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VC Market Is on Pace for Strongest Year Since Dot-Com Era

/. - 11 July 2018 - 7:00am
Venture capitalists are spending cash at levels not seen since the dot-com era, and theyâ(TM)re raising money at a pace to match. From a report: Last quarter, VCs spent $27.3 billion in the U.S., according to a report set for publication Tuesday by research firm PitchBook and the National Venture Capital Association, a trade group. That's the most in any second quarter since the group began tracking quarterly data more than a decade ago. Combined with a record-setting first quarter, the VC market had its strongest first-half-year performance since 2000. The $57.5 billion invested in startups so far this year has already surpassed the full-year total for six of the past 10 years. This year is on track to exceed the $81.9 billion invested last year, which was itself a record since the dot-com boom.

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Chinese Scientists Have Developed the World's First Destructive Laser Rifle

/. - 11 July 2018 - 4:30am
PopularScience: Chinese scientists have developed the world's first destructive, man-portable laser weapon. However, there is more to the story of this cool looking, but "less than lethal" directed energy device. The laser rifle is the ZKZM-500, developed by Xian Institute of Optics and Precision Mechanics in Xian, Shaanxi. It's manufactured by the Institute's subsidiary, ZKZM Laser. Weighing at 6 pounds (about the weight of a typical assault rifle), the ZKZM-500 has a range of 2,600 feet. The ZKZM-500 uses a lithium battery with enough power for 1000 two second shots (keep in mind, those 1000 shots may not be at full power). According to Institute designers, its laser is powerful enough to instantly scar human skin and tissue. It can also ignite clothing, knock a small drone out of the sky, or even ignite a fuel tank. That would place its power output around 100-500 watts (most surgical lasers top out at 100 watts).

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Autonomous Robots Could be the Future of High Flying Stunts in Hollywood

/. - 11 July 2018 - 3:00am
From a report: Visitors to Disneyland and other Disney resorts could end up seeing robots tackling some pretty crazy, death-defying stunts usually reserved for Marvel superheroes and Star Wars Jedi Masters. Disney's latest Stuntronics experiments with robots include teaching them to crawl, row and now, more impressively, perform daring aerial acrobatics. A new video features the robots propelled into the sky to spin and leap like robotic superheroes. And they look even more advanced and human-like than the last time we saw them. The robots, initially nicknamed Stickman, work by using on-board accelerometers, gyroscopes and laser range-finding data to determine how to perform impressive stunts like single and double backflips.

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In a Bid To Curtail Spread of Misinformation, Facebook's WhatsApp Now Tells Users When a Message Has Been Forwarded

/. - 10 July 2018 - 11:00pm
In a bid to fight spread of misinformation on its platform, Facebook-owned WhatsApp announced on Tuesday that it is launching a new feature globally that will highlight when a message has been forwarded versus composed by the sender. At the centre of the issue is high-volume sharing of misleading and false information, often arching political and religious sentiments, that is tricking a significant number of WhatsApp users. (WhatsApp is used by more than a billion users worldwide.) From a report: From now on, WhatsApp will put a "forwarded" label on these messages. "This extra context will help make one-on-one and group chats easier to follow. It will also help you determine if your friend or relative wrote the message they sent or if it came from someone else," the company said in a note. "WhatsApp cares deeply about your safety. We encourage you to think before sharing forwarded messages. As a reminder, you can report spam or block a contact in one tap and always reach out to WhatsApp directly for help," it added. To see this new forwarded label, users are required to have the newest supported version of WhatsApp on their phones. Additionally, this week the company relaunched a campaign in India as part of which it is running full-page ads on several newspapers in the country to create awareness about the issue.

