Facebook

Justice Department, FBI Are Investigating Cambridge Analytica (cbsnews.com) 139

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CBS News: The Justice Department and FBI are investigating Cambridge Analytica, the now-shuttered political data firm that was once used by the Trump campaign and came under scrutiny for harvesting data of millions of users, The New York Times reported on Tuesday. The Times, citing a U.S. official and people familiar with the inquiry, reported federal investigators have looked to question former employees and banks connected to the firm.

The Times reports prosecutors have informed potential witnesses there is an open investigation into the firm, whose profiles of voters were intended to help with elections. One source tells CBS News correspondent Paula Reid prosecutors are investigating the firm for possible financial crimes. A company that has that much regulatory scrutiny is almost guaranteed to have federal prosecutors interested, Reid was told. Christopher Wylie, a former Cambridge Analytica employee who spoke out about the data sharing practices, told the Times federal investigators had contacted him. The American official told the Times investigators have also contacted Facebook as a part of the probe.

Power

Tesla Unveils New Large Powerpack Project For Grid Balancing In Europe (electrek.co) 99

Tesla has unveiled a new large Powerpack energy storage project to be used as a virtual power plant for grid balancing in Europe. It consists of 140 Powerpacks and several Tesla inverters for a total power output of 18.2 MW. Electrek reports: Tesla partnered with Restore, a demand response aggregator, to build the system and offer balancing services to European transmission system operators. Instead of using gas generators and steam turbines kicking to compensate for losses of power on the grid, Tesla's batteries are charged when there's excess power and then discharge when there's a need for more power.

Restore UK Vice President Louis Burford told The Energyst that they are bundling their assets like batteries as a "synthetic pool": "By creating synthetic pools or portfolios, you reduce the technical requirements on individual assets that otherwise would not be able to participate [in certain balancing services]. By doing so you create value where it does not ordinarily exist. That is only achievable through synthetic portfolios."
For those interested, Tesla has released promo video on YouTube about the project.
The Courts

Uber Drops Arbitration Requirement For Sexual Assault Victims (npr.org) 90

Previously, Uber required complaints to be resolved in mandatory arbitration -- out of court and behind closed doors. Today, the company announced it is "changing its policies to allow customers, employees and drivers who are sexually harassed or assaulted to take their complaints to court and to speak publicly about their experiences," reports NPR. From the report: Last month, Katherine and Lauren were among 14 female victims who sent an open letter to Uber's board, pointing to the company's own sexual harassment problems and the #MeToo movement. "Silencing our stories deprives customers and potential investors from the knowledge that our horrific experiences are part of a widespread problem at Uber," they wrote. The women's demand -- and Uber's response -- highlight the significance of mandatory arbitration agreements, which are increasingly common. The provisions are usually in the fine print -- and most people who sign the agreements don't know they have signed away their right to sue.
Youtube

YouTube Might Finally Get An Incognito Mode (androidpolice.com) 61

Currently, you can head to the "History and Privacy" settings in YouTube and toggle on the options to pause watch and search history if you don't want the site to track your searches and watched videos, but that can be a bit complicated each time you want to search for something weird. According to Android Police, "YouTube will make it a little easier to go into incognito without digging into many settings and without having to disable it later." A new "Incognito Mode" will appear when you tap your account avatar in the top right of the app. From the report: With "Incognito Mode" on, all your activity from the current session is not saved and subscriptions are hidden too. It's as if you were signed out without being so, and there's a neat incognito icon replacing your avatar. If you turn off Incognito or become inactive on YouTube, you'll be back to using your own account.
The Almighty Buck

Comcast Charges $90 Install Fee At Homes That Already Have Comcast Installed (arstechnica.com) 141

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Based on our tests, signing up for standalone Internet or TV service on Comcast.com often requires payment of a $59.99 or $89.99 installation fee, depending on where you live. (The fee was $60 in two Massachusetts suburbs and $90 at homes in Houston, Texas, and Seattle, Washington.) In cases where the $60 or $90 fee is charged, the fee is required whether you purchase your own modem or rent one from Comcast for another $11 a month.

