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Microsoft

Court Denies US Government Appeal in Microsoft's Overseas Email Case (pcworld.com) 49

An equally divided federal appeals court refused to reconsider its landmark decision forbidding the U.S. government from forcing Microsoft and other companies to turn over customer emails stored on servers outside the United States. From a report: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in a 4-4 decision Tuesday, declined to rehear its July decision that denied the DOJ access to the email of a drug trafficking suspect stored on a Microsoft server in Ireland. Microsoft has been fighting DOJ requests for the email since 2013. The DOJ has argued that tech companies can avoid valid warrants by storing customer data outside the U.S. Judges "readily acknowledge the gravity of this concern," but the 31-year-old U.S. Stored Communications Act (SCA) doesn't allow worldwide search under a U.S. warrant, wrote Judge Susan Carney. "We recognize at the same time that in many ways the SCA has been left behind by technology," Carney wrote in Tuesday's decision. "It is overdue for a congressional revision that would continue to protect privacy but would more effectively balance concerns of international comity with law enforcement needs and service provider obligations in the global context in which this case arose."
Microsoft

Vivaldi CEO: Stop Your Anti-Competitive Practices With Edge, Microsoft! (betanews.com) 190

Reader Mark Wilson writes: Microsoft is no stranger to pissing people off, particularly when it comes to Windows 10. There have been endless cries about forced updates, complaints about ads, moaning about privacy, and now the CEO of Vivaldi has lashed out at the company for its anti-competitive practices with Microsoft Edge. Jon von Tetzchner says that Microsoft has forgotten about the "actual real-life people that use technology in their daily lives." He takes particular umbrage at Windows 10's continued insistence of resetting the default browser to Edge. Indicating that his patience has now run out, von Tetzchner points to a 72-year-old friend who was confused by the change and unable to reverse things. He says that Microsoft is failing to respect the decisions made by users, and this is something that needs to stop.
United States

IBM Promised Domestic Jobs, But is Firing Thousands of US Workers and Moving Some Jobs Overseas (siliconbeat.com) 167

As companies fall all over themselves to hype creation of U.S. jobs, IBM is catching flak for promising thousands of new ones while firing folks right and left. From a report: Company CEO Ginni Rometty said in a December USA Today op-ed that her firm would hire 25,000 people for U.S. positions in the next four years, 6,000 of them this year. "She didn't mention that International Business Machines Corp. was also firing workers and sending many of the jobs overseas," reports Bloomberg. Big Blue wrapped up its third round of 2016 firings -- or "resource actions" in IBM HR parlance -- in late November, and job losses for the year likely totaled in the thousands, current and former employees told Bloomberg. Many of the jobs were shipped to Asia and Eastern Europe, and the firings have continued into this year, employees said.
Government

Ask Slashdot: Can US Citizens Trust Government Data? (msn.com) 332

mmell writes: An editorial in the Washington Post and made publicly available via an MSN news feed has asked the question: "In the Trump administration era of 'alternative facts,' what happens to government data?" Given that Slashdot members (and readers) may represent a somewhat more in-the-know crowd on matters concerning data integrity and trustworthiness, I thought this would be a good place to ask: can we trust (or has anyone ever really trusted) government data? One might think government data would all be cut 'n' dried and not subject to manipulation, but I personally remember when government data back early in the Reagan presidency went from reporting nearly 15% unemployment nationwide to well under 6% by redefining what "unemployed" meant. So . . . has government data ever been trustworthy, and is it still so?
Transportation

South Korea Developing 'Near-Supersonic' Train Similar To Hyperloop (huffingtonpost.co.uk) 108

The South Korean government plans to unveil a high-speed train that can travel at near-supersonic speeds capable of cutting a five hour journey to just 30 minutes. It's reminiscent of the Hyperloop, a proposed mode of passenger and freight transportation that propels a pod-like vehicle through a near-vacuum tube at more than airline speed. Huffington Post UK reports: According to the Korea Railroad Research Institute, it plans to unveil a "hyper tube" format train in the "not too distant" future. Speaking to the South China Morning Post, the government-owned organization said: "We hope to create an ultra-fast train, which will travel inside a state-of-the-art low-pressure tube at lightning speeds, in the not-too-distant future. To that end, we will cooperate with associated institutes as well as Hanyang University to check the viability of various related technologies called the hyper-tube format over the next three years." While this sounds very similar to the low-pressure concept designed initially by Tesla founder Elon Musk it seems as though the KRRI wants to go even further and create a system that will leave Hyperloop looking like a Hornby set. By throwing all their resources at the project, South Korea is hoping to skip past maglev, a still-new propulsion system that uses electromagnets to actually levitate trains above the air. While this removes some of the friction that comes with using conventional wheels, it still doesn't remove the brick wall of friction that is air itself. By building a low-pressure tube however and placing the train inside it you can effectively create a train that could travel at eye-watering speeds.
Power

