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Submission + - The backlash against self-driving cars officially begins (cnn.com)

Paul Fernhout writes: "An organization that advocates for professional drivers has urged New York to ban self-driving cars from the state's roads for 50 years. The Upstate Transportation Association fears that self-driving cars will eliminate thousands of jobs and damage the local economy."

Submission + - Online Security: Dumb WhatsApp Scam Spreads Malware - Beware

jamilnaws writes: Dumb WhatsApp Scam Spreads Malware, Touting 'Free Internet' Without Wi-Fi: Beware

A pretty dumb WhatsApp scam is making rounds in chain mail form, promising "free internet" without Wi-Fi on an invite-only basis.

First of all, the scam is quite dumb to begin with because the only way to use WhatsApp without Wi-Fi is to have a cellular data connection and WhatsApp cannot offer data — it's just an app, not a provider.

Secondly, the scam is spreading because it prompts victims to forward the message to 13 friends or five groups on WhatsApp to activate the "free internet."

How It Works

"As usual, the message spreads via WhatsApp groups or comes from a friend who 'recommends' the service — often unaware of it. In this case, you receive a special invitation with a link," explains the WeLiveSecurity blog of antivirus and security firm ESET.

"You can already get Internet Free Without WI-FI with Whatsapp, and it is by means of invitations, here I give you an invitation," reads the poorly written message.

Upon clicking on the included link, users are taken to a website mimicking the WhatsApp domain. It detects the device's language based on the browser settings and invites users to pass along the invitation to more people, ensuring that the scam keeps spreading.

The message also shows fake reviews from fake users, claiming to be incredibly satisfied with this amazing offer. Those users don't even exist, much like this "free internet" invite-only deal. Don't fall for it, or you'll get more than you bargained for — and not in a good way.

Surprise! Malware

After sharing the message with at least 13 people or five groups, users who have fallen victim to this sham end up on various sites where a number of malicious actions can wreak havoc.

According to WeLiveSecurity, such actions range from subscriptions to premium and expensive SMS services to installing third-party apps on the device, of course aiming to generate some money for the scammer on the victims' expense.

Victims will see various offers, but they obviously will not get any "free internet." The only way to use WhatsApp to communicate with people is to have an active internet connection, be it cellular data or Wi-Fi, and the scam does absolutely nothing to change this reality.

At best, victims waste their time and end up disappointed that the magical chain message didn't work. At worst, they end up with malicious software on their phones.

How To Avoid Such Scams

First of all, keep in mind that any message that shows up out of the blue, poorly written and making seemingly attractive promises are most likely fake, part of a scam. Raising awareness regarding these scams plays a crucial role in limiting their damage and slowing their spread rate.

If you've received this "free internet" offer or some other dubious message that looks like a scam, warn the sender and your friends so that they're aware it's a scam. Moreover, reporting the fraud is also important and it's not that big of a hassle — just flag it in your browser as you'd normally report any phishing campaign.

Submission + - Law for Autonomous Vehicles: Supporting an Aftermarket for Driving Computers (perens.com)

Bruce Perens writes: How will we buy self-driving cars, and how will we keep them running as self-driving software and hardware becomes obsolete much more rapidly than the vehicle itself? Boalt Hall legal professor Lothar Determann and Open Source Evangelist Bruce Perens are publishing an article in the prestigious Berkeley Technology Law Journal on how the law and markets might support an aftermarket for self-driving computers, rather than having the manufacturer lock them down or sell driving as a service rather than selling cars. The preprint is available to read now, and discusses how an Open Car, based on Open Standards and an Open Market, but not necessarily Open Source, can drive prices down and quality up over non-competitive manufacturer lock-in.

