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Iphone

Researchers Use Siri To Steal Data From iPhones 55

wiredmikey writes "Using Apple's voice-activated Siri function, security researchers have managed to steal sensitive information from iOS smartphones in a stealthy manner. Luca Caviglione of the National Research Council of Italy and Wojciech Mazurczy of the Warsaw University of Technology warn that malicious actors could use Siri for stealthy data exfiltration by using a method that's based on steganography, the practice of hiding information. Dubbed "iStegSiri" by the researchers, the attack can be effective because it doesn't require the installation of additional software components and it doesn't need the device's alteration. On the other hand, it only works on jailbroken devices and attackers somehow need to be able to intercept the modified Siri traffic. The attack method involves controlling the "shape" of this traffic to embed sensitive data from the device. This covert channel could be used to send credit card numbers, Apple IDs, passwords, and other sensitive information from the phone to the criminal mastermind, researchers said in their paper.
Space

How Many People Does It Take To Colonize Another Star System? 392

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: "The nearest star systems — such as our nearest neighbor, Proxima Centauri, which is 4.2 light-years from home — are so far away, reaching them would require a generational starship. Entire generations of people would be born, live, and die before the ship reached its destination. This brings up the question of how many people you need to send on a hypothetical interstellar mission to sustain sufficient genetic diversity. Anthropologist Cameron Smith has calculated how many people would be required to maintain genetic diversity and secure the success of the endeavor. William Gardner-O'Kearney helped Smith build the MATLAB simulations to calculate how many different scenarios would play out during interstellar travel and ran some simulations specially to show why the success of an interstellar mission depends crucially on the starting population size. Gardner-O'Kearny calculated each population's possible trajectory over 300 years, or 30 generations. Because there are a lot of random variables to consider, he calculated the trajectory of each population 10 times, then averaged the results.

A population of 150 people, proposed by John Moore in 2002, is not nearly high enough to maintain genetic variation. Over many generations, inbreeding leads to the loss of more than 80 percent of the original diversity found within the hypothetical gene. A population of 500 people would not be sufficient either, Smith says. "Five hundred people picked at random today from the human population would not probably represent all of human genetic diversity . . . If you're going to seed a planet for its entire future, you want to have as much genetic diversity as possible, because that diversity is your insurance policy for adaptation to new conditions." A starting population of 40,000 people maintains 100 percent of its variation, while the 10,000-person scenario stays relatively stable too. So, Smith concludes that a number between 10,000 and 40,000 is a pretty safe bet when it comes to preserving genetic variation. Luckily, tens of thousands of pioneers wouldn't have to be housed all in one starship. Spreading people out among multiple ships also spreads out the risk. Modular ships could dock together for trade and social gatherings, but travel separately so that disaster for one wouldn't spell disaster for all. 'With 10,000,' Smith says, 'you can set off with good amount of human genetic diversity, survive even a bad disease sweep, and arrive in numbers, perhaps, and diversity sufficient to make a good go at Humanity 2.0.'"
The Almighty Buck

Smartphone Kill-Switch Could Save Consumers $2.6 Billion 218

itwbennett (1594911) writes "Creighton University professor William Duckworth has released a report finding that kill-switch technology that remotely makes a stolen smartphone useless could save American consumers up to $2.6 billion per year — mostly from reduced insurance premiums. Duckworth estimated that Americans currently spend around $580 million replacing stolen phones each year and $4.8 billion paying for handset insurance. If a kill-switch led to a sharp reduction in theft of phones, most of the $580 million spent on replacing stolen phones would be saved. And a further $2 billion in savings could be realized by switching to cheaper insurance plans that don't cover theft."
Patents