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Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Opposes Net Neutrality

/. - 10 July 2018 - 10:20pm
Beardydog writes: An article currently on Ars Technica examines comments about net neutrality issues by recent Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh not only rejects the FCC's reclassification of ISPs under Title II, but seems to also support a broad First Amendment right to "editorial control," allowing ISPs to selectively block, filter, or modify transmitted data. Kavanaugh compares ISPs to cable TV operators, rather than phone companies. "Deciding whether and how to transmit ESPN and deciding whether and how to transmit ESPN.com are not meaningfully different for First Amendment purposes." Here's what Ars Technica had to say about Kavanaugh's argument, which did not address the business differences between cable TV and internet service: "Cable TV providers generally have to pay programmers for the right to carry their channels, and cable TV providers have to fit all the channels they carry into a limited amount of bandwidth. At least for now, major internet providers don't offer a set package of websites -- they just route users to whichever sites the users are requesting. ISPs also don't have to pay those websites for the right to 'transmit' them, but ISPs have argued that they should be able to demand fees from websites." The report also mentions Kavanaugh's support of NSA surveillance: "In November 2015, Kavanaugh was part of a unanimous decision when the DC Circuit denied a petition to rehear a challenge to the NSA's bulk collection of telephone metadata. Kavanaugh was the only judge to issue a written statement, which said that '[t]he Government's collection of telephony metadata from a third party such as a telecommunications service provider is not considered a search under the Fourth Amendment.' Even if this form of surveillance constituted a search, it wouldn't be an 'unreasonable' search and therefore it would be legal, Kavanaugh also wrote."

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Orlando Police Decide To Keep Testing Controversial Amazon Facial Recognition Program

/. - 10 July 2018 - 9:00pm
Despite previous reports that the program has been ended, the Orlando Police Department in Florida is planning to continue its test of Amazon's real-time facial recognition system. "News of OPD supposedly ending its use of Rekognition on footage captured by a number of CCTV cameras came just a day after the ACLU sent a letter to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer regarding the face recognition program," reports Gizmodo. "But the end date for the initial pilot period had already been selected -- it just happened to coincide with the ACLU's report and the ensuing backlash from civil rights groups." From the report: While the original test period ended, the OPD will soon sit down with Amazon representatives to outline the new pilot, the police department told the Orlando Sentinel. "It's really to prevent the next tragedy," Orlando Police Chief John Mina said. Now, with the program set to continue, Dyer says the practice is not as dystopian as it seems. Details on the new pilot are sparse. OPD confirmed it will test Rekognition on at least eight cameras, as it did before, though their location isn't known. In the previous trial program, five Rekognition-enabled cameras captured footage at OPD headquarters, while three additional cameras were positioned in downtown Orlando. During its initial testing phase, Rekognition will scan officers' faces against a face database made up of volunteers. The plan, the OPD memo explains, is for officers themselves to walk in front of the cameras and record how accurately the technology recognizes them from different angles, with different clothes, or other variables. It's not known how long this initial testing phase will last, though the city plans to draft proposed regulations before any public rollout begins. It's worth noting that pilot itself requires no public approval and Dyer has wholeheartedly supported Rekognition. "No images of the public will be used for any testing," OPD said in a statement.

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Nearly 1,000 Paintings/Drawings By Vincent Van Gogh Now Digitized, Released Online

/. - 10 July 2018 - 8:20pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Open Culture: Every artist explores dimensions of space and place, orienting themselves and their works in the world, and orienting their audiences. Then there are artists like Vincent van Gogh, who make space and place a primary subject. [...] The opportunity to see all of Van Gogh's bedroom paintings in one place may have passed us by for now -- an exhibit in Chicago brought them together in 2016. But we can see the original bedroom at the yellow house in Arles in a virtual space, along with almost 1,000 more Van Gogh paintings and drawings, at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam's site. The digitized collection showcases a vast amount of Van Gogh's work -- including not only landscapes, but also his many portraits, self-portraits, drawings, city scenes, and still-lifes. The Van Gogh Museum houses the largest collection of the artist's work in the world. On their website you can read essays about his life and work, plan a visit, or shop at the online store. But most importantly, you can experience the stunning breadth of his art through your screen -- no replacement for the physical spaces of galleries, but a worthy means nonetheless of communing with Van Gogh's vision.

