Yet Again, Google Tricked Into Serving Scam Amazon Ads ( 49

Zack Whittaker, reporting for ZDNet: For hours on Thursday, the top Google search result for "Amazon" was pointed to a scam site. The bad ad appeared at the very top of the search result for anyone searching for the internet retail giant -- even above the legitimate search result for Anyone who clicked on the ad was sent to a page that tried to trick the user into calling a number for fear that their computer was infected with malware -- and not sent to as they would have hoped.

The page presents itself as an official Apple or Windows support page, depending on the type of computer you're visiting the page from. An analysis of the webpage's code showed that anyone trying to dismiss the popup box on the page would likely trigger the browser expanding to full-screen, giving the appearance of ransomware. A one-off event would be forgivable. But this isn't the first time this has happened. It's at least the second time in two years that Google has served up a malicious ad under Amazon's name.


AI Will Create New Jobs But Skills Must Shift, Say Tech Giants ( 73

AI will create more jobs than it destroys was the not-so-subtle rebuttal from tech giants to growing concern over the impact of automation technologies on employment. Execs from Google, IBM and Salesforce were questioned about the wider societal implications of their technologies during a panel session here at Mobile World Congress. From a report: Behshad Behzadi, who leads the engineering teams working on Google's eponymously named AI voice assistant, claimed many jobs will be "complemented" by AI, with AI technologies making it "easier" for humans to carry out tasks. "For sure there is some shift in the jobs. There's lots of jobs which will [be created which don't exist today]. Think about flight attendant jobs before there was planes and commercial flights. No one could really predict that this job will appear. So there are jobs which will be appearing of that type that are related to the AI," he said. "I think the topic is a super important topic. How jobs and AI is related -- I don't think it's one company or one country which can solve it alone. It's all together we could think about this topic," he added. "But it's really an opportunity, it's not a threat." "From IBM's perspective we firmly believe that every profession will be impacted by AI. There's no question. We also believe that there will be more jobs created," chimed in Bob Lord, IBM's chief digital officer. "We also believe that there'll be more jobs created.

Bill Gates: Tech Companies Inviting Government Intervention ( 150

In an interview with Axios on Tuesday, Bill Gates warned Apple and other tech giants that they risk the kind of nightmarish government intervention that once plagued his Microsoft if they act arrogantly. Axios reports: The big picture: "The companies need to be careful that they're not ... advocating things that would prevent government from being able to, under appropriate review, perform the type of functions that we've come to count on." Asked if he sees instances of that now, Gates replied: "Oh, absolutely." Why it matters: With the Big Tech companies feeling they're suddenly drawing unfair scrutiny, this is Microsoft's co-founder saying they're bringing some of the problems on themselves, by resisting legitimate oversight.

Senior Citizens Will Lead the Self-Driving Revolution ( 137

The Villages in Florida -- home to 125,000 residents, over 54,000 homes, 32 square miles, 750 miles of road, and three distinct downtowns -- will soon get a fleet of robot taxis. "Voyage, a startup that has been operating a handful of self-driving cars in the San Jose, California-based retirement community also called The Villages, announced today that later this year it will expand to the much-larger Villages north of Orlando," reports The Verge. "This is thanks to a successful Series A fundraising round that raked in $20 million in 2017." From the report: It's an indication that, strangely enough, many of the first people to fully experience the possibilities presented by self-driving cars will be over the age of 55. Most experts agree that robot cars will first roll out as fleets of self-driving taxis in controlled environments -- college campuses, business parks, dedicated freeway lanes, city centers, or retirement communities. Self-driving startups get to boast about providing a real service for people in need, while seniors get to lord over their grandchildren about being early adopters of a bold new technology. They're also getting something a little more valuable: Voyage is giving the owners of The Villages and the smaller San Jose development equity stakes of 0.3% and 0.2%, respectively, according to The Information. Voyage's self-driving cars aren't fully driverless. Safety drivers will remain behind the wheel just in case there's a need to intervene. And to compliment its digital mapping capabilities, the startup says it will partner with Carmera, a 3D mapmaker for autonomous vehicles. This type of partnership is necessary for what Voyage believes is "the largest deployment (by area size) of self-driving cars in the world."

