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The Almighty Buck

Accenture Patents a Blockchain-Editing Tool (techweekeurope.co.uk) 80

A blockchain "produces a permanent ledger of transactions with which no one can tamper," reports TechWeekEurope. "Until now." Slashdot reader Mickeycaskill quotes their report: One of the core principles of Blockchain technology has potentially been undermined by the creation of an editing tool. The company responsible however, Accenture, says edits would only be carried out "under extraordinary circumstances to resolve human errors, accommodate legal and regulatory requirements, and address mischief and other issues, while preserving key cryptographic features..."

Accenture's move to create an editing system will no doubt be viewed by some technology observers as a betrayal of what blockchain technology is all about. But the company insisted it is needed, especially in the financial services industry... "The prototype represents a significant breakthrough for enterprise uses of blockchain technology particularly in banking, insurance and capital markets," said Accenture.

They're envisioning "permissioned" blockchain systems, "managed by designated administrators under agreed governance rules," while acknowledging that cyptocurrency remains a different environment where "immutable" record-keeping would still be essential.
Biotech

Ask Slashdot: Why Aren't Techies Improving The World? 536

Slashdot reader marmot7 isn't impressed by "the latest app that solves some made up problem. I'm impressed by apps that solve real problems..." I don't feel that developers, sys admins, finance people, even policy wonks focus on the problems that we need to solve to have a healthy functioning society. It seems like it's mostly about short-term gain and not much about making the world better. That may be just the way the market works.

Is it that there's no profit to be made in solving the most important problems? I'm puzzled by that as I would think that a good solution to an important problem could find some funding from somewhere but maybe government, for example, won't take investment risks in that way?

Is there a systematic bias that channels technology workers into more profitable careers? (Or stunning counter-examples that show technology workers are making the world a better place?) Leave your answers in the comments. Why aren't geeks doing more to improve the world?
EU

EU Finance Ministers Line Up Behind $21B Tax Ruling Against Apple (herald-dispatch.com) 302

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes the Associated Press: Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem urged Apple Saturday to "get ready" to pay up, as he and counterparts from other EU nations lined up behind a finding that the technology giant owes billions of euros due to more than a decade of improperly low taxation. Apple's bill could reach 19 billion euros ($21 billion) with interest, and both the company and Ireland, Apple's European headquarters are appealing the European Commission ruling. But on the last day of an EU finance ministers' meeting focused on ways to harmonize tax rules for international companies, Dijsselbloem told reporters that these "have an obligation to pay taxes in a fair way."

"International tax loopholes are a thing of the past," he said. Apple will have to pay back taxes both in the United States and Europe, he added, "so get ready to do that." Philip Hammond, his British counterpart, said the EU was keen "to make sure that international corporations pay the right tax at the right place. That's the fair way to do it, and we are going to make sure it happens."

Austria, France, and Italy are reportedly also watching the case closely.
AI

Baidu Open-Sources Its Deep Learning Tools (theverge.com) 27

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Amazon have all done it -- and now Baidu's doing it, too. The Chinese tech giant has open sourced one of its key machine learning tools, PaddlePaddle, offering the software up to the global community of AI researchers. Baidu's big claim for PaddlePaddle is that it's easier to use than rival programs. Like Amazon's DSSTNE and Microsoft's CNTK, PaddlePaddle offers a toolkit for deep learning, but Baidu says comparable software is designed to work in too many different situations, making it less approachable to newcomers. Xu Wei, the leader of Baidu's PaddlePaddle development, tells The Verge that a machine translation program written with Baidu's software needs only a quarter of the amount of code demanded by other deep learning tools. Baidu is hoping this ease of use will make PaddlePaddle more attractive to computer scientists, and draw attention away from machine learning tools released by Google and Facebook. Baidu says PaddlePaddle is already being used by more than 30 of its offline and online products and services, covering sectors from search to finance to health. Xu said that if one of its machine learning tools became too monopolistic, it would be like "trying to use one programming language to code all applications." Xu doesn't believe that any one company will dominate this area. "Different tools have different strengths," he said. "The deep learning ecosystem will end up having different tools optimized for different uses. Just like no programming language truly dominates software development."
Security

