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Wireless Networking

Stray WiFi Signals Could Let Spies See Inside Closed Rooms (sciencemag.org) 5

sciencehabit quotes a report from Science Magazine: Your wireless router may be giving you away in a manner you never dreamed of. For the first time, physicists have used radio waves from a Wi-Fi transmitter to encode a 3D image of a real object in a hologram similar to the image of Princess Leia projected by R2D2 in the movie Star Wars. In principle, the technique could enable outsiders to "see" the inside of a room using only the Wi-Fi signals leaking out of it, although some researchers say such spying may be easier said than done. Their experiment relies on none of the billions of digital bits of information encoded in Wi-Fi signals, just the fact that the signals are clean, "coherent" waves. However, instead of recording the key interference pattern on a photographic plate, the researchers record it with a Wi-Fi receiver and reconstruct the object in a computer. They placed a Wi-Fi transmitter in a room, 0.9 meters behind the cross. Then they placed a standard Wi-Fi receiver 1.4 meters in front of the cross and moved it slowly back and forth to map out a "virtual screen" that substituted for the photographic plate. Also, instead of having a separate reference beam coming straight to the screen, they placed a second, stationary receiver a few meters away, where it had a direct view of the emitter. For each point on the virtual screen, the researchers compared the signals arriving simultaneously at both receivers, and made a hologram by mapping the delays caused by the aluminum cross. The virtual hologram isn't exactly like a traditional one, as researchers can't recover the image of the object by shining more radio waves on it. Instead, the scientists used the computer to run the radio waves backward in time from the screen to the distance where wave fronts hit the object. The cross then popped out.
Government

EPA Website Removes Climate Science Site From Public View After Two Decades (washingtonpost.com) 26

Last week there were reports that the EPA climate change website was set to be taken down, though later the EPA denied that. On Friday evening, however, the Environmental Protection Agency announced its website would be "undergoing changes" to better represent the new direction the agency is taking, triggering the removal of several agency websites containing detailed climate data and scientific information (paywalled; alternative source). From a report on The Washington Post: One of the websites that appeared to be gone had been cited to challenge statements made by the EPA's new administrator, Scott Pruitt. Another provided detailed information on the previous administration's Clean Power Plan, including fact sheets about greenhouse gas emissions on the state and local levels and how different demographic groups were affected by such emissions. The changes came less than 24 hours before thousands of protesters were set to march in Washington and around the country in support of political action to push back against the Trump administration's rollbacks of former president Barack Obama's climate policies.
Medicine

Surgeon Plans To 'Reawaken' Cryogenically Frozen Brains, Transplant Them Into Someone Else's Skull (nationalpost.com) 29

Sergio Canavero, the Italian surgeon who plans to perform the world's first human head transplant within the next year, says he is preparing to reawaken cryogenically frozen brains and transplant them into someone else's skull. "In an interview with a German-language magazine, Canavero says he will attempt to bring the first brains frozen in liquid nitrogen at an Arizona-based cryogenics bank back to life 'not in 100 years,' but three years at the latest," reports National Post. From the report: Transplanting a brain only -- and not an entire head -- gets around formidable rejection issues, Canavero said, since there will be no need to reconnect and stitch up severed vessels, nerves, tendons and muscles as there is when a new head is fused onto a brain-dead donor body. Canavero allows that one "problematic" issue with brain transplants, however, would be that "no aspect of your original external body remains the same." "Your head is no longer there, your brain is transplanted into an entirely different skull," he told OOOM magazine, published by the same company that handles the Italian brain surgeon's public relations. The flamboyant neuroscientist who some ethicists have decried as "nuts" rattled the transplant world when he first outlined his plans for a human head transplant two years ago in the journal, Surgical Neurology International. Bioethicist Arthur Caplan called Canavero's latest proposal to merge head transplants with "resurrecting" the frozen dead beyond ridiculous. "People have their own doubts about whether anything can be salvaged from these frozen heads or bodies because of the damage freezing does," said Caplan, head of ethics at NYU Langone Medical Centre in New York City. "Then saying that he has some technique for making this happen, that has never been demonstrated in frozen animals, is absurd."
Earth

Trump Order Helps Offshore Drilling, Stops Marine Sanctuary Expansion (arstechnica.com) 98

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In an executive order signed on Friday, President Trump directed his secretary of the interior to review current rules on offshore drilling and exploration. This review is likely to result in a relaxation of the strict protections the previous administration put on offshore oil drilling in the Atlantic and in the Arctic. According to the Washington Post, a review of the rules is likely to "make millions of acres of federal waters eligible for oil and gas leasing." At the same time, Trump's executive order directed the secretary of commerce to cease designating new marine sanctuaries or expanding any that already exist. According to USA Today, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is also "directed to review all designations and expansions of marine monuments or sanctuaries designated under the Antiquities Act within the last 10 years." The Post says this "includes Hawaii's Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, which Obama quadrupled in size last year, and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts off Massachusetts." Although these reviews could take some time to complete, they put in motion a bid to favor extraction industries like oil and gas mining. "Today, we're unleashing American energy and clearing the way for thousands and thousands of high-paying energy jobs," Trump reportedly told the Associated Press.
Robotics

