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Submission + - Strong FBI Ties for Next Generation Quantum Computer (

kipperstem77 writes: It is a good time to be the maker of a machine that excels in large-scale optimization problems for cybersecurity and defense. And it is even better to be the only maker of such a machine at a time when the need for a post-Moore’s Law system is in high demand.

We have already described the U.S. Department of Energy’s drive to place a novel architecture at the heart of one of the future exascale supercomputers, and we have also explored the range of options that might fall under that novel processing umbrella. From neuromorphic chips, deep learning PIM-based architectures, ultra-hybrid machines with a combination of FPGA, GPU and non-X86 elements, and of course, quantum computers, there are a rich set of options. While these are important possibilities for the world’s top supercomputing sites, the defense and intelligence space is watching keenly as well—and with an eye on systems that can target their exact workloads.

Submission + - These Failed Apps Discovered a Hidden Rule of the Web (

mirandakatz writes: Anonymous apps like Secret and Yik Yak set out to make social media more authentic, but despite a collective $200 million in funding, anonymity has remained a kind of kryptonite for social apps. The reason is simple: An online social network serves one purpose, to connect people. Without names attached, people’s words become either mean—or meaningless. At Backchannel, a look at the rise and fall of anonymous social media, and why pure anonymity will never be enough to build a multibillion dollar business.

Submission + - Verizon Wireless Wades Right Back Into the Net Neutrality Debate With Fios Deal (

An anonymous reader writes: Verizon is taking a page out of AT&T’s book by zero rating its Fios cable TV service for all Verizon Wireless customers. That means that if you purchase your mobile data plan from Verizon Wireless and your cable TV plan from Fios, you can now use the Fios Mobile app to stream live channels and on-demand shows and not have it count against your monthly data cap. This builds on Verizon’s previous decision to zero rate its Go90 mobile app for customers of its own wireless service, which net neutrality advocates see as prioritizing its own products to the detriment of those from competitors and upstarts. One notable exception here is for customers with unlimited mobile data plans. Streaming Fios Mobile content will in fact count toward the unlimited plans’ 22GB a month cap, after which Verizon will cap speeds. This caveat is not made clear in Verizon’s marketing language, and instead is found only in the App Store release notes.

Submission + - Confide App Full of Security Holes, Researchers Find

Trailrunner7 writes: Researchers at IOActive have uncovered a number of serious security flaws in the Confide secure messaging app, some of which could allow an attacker to hijack a user’s session or impersonate a target user.

Confide is one of the group of encrypted chat apps that have emerged in the last few years and promises end-to-end encryption and self-destructing messages. But the team at IOActive discovered a group of vulnerabilities in the app that make users susceptible to a range of attacks that could result in account compromises, message disclosure, and other problems. The vulnerabilities are across a number of different areas in the app, but one of the main issues is the way Confide handles SSL certificates.

“The application’s notification system did not require a valid SSL server certificate to communicate, which would leak session information to actors performing a man-in-the-middle attack,” the IOActive bulletin says.

Submission + - Unsecured Rsync Backup Exposes Global Spam Farm

An anonymous reader writes: Damning records which detail the inner workings of a spam empire sending up to 1 billion unwanted emails a day have been exposed to security researchers due to an improperly configured Rsync backup which left the details of 1.4 billion spam victims online — along with an incriminating chain of documentation and chat records about the methods used to subvert anti-spam measures.

Submission + - Google Pulls the Plug On Its Pixel Laptops (

An anonymous reader writes: Although its new flagship phones have been doing brisk sales, Google's high-end, $1,299 Pixel-branded Chromebooks won't be seeing much love from the search giant in the near future. According to TechCrunch, reporting from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today, Google's SVP of hardware Rick Osterloh has announced the second version of the Pixel laptop will be the last of its kind. As TechCrunch notes, Google is trimming down the Pixel line to just the smartphones and the Pixel C tablet for now. Although there may be other devices carrying the name in the future, Osterloh said it was unlikely that its own laptops would be one of them.

