Foreign Policy has an in-depth look at the contents of a laptop reportedly seized this year in Syria from a stronghold of the organization now known as the Islamic State, and described as belonging to a Tunisian national ("Muhammed S."). The "hidden documents" folder of the machine, says the report, contained a vast number of documents, including ones describing and justifying biological weapons: The laptop's contents turn out to be a treasure trove of documents that provide ideological justifications for jihadi organizations -- and practical training on how to carry out the Islamic State's deadly campaigns. They include videos of Osama bin Laden, manuals on how to make bombs, instructions for stealing cars, and lessons on how to use disguises in order to avoid getting arrested while traveling from one jihadi hot spot to another. ... The information on the laptop makes clear that its owner is a Tunisian national named Muhammed S. who joined ISIS in Syria and who studied chemistry and physics at two universities in Tunisia's northeast. Even more disturbing is how he planned to use that education: The ISIS laptop contains a 19-page document in Arabic on how to develop biological weapons and how to weaponize the bubonic plague from infected animals. ... "The advantage of biological weapons is that they do not cost a lot of money, while the human casualties can be huge," the document states.
gthuang88 writes: As the marketing hype around "big data" subsides, a recent wave of startups is solving a new class of data-related problems and showing where the field is headed. Niche analytics companies like RStudio, Vast, and FarmLink are trying to provide insights for specific industries such as finance, real estate, and agriculture. Data-wrangling software from startups like Tamr and Trifacta is targeting enterprises looking to find and prep corporate data. And heavily funded startups such as Actifio and DataGravity are trying to make data-storage systems smarter. Together, these efforts highlight where emerging data technologies might actually be used in the business world.
An anonymous reader writes with a link to a story in the LA Times: "Few places in the country are so warm and bright as Mary Wilkerson's property on the beach near St. Petersburg, Fla., a city once noted in the Guinness Book of World Records for a 768-day stretch of sunny days. But while Florida advertises itself as the Sunshine State, power company executives and regulators have worked successfully to keep most Floridians from using that sunshine to generate their own power. Wilkerson discovered the paradox when she set out to harness sunlight into electricity for the vintage cottages she rents out at Indian Rocks Beach. She would have had an easier time installing solar panels, she found, if she had put the homes on a flatbed and transported them to chilly Massachusetts. While the precise rules vary from state to state, one explanation is the same: opposition from utilities grown nervous by the rapid encroachment of solar firms on their business."
wired_parrot writes In a presentation to be shown Thursday at the Black Hat conference, cybersecurity consultant Ruben Santamarta is expected to outline how planes can be hacked via inflight wi-fi. Representatives of in-flight communication systems confirmed his findings but downplayed the risks, noting that physical access to the hardware would still be needed and only the communication system would be affected.
An anonymous reader writes A new study suggests that large dinosaurs shrunk to small birds to survive over a period of around 50 million years. Aside from a few large species, most modern birds are predominantly tiny and look nothing at all like their prehistoric meat-eating ancestors. The evolutionary process that governed this transformation has not been well understood, but now researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia have put together a detailed family tree mapping the evolution of therapod dinosaurs to the agile flying birds we see today. Their results indicated that meat-eating dinosaurs underwent several distinct periods of miniaturization over the last 50 million years which took them down from an average weight of 163kg to just 0.8kg before finally becoming modern birds.
Milo_Mindbender writes I'm trying to find a bulletproof near zero maintenance video conferencing client for shared use in an Alzheimers living facility. It's used so the patients can regularly see their relatives who are often out of town. Most everything I've tried on PC or Mac requires tweeks/updates from time to time to keep it working, not good in a place where there are no computer savvy people. It looks like most of the low cost dedicated boxes have died out too. The ideal setup will be turnkey with little-to-no maintenance and if possible support auto-answering calls from approved users. It needs to be compatible with video conferencing apps the relatives can easily get on phone/tablet/pc such as Skype, Facetime, Hangouts...etc. Any suggestions?
theodp writes: Over at Code.org, they're celebrating because more than 100 members of Congress are now co-sponsoring the Computer Science Education Act (HR 2536), making the bill designed to"strengthen elementary and secondary computer science education" the most broadly cosponsored education bill in the House. By adding fewer than 50 words to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, HR 2536 would elevate Computer Science to a "core academic subject" (current core academic subjects are English, reading or language arts, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, and geography), a status that opens the doors not only to a number of funding opportunities, but also to a number of government regulations. So, now that we know it takes 112 U.S. Representatives to make a CS education bill, the next question is, "How many taxpayer dollars will it take to pay for the consequences?" While Code.org says "the bill is cost-neutral and doesn't introduce new programs or mandates," the organization in April pegged the cost of putting CS in every school at $300-$400 million. In Congressional testimony last January, Code.org proposed that "comprehensive immigration reform efforts that tie H-1B visa fees to a new STEM education fund" could be used "to support the teaching and learning of more computer science in K-12 schools," echoing Microsoft's National Talent Strategy.
necro81 (917438) writes "Gaza's only power plant (see this profile at IEEE Spectrum — duct tape and bailing wire not included) has been knocked offline following an Israeli strike. Reports vary, but it appears that Israeli tank shells caused a fuel bunker at the plant to explode. Gaza, already short on electricity despite imports from Israel and Egpyt, now faces widening blackouts."
