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+ - FBI confirms open investigation into Gamergate->

Submitted by v3rgEz
v3rgEz (125380) writes "In a terse form letter responding to a FOIA request, the FBI has confirmed it has an open investigation into Gamergate, the loose but controversial coalition of gamers calling for ethics in gaming journalism — even as some members have harassed and sent death threats to female gaming developers and critics"
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+ - Grinch Vulnerability Could Put a Hole In Your Linux Stocking->

Submitted by itwbennett
itwbennett (1594911) writes "In a blog post Tuesday, security service provider Alert Logic warned of a Linux vulnerability, named grinch after the well-known Dr. Seuss character, that could provide attackers with unfettered root access. The fundamental flaw resides in the Linux authorization system, which can inadvertently allow privilege escalation, granting a user full administrative access. Alert Logic warned that Grinch could be as severe as the Shellshock flaw that roiled the Internet in September."
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+ - Genetic study reveals surprising ancestry of many Americans-> 1

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "In the United States, almost no one can trace their ancestry back to just one place. And for many, the past may hold some surprises, according to a new study. Researchers have found that a significant percentage of African-Americans, European Americans, and Latinos carry ancestry from outside their self-identified ethnicity. The average African-American genome, for example, is nearly a quarter European, and almost 4% of European Americans carry African ancestry."
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Techdirt: The MPAA's Secret Plan To Reinterpret The DMCA Into A Vast Censorship Machine Th->

From feed by feedfeeder
Yes, all the attention these days about the Sony hack is on the decision to not release The Interview, but it still seems like the big story to come out of the hack is the sneaky plans of the MPAA in its bizarre infatuation with attacking the internet. We've already covered the MPAA's questionably cozy relationship with state Attorneys General (to the point of both funding an investigation into Google and writing documents for those AGs to send in their names), as well as the continued focus on site blocking, despite an admission that the MPAA and the studios still don't have the slightest clue about the technology implications of site blocking.

Last week, TorrentFreak noted the various options that were under discussion by the MPAA for blocking sites, and now The Verge has published more information, including the analysis by MPAA's favorite hatchetmen lawyers at Jenner & Block about how site blocking might work in practice [pdf] by breaking DNS.

For years, actual technology experts have explained why DNS blocking is a really bad idea , but the MPAA just can't let it go apparently. It's just, this time, it's looking for ways to do it by twisting existing laws, rather than by getting a new SOPA-like law passed.

To understand the plan, you have to first understand the DMCA section 512, which is known as the safe harbor section, but which includes a few different sections, with different rules applying to different types of services. 512(a) is about "transitory digital network communications" and basically grants very broad liability protection for a network provider who isn't storing anything -- but just providing the network. There are good reasons for this, obviously. Making a network provider liable for traffic going over the network would be a disaster for the internet on a variety of levels.

The MPAA lawyers appear to recognize this (though they make some arguments for getting around it, which we'll get to in a follow-up post), but they argue that a specific narrow attack via DMCA might be used to force ISPs to break the basic internet by disabling entries in their own DNS databases. The trick here is twisting a different part of the DMCA, 512(d), which is for "information location tools." Normally, this is what's used against search engines like Google or social media links like those found on Twitter. But the MPAA argues that since ISPs offer DNS service, that DNS service is also an "information location tool" and... ta da... that's how the MPAA can break DNS. The MPAA admits that there's an easy workaround for end-users -- using third-party DNS providers like OpenDNS or Google's DNS service -- but many users won't do that. And the MPAA would likely go after those guys as well.