Submission + - Malaysian Police: VX nerve gas killed N Korea leader's brother in airport attack (

An anonymous reader writes: Malaysian police have announced their finding that Kim Jong Nam, half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jon Un, was killed by assassins using VX nerve gas in an attack in the busy Kuala Lumpur airport. Malaysian authorities plan to decontaminate the airport and other sites visited by the attackers. Police are holding the two female attackers, one of whom was affected by the chemical agent, as well as two other men. They are seeking seven more North Koreans connected to the case. VX is the most toxic of the nerve gasses and the UN has declared it a weapon of mass destruction. The manufacture and stockpiling of more than 100 grams of VX per year is prohibited by the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993. It has no commercial uses. The Malaysian police are trying to discover if it was smuggled into their country, or manufactured there. The Malaysian government has recalled its ambassador to North Korea for consultation. North Korea is blaming the death of Kim Jong Nam on Malaysia. North Korea is believed to have major stockpiles of chemical weapons, and is alleged to conduct experiments on prisoners and social undesirables.

Submission + - Climate Models Are Warming Earth Two Times Faster Than Reality (

schwit1 writes: “So far in the 21st century, the GCMs are warming, on average, about a factor of 2 faster than the observed temperature increase,” Dr. Judith Curry, a former Georgia Tech climate scientist who now runs her own climate forecasting company, wrote in a report for the U.K.-based Global Warming Policy Foundation.

Curry has been one of the foremost critics of climate models, arguing that while they can be useful, there are too many uncertainties and issues to rely on models for public policy decisions.

Curry’s report gives a detailed rundown of why models can be useful for modeling complex climate systems, but also points out that GCMs fail to capture natural variability in the climate.

“The reason for the discrepancy between observations and model simulations in the early 21st century appears to be caused by a combination of inadequate simulations of natural internal variability and oversensitivity of the models to increasing carbon dioxide,” wrote Curry.

Submission + - Lockheed Martin screwup delays delivery of Air Force GPS satellites (

schwit1 writes: Incompetence by a Lockheed Martin subcontractor will delay the delivery of 32 new Air Force GPS satellites and will likely cost the government millions.

Lockheed has a contract to build the first 10 of the satellites designed to provide a more accurate version of the Global Positioning System used for everything from the military’s targeting of terrorists to turn-by-turn directions for civilians’ smartphones. The program’s latest setback may affect a pending Air Force decision on whether to open the final 22 satellites to competition from Lockheed rivals Boeing Co. and Northrop Grumman Corp. “This was an avoidable situation and raised significant concerns with Lockheed Martin subcontractor management/oversight and Harris program management,” Teague said in a Dec. 21 message to congressional staff obtained by Bloomberg News.

The parts in question are ceramic capacitors that have bedeviled the satellite project. They take higher-voltage power from the satellite’s power system and reduce it to a voltage required for a particular subsystem. Last year, the Air Force and contractors discovered that Harris hadn’t conducted tests on the components, including how long they would operate without failing, that should have been completed in 2010.

Now, the Air Force says it found that Harris spent June to October of last year doing follow-up testing on the wrong parts instead of samples of the suspect capacitors installed on the first three satellites. Harris “immediately notified Lockheed and the government” after a post-test inspection, Teague said in his message.

So, the subcontractor first failed to do the required tests, then it did the tests on the wrong parts. Sounds like the kind of quality control problems we have seen recently in Russia and Japan.

The worst part? The contract is a cost-plus contract, which means the US tax payer has to absorb the additional costs for fixing the screw-up, not Lockheed Martin or its subcontractor.

Submission + - Adblock-Blockers 'Ineffective', Adblocking Up 30% Globally In Two Years

An anonymous reader writes: A new survey reveals that the countermeasures taken by various publishers in response to the rise of adblocking cause nearly three-quarters of users to simply abandon the sites which block adblockers. The report, from pro-ad organisation Playfair, estimates that adblocking has risen by 30% in two years, and by 40% in Asia in 2016 alone. The report predicts that a growing trend towards pre-service agreements by providers and hardware manufacturers will cause adblocking usage to rise further, practically becoming a 'default' position, unless the ad industry responds practically to users' dislike of unpopular ad formats such as unskippable video and autoplaying audio ads.