The Washington Post reports in a short article on the sometimes strange, sometimes strained relationship between spy agencies like the NSA and CIA and law enforcement (as well as judges and prosecutors) when it comes to evidence gathered using technology or techniques that the spy agencies would rather not disclose at all, never mind explain in detail. They may both be arms of the U.S. government, but the spy agencies and the law enforcers covet different outcomes. From the article: [S]sometimes it's not just the tool that is classified, but the existence itself of the capability — the idea that a certain type of communication can be wiretapped — that is secret. One former senior federal prosecutor said he knew of at least two instances where surveillance tools that the FBI criminal investigators wanted to use "got formally classified in a big hurry" to forestall the risk that the technique would be revealed in a criminal trial. "People on the national security side got incredibly wound up about it," said the former official, who like others interviewed on the issue spoke on condition of anonymity because of the topic’s sensitivity. "The bottom line is: Toys get taken away and put on a very, very high shelf. Only people in the intelligence community can use them." ... The DEA in particular was concerned that if it came up with a capability, the National Security Agency or CIA would rush to classify it, said a former Justice Department official.
alphatel writes: Wikipedia has blocked anonymous edits from a congressional IP address for 10 days because of "disruptive" behavior. These otherwise anonymous edits were brought to light recently by @Congressedits, a bot that automatically tweets Wikipedia changes that come from Congressional IP addresses. The biography of former U.S. defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld was edited to say that he was an "alien lizard who eats Mexican babies." Mediaite's Wikipedia page was modified to label the site as a "sexist transphobic" publication.
An anonymous reader writes: Marvel Comics has announced that Thor, the thunder god whose story has been told in comic books, movies, and TV shows since the 1960s, will fall from grace, and no longer be able to wield his hammer Mjolnir. A brand new female character will take up the name Thor and continue the series. Jason Aaron, the series writer, said, "This is not She-Thor. This is not Lady Thor. This is not Thorita. This is THOR. This is the THOR of the Marvel Universe. But it's unlike any Thor we've ever seen before." Marvel's Wil Moss added, "The new Thor continues Marvel's proud tradition of strong female characters like Captain Marvel, Storm, Black Widow and more. And this new Thor isn't a temporary female substitute — she's now the one and only Thor, and she is worthy!"
redletterdave writes: According to a blog post from Gregg Pollack, CEO of the Code School, Google is paying for three free months for any women and minorities interested in tech to expand their skills. The offer is part of Google's $50 million "Made With Code" initiative, which aims to help close the gender gap in tech. While Google is also offering the same vouchers to the women in attendance at its annual I/O developers conference this week, the search giant has released an online application that's available to women everywhere. Google says its available vouchers for women number in the "thousands."
UnknowingFool writes In Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, the Supreme Court ruled against the EPA on some limits to greenhouse gases but also upheld other limits. In a 5-4 partial decision, the high court ruled that EPA overstepped their authority in requiring permits only for greenhouse gases for new and modified facilities using the Clean Air act. Such regulatory action can only be granted by Congress. But in the same case on a 7-2 decision, the court ruled that the EPA can enforce greenhouse gas limits on facilities that already require permits for other air pollutants. This leaves intact most of the new regulations proposed by the Obama administration earlier this month as many coal plants produce other air pollutants that can be regulated by the EPA.
phrackthat writes with an update to Friday's news that the IRS cannot locate two years worth of email from Lois Lerner, a central figure in the controversy surrounding the IRS's apparent targeting of Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny. Now, the IRS says there are another six workers for whom the agency cannot locate emails. As with Lerner, they attribute the unrecoverable emails to computer crashes. Among them was Nikole Flax, who was chief of staff to Lerner’s boss, then-deputy commissioner Steven Miller. Miller later became acting IRS commissioner, but was forced to resign last year after the agency acknowledged that agents had improperly scrutinized tea party and other conservative groups when they applied for tax-exempt status. Documents have shown some liberal groups were also flagged. ... Lerner’s computer crashed in the summer of 2011, depriving investigators of many of her prior emails. Flax’s computer crashed in December 2011, Camp and Boustany said. The IRS said Friday that technicians went to great lengths trying to recover data from Lerner’s computer in 2011. In emails provided by the IRS, technicians said they sent the computer to a forensic lab run by the agency’s criminal investigations unit. But to no avail.
X10 (186866) writes "I use Truecrypt, but recently someone pointed me to the SourceForge page of Truecrypt that says it's out of business. I found the message weird, but now there's an explanation: Truecrypt has received a letter from the NSA." Anyone with a firmer source (or who can debunk the claim), please chime in below; considering the fate of LavaBit, it sure sounds plausible. PCWorld lists some alternative software, for Windows users in particular, but do you believe that Microsoft's BitLocker is more secure?