At the same time, even this narrow limitation on ISPs’ immunity could have the salutary effect of requiring ISPs to respond to takedown notices by disabling DNS lookups of pirate sites through the ISPs’ own DNS servers, which is not currently a general practice. Importantly, the argument for such a requirement need not turn on the Communications Act, but can instead be based on the DMCA itself, which expressly limits ISPs’ immunity to each “separate and distinct” function that ISPs provide. See 17 U.S.C. 512(n). A reasonable argument can be made that DNS functionality is an “information location tool” as contemplated by DMCA Section 512(d) and, therefore, that ISPs are required, as a condition of the safe harbor, to cease connecting users to known infringing material through their own DNS servers. Should this argument hold – and we believe that it has a reasonable prospect of success – copyright owners could effectively require ISPs to implement a modest (albeit easily circumvented) form of DNS-based site blocking on the basis of only a takedown notice rather than litigation.
In short, since DMCA takedown notices apply to "information location tools," but not to "transitory network communications," the MPAA would like to argue that just the DNS lookup functionality is an information location tool -- and can thus be censored with just a takedown notice. This is both really slimy (though brilliant in its nefariousness) and insanely dangerous for the internet and free speech . We see so many bogus DMCA takedowns of basic content today, and here the MPAA is looking to effectively, and sneakily expand that to whole sites by misrepresenting the law (badly).

DNS is not an "information location tool" in the sense of a search engine. It's the core underpinning of how much of the internet works. At no point in the 16 years the DMCA has been around has anyone made an argument that the DNS system was covered by the "information location tools" definition. Because that's clearly not what it was written to cover. The MPAA's lawyers (in this "confidential" memo) appear to recognize that this argument doesn't fully make sense because of that, but they seem to think it's worth a go:

To be sure, the argument is not guaranteed to succeed, as unlike a “pointer” or “hyperlink text,” DNS provides a user’s browser with specific information (IP routing information) that the user has requested by other means (alphanumeric internet addresses), as opposed to providing the user with an active interface allowing the user to request information online, as they might from a clickable page of search results. But at least in the literal sense, DNS appears to fit within the list of Section 512(d) functions and a reasonable argument can be made that DNS is more like a “directory” than the provision of “routing” and should be treated accordingly under the statute as a Section 512(d) function rather than a Section 512(a) function.
Pushing this argument would raise many of the problems found with the original DNS-breaking proposal in PIPA/SOPA. It would raise even more serious questions about the First Amendment and prior restraint. Effectively, it would be moving the definition of "information location tool" down the stack, such that rather than requiring the removal of access to the specific infringing content, it would require removal of access to an entire site based on a single accusation of infringement. Someone uploaded an infringing video to YouTube? Under this interpretation, the MPAA can force Verizon to make YouTube disappear from the internet for all users relying on Verizon's DNS. The censorship implications are massive here, especially with no court proceeding at all. This wouldn't require anything in court -- just a single takedown notice, of which copyright holders send millions. Rather than sending all those notices to Google and getting them delisted from search, copyright holders could turn the firehose towards Verizon, AT&T and Comcast, and basically take down half the internet on their say so alone. Yes, sites could counternotice, but ISPs would have 10 business days in which they can keep sites off their DNS entirely.

The results would be insane.

And that doesn't even touch on the technical havoc this would wreak. As we've noted earlier, the MPAA admits it's not clear on the technical implications of this plan, but let's just point back to Paul Vixie's discussion of how SOPA/PIPA would break the internet by mucking with the core DNS functionality, no matter how it was implemented.

What this goes back to is the core purpose of DNS, which is merely to translate a URL into a numeric equivalent to connect. It's not an information location tool for helping people "find" information -- it's just the basic plumbing of how the internet works. It's how basically all pieces of the internet expect to work. If you put in a URL here, then DNS returns the proper IP addresses to follow through there. Breaking that, effectively fracturing the internet, and creating a patchwork of different DNS systems would create a huge list of problems not easily fixed.

And, yet, because the MPAA can't figure out how to adapt to the times, it appears to be willing to give it a shot. Because, hey, it's better than innovating.

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+ - Survey: No Consensus How to Curb Eroding Online Privacy->

Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp (3454017) writes "new survey says that as online privacy continues to erode, governments, technology workers and individuals will struggle to respond.

The report titled "The Future of Privacy," sponsored by the Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center, was released Thursday and explores the future of digital privacy over the next decade.

