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The Military

KGB Software Almost Triggered War In 1983 ( 16

An anonymous reader writes: Who here remembers WarGames? As it turns out, the film was a lot closer to reality than we knew. Newly-released documents show that the Soviet Union's KGB developed software to predict sneak attacks from the U.S. and other nations in the early 1980s. During a NATO wargame in November, 1983, that software met all conditions necessary to forecast the beginning of a nuclear war. "Many of these procedures and tactics were things the Soviets had never seen, and the whole exercise came after a series of feints by U.S. and NATO forces to size up Soviet defenses and the downing of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 on September 1, 1983. So as Soviet leaders monitored the exercise and considered the current climate, they put one and one together. Able Archer, according to Soviet leadership at least, must have been a cover for a genuine surprise attack planned by the U.S., then led by a president possibly insane enough to do it." Fortunately, when the military exercise ended, so did Soviet fears that an attack was imminent.

Even the Dumbest Ransomware Is Almost Unremovable On Smart TVs ( 58

An anonymous reader writes: Apparently even the easiest-to-remove ransomware is painfully hard to uninstall from smart TVs, if they're running on the Android TV platform, and many are. This didn't happen in a real-world scenario (yet), and was only a PoC test by Symantec. The researcher managed to remove the ransomware only because he enabled the Android ADB tool beforehand, knowing he would infect the TV with the ransomware. "Without this option enabled, and if I was less experienced user, I'd probably still be locked out of my smart TV, making it a large and expensive paper weight," said the researcher.

Engineers Nine Times More Likely Than Expected To Become Terrorists ( 148 writes: Henry Farrel writes in the Washington Post that there's a group of people who appear to be somewhat prone to violent extremism: Engineers. They are nine times more likely to be terrorists than you would expect by chance. In a forthcoming book, Engineers of Jihad, published by Princeton University Press, Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog provide a new theory explaining why engineers seem unusually prone to become involved in terrorist organizations. They say it's caused by the way engineers think about the world. Survey data indicates engineering faculty at universities are far more likely to be conservative than people with other degrees, and far more likely to be religious. They are seven times as likely to be both religious and conservative as social scientists. Gambetta and Hertog speculate that engineers combine these political predilections with a marked preference towards finding clearcut answers.

Gambetta and Hertog suggest that this mindset combines with frustrated expectations in many Middle Eastern and North African countries (PDF), and among many migrant populations, where people with engineering backgrounds have difficulty in realizing their ambitions for good and socially valued jobs. This explains why there are relatively few radical Islamists with engineering backgrounds in Saudi Arabia (where they can easily find good employment) and why engineers were more prone to become left-wing radicals in Turkey and Iran.

Some people might argue that terrorist groups want to recruit engineers because engineers have valuable technical skills that might be helpful, such as in making bombs. This seems plausible – but it doesn't seem to be true. Terrorist organizations don't seem to recruit people because of their technical skills, but because they seem trustworthy and they don't actually need many people with engineering skills. "Bomb-making and the technical stuff that is done in most groups is performed by very few people (PDF), so you don't need, if you have a large group, 40 or 50 percent engineers," says Hertog. "You just need a few guys to put together the bombs. So the scale of the overrepresentation, especially in the larger groups is not easily explained."


Another Giant xkcd Comics Experiment ( 26

Dave Knott writes: XKCD creator Randall Munroe has decided to celebrate the release of his new book, Thing Explainer, by creating a "small game" called Hoverboard. In actuality, it is a gigantic scrolling comic in the same style as his previous Click And Drag. However, this time there is a game element as one navigates the comic. Explore giant starships and volcanoes, or search for hidden lairs, all in the name of finding as many hidden gold coins as possible.

AMD's 'Crimson' Driver Software Released ( 33

An anonymous reader writes: Yesterday marked the launch of AMD's 'Crimson' driver software. It replaces the old Catalyst driver software, and represents a change in how AMD develops bug fixes, improves performance, and adds features. AnandTech took a detailed look at the new driver software. They say, "By focusing feature releases around the end of the year driver, AMD is able to cut down on what parts of the driver they change (and thereby can possibly break) at other times of the year, and try to knock out all of their feature-related bugs at once. At the same time it makes the annual driver release a significant event, as AMD releases a number of new features all at once. However on the other hand this means that AMD has few features launching any other time of the year, which can make it look like they're not heavily invested in feature development at those points." On a more positive note, the article adds, "Looking under the hood there's no single feature that's going to blow every Radeon user away at once, but overall there are a number of neat features here that should be welcomed by various user groups. ... Meanwhile AMD's radical overhaul of their control panel via the new Radeon Settings application will be quickly noticed by everyone."