Misunderstanding of Prior Art May Have Led to Apple-Samsung Verdict 503

One of the interesting tidbits that came out of last week's billion-dollar verdict in Apple v. Samsung was that the jury's foreman, a patent holder himself, was instrumental in leading the other members through the various complicated infringement claims. Now, Groklaw analyzes an interview the man gave with Bloomberg News (video), in which his statements reveal a basic misunderstanding of what qualifies as prior art. Quoting Groklaw: "In discussing the first patent on the list, he says they got into a discussion about the prior art that was presented at trial. Here's why they discounted it: 'The software on the Apple side could not be placed into the processor on the prior art and vice versa. That means they are not interchangeable. That changed everything right there.' That isn't disqualifying for prior art. It doesn't have to run on the same processor. It doesn't have to run at all. It can be words on a piece of paper. (If you don't believe little old me, here's a lawyer noticing the video too now.) ... The foreman, in answering criticisms, says that the jury paid close attention to the jury instructions. But looking at this one, did they? I'm sure they meant to, and I'm also sure they did their best according to what they understood. But this was an error, and it's one I don't think the judge can ignore, if anyone brings it to her attention."
Communications

What Would a Post-Email World Look Like? 314

jfruh writes "Pundits have been gleefully predicting the death of email for years, but nobody has really been able to explain what will replace email, especially for the medium's archiving capabilities that businesses and governments have come to rely on. It's possible that email won't vanish, but rather become invisible, one component of an integrated communication stream that will be transparent to users but still present — and useful — under the hood. It may turn out that Google's Wave, which was built on this idea, was just a bit ahead of its time."
Math

Statistical Analysis Raises Civil War Death Count By 20% 139

Hugh Pickens writes "For more than a century, it has been accepted that about 620,000 Americans died in the the bloodiest, most devastating conflict in American history. But now, BBC reports that historian J. David Hacker has used sophisticated statistical software to determine the war's death toll and found that civil war dead may have been undercounted by as many as 130,000. Hacker began by taking digitized samples from the decennial census counts taken from 1850-1880. Using statistical package SPSS, Hacker counted the number of native-born white men of military age in 1860 and determined how many of that group were still alive in 1870 and compared that survival rate with the survival rates of the men of the same ages from 1850-1860, and from 1870-1880 — the 10-year census periods before and after the Civil War. The calculations yielded the number of 'excess' deaths of military-age men between 1860-1870 — the number who died in the war or in the five subsequent years from causes related to the war. Hacker's findings, published in the December 2011 issue of Civil War History, have been endorsed by some of the leading historians of the conflict. 'The difference between the two estimates is large enough to change the way we look at the war,' writes Hacker. 'The war touched more lives and communities more deeply than we thought, and thus shaped the course of the ensuing decades of American history in ways we have not yet fully grasped. True, the war was terrible in either case. But just how terrible, and just how extensive its consequences, can only be known when we have a better count of the Civil War dead.'"
Businesses

Facebook Reportedly Filing $5 Billion IPO Today 268

hypnosec writes "Today is the day when Facebook may be submitting all required paperwork to regulators for its $5 billion initial public offering. According to the source close to the deal, Facebook has selected Morgan Stanley along with four others — Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Barclay's Capital to handle this IPO. Morgan Stanley will be taking "lead left" role in this supposedly biggest IPO from Silicon Valley. According to International Financing Review, the preliminary target of $5 billion will be increased by many folds in coming few months as a response to the demands of investors. Sources close to this matter disclosed that this might turn out to be defining moment for current web investments. The deal might rise to $10 billion which eventually will make Facebook a social networking empire valued between $75 billion to $100 billion. In fact, $75 billion is definitely an undervaluation compared to previous expectations."
Businesses

Should Social Media Affect Your Creditworthiness? 344

theodp writes "Betabeat's Adrianne Jeffries takes a look at the questionable young science of using social media to evaluate creditworthiness. As banks start nosing around Facebook and Twitter, Jeffries explains, the wrong friends might just sink your credit. 'Let's take a trip with the Ghost of Christmas Future,' she suggests. 'The year is 2016, and George Bailey, a former banker, now a part-time consultant, is looking for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage for a co-op in the super-hot neighborhood of Bedford Falls (BeFa). He has never missed a loan payment and has zero credit card debt. He submits his information to the online-only PotterBank.com, but halfway through the application process, the website asks for his Facebook login. Then his Twitter. Then LinkedIn. The cartoon loan officer avatar begins to frown as the algorithm discovers Mr. Bailey's taxi-driving buddy Ernie was once turned down by PotterBank for a loan; then it starts browsing his daughter Zuzu's photo album, 'Saturday Nite!' And what was this tweet from a few years back: "FML, about to jump off a goddamn bridge"?' So, could George piggyback his way to a better credit score by adding Larry and Sergey to his Google+ Circles?"
NASA