Submission + - Google-Funded ALA Project Envisions Nation's Librarians Teaching Kids to Code

theodp writes: Citing the need to fill "500,000 current job openings in the field of computer science," the American Library Association (ALA) argues in a new whitepaper (pdf) that "all 115,000 of the nation’s school and public libraries are crucial community partners to guarantee youth have skills essential to future employment and civic participation." As such, the ALA's Google-funded Libraries Ready to Code (RtC) project has entered Phase II, which aims to "equip MLIS [Master's in Library Science] students to deliver coding programs through public and school libraries and foster computational thinking skills among the nation’s youth." The RtC Phase II timeline (pdf) calls for a review of “lessons learned for national strategy” in Q4 of this year. "Particular attention will be paid to addressing challenges and opportunities for underrepresented groups in CS and related fields (e.g., Hispanic, Native American, African American, and girls)," explained the ALA. “Libraries play a vital role in our communities, and Google is proud to build on our partnership with ALA," added Hai Hong, who leads US outreach on Google's K-12 Education team. “We're excited to double down on the findings of Ready to Code 1 by equipping librarians with the knowledge and skills to cultivate computational thinking and coding skills in our youth. Given the ubiquity of technology and the half-a-million unfilled tech jobs in the country, we need to ensure that all youth understand the world around them and have the opportunity to develop the essential skills that employers — and our nation's economy — require.”

Submission + - Parents View New Peanut Guidelines With Guilt and Skepticism (nytimes.com) 1

schwit1 writes: When Nicole Lepke’s son was born, she listened to her pediatrician and kept peanuts away until the age of 2, but the toddler still developed a severe peanut allergy when he finally tried them.

Now, 12 years later, health experts have reversed their advice on peanuts, urging parents to begin feeding foods containing peanut powder or extract during infancy in hopes of reducing a child’s risk for allergy.

The about-face on peanuts has stunned parents around the country who are coping with the challenges of severe peanut allergies. Like many parents, Ms. Lepke is now plagued with guilt. By restricting peanuts early, did she inadvertently cause the very allergy she was trying to prevent?

Submission + - Eggs from Skin Cells? Why the Next Fertility Technology Will Open Pandora's Box (technologyreview.com)

schwit1 writes: Imagine you are Brad Pitt. After you stay one night in the Ritz, someone sneaks in and collects some skin cells from your pillow.

But that’s not all. Using a novel fertility technology, your movie star cells are transformed into sperm and used to make a baby. And now someone is suing you for millions in child support.

Such a seemingly bizarre scenario could actually be possible, say three senior medical researchers who today have chosen to alert the public to the social risks of in vitro gametogenesis, a technique they say could allow any type of cell to be reprogrammed into a sperm or egg.

Submission + - Congress Will Consider Proposal To Raise H-1B Minimum Wage To $100,000 (arstechnica.com)

An anonymous reader writes: President-elect Donald Trump is just a week away from taking office. From the start of his campaign, he has promised big changes to the US immigration system. For both Trump's advisers and members of Congress, the H-1B visa program, which allows many foreign workers to fill technology jobs, is a particular focus. One major change to that system is already under discussion: making it harder for companies to use H-1B workers to replace Americans by simply giving the foreign workers a raise. The "Protect and Grow American Jobs Act," introduced last week by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. and Scott Peters, D-Calif., would significantly raise the wages of workers who get H-1B visas. If the bill becomes law, the minimum wage paid to H-1B workers would rise to at least $100,000 annually, and be adjusted it for inflation. Right now, the minimum is $60,000. The sponsors say that would go a long way toward fixing some of the abuses of the H-1B program, which critics say is currently used to simply replace American workers with cheaper, foreign workers. In 2013, the top nine companies acquiring H-1B visas were technology outsourcing firms, according to an analysis by a critic of the H-1B program. (The 10th is Microsoft.) The thinking goes that if minimum H-1B salaries are brought closer to what high-skilled tech employment really pays, the economic incentive to use it as a worker-replacement program will drop off. "We need to ensure we can retain the world’s best and brightest talent," said Issa in a statement about the bill. "At the same time, we also need to make sure programs are not abused to allow companies to outsource and hire cheap foreign labor from abroad to replace American workers." The H-1B program offers 65,000 visas each fiscal year, with an additional 20,000 reserved for foreign workers who have advanced degrees from US colleges and universities. The visas are awarded by lottery each year. Last year, the government received more than 236,000 applications for those visas.