The installation fee might be charged even if the home you're buying service at has existing Comcast service, and even if you order Internet speeds lower than those purchased by the current occupant. That means the fee is charged even when Comcast doesn't have to make any upgrades at the house or apartment you're moving into. Internet speed makes no difference, as the fee may be charged whether you purchase 15Mbps downloads or gigabit service. You can avoid the installation fee by purchasing certain bundles that include both TV and Internet, but the fee is often mandatory if you buy only TV service or broadband individually. The $60 or $90 fee is also charged when you buy phone service only or a "double-play" package of phone service and broadband.

The Almighty Buck

Hackers Steal Millions From Mexican Banks In Transfer Heist (reuters.com) 29

happyfeet2000 shares a report from Reuters: Thieves siphoned hundreds of millions of pesos out of Mexican banks, including No. 2 Banorte, by creating phantom orders that wired funds to bogus accounts and promptly withdrew the money, two sources close to the government's investigation said. Hackers sent hundreds of false orders to move amounts ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of pesos from banks including Banorte, to fake accounts in other banks, the sources said, and accomplices then emptied the accounts in cash withdrawals in dozens of branch offices. The total amount is estimated to be as much as $20 million (~400 million pesos).
United States

A Quarter of Americans Spend All Day Inside, Survey Finds (washingtontimes.com) 117

Zorro shares a report from The Washington Times: A quarter of Americans spend almost an entire 24 hours without going outside and downplay the negative health effects of only breathing indoor air, according to a new survey claiming a new "indoor generation." It's unclear how dangerous indoor air is in the modern era -- reports by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency evaluating indoor air quality are from 1987 and 1989, which found that it is two to five times more polluted than outside.

The "Indoor Generation Report" surveyed 16,000 people from 14 countries in Europe and North America about their knowledge and perceptions of indoor vs outdoor air quality and the amount of time spent inside. Of the results for Americans, a quarter said they spend between 21 and 24 hours inside; 20 percent said they spend 19 to 20 hours a day inside and 21 percent say they spend between 15 and 18 hours inside. Thirty-four percent said they spend between zero and 14 hours inside. Great Britain and Canada had similar results to the U.S., with 23 and 26 percent of its respondents saying they spend between 21 and 24 hours inside. The countries with the highest percentage of people who spend the lowest amount of time inside were Italy (57 percent), the Czech Republic (57 percent) and the Netherlands (51 percent). This group said they only spend between zero and 14 hours indoors.

Crime

Suspect Identified In CIA 'Vault 7' Leak (nytimes.com) 106

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: In weekly online posts last year, WikiLeaks released a stolen archive of secret documents about the Central Intelligence Agency's hacking operations, including software exploits designed to take over iPhones and turn smart television sets into surveillance devices. It was the largest loss of classified documents in the agency's history and a huge embarrassment for C.I.A. officials. Now, The New York Times has learned the identity of the prime suspect in the breach (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): a 29-year-old former C.I.A. software engineer who had designed malware used to break into the computers of terrorism suspects and other targets.

F.B.I. agents searched the Manhattan apartment of the suspect, Joshua A. Schulte, one week after WikiLeaks released the first of the C.I.A. documents in March last year, and then stopped him from flying to Mexico on vacation, taking his passport, according to court records and family members. The search warrant application said Mr. Schulte was suspected of "distribution of national defense information," and agents told the court they had retrieved "N.S.A. and C.I.A. paperwork" in addition to a computer, tablet, phone and other electronics. But instead of charging Mr. Schulte in the breach, referred to as the Vault 7 leak, prosecutors charged him last August with possessing child pornography, saying agents had found the material on a server he created as a business in 2009 while he was a student at the University of Texas.

