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Updated: 2 hours 17 min ago

Cyber-Espionage Group That Targeted Palestinian Law Enforcement Last Year Returns With New Attacks

9 July 2018 - 12:00pm
Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: A cyber-espionage group that has targeted Palestinian law enforcement last year is now back in action targeting Palestinian government officials. These recent attacks started in March 2018, according to evidence surfaced by Israel-based cyber-security firm Check Point. The new attacks seem to fit the same modus operandi of a group detailed in two reports from Cisco Talos and Palo Alto Networks last year. Those reports detailed a spear-phishing campaign aimed at Palestinian law enforcement. The malicious emails tried to infect victims with the Micropsia infostealer, a Delphi-based malware that contained many strings referencing characters from the Big Bang Theory and Game Of Thrones TV shows. Now, the same group appears to be back, and the only thing they've changed is the malware, which is now coded in C++. The TV shows references are still there, this time with mentions to the Big Bang Theory, but also a Turkish TV series named "Resurrection: Ertugrul."

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China Begins Production Of x86 Processors Based On AMD's IP

9 July 2018 - 11:20am
Chinese-designed "Dhyana" x86 processors based on AMD's Zen microarchitecture are beginning to surface from Chinese chip producer Hygon. From a report: The processors come as the fruit of AMD's x86 IP licensing agreements with its China-based partners and break the decades-long stranglehold on x86 held by the triumvirate of Intel, AMD and VIA Technologies. Details are also emerging that outline how AMD has managed to stay within the boundaries of the x86 licensing agreements but still allow Chinese-controlled interests to design and sell processors based on the Zen design. AMD's official statements indicate the company does not sell its final chip designs to its China-based partners. Instead, AMD allows them to design their own processors tailored for the Chinese server market. But the China-produced Hygon "Dhyana" processors are so similar to AMD's EPYC processors that Linux kernel developers have listed vendor IDs and family series numbers as the only difference. In fact, Linux maintainers have simply ported over the EPYC support codes to the Dhyana processor and note that they have successfully run the same patches on AMD's EPYC processors, implying there is little to no differentiation between the chips.

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China Finds Begins Production Of x86 Processors Based On AMD's IP

9 July 2018 - 11:20am
Chinese-designed "Dhyana" x86 processors based on AMD's Zen microarchitecture are beginning to surface from Chinese chip producer Hygon. From a report: The processors come as the fruit of AMD's x86 IP licensing agreements with its China-based partners and break the decades-long stranglehold on x86 held by the triumvirate of Intel, AMD and VIA Technologies. Details are also emerging that outline how AMD has managed to stay within the boundaries of the x86 licensing agreements but still allow Chinese-controlled interests to design and sell processors based on the Zen design. AMD's official statements indicate the company does not sell its final chip designs to its China-based partners. Instead, AMD allows them to design their own processors tailored for the Chinese server market. But the China-produced Hygon "Dhyana" processors are so similar to AMD's EPYC processors that Linux kernel developers have listed vendor IDs and family series numbers as the only difference. In fact, Linux maintainers have simply ported over the EPYC support codes to the Dhyana processor and note that they have successfully run the same patches on AMD's EPYC processors, implying there is little to no differentiation between the chips.

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Mistrust of Google and Facebook is a 'Contagion' That Could Spread To Every Tech Company, Says Box CEO Aaron Levie

9 July 2018 - 10:40am
Aaron Levie isn't worried about his company, Box, being regulated -- but he is worried about what happens if the government has to do something about Facebook. From a report: "It's a contagion because it's going to reduce trust in these types of platforms," Levie said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. "The worst-case scenario for us is that Silicon Valley gets so far behind on these issues that we just can't be trusted as an industry," he said. "We rely on the Fortune 500 trusting Silicon Valley's technology, to some extent, for our success. When you see that these tools can be manipulated or they're being used in more harmful ways, or regulators are stamping them down, then that impacts anybody, whether you're consumer or enterprise."

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'Domain Factory' Confirms January 2018 Data Breach

9 July 2018 - 10:00am
German hosting company Domainfactory has taken down its forums after someone posted messages alleging to have compromised the company. From a report: Acknowledging the attack, the GoDaddy-owned (via Host Europe, acquired in 2016) company has advised customers to change their passwords and detailed the extent of the data breach claimed by the hackers. "While we investigate this data breach, we already know that third parties could have had unauthorised access to the following categories of data: Customer name; Company name; Customer number; Address; E-mail addresses; Phone number; DomainFactory Phone password; Date of birth; Bank name and account number (eg IBAN or BIC); and Schufa score." The company says it has secured the systems the attacker accessed.

