FBI agents on Tuesday paid visits to at least a dozen employees of Kaspersky Lab, a Russia-based cyber-security company, asking questions about that company's operations as part of a counter-intelligence inquiry, multiple sources familiar with the matter told NBC News. From a report: In a classic FBI investigative tactic, agents visited the homes of the employees at the end of the work day at multiple locations on both the east and west coasts, the sources said. There is no indication at this time that the inquiry is part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling and possible collusion. Kaspersky has long been of interest to the U.S. government. Its cyber-security software is widely used in the United States, and its billionaire owner, Eugene Kaspersky, has close ties to some Russian intelligence figures, according to U.S. officials.
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Toshiba has raised the stakes in an embittered legal row with its joint venture partner, suing Western Digital for a $1bn in damages and hoping Japanese courts will quash the US firm's interference in the sale of its memory chip business. From a report: The litigation, filed Wednesday in Tokyo District Court, seeks to stop Western Digital from making ownership claims over the enterprise that Toshiba is trying to sell. The Japanese company said in a statement that Western Digital's employees improperly obtained proprietary information. The relationship between Toshiba and Western Digital has gotten more acrimonious, as Toshiba moves toward a sale of the flash-memory division. Last month, Western Digital invoked an arbitration clause in their business agreement, seeking to block Toshiba's transfer of ownership of the unit to a separate legal entity in preparation for a sale. Toshiba, which has since reversed that transfer, then had its lawyers send a letter demanding that the U.S. company stop its "harassment" as Toshiba tries to sell the business.
The Washington Post, which has been critical of Donald Trump and his administration in its coverage, has become the latest victim in Trump's Twitter tirade. On Wednesday, he accused Amazon of not "paying internet taxes (which they should)," adding that the company is using The Washington Post "in a scheme to dodge" the taxes. Quick fact check: Amazon doesn't own The Washington Post, Jeff Bezos -- in his personal capacity -- does. At any rate, Trump's furious tweets come a day after The Washington Post reported that a fake issue of Time magazine with Trump on the cover was hanging in some of the president's golf clubs. The timing of this is also awkward because just last week the president met with Bezos and other top executives to discuss ways the White House can modernize government and aid the tech industry. But the two have a long history. As Recode reminds: Meanwhile, Amazon is about to embark on what could be a lengthy government antitrust review of its bid to buy Whole Foods. Already looming large over the roughly $14 billion deal are the president's own comments: He has previously attacked Bezos and claimed the Post is a tax-dodging scheme for Amazon. "He thinks I'll go after him for antitrust," Trump said at one point during his campaign. "Because he's got a huge antitrust problem, because he's controlling so much, Amazon is controlling so much of what they are doing." Months later, Trump charged: "Believe me, if I become president, oh, do they have problems, they are going to have such problems." Meanwhile, Bezos isn't one to shy about his anti-Trump views either. At one point during the election, Bezos tweeted that he'd save a seat for Trump on his Blue Origin spacecraft, with the hashtag "sendDonaldtospace."
An anonymous reader writes: Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has absorbed blistering criticism for the way he handled allegations of sexual misconduct at the San Francisco riding-hailing service. But he can at least count on the support of one big name in Silicon Valley: former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer. Speaking at the annual Stanford Directors' College Tuesday, Mayer defended Kalanick, suggesting that he was unaware of the toxic culture brewing at Uber because of the company's rapid growth. Mayer's name has come up in reports as a possible replacement for Kalanick at Uber, though there's no indication the company has had talks with her. "Scale is incredibly tricky," Mayer said. "I count Travis as one of my friends. I think he's a phenomenal leader; Uber is ridiculously interesting. I just don't think he knew," she said. "When your company scales that quickly, it's hard." Mayer then compared Uber's situation to the early days of Google when it first brought in Eric Schmidt as CEO to help co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page manage the company.
Five months after The Guardian published an investigative report, in which it found a "backdoor" in the Facebook-owned service, the publication is finally making amendments. The January report immediately stirred controversy among security experts, who began questioning The Guardian's piece. Weeks later, Zeynep Tufekci, a researcher and op-ed writer for the New York Times, published an open letter with over 70 major security researchers working at major universities and companies like Google condemning the story, and asking the publication to retract it.. Paul Chadwick, The Guardian's reader's editor, said "The Guardian was wrong to report last January that the popular messaging service WhatsApp had a security flaw so serious that it was a huge threat to freedom of speech." From his article: In a detailed review I found that misinterpretations, mistakes and misunderstandings happened at several stages of the reporting and editing process. Cumulatively they produced an article that overstated its case. The Guardian ought to have responded more effectively to the strong criticism the article generated from well-credentialled experts in the arcane field of developing and adapting end-to-end encryption for a large-scale messaging service. The original article -- now amended and associated with the conclusions of this review -- led to follow-up coverage, some of which sustained the wrong impression given at the outset. The most serious inaccuracy was a claim that WhatsApp had a "backdoor", an intentional, secret way for third parties to read supposedly private messages. This claim was withdrawn within eight hours of initial publication online, but withdrawn incompletely. The story retained material predicated on the existence of a backdoor, including strongly expressed concerns about threats to freedom, betrayal of trust and benefits for governments which surveil. In effect, having dialled back the cause for alarm, the Guardian failed to dial back expressions of alarm.