Dark Matter Grows Hair Around Stars and Planets ( 95

StartsWithABang writes: Dark matter may make up 27% of the Universe's energy density, compared to just 5% of normal (atomic) matter, but in our Solar System, it's notoriously sparse. In particular, there's just a nanogram's worth per cubic kilometer, which makes the fact that we've never directly detected it seem inevitable. But recent work has demonstrated that Earth and all the planets leave a "wake" of dark matter where the density is enhanced by a billion times or more. Time to go put those dark matter detectors where they belong: in the path of these dark matter hairs.

Windows 10 Fall Update Uninstalls Desktop Software Without Informing Users ( 203

ourlovecanlastforeve sends this report from Martin Brinkmann of gHacks: Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system may uninstall programs — desktop programs that is — from the computer after installation of the big Fall update that the company released earlier this month. I noticed the issue on one PC that I upgraded to Windows 10 Version 1511 but not on other machines. The affected PC had Speccy, a hardware information program, installed and Windows 10 notified me after the upgrade that the software had been removed from the system because of incompatibilities. There was no indication beforehand that something like this would happen, and what made this rather puzzling was the fact that a newly downloaded copy of Speccy would install and run fine on the upgraded system. An IT Director I know had this happen with ESET antivirus as well, on multiple computers. He says fixes have been rolled out for both TH2 and the antivirus software to prevent this from happening. Other reports mention CPU-Z, AMD's Catalyst Control Center, and CPUID as software that's being automatically uninstalled.

The Tamagochi Singularity Made Real: Infinite Tamagochi Living On the Internet ( 58

szczys writes: Everyone loves Tamagochi, the little electronic keychains spawned in the '90s that let you raise digital pets. Some time ago, XKCD made a quip about an internet-based matrix of thousands of these digital entities. That quip is now a reality thanks to elite hardware hacker Jeroen Domburg (aka Sprite_TM). In his recent talk called "The Tamagochi Singularity" at the Hackaday SuperConference he revealed that he had built an infinite network of virtual Tamagochi by implementing the original hardware as a virtual machine. This included developing AI to keep them happy, and developing a protocol to emulate their IR interactions. But he went even further, hacking an original keychain to use wirelessly as a console which can look in on any of the virtual Tamagochi living on his underground network. This full-stack process is unparalleled in just about every facet: complexity, speed of implementation, awesome factor, and will surely spark legions of other Tamagochi Matrices.

On iFixit and the Right To Repair ( 174

Jason Koebler writes: Motherboard sent a reporter to the Electronics Reuse Convention in New Orleans to investigate the important but threatened world of smartphone and electronics repair. As manufacturers start using proprietary screws, offer phone lease programs and use copyright law to threaten repair professionals, the right-to-repair is under more threat than ever. "That Apple and other electronics manufacturers don't sell repair parts to consumers or write service manuals for them isn't just annoying, it's an environmental disaster, [iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens] says. Recent shifts to proprietary screws, the ever-present threat of legal action under a trainwreck of a copyright law, and an antagonistic relationship with third-party repair shops shows that the anti-repair culture at major manufacturers isn't based on negligence or naiveté, it's malicious."

How Computer Scientists Cracked a 50-Year-Old Math Problem ( 71

An anonymous reader writes: Over the decades, the Kadison-Singer problem had wormed its way into a dozen distant areas of mathematics and engineering, but no one seemed to be able to crack it. The question "defied the best efforts of some of the most talented mathematicians of the last 50 years," wrote Peter Casazza and Janet Tremain of the University of Missouri in Columbia, in a 2014 survey article.

As a computer scientist, Daniel Spielman knew little of quantum mechanics or the Kadison-Singer problem's allied mathematical field, called C*-algebras. But when Gil Kalai, whose main institution is the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, described one of the problem's many equivalent formulations, Spielman realized that he himself might be in the perfect position to solve it. "It seemed so natural, so central to the kinds of things I think about," he said. "I thought, 'I've got to be able to prove that.'" He guessed that the problem might take him a few weeks.

Instead, it took him five years. In 2013, working with his postdoc Adam Marcus, now at Princeton University, and his graduate student Nikhil Srivastava, now at the University of California, Berkeley, Spielman finally succeeded. Word spread quickly through the mathematics community that one of the paramount problems in C*-algebras and a host of other fields had been solved by three outsiders — computer scientists who had barely a nodding acquaintance with the disciplines at the heart of the problem.


