four centers for at least a boutique application,' says Doug Carmean, a partner architect at Microsoft Research." From the report: Internally, Microsoft harbors the even more ambitious goal of replacing tape drives, a common format used for archiving information. Major obstacles to a practical storage system remain. Converting digital bits into DNA code (made up of chains of nucleotides labeled A, G, C, and T) remains laborious and expensive because of the chemical process used to manufacture DNA strands. In its demonstration project, Microsoft used 13,448,372 unique pieces of DNA. Experts say buying that much material on the open market would cost $800,000. According to Microsoft, the cost of DNA storage needs to fall by a factor of 10,000 before it becomes widely adopted. While many experts say that's unlikely, Microsoft believes such advances could occur if the computer industry demands them.
Botnet

Attackers DDoS WannaCry Kill Switch (venturebeat.com) 73

An anonymous reader quotes VentureBeat: As of late Friday, after many of the deadlines threatening data deletion had passed, few victims had paid ransoms. According to Elliptic Enterprises, only about $94,000 worth of ransoms had been paid via Bitcoin, which works out to less than one in a thousand of the 300,000 victims who were reportedly affected by WannaCry... While not as bad as feared, ransomware (not to mention cybersecurity threats in general) isn't going away. Wired reported that the domain registered by Hutchins has been under intense denial-of-service attacks delivered by an army of IoT devices marshalled, zombie-like, by Mirai.
Security

New SMB Worm Uses Seven NSA Hacking Tools. WannaCry Used Just Two (bleepingcomputer.com) 115

An anonymous reader writes: Researchers have detected a new worm that is spreading via SMB, but unlike the worm component of the WannaCry ransomware, this one is using seven NSA tools instead of two. Named EternalRocks, the worm seems to be in a phase where it is infecting victims and building its botnet, but not delivering any malware payload.

EternalRocks is far more complex than WannaCry's SMB worm. For starters, it uses a delayed installation process that waits 24 hours before completing the install, as a way to evade sandbox environments. Further, the worm also uses the exact same filenames as WannaCry in an attempt to fool researchers of its true origin, a reason why the worm has evaded researchers almost all week, despite the attention WannaCry payloads have received.

Last but not least, the worm does not have a killswitch domain, which means the worm can't be stopped unless its author desires so. Because of the way it was designed, it is trivial for the worm's owner to deliver any type of malware to any of the infected computers. Unfortunately, because of the way he used the DOUBLEPULSAR implant, one of the seven NSA hacking tools, other attackers can hijack its botnet and deliver their own malware as well. IOCs are available in a GitHub repo.

Ars Technica quotes security researchers who say "there are at least three different groups that have been leveraging the NSA exploit to infect enterprise networks since late April... These attacks demonstrate that many endpoints may still be compromised despite having installed the latest security patch."
Windows

Almost All WannaCry Victims Were Running Windows 7 (theverge.com) 123

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: According to data released today by Kaspersky Lab, roughly 98 percent of the computers affected by the ransomware were running some version of Windows 7, with less than one in a thousand running Windows XP. 2008 R2 Server clients were also hit hard, making up just over 1 percent of infections. Windows 7 is still by far the most common version of Windows, running on roughly four times as many computers as Windows 10 worldwide. Since more recent versions of Windows aren't vulnerable to WannaCry, it makes sense that most of the infections would hit computers running 7. Still, the stark disparity emphasizes how small of a role Windows XP seems to have played in spreading the infection, despite early concerns about the outdated operating system. The new figures also bear on the debate over Microsoft's patching practices, which generated significant criticism in the wake of the attack. Microsoft had released a public patch for Windows 7 months before the attack, but the patch for Windows XP was only released as an emergency measure after the worst of the damage had been done. The patch was available earlier to paying Custom Support customers, but most XP users were left vulnerable, each unpatched computer a potential vector to spread the ransomware further. Still, Kaspersky's figures suggest that unpatched XP devices played a relatively small role in the spread of the ransomware.
Microsoft

Linux Distros Won't Run On Microsoft's Education-Focused Windows 10 S OS (betanews.com) 115