Two-Thirds of Americans Give Priority To Developing Alternative Energy Over Fossil Fuels (pewresearch.org) 292

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Pew Research Center: A new Pew Research Center survey finds that 65% of Americans give priority to developing alternative energy sources, compared with 27% who would emphasize expanded production of fossil fuel sources. Support for concentrating on alternative energy is up slightly since December 2014. At that time, 60% said developing alternative energy sources was the more important priority. There continue to be wide political differences on energy priorities. While a 2016 Pew Research Center survey found large majorities of Democrats and Republicans supported expanding both wind and solar energy, the new survey shows that Democrats remain far more likely than Republicans to stress that developing alternative energy should take priority over developing fossil fuel sources. About eight-in-ten (81%) Democrats and independents who lean to the Democratic Party favor developing alternative sources instead of expanding production from fossil fuel sources. Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are closely divided: 45% say the more important priority should be developing alternative sources, while 44% say expanding production of oil, coal and natural gas should be given more priority. There also are differences in public priorities about energy by age. Americans under the age of 50 are especially likely to support alternative energy sources over expanding fossil fuels. About seven-in-ten (73%) of those ages 18 to 49 say developing alternative sources of energy should be the more important priority, while 22% say expanding production of fossil fuels should be the more important priority. Older adults are more divided in their views, though they also give more priority to alternatives. Among those 50 and older, 55% say alternative energy development is more important, while 34% say it's more important to expand production of fossil fuel energy sources.
Government

Yahoo Faces SEC Probe Over Data Breaches (wsj.com) 19

New submitter Linorgese quotes a report from The Wall Street Journal (Warning: paywalled; alternate source): U.S. authorities are investigating whether Yahoo Inc.'s two massive data breaches should have been reported sooner to investors, according to people familiar with the matter, in what could prove to be a major test in defining when a company is required to disclose a hack. Last month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said it had begun an investigation into a 2013 data breach that involved more than 1 billion users' accounts. That followed Yahoo's disclosure that a 2014 intrusion involved about 500 million accounts. As part of its investigation, the SEC last month requested documents from Yahoo, the Journal said, citing persons familiar with the situation. The agency has been seeking a model case for cybersecurity rules it issued in 2011, legal experts told the Journal. In a November 2016 SEC filing, Yahoo noted that it was cooperating with the SEC, Federal Trade Commission and other federal, state, and foreign governmental officials and agencies including "a number of State Attorneys General, and the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York." When Yahoo reported the 2014 breach it said that evidence linked it to a state-sponsored attacker. It has not announced a suspected responsibility for the larger 2013 intrusion, but the company has said it does not believe the two breaches are linked.
Movies

FBI Is Probing Sundance Cyberattack That Forced Box Office To Close (hollywoodreporter.com) 35

Over the weekend, the Sundance Film Festival was hacked. "Sundance Film Festival has been subject to a cyberattack, causing network outages that have shut down our box office," said a spokesperson for the festival. "No further information about the attack is available at this time, but our team is working hard to get our system back up and running as soon as possible. All screenings will still take place as planned." According to The Hollywood Reporter, the FBI is now investigating the hack and is working with Sundance officials to identify the culprit. From their report: Although the festival was able to get its ticketing systems back online within an hour of the Saturday breach, multiple other denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on Sundance's IT infrastructure followed. A DDoS attack works by flooding the bandwidth or resources of a targeted server. A Sundance Film Festival rep offers the following statement: "The FBI is reviewing the case. At this point, we do not have any reason to believe the cyberattack was targeted towards a specific film. No artist or customer information was compromised." At the time of the hack, the festival offered little in the way of explanation of what happened, but hinted that filmmakers at the annual celebration of independent cinema may have been the target. One producer of a Sundance documentary critical of the Russian government believes his film could have played a role in the attack. "There's been speculation that our film may have sparked retribution," Icarus consulting producer Doug Blush tells THR. "It does not paint a flattering picture of [president Vladimir] Putin." Icarus, which made its world premiere at the festival the day before the hack, centers on a Russian doctor who oversaw and then spoke out about Russia's widespread state-sponsored sports doping. The Bryan Fogel-helmed film, which is being pitched to distributors, has played throughout the weekend in Park City at screenings for both press-and-industry and the public. Icarus isn't the only Sundance film that could antagonize the Russian government and Putin. Evgeny Afineevsky's Cries From Syria -- one of several docs tackling the war-torn nation -- also takes a critical look at Putin and Russia's military intervention in Syria. Cries From Syria made its world premiere at Sundance on Sunday, the day after the initial box-office cyberattack.
China

