The Military

Mystery of Sonic Weapon Attacks At US Embassy In Cuba Deepens (theguardian.com) 215

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The blaring, grinding noise jolted the American diplomat from his bed in a Havana hotel. He moved just a few feet, and there was silence. He climbed back into bed. Inexplicably, the agonizing sound hit him again. It was as if he'd walked through some invisible wall cutting straight through his room. Soon came the hearing loss, and the speech problems, symptoms both similar and altogether different from others among at least 21 U.S. victims in an astonishing international mystery still unfolding in Cuba. The top U.S. diplomat has called them "health attacks." New details learned by the Associated Press indicate at least some of the incidents were confined to specific rooms or even parts of rooms with laser-like specificity, baffling U.S. officials who say the facts and the physics don't add up.

Suspicion initially focused on a sonic weapon, and on the Cubans. Yet the diagnosis of mild brain injury, considered unlikely to result from sound, has confounded the FBI, the state department and U.S. intelligence agencies involved in the investigation. Some victims now have problems concentrating or recalling specific words, several officials said, the latest signs of more serious damage than the U.S. government initially realized. The United States first acknowledged the attacks in August -- nine months after symptoms were first reported.

Earth

Mind-Altering Cat Parasite Linked To a Whole Lot of Neurological Disorders (sciencealert.com) 209

schwit1 shares a report from ScienceAlert: The brain-dwelling parasite Toxoplasma gondii is estimated to be hosted by at least 2 billion people around the world, and new evidence suggests the lodger could be more dangerous than we think. While the protozoan invader poses the greatest risk to developing fetuses infected in the womb, new research suggests the parasite could alter and amplify a range of neurological disorders, including epilepsy, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's, and also cancer. "This study is a paradigm shifter," says one of the team, neuroscientist Dennis Steindler from Tufts University. "We now have to insert infectious disease into the equation of neurodegenerative diseases, epilepsy, and neural cancers." The findings are part of an emerging field of research looking into how T. gondii, which is usually transmitted to humans via contact with cat faeces (or by eating uncooked meat), produces proteins that alter and manipulate the brain chemistry of their infected hosts.
Chrome

Google Chrome Will No Longer Autoplay Content With Sound In January 2018 (venturebeat.com) 81

Starting next year, Google Chrome will only autoplay a given piece of content when the media won't play sound or the user has indicated an interest in the media. The company was experimenting with such an option last month, but now it looks to be part of the browser's roadmap. VentureBeat reports: Chrome 63 will add a new user option to completely disable audio for individual sites. This site-muting option will persist between browsing sessions, allowing users to customize when and where audio will play. Chrome 64 will take the controls to the next level. By this version, Google's browser will allow autoplay to occur only when users want media to play. Here is Google's timeline for making autoplaying sound more consistent with user expectations in Chrome: September 2017: Site muting available in Chrome 63 Beta, begin collecting Media Engagement Index (MEI) data in Chrome 62 Canary and Dev; October 2017: Site muting available in Chrome 63 Stable, autoplay policies available in Chrome 63 Canary and Dev; December 2017: Autoplay policies available in Chrome 64 Beta; January 2018: Autoplay policies available in 64 Stable.
Privacy

Credit Karma To Launch Free ID Monitoring Following Equifax Hack (reuters.com) 24

Credit Karma is launching a new free service that will alert customers if their identity data has been compromised in hacks, the San Francisco-based fintech company said on Friday in the wake of massive breach at credit monitoring agency Equifax. From a report: The new ID monitoring service is being tested and will be available in October, the company said on Friday. Similar to services offered by Symantec-owned LifeLock, CreditKarma will keep track of data breaches and tell customers if they are one of the victims. Customers can then check to use the company's credit monitoring services and flag suspicious activities. The company said it was accelerating the launch of the new service in response to the large data breach at Equifax, where thieves may have stolen personal information of 143 million Americans.
Youtube

PewDiePie Is Inexcusable But DMCA Takedowns Are Not the Way To Fight Him (vice.com) 506

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Felix Kjellberg, better known as PewDiePie, is the most popular YouTuber in the world. He's gotten himself into another controversy, this time for shouting the n-word while livestreaming a video game. The 27-year-old Swede has repeatedly been criticized for hate speech, and just last month said he would no longer make Nazi jokes after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia turned violent. But while playing PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds on Sunday, Kjellberg, who has over 57 million subscribers on YouTube, called another player the n-word before erupting into laughter. "What a fucking n****r," he said. "Jeez, oh my god. What the fuck? Sorry, but what the fuck? What a fucking asshole. I don't mean that in a bad way." Kjellberg did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and has yet to publicly acknowledge the incident.