Security

Smarter People Don't Have Better Passwords, Study Finds (bleepingcomputer.com) 109

An anonymous reader shares a report: A study carried out at a college in the Philippines shows that students with better grades use bad passwords in the same proportion as students with bad ones. The study's focused around a new rule added to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) guideline for choosing secure passwords -- added in its 2017 edition. The NIST recommendation was that websites check if a user's supplied password was compromised before by verifying if the password is also listed in previous public breaches. If the password is included in previous breaches, the website is to consider the password insecure because all of these exposed passwords have most likely been added to even the most basic password-guessing brute-forcing tools.
Facebook

Facebook Deleted 583 Million Fake Accounts in the First Three Months of 2018 (cnet.com) 75

Facebook said Tuesday that it had removed more than half a billion fake accounts and millions of pieces of other violent, hateful or obscene content over the first three months of 2018. From a report: In a blog post on Facebook, Guy Rosen, Facebook's vice president of product management, said the social network disabled about 583 million fake accounts during the first three months of this year -- the majority of which, it said, were blocked within minutes of registration. That's an average of over 6.5 million attempts to create a fake account every day from Jan. 1 to March 31. Facebook boasts 2.2 billion monthly active users, and if Facebook's AI tools didn't catch these fake accounts flooding the social network, its population would have swelled immensely in just 89 days.
United States

Homeland Security Unveils New Cyber Security Strategy Amid Threats (reuters.com) 75

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday unveiled a new national strategy for addressing the growing number of cyber security risks as it works to assess them and reduce vulnerabilities. From a report: "The cyber threat landscape is shifting in real-time, and we have reached a historic turning point," DHS chief Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement. "It is clear that our cyber adversaries can now threaten the very fabric of our republic itself." The announcement comes amid concerns about the security of the 2018 U.S. midterm congressional elections and numerous high-profile hacking of U.S. companies.
NASA

Moon of Jupiter Prime Candidate For Alien Life After Water Blast Found (theguardian.com) 134

A NASA probe that explored Jupiter's moon Europa flew through a giant plume of water vapour that erupted from the icy surface and reached a hundred miles high, according to a fresh analysis of the spacecraft's data. An anonymous reader shares a The Guardian report: The discovery has cemented the view among some scientists that the Jovian moon, one of four first spotted by the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei in 1610, is the most promising place in the solar system to hunt for alien life. If such geysers are common on Europa, NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) missions that are already in the pipeline could fly through and look for signs of life in the brine, which comes from a vast subsurface ocean containing twice as much water as all the oceans on Earth.

NASA's Galileo spacecraft spent eight years in orbit around Jupiter and made its closest pass over Europa, a moon about the size of our own, on 16 December 1997. As the probe dropped beneath an altitude of 250 miles, its sensors twitched with unexpected signals that scientists were unable to explain at the time. Now, in a new study, the researchers describe how they went back to the Galileo data after grainy images beamed home from the Hubble space telescope in 2016 showed what appeared to be plumes of water blasting from Europa's surface.

Businesses

FedEx Sees Blockchain as 'Next Frontier' For Logistics (bloomberg.com) 106

Convinced that blockchain is on the brink of transforming the package-delivery business, FedEx is testing the technology to track large, higher-value cargo. From a report: "We're quite confident that it has big, big implications in supply chain, transportation and logistics," Chief Executive Officer Fred Smith said at a blockchain conference in New York. "It's the next frontier that's going to completely change worldwide supply chains." Blockchain uses computer code to record every step of a transaction and delivery in a permanent digital ledger, providing transparency. The ledger can't be changed unless all involved agree, reducing common disputes over issues like time stamps, payments and damages. FedEx's interest in blockchain and the Internet of Things are part of the company's strategy to improve customer service and fend off competition, Smith said.
Communications

US Cell Carriers Are Selling Access To Your Real-Time Phone Location Data (zdnet.com) 146

Four of the largest cell giants in the US are selling your real-time location data to a company that you've probably never heard about before. ZDNet: In case you missed it, a senator last week sent a letter demanding the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) investigate why Securus, a prison technology company, can track any phone "within seconds" by using data obtained from the country's largest cell giants, including AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint, through an intermediary, LocationSmart. The story blew up because a former police sheriff snooped on phone location data without a warrant, according The New York Times. The sheriff has pleaded not guilty to charges of unlawful surveillance.

