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Submission + - Perhaps the Best Feature Ever Comes to Chrome: Per Site Audio Muting! (vortex.com) 1

Lauren Weinstein writes: Tired of sites that blare obnoxious audio at you from autoplay ads or other videos, often from background tabs, sometimes starting long after you’ve moved other tabs to the foreground? Aren’t these among the most disgustingly annoying of sites? Want to put them in their place at last?

Of course you do ...

Submission + - ISPs Won't Promise To Treat All Traffic Equally After Net Neutrality (theverge.com)

An anonymous reader writes: The FCC voted to put an end to net neutrality, giving internet providers free rein to deliver service at their own discretion. There’s really only one condition here: internet providers will have to disclose their policies regarding “network management practices, performance, and commercial terms.” So if ISPs want to block websites, throttle your connection, or charge certain websites more, they’ll have to admit it. We’re still too far out to know exactly what disclosures all the big ISPs are going to make — the rules (or lack thereof) don’t actually go into effect for another few months — but many internet providers have been making statements throughout the year about their stance on net neutrality, which ought to give some idea of where they’ll land. We reached out to 10 big or notable ISPs to see what their stances are on three core tenets of net neutrality: no blocking, no throttling, and no paid prioritization. Not all of them answered, and the answers we did get are complicated. [The Verge reached out to Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, Charter (Spectrum), Cox, Altice USA (Optimum and SuddenLink), and Google and Google Fiber.]

Many ISPs say they support some or all of these core rules, but there’s a big caveat there: for six of the past seven years, there have been net neutrality rules in place at the FCC. That means all of the companies we checked with have had to abide by the no blocking, no throttling, and no paid prioritization rules. It means that they can say, and be mostly correct in saying, that they’ve long followed those rules. But it is, on some level, because they’ve had to. What actually matters is which policies ISPs say they’ll keep in the future, and few are making commitments about that. In fact, all of the companies we contacted (with the exception of Google) have supported the FCC’s plan to remove the current net neutrality rules. None of the ISPs we contacted will make a commitment — or even a comment — on paid fast lanes and prioritization. And this is really where we expect to see problems: ISPs likely won’t go out and block large swaths of the web, but they may start to give subtle advantages to their own content and the content of their partners, slowly shaping who wins and loses online.

Cloud

Trump Administration Calls For Government IT To Adopt Cloud Services (reuters.com) 208

According to Reuters, The White House said Wednesday the U.S. government needs a major overhaul of information technology systems and should take steps to better protect data and accelerate efforts to use cloud-based technology. The report outlined a timeline over the next year for IT reforms and a detailed implementation plan. One unnamed cloud-based email provider has agreed to assist in keeping track of government spending on cloud-based email migration. From the report: The report said the federal government must eliminate barriers to using commercial cloud-based technology. "Federal agencies must consolidate their IT investments and place more trust in services and infrastructure operated by others," the report found. Government agencies often pay dramatically different prices for the same IT item, the report said, sometimes three or four times as much. A 2016 U.S. Government Accountability Office report estimated the U.S. government spends more than $80 billion on IT annually but said spending has fallen by $7.3 billion since 2010. In 2015, there were at least 7,000 separate IT investments by the U.S. government. The $80 billion figure does not include Defense Department classified IT systems and 58 independent executive branch agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency. The GAO report found some agencies are using systems that have components that are at least 50 years old.
Open Source

Avast Launches Open-Source Decompiler For Machine Code (techspot.com) 113

Greg Synek reports via TechSpot: To help with the reverse engineering of malware, Avast has released an open-source version of its machine-code decompiler, RetDec, that has been under development for over seven years. RetDec supports a variety of architectures aside from those used on traditional desktops including ARM, PIC32, PowerPC and MIPS. As Internet of Things devices proliferate throughout our homes and inside private businesses, being able to effectively analyze the code running on all of these new devices becomes a necessity to ensure security. In addition to the open-source version found on GitHub, RetDec is also being provided as a web service.

Simply upload a supported executable or machine code and get a reasonably rebuilt version of the source code. It is not possible to retrieve the exact original code of any executable compiled to machine code but obtaining a working or almost working copy of equivalent code can greatly expedite the reverse engineering of software. For any curious developers out there, a REST API is also provided to allow third-party applications to use the decompilation service. A plugin for IDA disassembler is also available for those experienced with decompiling software.

AT&T

AT&T Begins Testing High-Speed Internet Over Power Lines (reuters.com) 119

AT&T has started trials to deliver high-speed internet over power lines. The company announced the news on Wednesday and said that trials have started in Georgia state and a non-U.S. location. Reuters reports: AT&T aims to eventually deliver speeds faster than the 1 gigabit per second consumers can currently get through fiber internet service using high-frequency airwaves that travel along power lines. While the Georgia trial is in a rural area, the service could potentially be deployed in suburbs and cities, the company said in a statement. AT&T said it had no timeline for commercial deployment and that it would look to expand trials as it develops the technology.