Submission + - Melts Down After Wrong Directory Deleted, Backups Fail (

An anonymous reader writes: Source-code hub is in meltdown after experiencing data loss as a result of what it has suddenly discovered are ineffectual backups. On Tuesday evening, Pacific Time, the startup issued the sobering series of tweets, starting with "We are performing emergency database maintenance, will be taken offline" and ending with "We accidentally deleted production data and might have to restore from backup. Google Doc with live notes [link]." Behind the scenes, a tired sysadmin, working late at night in the Netherlands, had accidentally deleted a directory on the wrong server during a frustrating database replication process: he wiped a folder containing 300GB of live production data that was due to be replicated. Just 4.5GB remained by the time he canceled the rm -rf command. The last potentially viable backup was taken six hours beforehand. That Google Doc mentioned in the last tweet notes: "This incident affected the database (including issues and merge requests) but not the git repos (repositories and wikis)." So some solace there for users because not all is lost. But the document concludes with the following: "So in other words, out of 5 backup/replication techniques deployed none are working reliably or set up in the first place." At the time of writing, GitLab says it has no estimated restore time but is working to restore from a staging server that may be “without webhooks” but is “the only available snapshot.” That source is six hours old, so there will be some data loss.

Submission + - Delta Airlines grounds all domestic flights due to IT issues again (

SonicSpike writes: Delta Air Lines U.S. domestic flights were grounded on Sunday evening due to automation issues, according to an advisory from the Federal Aviation Administration.

International flights were exempt from the halt.

Passengers stranded in airports took to social media, where a representative on Delta's official Twitter page told users the systems were down and that its IT department was working to rectify the situation.

The airline later put out a statement.

"Delta teams are expeditiously working to fix a systems outage that has resulted in departure delays for flights on the ground," the airline said in the statement. "Flights in the air remain unaffected. Delta apologizes to customers for the inconvenience."

This is the second time in 6 months this has happened, with a power outage at DAL HQ in August grounding all DAL traffic worldwide.

Last week, a computer problem forced United Airlines to ground all domestic flights for about an hour.

Submission + - Silicon Valley's AI Ethics Boards Shouldn't Be Secret (

mirandakatz writes: Earlier this month, the MIT Media Lab joined with the Harvard Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society to anchor a $27 million Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence initiative. It's one of a number of AI ethics initiatives we've seen emerge from Silicon Valley in recent years—but those efforts that have originated from tech companies themselves have long been too tight-lipped. At Backchannel, Jeremy Hsu writes that "the responsibility for humanity’s future need not rest entirely in the hands of tech companies. But Silicon Valley will have to resist its more shadowy corporate tendencies and spend more time sharing ideas."

Submission + - From $85 Luxury Mansion to High Profile Corruption Case (

BillPradi writes: Head of the Russia's Investigation Committee department for the Samara Region Valery Samodaikin, who had been under the protection of Governor Nikolai Merkushkin, is the latest to face a high profile corruption case in Russia. The Western world doubted Putin was serious about tackling corruption at a high level, only bringing down the ‘flies’ rather than political ‘tigers’ according to the New York Times last year.

However the Kremlin has insisted that it is highly serious about tackling corruption, and repeated this stance after the September arrest of Dmitry Zakharchenko, the top anti-corruption official at the Russian interior ministry who was caught with over $120 million in cash. The winter then brought the biggest corruption case of the Putin era, with Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev detained in November. Ulyukayev was caught in the act and faces charges of receiving a $2 million bribe for his approval of a major privatization sale.

The latest case has seen a great scandal flare up in the Samara Region concerning the head of the local Investigation Division of the Russian Investigation Committee (IC) — Valery Samodaikin. The Public Prosecution Department ascertained that the chief investigator of the region moved into a plush villa on the state-owned residential estate of the Governor, Nikolai Merkushkin. Samodaikin pays rent at a nominal rate of just 5000 rubles (less than $85) a month. Under this arrangement it seems quite clear that Merkushkin and his inner circle benefitted from a protective relationship with Samodaikin, regarding anything that may be ‘dug up’ on them. On top of the housing assistance, individual wealth was also well accounted for thanks to TogliattiAzot, its director Sergey Makhlai, and a trio of Moscow-based lawyers — Denis Simachov, Sergey Koronets and Pavel Zaitsev. They can resolve "any" issue that may arise in relation to law-enforcement authorities, through the Russian IC.