It surveyed many privacy advocates, digital entrepreneurs, journalists and Internet pioneers.

Participants were asked to share their thoughts to a question put forward by researchers: Would governments be able to develop digital privacy policies that protected individuals but also allowed for business innovation by 2025?

Fifty-five percent of those responding said no while 45 percent said such a privacy infrastructure was likely to be developed. The study comes as the United Nations General Assembly is considering a measure calling on nations to respect a "right to privacy in the digital age."

Report authors noted several recurring themes among those participating in the study.

For those who were pessimistic about the future of online privacy, many concluded that, with so many different cultural perspectives and government policies on privacy, there was no way to create one global Internet policy."

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+ - This is why you're always getting lost->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Have you ever stared at a map on your phone, utterly confused, as your GPS cryptically directed you to “head east”? It turns out that the entorhinal region of the brain—an area best known for its role in memory formation—may be at least partly to blame for your poor sense of direction. According to a study published online today in Current Biology, this brain region may help humans decide which direction to go to reach a destination. In the study, participants explored a virtual, square room with four unique objects in each corner and different landscapes on each of the four walls. Once they were familiar with the environment, the volunteers had to navigate a series of paths from one corner to another while the researchers monitored their brain activity with functional magnetic resonance imaging. The entorhinal region has long been known to help people identify which direction they’re facing already, but to plan a route, navigators must also imagine the direction of their destination. The study showed that this brain region likely also has a role in decisions about which directions to face next to get where we want to go. And as the participants imagined their way through the virtual room, the researchers found that the strength of the signal from this region was directly related to navigational performance."
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+ - Misfortune Cookie Home Router Vulnerability Discovered->

Submitted by msm1267
msm1267 (2804139) writes "More than 12 million devices running an embedded webserver called RomPager are vulnerable to a simple attack that could give a hacker man-in-the-middle position on traffic going to and from home routers from just about every leading manufacturer.

Mostly ISP-owned residential gateways manufactured by D-Link, Huawei, TP-Link, ZTE, Zyxel and several others are currently exposed. Researchers at Check Point Software Technologies reported the flaw they’ve called Misfortune Cookie, to all of the affected vendors and manufacturers, and most have responded that they will push new firmware and patches in short order.

The problem with embedded device security is that, with consumer-owned gear especially, it’s up to the device owner to find and flash new firmware, leaving most of the devices in question vulnerable indefinitely.

In the case of the RomPager vulnerability, an attacker need only send a single packet containing a malicious HTTP cookie to exploit the flaw. Such an exploit would corrupt memory on the device and allow an attacker to remotely gain administrative access to the device."

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+ - Cause And Effect: How a Revolutionary New Statistical Test Can Tease Them Apart

Submitted by KentuckyFC
KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "Statisticians have long thought it impossible to tell cause and effect apart using observational data. The problem is to take two sets of measurements that are correlated, say X and Y, and to find out if X caused Y or Y caused X. That's straightforward with a controlled experiment in which one variable can be held constant to see how this influences the other. Take for example, a correlation between wind speed and the rotation speed of a wind turbine. Observational data gives no clue about cause and effect but an experiment that holds the wind speed constant while measuring the speed of the turbine, and vice versa, would soon give an answer. But in the last couple of years, statisticians have developed a technique that can tease apart cause and effect from the observational data alone. It is based on the idea that any set of measurements always contain noise. However, the noise in the cause variable can influence the effect but not the other way round. So the noise in the effect dataset is always more complex than the noise in the cause dataset. The new statistical test, known as the additive noise model, is designed to find this asymmetry. Now statisticians have tested the model on 88 sets of cause-and-effect data, ranging from altitude and temperature measurements at German weather stations to the correlation between rent and apartment size in student accommodation.The results suggest that the additive noise model can tease apart cause and effect correctly in up to 80 per cent of the cases (provided there are no confounding factors or selection effects). That's a useful new trick in a statistician's armoury, particularly in areas of science where controlled experiments are expensive, unethical or practically impossible."

