Social Networks

Facebook VP of Ads Criticised For Tweeting that Russian-bought Ads Had Not Been Designed to Sway the US Election (bbc.com) 233

Facebook's vice-president of adverts has been criticised for tweeting that Russian-bought ads had not been designed to sway the US election. From a report: Rob Goldman's tweet was retweeted by President Donald Trump. His view contradicted special counsellor Robert Mueller's recent indictments, in which 13 Russians were charged with meddling in the election via social media and other means. Mr Goldman is reported to have apologised to Facebook staff. In a series of tweets, Mr Goldman said that Russia's misinformation activity had been designed to "divide America" but added that "the majority of the Russian ad spend [on Facebook] happened after the election." However according to the indictment, the ads were only part of Russia's activity on the social-media platform. In the document, Facebook is mentioned 35 times. According to Wired, he sent a message to staff that read: "I wanted to apologise for having tweeted my own view about Russian interference without having it reviewed by anyone internally. The tweets were my own personal view and not Facebook's. I conveyed my view poorly. The special counsel has far more information about what happened [than] I do -- so seeming to contradict his statements was a serious mistake on my part."
Twitter

Pro-Gun Russian Bots Flood Twitter After Parkland Shooting (wired.com) 702

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Wired: In the wake of Wednesday's Parkland, Florida school shooting, which resulted in 17 deaths, troll and bot-tracking sites reported an immediate uptick in related tweets from political propaganda bots and Russia-linked Twitter accounts. Hamilton 68, a website created by Alliance for Securing Democracy, tracks Twitter activity from accounts it has identified as linked to Russian influence campaigns. On RoBhat Labs' Botcheck.me, a website created by two Berkeley students to track 1500 political propaganda bots, all of the top two-word phrases used in the last 24 hours -- excluding President Trump's name -- are related to the tragedy: School shooting, gun control, high school, Florida school. The top hashtags from the last 24 hours include Parkland, guncontrol, and guncontrolnow.

While RoBhat Labs tracks general political bots, Hamilton 68 focuses specifically on those linked to the Russian government. According to the group's data, the top link shared by Russia-linked accounts in the last 48 hours is a 2014 Politifact article that looks critically at a statistic cited by pro-gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety. Twitter accounts tracked by the group have used the old link to try to debunk today's stats about the frequency of school shootings. Another top link shared by the network covers the "deranged" Instagram account of the shooter, showing images of him holding guns and knives, wearing army hats, and a screenshot of a Google search of the phrase "Allahu Akbar." Characterizing shooters as deranged lone wolves with potential terrorist connections is a popular strategy of pro-gun groups because of the implication that new gun laws could not have prevented their actions. Meanwhile, some accounts with large bot followings are already spreading misinformation about the shooter's ties to far-left group Antifa, even though the Associated Press reported that he was a member of a local white nationalist group. The Twitter account Education4Libs, which RoBhat Labs shows is one among the top accounts tweeted at by bots, is among the prominent disseminators of that idea.

Crime

Family of 'Swat' Victim Sues Kansas Police, Lawmakers Propose 40-Year Jail Terms (cbsnews.com) 291

An anonymous reader brings more updates about the 'Swat' call that led to a fatal police shooting: The gamer who dared another gamer to send police officers to his home had offered the address where he used to live, until his family was evicted in 2016. While he may also be charged for the fatal shooting that followed, the victim's family has now sued the city of Wichita as well as its police officers, with their attorney saying the city "is trying to put all the blame on the young man in California who placed the swatting call. But let's be clear: the swatter did not shoot the bullet that killed Andy Finch. That was an officer working under the direction of the Wichita Police Department."

The attorney points out that the 911 caller in California provided a description of the house which didn't match the actual house in Kansas, adding "How can Wichita police department officers not be trained to deal with this type of situation...? Prank calls are not new," according to CBS News. "The lawsuit cites FBI crime statistics showing Wichita has a ratio of one shooting death for every 120 officers -- a number that is 11 times greater than the national ratio and 12 times greater than the ratio in Chicago."

Meanwhle, Kansas lawmakers have introduced a new bill proposing a penalty of 10 to 40 years in prison if a swatting call ends in a person's death, which would also cause the offense to be prosecuted as murder.