China Cracks Down On International VPN Usage (thestack.com) 65

An anonymous reader writes: China's government has announced a 14-month crackdown on the use of unauthorised Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), commonly used by visitors and native activists, amongst others, to communicate with the world beyond the Great Firewall of China. Sunday's announcement [Chinese] from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology reiterated regulations first outlined in 2002, but which have since been subject to sparse, selective or lenient enforcement. The new announcement promises a 'clean up' regarding the VPN situation in China, beginning immediately and running until March of 2018.
Google

More People Than Ever Are Using DuckDuckGo; Site Says It Observed 14M Searches in One Day This Month (betanews.com) 186

An anonymous reader shares a BetaNews article: A lot of people are more privacy aware than they have been in the past, and are wary of entrusting everything they search for to Google. That's where privacy-focused sites like DuckDuckGo come in. Its growth since it launched 8 years ago has been nothing short of staggering, with the number of searches skyrocketing since 2013, when Edward Snowden first revealed how the US government was spying on its people. The search site says it has to date served up over 10 billion anonymous searches, with 4 billion of those occurring in the last year alone, and the company says it is growing faster than ever. On January 10 2017, the site received in excess of 14 million private searches.
Crime

Western Union Pays $586M Fine Over Wire Fraud Charges (reuters.com) 113

The head of the FTC says Western Union "facilitated scammers and rip-offs," while the company "looked the other way." An anonymous reader quotes Reuters: The world's biggest money-transfer company agreed to pay $586 million and admitted to turning a blind eye as criminals used its service for money laundering and fraud, U.S. authorities said on Thursday. Western Union, which has over half a million locations in more than 200 countries, admitted "to aiding and abetting wire fraud" by allowing scammers to process transactions, even when the company realized its agents were helping scammers avoid detection, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission said in statements...

Fraudsters offering fake prizes and job opportunities swindled tens of thousands of U.S. consumers, giving Western Union agents a cut in return for processing the payments, authorities said. Between 2004 and 2012, the Colorado-based company knew of fraudulent transactions but failed to take steps that would have resulted in disciplining of 2,000 agents, authorities said... Between 2004 and 2015 Western Union collected 550,928 complaints about fraud, with 80 percent of them coming from the United States where it has some 50,000 locations, the government complaint said. The average consumer complaint was for $1,148, the government said.

Reuters seemed to suggest that nearly one out of every thousand transactions was fraudulent, reporting that Western Union "said consumer fraud accounts for less than one-tenth of 1 percent of consumer-to-consumer transactions."
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Three States Propose DMCA-Countering 'Right To Repair' Laws (ifixit.org) 208

Automakers are using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to shut down tools used by car mechanics -- but three states are trying to stop them. An anonymous reader quotes IFixIt.Org: in 2014, Ford sued Autel for making a tool that diagnoses car trouble and tells you what part fixes it. Autel decrypted a list of Ford car parts, which wound up in their diagnostic tool. Ford claimed that the parts list was protected under copyright (even though data isn't creative work) -- and cracking the encryption violated the DMCA. The case is still making its way through the courts. But this much is clear: Ford didn't like Autel's competing tool, and they don't mind wielding the DMCA to shut the company down...

Thankfully, voters are stepping up to protect American jobs. Just last week, at the behest of constituents, three states -- Nebraska, Minnesota, and New York -- introduced Right to Repair legislation (more states will follow). These 'Fair Repair' laws would require manufacturers to provide service information and sell repair parts to owners and independent repair shops.