$1 Million Road for the General

Novaya Gazeta newspaper lit the spark that set the scandal alight, potentially sounding the death knell for Samodaikin’s further career prospects. The newspaper published investigation documents regarding the residential area of Governor Nikolai Merkushkin. The residential complex is located in a nature reserve on the banks of the Volga River, right in front of Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure. During the era of the former USSR, it functioned as guest accommodation for the Kuybyshev Reception Palace, where party representatives used to stay. It is worth mentioning that on the 12th of April 1961, Yuri Gagarin went there for rehabilitation after his landing in Smelovka Village, Saratov Region.

At the end of the 1990s, local developers replaced the Reception Palace with modern villas and mansions, which initially served as guest residences. In particular, during the 2007 Russia-EU Summit the complex hosted German Chancellor Angela Dorothea Merkel, the Head of the European Commission José Manuel Durão Barroso, the Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov and other high ranking officials.

After the appointment of Merkushkin as governor, the Samara Region’s SPI Hotel and Representative Complex (the official name of the former Kuybyshev Reception Palace) was turned into the residence of the Regional Governor, who allocated dwellings to his closest associates.

Novaya Gazeta drew attention to the fact that some of the villas in "Merkushkin’s nature reserve had recently been connected by a separate 700 meter long (half-mile road) asphalt road, which cost 60 million rubles ($1 million) from the local budget. In order to conceal this spending, the road construction costs were officially documented as the "repair of pedestrian footpaths". i.e., there was a direct breach of laws, confirmed by the inspection of regional Public Prosecution Department. The materials were forwarded to the IC of the Samara Region, which found a number of Articles to support initiation of proceedings: theft with fraud (expensive firms were engaged in construction); misuse of public funds; and abuse of power or authority (as was the case with "Serdyukov’s (former Minister of Defence) road"). However, Samodaikin’s office never initiated a criminal case and miraculously the claims were not investigated.

Consequently the local lawmakers decided to find out what mansions the $1 million road leads to. It was discovered that the road leads to mansion No. 6 – a luxurious building with a private sauna, a swimming pool with a hydro-massage feature, a pool hall and a “relaxation” room. However, the contracts drawn up by the SPI Hotel and Representative Complex of the Samara Region revealed that mansion No. 6 is occupied by Valery Samodaikin. Yes, the very same Valery Samodaikin — the Head of the Regional ID of the Russian IC, which dropped the investigation into the construction of the road leading to mansion No. 6. Perhaps the only real surprise is that he is the only representative of the local law enforcement authorities who resides at "the court of Merkushkin".

When it was questioned whether there might be an element of corruption in a situation in which the chief investigator of the region lives in a mansion on the Governor’s estate, the reply was that Samodaikin pays for the mansion at a "nominal price".

By reviewing the contract with SPI, we can establish how much the Head of ID of the RF IC pays for this luxurious house, with swimming pool. Believe it or not—5000 rubles a month. At less than 25% of the average Russian income, everybody could lease a mansion at such a price.

It is interesting to note that Merkushkin’s neighbour blatantly ignores all and any documents related to the Governor and his inner circle. For instance, evidence of theft in the construction of the soccer stadium for FIFA World Cup 2018; documents in which local blogger Dmitry Begoun confessed that Merkushkin, personally, and employees of his administration hired the blogger at 300,000 rubles (approx. $5000) a month to write positive articles about the Governor; prohibition of negative references to Mordovia, which has been managed by Merkushkin for the last 17 years; and concealing information on expansion of the Mordovian business, including "Mordovspirtprom" (local alcohol producer) in the Samara Region.

In addition, he wrote a scathing criticism of Merkushkin’s enemies: Igor Sechin, CEO of Rosneft; Vladimir Artyakov, former Governor of the Region; as well as Viacheslav Volodin, Deputy Head of the President’s Administration; Sergey Chemezov, the Head of RosTech; and Vitaliy Mutko, the Minister of Sports. However, Samodaikin personally forbade interrogation of Governor Merkushkin in order to prevent verification of blogger Begoun’s testimony.