+ - Lose Weight By Breathing More, According to Science->

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "Have you ever wondered where does the fat go when you lose weight. Certainly, most people don't really ponder this interesting question as they are just to happy to have lost it in the first place. Biochemists examined this phenomenon and discovered that fat can be breathed out as well as burned off as you lose weight.
"It goes into thin air," says Ruben Meerman, a physicist and lead author of the study published in the British Medical Journal. Meerman, an Australian TV science presenter, and University of NSW's Professor Andrew Brown report for the first time precisely where fat goes when it is "lost"."

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+ - Woman on Reddit bearing the name of man's ex-girlfriend gets free world trip->

Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp (3454017) writes "Jordan Axani planned to travel around the world with his girlfriend Elizabeth Gallagher, until they broke up. Now, he'll embark on Sunday on the circumnavigation with Elizabeth Gallagher.

No need for a double-take: The name may be the same, but the person answering to it isn't.

Axani had booked his-and-her airline tickets in his name — and his girlfriend's, he said. So, after his ex went overboard, he had to find a new co-passenger with the same name, he said, because the tickets were non-transferable.

Axani is Canadian, as is his ex, so the new Elizabeth Gallagher needed to be, too, to make the switch work. So, he took to social messaging service Reddit to find her.

After threw out the offer in early November for a free round-the-world trip, social media posts avalanched down at the hashtag #ElizabethGallagher.

Elizabeth Quinn Gallagher from Nova Scotia quickly tweeted Axani a photo of her passport. Scrawled on the shot in hot pink, the words "Take me!!!"

He did, he announced on Wednesday, but though "Quinn" came at him straight out of the chute, making the final choice wasn't that simple, Axani said in a statement. Many deserving women had contacted him."

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+ - Alien Russian Rock with 30,000 Diamonds Price Revealed->

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "A rock with 30,000 embedded diamonds has been donated to science as it is worthless.

Contrary to common perception, the rock is not worth millions as the diamonds are too small in size for any gem use. However, geologists examining it are gung-ho about the find as the rock is one of a kind to come along and a find so rare that it could help understand the chemistry behind a diamond's making in the Earth."

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+ - Will Ripple eclipse Bitcoin?

Submitted by (3954887) writes "This year's biggest news about Bitcoin may well turn out not to be the repeat of its surge in value last year against the dollar and other state currencies but its impending eclipse by another independent but corporate-backed digital currency. Popularly known as Ripple, XRP shot up in value last year along with other cryptocurrencies that took advantage of the hype around Bitcoin. However, among the top cryptocurrencies listed in, a site that monitors trading across different cryptocurrency exchanges, Ripple is the only one that not only regained its value after the collapse in the price of Bitcoin but has more than doubled from its peak last year. In September it displaced Litecoin to become the second most valuable cryptocurrency. Even more surpising, a Ripple fork, Stellar, is one of the two other cryptocurrencies in the Coinmarketcap top ten that have risen sharply in value during the last few weeks.

What makes Ripple different from Bitcoin? Strictly speaking, Ripple isn't the name of the digital currency but of the decentralized payment network and protocol created and maintained by the eponymous Ripple Labs. Users of the Ripple system are able to transact in both cryptocurrency and regular fiat currency like the dollar without passing through a central exchange. XRP is the name of the native unit of exchange used in the Ripple network to facilitate conversion between different currency types."

+ - 'Dinosaur eggs' spotted on Rosetta's comet->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "There are places on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko where cauliflowerlike textures appear in the dusty crust, like goose bumps under the skin. Scientists using the Rosetta spacecraft—which arrived at 67P in August and became the first mission to orbit and land on a comet—now think they may have discovered the source of these patterns on cliff faces and in deep pits: layer upon layer of rounded nodules, 1 to 3 meters across. These spherules, dubbed dinosaur eggs, could be the fundamental building blocks that clumped together to form the comet 4.5 billion years ago."
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