In response to Kjellberg's use of a racial slur, a number of video game players and developers have condemned the creator. Sean Vanaman, the co-founder of video game company Campo Santo, decided to use copyright law to push back against Kjellberg. On Twitter, he said he was filing a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown request against the famous YouTuber regarding a video in which Kjellberg plays Campo Santo's game Firewatch. There are compelling reasons to [remove hate speech from major internet platforms] by any means necessary, but DMCA overreach is among the least compelling options, considering that it unilaterally puts power into the hands of what are essentially uninvolved parties and allows for little arbitration or defense on the part of those who have their content removed.

Security

Warning: 'MetalKettle' Repository For Kodi Becomes Vulnerable After GitHub Takeover (betanews.com) 28

BrianFagioli shares a report from BetaNews: Unfortunately, there can apparently be security issues with repositories when they shut down. For example, when the metalkettle repo ended, the developer deleted its entry on GitHub. This in itself is not a cause for concern, but unfortunately, GitHub's allowance of project names to be recycled is. You see, someone re-registered the metalkettle name, making it possible for nefarious people to potentially serve up malware to Kodi users. The warning came from the metalkettle developer over on Twitter. He warns that devices with the repository installed could be in danger from a security standpoint. If a user was to search that repo, and the new owner of the GitHub name was to share malware, the user could assume it is safe and install it. We do not know 100 percent if the person that re-registered the metalkettle name on GitHub is planning anything evil, but it is better to be safe than sorry. If you still have the repository installed, you should remove it immediately. Not to mention, if you know someone using Kodi, such as a friend or family member, you should warn them too.
Security

Equifax Says Almost 400,000 Britons Hit In Data Breach (bbc.co.uk) 45

MalachiK shares a report from the BBC: Data about British people "may potentially have been accessed" during the data breach at the U.S. credit rating firm Equifax. The UK arm of the organization said files containing information on "fewer than 400,000" UK consumers was accessed in the breach. In a statement, the UK office of Equifax said an internal investigation had shown that data on UK consumers was accessed during the hack. It said data on Britons was being held in the U.S. due to a "process failure" which meant that a limited amount of information was stored in North America between 2011 and 2016. The information held included names, dates of birth, email addresses and telephone numbers. No addresses, passwords or financial data was involved.
Verizon

8,500 Verizon Customers Disconnected Because of 'Substantial' Data Use (arstechnica.com) 108

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Verizon is disconnecting another 8,500 rural customers from its wireless network, saying that roaming charges have made certain customer accounts unprofitable for the carrier. The 8,500 customers have 19,000 lines and live in 13 states (Alaska, Idaho, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wisconsin), a Verizon Wireless spokesperson told Ars today. They received notices of disconnection this month and will lose access to Verizon service on October 17. Verizon said in June that it was only disconnecting "a small group of customers" who were "using vast amounts of data -- some as much as a terabyte or more a month -- outside of our network footprint." But one customer, who contacted Ars this week about being disconnected, said her family never used more than 50GB of data across four lines despite having an "unlimited" data plan. We asked Verizon whether 50GB a month is a normal cut-off point in its disconnections of rural customers, but the company did not provide a specific answer. "These customers live outside of areas where Verizon operates our own network," Verizon said. "Many of the affected consumer lines use a substantial amount of data while roaming on other providers' networks and the roaming costs generated by these lines exceed what these consumers pay us each month. We sent these notices in advance so customers have plenty of time to choose another wireless provider."
Windows

HP Users Complain About 10-Minute Login Lag During 'Win 10 Update' (theregister.co.uk) 105

A number of HP device owners are complaining of seeing black screens for around five to 10 minutes after entering their Windows login information. From a report: They appear to be pointing the finger of blame at Windows 10 updates released September 12 for x64-based systems. One, a quality update called KB4038788, offered a whopping 27 bullet points for general quality improvements and patches, such as an "issue that sometimes causes Windows File Explorer to stop responding and causes the system to stop working." Another, KB4038806, was a "critical" patch for Adobe Flash Player that allowed remote code execution.
AI