One lawmaker argues that the bill is necessary because under the current system if a person phones in a swat call, "there's really no consequence for his actions."
IBM

The SCO Vs IBM Zombie Shambles On (uscourts.gov) 127

Long-time Slashdot reader UncleJosh writes: At the end of last October, the 10th Circuit issued an opinion overturning the lower court's summary judgement in favor of IBM on one of SCO's claims, sending it back to the lower court for trial. Shortly thereafter, IBM filed for a re-hearing en banc. On January 2nd, the 10th circuit essentially denied IBM's request, issuing a slightly revised opinion with the same conclusions and result.
The charge being reheard accuses IBM of "stealing and improperly using [SCO's] source code to strengthen its own operating system, thereby committing the tort of unfair competition by means of misappropriation" -- though that charged is based on an implied duty that SCO says IBM incurred by entering into a development relationship with SCO. "SCO believes that IBM merely pretended to go along with the arrangement in order to gain access to Santa Cruz's coveted source code."

The court's 46-page document adds that "We are now almost fifteen years into this litigation."
Crime

Two More Gamers May Be Charged in Fatal Kansas 'SWAT' Shooting (kansas.com) 170

A newly-released affidavit reveals that money was at stake in a game of Call Of Duty: World War II which led to the fatal real-life police shooting of Andrew Finch. The Wichita Eagle reports: Investigators learned that Shane Gaskill, who lives in Wichita, was involved in an online video game with other people when he accidentally [virtually] shot and killed one of his teammates in the online game. The teammate who was killed in the game became "extremely upset" and began talking trash to Gaskill, the affidavit says. The dispute escalated until the teammate, who the document identifies as Casey Viner of North College Hill, Ohio, threatened via Twitter to "SWATT" Gaskill, according to the affidavit. Gaskill replied, "Please try some s---." He then posted the address...
Viner "is considered a suspect in several 'swatting' incidents in Cincinnati," reports the Los Angeles Times, adding that prosecutors are still deciding whether these two gamers should also face criminal charges.

Meanwhile, Kansas officials have been informed that the third gamer who actually made the phone call, 25-year-old Tyler Barriss, matches the voice on a fake 2015 bomb threat, and is already the subject of an open investigation by an FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force.
United Kingdom

Admiral Charges Hotmail Users More For Car Insurance (thetimes.co.uk) 345

One of Britain's biggest car insurers has admitted increasing premiums for drivers who apply using a Hotmail account. From a report: Motorists seeking cover from Admiral could be charged $45 extra if they use certain email addresses. The insurer said some domain names were "associated with more accidents" than others, raising applicants' risk profile. Figures from the Association of British Insurers to be published today show that the cost of car insurance has increased by more than a quarter over the past three years. Admiral said that hundreds of factors were used by underwriters in setting car insurance, with riskier motorists paying more. Issues included the age of a driver and their postcode.
Crime

Church Elder/'Jeopardy' Champion Charged With Computer Crimes (mlive.com) 102

Stephanie Jass, a record-setting, seven-time winner on Jeopardy, has been charged with two felonies for accessing the email accounts of two executives at the college where she worked as an assistant professor. An anonymous reader quotes MLive: Jass was able to access the accounts because of an April 24 issue with the college email system, hosted by Google. Frank Hribar, vice president for enrollment and student affairs, said there was network outage caused by loss of power. On April 25, users received a text message with a generic, standard passcode: "Please attempt to login to Gmail using this password. You should be prompted to change password after login..." Not everyone, however, was prompted to do so. Some did make the change using a tutorial. Some received an error and were unable to create a new password, the timeline states. Others did not alter the password at all. The method "worked just fine, had there not been manipulation of the system," said Hribar...

Jass, 47, of Tecumseh was charged in December with unauthorized access to a computer, program or network, and using a computer to commit a crime, both felonies... On May 5, the college deactivated Jass' email account and access to all other college software. The locks to her office door were changed and her desktop computer was confiscated, according to the timeline.

The police report "indicates Jass accessed emails while using an internet network at First Presbyterian Church of Tecumseh, where she served as an elder."
Google

Project Fi Creates Its Own Version of An Unlimited Plan (theverge.com) 61

Google's Project Fi mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) has launched a new feature called Bill Protection that will cap your $10 per GB data bill at $60 a month, while still allowing you to use as much data as you want, essentially creating its own version of an unlimited data plan. The Verge reports: Prior to today, Project Fi users were charged $10 per GB no matter how much data they used, which could become quite costly for heavy users. Bill Protection should help alleviate those worries for most users. Google says those who use up to 15GB of data in a month won't experience any throttling, but if they cross that threshold -- Google says less than 1 percent of its users pass that mark -- they will "experience slower data" with speeds going down to 256kbps. If you don't want to be throttled when you pass 15GB in a month, Google says you can pay the usual $10 per GB to opt out of the slower speeds. It also noted that Bill Protection for Project Fi users on group plans will kick in at different usage levels, depending on the size of your group.
The Almighty Buck