Submission + - Is it time to hold police officers accountable for constitutional violations? (washingtonpost.com)

schwit1 writes: Recently the Supreme Court issued a summary opinion in the White v. Pauly case.A police officer was sued for killing a man during an armed standoff during which the officers allegedly never identified themselves as police. The Supreme Court, however, concluded that the officer had “qualified immunity.” That is, he was immune from a suit for damages, because his conduct — while possibly unconstitutional — was not obviously unconstitutional.

The doctrine of qualified immunity operates as an unwritten defense to civil rights lawsuits brought under 42 U.S.C. 1983. It prevents plaintiffs from recovering damages for violations of their constitutional rights unless the government official violated “clearly established law,” usually requiring a specific precedent on point. This article argues that the doctrine is unlawful and inconsistent with conventional principles of statutory interpretation.

Members of the Supreme Court have offered three different justifications for imposing such an unwritten defense on the text of Section 1983. One is that it derives from a common law “good faith” defense; another is that it compensates for an earlier putative mistake in broadening the statute; the third is that it provides “fair warning” to government officials, akin to the rule of lenity.

But on closer examination, each of these justifications falls apart, for a mix of historical, conceptual, and doctrinal reasons. There was no such defense; there was no such mistake; lenity ought not apply. And even if these things were otherwise, the doctrine of qualified immunity would not be the best response.

The unlawfulness of qualified immunity is of particular importance now. Despite the shoddy foundations, the Supreme Court has been reinforcing the doctrine of immunity in both formal and informal ways. In particular, the Court has given qualified immunity a privileged place on its agenda reserved for few other legal doctrines besides habeas deference. Rather than doubling down, the Court ought to be beating a retreat.

Government officials, especially those with the power that Law Enforcement officers have, should be held to a higher standard, not a lower one.

Submission + - User Trust Fail: Google Chrome and the Tech Support Scams (vortex.com)

Lauren Weinstein writes: It’s not Google’s fault that these criminals exist. However, given Google’s excellent record at detection and blocking of malware, it is beyond puzzling why Google’s Chrome browser is so ineffective at blocking or even warning about these horrific tech support scams when they hit a user’s browser.

These scam pages should not require massive AI power for Google to target.

And critically, it’s difficult to understand why Chrome still permits most of these crooked pages to completely lock up the user’s browser — often making it impossible for the user to close the related tab or browser through any means that most users could reasonably be expected to know about.

Submission + - DHS tags election systems as critical

mikehusky writes: To the consternation of some state government officials, the Department of Homeland Security on Jan. 6 moved to make state election systems part of the critical infrastructure sectors under its protection.

The move comes in the wake of allegations of Russian hacking into political targets during the recent election period, and specific complaints of attempts to penetrate state election and voter data systems..Source

Submission + - Are Social Media's "Ads For Eyeballs" Valuations About To Be Eviscerated? (zerohedge.com)

alternative_right writes: There’s a peculiar tone emanating from the social media space. It’s a little hard to hear, but if you listen closely, it’s there none the less. That sound is the sudden gasp of realization that the most dominating reasoning and defense that encompassed the entire social media space may in fact being laid-to-waste right before their screens. That horror?

The eyeballs for ads model doesn’t work.

Submission + - Abrupt product termination consequences for Google?

managerialslime writes: I wonder how many good Google products never get adopted because IT executives (like me) are now too anxious about application abandonment?

When I was the CIO at a mid-size company, I rejected adoption of Google Voice, Google Wave, and Google Hangouts after seeing them abandon Google Desktop Search.

I reasoned that if Google could not give multi-year sunsetting like Microsoft, then they were not a partner I could rely on.

At what point will Google's advantage due to the flexibility of abrupt terminations be outweighed by resistance to adopting their products?

Hmm....

Submission + - CES 2017: Talk to the Fridge (but will Alexa or Google answer back?) (ieee.org)

Tekla Perry writes: CES 2017 is turning into the battle of the intelligent agents: Alexa, with a head start, is everywhere; Google Assistant isn't out of the game though. Siri, however, stayed home. As to where these chatty agents will be hanging out in your home it turns out that they are no different than most people you invite to your parties--you'll find them in the kitchen.

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