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Owning an iPhone is the Number-One Way To Guess if You're Rich or Not, Research Finds

9 July 2018 - 8:30am
An anonymous reader shares a report: In the United States, if you have an Apple iPhone or iPad, it's a strong sign that you make a lot of money. That's one of the takeaways from a new National Bureau of Economic Research working paper from University of Chicago economists Marianne Bertrand and Emir Kamenica. "Across all years in our data, no individual brand is as predictive of being high-income as owning an Apple iPhone in 2016," the researchers wrote. There are details and caveats to the research, but the economists found that owning an iPhone gave them a 69% chance to correctly infer that the owner was "high-income," which they defined as being in the top quartile of income for households of that type -- like single adult or couple with dependents, for example.

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Stanley Kubrick Explains The '2001: A Space Odyssey' Ending In A Rare, Unearthed Video

9 July 2018 - 6:00am
When it was originally released in 1968, audiences didn't really know what to make of "2001: A Space Odyssey". In fact, 250 critics walked out of the New York premiere, literally asking aloud, "What is this bullshit?" [...] Stanley Kubrick himself was always hesitant to offer an explanation of the ending, once telling Playboy, "You're free to speculate as you wish about the philosophical and allegorical meaning of the film -- and such speculation is one indication that it has succeeded in gripping the audience at a deep level -- but I don't want to spell out a verbal road map for 2001 that every viewer will feel obligated to pursue or else fear he's missed the point." But, in a bizarre video, which appeared recently, the director seems to provide a very simple and clear explanation of the "2001: A Space Odyssey" ending. Esquire: It comes from a Japanese paranormal documentary from TV personality Jun'ichi Yaio made during the filming of The Shining. The documentary was never released, but footage was sold on eBay in 2016 and conveniently appeared online this week timed with the movie's 50th anniversary. Kubrick says in the interview: I've tried to avoid doing this ever since the picture came out. When you just say the ideas they sound foolish, whereas if they're dramatized one feels it, but I'll try. The idea was supposed to be that he is taken in by god-like entities, creatures of pure energy and intelligence with no shape or form. They put him in what I suppose you could describe as a human zoo to study him, and his whole life passes from that point on in that room. And he has no sense of time. It just seems to happen as it does in the film. They choose this room, which is a very inaccurate replica of French architecture (deliberately so, inaccurate) because one was suggesting that they had some idea of something that he might think was pretty, but wasn't quite sure. Just as we're not quite sure what do in zoos with animals to try to give them what we think is their natural environment. Anyway, when they get finished with him, as happens in so many myths of all cultures in the world, he is transformed into some kind of super being and sent back to Earth, transformed and made into some sort of superman. We have to only guess what happens when he goes back. It is the pattern of a great deal of mythology, and that is what we were trying to suggest.

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Firefox and the 4-Year Battle To Have Google To Treat It as a First-Class Citizen

9 July 2018 - 2:02am
Web monoculture is well and truly alive when Google cannot be bothered to make a full-featured cross-browser mobile search page. From a report: It has been over five years since Firefox really turned a corner and started to morph from its bloated memory-munching ways into the lightning-quick browser it is today. Buried in Mozilla's issue tracker is a bug that kicked off in February 2014, and is yet to be resolved: Have Google treat Firefox for Android as a first-class citizen and serve up comparable content to what the search giant hands Chrome and Safari. After years of requests, meetings, and to and fro, it has hit a point where the developers of Firefox are experimenting by manipulating the user agent string in its nightly development builds to trick Google into thinking that Firefox Mobile is a Chrome browser. Not only does Google's search page degrade for Firefox on Android, but some new properties like Google Flights have occasionally taken to outright blocking of the browser.

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Surgical Robots Cut Training Time Down From 80 Sessions To 30 Minutes

8 July 2018 - 10:00pm
From a report: It is the most exacting of surgical skills: tying a knot deep inside a patient's abdomen, pivoting long graspers through keyhole incisions with no direct view of the thread. Trainee surgeons typically require 60 to 80 hours of practice, but in a mock-up operating theatre outside Cambridge, a non-medic with just a few hours of experience is expertly wielding a hook-shaped needle -- in this case stitching a square of pink sponge rather than an artery or appendix. The feat is performed with the assistance of Versius, the world's smallest surgical robot, which could be used in NHS operating theatres for the first time later this year if approved for clinical use. Versius is one of a handful of advanced surgical robots that are predicted to transform the way operations are performed by allowing tens or hundreds of thousands more surgeries each year to be carried out as keyhole procedures. The Versius robot cuts down the time required to learn to tie a surgical knot from more than 100 training sessions, when using traditional manual tools, to just half an hour, according to Slack.

