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Communications

Fake News Prompts Gunman To 'Self-Investigate' Pizza Parlor (arstechnica.com) 641

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A rifle-wielding North Carolina man was arrested Sunday in Washington, DC for carrying his weapon into a pizzeria that sits at the center of the fake news conspiracy theory known as "Pizzagate," authorities said Monday. DC's Metropolitan Police Department said it had arrested 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch on allegations of assault with a dangerous weapon. "During a post arrest interview this evening, the suspect revealed that he came to the establishment to self-investigate 'Pizza Gate' (a fictitious online conspiracy theory," the agency said in a statement. "Pizzagate" concerns a baseless conspiracy theory about a secret pedophile group, the Comet Ping Pong restaurant, and Hillary Clinton's campaign chief, John Podesta. The Pizzagate conspiracy names Comet Ping Pong as the secret headquarters of a non-existent child sex-trafficking ring run by Clinton and members of her inner circle. James Alefantis, the restaurant's owner, said he has received hundreds of death threats. According to Buzzfeed, the Pizzagate theory is believed to have been fostered by a white supremacist's tweets, the 4chan message board, Reddit, Donald Trump supporters, and right-wing blogs. The day before Thanksgiving, Reddit banned a "Pizzagate" conspiracy board from the site because of a policy about posting personal information of others. Alefantis, the pizzeria's owner, told CNN, "What happened today demonstrates that promoting false and reckless conspiracy theories comes with consequences. I hope that those involved in fanning these flames will take a moment to contemplate what happened here today, and stop promoting these falsehoods right away."
Transportation

'DroneGun' Can Take Down Aircraft From Over 1.2 Miles Away (thenextweb.com) 147

The more drones being sold around the world increases the likelihood of them being used as part of a criminal act. For example, ISIS has been using drones in Iraq to carry and drop explosives. In an effort to protect consumers, an Australian and U.S. company called DroneShield has announced a product called the DroneGun. The DroneGun "allows for a controlled management of drone payload, such as explosives, with no damage to common drone models or the surrounding environment," the maker says on its website, "due to the drones generally responding via a vertical controlled landing on the spot, or returning back to the starting point (assisting to track the operator)." The Next Web reports: DroneGun, a handheld anti-drone device, has a range of 1.2 miles. It also looks like an unlockable item in a first-person shooter. The "gun" uses a jammer to disable electronic communication across the 2.4 and 5.8 GHz frequencies. Blocking these frequencies cuts off communication between the drone and pilot (or GPS) and forces it to land safely or return to its operator -- which assists in tracking the offending party. At 13 pounds, it's a bit cumbersome, but still capable of being operated by one person. It's also mostly a point-and-shoot device and doesn't require specialized training to use. DroneGun isn't approved for use in the United States -- thanks, FCC. If approved the device could provide a useful tool for taking down drones at airports, over crowded spaces, and in war zones.
Government

Peter Thiel Is Joining Donald Trump's Transition Team (theverge.com) 820

Peter Thiel's time spent campaigning for Donald Trump during the election season has paid off. According to a statement released today, Donald Trump has named Thiel to the executive committee of his presidential transition team. The Verge reports: Thiel, who donated $1.25 million to Trump's campaign late in the election cycle, mostly stood alone among colleagues in his support for Trump, who was publicly disdained in the Valley. Thiel's support came at a cost to businesses like startup accelerator Y Combinator, which soon attracted negative publicity for having Thiel as a part-time adviser. Thiel also brought criticism to Facebook, where he is a board member, although Mark Zuckerberg defended his place at the company. Thiel further angered First Amendment supporters by bankrolling the Hulk Hogan lawsuit that brought down Gawker. Thiel said before the election that he would find some way of working with the Trump administration, and although his final role is unclear, his appointment to Trump's executive committee signals the relationship will indeed continue.
Government

FBI Operated 23 Tor-Hidden Child Porn Sites, Deployed Malware From Them (arstechnica.com) 176

