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United States

Sysadmin Gets Two Years In Prison For Sabotaging ISP (bleepingcomputer.com)

After being let go over a series of "personal issues" with his employer, things got worse for 26-year-old network administrator Dariusz J. Prugar, who will now have to spend two years in prison for hacking the ISP where he'd worked. An anonymous reader writes: Prugar had used his old credentials to log into the ISP's network and "take back" some of the scripts and software he wrote... "Seeking to hide his tracks, Prugar used an automated script that deleted various logs," reports Bleeping Computer. "As a side effect of removing some of these files, the ISP's systems crashed, affecting over 500 businesses and over 5,000 residential customers."

When the former ISP couldn't fix the issue, they asked Prugar to help. "During negotiations, instead of requesting money as payment, Prugar insisted that he'd be paid using the rights to the software and scripts he wrote while at the company, software which was now malfunctioning, a week after he left." This tipped off the company, who detected foul play, contacted the FBI and rebuilt its entire network.

Six years later, Prugar was found guilty after a one-week jury trial, and was ordered by the judge to pay $26,000 in restitution to the ISP (which went out of business in October of 2015). Prugar's two-year prison sentence begins December 27.
Government

Virginia Police Spent $500K For An Ineffective Cellphone Surveillance System (muckrock.com) 17

Cell-site simulators can intercept phone calls and even provide locations (using GPS data). But Virginia's state police force just revealed details about their actual use of the device -- and it's not pretty. Long-time Slashdot reader v3rgEz writes: In 2014, the Virginia State Police spent $585,265 on a specially modified Suburban outfitted with the latest and greatest in cell phone surveillance: the DRT 1183C, affectionately known as the DRTbox. But according to logs uncovered by public records website MuckRock, the pricey ride was only used 12 times — and only worked seven of those times.
According to Virginia's ACLU director, "each of the 12 uses cost almost $50,000, and only 4 of them resulted in an arrest [raising] a significant question whether the more than half million dollars spent on the device and the vehicle...was a wise investment of public funds."
The Media

Are We Seeing Propaganda About Russian Propaganda? (rollingstone.com) 103

MyFirstNameIsPaul was one of several readers who spotted this disturbing instance of fake news about fake news. An anonymous reader writes: Last week the Washington Post described "independent researchers" who'd identified "more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda" that they estimated were viewed more than 200 million times on Facebook. But the researchers insisted on remaining anonymous "to avoid being targeted by Russia's legions of skilled hackers," and when criticized on Twitter, responded "Awww, wook at all the angwy Putinists, trying to change the subject -- they're so vewwy angwy!!"

The group "seems to have been in existence for just a few months," writes Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi, calling the Post's article an "astonishingly lazy report". (Chris Hedges, who once worked on a Pulitzer Prize-winning team at the New York Times, even found his site Truthdig on the group's dubious list of over 200 "sites that reliably echo Russian propaganda," along with other long-standing sites like Zero Hedge, Naked Capitalism, and the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.) "By overplaying the influence of Russia's disinformation campaign, the report also plays directly into the hands of the Russian propagandists that it hopes to combat," complains Adrian Chen, who in 2015 documented real Russian propaganda efforts which he traced to "a building in St. Petersburg where hundreds of young Russians worked to churn out propaganda."

The Post's article was picked up by other major news outlets (including USA Today), and included an ominous warning that "The sophistication of the Russian tactics may complicate efforts by Facebook and Google to crack down on 'fake news'."
United Kingdom

For The UK's 'Snoopers' Charter', Politicians Voted Themselves An Exemption (independent.co.uk) 62

The "Snoopers' Charter" passed in the U.K. greatly expands the government's surveillance power. But before they'd enact the new Investigatory Powers Act, Britain's elected officials first voted to make themselves exempt from it. Sort of. An anonymous reader writes: While their internet browsing history will still be swept up, just like everyone else's, no one will ever be able to access it without specific approval from the Prime Minister. And according to The Independent, "That rule applies not only to members of the Westminster parliament but also politicians in the devolved assembly and members of the European Parliament."
The article adds that the exemption was the very first amendment they approved for the legislation. And for a very long time, the only amendment.
EU

CO2 Researchers Are Now Hacking Photosynthesis (chicagotribune.com) 62

Remember that story about the "artificial leaf" solar cells? Long-time Slashdot reader managerialslime quotes the Chicago Tribune: University of Illinois at Chicago researchers have developed a way to mimic plants' ability to convert carbon dioxide into fuel, a way to decrease the amounts of harmful gas in the atmosphere and produce clean energy. The artificial leaf essentially recycles carbon dioxide. And it's powered entirely by the sun, mimicking the real photosynthesis process.
But meanwhile, in Germany: Biochemists led by Tobias Erb at the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology...have developed a new, super-efficient method for living organisms to suck CO2 out of the atmosphere. Plants, algae, and other organisms turn CO2 into fuel. Erb and his colleagues reengineered this process, making it about 25 percent more energy efficient and potentially up to two or three times faster... Erb hopes that one day the CETCH cycle could be genetically engineered into living organisms, helping them more rapidly reduce atmospheric CO2 while producing useful materials.
The researchers created their new CO2-transforming cycle using 11 carefully chosen enzymes.
United Kingdom