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Hackers Stole 600 Gallons of Gas From Detroit Gas Station, Report Says

8 July 2018 - 6:50pm
Police in Detroit are looking for two suspects who allegedly managed to hack a gas pump and steal over 600 gallons of gasoline, valued at about $1,800. From a report: The theft took place in the middle of the day and went on for about 90 minutes, with the gas station attendant unable to thwart the hackers. The theft, reported by Fox 2 Detroit, took place at around 1pm local time on June 23 at a Marathon gas station located about 15 minutes from downtown Detroit. At least 10 cars are believed to have benefitted from the free-flowing gas pump, which still has police befuddled. Here's what is known about the supposed hack: Per Fox 2 Detroit, the thieves used some sort of remote device that allowed them to hijack the pump and take control away from the gas station employee. Police confirmed to the local publication that the device prevented the clerk from using the gas station's system to shut off the individual pump.

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Spiders Can Fly Hundreds of Miles Using Electricity

8 July 2018 - 5:51pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: On Halloween in 1832, the naturalist Charles Darwin was onboard the HMS Beagle. He marveled at spiders that had landed on the ship after floating across huge ocean distances. "I caught some of the Aeronaut spiders which must have come at least 60 miles," he noted in his diary. "How inexplicable is the cause which induces these small insects, as it now appears in both hemispheres, to undertake their aerial excursions." Small spiders achieve flight by aiming their butts at the sky and releasing tendrils of silk to generate lift. Darwin thought that electricity might be involved when he noticed that spider silk stands seemed to repel each other with electrostatic force, but many scientists assumed that the arachnids, known as "ballooning" spiders, were simply sailing on the wind like a paraglider. The wind power explanation has thus far been unable to account for observations of spiders rapidly launching into the air, even when winds are low, however. Now, these aerial excursions have been empirically determined to be largely powered by electricity, according to new research published Thursday in Current Biology. Led by Erica Morley, a sensory biophysicist at the University of Bristol, the study settles a longstanding debate about whether wind energy or electrostatic forces are responsible for spider ballooning locomotion.

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Kepler Telescope To Send NASA Its Last Images

8 July 2018 - 5:06pm
We don't yet know if there's life on other worlds, however likely that is, but NASA's Kepler Mission satellite has helped pinpoint the abundance of planets orbiting other stars starting in May 2009. So far, it has provided data that scientists have used to confirm the existence of 2,650 exoplanets in a field of over 150,000 stars that it's examining. But that long service is about to end, as NASA said this week the craft is running out of fuel. From a report: The space agency has put the satellite into a form of hibernation until August 2, when there's time booked on the Deep Space Network -- a global array of receivers for space missions -- to download data from its 18th observational mission. Following that download, NASA will use the remaining fuel to start a 19th session. Fortunately, its successor is already in place and operational. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) launched in April 2018, and produced a test image in May. TESS is a massive upgrade, observing almost 400 times the region of space as Kepler, or about 85% of what's observable from its orbit relative to Earth. Kepler is already a survivor, continuing to operate after part of the gyroscope mechanism failed that let it target star fields. Four wheels rotate in the gyroscope to provide a reaction that allows the necessarily precision in tracking, and two of the four failed by May 2013. NASA mission scientists figured out a clever workaround, in which they used pressure from the Sun to provide additional positioning assistance. The mission resumed under the moniker K2 in May 2014.

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Some Startups Have Worked Out It's Cheaper and Easier To Get Humans To Behave Like Robots Than it is To Get Machines To Behave Like Humans

8 July 2018 - 3:13pm
"Using a human to do the job lets you skip over a load of technical and business development challenges. It doesn't scale, obviously, but it allows you to build something and skip the hard part early on," said Gregory Koberger, CEO of ReadMe, who says he has come across a lot of "pseudo-AIs." It's essentially prototyping the AI with human beings, he said. From a report: This practice was brought to the fore this week in a Wall Street Journal article highlighting the hundreds of third-party app developers that Google allows to access people's inboxes. In the case of the San Jose-based company Edison Software, artificial intelligence engineers went through the personal email messages of hundreds of users -- with their identities redacted -- to improve a "smart replies" feature. The company did not mention that humans would view users' emails in its privacy policy. The third parties highlighted in the WSJ article are far from the first ones to do it. In 2008, Spinvox, a company that converted voicemails into text messages, was accused of using humans in overseas call centres rather than machines to do its work. In 2016, Bloomberg highlighted the plight of the humans spending 12 hours a day pretending to be chatbots for calendar scheduling services such as X.ai and Clara. The job was so mind-numbing that human employees said they were looking forward to being replaced by bots.