Canadian Charged With Running LeakedSource.com, Selling Stolen Info (reuters.com) 27

A Canadian man accused of operating the LeakedSource.com website, a major repository of stolen online credentials, has been arrested and charged with trafficking in billions of stolen personal identity records, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said on Monday. From a report: The site, which was shut down in early 2017, had collected details from a string of major breaches and made them accessible and searchable for a fee. The man, 27-year-old Jordan Evan Bloom, is due to appear in a Toronto court on Monday to hear charges that as administrator of the site he collected some C$247,000 from the sale of stolen records and associated passwords.
Crime

Kansas 'Swat' Perpetrator Charged; Faces 11 More Years in Prison (latimes.com) 428

Jail time looms for 25-year-old Tyler Barriss, whose fake call to Kansas police led to a fatal shooting:
  • Barriss was charged with involuntary manslaughter, and if convicted "could face up to 11 years and three months in prison." He was also charged with making a false alarm, which is considered a felony. The District Attorney adds that others have also been identified as "potential suspects" in the case, but they're still deciding whether to charge them.
  • Friday Barriss gave his first interview to a local news outlet -- from jail. "Of course, you know, I feel a little of remorse for what happened," he tells KWCH. "I never intended for anyone to get shot and killed. I don't think during any attempted swatting anyone's intentions are for someone to get shot and killed..."

    Asked about the call, Barriss acknowledged that "It hasn't just affected my life, it's affected someone's family too. Someone lost their life. I understand the magnitude of what happened. It's not just affecting me because I'm sitting in jail. I know who it has affected. I understand all of that."
  • Barriss has also been charged in Calgary with public mischief, fraud and mischief for another false phone call, police said, though it's unlikely he'll ever be arrested unless he enters the country. Just six days before the fatal shooting, Barriss had made a nearly identical call to police officers in Canada, this time supplying the address of a well-known video gamer who livestreams on Twitch, and according to one eyewitness more than 20 police cars surrounded her apartment building for at least half an hour.

Earth

NASA Launches a Mission To Study the Border of Earth and Space (arstechnica.com) 45

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A new NASA mission, the first to hitch a ride on a commercial communications satellite, will examine Earth's upper atmosphere to see how the boundary between Earth and space changes over time. GOLD stands for Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk, and the mission will focus on the temperature and makeup of Earth's highest atmospheric layers. Along with another upcoming satellite, called ICON, GOLD will examine how weather on Earth -- and space weather caused by the sun -- affects those uppermost layers. GOLD, which will inspect the ultraviolet radiation that the upper atmosphere releases, will also be the first to take comprehensive records of that atmospheric layer's temperature. The satellite carrying GOLD will orbit 22,000 miles (35,400 kilometers) above Earth in a geostationary orbit, which means GOLD will stay fixed with respect to Earth's surface as the satellite orbits and the world turns. GOLD will pay particularly close attention to Earth's thermosphere, which is the gas that surrounds the Earth higher than 60 miles (97 km) up, and the layer called the ionosphere, which forms as radiation from the sun strips away electrons from particles to create charged ions. And although solar flares and other interactions on the sun do have a strong impact on those layers, scientists are learning that Earth's own weather has an impact on the layers, too.
HP

HP Recalls 50,000 Lithium-Ion Laptop Batteries Over Fire Risk (consumerreports.org) 41

HP announced this week that it is recalling the lithium-ion batteries in more than 50,000 laptops because of the danger of fire in cases of battery malfunction. From a report: "These batteries have the potential to overheat, posing a fire and burn hazard to customers," the company said in a statement. "For this reason, it is extremely important to check whether your battery is affected." The recall affects the battery, not the entire computer. Consumers should run HP's Validation Utility software to determine if their battery has been recalled. If the battery needs to be replaced, they should then install an update that will put the device in Battery Safe Mode, which will discharge the battery and prevent it from being charged until it's replaced. This update will allow consumers to continue using the computers safely with AC power while they wait for a new battery. The recall affects batteries sold with, or as accessories for, the following models: HP Probook 640 G2, HP ProBook 640 G3, HP ProBook 645 G2, HP ProBook 645 G3, HP ProBook 650 G2, HP ProBook 650 G3, HP ProBook 655 G2, HP ProBook 655 G3, HP ZBook 17 G3, HP ZBook 17 G4, HP ZBook Studio G3, HP x360 310 G2, HP Pavilion x360, HP ENVY m6, and HP 11 Notebook PC.
Crime