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Federal investigators temporarily seized a Tor-hidden site known as Playpen in 2015 and operated it for 13 days before shutting it down. The agency then used a "network investigative technique" (NIT) as a way to ensnare site users. However, according to newly unsealed documents recently obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union, the FBI not only temporarily took over one Tor-hidden child pornography website in order to investigate it, the organization was in fact authorized to run a total of 23 other such websites. According to an FBI affidavit among the unsealed documents: "In the normal course of the operation of a web site, a user sends "request data" to the web site in order to access that site. While Websites 1-23 operate at a government facility, such request data associated with a user's actions on Websites 1-23 will be collected. That data collection is not a function of the NIT. Such request data can be paired with data collected by the NIT, however, in order to attempt to identify a particular user and to determine that particular user's actions on Websites 1-23." Security researcher Sarah Jamie Lewis told Ars that "it's a pretty reasonable assumption" that at one point the FBI was running roughly half of the known child porn sites hosted on Tor-hidden servers. Lewis runs OnionScan, an ongoing bot-driven analysis of the Tor-hidden darknet. Her research began in April 2016, and it shows that as of August 2016, there were 29 unique child porn related sites on Tor-hidden servers. That NIT, which many security experts have dubbed as malware, used a Tor exploit of some kind to force the browser to return the user's actual IP address, operating system, MAC address, and other data. As part of the operation that took down Playpen, the FBI was then able to identify and arrest the nearly 200 child porn suspects. (However, nearly 1,000 IP addresses were revealed as a result of the NIT's deployment, which could suggest that even more charges may be filed.)
Security

Computer Virus Attack Forces Hospitals To Cancel Operations, Shut Down Systems (zdnet.com) 127

A hospital system in the United Kingdom has canceled all planned operations and diverted major trauma cases to neighboring facilities citing a computer virus outbreak. From a report on ZDNet: The Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust says a "major incident" has been caused by a "computer virus" which infected its electronic systems on Sunday. As a result of the attack, the hospital has taken the decision to shut down the majority of its computer networks in order to combat the virus. "A virus infected our electronic systems [on Sunday] and we have taken the decision, following expert advice, to shut down the majority of our systems so we can isolate and destroy it," said Dr Karen Dunderdale, the trust's deputy chief executive. The use of a shared IT system also means the United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust has been taken offline as staff attempt to combat the attack. As a result of the attack, all outpatient appointments and diagnostic procedures that were set to take place at the infected hospitals on Monday and Tuesday have been canceled, while medical emergencies involving major trauma and women in high-risk labor are being diverted to neighboring hospitals.
IOS

Apple's New MacBook Pro Requires a $25 Dongle To Charge Your iOS Device (networkworld.com) 347

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Network World: As Phil Schiller explained during today's event, Apple's new MacBook Pros feature four Thunderbolt 3 USB Type-C ports, and conveniently, each of these can be used to charge the machine. Now, USB-C is incredibly versatile, and Apple will use the advanced port for power charging, HDMI and much more. However, with USB-C the only game in town, you might reasonably be wondering: How in the world do I connect my iPhone to my sleek new MacBook Pro? The frustrating answer is that you won't be able to do so out of the box. Instead, you'll have to buy a dongle. This is especially frustrating because many people use their notebooks for a) charging purposes when an outlet isn't necessarily handy and b) for transferring photos and other data. Now, you might reasonably state that you can just rely upon the cloud for items like data transfer, but there's no getting around the fact that Apple's efforts in the cloud still leave much to be desired. How much will it cost to connect your iPhone to your brand new MacBook Pro? Well, Apple sells a USB-C to Lightning cable on its website for $25. While this is undoubtedly frustrating, we can't say that it's entirely unexpected given Apple gave us a preview of its preference for USB-C when it released its 12-in. MacBook last year. Still, it's a funky design choice for a decidedly Pro-oriented device where the last thing a prospective consumer would want to do is spend some extra cash for a dongle after spending upwards of $2,399. Lastly, while we're on the topic of ports, it's worth noting that the new MacBook Pros also do away with the beloved MagSafe connector.
Hardware

No One Is Buying Smartwatches Anymore (gizmodo.com) 330

An anonymous reader shares a Gizmodo report: Remember how smartwatches were supposed to be the next big thing? About that... The market intelligence firm IDC reported on Monday that smartwatch shipments are down 51.6 percent year-over-year for the third quarter of 2016. This is bad news for all smartwatch vendors (except maybe Garmin), but it's especially bad for Apple, which saw shipments drop 71.6 percent, according to the IDC report Apple is still the overall smartwatch market leader, with an estimated 41.3-percent of the market, but IDC estimates it shipped only 1.1 million Apple Watches in Q3 2016, compared with 3.9 million in 2015. To a degree, that's to be expected, since the new Apple Watch Series 2 came out at the tail-end of the quarter. But the news is still a blow, when you consider how huge the Apple Watch hype was just 18 months ago.
IT

XPrize's New Challenge: Turn Air Into Water, Make More Than a Million Dollars (cnet.com) 156