What Silicon-Based Life Might Be Like 92

Nancy_A writes "While the world as we know it runs on carbon, science fiction's long flirtation with silicon-based life has spawned a familiar catchphrase: 'It's life, but not as we know it.' Although non-carbon based life is a very long shot, this Q&A with one of the U.S.'s top astrochemists — Max Bernstein, the Research Lead of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters in Washington,D.C. — discusses what silicon life might be like."
Security

Could the KGB Infiltrate LulzSec? 162

Barence writes "Foreign powers could try to infiltrate hacktivist networks in order to manipulate their actions, according to a security expert who advises governments and businesses on internet issues. Likening the emergence of the hacktivist movement to the arrival of militant groups such as the Red Brigade during the 1970s, government advisor and chair of the International E-crime Congress, Simon Moores, said that hacker groups could eventually be swayed by outside influences. 'If you have a LulzSec or an Anonymous that is perhaps being manipulated by a foreign actor, it takes us back to the days of the Stasi and the KGB, which were manipulating [anti-nuclear campaign group] CND quite easily from Moscow,' he said."
Moon

No Moon Needed For Extraterrestrial Life 246

sciencehabit writes "Given the generally accepted idea of how Earth got its big moon — through a dramatic collision with a Mars-sized body that knocked a huge chunk of Earth loose — astronomers estimate that only 1% of all Earth-like planets in the universe might actually have such a hefty companion. That would mean planets harboring complex life might be relatively rare. But researchers have now carried out large numbers of detailed numerical simulations of 'moon-less Earths,' which show that the consequences are less dire than is generally assumed. According to the simulations, these planets would have ample time for advanced land life to evolve. As a result, the number of Earth-like extrasolar planets suitable for harboring advanced life could be 10 times higher than has been assumed until now."
Sony

Sony Could Face Developer Exodus On PSN 186

donniebaseball23 writes "As the PlayStation Network outage continues, developers are feeling the economic pinch. There's been no word from Sony on whether they'll compensate companies who produce games for PSN, but Capcom has already said it's losing potentially 'millions' from the downtime. Worse yet, developers who rely on PSN revenues may jump ship if they aren't compensated, warns Dylan Cuthbert, creator of popular PSN game PixelJunk. 'I have a feeling they [Sony] are thinking about doing something or they will lose developers, which of course is pretty bad for them,' he said." While a major shift away from the PS3 is unlikely — downtime or not, developers don't want to lock themselves out of such a big piece of the market — it does have undeniable negative effects on some companies. For example, Bethesda's FPS Brink, which focuses heavily on multiplayer, launched without that capability for PS3 users. You can bet Microsoft will use this outage as a selling point for exclusivity or Xbox-first arrangements.
Network

Exabit Transmission Speeds May Be Possible 98

adeelarshad82 writes "Scientists at UC Berkeley were able to shrink a graphene optical modulator down to 25 square microns in size (small enough to include in silicon circuitry) and were able to modulate it at a speed of 1GHz. The researchers say that modulation speeds of up to 500GHz are theoretically possible. According to the research, due to the high modulation speeds, a graphene modulator can transmit a huge amount of data using spectral bandwidth that conventional modulators can only dream of. Professor Xiang Zhang, in an attempt to boil his group's new findings into consumer-speak, puts it this way: 'If graphene modulators can actually operate at 500GHz, we could soon see networks that are capable of petabit or exabit transmission speeds, rather than megabits and gigabits.'"

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