Yet little is known about how LocationSmart obtained the real-time location data on millions of Americans, how the required consent from cell user owners was obtained, and who else has access to the data. Kevin Bankston, director of New America's Open Technology Institute, explained in a phone call that the Electronic Communications Privacy Act only restricts telecom companies from disclosing data to the government. It doesn't restrict disclosure to other companies, who then may disclose that same data to the government. He called that loophole "one of the biggest gaps in US privacy law. The issue doesn't appear to have been directly litigated before, but because of the way that the law only restricts disclosures by these types of companies to government, my fear is that they would argue that they can do a pass-through arrangement like this," he said.
Further reading: The Tech Used To Monitor Inmate Calls Is Able To Track Civilians Too.
Microsoft

Surface Hub 2 Coming in 2019, Looks Amazing (arstechnica.com) 62

Microsoft gave an early look at its next-generation Surface Hub 2 today. It will go on sale next year, with certain selected customers testing it this year. From a report: Microsoft's Surface Hub, its conference room computer, was something of a surprise hit. The system has been in short supply since its launch about three years ago, especially in its 84-inch version: its combination of video conferencing and whiteboarding makes it a collaborative tool with few direct competitors. The central feature of the new system is that it's a 50.5-inch 4K display with a rotating mount. Instead of the traditional 16:9 aspect ratio, the Surface Hub 2 has the same 3:2 ratio of Microsoft's other Surface systems.
The Internet

The Rise of Free Urban Internet (axios.com) 78

Intersection, the Alphabet-backed smart cities startup known for creating free internet kiosks for cities, is pushing to make free internet accessible in as many major cities as possible across the globe. From a report: As more aspects of our daily lives -- from healthcare to communication to travel -- become dependent on internet-connected devices, the concept of providing internet as a public good is becoming more widespread. Intersection is best known for its successful transformation of NYC's 7,500 pay-phones into free internet kiosks that act as hot-spots and advertising space. It's also spreading its programs to cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, and even London. The program is entirely funded by advertising that the company sells on LinkNYC internet kiosks, so less densely-populated cities may be a tougher sell.
Ubuntu

Canonical Addresses Ubuntu Linux Snap Store's 'Security Failure' (betanews.com) 79

Last week, an app on the Ubuntu Snap Store caused a stir when it was found to be riddled with a script that is programmed to mine cryptocurrency, a phenomenon whose traces has been found in several popular application stores in the recent months. Canonical promptly pulled the app from the store, but offered little explanation at the time. On Tuesday, Ubuntu-maker addressed the matter in detail. From a report: The big question is whether or not this is really malware. Canonical also pondered this and says the following. "The first question worth asking, in this case, is whether the publisher was in fact doing anything wrong, considering that mining cryptocurrency is not illegal or unethical by itself. That perspective was indeed taken by the publisher in question here, who informed us that the goal was to monetize software published under licenses that allow it, unaware of the social or technical consequences," the company wrote in a blog post.

"The publisher offered to stop doing that once contacted. Of course, it is misleading if there is no indication of the secondary purpose of the application. That's in fact why the application was taken down in the store. There are no rules against mining cryptocurrencies, but misleading users is a problem," it added.

Unfortunately, Canonical concedes that it simply doesn't have the resources to review all code submitted to the Snap Store. Instead, it puts the onus on the user to do their due diligence by investigating the developer before deciding to trust them.

Businesses

Apple CEO Says He Has Urged Trump To Address Legal Status of Immigrants; Also Told Him That Tariffs Are Wrong Approach To China (bloomberg.com) 381

Apple chief executive Tim Cook told Bloomberg Television that he has criticized Donald Trump's approach to trade with China in a recent White House meeting, while also urging the president to address the legal status of immigrants known as Dreamers. From the interview: Cook said his message to Trump focused on the importance of trade and how cooperation between two countries can boost the economy more than nations acting alone. Cook met with Trump in the Oval Office in late April amid a brewing trade war between the U.S. and China. The Trump administration instituted 25 percent tariffs on at least $50 billion worth of products from China, sparking retaliation. In the interview on "The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations," Cook acknowledged that previous trade policies were flawed but said Trump's move is also problematic. "It's true, undoubtedly true, that not everyone has been advantaged from that -- in either country -- and we've got to work on that," Cook said. "But I felt that tariffs were not the right approach there, and I showed him some more analytical kinds of things to demonstrate why."
Security