"We think this product is eventually one that could actually serve anywhere near a power line," said Marachel Knight, AT&T's senior vice president of wireless network architecture and design, in an interview. She added that AT&T chose an international trial location in part because the market opportunity extends beyond the United States.

Submission + - Author of BrickerBot Malware Retires. Says He Bricked 10 Million IoT Devices (bleepingcomputer.com)

An anonymous reader writes: The author of BrickerBot, the malware that bricks IoT devices, has announced his retirement in an email to Bleeping Computer, also claiming to have bricked over 10 million devices since he started the "Internet Chemotherapy" project in November 2016. Similar to the authors of the Mirai malware, the BrickerBot developer dumped his malware's source code online, allowing other crooks to profit from his code. The code is said to contain at least one zero-day.

In a farewell message left on hundreds of hacked routers, the BrickerBot author also published a list of incidents (ISP downtimes) he caused, while also admitting he is likely to have drawn the attention of law enforcement agencies.

"There's also only so long that I can keep doing something like this before the government types are able to correlate my likely network routes (I have already been active for far too long to remain safe). For a while now my worst-case scenario hasn't been going to jail, but simply vanishing in the middle of the night as soon as some unpleasant government figures out who I am," the hacker said.

Submission + - Robots Are Being Used To Shoo Away Homeless People In San Francisco (qz.com)

An anonymous reader writes: San Francisco's Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) has been ordered by the city to stop using a robot to patrol the sidewalks outside its office, the San Francisco Business Times reported Dec. 8. The robot, produced by Silicon Valley startup Knightscope, was used to ensure that homeless people didn’t set up camps outside of the nonprofit’s office. It autonomously patrols a set area using a combination of Lidar and other sensors, and can alert security services of potentially criminal activity.

In a particularly dystopian move, it seems that the San Francisco SPCA adorned the robot it was renting with stickers of cute kittens and puppies, according to Business Insider, as it was used to shoo away the homeless from near its office. San Francisco recently voted to cut down on the number of robots that roam the streets of the city, which has seen an influx of small delivery robots in recent years. The city said it would issue the SPCA a fine of $1,000 per day for illegally operating on a public right-of-way if it continued to use the security robot outside its premises, the San Francisco Business Times said.

Security

Maker of Sneaky Mac Adware Sends Security Researcher Cease-and-Desist Letters (zdnet.com) 87

Zack Whittaker, writing for ZDNet: The maker of a sneaky adware that hijacks a user's browser to serve ads is back with a new, more advanced version -- one that can gain root privileges and spy on the user's activities. News of the updated adware dropped Tuesday in a lengthy write-up by Amit Serper, principal security researcher at Cybereason. The adware, dubbed OSX.Pirrit, is still highly active, infecting tens of thousands of Macs, according to Serper, who has tracked the malware and its different versions for over a year. Serper's detailed write-up is well worth the read. [...] TargetingEdge sent cease-and-desist letters to try to prevent Serper from publishing his research. "We've received several letters over the past two weeks," Serper told ZDNet. "We decided to publish anyway because we're sick of shady 'adware' companies and their threats."
Businesses

Uber's Massive Scraping Program Collected Data About Competitors Around The World (gizmodo.com) 29

Kate Conger, reporting for Gizmodo: For years, Uber systemically scraped data from competing ride-hailing companies all over the world, harvesting information about their technology, drivers, and executives. Uber gathered information from these firms using automated collection systems that ran constantly, amassing millions of records, and sometimes conducted physical surveillance to complement its data collection. Uber's scraping efforts were spearheaded by the company's Marketplace Analytics team, while the Strategic Services Group gathered information for security purposes, Gizmodo learned from three people familiar with the operations of these teams, from court testimony, and from internal Uber documents. Until Uber's data scraping was discontinued this September in the face of mounting litigation and multiple federal investigations, Marketplace Analytics gathered information on Uber's overseas competitors in an attempt to advance Uber's position in those markets. SSG's mission was to protect employees, executives, and drivers from violence, which sometimes involved tracking protesters and other groups that were considered threatening to Uber. An Uber spokesperson declined to comment for this story.

Submission + - Public Lab's v4.0 DIY open hardware spectrometer is made of Lego (publiclab.org)

jywarren writes: Public Lab has been making and distributing DIY, open source spectrometers since 2011, and have been through 4 major kit versions and hundreds of different community contributed modifications, new versions, changes, and more. The latest version, announced today, is the Lego Spectrometer.

Submission + - 32 Tesla reached in all superconducting magnet (nationalmaglab.org)

ElGuapo2872 writes: TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Long in the habit of smashing records, the National MagLab just chalked up a new one. On Dec. 8, a ground-breaking superconducting magnet designed and built at the lab reached a magnetic field of 32 teslas (a unit of magnetic field strength), a third stronger than the previous record and more than 3,000 times stronger than a small refrigerator magnet.