SWIFT Discloses More Cyber Thefts, Pressures Banks On Security (reuters.com) 30

Jim Finkle, reporting for Reuters:SWIFT, the global financial messaging system, on Tuesday disclosed new hacking attacks on its member banks as it pressured them to comply with security procedures instituted after February's high-profile $81 million heist at Bangladesh Bank. In a private letter to clients, SWIFT said that new cyber-theft attempts -- some of them successful -- have surfaced since June, when it last updated customers on a string of attacks discovered after the attack on the Bangladesh central bank. "Customers' environments have been compromised, and subsequent attempts (were) made to send fraudulent payment instructions," according to a copy of the letter reviewed by Reuters. "The threat is persistent, adaptive and sophisticated - and it is here to stay." The disclosure suggests that cyber thieves may have ramped up their efforts following the Bangladesh Bank heist, and that they specifically targeted banks with lax security procedures for SWIFT-enabled transfers. The Brussels-based firm, a member-owned cooperative, indicated in Tuesday's letter that some victims in the new attacks lost money, but did not say how much was taken or how many of the attempted hacks succeeded.
Medicine

The Big Short: Security Flaws Fuel Bet Against St. Jude (securityledger.com) 81

chicksdaddy writes: "Call it The Big Short -- or maybe just the medical device industry's 'Shot Heard Round The World': a report from Muddy Waters Research recommends that its readers bet against (or 'short') St. Jude Medical after learning of serious security vulnerabilities in a range of the company's implantable cardiac devices," The Security Ledger reports. "The Muddy Waters report on St. Jude's set off a steep sell off in St. Jude Medical's stock, which finished the day down 5%, helping to push down medical stocks overall. The report cites the 'strong possibility that close to half of STJ's revenue is about to disappear for approximately two years' as a result of 'product safety' issues stemming from remotely exploitable vulnerabilities in STJ's pacemakers, implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), and cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) devices. The vulnerabilities are linked to St. Jude's Merlin at home remote patient management platform, said Muddy Waters. The firm cited research by MedSec Holdings Ltd., a cybersecurity research firm that identified the vulnerabilities in St. Jude's ecosystem. Muddy Waters said that the affected products should be recalled until the vulnerabilities are fixed. In an e-mail statement to Security Ledger, St. Jude's Chief Technology Officer, Phil Ebeling, called the allegations 'absolutely untrue.' 'There are several layers of security measures in place. We conduct security assessments on an ongoing basis and work with external experts specifically on Merlin at home and on all our devices,' Ebeling said."

More controversial: MedSec CEO Justine Bone acknowledged in an interview with Bloomberg that her company did not first reach out to St. Jude to provide them with information on the security holes before working with Muddy Waters. Information security experts who have worked with the medical device industry to improve security expressed confusion and dismay. "If safety was the goal then I think (MedSec's) execution was poor," said Joshua Corman of The Atlantic Institute and I Am The Cavalry. "And if profit was the goal it may come at the cost of safety. It seems like a high stakes game that people may live to regret."

Businesses

Uber Loses At Least $1.2 Billion In First Half of 2016 (bloomberg.com) 156

An anonymous reader writes: The ride-hailing giant Uber Technologies Inc. is not a public company, but every three months, dozens of shareholders get on a conference call to hear the latest details on its business performance from its head of finance, Gautam Gupta. On Friday, Gupta told investors that Uber's losses mounted in the second quarter. Even in the U.S., where Uber had turned a profit during its first quarter, the company was once again losing money. In the first quarter of this year, Uber lost about $520 million before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, according to people familiar with the matter. In the second quarter the losses significantly exceeded $750 million, including a roughly $100 million shortfall in the U.S., those people said. That means Uber's losses in the first half of 2016 totalled at least $1.27 billion. "It's hardly rare for companies to lose large sums of money as they try to build significant markets and battle for market share," said Joe Grundfest, professor of law and business at Stanford. "The interesting challenge is for them to turn the corner to become profitable, cash-flow-positive entities."
Android