MIT Creates 3D-Printing Robot That Can Construct a Home Off-Grid In 14 Hours (mit.edu) 46

Kristine Lofgren writes: Home building hasn't changed much over the years, but leave it to MIT to take things to the next level. A new technology built at MIT can construct a simple dome structure in 14 hours and it's powered by solar panels, so you can take it to remote areas. MIT's 3D-printing robot can construct the entire basic structure of a building and can be customized to fit the local terrain in ways that traditional methods can't do. It even has a built-in scoop so it can prepare the building site and gather its own construction materials. You can watch a video of the 3D-printing robot in action here.
Android

Open Ports Create Backdoors In Millions of Smartphones (bleepingcomputer.com) 53

An anonymous reader writes: "Mobile applications that open ports on Android smartphones are opening those devices to remote hacking, claims a team of researchers from the University of Michigan," reports Bleeping Computer. Researchers say they've identified 410 popular mobile apps that open ports on people's smartphones. They claim that an attacker could connect to these ports, which in turn grant access to various phone features, such as photos, contacts, the camera, and more. This access could be leveraged to steal photos, contacts, or execute commands on the target's phone. Researchers recorded various demos to prove their attacks. Of these 410 apps, there were many that had between 10 and 50 million downloads on the official Google Play Store and even an app that came pre-installed on an OEMs smartphones. "Research on the mobile open port problem started after researchers read a Trend Micro report from 2015 about a vulnerability in the Baidu SDK, which opened a port on user devices, providing an attacker with a way to access the phone of a user who installed an app that used the Baidu SDK," reports Bleeping Computer. "That particular vulnerability affected over 100 million smartphones, but Baidu moved quickly to release an update. The paper detailing the team's work is entitled Open Doors for Bob and Mallory: Open Port Usage in Android Apps and Security Implications, and was presented Wednesday, April 26, at the 2nd IEEE European Symposium on Security and Privacy that took place this week in Paris, France."
Government

Airbnb Gives In To Regulator's Demand To Test For Racial Discrimination By Hosts (theguardian.com) 129

As part of an agreement with California regulators, Airbnb will allow the government to test for racial discrimination by hosts. The Guardian reports: The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) announced Thursday that it had resolved a complaint it filed against Airbnb with an agreement that forces the company to permit the state to conduct "fair housing testing" of certain hosts. That means that for the first time the San Francisco-based company is giving a regulatory body permission to conduct the kind of racial discrimination audits that officials have long used to enforce fair housing laws against traditional landlords. The DFEH's original complaint -- which had not previously been disclosed -- was based on research and a growing number of reports suggesting that hosts regularly refuse to rent to guests due to their race, a problem exposed last year under the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack.
Robotics

Washington State Orchard Owners Look To Robots As Labor Shortage Worsens (seattletimes.com) 87

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Seattle Times: Harvesting Washington state's vast fruit orchards each year requires thousands of farmworkers, and many of them work illegally in the United States. That system eventually could change dramatically as at least two companies are rushing to get robotic fruit-picking machines to market. The robotic pickers don't get tired and can work 24 hours a day. FFRobotics and Abundant Robotics, of Hayward, California, are racing to get their mechanical pickers to market within the next couple of years. Members of the $7.5 billion annual Washington agriculture industry have long grappled with labor shortages, and depend on workers coming up from Mexico each year to harvest many crops. While financial details are not available, the builders say the robotic pickers should pay for themselves in two years. That puts the likely cost of the machines in the hundreds of thousands of dollars each. FFRobotics is developing a machine that has three-fingered grips to grab fruit and twist or clip it from a branch. The machine would have between four and 12 robotic arms, and can pick up to 10,000 apples an hour, Gad Kober, a co-founder of Israel-based FFRobotics, said. One machine would be able to harvest a variety of crops, taking 85 to 90 percent of the crop off the trees, Kober said. Humans could pick the rest. Abundant Robotics is working on a picker that uses suction to vacuum apples off trees.
Transportation

Apple, Tesla Ask California To Change Its Proposed Policies On Self-Driving Car Testing (reuters.com) 20

Tesla and Apple have asked the state of California to change its proposed policies on self-driving cars to allow companies to test vehicles without traditional steering wheels and controls or human back-up drivers, among other things. Reuters reports: In a letter made public Friday, Apple made a series of suggested changes to the policy that is under development and said it looks forward to working with California and others "so that rapid technology development may be realized while ensuring the safety of the traveling public." Waymo, the self-driving car unit of Google parent company Alphabet Inc, Ford Motor Co, Uber Technologies Inc, Toyota Motor Corp, Tesla Motors Inc and others also filed comments suggesting changes. Apple said California should revise how companies report self-driving system "disengagements." California currently requires companies to report how many times the self-driving system was deactivated and control handed back to humans because of a system failure or a traffic, weather or road situation that required human intervention. Apple said California's rules for development vehicles used only in testing could "restrict both the design and equipment that can be used in test vehicles." Tesla said California should not bar testing of autonomous vehicles that are 10,000 pounds (4,535 kg) or more. Tesla also said California should not prohibit the sale of non-self-driving vehicles previously used for autonomous vehicle testing.
Privacy