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India's ISRO Conducts First Escape Test For Nation's Manned Mission To Space

8 July 2018 - 2:12pm
Earlier this week, ISRO took the first, small but significant step towards realizing human space flight by successfully conducting a test of the Crew Escape System that provides an escape mechanism for astronauts if the launch operation is aborted. From a report: "This is one of the critical technologies for a future human space programme," said K. Sivan, chairman of ISRO. "When you are flying with the humans, if there is something wrong during the launch, this will help them escape to a safe place." Only three countries -- USA, Russia and China -- have human space flight programmes. The only Indian citizen to ever travel to space was fighter pilot Rakesh Sharma who flew aboard Soyuz T-11, a spacecraft of the former USSR in 1984. India does not have a human space flight programme. "ISRO always does research and development activity and develops technologies keeping future needs in mind," said Sivan.

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Fitness App Polar Exposed Locations of Spies and Military Personnel

8 July 2018 - 1:11pm
An anonymous reader writes: A popular fitness app that tracks the activity data on millions of users has inadvertently revealed the locations of personnel working at military bases and intelligence services. The app, Polar Flow, built by its eponymous company Polar, a Finnish-based fitness tracking giant with offices in New York, allowed anyone to access a user's fitness activities over several years -- simply by modifying the browser's web address. Although the existence of many government installations are widely known, the identities of their employees were not. Not only was it possible to see exactly where a user had exercised, it was easy to pinpoint exactly where a user lived, if they started or stopped their fitness tracking as soon as they left their house. Because there were no limits on how many requests the reporters could make, coupled with easily enumerable user ID numbers, it was possible for anyone -- including malicious actors or foreign intelligence services -- to scrape the fitness activity data on millions of users. But they also found they could trick the API into retrieving fitness tracking data on private profiles.

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Amazon Has Already Become Something of a Corporate Boogeyman -- and Now It Could Be Bringing Its Industry Disruption To Advertising

8 July 2018 - 12:10pm
When Jeff Bezos arrives as expected at the Sun Valley conference -- the year's most exclusive meeting of media industry leaders -- he'll know much more about his fellow media moguls than they know about him. And that has them worried, especially as Amazon's advertising business picks up. From a report: Amazon's growing advertising business is poised to challenge the stranglehold Google and Facebook have on the internet's ad dollars, thanks to its growing dominance in e-commerce and growing presence in the media world. Google knows what consumers are interested in, and Facebook knows who you are. But Amazon has what many in the advertising industry regard as the most important piece of the puzzle: what people buy. And the e-commerce giant is starting to capitalize on that data in a big way. "It is definitely growing as a media company, but it is surging in terms of ad revenue," said Advertising Age editor Brian Braiker. "The scary part for marketers is that [data] is all walled off, and if you want the special sauce you have to play by Amazon's rules." Amazon still makes the bulk of its money through the sales of goods and its widely used cloud computing business, Amazon Web Services, but its advertising business is growing. In the first three months of 2018, Amazon reported revenue for its "other" segment, which is largely advertising, rose 139 percent, to $2 billion.

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YouTuber Says He Was Accused of Infringing His Own Song

8 July 2018 - 11:00am
CNET reported this week that a musician, who plays guitar and has lots of viewers on YouTube, received an unusual email from the company alleging that he had copied a tune he wrote himself two years ago. From the report: But last month, Paul Davids says he got a rather unusual email from YouTube. The Content ID system had flagged a tune he wrote himself, two years ago, for infringing on someone's else's newer video. Someone who, it seems, stole his backing track to create a new track of his own. [...] "Someone took my track, made their own track, uploaded it to Spotify, YouTube, whatever, and I get a copyright infringement notice? Wait, what?" said Davids. The story has a happy ending -- Davids used YouTube's appeals system to quickly work things out, and let the other artist keep on using his tune. (Davids tracked him down on Facebook Messenger, and the guy apparently admitted he'd downloaded 'a couple of guitar licks' on YouTube.) But it's weird to think YouTube would flag an old video for infringing on a new one, no?