Verizon Offered To Install Marketers' Apps Directly On Subscribers' Phones (adage.com) 198

According to a report on AdAge, Verizon Wireless is trying to add more bloatware to Android phones by installing apps from other companies in exchange for payment. From the report: The wireless carrier has offered to install big brands' apps on its subscribers' home screens, potentially delivering millions of downloads, according to agency executives who have considered making such deals for their clients. But that reach would come at a cost: Verizon was seeking between $1 and $2 for each device affected, executives said. Verizon started courting advertisers with app installations late last year, pitching retail and finance brands among others, agency executives said. It has only offered the installations on Android phones, because Google's software is open for carriers to customize. Apple controls its platform more tightly. The proposed deals with brands ensure that their apps download to only new devices when consumers activate the phones and their software for the first time.
IT

Creator of Chatbot that Beat 160K Parking Fines Now Tackling Homelessness (theguardian.com) 93

An anonymous reader writes: The chatbot lawyer that overturned hundreds and thousands of parking tickets is now tackling another problem: homelessness. London-born Stanford student Joshua Browder created DoNotPay initially to help people appeal against fines for unpaid parking tickets. Dubbed "the world's first robot lawyer", Browder later programmed it to deal with a wider range of legal issues, such as claiming for delayed flights and trains and payment protection insurance (PPI). Now, Browder, 19, wants his chatbot to provide free legal aid to people facing homelessness. He said: "I never could have imagined a parking ticket bot would appeal so much to people. Then I realised: this issue is bigger than a few parking tickets." In an interview with the Washington Post, the 19-year-old said he decided to expand the bot's capabilities after DoNotPay began receiving messages about evictions and repossessions. In February this year tenant evictions reached the highest on record.
AI

Yahoo's New Anti-Abuse AI Outperforms Previous AI (wired.co.uk) 119

16.4% of the comments on Yahoo News are "abusive," according to human screeners. Now Yahoo has devised an abuse-detecting algorithm "that can accurately identify whether online comments contain hate speech or not," reports Wired UK: In 90 per cent of test cases Yahoo's algorithm was able to correctly identify that a comment was abusive... The company used a combination of machine learning and crowdsourced abuse detection to create an algorithm that trawled the comment sections of Yahoo News and Finance to sniff out abuse. As part of its project, Yahoo will be releasing the first publicly available curated database of online hate speech.
The machine-learning algorithm was "trained on a million Yahoo article comments," according to the article, and Slashdot reader AmiMoJo writes "The system could help AIs avoid being tricked into making abusive comments themselves, as Microsoft's Tay twitter bot did earlier this year."
Australia

Australian Census Stirs Up Storm of Privacy Concerns (buzzfeed.com) 129

An anonymous reader writes: Next week over 20 million Australians will take part in a mandatory government census. While such data-gathering exercises are usually uncontroversial, some significant changes to the process of collecting the 2016 data -- and in particular the way in which personally-identifying information will be retained for long periods (possibly indefinintely) -- have left many privacy advocates and others calling for a mass boycott. The Australian government's response has been to try to calm fears by promising that it will secure the census data, keep personally identifying data separate from statistical data, and only use each in a responsible way. It has, at the same time reminded Australian citizens that the fines for non-participation in the census have recently been radically increased (now $1800 for failure to submit a form; or $180/day for late submissions).Further reading: Australians threaten to take leave of their census.
Mars

NASA's 'Journey To Mars' Initiative Might Be Delayed Due To Government Audit (natureworldnews.com) 65

