Trailrunner7 writes "Apple on Thursday released a large batch of security fixes for its OS X operating system, one of which patches a flaw that allowed Java Web Start applications to run even when users had Java disabled in the browser. There have been a slew of serious vulnerabilities in Java disclosed in the last few months, and security experts have been recommending that users disable Java in their various browsers as a protection mechanism. However, it appears that measure wasn't quite enough to protect users of some versions of OS X."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
An anonymous reader writes "NCC Group has released a new whitepaper at the Blackhat Europe conference on using a Raspberry PI as a hardware-based backdoor (PDF) in laptop docking stations. From the paper: 'The IT department is typically more concerned about someone stealing your laptop, so they'll ask you to secure your laptop with a Kensington-style lock, but not necessarily to secure the dock. This paper details how attackers can exploit the privileged position that laptop docking stations have within an environment. It will also describe the construction of a remotely controllable, covert hardware implant, but most importantly it will discuss some of the techniques that can be employed to detect such devices and mitigate the risks that they pose.'"
tedlistens writes "China has accused Coca Cola of espionage for its 'illegal mapping,' allegedly with the use of GPS 'devices with ultra high sensitivity.' On its face the case looks like yet another example of China's aggressive sensitivity about its maps, no doubt heightened by its ongoing fracas with the U.S. over cyberwar. Li Pengde, deputy director of the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation, said during a radio interview on Tuesday that the Coca Cola case was only one of 21 similar cases involving companies using GPS devices in Yunnan to 'illegally obtain classified information.' According to Chinese authorities, geographical data can be used by guided missiles to strike key military facilities — a concern that one GPS expert says is overblown at a time when the U.S. government already has high-precision satellite maps of China. Nevertheless, Chinese law dictates that foreigners, be they companies or individuals, are prohibited from using highly-sensitive GPS equipment in China."
RedLeg writes "ArsTechnica reports that Brian Krebs, of KrebsOnSecurity.com, formerly of the Washington Post, recently got SWATted. For those not familiar with the term, SWATting is the practice of spoofing a call to emergency responders (911 in the U.S.) to induce an overwhelming and potentially devastating response from law enforcement and/or other first responders to the home or residence of the victim. Brian's first-person account of the incident and what he believes to be related events are chronicled here. Krebs has been prominent in the takedown of several cyber-criminal groups in the past, and has been subject to retaliation. I guess this time he poked the wrong bear."
redletterdave writes "Apple is facing a potential class action suit in San Francisco's California Northern District Court after an owner of its MacBook Pro with Retina display accused the computer company on Wednesday of 'tricking' consumers into paying for a poor-quality screen, citing an increasingly common problem that causes images to be burned into the display, also known as 'image persistence' or 'ghosting.' The lawsuit claims only LG-made screens are affected by this problem, but 'none of Apple's advertisements or representations disclose that it produces display screens that exhibit different levels of performance and quality.' Even though only one man filed the lawsuit, it can become a class action suit if others decide to join him in his claim, which might not be an issue: An Apple.com support thread for this particular problem, entitled 'MacBook Pro Retina display burn-in,' currently has more than 7,200 replies and 367,000 views across more than 500 pages."
A U.S. District Court Judge in California today ruled that so-called National Security Letters, used by government agencies to force business and organizations to turn over information on citizens, are unconstitutional. Judge Susan Illston ordered the government to stop using them, but gave the government a 90-day window to appeal the decision, during which the NSLs may still be sent out. The letters were challenged by the Electronic Frontier Foundation on behalf of a telecom who was ordered to provide data. "The telecom took the extraordinary and rare step of challenging the underlying authority of the National Security Letter, as well as the legitimacy of the gag order that came with it. Both challenges are allowed under a federal law that governs NSLs, a power greatly expanded under the Patriot Act that allows the government to get detailed information on Americans’ finances and communications without oversight from a judge. The FBI has issued hundreds of thousands of NSLs and been reprimanded for abusing them — though almost none of the requests have been challenged by the recipients. After the telecom challenged the NSL, the Justice Department took its own extraordinary measure and sued the company, arguing in court documents that the company was violating the law by challenging its authority. The move stunned the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is representing the anonymous telecom. ... After heated negotiations with EFF, the Justice Department agreed to stay the civil suit and let the telecom’s challenge play out in court. The Justice Department subsequently filed a motion to compel in the challenge case, but has never dropped the civil suit."
astroengine writes "Although there appears to be a mysterious dearth of exoplanets smaller than Earth, astronomers using data from NASA's Kepler space telescope have estimated that nearly a quarter of all sun-like stars in our galaxy play host to worlds 1-3 times the size of our planet. These astonishing results were discussed by Geoff Marcy, professor of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, during a talk the W. M. Keck Observatory 20th Anniversary Science Meeting on Thursday. '23 percent of sun-like stars have a planet within (1-2.8 Earth radii) just within Mercury's orbit,' said Marcy. 'I'll say that again, because that number really surprised me: 23 percent of sun-like stars have a nearly-Earth-sized planet orbiting in tight orbits within 0.25 AU of the host stars.'"