Opinion: Chrome is Turning Into the New Internet Explorer 6 ( 294

Tom Warren, writing for The Verge: Chrome now has the type of dominance that Internet Explorer once did, and we're starting to see Google's own apps diverge from supporting web standards much in the same way Microsoft did a decade and a half ago. Whether you blame Google or the often slow moving World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the results have been particularly evident throughout 2017. Google has been at the center of a lot of "works best with Chrome" messages we're starting to see appear on the web. Google Meet, Allo, YouTube TV, Google Earth, and YouTube Studio Beta all block Windows 10's default browser, Microsoft Edge, from accessing them and they all point users to download Chrome instead. Some also block Firefox with messages to download Chrome. Hangouts, Inbox, and AdWords 3 were all in the same boat when they first debuted.

It's led to one developer at Microsoft to describe Google's behavior as a strategic pattern. "When the largest web company in the world blocks out competitors, it smells less like an accident and more like strategy," said a Microsoft developer in a now-deleted tweet. Google also controls the most popular site in the world, and it regularly uses it to push Chrome. If you visit in a non-Chrome browser you're prompted up to three times if you'd like to download Chrome. Google has also even extended that prompt to take over the entire page at times to really push Chrome in certain regions. Microsoft has been using similar tactics to convince Windows 10 users to stick with Edge. The troubling part for anyone who's invested in an open web is that Google is starting to ignore a principle it championed by making its own services Chrome-only -- even if it's only initially.


Can Docker Survive Google? ( 98

Though Docker has 400 corporate customers -- and plans to double its sales staff -- "here's what happens to a startup when Google gets all up in its business," reads a recent headline at Bloomberg: Docker Inc. helped establish a type of software tool known as containers...and they've made the company rich. Venture capitalists have poured about $240 million into the startup, according to research firm CB Insights. Then along came Google, with its own free container system called Kubernetes. Google has successfully inserted Kubernetes into the coder toolbox. While Docker and Kubernetes serve slightly different purposes, customers who choose Google's tool can avoid paying Docker.

The startup gives away its most popular product while trying to convince developers to pay for extras, notably a program that does the same thing as Google's. "Kubernetes basically has ruled the industry, and it is the de facto standard," said Gary Chen, an analyst at IDC. "Docker has to figure out how do they differentiate themselves." It's up to [Docker CEO] Steve Singh to escape a situation that's trapped many startups battling cash-rich tech giants like Google, dangling free alternatives... "They invented this great tech, but they are not the ones profiting from it," said Gary Chen, an analyst at IDC.

Though Docker's CEO is hoping to take the company public someday, Slashdot reader oaf357 predicts a different future: To say that Docker had a very rough 2017 is an understatement. Aside from Uber, I can't think of a more utilized, hyped, and well funded Silicon Valley startup (still in operation) fumbling as bad as Docker did in 2017. People will look back on 2017 as the year Docker, a great piece of software, was completely ruined by bad business practices leading to its end in 2018.
His article criticizes things like the new Moby upstream for the Docker project, along with "Docker's late and awkward embrace of Kubernetes... It's almost as if Docker is conceding itself to being a marginal consulting firm in the container space." And he suggests that ultimately Docker could be acquired by "a large organization like Oracle or Microsoft."
Open Source

Could We Reduce Data Breaches With Better Open Source Funding? ( 60

The CEO of Wireline -- a cloud application marketplace and serverless architecture platform -- is pushing for an open source development fund to help sustain projects, funded by an initial coin offering. "Developers like me know that there are a lot of weak spots in the modern internet," he writes on MarketWatch, suggesting more Equifax-sized data breaches may wait in our future. In fact, many companies are not fully aware of all of the software components they are using from the open-source community. And vulnerabilities can be left open for years, giving hackers opportunities to do their worst. Take, for instance, the Heartbleed bug of 2014... Among the known hacks: 4.5 million health-care records were compromised, 900 Canadians' social insurance numbers were stolen. It was deemed "catastrophic." And yet many servers today -- two years later! -- still carry the vulnerability, leaving whole caches of personal data exposed...

[T]hose of us who are on the back end, stitching away, often feel a sense of dread. For instance, did you know that much of the software that underpins the entire cloud ecosystem is written by developers who are essentially volunteers? And that the open-source software that underpins 70% of corporate America is vastly underfunded? The Heartbleed bug, for instance, was created by an error in some code submitted in 2011 to a core developer on the team that maintained OpenSSL at the time. The team was made up of only one full-time developer and three other part-timers. Many of us are less surprised that a bug had gotten through than that it doesn't happen more often.

