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Submission + - Ambient Light Sensors Can Be Used to Steal Browser Data (

An anonymous reader writes: Over the past decade, ambient light sensors have become quite common in smartphones, tablets, and laptops, where they are used to detect the level of surrounding light and automatically adjust a screen's intensity to optimize battery consumption... and other stuff. The sensors have become so prevalent, that the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has developed a special API that allows websites (through a browser) to interact with a device's ambient light sensors. Browsers such as Chrome and Firefox have already shipped versions of this API with their products.

According to two privacy and security experts, malicious web pages can launch attacks using this new API and collect data on users, such as URLs they visited in the past and extract QR codes displayed on the screen. This is possible because the light coming from the screen is picked up by these sensors. Mitigating such attacks is quite easy, as it only requires browser makers and the W3C to adjust the default frequency at which the sensors report their readings. Furthermore, the researcher also recommends that browser makers quantize the result by limiting the precision of the sensor output to only a few values in a preset range. The two researchers filed bug reports with both Chrome and Firefox in the hopes their recommendations will be followed.

Submission + - SPAM: Buried lasers will sense Earth's spin and quakes doing the twist

sciencehabit writes: Under the corn and wheat fields of Fürstenfeldbruck, a village 20 kilometers from Munich, Germany, is a buried inverted pyramid of concrete, steel pipes, and lasers, as deep as a three-story building. Last month, lasers began coursing around the edges of this structure, called Rotational Motions for Seismology (ROMY). By keeping the structure stable and measuring tiny changes in the lasers’ wavelengths, researchers can use ROMY to measure the twists and turns of Earth itself. And by sensing the weak rotations that accompany earthquakes, ROMY could pave the way for portable sensors that could herald a new field of rotational seismology.
Link to Original Source

Comment Find shade or create your own. (Score 1) 135

You do mention driving, but I'm going to assume you're not operating your phone or laptop while you're actually driving. If this is not a valid assumption, then don't do that. I'm assuming at the very least that if you're in a motor vehicle, when you're operating your device the vehicle is stopped and not in gear. You state, "even the brightest Samsungs, Motorolas, and LGs I've seen cannot hold a candle to the summer sun north of Seattle." One other thing there is a lot of in the area north of Seattle is trees. Put one between you and the sun. Problem solved. If that's not enough, throw a towel over both your head and the device. If it was good enough for Douglas Adams, it's good enough for me. If that's not sufficient, you could bring your device down here and try to use it in the less well vegetated parts of the Mojave Desert, at which point I'm betting that the Seattle sun wouldn't seem so bad.

Comment Re:Fighting over horsewhip handle designs (Score 2) 186

There is something to this. Nonetheless, I continue to be surprised that on rare occasion the FCC actually, you know, makes decisions that benefit the end-user and not the huge corporations that produce the majority of the commissioners and give them high priced jobs once they leave government service. Back in *my* day, this never happened. I'll take a small victory.

Comment Re:Think horses, not zebras (Score 1) 339

If you read the articles, this is the approach both the original research authors and Phil Plait have taken. It's most likely something mundane that we haven't seen before, but unlike most of what we observe, it's unusual enough that we can't yet rule out something more exotic. While no doubt silly people will misinterpret this, to me, the actual scientists who have commented on this have done so responsibly.

Comment Re:Oh dear god..... (Score 1) 339

... and if the star had one significantly sized periodic dip in it's luminosity, that would be a plausible explanation. However, that's not what we see. We see a lot of different sized dips with no apparent periodicity so far. It's not one brown dwarf. Do you honestly think that professional astronomers wouldn't have considered this possibility before publishing their findings?

Comment Re: Journalists doing all of the speculating (Score 1) 339

Cepheids (and other variables) have well known and well studied light curves (luminosity as a function of time). This star's light curve shows no resemblance to any type of pulsating variable star. It's not a Cepeid. It's also not an RR Lyrae, RV Tauri, or Mira type variable star. So, it's not surprising that nobody has suggested this is a Cepheid.

Comment Re:Lots of other possibilities (Score 1) 339

True, but for there to be frequent occultations, there would then need to be a lot of these chunks, much larger and denser than we see in our own asteroid belt, Kuiper belt, or Oort cloud. While this is certainly theoretically possible, it's hard to imagine how so much mass could form in such a configuration.

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