Artificial Intelligence Pioneer Says We Need To Start Over (axios.com) 175

Steve LeVine, writing for Axios: In 1986, Geoffrey Hinton co-authored a paper that, four decades later, is central to the explosion of artificial intelligence. But Hinton says his breakthrough method should be dispensed with, and a new path to AI found. Speaking with Axios on the sidelines of an AI conference in Toronto on Wednesday, Hinton, a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto and a Google researcher, said he is now "deeply suspicious" of back-propagation, the workhorse method that underlies most of the advances we are seeing in the AI field today, including the capacity to sort through photos and talk to Siri. "My view is throw it all away and start again," he said. Other scientists at the conference said back-propagation still has a core role in AI's future. But Hinton said that, to push materially ahead, entirely new methods will probably have to be invented. "Max Planck said, 'Science progresses one funeral at a time.' The future depends on some graduate student who is deeply suspicious of everything I have said."
Security

Equifax CEO Hired a Music Major as the Company's Chief Security Officer 430

Susan Mauldin, the person in charge of the Equifax's data security, has a bachelor's degree and a master of fine arts degree in music composition from the University of Georgia, according to her LinkedIn profile. Mauldin's LinkedIn profile lists no education related to technology or security. If that wasn't enough, news outlet MarketWatch reported on Friday that Susan Mauldin's LinkedIn page was made private and her last name was replaced with "M", in a move that appears to keep her education background secret.

Earlier this month Equifax, which is one of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies, said that hackers had gained access to company data that potentially compromised sensitive information for 143 million American consumers, including Social Security numbers and driver's license numbers. On Friday, the UK arm of the organisation said files containing information on "fewer than 400,000" UK consumers was accessed in the breach.

UPDATE (9/16/2017): CSO Susan Mauldin has abruptly 'retired' from Equifax.
AI

South Park's Season Premier Sets Off Everyone's Amazon Echo (maxim.com) 291

SonicSpike writes: It's hard to believe that Trey Parker and Matt Stone didn't know exactly what they were doing with Wednesday night's season premiere of South Park. This episode marked the beginning of the show's 21st season and as usual, South Park took on current issues like tiki torch-wielding white supremacists and... home digital assistants. The latter meant lots of gags in which Cartman and other characters addressed Amazon Echo's Alexa and Google Home as well. And that ended up being a problem for viewers who own those devices. (Editor's note: example 1, 2) South Park writers absolutely knew their lines would do this and probably had a hilarious time coming up with funny commands for the home assistants.
Google

Social Media Site Gab Sues Google For Antitrust Violations Following Ban From Play Store (washingtonpost.com) 164

The social media site Gab.ai is accusing Google of violating federal antitrust laws when the tech giant booted Gab from the Google Play Store, according to lawsuit filed this week. From a report: The legal action is the latest salvo in an escalating battle between right-leaning technologists and leaders against Silicon Valley giants such as Facebook and Google. Gab alleges in the lawsuit that "Google deprives competitors, on a discriminatory basis, of access to the App Store, which an essential facility or resource." "Google is the biggest threat to the free flow of information," Gab chief executive Andrew Torba said in a statement. "Gab started to fight against the big tech companies in the marketplace, and their monopolistic conduct has forced us to bring the fight to the courtroom." Alternative source.
Google

Google Allowed Advertisers To Target 'Jewish Parasite,' 'Black People Ruin Everything' (buzzfeed.com) 139

Alex Kantrowitz, reporting for BuzzFeed News: Google, the world's biggest advertising platform, allows advertisers to specifically target ads to people typing racist and bigoted terms into its search bar, BuzzFeed News has discovered. Not only that, Google will suggest additional racist and bigoted terms once you type some into its ad buying tool. Type "White people ruin," as a potential advertising keyword into Google's ad platform, and Google will suggest you run ads next to searches including "black people ruin neighborhoods." Type "Why do Jews ruin everything," and Google will suggest you run ads next to searches including "the evil jew" and "jewish control of banks." BuzzFeed News ran an ad campaign targeted to all these keywords and others this week. The ads went live and were visible when we searched for the keywords we'd selected. Google's ad buying platform tracked the ad views. Following our inquiry, Google disabled every keyword in this ad campaign save one -- an exact match for "blacks destroy everything," is still eligible. Google told BuzzFeed News that just because a phrase is eligible does not guarantee an ad campaign will run against it. A total of 17 ad impressions were served before the keywords were disabled.
Technology