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Malware Found in Arch Linux AUR Package Repository

/. - 10 July 2018 - 7:40pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: Malware has been discovered in at least three Arch Linux packages available on AUR (Arch User Repository), the official Arch Linux repository of user-submitted packages. The malicious code has been removed thanks to the quick intervention of the AUR team. The incident happened because AUR allows anyone to take over "orphaned" repositories that have been abandoned by their original authors. On Saturday, a user going by the pseudonym of "xeactor" took over one such orphaned package named "acroread" that allows Arch Linux users to view PDF files. According to a Git commit to the packag's source code, xeactor added malicious code that would download a file named "~x" from ptpb [dot] pw, a lightweight site mimicking Pastebin that allows users to share small pieces of texts.

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Ex-Apple Worker Charged With Stealing Self-Driving Car Trade Secrets

/. - 10 July 2018 - 7:00pm
U.S. authorities on Monday charged a former Apple employee with theft of trade secrets, alleging that the person downloaded a secret blueprint related to a self-driving car to a personal laptop and later trying to flee the country, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court. From a report: The complaint said that the former employee, Xiaolang Zhang, disclosed intentions to work for a Chinese self-driving car startup and booked a last-minute flight to China after downloading the plan for a circuit board for the self-driving car. Authorities arrested Zhang on July 7 at the San Jose airport after he passed through a security checkpoint. "Apple takes confidentiality and the protection of our intellectual property very seriously," Apple said in a statement. "We're working with authorities on this matter and will do everything possible to make sure this individual and any other individuals involved are held accountable for their actions."

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PayPal Told Customer Her Death Breached Its Rules

/. - 10 July 2018 - 6:20pm
dryriver shares a report from the BBC: PayPal wrote to a woman who had died of cancer saying her death had breached its rules and that it might take legal action as a consequence. The firm has since acknowledged that the letter was "insensitive," apologized to her widower, and begun an inquiry into how it came to be sent. Lindsay Durdle died on May 31 aged 37. She had been first diagnosed with breast cancer about a year-and-a-half earlier. The disease had later spread to her lungs and brain. PayPal was informed of Mrs Durdle's death three weeks ago by her husband Howard Durdle. He provided the online payments service with copies of her death certificate, her will and his ID, as requested. He has now received a letter addressed in her name, sent to his home in Bucklebury, West Berkshire. It was headlined: "Important: You should read this notice carefully." It said that Mrs Durdle owed the company about 3,200 pounds (~$4,200) and went on to say: "You are in breach of condition 15.4(c) of your agreement with PayPal Credit as we have received notice that you are deceased... this breach is not capable of remedy." According to a PayPal staff member, there were three possible explanations for how the letter was sent: a bug, a bad letter template, or human error. PayPal is continuing to work with Mr Durdle and has written off the debt in the meantime.

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DOJ Reaches Settlement On Publication of Files About 3D Printed Firearms

/. - 10 July 2018 - 5:40pm
He Who Has No Name writes: Those who remember Cody Wilson and Defense Distributed -- the self-described cryptoanarchist and his organization that published plans for 3D printable firearm parts, respectively -- also remember that not long after the plans for the printable Liberator single-shot pistol hit the web, the Department of State seized the Defense Distributed website and prohibited Wilson from publishing 3D printable firearm plans, claiming violations of ITAR -- the International Traffic in Arms Regulation, a U.S. law taxing and restricting the distribution of a wide variety of physical goods listed as having military value. Slashdot covered the website seizure here (the Department of Defense was initially misreported in sources to have been the agency responsible). In both a First and Second Amendment win, the Second Amendment Foundation has settled with the Department of State after suing on behalf of Defense Distributed. Slashdot reader schwit1 shares an excerpt from the report: "Under terms of the settlement, the government has agreed to waive its prior restraint against the plaintiffs, allowing them to freely publish the 3-D files and other information at issue. The government has also agreed to pay a significant portion of the plaintiffs' attorney's fees, and to return $10,000 in State Department registration dues paid by Defense Distributed as a result of the prior restraint. Significantly, the government expressly acknowledges that non-automatic firearms up to .50-caliber -- including modern semi-auto sporting rifles such as the popular AR-15 and similar firearms -- are not inherently military."

