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Submission + - Twitter has a spam bot problem — and it's getting worse (zdnet.com)

An anonymous reader writes: A Romanian spammer is in part behind a sudden surge in fake Twitter followers in recent weeks. But it's not something Twitter seems to want to deal with.

Without a peep from the company (a spokesperson did not respond to our request for comment last week) we set out to find out more on our own. We kept a close eye on a few dozen of these bots over the past week, all of which were created with the same pattern of username (a random name and a few numbers) and were created within the space of an hour or so. In the end, the scheme looked like little more than a cheap shot to promote half-baked dating sites that ask for money to sign up, even though the hapless few who do probably have almost zero chance of getting lucky.

After further investigation, we learned that a Romanian spammer, Laurentiu Ciocoiu (perhaps a pseudonym), is in part behind the recent uptick in these spam bots.

Ciocoiu started earlier this year with his most recent campaign, setting up a complicated network of thousands of fake Twitter accounts that would almost always follow the same pattern: Each account would follow a few dozen legitimate accounts — such as high-profile, verified news publications and celebrities that are presented when the user first opens a Twitter account — and then fake accounts would follow the other fake accounts.

Submission + - Reddit to deprecate custom stylesheets in upcoming redesign

An anonymous reader writes: Yesterday, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman announced that an upcoming redesign of the website will deprecae the use of custom stylesheets across all of its subreddits, in favor of limited customization options on a standardized template, and a new sidebar widget system. He argued CSS on Reddit was "difficult to learn", "error-prone", and "time consuming", made it harder to make changes to the site itself without risking breaking changes made by other subreddits, and were not compatible with the mobile version of Reddit,

Huffman stated that the site's staff planned to work with the community to "replicate as many of the existing uses that already exist, and to expand beyond as we evolve", and that the widget system would allow subreddits to add dynamic content to their sidebars more easily. However, said community is up in arms over the announced changes, as the moderators of many popular subreddits have created intricate stylesheets that add community-specific functionality and customizations that diversify the experience, and the exact level of customization that will be possible under the new system is still unclear.

Submission + - A battery made of molten metals (mit.edu) 2

Z00L00K writes: This story came out a while ago, but didn't seem to surface:

A novel rechargeable battery developed at MIT could one day play a critical role in the massive expansion of solar generation needed to mitigate climate change by midcentury. Designed to store energy on the electric grid, the high-capacity battery consists of molten metals that naturally separate to form two electrodes in layers on either side of the molten salt electrolyte between them. Tests with cells made of low-cost, Earth-abundant materials confirm that the liquid battery operates efficiently without losing significant capacity or mechanically degrading — common problems in today’s batteries with solid electrodes. The MIT researchers have already demonstrated a simple, low-cost process for manufacturing prototypes of their battery, and future plans call for field tests on small-scale power grids that include intermittent generating sources such as solar and wind.


Submission + - FCC Takes First Step Toward Allowing More Broadcast TV Mergers (theverge.com)

An anonymous reader writes: In a divided vote today, the Federal Communications Commission took steps that could lead to more consolidation among TV broadcasters, reducing the number of sources of local news. Today’s changes revolve around the media ownership cap — a limit on how many households a TV or radio broadcaster is allowed to reach. The rules are meant to promote diversity of media ownership, giving consumers access to different content and viewpoints. The cap currently prevents a company from reaching no more than 39 percent of US households with broadcast TV. Large broadcasters hate the cap because it prevents them from getting even bigger. And since Trump took office and Ajit Pai was named chairman of the FCC, they’ve been lobbying to have it revised. The FCC’s vote today starts to do that. First, it reinstates a rule known as the “UHF discount,” which lets broadcasters have a bigger reach in areas where they use a certain type of technology. And second, it starts plans to revisit and raise the media ownership cap.

Comment I'm sorry but this is a bad idea (Score -1, Troll) 218

Microsoft has deprecated old versions of Windows on this hardware for a reason. There have been a lot of advances in hardware technology since Windows 7 came out, and trying to run an OS on hardware it was not originally designed or optimized to run on will just lead to instability. Windows 7 mainstream support already ended in 2015, which means that Microsoft has the right to not add new features to the OS. Support for newer hardware is just one of those features. A game of cat and mouse will ensue, but eventually the developer will tire of it, and Microsoft will win the fight. If you don't want to use Windows 10, there are always alternatives.

Submission + - Burger King Won't Take Hint; Alters TV Ad to Evade Google's Block (washingtonpost.com) 1

ewhac writes: Earlier this week, Burger King released a broadcast television ad that opened with an actor saying, "Ok, Google: What is The Whopper?" thereby triggering any Google Home device in hearing range to respond to the injected request with the first line from the Whopper's Wikipedia page. Google very properly responded to the injection attack by fingerprinting the sound sample and blocking it from triggering responses. However, it seems Burger King and/or its ad agency are either unwilling or congenitally incapable of getting the hint, and has released an altered version of the ad to evade Google's block. According to spokesperson Dara Schopp, BK regards the ad as a success, as it has increased the brand's "social conversation" on Twitter by some 300%. It seems that Burger King thinks that malware-laden advertising infesting Web pages is a perfectly wonderful idea (in principle, at least), and taken it to the next level by reaching through your TV speakers and directly messing with your digital devices. You may wish to consider alternate vendors for your burger needs.