The Father of Mobile Computing Is Not Impressed (fastcompany.com) 144

harrymcc writes: Starting in the late 1960s, Alan Kay envisioned a powerful portable computer that would be a revolutionary learning device, then built some of the necessary tech at Xerox PARC and elsewhere. Today, his ideas are all around us -- but Kay is distinctly unimpressed with the iPhone, iPad, and other modern devices, which he says encourage passivity rather than creativity. Brian Merchant talked to the computing pioneer for a wide-ranging interview on FastCompany. An excerpt from the interview: Google has been around for a long time now. I bitched at [Google] for years: Why the fuck can't we type in a question and get a decent answer? There's all sorts of pre-processing you can do with the computing we have now to put a lot more semantics in there, and look at the shit you're retrieving. And by the way, the stuff that isn't popular -- which is probably what most people need to read, if the thing even knew what the question is -- is buried [in Google search results], and most people won't go past a couple of results or clicks.
AI

Many Machine Learning Studies Don't Actually Show Anything Meaningful, But They Spread Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (theoutline.com) 98

Michael Byrne, writing for the Outline: Here's what you need to know about every way-cool and-or way-creepy machine learning study that has ever been or will ever be published: Anything that can be represented in some fashion by patterns within data -- any abstract-able thing that exists in the objective world, from online restaurant reviews to geopolitics -- can be "predicted" by machine learning models given sufficient historical data. At the heart of nearly every foaming news article starting with the words "AI knows ..." is some machine learning paper exploiting this basic realization. "AI knows if you have skin cancer." "AI beats doctors at predicting heart attacks." "AI predicts future crime." "AI knows how many calories are in that cookie." There is no real magic behind these findings. The findings themselves are often taken as profound simply for having way-cool concepts like deep learning and artificial intelligence and neural networks attached to them, rather than because they are offering some great insight or utility -- which most of the time, they are not.
Canada

Canada's Challenge Is Keeping Techies, BlackBerry Inventor Says (bloomberg.com) 161

The former chief executive officer of BlackBerry added his voice to the chorus of people saying that Canada's main economic hurdle is keeping technology talent. From a report: "The biggest challenge as a country is retaining and recruiting the best people to build industries in Canada and not lose them to other jurisdictions," Mike Lazaridis, who left BlackBerry in 2013, said Thursday at the Waterloo Innovation Summit. Canada is pushing to become a technological leader as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tries to shift away from a commodities-driven economy by increasing funding for technology and offering fast-track visas to highly skilled workers. Cities like Ottawa, the capital, have stepped up recruitment efforts targeting expats in the U.S., while Toronto and its surrounding cities submitted a regional bid Wednesday for Amazon.com's second headquarters. The BlackBerry inventor sees Canada as at the forefront of the development of quantum computers, technology that could transform the world by allowing computers to operate much faster and on larger data sets than ever before.
Space

Cassini's Saturn Mission Goes Out In A Blaze Of Glory (npr.org) 74

An anonymous reader shares a report: Controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory sent a final command Friday morning to the Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn. Not long after, accounting for the vast distance the message traveled, the order was received, putting the craft into a suicidal swan dive, plummeting into the ringed planet's atmosphere. Flight Director Julie Webster called "loss of signal" at about 7:55 a.m. ET, followed by Project Manager Earl Maize announcing "end of mission" as the spacecraft began to break up in Saturn's atmosphere. "Congratulations to you all," Maize announced to applause. "It's been an incredible mission, incredible spacecraft, and you're all an incredible team." With Cassini running on empty and no gas station for about a billion miles, NASA decided to go out Thelma & Louise-style. But rather than careen into a canyon, the plucky probe took a final plunge into the object of its obsession. Just how obsessed? Its 13-year mission to explore the strange world of Saturn went on nearly a decade longer than planned. It completed 293 orbits of the planet, snapped 400,000 photos, collected 600 gigabytes of data, discovered at least seven new moons, descending into the famed rings and sent its Huygens lander to a successful 2005 touchdown on the surface of yet another moon, Titan. Also read: Cassini's Best Discoveries of Saturn and Its Moons.
Bitcoin