The article argues that "the most successful open-source initiatives have corporate sponsors or an umbrella foundation (such as the Apache and Linux foundations). Yet we still have a lot of very deeply underfunded open-source projects creating a lot of the underpinnings of the enterprise cloud."

US Drugmaker Raises Price of Vitamins By More Than 800% ( 275

David Crow, reporting for the Financial Times: A US drugmaker is charging almost $300 for a bottle of prescription vitamins that can be bought online for less than $5, in the latest attempt at price gouging in the world's largest healthcare market. Avondale Pharmaceuticals raised the price of Niacor, a prescription-only version of niacin, by 809 per cent last month, taking a bottle of 100 tablets from $32.46 to $295 (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source), according to figures seen by the Financial Times. Although niacin, a type of vitamin B3, is available in over-the-counter forms for less than $5 per 100 tablets, some doctors still prefer to use the version approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat high cholesterol. Avondale, a secretive Alabama-based company, put the price of Niacor up shortly after acquiring the rights to the medicine in a so-called "buy-and-raise" deal -- a strategy made famous by Martin Shkreli, the disgraced biotech entrepreneur.

People Keep Finding Hidden Cameras in Their Airbnbs ( 167

"Airbnb has a scary problem on their hands: People keep finding hidden cameras in their rental homes," reports the New York Post. "Another host was busted last month trying to film guests without their knowledge -- marking the second time since October that the company has had to publicly deal with this sort of incident." BuzzFeed reports: In October, an Indiana couple visiting Florida discovered a hidden camera disguised as a smoke detector in their Airbnb's master bedroom. Earlier that same year Airbnb was forced to investigate and suspend a Montreal listing after one of the renters discovered a camera in the bedroom of the property... Hidden cameras aren't just an issue for Airbnb -- it's been a hot-button topic in hospitality for years. There are hundreds of stories about hotels using unlawful surveillance. [For example, this one.]

Airbnb recommends its customers read the reviews of the host of any rental property they might be interested in, and also offers an on-platform messaging tool that allows communication between host and guests... "Cameras are never allowed in bathrooms or bedrooms; any other cameras must be properly disclosed to guests ahead of time," Airbnb spokesperson Jeff Henry told BuzzFeed News.

This time the couple discovered hidden cameras that were disguised as a motion detectors. Airbnb says they've permanently banned the offending host -- and offered his guests a refund -- adding that this type of incident was "incredibly rare."

IBM's Quest To Design The 'New Helvetica' ( 172

IBM released its new bespoke typeface IBM Plex in beta this week. The company is hoping that the new typeface would become just as iconic as Helvetica in the years to come. From a Fast Co Design story: "When I came to IBM, it was a big discussion: Why does IBM not have a bespoke typeface? Why are we still clinging on to Helvetica?" Mike Abbink, the typeface's designer and IBM's executive creative director of brand experience and design said. To uncover what the typeface should express, Abbink and his team took a deep dive into IBM's archives. They were especially interested in the company's history in the postwar years, when its design-led business strategy first took shape and the legendary practitioner Paul Rand, who defined design as a system of relationships, created its famous eight-bar logo. In Rand's logo, Abbink and his team saw a contrast between hard edges -- the engineered, rational, and mechanical -- and curves -- the softer more humanistic elements. It's a reflection of the man-and-machine relationship that runs through the company's history -- a dynamic that is reflected in the final form of IBM Plex. The Plex family includes a sans serif, serif, and monospace versions. The designers also created a rigorous style guide that's akin to a digital standards manual and includes a type scale, which plays into responsive displays; eight different weights (a nod to how the IBM logo is composed of eight horizontally stacked bars); and usage guidelines, which dive into everything from information hierarchies to color and ragging. All together, it's easy to see Plex as a gentler, friendlier, more casual Helvetica for a broad range of uses both digital and print-based.

SpaceX Rocket Engine Explodes During Test ( 115

According to The Washington Post, a SpaceX rocket engine exploded Sunday (Nov. 5) at the company's test facility in McGregor, Texas. The explosion reportedly occurred during a "qualification test" of a Merlin engine, the type that powers SpaceX's workhorse Falcon 9 rocket. reports: SpaceX has suspended engine testing while it investigates what caused the incident, which didn't injure anyone, the Post added. In a statement provided to the Post, SpaceX representatives said they didn't expect the explosion to affect the company's launch schedule. That schedule has been pretty packed this year. SpaceX has already launched 16 missions, all of them successful, in 2017 -- twice as many as its previous high in a calendar year. And all but three of these missions also involved landings of the Falcon 9 first stage, for eventual refurbishment and reuse.