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Christian Science Monitor: NASA has taken bold steps toward crewed Mars exploration in recent years. But according to a new audit, the agency may be moving too hastily. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) expressed concerns this past week about the feasibility of NASA's Orion crew capsule and Space Launch System (SLS). In two government-requested audits, the GAO questioned NASA's ability to meet program deadlines, citing insufficient funding and internal management issues. According to the GAO, however, the agency's schedule just isn't realistic. By pushing for earlier launch dates, NASA is increasing the inherent risk of a deep space mission. NASA's budgeting practices are also scrutinized in GAO's audit. In September, the agency asked for $11.3 billion to prepare Orion for launch. "Ideally, if these programs go forward, NASA would be taking actions to reduce the risks we see now, which are being caused by management issues," says Cristina Chaplain, who led the GOA audit, in an interview with the Monitor. "They're going to face the technical issues no matter what. But they're exacerbating them with management concerns, like not having accurate cost estimates." The report adds: "NASA's 'Journey to Mars' initiative has been a source of both excitement and controversy. The Asteroid Redirect Mission, in which the agency will send four astronauts to redirect an asteroid into the moon's orbit, is slated to launch sometime in the next decade. The mission is designed to test new propulsion technology for future crewed Mars missions. In the 2030s, NASA hopes to send an Orion crew to the red planet. NASA plans to complete the first SLS launch in 2018. In the test mission, called Exploration Mission 1, the rocket will carry an empty Orion into orbit around the moon. In subsequent missions, SLS/Orion will launch with a full crew. NASA has scheduled Exploration Mission 2 for April 2023, but administrators hope to launch as early as 2021."
United States

The Chip Card Transition In the US Has Been a Disaster (qz.com) 675

Ian Kar, writing for Quartz: Over the last year or so in the U.S., a lot of the plastic credit cards we carry around every day have been replaced by new one with chips embedded in them. The chips are supposed to make your credit and debit cards more secure -- a good thing! -- but there's one little secret no one wants to admit: The U.S.'s transition to chip cards has been an utter disaster. They're confusing to use, painstakingly slow, less secure than the alternatives, and aren't even the best solution for consumers. If you've shopped in a store and used a credit card, you've noticed the change. Retailers have likely asked you to insert the chip into the card reader, instead of swiping. But reading the chip seems to take much longer than just swiping. And on top of that, even though many retailers now have chip reading machines, some of them ask us just the opposite -- they say not to insert the card, and just swipe. It seems like there's no rhyme or reason to the whole thing.
The Almighty Buck

Millennials Are Obsessed With Side Hustles Because 'They're All' They've Got (qz.com) 351

Quartz ran an article over the weekend which captures a growing trend among millennials: to have a side job -- or as many of them call it, the "side-hustle." One of the reasons that people need this other gig is obviously money, but there are other factors at play as well. From the article: The side hustle offers something worth much more than money: A hedge against feeling stuck and dull and cheated by life. This psychological benefit is the real reason for the Millennial obsession, I'd argue, and why you might want to consider finding your own side hustle, no matter how old you are. Now one might say that this "side-hustle" is not a new phenomenon at all. People have since forever have had multiple jobs to make the ends meet. But the author argues that in the post 2008-crisis, we have witnessed a whole generation where one gig would simply not cut it all for many. The article adds: Previous generations have also coped with such semi-tragedy; probably every human ever has been a sort of actor-waiter at some point. In any case, those of us who are employed generally understand ourselves to be lucky. Working as a benefits administrator, an ad-sales rep or even a Facebook engineer might not be the dream job. But your side hustle can keep you from feeling pigeonholed. It's the distraction from your disappointment, a bridge between crass realities and your compelling inner life. In the best-case scenario, your side hustle can be like a lottery ticket, offering the possibility -- however remote -- that you just might hit the jackpot and discover that holy grail of gigs. The one that perfectly blends money and love. The one that's coming along any day now.
Businesses

MasterCard Is Buying the Core of the British Payments Infrastructure (fortune.com) 27