An anonymous reader shares a CNET report: If you can turn thin air into water, there may be more than $1 million in it for you. XPrize, which creates challenges that pit the brightest minds against one another, is hoping to set off a wave of new innovations in clean water -- and women's safety too. The company announced its Water Abundance XPrize and the Anu & Naveen Jain Women's Safety XPrize on Monday in New Delhi. The first competition will award $1.75 million to any team that can create a device able to produce at least 2,000 liters of water a day from the atmosphere, using completely renewable energy, for at most 2 cents a liter. Teams have up to two years to complete the challenge. India is at the center of the world's water crisis, with access to groundwater depleted in some northern and eastern parts of the country. Water has become so scarce in India that natural arsenic has infiltrated the soil and water in certain regions. While there are systems that can currently extract water from the atmosphere, many of them aren't energy-efficient, or generating enough water. "We know that overuse of groundwater resources are causing the water crisis and it's only getting worse," said Zenia Tata, XPrize's executive director of Global Expansion. The $1 million Women's Safety XPrize calls for an emergency alert system that women can use, even if they don't have access to their phones. The alert would have to be sent automatically and inconspicuously to emergency responders, within 90 seconds, at a cost of $40 or less a year. The device would have to work even in cases where there's no cellphone signal or internet access.
Microsoft

Microsoft Raises UK Cloud, Software Prices 22% After Brexit-Fuelled Pound Drop (techweekeurope.co.uk) 214

Reader Mickeycaskill writes: Microsoft is to substantially increase its prices for software and cloud services prices offered in British pounds in order to accommodate the sharp drop in the currency against the US dollar in recent weeks. Beginning in January 2017 on-premises enterprise software prices will go up by 13 percent and most enterprise cloud prices will increase by 22 percent, bringing them into line with euro prices. Microsoft said it isn't planning to change its prices for consumer software and cloud services. The value of the pound has fallen by about 18 percent since the EU referendum on 23 June.
Australia

Quantum Researchers Achieve 10-Fold Boost In Superposition Stability (thestack.com) 89

An anonymous reader quotes The Stack: A team of Australian researchers has developed a qubit offering ten times the stability of existing technologies. The computer scientists claim that the new innovation could significantly increase the reliability of quantum computing calculations... The new technology, developed at the University of New South Wales, has been named a 'dressed' quantum bit as it combines a single atom with an electromagnetic field. This process allows the qubit to remain in a superposition state for ten times longer than has previously been achieved. The researchers argue that this extra time in superposition could boost the performance stability of quantum computing calculations... Previously fragile and short-lived, retaining a state of superposition has been one of the major barriers to the development of quantum computing. The ability to remain in two states simultaneously is the key to scaling and strengthening the technology further.
Do you ever wonder what the world will look like when everyone has their own personal quantum computer?
The Media

Journalist Cleared of Riot Charges in South Dakota (nbcnews.com) 79

Her video went viral, viewed more than 14 million times, and triggering concerns online when she was threatened with prison. But a North Dakota judge "refused to authorize riot charges against award-winning journalist Amy Goodman for her reporting on an attack against Native American-led anti-pipeline protesters." An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes NBC News: Goodman described the victory as a "great vindication of the First Amendment," although McLean County State's Attorney Ladd Erickson told The New York Times that additional charges were possible. "I believe they want to keep the investigation open and see if there is any evidence in the unedited and unpublished videos that we could better detail in an affidavit for the judge," Erickson told the newspaper.
The native Americans "were attempting to block the destruction of sacred sites, including ancestral burial grounds," according to a new article co-authored by Goodman about her experiences, which argues that "Attempts to criminalize nonviolent land and water defenders, humiliate them and arrest journalists should not pave the way for this pipeline."
Botnet

John McAfee Thinks North Korea Hacked Dyn, and Iran Hacked the DNC (csoonline.com) 149

"The Dark Web is rife with speculation that North Korea is responsible for the Dyn hack" says John McAfee, according to a new article on CSO: McAfee said they certainly have the capability and if it's true...then forensic analysis will point to either Russia, China, or some group within the U.S. [And] who hacked the Democratic National Committee? McAfee -- in an email exchange and follow up phone call -- said sources within the Dark Web suggest it was Iran, and he absolutely agrees. While Russian hackers get more media attention nowadays, Iranian hackers have had their share... "The Iranians view Trump as a destabilizing force within America," said McAfee. "They would like nothing more than to have Trump as President....