Woz Wants To Retrain You For a Career in Tech ( 66

Steve Wozniak wants you to work in tech, and he's going to help you do it. From a report: The Apple co-founder is launching Woz U, a digital institute aimed at helping folks not only figure out what type of tech job they might be best at, but train for it. "People often are afraid to choose a technology-based career because they think they can't do it. I know they can, and I want to show them how," Wozniak said in a statement Friday. Woz U starts off as online programs, but there are plans to build campuses in 30 cities around the world. Those cities will be announced within the next 60 days, Shelly Murphy, corporate relations for Woz U told CNET. In a press statement, Wozniak said Woz U will start as an online learning platform focused on both students and companies that will eventually hire those students. Woz U is based out of Arizona, and hopes to launch physical locations for learning in more than 30 cities across the globe. At launch, the curriculum will center around computer support specialists and software developers, with courses on data science, mobile applications and cybersecurity coming in the future.

PSA: Microsoft Is Using Cortana To Read Your Private Skype Conversations ( 180

BrianFagioli shares a report from BetaNews: With Cortana's in-context assistance, it's easier to keep your conversations going by having Cortana suggest useful information based on your chat, like restaurant options or movie reviews. And if you're in a time crunch? Cortana also suggests smart replies, allowing you to respond to any message quickly and easily -- without typing a thing," says The Skype Team. The team further says, "Cortana can also help you organize your day -- no need to leave your conversations. Cortana can detect when you're talking about scheduling events or things you have to do and will recommend setting up a reminder, which you will receive on all your devices that have Cortana enabled. So, whether you're talking about weekend plans or an important work appointment, nothing will slip through the cracks."

So, here's the deal, folks. In order for this magical "in-context" technology to work, Cortana is constantly reading your private conversations. If you use Skype on mobile to discuss private matters with your friends or family, Cortana is constantly analyzing what you type. Talking about secret business plans with a colleague? Yup, Microsoft's assistant is reading those too. Don't misunderstand -- I am not saying Microsoft has malicious intent by adding Cortana to Skype; the company could have good intentions. With that said, there is the potential for abuse. Microsoft could use Cortana's analysis to spy on you for things like advertising or worse, and that stinks. Is it really worth the risk to have smart replies and suggested calendar entries? I don't know about you, but I'd rather not have my Skype conversations read by Microsoft.


Illinois Tests A Blockchain-Based Birth Registry/ID System ( 151

An anonymous reader quotes Government Technology: The state of Illinois, which has six blockchain pilots underway, will partner with Utah-based Evernym for a birth registry pilot meant to individualize and secure identities... The endeavor, one of six distinct blockchain explorations Illinois began last summer with a working group, is expected to utilize the Sovrin Foundation's publicly available distributed identity ledger and expand upon accomplishments of the W3C Verifiable Claims Task Force, the state said... Recognizing that identity -- and, now, digital identity -- begin at birth, the state will explore using these technologies to create "a secure 'self-sovereign' identity for Illinois citizens during the birth registration process," it said in the announcement.
More from the Illinois Blockchain Initiative site: Self-sovereign identity refers to a digital identity that remains entirely under the individual's control. A self-sovereign identity can be efficiently and securely validated by entities who require it, free from reliance on a centralized repository. Jennifer O'Rourke, Blockchain Business Liaison for the Illinois Blockchain Initiative commented, "To structurally address the many issues surrounding digital identity, we felt it was important to develop a framework that examines identity from its inception at child birth... Identity is not only foundational to nearly every government service, but is the basis for trust and legitimacy in the public sector."

In the proposed framework, government agencies will verify birth registration information and then cryptographically sign identity attributes such as legal name, date of birth, sex or blood type, creating what are called "verifiable claims" or attributes. Permission to view or share each of these government-verified claims is stored on the tamper-proof distributed ledger protocol in the form of a decentralized identifier... This minimizes the need for entities to establish, maintain and rely upon their own proprietary databases of identity information.