2015 'Dance Your PhD' Winner Announced ( 17

sciencehabit writes: Jargon seems unavoidable in science. When you try to explain your work, it becomes a minefield of technical concepts and abstract reasoning. But what if we just want the gist of what you do, the essence of your research? Oh, and make it a dance. The results are in from Science magazine's annual 'Dance Your PhD' contest. The winners include a ballet about a protein, a tango about entangled photons, a Bollywood spectacle about the immune system and, this year's top prize-winner, a dance by Florence Metz of the University of Bern, Switzerland, who combined hip hop, salsa, and acro-yoga to explain her PhD on the intricacies of water protection policies. She goes home with $1000 and a trip to Stanford University in the spring to screen her PhD dance and give a talk — hopefully jargon-free.

Green Light Or No, Nest Cam Never Stops Watching ( 167

chicksdaddy writes: How do you know when the Nest Cam monitoring your house is "on" or "off"? It's simple: just look at the little power indicator light on the front of the device — and totally disregard what it is telling you. The truth is: the Nest Cam is never "off" despite an effort by Nest and its parent Google to make it appear otherwise. That, according to an analysis of the Nest Cam by the firm ABI Research, which found that turning the Nest Cam "off" using the associated mobile application only turns off the LED power indicator light on the front of the device. Under the hood, the camera continues to operate and, according to ABI researcher Jim Mielke, to monitor its surroundings: noting movement, sound and other activity when users are led to believe it has powered down.

Mielke reached that conclusion after analyzing Nest Cam's power consumption. Typically a shutdown or standby mode would reduce current by as much as 10 to 100 times, Mielke said. But the Google Nest Cam's power consumption was almost identical in "shutdown" mode and when fully operational, dropping from 370 milliamps (mA) to around 340mA. The slight reduction in power consumption for the Nest Cam when it was turned "off" correlates with the disabling of the LED power light, given that LEDs typically draw 10-20mA.

In a statement to The Security Ledger, Nest Labs spokesperson Zoz Cuccias acknowledged that the Nest Cam does not fully power down when the camera is turned off from the user interface (UI). "When Nest Cam is turned off from the user interface (UI), it does not fully power down, as we expect the camera to be turned on again at any point in time," Cuccias wrote in an e-mail. "With that said, when Nest Cam is turned off, it completely stops transmitting video to the cloud, meaning it no longer observes its surroundings." The privacy and security implications are serious. "This means that even when a consumer thinks that he or she is successfully turning off this camera, the device is still running, which could potentially unleash a tidal wave of privacy concerns," Mielke wrote.


Hospitals Can 3D Print a Patient's Vasculature For Aneurysm Pre-Op Practice ( 18

Lucas123 writes: University of Buffalo physicians and researchers from two institutes working with 3D printer maker Stratasys have successfully 3D-printed anatomically correct models of patients' vascular systems — from their femoral artery to their brain — in order to test various surgical techniques prior to an actual operation. The new 3D printed models not only precisely replicate blood vessels' geometry, but the texture and tissue tension, allowing surgeons a realistic preoperative experience when using catheterization techniques. The printed models are also being used by physicians in training.

UK Mobile Operator Could Block Ads At Network Level ( 87

Mickeycaskill writes: UK network operator EE says it is investigating the possibility of blocking adverts at a network level, allowing customers to limit the types and frequency of adverts they see in browsers and applications. The move is likely to concern digital publishers, many of whom rely on advertising revenue to fund their content. Ad blockers have become more popular in recent times, with many users employing them to save battery life, consume less data and protect against malvertising attacks. EE CEO Olaf Swantee said, "We think it’s important that, over time, customers start to be offered more choice and control over the level and intensity of ads on mobile. For EE, this is not about ad blocking, but about starting an important debate around customer choice, controls and the level of ads customers receive. This is an important debate that needs to happen soon."

Video High-Security, Open-Source Router is a Hit on Indiegogo (Video) 94

The device is called the Turris Omnia, and its Indiegogo page says it's a "hi-performance & open-source router." Their fundraising goal is $100,000. So far, 1,191 backers have pledged $248,446 (as of the moment this was typed), with 49 days left to go. They've shipped 2,000 pieces so far but, says interviewee Ondej Filip, "95% of them are in the Czech Republic."

This is not only an open-source project, but non-profit as well. A big motive for it is heightened security, as the interview (and transcript) make clear. It's also apparent that the hardware here is overkill for a router; it can run a complete Linux distro, no problem, so it can function as a server, not just as a router. Interested? You might want to put a reservation in soon. This isn't the cheapest router (or even server) out there, but a lot of people obviously think a Turris Omnia, with its crypto security, automatic updates, and server functions would be nice to have.