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US Gaming Giant Steam Has Managed To Skirt China's Strict Regulations on Content

8 July 2018 - 10:00am
One of the hottest PC games in the world -- "PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds," a violent game in which 100 players fight to the death -- hasn't been approved for sale by China's strict regulators. Yet the game is a bonafide hit in China, where more than a third of its active players reside [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled]. The Information reports: Most Chinese players have gotten their hands on PUBG, as the game is widely known, from Steam, a game service that has become the equivalent of an iTunes for PC games around the world. While China's censors have blocked other Western platforms for distributing media, they haven't yet prevented access to Steam, which is operated by the U.S. company Valve. That has made Steam a rare example of a foreign online service that has navigated around China's strict regulations on content, mostly by flying under the radar of authorities, and by being in a medium --games -- with fewer political sensitivities than other categories. [...] Steam appears to operate far more freely in China. A wide array of unapproved titles are available on the service, which is hosted on servers in Hong Kong, a person familiar with the matter said. Those titles include "Grand Theft Auto V" and horror games based on the Walking Dead and Friday the 13th franchises. PUBG is sold on Steam for 98 yuan ($15), about half its retail price elsewhere, a special discount for Chinese players.

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EU Polls The Public About Abandoning Daylight Savings Time

8 July 2018 - 7:34am
"Following a number of requests from citizens, from the European Parliament, and from certain EU Member States, the Commission has decided to investigate the functioning of the current EU summertime arrangements and to assess whether or not they should be changed." The EU has launched an official "online consultation" seeking input from the public. Long-time Slashdot reader mitch0 writes: The consultation was started after some member states expressed the opinion that the daylight saving time should be abolished within the EU. There were some local motions in member countries as well, but these cannot really proceed without full coordination with all member states. So far it seems that most of those wanting to end the daylight-saving change would stick to summer time all-year round, but the questionnaire has a specific question about this issue so a more representative result is expected after the survey is closed in the middle of August... Citizens can express their opinion about the summer time change by filling out a short online survey.

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Game Company Fires Two Employees Who Complained About 'Mansplaining' on Twitter

8 July 2018 - 3:34am
An anonymous reader quotes the Verge: On July 3rd, narrative designer Jessica Price tweeted a 29-tweet thread dissecting the challenges of writing player characters in an MMORPG. A streamer who goes by Deroir responded, "Really interesting thread to read! However, allow me to disagree slightly," and shared a three-tweet explanation of how narrative design influences player expression in the sort of games that Price narratively designs. Price both replied directly to Deroir, tweeting "thanks for trying to tell me what we do internally, my dude," and retweeted his response with the caption "today in being a female game dev: 'Allow me -- a person who does not work with you -- to explain to you how you do your job....'" Price's suggestion that Deroir was mansplaining game development -- an area where he does not have the same knowledge or experience -- sparked anger among the ArenaNet community. She subsequently responded to those criticizing her on Twitter. [Here's the first lines of that tweet. "Since we've got a lot of hurt manfeels today, lemme make something clear: this is my feed. I'm not on the clock here. I'm not your emotional courtesan just because I'm a dev. Don't expect me to pretend to like you here. The attempts of fans to exert ownership over our personal lives and times are something I am hardcore about stopping."] Price was fired shortly after. Although many fans are comparing this to something like working in a restaurant -- be polite to the customer, or get fired -- Price says it's impossible to talk about this incident without larger context about systematic online harassment, particularly the sometimes abusive relationship between fans and game developers and the failure of game companies to address it. "Game companies are generally unwilling to be honest with themselves about how they're complicit in creating and sustaining that environment," she tells The Verge... Price adds that she believes her firing was an emotional reaction on the part of ArenaNet co-founder Mike O'Brien. "He fired me personally, and the meeting was mostly him venting his feelings at me," she says. "I understand being afraid when you see the Reddit mob coming for you, but if people with less power can weather it -- and we do, regularly -- so can he...." "We can probably fire anyone on the GW2 dev team as long we make a big enough stink," wrote one user on the Guild Wars 2 subreddit. "Nobody at Arenanet is safe from the hand of reddit. We're literally running the company now..." ArenaNet also fired Peter Fries, a writer who'd worked for them for 12 years, apparently for defending Price in a series of now-deleted tweets. (For example, "Here's a bit of insight that I legitimately hope [Deroir] reflects on: she never asked for his feedback.") "The message is very clear, especially to women at the company," Jessica Price tells the Verge. "If Reddit wants you fired, we'll fire you. The quality of your work doesn't matter."

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