New submitter kxra writes "Do you have a federated jabber instant messaging account that never gets responses from Google accounts anymore? Or do you have a Gmail account that a friend has been unable to invite from their 3rd party Jabber account? The Free Software Foundation reports, 'Google users can still send subscription requests to contacts whose accounts are hosted elsewhere. But they cannot accept incoming requests. This change is akin to Google no longer accepting incoming e-mail for @gmail.com addresses from non-Google domains.' This sounds like something Facebook would try in order to gain even tighter control over the network, but they never even federated their Jabber service to begin with. According to a public mailing list conversation, Google is doing this as a lazy way to handle a spam problem."
tsamsoniw writes "Although the newly appointed Pope Francis I has proven himself technologically savvy enough to use Twitter, the Vatican dropped the ball when it came to quickly registering a domain name for the pontiff after his appointment earlier this month: Within hours, cyber squatters grabbed up more than 600 domain names containing derivations of the pontiff's name, including popefrancisi.com, popefrancis.co.uk, popefrancis.org, and popefrancis.fr, according to domain-name company names.co.uk."
New submitter Spinnakker writes "Lockheed Martin, traditionally known for its development of military systems and aircraft, has developed a process for perforating graphene (carbon sheets only one atom thick) that could potentially reduce the energy required for desalination by two orders of magnitude. The process tailors the hole size to the molecules being separated. In the case of desalination, one would create holes in the graphene large enough to allow water to pass but small enough to block the salt molecules. The advantage to using graphene comes from how extremely thin the material is compared to traditional filters. The thinner the filter, the less energy is required to facilitate reverse osmosis."
jones_supa writes "The cartoon heroes are back, with even stronger superpowers. Deep Silver Volition has announced Saints Row IV for an August launch. From the press release: 'In the next open-world installment of Saints Row, Deep Silver Volition continues the story of the Third Street Saints by elevating their status to the highest level – the leaders of the free world. In Saints Row IV, the head honcho of the Saints has been elected to the Presidency of the United States. Saints Row IV lets players delve into an arsenal of alien weaponry and technology that will turn each Saint into an ultimate entity of destruction. The player utilizes out-of-this-world superpowers to fight all the way to the top. With intensified action and enhanced customization, the protagonists can use their newfound superpowers and leap over buildings, outrun the fastest sports cars, or send enemies flying with telekinesis in the most insane installment of Saints Row yet.'"
ananyo writes "The research world's most famous human cell has had its genome decoded, and it's a mess. German researchers this week report the genome sequence of the HeLa cell line, which originates from a deadly cervical tumor taken from a patient named Henrietta Lacks (Slashdot has previously noted a film made about the cells and there's a recent mutli-award winning book on Lacks). Established the same year that Lacks died in 1951, HeLa cells were the first human cells to grow well in the laboratory. The cells have contributed to more than 60,000 research papers, the development of a polio vaccine in the 1950s and, most recently, an international effort to characterize the genome, known as ENCODE. The team's work shows that HeLa cells contain one extra version of most chromosomes, with up to five copies of some, and raises further questions over the widespread use of HeLa cells as models for human cell biology."
Dropbox announced today that it is acquiring Mailbox, an iOS email client designed to take better advantage of a touch interface. The app launched last month, and the Mailbox team says they're already delivering more than 60 million emails daily. Demand for the service continues to grow, so they were exploring their options to expand. They said, "We can’t wait to put Mailbox in the hands of everyone who wants it. This means not only continuing to scale the service, but also including support for more email providers and mobile devices. Add to that a host of new features and we’ve got a LOT of work to do, certainly more than our current team of 14 can handle. We need to grow and we need to grow thoughtfully, with top-notch people who share our goals and values. Enter Dropbox, the team from San Francisco who helps over 100M people bring their photos, docs, and videos with them anywhere. They’re a profoundly talented bunch who build great tools that make work frictionless, and Mailbox fits Dropbox’s mission like a glove. Plus, they’ve got a ton of experience scaling services and are experts at handling people’s data with care. In short, Dropbox is our kind of company."
jfruh writes "At a Brazilian hospital, doctors were required to check in with a fingerprint scanner to show that they've showed up for work. Naturally, they developed a system to bypass this requirement, creating fake fingers so that they could cover for one another when they took unauthorized time off. Another good example of how supposedly foolproof security tech can in fact be fooled pretty easily."
phenopticon writes "Researchers at Berkeley are attempting to revive the extinct passenger pigeon in order to set up a remote island theme park full of resurrected semi-modern extinct animals. (Well, maybe not that last part.) Quoting: 'About 1,500 passenger pigeons inhabit museum collections. They are all that's left of a species once perceived as a limitless resource. The birds were shipped in boxcars by the tons, sold as meat for 31 cents per dozen, and plucked for mattress feathers. But in a mere 25 years, the population shrank from billions to thousands as commercial hunters decimated nesting flocks. Martha, the last living bird, took her place under museum glass in 1914. ... Ben Novak doesn't believe the story should end there. The 26-year-old genetics student is convinced that new technology can bring the passenger pigeon back to life. "This whole idea that extinction is forever is just nonsense," he says. Novak spent the last five years working to decipher the bird's genes, and now he has put his graduate studies on hold to pursue a goal he'd once described in a junior high school fair presentation: de-extinction. ... Using next-generation sequencing, scientists identified the passenger pigeon's closest living relative: Patagioenas fasciata, the ubiquitous band-tailed pigeon of the American west. This was an important step. The short, mangled DNA fragments from the museums' passenger pigeons don't overlap enough for a computer to reassemble them, but the modern band-tailed pigeon genome could serve as a scaffold. Mapping passenger pigeon fragments onto the band-tailed sequence would suggest their original order."