The feat is important for the new scientific discoveries it will enable and the even stronger superconducting magnets its technology foreshadows.

Made of a combination of conventional “low-temperature” and novel “high-temperature” superconductors, the “32 T” will allow physicists studying materials to explore how electrons interact with each other and their atomic environment, enabling new devices that will shape our world.

YBCO insert for 32T.
The 32 T’s two YBCO coils before being integrated with the low-temperature outer magnet.

For decades, the world record for a superconducting magnet has inched forward incrementally. This single leap is bigger than all the improvements made over the past 40 years combined.

"This is a transformational step in magnet technology, a true revolution in the making," said MagLab Director Greg Boebinger. “Not only will this state-of-the-art magnet design allow us to offer new experimental techniques here at the lab, but it will boost the power of other scientific tools such as X-rays and neutron scattering around the world.”

It has been a remarkable year for the MagLab, noted Boebinger: The 32 T is the third world-record magnet tested in the past 13 months, following a 41.4-tesla resistive magnet tested last summer and the 36-tesla Series Connected Hybrid magnet that reached full field in November 2016.

“We’re on a roll,” said Boebinger.

The new magnet represents a milestone in high-temperature superconductivity, a phenomenon that made a tremendous stir in the science community when it was first discovered 31 years ago.

Superconductors are materials that conduct electricity with perfect efficiency (unlike copper, in which electrons encounter lots of friction). So-called “low-temperature” superconductors, discovered a century ago, work only in extremely cold environments and generally stop working inside magnetic fields higher than about 25 teslas. That constraint has limited the strength of superconducting magnets.

But in 1986 scientists discovered the first high-temperature superconductors, which not only work at warmer temperatures but — more importantly for magnet designers and scientists — also keep working in very high magnetic fields.

Three decades later, the new 32-tesla magnet is one of the first major applications to come out of that Nobel Prize-winning discovery.

Installing the 32-telsa magnet.
The 32 T is lowered into its cryostat, which keeps the instrument at a very cold operating temperature.

The 32 T was built using low-temperature superconductors made by industry partner Oxford Instruments and a high-temperature superconductor called YBCO, composed of yttrium, barium, copper and oxygen, made by SuperPower Inc. MagLab scientists and engineers worked for years to develop the tricky material, which is electrically and mechanically completely different than low-temperature superconductors. New techniques had to be developed for insulating, reinforcing and de-energizing the system.

For all its record-breaking impact, the 32 T is just the beginning, said MagLab engineer Huub Weijers, who oversaw its construction.

"We've opened up an enormous new realm," said Weijers. "I don't know what that limit is, but it's beyond 100 teslas. The required materials exist. It's just technology and dollars that are between us and 100 teslas."

As a superconducting magnet, the 32 T features a very stable, homogenous field suitable for sensitive experiments. Combining strength and stability, it offers researchers the best of both worlds.

"The new system, and the magnets that will follow, will give scientists access to insights never before possible," said physicist Laura Greene, the MagLab's chief scientist. "We expect it to break new ground in a variety of research areas. Physicists are especially excited about advances in quantum matter, which features new and technologically important ultra-thin materials, as well as exotic new states of matter in topological materials and complex magnetic materials.”

Eight years in the making, the new instrument is expected to be available to visiting scientists in the next year. As with all magnets at the lab, scientists from across the world can apply to use it to explore new physics, chemistry and biology related to materials, health and energy. Through funding provided by the National Science Foundation and the State of Florida, researchers are able to do their experiments here for free. Scientists interested in learning more about the 32 T’s capabilities or applying to use it should contact DC Field Facility Director Tim Murphy.

Comment Who stands to win? (Score 2, Interesting) 254

Who stands to win by the Balkanization of the World's most stable organizations? When the EU, NATO, the USA and other large/multi-national organizations fall, Russia, still smarting from the fall of the USSR, can rise in prominence. Putin already tried putting Humpty back together, tearing down everyone else is a parallel strategy.

Facebook

Russia-Linked Accounts Were Active on Facebook Ahead of Brexit (ft.com) 254

The Russia-linked troll farm that used Facebook to target Americans during last year's election was also active in the UK ahead of the Brexit vote (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source), the social media company has admitted. From a report: In a letter to the Electoral Commission, Facebook said accounts associated with the Internet Research Agency spent $0.97 for three ads in the days before the EU referendum. These ads appeared on approximately 200 news feeds in the UK before the country voted to leave the EU last year. For months the social media company has sidestepped questions from MPs and journalists about Russian interference through its platform in the UK. The concerns were fuelled by revelations this summer that Facebook had been weaponised by Russian entities before the election of US President Donald Trump. France and Germany have said their elections were also targeted. "We strongly support the Commission's efforts to regulate and enforce political campaign finance rules in the United Kingdom, and we take the Commission's request very seriously," Facebook said in the letter.

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