Mastercard has agreed to purchase a controlling stake in VocalLink, the payments processor that handles most payroll and household bill processing in the UK. The American payment giant will be paying up to $1.14 billion. Fortune reports: According to MasterCard MA, the deal would create "the first true combination of the traditional person-to-merchant cards business with a clearing business." That is, of course, presuming it clears regulatory scrutiny. VocaLink runs Link, the network that provides interoperability between British ATMs, as well as BACS, the clearing house for payments between bank accounts, and Faster Payments, the inter-bank transfer system for Internet and telephone-based payments.FastCompany explains what this could mean for MasterCard users.
Privacy

'The Hillary Leaks' - Wikileaks Releases 19,252 Previously Unseen DNC Emails (zerohedge.com) 461

Reader schwit1 writes: The state department's release of Hillary emails may be over, but that of Wikileaks is just starting. Moments ago, Julian Assange's whistleblower organization released over 19,000 emails and more than 8,000 attachments from the Democratic National Committee. This is part one of their new Hillary Leaks series, Wikileaks said in press release.:"Today, Friday 22 July 2016 at 10:30am EDT, WikiLeaks releases 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments from the top of the US Democratic National Committee -- part one of our new Hillary Leaks series. The leaks come from the accounts of seven key figures in the DNC: Communications Director Luis Miranda (10770 emails), National Finance Director Jordon Kaplan (3797 emails), Finance Chief of Staff Scott Comer (3095 emails), Finance Director of Data & Strategic Initiatives Daniel Parrish (1472 emails), Finance Director Allen Zachary (1611 emails), Senior Advisor Andrew Wright (938 emails) and Northern California Finance Director Robert (Erik) Stowe (751 emails). The emails cover the period from January last year until 25 May this year."
The emails released Friday cover a period from January 2015 to May 2016. They purportedly come from the accounts of seven key DNC staffers: Andrew Wright, Jordon Kaplan, Scott Comer, Luis Miranda, Robert Stowe, Daniel Parrish and Allen Zachary.

A quick scan of the emails focus on Bernie Sanders and dealing with the fallout of many Democrats opposing Hillary Clinton and calling the system "rigged." Many of the emails exchanged between top DNC officials are simply the text of news articles concerning how establishment democrats can "deal" with the insurgent left-winger.
Update: 07/22 17:41 GMT by M :Guccifer 2.0 has claimed responsibility for the leak.
Movies

'The Wolf of Wall Street' Movie Was Financed With Stolen Money, Says DOJ (nydailynews.com) 160

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NY Daily News: Federal officials charged a $3.5 billion Malaysian money-laundering scheme helped finance the Leonardo DiCaprio movie "Wolf of Wall Street" -- the Hollywood tale that parallels the corruption charges. U.S. officials seek to recover $1.3 billion of the missing funds, including profits from the Martin Scorsese-directed movie that earned five Oscar nominations. The conspirators used some of their illicit cash to fund Scorsese's tale of "a corrupt stockbroker who tried to hide his own illicit profits in a perceived foreign safe haven," said U.S. Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell. DiCaprio famously played the lead role of convicted fraudster Jordan Belfort, who was ordered to repay $110 million to 1,500 victims of his scam. The identified conspirators included movie producer Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz, the prime minister's stepson, and businessman Low Taek John, a friend of Najib's family. A third scammer identified only as "Malaysian Official 1" was widely believed to be Najib. Court papers indicated that $681 million from a 2013 bond sale went directly into the official's private account. The nation's attorney-general, Mohamed Apandi, came to Najib's defense Thursday, expressing his "strong concerns at the insinuations and allegations" brought against the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). Apandi's office, after investigating the $681 million bank deposit, announced in January that the funds were a donation from the Saudi royal family. The prime minister wound up returning most of the cash. Federal officials, in their California court filing, indicated they were hoping to seize proceeds from the 2013 movie, along with luxury properties in New York and California, artwork by Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet, and a $35 million private jet. Investigations of 1MDB are already underway in Switzerland and Singapore, with officials in the latter announcing Thursday that they had seized assets worth $176 million. This is shaping up to be the largest U.S. Justice Department asset recovery action in history.
DRM