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Apple's China-Friendly Censorship Caused An iPhone-Crashing Bug

/. - 10 July 2018 - 5:00pm
Security researcher Patrick Wardle helped Apple fix a bug that would crash apps displaying the word "Taiwan" or the Taiwanese flag emoji. Some iPhones could be remotely crashed by something as simple as receiving a text message with the Taiwanese flag. Apple confirmed the fix in a security update Monday. Wired reports: "Basically Apple added some code to iOS with the goal that phones in China wouldn't display a Taiwanese flag," Wardle says, "and there was a bug in that code." Since at least early 2017, iOS has included that Chinese censorship function: Switch your iPhone's location setting to China, and the Taiwanese flag emoji essentially disappears from your phone, evaporating from its library of emojis and appearing as a "missing" emoji in any text that appears on the screen. That code likely represents a favor from Apple to the Chinese government, which for the last 70 years has maintained that Taiwan is a part of China and has no legitimate independent government. But Wardle found that in some edge cases, a bug in the Taiwan-censorship code meant that instead of treating the Taiwan emoji as missing from the phone's library, it instead considered it an invalid input. That caused phones to crash altogether, resulting in what hackers call a "denial of service" attack that would let anyone crash a vulnerable device on command. Wardle's still not sure how many devices are affected, or what caused that bug to be triggered only in some iOS devices and not others, but he believes it has something to do with the phone's location and language settings. Wardle has more details of the bug on his blog.

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DOD Seeks Classification 'Clippy' To Help Classify Data, Control Access

/. - 10 July 2018 - 4:15pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The DOD has issued a request for information (RFI) from industry in a quest for technology that will prevent the mislabeling and accidental (or deliberate) access and sharing of sensitive documents and data. In an announcement posted in May by the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), the Pentagon stated that the DOD CIO's office -- part of the Office of the Secretary of Defense -- is "investigating the use of commercial solutions for labeling and controlling access to sensitive information." Defense IT officials are seeking software that "must be able to make real-time decisions about the classification level of the information and an individual's ability to access, change, delete, receive, or forward the information based on the credentials of the sending and/or receiving individual, facility, and system." In other words, the DOD is looking for a classification Clippy. In a response to questions regarding the RFI issued in late June, DOD officials said that the system should be able to ideally protect "any file type on a Microsoft operating system (OS) file system and active directory domain."

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Researchers Devise AI System To Reduce Noise in Photos

/. - 10 July 2018 - 2:40pm
Researchers from Nvidia, MIT, and Aalto University are using artificial intelligence to reduce noise in photos. The team used 50,000 images from the ImageNet dataset to train its AI system for reconstructing photos, and the system is able to remove noise from an image even though it has never seen the image without noise. VentureBeat: Named Noise2Noise, the AI system was created using deep learning and draws its intelligence from 50,000 images from the ImageNet database. Each came as a clean, high-quality image without noise but was manipulated to add randomized noise. Computer-generated images and MRI scans were also used to train Noise2Noise. Denoising or noise reduction methods have been around for a long time now, but methods that utilize deep learning are a more recent phenomenon.

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Hacker Breaches Chrome Extension of Popular VPN Service Hola, Directs Users To Compromised Cryptocurrency Website

/. - 10 July 2018 - 2:01pm
Catalin Cimpanu, reporting for BleepingComputer: A hacker has breached a Hola VPN developer account and has replaced the official Chrome extension with one that redirected users of the MyEtherWallet.com website to a phishing page controlled by the attacker. The compromise took place yesterday and only lasted for five hours the MyEtherWallet (MEW) team said in a tweet. The Hola VPN team admitted to the hack. "The attack was programmed to inject a JavaScript tag in to the MEW site to 'phish' information about MEW accounts that are logging in without being in 'incognito mode', by re-directing the MEW users to the hacker's website," the Hola VPN team said.