Activist groups like the EFF and Repair.org want to "ensure that repair people aren't marked as criminals under the DMCA," according to the site, arguing that we're heading towards a future with many more gadgets to fix. "But we'll have to fix copyright law first."
Databases

Database Attacks Spread To CouchDB, Hadoop, and ElasticSearch Servers (bleepingcomputer.com) 67

An anonymous reader writes: Two weeks after cybercriminal groups started to hijack and hold for ransom MongoDB servers, similar attacks are now taking place against CouchDB, Hadoop, and ElasticSearch servers. According to the latest tallies, the number of hijacked MongoDB servers is 34,000 (out of 69,000 available on Shodan), 4,681 ElasticSearch clusters (out of 33,000), 126 Hadoop datastores (out of 5,400), and 452 CouchDB databases (out of 4,600). Furthermore, the group that has hijacked the most MongoDB and ElasticSearch servers is also selling the scripts it used for the attacks.
Two security researchers are tracking the attacks on Google spreadsheets, and report that when a ransom is paid, many victims still report that their data is never restored. But the researchers also identified 124 Hadoop servers where the attacker simply replaced all the tables with a data entry named NODATA4U_SECUREYOURSHIT. "What's strange about these attacks is that the threat actor isn't asking for a ransom demand," reports Bleeping Computer. "Instead, he's just deleting data from Hadoop servers that have left their web-based admin panel open to remote connections on the Internet."
United States

Is The Tech Industry Driving Families Out of San Francisco? (nytimes.com) 379

Why does San Francisco now have fewer children per capita than any of America's largest 100 cities? An anonymous reader writes: A move to the suburbs began in the 1970s, but "The tech boom now reinforces the notion that San Francisco is a place for the young, single and rich," according to the New York Times. "When we imagine having kids, we think of somewhere else," one software engineer tells the paper. The article describes "neighborhoods where employees of Google, Twitter and so many other technology companies live or work" where the sidewalks make it seem "as if life started at 22 and ended somewhere around 40."

Or is San Francisco just part of a larger trend? "California, which has one of the world's 10 largest economies, recently released data showing the lowest birthrate since the Great Depression. And the Los Angeles Times argues California's experience may just be following national trends. The drop "likely stems from the recession, a drop in teenage pregnancies and an increase in people attending college and taking longer to graduate, therefore putting off having children, said Walter Schwarm, a demographer at the Department of Finance."

So is this part of a larger trend -- or something unique about San Francisco? The New York Times also quotes Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, who believes technology workers are putting off families when they move to the Silicon Valley area because they anticipate long working hours. There's also complaints about San Francisco's public school system -- 30% of its children now attend private schools, the highest percentage of any large American city. But according to the article, Peter Thiel believes that San Francisco is just "structurally hostile to families."
Crime

Geek Avenges Stolen Laptop By Remotely Accessing Thief's Facebook Account (hothardware.com) 365

An anonymous reader quotes Hot Hardware: Stu Gale, who just so happens to be a computer security expert, had the misfortune of having his laptop stolen from his car overnight. However, Gale did have remote software installed on the device which allowed him to track whenever it came online. So, he was quite delighted to see that a notification popped up on one of his other machines alerting him that his stolen laptop was active. Gale took the opportunity to remote into the laptop, only to find that the not-too-bright thief was using his laptop to login to her Facebook account.

The thief eventually left her Facebook account open and left the room, after which Gale had the opportunity to snoop through her profile and obtain all of her private information. "I went through and got her phone numbers, friends list and pictures..." Given that Gale was able to see her phone numbers listed on Facebook, he sent text messages to all of those numbers saying that he was going to report her to the police. He also posted her info to a number of Facebook groups, which spooked the thief enough to not only delete her Facebook account, but also her listed phone numbers.

In 2008 Slashdot ran a similar story, where it took several weeks of remote monitoring before a laptop thief revealed his identity. (The victim complained that "It was kind of frustrating because he was mostly using it to watch porn.") But in this case, Gale just remotely left a note on the laptop -- and called one of the thief's friends -- and eventually turned over all the information to the police, who believe an arrest will follow.

Gale seems less confident, and tells one Calgary newspaper "I'm realistic. I'm not going to see that computer again. But at least I got some comic relief."
Power

New Wyoming Bill Penalizes Utilities Using Renewable Energy (csmonitor.com) 489

An anonymous reader quotes a Christian Science Monitor report on "a bill that would essentially ban large-scale renewable energy" in Wyoming. The new Wyoming bill would forbid utilities from using solar or wind sources for their electricity by 2019, according to Inside Climate News... The bill would require utilities to use "eligible resources" to meet 95 percent of Wyoming's electricity needs in 2018, and all of its electricity needs in 2019. Those "eligible resources" are defined solely as coal, hydroelectric, natural gas, nuclear, oil, and individual net metering... Utility-scale wind and solar farms are not included in the bill's list of "eligible resources," making it illegal for Wyoming utilities to use them in any way if the legislation passes. The bill calls for a fine of $10 per megawatt-hour of electricity from a renewable source to be slapped on Wyoming utilities that provide power from unapproved sources to in-state customers.
The bill also prohibits utilities from raising rates to cover the cost of those penalties, though utilities wouldn't be penalized if they exported that energy to other states. But one local activist described it as 'talking-point' legislation, and even the bill's sponsor gives it only a 50% chance of passing.
Power