At present, the scandal over mansion No. 6 and the road leading to it is in full spate. The situation attracted the attention of the Head Office of the RF Investigative Committee, which repeatedly articulated its intention to get rid of any persons found to be discrediting the esprit of the Investigative Committee.

Fixing Problems for TOAZ

It could be quite interesting to research the warm relationship between Samodaikin and the top managers of TogliattiAzot (TOAZ).

The head of the local division of the RF IC is on friendly terms with Viacheslav Suslov, General Director of TOAZ; Nikolai Neplyuyev, Finance Director, who makes regular runs to his office; and Igor Grishin, Deputy Commercial Director, who has stayed out of prison thanks to Samodaikin. Neither TogliattiAzot nor its in-house lawyers (Denis Simachov, Sergey Koronets and Pavel Zaitsev) keep this a secret – Samodaikin, in fact, is a "family member”, the main protector and supporter. That is why they don't care a straw about all those investigations of the Head Office of the Russian IC partly related to huge thefts at TogliattiAzot, the channelling of billions of rubles from Russia abroad, and brazen tax dodging.

Moscow is far away, while reliable Samodaikin is apparently by their side. The endeavours of the Chief Investigator of the Region, who is on friendly terms with Governor Merkushkin, resulted in no serious criminal lawsuits being filed against TogliattiAzot. All materials acquired by the Directorate of Internal Affairs (DIA) were consigned to the bin by the Public Prosecution Department or blocked by Samodaikin. One could spend an eternity giving examples.

Thus, due to Samodaikin’s efforts, the evidence collected by RosFinMonitoring (Russian Financial Monitoring service) on theft and money laundering at TOAZ were never disclosed, but were covered up by sham construction contracts with OOO MSA Stroy. The detectives’ evidence was consistently blocked, in spite of the availability of direct documents that testify to the fact that: “Suslov Viacheslav Valeryevich, General Director of ZAO TogliattiAzot Corporation, I.V. Grishin, Deputy General Director, jointly with N.V. Neplyuyev, Deputy General Director, and D.V. Mezheyedov, Audit Director, have entered into collusion with the majority shareholder of OAO TogliattiAzot and Chairman of the Board of Directors, U.S. citizen Sergei Makhlai, for the purpose of tax evasion by a group of individuals on a massive scale and legalization of criminal proceeds”.

Everyone seems to have forgotten the evidence of cash withdrawals by this company on the pretext of construction work in the Port of Taman. Samodaikin goes to great lengths to conceal the investigation of the fact that considerable quantities of marketable TOAZ products are acknowledged as defective in order to sell them at dumping prices to firms controlled by the Company’s top managers, who then resell the same products (carbomide) at market prices.

Furthermore, it was Samodaikin who once helped Grishin escape from prosecution when Grishin was detained by police with an envelope of suspicious contents.

The latest achievement of the Head of Investigation Dept. of the Russian IC relates to his fight against the initiation of an investigation into a cover-up of ammonia leakages at TOAZ. Local police have ascertained that Shop No. 13 of OAO TogliattiAzot, for several years now, has been tolerating leakages of liquefied ammonia. As a result, the employees and communities of Togliatti were exposed to hazardous chemicals, and the environment suffered irreparable harm. The management of TOAZ was aware of the situation, but concealed it due to its enormous greed. Viacheslav Suslov, General Director, was found guilty. But Samodaikin stood up for his friend and did his best to prevent a lawsuit against him.

Friends Among the Investigators and Prosecutors

Communications between Samodaikin and the managers of TogliattiAzot are maintained both directly and through the company’s three lawyers — Denis Simachov, Sergey Koronets and Pavel Zaitsev. Zaitsev is well known. He once served in the DIA of the Tver Region, and subsequently was seconded to the Investigation Committee of the Russian MIA. During his entire police career in Moscow, Zaitsev has initiated only one lawsuit (a record-setting achievement for an IC investigator of the Russian MIA), and that lawsuit was already drawn up with the conclusion to indict.