EFF Is Suing the US Government To Invalidate the DMCA's DRM Provisions (boingboing.net) 93

Cory Doctorow, writes for BoingBoing: The Electronic Frontier Foundation has just filed a lawsuit that challenges the Constitutionality of Section 1201 of the DMCA, the "Digital Rights Management" provision of the law, a notoriously overbroad law that bans activities that bypass or weaken copyright access-control systems, including reconfiguring software-enabled devices (making sure your IoT light-socket will accept third-party lightbulbs; tapping into diagnostic info in your car or tractor to allow an independent party to repair it) and reporting security vulnerabilities in these devices. EFF is representing two clients in its lawsuit: Andrew "bunnie" Huang, a legendary hardware hacker whose NeTV product lets users put overlays on DRM-restricted digital video signals; and Matthew Green, a heavyweight security researcher at Johns Hopkins who has an NSF grant to investigate medical record systems and whose research plans encompass the security of industrial firewalls and finance-industry "black boxes" used to manage the cryptographic security of billions of financial transactions every day. Both clients reflect the deep constitutional flaws in the DMCA, and both have standing to sue the US government to challenge DMCA 1201 because of its serious criminal provisions (5 years in prison and a $500K fine for a first offense).Doctorow has explained aspects of this for The Guardian today. You should also check Huang's blog post on this.
Security

DARPA Will Stage an AI Fight in Las Vegas For DEF CON (yahoo.com) 89

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: "A bunch of computers will try to hack each other in Vegas for a $2 million prize," reports Tech Insider calling it a "historic battle" that will coincide with "two of the biggest hacking conferences, Blackhat USA and DEFCON". DARPA will supply seven teams with a supercomputer. Their challenge? Create an autonomous A.I. system that can "hunt for security vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit to attack a computer, create a fix that patches that vulnerability and distribute that patch -- all without any human interference."

"The idea here is to start a technology revolution," said Mike Walker, DARPA's manager for the Cyber Grand Challenge contest. Yahoo Tech notes that it takes an average of 312 days before security vulnerabilities are discovered -- and 24 days to patch it. "if all goes well, the CGC could mean a future where you don't have to worry about viruses or hackers attacking your computer, smartphone or your other connected devices. At a national level, this technology could help prevent large-scale attacks against things like power plants, water supplies and air-traffic infrastructure.

It's being billed as "the world's first all-machine hacking tournament," with a prize of $2 million for the winner, while the second and third place tem will win $1 million and $750,000.
Bug

Programming Bug Costs Citigroup $7M After Legit Transactions Mistaken For Test Data For 15 Years (theregister.co.uk) 135

An anonymous reader shares a report on The Register:A programming blunder in its reporting software has led to Citigroup being fined $7m. According to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), that error [PDF] resulted in the financial regulator being sent incomplete "blue sheet" information for a remarkable 15 years -- from May 1999 to April 2014. The mistake was discovered by Citigroup itself when it was asked to send a large but precise chunk of trading data to the SEC in April 2014 and asked its technical support team to help identify which internal ID numbers they should run a request on. That team quickly noticed that some branches' trades were not being included in the automated system and alerted those above them. Four days later a patch was in place, but it wasn't until eight months later that the company received a formal report noting that the error had affected SEC reports going back more than a decade. The next month, January 2015, Citigroup fessed up to the SEC.The glitch resided in new alphanumeric branch codes that the bank had introduced in the mid-1990s. The program code filtered out any transactions that were given three-digit branch codes from 089 to 100 and used those prefixes for testing purposes. The report adds, "But in 1998, the company started using alphanumeric branch codes as it expanded its business. Among them were the codes 10B, 10C and so on, which the system treated as being within the excluded range, and so their transactions were removed from any reports sent to the SEC."

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