From a blog post by Microsoft: On June 27, 2017 reports of a ransomware infection began spreading across Europe. We saw the first infections in Ukraine, where more than 12,500 machines encountered the threat. We then observed infections in another 64 countries, including Belgium, Brazil, Germany, Russia, and the United States. The new ransomware has worm capabilities, which allows it to move laterally across infected networks. Based on our investigation, this new ransomware shares similar codes and is a new variant of Ransom:Win32/Petya. This new strain of ransomware, however, is more sophisticated. [...] Initial infection appears to involve a software supply-chain threat involving the Ukrainian company M.E.Doc, which develops tax accounting software, MEDoc. Although this vector was speculated at length by news media and security researchers -- including Ukraine's own Cyber Police -- there was only circumstantial evidence for this vector. Microsoft now has evidence that a few active infections of the ransomware initially started from the legitimate MEDoc updater process. A New York Times reports how rest of the world is dealing with Petya. From the article: A fuller picture of the impact will probably emerge in the coming days. But companies and government offices worldwide appeared less affected than the WannaCry attack, notably in places like China, which was hard hit in May. Reports from Asia suggested that many of the companies hit were the local arms of European and American companies struck on Tuesday. In Mumbai, India, a port terminal operated by A.P. Moller-Maersk, the Danish shipping giant, was shut after it disclosed that it had been hit by the malware. In a statement, Indian port authorities said they were taking steps to relieve congestion, such as finding places to park stranded cargo. The attack shut the terminal down on Tuesday afternoon. On the Australian island of Tasmania, computers in a Cadbury chocolate factory owned by Mondelez International, the American food company, displayed the ransomware message, according to the local news media.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechRepublic: Today's vending machines are likely to be bolted to the floor or each other and are much more sophisticated -- possibly containing machine intelligence, and belonging to the Internet of Things (IoT). Hacking this kind of vending machine obviously requires a more refined approach. The type security professionals working for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) might conjure up, according to journalists Jason Leopold and David Mack, who first broke the story A Bunch Of CIA Contractors Got Fired For Stealing Snacks From Vending Machines. In their BuzzFeed post, the two writers state, "Several CIA contractors were kicked out of the Agency for stealing more than $3,000 in snacks from vending machines according to official documents... ." This October 2013 declassified Office of Inspector General (OIG) report is one of the documents referred to by Leopold and Mack. The reporters write that getting the records required initiating a Freedom Of Information Act lawsuit two years ago, adding that the redacted files were only recently released. The OIG report states Agency employees use an electronic payment system, developed by FreedomPay, to purchase food, beverages, and goods from the vending machines. The payment system relies on the Agency Internet Network to communicate between vending machines and the FreedomPay controlling server. The OIG report adds the party hacking the electronic payment system discovered that severing communications to the FreedomPay server by disconnecting the vending machine's network cable allows purchases to be made using unfunded FreedomPay cards.
An anonymous reader writes: Amazon is leaving no stones unturned with its Prime Video, which it expanded to over 200 international markets last December. For the last six months, the company has been offering Prime Video, the sticker price of which is $5.99 or 5.99 Euro a month, at $2.99 or 2.99 Euro as part of its "introductory offer". That introductory offer will now be valid till the end of the year, the company said. In comparison, Netflix charges over $9 every month. According to estimates from last year, Amazon Prime Video has four times as many films available for streaming.