Kaspersky Lab Moving Core Infrastructure To Switzerland (securityweek.com) 78

wiredmikey writes: As part of its Global Transparency Initiative, Russia-based Kaspersky Lab today announced that it will adjust its infrastructure to move a number of "core processes" from Russia to Switzerland. The security firm has faced challenges after several governments have banned Kaspersky software over security concerns, despite no hard evidence that Kaspersky has ever colluded with the Russian government. As an extension to its transparency initiative, announced in October 2017, the firm is now going further by making plans for its processes and source code to be independently supervised by a qualified third-party. To this end, it is supporting the creation of a new, non-profit "Transparency Center" able to assume this responsibility not just for itself, but for other partners and members who wish to join. Noticeably, Kaspersky Lab does not link the move specifically to the effects of the U.S. ban, but sees wider issues of global trust emerging.
Google

Should the FTC Investigate Google's Location Data Collection? (engadget.com) 110

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: In December of 2017, the office of U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal sent Google's CEO a letter asking for a detailed explanation of the company's privacy practices around location services. Based on a report at Quartz, the senator's letter had 12 specific questions about how Google deals with location data. In January, Google responded to all of the issues in a lengthy letter signed by Google's VP of public policy, Susan Molinari. Now, apparently unsatisfied with the response, Senators Blumenthal and Edward J. Markey have sent a written request to the FTC to investigate Google's location services, along with "any deceptive acts and practices associated with the product."

While Google's initial response refuted many of the claims made by Quartz, and explained again and again how Google and Android handles sensitive location data, the letter to the FTC again uses the report as its main basis. The crux of the new letter appears to be this: "Google has an intimate understanding or personal lives as they watch their users seek the support of reproductive health services, engage in civic activities or attend places of religious worship," wrote the senators. All it takes to expose users to data collection, say the letter's authors, is to allow an "ambiguously described feature" once and then it is silently enabled across all signed-in devices without an expiration date.

Facebook

Facebook Faulted By Judge For 'Troubling Theme' In Privacy Case (bloomberg.com) 62

schwit1 quotes a report from Bloomberg: A judge scolded Facebook for misconstruing his own rulings as he ordered the company to face a high-stakes trial accusing it of violating user privacy. The social media giant has misinterpreted prior court orders by continuing to assert the "faulty proposition" that users can't win their lawsuit under an Illinois biometric privacy law without proving an "actual injury," U.S. District Judge James Donato said in a ruling Monday. Likewise, the company's argument that it's immune from having to pay a minimum of $1,000, and as much as $5,000, for each violation of the law is "not a sound proposition," he said. Under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, the damages in play at a jury trial set for July 9 in San Francisco could easily reach into the billions of dollars for the millions of users whose photos were allegedly scanned without consent. Apart from his concerns about the "troubling theme" in Facebook's legal arguments, Donato ruled a trial must go forward because there are multiple factual issues in dispute, including a sharp disagreement over how the company's photo-tagging software processes human faces.
Intel

Intel's First 10nm Cannon Lake CPU Sees the Light of Day (anandtech.com) 184

Artem Tashkinov writes: A Chinese retailer has started selling a laptop featuring Intel's first 10nm CPU the Intel Core i3 8121U. Intel promised to start producing 10nm CPUs in 2016 but the rollout has been postponed almost until the second half of 2018. It's worth noting that this CPU does not have integrated graphics enabled and features only two cores.

AnandTech opines: "This machine listed online means that we can confirm that Intel is indeed shipping 10nm components into the consumer market. Shipping a low-end dual core processor with disabled graphics doesn't inspire confidence, especially as it is labelled under the 8th gen designation, and not something new and shiny under the 9th gen -- although Intel did state in a recent earnings call that serious 10nm volume and revenue is now a 2019 target. These parts are, for better or worse, helping Intel generate some systems with the new technology. We've never before seen Intel commercially use low-end processors to introduce a new manufacturing process, although this might be the norm from now on."

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