Are Squirrels A Bigger Threat To Our Critical Infrastructure? (bbc.com) 149

"The real threat to global critical infrastructure is not enemy states or organizations but squirrels, according to one security expert." Long-time Slashdot reader randomErr quotes the BBC. Cris Thomas has been tracking power cuts caused by animals since 2013... His Cyber Squirrel 1 project was set up to counteract what he called the "ludicrousness of cyber-war claims by people at high levels in government and industry", he told the audience at the Shmoocon security conference in Washington. Squirrels topped the list with 879 "attacks", followed by birds with 434 attacks and then snakes at 83 attacks.
Those three animals -- along with rats -- have caused 1,700 different power cuts affecting nearly 5,000,000 people .
Cellphones

FTC Dismantles Two Huge Robocall Organizations (onthewire.io) 120

Billions of robocalls came from two groups selling extended auto warranties, SEO services, and home security systems over the last seven years -- many to numbers on the "Do Not Call" list -- but this week the Federal Trade Commission took action. Trailrunner7 shares this report from OnTheWire: Continuing its campaign against phone fraud operations, the FTC has dismantled two major robocall organizations... They and many of their co-defendants have agreed to court-ordered bans on robocall activities and financial settlements... The FTC and the FCC both have been cracking down on illegal robocall operations recently. The FCC has formed a robocall strike force with the help of carriers and also has signed an agreement to cooperate with Canadian authorities to address the problem.
"The law is clear about robocalls," says one FTC executive. "If a telemarketer doesn't have consumers' written permission, it's illegal to make these calls."
NASA

NASA Is Planning Mission To An Asteroid Worth $10 Quintillion (usatoday.com) 300

New submitter kugo2006 writes: NASA announced a plan to research 16 Psyche, an asteroid potentially as large as Mars and primarily composed of Iron and Nickel. The rock is unique in that it has an exposed core, likely a result of a series of collisions, according to Lindy Elkins-Tanton, Psyche's principal investigator. The mission's spacecraft would launch in 2023 and arrive in 2030. According to Global News, Elkins-Tanton calculates that the iron in 16 Psyche would be worth $10,000 quadrillion ($10 quintillion).
Movies

CBS, Paramount Settle Lawsuit Over 'Star Trek' Fan Film (hollywoodreporter.com) 146

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Hollywood Reporter: Stand down from battle stations. Star Trek rights holders CBS and Paramount have seen the logic of settling a copyright suit against Alec Peters, who solicited money on crowdfunding sites and hired professionals to make a YouTube short and a script of a planned feature film focused on a fictional event -- a Starfleet captain's victory in a war with the Klingon Empire -- referenced in the original 1960s Gene Roddenberry television series. Thanks to the settlement, CBS and Paramount won't be going to trial on Stardate 47634.44, known to most as Jan. 31, 2017. According to a joint statement, "Paramount Pictures Corporation, CBS Studios Inc., Axanar Productions, Inc. and Alec Peters are pleased to announce that the litigation regarding Axanar's film Prelude to Axanar and its proposed film Axanar has been resolved. Axanar and Mr. Peters acknowledge that both films were not approved by Paramount or CBS, and that both works crossed boundaries acceptable to CBS and Paramount relating to copyright law." Peters' Axanar video and script, which feature such arguably copyrighted elements as Vulcan ears, the Klingon language and an obscure character from a 1969 episode, sparked a lawsuit in December 2015. The litigation then proceeded at warp speed with the case almost making it to trial in just 13 months, an amazingly brisk pace by typical standards. When Axanar comes out, it will look different. "Axanar and Mr. Peters have agreed to make substantial changes to Axanar to resolve this litigation, and have also assured the copyright holders that any future Star Trek fan films produced by Axanar or Mr. Peters will be in accordance with the 'Guidelines for Fan Films' distributed by CBS and Paramount in June 2016," states the parties' joint announcement of a settlement.

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