Tech Bros Bought Sex Trafficking Victims Using Amazon and Microsoft Work Emails (newsweek.com) 321

An anonymous reader writes: Newsweek's National Politics Correspondent reports on "a horny nest of prostitution 'hobbyists' at tech giants Microsoft, Amazon and other firms in Seattle," citing "hundreds" of emails "fired off by employees at major tech companies hoping to hook up with trafficked Asian women" between 2014 and 2016, "67 sent from Microsoft, 63 sent from Amazon email accounts and dozens more sent from some of Seattle's premier tech companies and others based elsewhere but with offices in Seattle, including T-Mobile and Oracle, as well as many local, smaller tech firms." Many of the emails came from a sting operation against online prostitution review boards, and were obtained through a public records request to the King County Prosecutor's Office.

"They were on their work accounts because Seattle pimps routinely asked first-time sex-buyers to prove they were not cops by sending an employee email or badge," reports Newsweek, criticizing "the widespread and often nonchalant attitude toward buying sex from trafficked women, a process made shockingly more efficient by internet technology... A study commissioned by the Department of Justice found that Seattle has the fastest-growing sex industry in the United States, more than doubling in size between 2005 and 2012. That boom correlates neatly with the boom of the tech sector there... Some of these men spent $30,000 to $50,000 a year, according to authorities." A lawyer for some of the men argues that Seattle's tech giants aren't conducting any training to increase employees' compassion for trafficked women in brothels. The director of research for a national anti-trafficking group cites the time Uber analyzed ride-sharing data and reported a correlation between high-crime neighborhoods and frequent Uber trips -- including people paying for prostitutes. "They made a map using their ride-share data, like it was a funny thing they could do with their data. It was done so flippantly."

Crime

Two Romanians Charged With Hacking Washington DC Police Surveillance Cameras Days Before Trump's Inauguration (bbc.com) 47

US prosecutors have charged two Romanians with hacking Washington DC police computers linked to surveillance cameras just days before President Donald Trump's inauguration. From a report on BBC: The pair are being held in Romania, having been arrested at Bucharest Otopeni airport on 15 December. Mihai Alexandru Isvanca, 25, and Eveline Cismaru, 28, allegedly accessed 123 outdoor surveillance cameras as part of a suspected ransomware scheme. Mr Trump was sworn in on 20 January. The US Department of Justice said the case was "of the highest priority" because of the security surrounding the presidential inauguration. The perpetrators intended to use the camera computers to send ransomware to more than 179,600 email addresses and extort money from victims, the justice department said in a statement.
Science

Flying in Airplanes Exposes People To More Radiation Than Standing Next To a Nuclear Reactor (businessinsider.com) 275

Traveling the skies by jet lifts us far from the hustle and bustle of the world below. From a report: But many flyers don't know that soaring miles above Earth also takes us out of a vital protective cocoon -- and a little closer to a place where our cells can be pummeled by radiation from colliding stars, black holes, and more. You can't see these high-energy charged particles, but at any given moment, tens of thousands of them are soaring through space and slamming into Earth's atmosphere from all directions. Also called cosmic rays or cosmic ionizing radiation, the particles are the cores of atoms, such as iron and nickel, moving at nearly light-speed. They can travel for millions of years through space before randomly hitting Earth. These rays don't pose much of a risk to humans on Earth's surface, since the planet's atmosphere and magnetic field shield us from most of the threat.
The Military

Resuming Its Annual PR Mission, NORAD Tracks Santa Claus (cnn.com) 82

An anonymous reader quotes CNN: The U.S. military command that is charged with protecting the airspace for North America is on alert this Christmas weekend for a man with a white beard and a red suit. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is tracking a sleigh and eight tiny reindeer around the world as it heads for U.S. airspace Sunday night. The public can access NORAD's official Santa Tracker to watch Santa Claus' voyage... [NOTE: The site will request access to your physical location before revealing Santa's whereabouts...]

The public can also call 1-877-HI-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) and speak live with NORAD trackers. People stuck in the car on the way to Grandmother's house, and with an OnStar subscription, can access the tracker by hitting their OnStar button... Marine Col. Bob Brodie of the 601st Air Operations Center said fighter jets will "fly along (Santa's) wing" in a "close escort," and that the center will "monitor him with our satellites and even have infrared trackers to follow Rudolph."