UK Health Secretary Urges Social Media Companies To Block Cyberbullying And Underaged Sexting (betanews.com) 45

Mark Wilson shares his article on Beta News: Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has made calls for technology companies and social media to do more to tackle the problems of cyberbullying, online intimidation and -- rather specifically -- under-18-year-olds texting sexually explicit images. Of course, he doesn't have the slightest idea about how to go about tackling these problems, but he has expressed his concern so that, in conjunction with passing this buck to tech companies, should be enough, right?
Hunt apparently believes there's already a technology which can identify sexually explicit photos, and that social media networks should now also develop algorithms to identify and block cyberbullying, an idea the Guardian called "sadly laughable."

"Is the blanket censorship of non-approved communications for all under 18s -- something that goes far further than even the Great Firewall of China -- really the kind of thing a government minister should be able to idly suggest in 2016?"
Security

Crooks Need Just Six Seconds To Guess A Credit Card Number (independent.co.uk) 74

schwit1 quotes The Independent: Criminals can work out the card number, expiration date, and security code for a Visa debit or credit card in as little as six seconds using guesswork, researchers have found... Fraudsters use a so-called Distributed Guessing Attack to get around security features put in place to stop online fraud, and this may have been the method used in the recent Tesco Bank hack...

According to a study published in the academic journal IEEE Security & Privacy, fraudsters could use computers to systematically fire different variations of security data at hundreds of websites simultaneously. Within seconds, by a process of elimination, the criminals could verify the correct card number, expiration date and the three-digit security number on the back of the card.

One of the researchers explained this attack combines two weaknesses into one powerful attack. "Firstly, current online payment systems do not detect multiple invalid payment requests from different websites... Secondly, different websites ask for different variations in the card data fields to validate an online purchase. This means it's quite easy to build up the information and piece it together like a jigsaw puzzle."
Businesses

Why MakerBot Didn't Kickstart A 3D Printing Revolution (backchannel.com) 176

Bre PettisâS once said MakerBot gave you a superpower -- "You can make anything you need." But four years later, mirandakatz writes that though MakerBot promised to revolutionize society, "That never happened." At Backchannel, Andrew Zaleski has the definitive, investigative account of why the 3D printing revolution hasn't yet come to pass, culled from interviews with industry observers, current MakerBot leadership, and a dozen former MakerBot employees. As he tells it, "In the span of a few years, MakerBot had to pull off two very different coups. It had to introduce millions of people to the wonders of 3D printing, and then convince them to shell out more than $1,000 for a machine. It also had to develop the technology fast enough to keep its customers happy. Those two tasks were too much for the fledgling company."
Open Source

Devuan's Systemd-Free Linux Hits Beta 2 (theregister.co.uk) 227

Long-time Slashdot reader Billly Gates writes, "For all the systemd haters who want a modern distro feel free to rejoice. The Debian fork called Devuan is almost done, completing a daunting task of stripping systemd dependencies from Debian." From The Register: Devuan came about after some users felt [Debian] had become too desktop-friendly. The change the greybeards objected to most was the decision to replace sysvinit init with systemd, a move felt to betray core Unix principles of user choice and keeping bloat to a bare minimum. Supporters of init freedom also dispute assertions that systemd is in all ways superior to sysvinit init, arguing that Debian ignored viable alternatives like sinit, openrc, runit, s6 and shepherd. All are therefore included in Devuan.
Devuan.org now features an "init freedom" logo with the tagline, "watching your first step. Their home page now links to the download site for Devuan Jessie 1.0 Beta2, promising an OS that "avoids entanglement".
Iphone

iOS's 'Activation Lock' For Stolen iPads And iPhones Can Be Easily Bypassed (computerworld.com) 52

An anonymous reader quotes ComputerWorld: Two researchers claim to have found a way to bypass the activation lock feature in iOS that's supposed to prevent anyone from using an iPhone or iPad marked as lost by its owner... One of the few things allowed from the activation lock screen is connecting the device to a Wi-Fi network, including manually configuring one. [Security researcher] Hemanth had the idea of trying to crash the service that enforces the lock screen by entering very long strings of characters in the WPA2-Enterprise username and password fields.