"If all evidence points to the Russians, then, with 100% certainty, it is not the Russians. Anyone who is capable of carrying out a hack of such sophistication is also capable, with far less effort than that involved in the hack, of hiding their tracks or making it appear that the hack came from some other quarter..."

Bruce Schneier writes that "we don't know anything much of anything" about yesterday's massive DDOS attacks. "If I had to guess, though, I don't think it's China. I think it's more likely related to the DDoS attacks against Brian Krebs than the probing attacks against the Internet infrastructure..." Earlier this month Krebs had warned that source code had been released for the massive DDOS attacks he endured in September, "virtually guaranteeing that the Internet will soon be flooded with attacks from many new botnets powered by insecure routers, IP cameras, digital video recorders and other easily hackable devices."
Transportation

Most Drivers Who Own Cars With Built-in GPS Systems Use Phones For Directions - Mostly Out of Frustration (cnn.com) 310

According to a new survey, many new car owners use their phones for directions despite their cars coming with built-in navigation systems. These users do it out of frustration, the survey added. CNN adds: The market research firm J.D. Power and Associates surveyed owners of new vehicles after the first 90 days of ownership. They were asked about all kinds of new in-vehicle technology including navigation, entertainment and safety technologies like lane-keeping assistance and automatic braking. For the most part, the survey found, people are relatively satisfied with the technology in their cars. On a 1,000 point scale, the average satisfaction score was 730. Navigation systems rated the worst with an average score of 687. Almost two-thirds of new vehicle owners with a built-in navigation reported using their smartphone or a portable navigation device to find their way at least some of the time. Nearly a third of those with built-in navigation used it for less than two weeks before giving up on it and using their phone or another portable device, according to J.D. Power. And more than half of people with built-in navigation systems never used them at all, according to the survey.
Earth

Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 Recall Is an Environmental Travesty (vice.com) 145

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Lost in the hype about Samsung permanently pulling the plug on its exploding phone is this: The failure of the Galaxy Note 7 is an environmental tragedy, regardless of what Samsung decides will happen to the 2.5 million devices it manufactured. Early Tuesday morning, Samsung announced it has permanently discontinued and stopped promoting the Galaxy Note 7, and has asked its customers to return their devices for a refund or exchange. A Samsung spokesperson told me the phones will not be repaired, refurbished, or resold ever again: "We have a process in place to safely dispose of the phones," the company said. There are two main things to consider here: First, though smartphones weigh less than a pound, it was estimated in 2013 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers estimated that it takes roughly 165 pounds of raw mined materials to make the average cell phone, a number that is certainly higher for the Note 7, being both one of the largest and most advanced smartphones phones ever created. Second, much of that mined material is going to be immediately lost. This is because we are terrible at recycling smartphones -- of the 50-or-so elements that are in a Galaxy Note 7, we can only recover about a dozen of them through recycling. Lost are most of the rare earth elements, which are generally the most environmentally destructive and human labor-intensive to mine. This loss of material is why smartphones are not usually recycled even several years into their lifespans -- they are refurbished and resold to cell phone insurance companies and customers in developing markets. This is because the recoverable elements within any given smartphone are only worth a couple bucks; it is far more environmentally sustainable and more profitable to extend the life of a smartphone than it is to disassemble it and turn it into something else. There is a potential silver lining here: Just as oil spills give scientists an opportunity to try out new cleanup techniques, a large-scale smartphone recall may allow us to learn more about how to recycle smartphones.
Businesses

Outsourced IT Workers Ask Sen Feinstein For Help, Get Form Letter in Return (computerworld.com) 813

Reader dcblogs writes: A University of California IT employee whose job is being outsourced to India recently wrote Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) for help. Feinstein's office sent back a letter addressing manufacturing job losses, not IT, and offered the worker no assistance. "I am being asked to do knowledge transfer to a foreigner so they can take over my job in February of 2017," the employee, wrote in part. The employee is part of a group of 50 IT workers and another 30 contractors facing layoffs after the university hired an offshore outsourcing firm. The firm, India-based HCL, won a contract to manage infrastructure services. Since the layoffs became public, the school has posted Labor Condition Applications (LCA) notices -- as required by federal law when H-1B workers are being placed. UCSF employees have seen these notices and made some available to Computerworld. They show that the jobs posted are for programmer analyst II and network administrator IV. For the existing UCSF employees, the notices were disheartening. "Many of us can easily fill the job. We are training them to replace us," said one employee who requested anonymity because he is still employed by the university.

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