WikiLeaks Reveals the 'Snowden Stopper': CIA Tool To Track Whistleblowers (zerohedge.com) 71

schwit1 quotes a report from Zero Hedge: As the latest installment of it's "Vault 7" series, WikiLeaks has just dropped a user manual describing a CIA project known as "Scribbles" (a.k.a. the "Snowden Stopper"), a piece of software purportedly designed to allow the embedding of "web beacon" tags into documents "likely to be stolen." The web beacon tags are apparently able to collect information about an end user of a document and relay that information back to the beacon's creator without being detected. Per WikiLeaks' press release. But, the "Scribbles" user guide notes there is just one small problem with the program: it only works with Microsoft Office products. So, if end users use other programs such as OpenOffice of LibreOffice then the CIA's watermarks become visible to the end user and their cover is blown.
AI

Amazon's Alexa Can Now Whisper, Bleep Out Swear Words, and Change Its Pitch (theverge.com) 34

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Amazon is trying to make its Alexa voice assistant sound more humanlike. Up until now, the female-sounding voice maintained an even, monotone cadence whenever speaking, but with Amazon's new Speech Synthesis Markup Language that the company introduced this week, Alexa can whisper, vary its speaking speed, and bleep out words. Developers can also add pauses, change the pronunciation of a word, spell a word out, add audio snippets, and insert special words and phrases into their skill. The Verge notes that "the language markups are [only] available to developers in the U.S., U.K. and Germany." Amazon will also be hosting a webinar on May 18th on the new code.
Security

A Database of Thousands of Credit Cards Was Left Exposed on the Open Internet (zdnet.com) 33

A US online pet store has exposed the details of more than 110,400 credit cards used to make purchases through its website, researchers have found. From a report on ZDNet: In a stunning show of poor security, the Austin, TX-based company FuturePets.com exposed its entire customer database, including names, postal and email addresses, phone numbers, credit card information, and plain-text passwords. Several customers that we reached out to confirmed some of their information when it was provided by ZDNet, but did not want to be named. The database was exposed because of the company's own insecure server and use of "rsync," a common protocol used for synchronizing copies of files between two different computers, which wasn't protected with a username or password.
Businesses

IT Leaders Will Struggle To Meet Future Demands, Study Says (betanews.com) 90

When it comes to meeting future demands, IT leaders in the UK are lagging behind those in Germany and the US. From a report: This is according to a new report by Brocade, entitled Global Digital Transformation Skills Study. The report is based on a survey of 630 IT leaders in the US, UK, France, Germany, Australia and Singapore. It says that organizations are "at a tipping point" -- a point in time when technology demands are just about to outstrip the skills supply. Consequently, those that train their staff now and prepare for the future in that respect are the ones that are setting themselves up for a successful future. Almost three quarters (74 percent) of IT leaders in the UK see IT departments as either "very important" or "critical" to both innovation and the growth of their business. But the same woes reman, as almost two thirds (63 percent) think they'll struggle to find the right people in the next year.
Transportation

Elon Musk Outlines His 'Boring' Vision For Traffic-Avoiding Tunnels (axios.com) 143

Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed new details about his futuristic tunnel-boring project during his TED talk on Friday. Ina Fried, writing for Axios: In an appearance at the TED conference in Vancouver, Musk showed off a new video visualization of electric skates transporting cars in a narrow tunnel, then raising them back to street level in a space as small as two parking spaces. Inside the tunnels, Musk said cars could travel as fast as 200 kilometers per hour (roughly 130 MPH). "You should be able to go from say Westwood to LAX in 5-6 minutes," the Tesla and SpaceX founder said, adding he is spending only 2-3 percent on the tunnel effort. The Boring Company is currently building a demo tunnel in SpaceX's parking lot, but will need permits from the city of Los Angeles to extend beyond the property line. Musk added, "I'm not trying to be anyone's savior. I'm just trying to think about the future and not be sad." You can watch the video here.
Government

NSA Halts Collection of Americans' Emails About Foreign Targets (nytimes.com) 47

The NSA is stopping one of the most disputed forms of its warrantless surveillance program (alternative source), one in which it collects Americans' emails and texts to and from people overseas and that mention a foreigner under surveillance, NYTimes reports on Friday citing officials familiar with the matter. From the report: National security officials have argued that such surveillance is lawful and helpful in identifying people who might have links to terrorism, espionage or otherwise are targeted for intelligence-gathering. The fact that the sender of such a message would know an email address or phone number associated with a surveillance target is grounds for suspicion, these officials argued. [...] The N.S.A. made the change to resolve problems it was having complying with special rules imposed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in 2011 to protect Americans' privacy. For technical reasons, the agency ended up collecting messages sent and received domestically as a byproduct of such surveillance, the officials said.

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