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Is iOS 11.4 Draining Your iPhone's Battery? You're Not Alone

/. - 10 July 2018 - 1:22pm
If you've noticed that the battery life on your iPhone is not what it used to be, it's likely that the problem isn't with your iPhone or some setting or app, but a bug in iOS 11.4. From a report: Apple's support forum has been blowing up with complaints from users that battery life has been seriously curtailed since installing iOS 11.4. The problems seems to be reasonably widespread and affects the iPhone line up across the board. I've seen this issue on the iPhones that I use. It seems to be accompanied by the device running unusually hot.

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With So Many Eyeballs, Is Open Source Security Better?

/. - 10 July 2018 - 12:43pm
Sean Michael Kerner, writing for eSecurity Planet: Back in 1999, Eric Raymond coined the term "Linus' Law," which stipulates that given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow. Linus' Law, named in honor of Linux creator Linus Torvalds, has for nearly two decades been used by some as a doctrine to explain why open source software should have better security. In recent years, open source projects and code have experienced multiple security issues, but does that mean Linus' Law isn't valid? According to Dirk Hohndel, VP and Chief Open Source Officer at VMware, Linus' Law still works, but there are larger software development issues that impact both open source as well as closed source code that are of equal or greater importance. "I think that in every development model, security is always a challenge," Hohndel said. Hohndel said developers are typically motivated by innovation and figuring out how to make something work, and security isn't always the priority that it should be. "I think security is not something we should think of as an open source versus closed source concept, but as an industry," Hohndel said.

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Apple To Deploy 1Password To All 123,000 Employees; In Talks To Acquire Password Manager's Parent-Firm AgileBits: Report

/. - 10 July 2018 - 11:50am
Jonathan S. Geller, reporting for BGR: Apple acquires an average of 15 to 20 companies a year, according to CEO Tim Cook. Of that number, we only hear about a couple, as most of these acquisitions or aqcui-hires are not consumer-facing, nor disclosed. However, we have exclusively learned that Apple is planning an interesting partnership and a potential acquisition of AgileBits, maker of the popular password manager 1Password. According to our source, after many months of planning, Apple plans to deploy 1Password internally to all 123,000 employees. This includes not just employees in Cupertino, but extends all the way to retail, too. Furthermore, the company is said to have carved out a deal that includes family plans, giving up to 5 family members of each employee a free license for 1Password. With more and more emphasis on security in general, and especially at Apple, there are a number of reasons this deal makes sense. We're told that 100 Apple employees will start using 1Password through this initiative starting this week, with the full 123,000+ users expected to be activated within the next one to two months. Update: In a statement, 1Password said rumors of its acquisition were "completely false."

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BlackTech Threat Group Steals D-Link Certificates To Spread Backdoor Malware

/. - 10 July 2018 - 11:20am
Security researchers have discovered a new malicious campaign that utilizes stolen D-Link certificates to sign malware. From a report: A lesser-known cyber-espionage group known as BlackTech was caught earlier this month using a stolen D-Link certificate to sign malware deployed in a recent campaign. "The exact same certificate had been used to sign [official] D-Link software; therefore, the certificate was likely stolen," says Anton Cherepanov, a security researcher for Slovak antivirus company ESET, and the one who discovered the stolen cert. Cherepanov says BlackTech operators used the stolen cert to sign two malware payloads -- the first is the PLEAD backdoor, while the second is a nondescript password stealer. According to a 2017 Trend Micro report, the BlackTech group has used the PLEAD malware in the past. Just like in previous attacks, the group's targets for these most recent attacks were again located in East Asia, particularly in Taiwan. The password stealer isn't anything special, being capable of extracting passwords from only four apps -- Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Outlook.

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In World First, Danish Court Rules Stream-Ripping Site Illegal

/. - 10 July 2018 - 10:40am
An anonymous reader shares a report: Convert2MP3 is a site that allows users to download audio from platforms including YouTube. Following legal action carried out by Rights Alliance on behalf of music industry group IFPI, Convert2MP3 has been declared unlawful by a Danish court which has now ordered ISPs to block it. It's the first time worldwide that a so-called stream-ripping site has been declared illegal.

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