Evernym's "Chief Trust Officer" sees the program as "a major contribution to the larger effort of solving the online identity problem."
The Internet

Code42 Says Crashplan Backup Service Will Discontinue All Personal Backup Plans ( 137

Reader amxcoder writes: Code42, the company behind the popular Crashplan online backup service has announced that will be discontinuing all of its personal and family backup plan offerings to focus on business backup service plans only. In the letter sent to existing personal plan customers, it says that next year will be the cutoff date for personal plans and all existing personal plan holders will have to upgrade their subscriptions to more expensive business plans or leave for another provider after current subscription runs out. Crashplan personal and family services were one of the best (and most affordable) options available for online backup, providing features that other rivals do not, including backup options for cloud, external local drives, and to other friends/family member's drives (trusted offsite). Looking at Carbonite services (who Code42 is recommending existing personal subscribers switch to), does not offer many of the options and features in their backup software, including multiple backup sets, unlimited deleted file retention, the trusted offsite options and any type of 'family subscription' offerings. Here is a statement from the Code42 CEO Joe Payne.

US Increases Number of H-2B Visas By 15,000 ( 143

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: President Donald Trump has said he's going to set more limits on the H-1B visa program, which allows tens of thousands of technology workers into the U.S. each year. But yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security moved to expand another type of visa, the H-2B, which allows lower-skilled workers in on a seasonal basis. The Department of Homeland Security said yesterday it is going to allow an additional 15,000 workers to come in under the H-2B visa category, which is typically used by U.S. businesses in industries like tourism, construction, and seafood processing. The program normally allows for 66,000 visas, split between the two halves of the year. That means the DHS increase, announced yesterday, represents an increase of more than 40 percent for the second half of 2017. Businesses can begin applying for the additional visas right away, as long as they attest under penalty of perjury that their business will "suffer irreparable harm" if it can't employ additional H-2B workers in 2017. The expansion is a temporary one, and it only applies to the current year.

Net Neutrality is Not a Pirates' Fight Anymore ( 89

Today millions of people are standing up for net neutrality and an open internet. The "Battle for the Net," backed by companies including Amazon, Google, and Netflix, hopes to stop a looming repeal of current net neutrality rules. While the whole debate was kickstarted ten years ago when torrent users couldn't download their favorite TV-shows, it's no longer a pirate's fight today, writes TorrentFreak: Historically, there is a strong link between net neutrality and online piracy. The throttling concerns were first brought to the forefront in 2007 when Comcast started to slow down both legal and unauthorized BitTorrent traffic, in an affort to ease the load on its network. When we uncovered this atypical practice, it ignited the first broad discussion on net neutrality. This became the setup for the FCC's Open Internet Order which was released three years later. For its part, the Open Internet Order formed the foundation of the net neutrality rules the FCC adopted in 2015. The big change compared to the earlier rules was that ISPs can be regulated as carriers under Title II. While pirates may have helped to get the ball rolling, they're no longer a player in the current net neutrality debate. Under the current rules, ISPs are allowed to block any unlawful traffic, including copyright infringing content. In fact, in the net neutrality order the FCC has listed the following rule: "Nothing in this part prohibits reasonable efforts by a provider of broadband Internet access service to address copyright infringement or other unlawful activity." The FCC reasons that copyright infringement hurts the US economy, so Internet providers are free to take appropriate measures against this type of traffic. This includes the voluntary censoring of pirate sites, something the MPAA and RIAA are currently lobbying for. That gives ISPs plenty of leeway. ISPs could still block access to The Pirate Bay and other alleged pirate sites as a voluntary anti-piracy measure, for example. And throttling BitTorrent traffic across the board is also an option, as long as it's framed as reasonable network management. The worrying part is that ISPs themselves can decide what traffic or sites are unlawful. This could potentially lead to overblocking. Currently, there is no indication that any will, but the net neutrality rules do not preventing these companies from doing so.

Rocket Lab Inaugurates The Era Of Even Cheaper Rocket Launches ( 57

pacopico writes: Elon Musk and SpaceX kicked off the New Space era with low-cost, reusable rockets. But now there's something just as dramatic brewing with really, really cheap rockets and really, really cheap satellites. Bloomberg has just profiled Peter Beck, a self-taught rocket engineer from New Zealand, who has built a $5 million rocket that will be taking cubesats [miniaturized satellites] from Planet Labs and others to space in the next few weeks. The story talks about a new type of computing shell being built around the Earth and all the players trying to fill it up.

Contractors Lose Jobs After Hacking CIA's In-House Vending Machines ( 190

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.

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