Reader BrianFagioli writes: I was sort of hopeful for Windows 10 S when Microsoft made a shocking announcement at Build 2017 that it is bringing Linux distributions to the Windows Store. This gave the impression that students using the S variant of the OS would be able to tinker with Linux. Unfortunately, this is not the case as Microsoft will be blocking Linux on the new OS. In other words, not all apps in the store will be available for Windows 10 S. "Windows 10 S does not run command-line applications, nor the Windows Console, Cmd / PowerShell, or Linux/Bash/WSL instances since command-line apps run outside the safe environment that protects Windows 10 S from malicious / misbehaving software," says Rich Turner, Senior Product Manager, Microsoft. Tuner further explains, "Linux distro store packages are an exotic type of app package that are published to the Windows Store by known partners. Users find and install distros , safely, quickly, and reliably via the Windows Store app. Once installed, however, distros should be treated as command-line tools that run outside the UWP sandbox and secure runtime infrastructure. They run with the capabilities granted to the local user -- in the same way as Cmd and PowerShell do. This is why Linux distros don't run on Windows 10 S: Even though they're delivered via the Windows Store, and installed as standard UWP APPX's, they run as non-UWP command-line tools and this can access more of a system than a UWP can."
Government

CIA Co-Developed 'Athena' Windows Malware With US Cyber Security Company, WikiLeaks Reveals (bleepingcomputer.com) 108

An anonymous reader writes: Today, WikiLeaks leaked documentation about a tool called Athena. According to leaked documents, which WikiLeaks previously claimed it received from hackers and CIA insiders, Athena is an implant -- a CIA technical term for "malware" -- that can target and infect any Windows system, from Windows XP to Windows 10, Microsoft's latest OS version. Documents leaked today are dated between September 2015 and February 2016, showing that the CIA had the ability to hack Windows 10 months after its launch, despite Microsoft boasting about how hard it would be to hack its new OS. [...] The documents reveal that CIA had received help from a non-government contractor in developing the malware. The company is Siege Technologies, a cyber-security company based in New Hampshire, which was acquired on November 15, 2016, by Nehemiah Security, another US company, based in Tysons, Virginia, on the outskirts of Washington and near CIA's headquarters, in a zone peppered with various military and defense contractors.
China

Chinese State Media Says US Should Take Some Blame For Cyberattack (cnbc.com) 82

An anonymous reader shares a CNBC report: Chinese state media on Wednesday criticized the United States for hindering efforts to stop global cyber threats in the wake of the WannaCry ransomware attack that has infected more than 300,000 computers worldwide in recent days. The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) should shoulder some blame for the attack, which targets vulnerabilities in Microsoft systems and has infected some 30,000 Chinese organisations as of Saturday, the China Daily said. "Concerted efforts to tackle cyber crimes have been hindered by the actions of the United States," it said, adding that Washington had "no credible evidence" to support bans on Chinese tech firms in the United States following the attack. The malware attack, which began on Friday and has been linked by some researchers to previous hits by a North Korean-run hacking operation, leveraged a tool built by the NSA that leaked online in April, Microsoft says.
United States

The Tech Sector Is Leaving the Rest of the US Economy In Its Dust (theverge.com) 155

Yesterday afternoon, the S&P 500 closed at a record high, and is up over $1.5 trillion since the start of 2017. "And the companies doing the most to drive that rally are all tech firms," reports The Verge. "Apple, Alphabet, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft make up a whopping 37 percent of the total gains." From the report: All of these companies saw their share prices touch record highs in recent months. This is in stark contrast to the rest of the U.S. economy, which grew at a rate of less than 1 percent during the first three months of this year. That divide is the culmination of a long-term trend, according to a recent report featured in The Wall Street Journal: "In digital industries -- technology, communications, media, software, finance and professional services -- productivity grew 2.7% annually over the past 15 years...The slowdown is concentrated in physical industries -- health care, transportation, education, manufacturing, retail -- where productivity grew a mere 0.7% annually over the same period." There is no industry where these players aren't competing. Music, movies, shipping, delivery, transportation, energy -- the list goes on and on. As these companies continue to scale, the network effects bolstering their business are strengthening. Facebook and Google accounted for over three-quarters of the growth in the digital advertising industry in 2016, leaving the rest to be divided among small fry like Twitter, Snapchat, and the entire American media industry. Meanwhile Apple and Alphabet have achieved a virtual duopoly on mobile operating systems, with only a tiny sliver of consumers choosing an alternative for their smartphones and tablets.
Businesses

Microsoft Commits $5 Million To 'Landmark' United Nations Technology Partnership (venturebeat.com) 21

Microsoft and the United Nations (UN) have announced a five-year "landmark" partnership to develop technology to "better predict, analyze and respond to critical human rights situations," according to a statement issued today. From a report: Additionally, Microsoft will support work being carried out by the UN Human Rights Office by contributing $5 million to a grant in what the UN called an "unprecedented level of support" from a private organization. An example of the kind of technology the duo have been working on is an information dashboard called Rights View that gives UN employees access to real-time aggregated data on rights violations by country. This, it's hoped, will "facilitate analysis, ensure early warning of emerging critical issues, and provide data to guide responses," according to Microsoft.

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