The researcher claims that, after awhile, the screen froze, and he used the iPad smart cover sold by Apple to put the tablet to sleep and then reopen it... "After 20-25 seconds the Add Wifi Connection screen crashed to the iPad home screen, thereby bypassing the so-called Find My iPhone Activation Lock," he said in a blog post.

There's also a five-minute video on YouTube which purports to show a newer version of the same attack.
Linux

Ask Slashdot: What's the Best Linux Laptop? 233

Long-Time Slashdot reader sconeu is finally replacing his 10-year-old Toshiba Satellite laptop, and needs suggestions on the best current laptops for running Linux. I'm looking to run some flavor of Linux (probably KDE-based UI, but not mandatory) while using a virtual machine to run Windows 7 (for stuff needed for work). For me personally, battery life and weight are more important than raw power. I'm not going to be running games on this. I've been considering an XPS 13 Developer Edition, or something from System76, ZaReason or Emperor Linux. What laptop do you use? Do you have any suggestions?
It's your chance to share useful information, recommendations, and your own experiences with various brands of laptop. So leave your best answers in the comments. What's the best Linux laptop?
United States

The US Government Funds A War On Online Fake News (bangordailynews.com) 305

An anonymous reader quotes the Washington Post: Congressional negotiators on Wednesday approved an initiative to track and combat foreign propaganda amid growing concerns that Russian efforts to spread "fake news" and disinformation threaten U.S. national security. The measure, part of the National Defense Authorization Act approved by a conference committee, calls on the State Department to lead government-wide efforts to identify propaganda and counter its effects. The authorization is for $160 million over two years...

The Senate Intelligence Committee, meanwhile, has approved language in the fiscal year 2017 intelligence authorization bill calling for new executive branch efforts to combat what it characterized as "active measures" by Russia to manipulate people and governments through front groups, covert broadcasting or "media manipulation." "There is definitely bipartisan concern about the Russian government engaging in covert influence activities of this nature," Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement. "If you read section 501 of this year's intelligence authorization bill, it directs the President to set up an interagency committee to 'counter active measures by Russia to exert covert influence over peoples and governments.'"

Several senators on the intelligence committee also asked President Obama to declassify any information relating to the Russian government and the U.S. election.
Biotech

Our Brains Use Binary Logic, Say Neuroscientists (sciencedaily.com) 57

"The brain's basic computational algorithm is organized by power-of-two-based logic," reports Sci-News, citing a neuroscientist at Augusta University's Medical College. hackingbear writes: He and his colleagues from the U.S. and China have documented the algorithm at work in seven different brain regions involved with basics like food and fear in mice and hamsters. "Intelligence is really about dealing with uncertainty and infinite possibilities," he said. "It appears to be enabled when a group of similar neurons form a variety of cliques to handle each basic like recognizing food, shelter, friends and foes. Groups of cliques then cluster into functional connectivity motifs to handle every possibility in each of these basics. The more complex the thought, the more cliques join in."
The Courts

It Will Soon Be Illegal To Punish US Customers Who Criticize Businesses Online (arstechnica.com) 80

An anonymous reader writes: Congress has passed a law protecting the right of U.S. consumers to post negative online reviews without fear of retaliation from companies. The bipartisan Consumer Review Fairness Act was passed by unanimous consent in the US Senate, a Senate Commerce Committee announcement said. The bill, introduced in 2014, was already approved by the House of Representatives and now awaits President Obama's signature.

The Consumer Review Fairness Act -- full text available here -- voids any provision in a form contract that prohibits or restricts customers from posting reviews about the goods, services, or conduct of the company providing the product or service. It also voids provisions that impose penalties or fees on customers for posting online reviews as well as those that require customers to give up the intellectual property rights related to such reviews.

Mozilla

VM-Neutral Node.js API Unveiled, As NodeSource Collaborates With Microsoft, Mozilla, Intel and IBM (medium.com) 27

An anonymous reader writes: This week saw the first proof of concept for Node.js API (or NAPI for short), "making module maintainers' lives easier by defining a stable module API that is independent from changes in [Google's JavaScript engine] V8 and allowing modules to run against newer versions of Node.js without recompilation." Their announcement cites both the efforts of the Node.js API working group and of ChakraCore, the core part of the Chakra Javascript engine that powers Microsoft Edge.

And there was also a second announcement -- that the Node.js build system "will start producing nightly node-chakracore builds, enabling Node.js to be used with the ChakraCore JavaScript engine. "These initial efforts are stepping stones to make Node.js VM-neutral, which would allow more opportunities for Node.js in IoT and mobile use cases as well as a variety of different systems."

One IBM runtime developer called it "a concrete step toward the strategic end goal of VM neutrality," and the Node.js Foundation believes that the API will ultimately result in "more modules to choose from, and more stability with modules without the need to continually upgrade."

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