Bitcoin Plummets Below $3,000 on Rising China Worries (ft.com) 221

Bitcoin dropped below $3,000 on Friday as the cryptocurrency extended a brutal eight-day sell-off that has reduced its value against the dollar by a third. Financial Times reports: The currency traded as low as $2,972, marking a 36 per cent fall from bitcoin's close on September 7, and a collapse of 40 per cent from the highs struck earlier this month. The latest bout of selling came after BTCChina, one of the country's biggest bitcoin exchanges, said it would halt trading at the end of the month. Focus has now shifted to the communist country's other two big exchanges: OKCoin and Huobi. Alternative source.
Government

Trump Blocks China-Backed Takeover of US Chip Maker 'Lattice Semi' (cnn.com) 151

MountainLogic shares a report from CNN: President Trump has stopped the takeover of an American chip maker by a private equity firm with ties to China. The deal, which would have seen China-backed Canyon Bridge Capital Partners acquire Lattice Semiconductors, was blocked over national security concerns. "Today, consistent with the administration's commitment to take all actions necessary to ensure the protection of U.S. national security, the president issued an order prohibiting the acquisition," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement Wednesday. The national security risk included "the potential transfer of intellectual property" to the Chinese-backed company and the "Chinese government's role in supporting this transaction," according to Mnuchin's statement. Those are sensitive matters: the Trump administration launched an investigation last month into whether China is unfairly getting hold of American technology and intellectual property. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., which reviews deals that could result in a foreign entity taking control of an American company, had previously recommended halting the deal. Lattice CEO Darin G. Billerbeck called the outcome "disappointing" and called the proposed acquisition "an excellent deal" for Lattice and for "expanding the opportunity to keep jobs in America." According to CNN, Lattice currently employs 300 people in Oregon -- and Canyon Bridge has committed to adding 350 more if the takeover deal went through.
Advertising

First Ever Malvertising Campaign Uses JavaScript To Mine Cryptocurrencies In Your Browser (bleepingcomputer.com) 70

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Bleeping Computer: Malware authors are using JavaScript code delivered via malvertising campaigns to mine different cryptocurrencies inside people's browsers (mostly Monero), without their knowledge. The way crooks pulled this off was by using an online advertising company that allows them to deploy ads with custom JavaScript code. The JavaScript code is a modified version of MineCrunch (also known as Web Miner), a script released in 2014 that can mine cryptocurrencies using JavaScript code executed inside the browser. Cryptocurrency mining operations are notoriously resource-intensive and tend to slow down a user's computer. To avoid raising suspicion, crooks delivered malicious ads mainly on video streaming and browser-based gaming sites (currently mostly Ukrainian and Russian sites). Both types of sites use lots of resources, and users wouldn't get suspicious when their computer slowed down while accessing the site. Furthermore, users tend to linger more on browser games and video streaming services, allowing the mining script to do its job and generate profits for the crooks.
Medicine

Researchers Find Antidepressants Increase Risk of Death (medicalxpress.com) 125

Artem Tashkinov shares a report from Medical Xpress: Antidepressant medications, most commonly prescribed to reduce depression and anxiety, increase the risk of death, according to new findings by a McMaster-led team of researchers. It's widely known that brain serotonin affects mood, and that most commonly used antidepressant treatment for depression blocks the absorption of serotonin by neurons. It is less widely known, though, that all the major organs of the body -- the heart, kidneys, lungs, liver -- use serotonin from the bloodstream. Antidepressants block the absorption of serotonin in these organs as well, and the researchers warn that antidepressants could increase the risk of death by preventing multiple organs from functioning properly.

Interestingly, the news about antidepressants is not all bad. The researchers found that antidepressants are not harmful for people with cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. This makes sense since these antidepressants have blood-thinning effects that are useful in treating such disorders. Unfortunately, this also means that for most people who are in otherwise good cardiovascular health, antidepressants tend to be harmful.
The study has been published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics.

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