Blue Origin has recently announced its plans to manufacture the company's new rocket engine, the BE-4, at a state-of-the-art facility in Huntsville, Alabama. According to The Verge, the benefits for Blue Origin are both practical and political. From the report: On the surface, it's a seemingly innocuous decision meant to capitalize on Huntsville's decades-long history of rocket development. The city is home to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, where the Saturn V rocket was developed and where NASA's future massive deep-space rocket, the Space Launch System, will also be worked on. Plus, many private space contractors are based in Huntsville, making spaceflight a key part of the city's economy and a huge jobs creator. It's why Huntsville has been nicknamed Rocket City. But the move is most likely motivated by politics as well, given Blue Origin's plans for the BE-4. The company ultimately hopes to use seven BE-4 engines to power its future massive rocket called the New Glenn, which is supposed to launch sometime before 2020. But that's not the only rocket that the BE-4 could fly on. The United Launch Alliance -- a company responsible for launching most of the satellites for the U.S. military -- is developing a new rocket called Vulcan, and it needs new U.S.-made engines for the vehicle. Blue Origin's move to Huntsville will supposedly generate 342 jobs at the new facility, with salaries averaging $75,000, reports The Verge. Given the city's history, the company should have no problem finding aerospace experts in the area. The only problem that could arise would be if ULA doesn't select the BE-4 as the Vulcan's main engine. "ULA is also considering a second option in case the BE-4 doesn't work out: an engine being developed by longtime manufacturer Aerojet Rocketdyne called the AR-1," reports The Verge. "Aerojet is only meant to be Plan B for ULA. But it has one advantage that Blue Origin didn't have until now: it's building its engine in Huntsville, Alabama -- and that comes with some very key political protection."
GeoGreg writes: On August 21, 2017, the contiguous United States will experience its first total solar eclipse since 1979. According to GreatAmericanEclipse.com's Michael Zeiler, approximately 200 million people live within one day's drive of the eclipse. Zeiler projects that between 1.85 to 7.4 million people will attempt to visit the path of totality. As the eclipse approaches, articles are appearing predicting the possibility of automobile traffic jamming rural roads. There is also concern about the ability of rural cellular networks to handle such a large influx. AT&T is bringing in Cell On Wheel (COW) systems to rural locations in Kentucky, Idaho, and Oregon, while Verizon is building a temporary tower in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The disruption could be frustrating to those trying to get to the eclipse or share their photos via social networking. If cellular networks can't handle the data, apps like Waze won't be much help in avoiding the traffic. If communication is essential near the eclipse path, Astronomy Magazine recommends renting a satellite phone.
Chase Purdy reports via Quartz: The maker of vegan mayonnaise has been working on getting lab-made meat onto dinner tables everywhere. It's just that nobody knew about it. Hampton Creek -- a company that built its name on plant-based condiments and vegan-friendly cookie doughs -- today revealed that, for the last year, it has been secretly developing the technology necessary for producing lab-made meat and seafood, or as the industry likes to call it, "clean meat." Perhaps even more surprising is that Hampton Creek expects to beat its closest competitor to market by more than two years. Since it was founded in 2015, Memphis Meats has raised at least $3 million from five investors for the development of its meat products, according to Crunchbase. By contrast, Hampton Creek -- just a 20-mile drive from its Silicon Valley rival -- has raised more than $120 million since 2011. It's one of Silicon Valley's unicorns -- a company that has a valuation that exceeds $1 billion.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The world's first floating windfarm has taken to the seas in a sign that a technology once confined to research and development drawing boards is finally ready to unlock expanses of ocean for generating renewable power. After two turbines were floated this week, five now bob gently in the deep waters of a fjord on the western coast of Norway ready to be tugged across the North Sea to their final destination off north-east Scotland. The ~$256 million Hywind project is unusual not just because of the pioneering technology involved, which uses a 78-meter-tall underwater ballast and three mooring lines that will be attached to the seabed to keep the turbines upright. It is also notable because the developer is not a renewable energy firm but Norway's Statoil, which is looking to diversify away from carbon-based fuels.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Sprint's merger talks with T-Mobile are temporarily on hold while the carrier mulls over a number of potential deals with the United States' two biggest cable companies, Comcast and Charter. While Comcast is already using Verizon's wireless service under their own name, the company may want to use Sprint's network as well. Charter doesn't have a wireless phone offering yet, but the company's CEO indicated last year that it has every intention of launching one. The Verge reports: Such a deal would likely involve the two cable companies making an investment in Sprint, which the carrier would then use to build out its network, generally known to be the worst of the four major phone service providers. The Journal also reports that Comcast and Charter could make a bid to acquire Sprint outright, but it said the outcome was seen as less likely. Though they're usually an unlikely pairing, Comcast and Charter agreed in May to team up when making deals around wireless coverage for a full year. For the most part, both companies have been slowly losing TV subscribers year after year as customers shift over to online services. They see phone service as a new offering that could help to restore growth and lock in subscribers.
Chrisq shares a report from The Telegraph: Fears have been raised that Britain's largest ever warship could be vulnerable to cyber attacks after it emerged it appears to be running the outdated Microsoft Windows XP. A defense source told The telegraph that some of the on-board hardware and software "would have been good in 2004" when the carrier was designed, "but now seems rather antiquated." However, he added that HMS Queen Elizabeth is due to be given a computer refit within a decade. And senior officers said they will have cyber specialists on board to defend the carrier from such attacks.