Submission + - Inside the Tech Support Scam Ecosystem

Trailrunner7 writes: A team of three doctoral students, looking for insights into the inner workings of tech support scams, spent eight months collecting data on and studying the tactics and infrastructure of the scammers, using a purpose-built tool. What they uncovered is a complex, technically sophisticated ecosystem supported by malvertising and victimizing people around the world.

The study is the first analysis of its kind on tech support scams, and it’s the work of three PhD candidates at Stony Brook University. The team built a custom tool called RoboVic that performed a “systematic analysis of technical support scam pages: identified their techniques, abused infrastructure, and campaigns”. The tool includes a man-in-the-middle proxy that catalogs requests and responses and also will click on pop-up ads, which are key to many tech-support scams.

In their study, the researchers found that the source for many of these scams were “malvertisements”, advertisements on legitimate websites, particularly using ad-based URL shorteners, that advertised for malicious scams. This gives the scammers an opportunity to strike on what would seem like a relatively safe page. Although victims of these scams can be anywhere, the researchers found that 85.4 percentof the IP addresses in these scams were located across different regions of India, with 9.7 percentlocated in the United States and 4.9 percent in Costa Rica. Scammers typically asked users for an average of $291, with prices ranging from $70 to $1,000.

Submission + - The Giant Freaking Robot Fight—U.S. vs. Japan—Is Now Set (nerdist.com)

schwit1 writes: While smaller robots battling one another have been part of reality television for several years now, the idea of giant robots piloted by human beings has been the exclusive domain of fiction. A couple of years ago, it looked like that era was coming to an end as an American outfit challenged a Japanese company known for its giant robot. After all, the Americans had a giant robot too, so why not put the two mechas against one another?

For a while there was nothing, but now we have news. More importantly, we have a date for this technological clash of the titans.

If you’re unfamiliar with the feud between America’s MegaBots, Inc. and Japan’s Suidoboshi Heavy Industries (SHI), it’s a tale of the former challenging the latter to a giant robot “duel” for pride, title, and the posterity of giant mechs that will surely battle to the death for years to come, sawing and burning each other down in front of an audience like Ancient Roman Gladiators made of steel and flamethrowers.

The robots facing off in August—which will now happen at an undisclosed location because the “original Duel venue fell through” and caused considerable delays—is between Megabots’ Mk. III and SHI’s KURATAS. Considerable battle upgrades have been made to both the original Mk. III and KURATAS over the last year-plus, the Mk. III’s coming after the team behind the 12,000-pound bot raised over $500,000 on kickstarter.


Submission + - Dell XPS 15 9560 Refreshed With GeForce 10 And Kaby Lake Now A Competent Gamer (hothardware.com)

MojoKid writes: Lately, Dell's XPS series of premium laptops has been meeting high praise for its carbon fiber and machined aluminum design, along with its near bezelless Infinity Edge display. Although the XPS 15, Dells 15-inch variant, offered competitive performance compared to other ultrabooks in its class, historically it just didn't have quite enough horsepower for much other than occasional casual gaming. Just recently, however, Dell revamped the machine with not only a quad-core Intel Kaby Lake processor option, but also NVIDIA's latest GeFore GTX 1050 mobile GPU. The result is that the Dell XPS 15 (9560) is one of the few 4-pound class ultrabooks on the market currently that is not only designed with a very premium build quality but it can also competently game in virtually any current generation title at 1080p with High image quality settings, even hitting playable frame rates in a few games at 1440p. Finally, with a 97 Whr battery option available (bringing the machine to 4.5 pounds), battery life under standard non-gaming workloads has improved significantly as well, even with its 4K panel option.

Submission + - Judge: eBay Can't Be Sued Over Seller Accused of Patent Infringement (arstechnica.com)

An anonymous reader writes: It's game over for an Alabama man who claims his patent on "Carpenter Bee Traps" is being infringed by competing products on eBay. Robert Blazer filed his lawsuit in 2015, saying that his U.S. Patent No. 8,375,624 was being infringed by a variety of products being sold on eBay. Blazer believed the online sales platform should have to pay him damages for infringing his patent. A patent can be infringed when someone sells or "offers to sell" a patented invention. At first, Blazer went through eBay's official channels for reporting infringement, filing a "Notice of Claimed Infringement," or NOCI. At that point, his patent hadn't even been issued yet and was still a pending application, so eBay told him to get back in touch if his patent was granted. On February 19, 2013, Blazer got his patent and ultimately sent multiple NOCI forms to eBay. However, eBay wouldn't take down any items, in keeping with its policy of responding to court orders of infringement and not mere allegations of infringement. In 2015, Blazer sued, saying that eBay had directly infringed his patent and also "induced" others to infringe. That lawsuit can't move forward, following an opinion (PDF) published this week by U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre. The judge found that eBay lacked any knowledge of actual infringement and rejected Blazer's argument that eBay was "willfully blind" to infringement of Blazer's patent. The opinion was first reported yesterday by The Recorder (registration required).

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