CNN reports NORAD first began tracking Santa in 1955 when a Sears ad misprinted the telephone number for children to call for updates on Mr. Claus's progress. "On December 24, 1955, Air Force Col. Harry Shoup was on duty, and instead of hanging up on countless children that night, Shoup checked the radar and updated the eager children on jolly old Saint Nick's location." But Gizmodo reports a different origin story: that one child had simply dialed the number incorrectly (in November), and weeks later that gave NORAD the idea for "one of the most successful military PR campaigns of the last century."

This year fifteen of the children's calls to NORAD were remotely answered by President Trump and first lady Melania.
Firefox

Firefox 57's Speed Secret? Delaying Requests from Tracking Domains (zdnet.com) 119

An anonymous reader quotes ZDNet: A Mozilla engineer has revealed one of the hidden techniques that Firefox 57 -- known as Quantum -- is using to improve page load times... It delays scripts from tracking domains, such as www.google-analytics.com. The technique was developed by Mozilla engineer Honza Bambas, who calls it "tailing". It works by delaying scripts from tracking domains when a page is actively loading and rendering...

Tailing only briefly prevents the tracking scripts loading, rather than disabling them entirely. Page load performance is improved by saving on network bandwidth and computing resources while loading a page, in a way that prioritizes site requests over tracking requests. "Requests are kept on hold only while there are site sub-resources still loading and only up to about 6 seconds. The delay is engaged only for scripts added dynamically or as async. Tracking images are always delayed. This is legal according all HTML specifications and it's assumed that well built sites will not be affected regarding functionality," explains Bambas.

Power

China Has Launched the World's First All-Electric Cargo Ship (futurism.com) 150

slash.jit writes: China has launched the world's first all-electric cargo ship. It can travel 80 kilometers (approximately 50 miles) after being charged for 2 hours. As noted by Clean Technica, 2 hours is roughly the amount of time it would take to unload the ship's cargo while docked. Oh...and Ironically, the world's first all-electric cargo ship is being used to move coal.
China Daily reports that the 230 foot long vessel is equipped with a 2,400 kWh lithium-ion battery, a cheaper and cleaner power supply. And Clean Technica notes that that battery is comprised of 1,000 individual lithium-ion packs, while "Adding enough power to carry more cargo is simply a matter of adding more battery packs."
Businesses

Patreon Hits Donors With New Fees, Angering Creators (venturebeat.com) 143

Patreon's changing their fee structure to make donors cover payment-processing fees (standardized to 2.9%) -- plus an additional 35 cents for every pledge. Long-time Slashdot reader NewtonsLaw reports that Patreon's users are furious: Despite Patreon's hype that this is a good thing for creators, few of these actually seem to agree and there's already a growing backlash on social media... many fear that their net return will be lower because the extra fees levied on patreons are causing them to either reduce the amount they pledge or withdraw completely... For those patrons supporting only a few creators the effect won't be large, but for those who make small donations to many creators this could amount to a hike of almost 40% in the amount charged to their credit cards. Without exception, all the content creators I have spoken to would have:

a) liked to have been consulted first

b) wanted the option to retain the old system where they bear the cost of the fees.

As a content creator, I've already seen quite a few of my patreons reducing their pledge and others canceling their pledges completely -- and I understand why they are doing that.

"Everyone hates Patreon's new fee," writes VentureBeat, adding "Many creators are saying it's unfair for patrons to have to pay transaction fees. In addition to that, most people support multiple creators and not just one, and they'll have to pay the extra fee for each pledge they make."

Tech journalist Bryan Lunduke is already soliciting suggestions on Twitter for an open source or Free Software solution that accepts donations from multiple payment systems, and while the change doesn't go into effect until December 18th, NewtonsLaw writes that "it's starting to look as if many content creators will be getting a slightly larger percentage of a much smaller amount as a result of this lunacy by Patreon -- something that will see them far worse off than the were before."
Bitcoin

Steam Ends Support For Bitcoin (polygon.com) 151

Valve is ending support for Steam purchases made with bitcoin, the company said today, citing "high fees and volatility" in the value of the cryptocurrency. In a statement, it said: "In the past few months we've seen an increase in the volatility in the value of Bitcoin and a significant increase in the fees to process transactions on the Bitcoin network," Valve said in a post on Steam. "For example, transaction fees that are charged to the customer by the Bitcoin network have skyrocketed this year, topping out at close to $20 a transaction last week (compared to roughly $0.20 when we initially enabled Bitcoin). Unfortunately, Valve has no control over the amount of the fee. These fees result in unreasonably high costs for purchasing games when paying with Bitcoin. The high transaction fees cause even greater problems when the value of Bitcoin itself drops dramatically."

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