Zaitsev was in charge of an investigation into the illegal trade of furniture, which was retailed by trading centres of "Three Whales" and "Grand". Surprise, surprise! Even at the initial stage Zaitsev nearly ruined the case, which subsequently was acknowledged as a "headliner". Having no authorisation or warrant he performed a search, which resulted in the entire investigation process being discredited. As a result, a criminal case was instituted against him. However, Zaitsev managed to portray himself as a hero in the eyes of the media, alleging that he was being persecuted for “digging up” evidence against the “wrong” suspects and on the “wrong” sites, rather than for an attempt to destroy the case. Zaitsev was eventually fired from the Russian MIA.

TOAZ paid the three lawyers a staggering 25 million rubles a month, each. Clearly their contribution was extremely valuable. In the Moscow Region, they have 28-year-old Alexander Neplyuyev, Deputy Prosecutor of Schelkovo District, who acts as a gatekeeper sniffing out required information and advising directions for them to move next. This of course is a matter of family loyalty – Alexander’s brother Nikolai is the Financial Director of TOAZ. It was Makhlai and Nikolai Neplyuyev who sponsored Alexander’s admission to the law enforcement system.

Neplyuyev and Makhlai provide Alexander with the financial backing to collect information from law enforcement authorities and counteract the investigators’ activities. By doing so, they are quite well off: they’ve got Samodaikin in Samara and Neplyuyev in the Moscow Region. Naturally they are now trying to propel him upwards, first to the Public Prosecution Department of Moscow Region, and then to the General Prosecutor’s Office.

Promoted to General and Fell into a Coma

These are not the only unpleasant situations that occurred with Valery Samodaikin in connection with his work. He started ascending the promotion ladder in Omsk Region, where he was born, and his successful career began in 1999. At that time there was a conflict between Governor Leonid Polezhaev and Sibneft; patronized by Polezhaev, and owned by Roman Abramovich and Boris Berezovskiy, from one side; and Valery Roschupkin, the mayor of Omsk, and Vladimir Fedorenko, the head of the local tax inspectorate, from the other side.

Fedorenko continually accused Sibneft of blatant tax dodging, until it was decided to jail Fedorenko – the young investigator Samodaikin was hired and initiated a criminal case related to the construction of a personal apartment. The case was terminated when no evidence of any offence was found. Samodaikin later called Fedorenko in for ‘extraordinarily urgent’ interrogation at 11pm in relation to a separate criminal case against the head of the construction company. By 1am Fedorenko was arrested, accused of "repeated bribery”, and “misappropriation and embezzlement”. While this initially led to three years of imprisonment and release from the courtroom due to amnesty, the accusation was later completely dismissed by the decision of the Russian Supreme Court.

The scandal was by no means the end for Samodaikin’s career, with Polezhaev and the Sibneft owners impressed by his “diligence” – he proceeded to climb the promotion ladder. Samodaikin became deputy prosecutor of the Sovetsky District of Omsk, then was appointed prosecutor of the Tarsky interregional prosecution department of Omsk Region, and subsequently was named deputy head of the Investigation Division of the Investigation Committee.

In 2012 Samodaikin moved on, and assumed the role of first deputy head of the Central Investigation Division of the Investigation Committee of the Russian Federation in Krasnoyarsk Territory. After promotion to the Major General of Justice in 2013, Samodaikin disappeared for two months – it turns out he was in a coma for that time. The general was a man who enjoyed monumental and extended celebrations of landmark events where ridiculous things could occur due to the participants’ inebriated state, although there was no official announcement made.

When Samodaikin was available for duty, he was consistently well regarded by local governors and connected businessmen. In the Samara Region the bureaucrats were joined by TogliattiAzot on Samodaikin’s list of friends, for whom criminal cases were conveniently avoided.

Submission + - SMS vulnerabilities in Samsung Galaxy phones (

An anonymous reader writes: Researchers at Context Information Security discovered new ways to break old technologies inside Samsung Galaxy devices with attacks delivered over SMS. From the article:

We found bugs in Samsung Galaxy phones that can be triggered remotely via SMS, which when combined provide opportunities for ransomware peddlers. Samsung Mobile Security Team were quick to fix the issues, providing a decent example of how coordinated disclosure should happen.

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