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Congress Gives Federal Agencies Two Weeks To Tally Backdoored Juniper Kit ( 77

itwbennett writes: In an effort to gauge the impact of the recent Juniper ScreenOS backdoors on government organizations, the House of Representatives is questioning around two dozen U.S. government departments and federal agencies. The U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent letters to the agencies on Jan. 21, asking them to identify whether they used devices running the affected ScreenOS versions, to explain how they learned about the issues and whether they took any corrective actions before Juniper released patches and to specify when they applied the company's patches. The questioned organizations have until Feb. 4 to respond and deliver the appropriate documents, a very tight time frame giving that 'the time period covered by this request is from January 1, 2009 to the present.'
United States

Why 6 Republican Senators Think You Don't Need Faster Broadband ( 522

itwbennett writes: Broadband in the United States still lags behind similar service in other industrialized countries, so Congress made broadband expansion a national priority, and it offers subsidies, mostly in rural areas, to help providers expand their offerings,' writes Bill Snyder. And that's where an effort by the big ISPs and a group of senators to change the definition of broadband comes in. Of course, the ISPs want the threshold to be as low as possible so it's easier for them to qualify for government subsidies. In a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, dated January 21, 2016, the senators called the current broadband benchmark of 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream 'arbitrary' and said that users don't need that kind of speed anyway. '[W]e are aware of few applications that require download speeds of 25 Mbps.' the senators wrote, missing the simple fact that many users have multiple connected devices.
United States

US Could Lower Carbon Emissions 78% With New National Transmission Network ( 346

mdsolar writes with this story from Smithsonian magazine about how building a national transmission network could lead to a gigantic reduction in carbon emissions. From the story: "The United States could lower carbon emissions from electricity generation by as much as 78 percent without having to develop any new technologies or use costly batteries, a new study suggests. There's a catch, though. The country would have to build a new national transmission network so that states could share energy. 'Our idea was if we had a national 'interstate highway for electrons' we could move the power around as it was needed, and we could put the wind and solar plants in the very best places,' says study co-author Alexander MacDonald, who recently retired as director of NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado."

US Regulators Find Serious Deficiencies At Theranos Lab ( 66

An anonymous reader writes: 2016 has not started well for blood-testing startup Theranos. Already facing allegations of data manipulation, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have found problems with Theranos' laboratory in Newark, California, putting the company's relationship with the Medicare program in danger. WSJ reports: "It isn't clear exactly what regulators have faulted Theranos for in their latest inspection, which took several months. Adverse findings would be another regulatory setback for one of Silicon Valley's highest-profile startups, valued at about $9 billion in 2014. Theranos already has stopped collecting tiny samples of blood from patients' fingers for all but one of its tests while it waits for the Food and Drug Administration to review the company's applications for wider use of the proprietary vials called 'nanotainers.' In October, the FDA said it had determined that the nanotainers were an 'uncleared medical device.'"

Apple Court Testimony Reveals Why It Refuses To Unlock iPhones For Police ( 231

blottsie writes: Newly unsealed court transcripts from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York show that Apple now refuses to unlock iPhones for law enforcement, saying "In most cases now and in the future, the government’s requested order would be substantially burdensome, as it would be impossible to perform." “Right now Apple is aware that customer data is under siege from a variety of different directions. Never has the privacy and security of customer data been as important as it is now,” Apple lawyer Marc Zwillinger said at the hearing. “A hypothetical consumer could think if Apple is not in the business of accessing my data and if Apple has built a system to prevent itself from accessing my data, why is it continuing to comply with orders that don’t have a clear lawful basis in doing so?”

High-Tech Attack Alert For 2016 Super Bowl ( 60

An anonymous reader writes with news about a Homeland Security memo concerning potential technological attacks during the Super Bowl. The forthcoming Super Bowl event on 7th February could be at risk of a high-tech attack against fans both inside and outside the San Francisco 49ers Stadium. A security memo issued by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security has warned that the annual game could be a target not just at the stadium, but at other commemorative events taking place in San Francisco and in the Silicon Valley. One of the chief concerns is the various sabotages committed against fibre cables in the area. As the fibre optic cable networks function as back up communication systems in emergency situations, these are a possible target for the attackers. By destroying these cables, response times could be slowed down.
United States

The Story Behind National Reconnaissance Office's Octopus Logo ( 133

v3rgEz writes: When the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) announced the upcoming launch of their NROL-39 mission back in December 2013, they didn't get quite the response they hoped. That might have had something to do with the mission logo being a gigantic octopus devouring the Earth. Researcher Runa Sandvik wanted to know who approved this and why, so she filed a Freedom of Information Act with the NRO for the development materials that went into the logo. A few months later, the NRO delivered.
The Military

A Small Secret Airstrip In Africa Is the Future of America's Way of War 139 writes: Reuters reports that the Pentagon is quietly building up a small airstrip in a remote region of east Africa that is a complex microcosm of how Washington runs military operations overseas — and how America's way of war will probably look for the foreseeable future. Chabelley Airfield is less than 10 miles from the capital of the small African nation of Djibouti but the small airport is the hub for America's drone operations in the nearby hotspots of Somalia and Yemen as part of its war against Islamic militants. "The U.S. military is being pressured into considering the adoption of more of a lily pad basing model in the wake of so much turbulence and warfare across the region," says Dr. Geoffrey Gresh. "Djibouti is a small, relatively safe ally that enables the U.S. special operators to carry out missions effectively across the continent." In September 2013, the Pentagon announced it was moving the pilotless aircraft from its main base at Camp Lemonnier to Chabelley with almost no fanfare. Africom and the Pentagon jealously guard information about their outposts in Africa, making it impossible to ascertain even basic facts — like a simple count — let alone just how many are integral to JSOC operations, drone strikes, and other secret activities. However a map in a Pentagon report indicates that there were 10 MQ-1 Predator drones and four larger, more far-ranging MQ-9 Reapers based at Camp Lemonnier in June 2012 before the move to Chabelley.

The Pentagon does not list Chabelley in its annual Base Structure Report, the only official compendium of American military facilities around the world. "The Chebelley base [is] a reflection of the growing presence of the U.S. military in Africa," says Dr. David Vine, author of 'Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World". "The [U.S.] military has gone to great lengths to disguise and downplay its growing presence in Africa generally in the hopes of avoiding negative attention and protests both in the U.S. and in African countries wary of the colonial-esque presence of foreign troops." American drones fly regular missions from Chabelley, an airstrip the French run with the approval of the Djiboutian government. Washington pays Djibouti for access to Paris' outpost. Part of the reason for this circuitous chain of responsibility could be the fact that the Pentagon's drone missions are often controversial. Critics contend targeted strikes against militants are illegal under American and international law and tantamount to assassination. "The military is easily capable of adapting to change, but they don't like to stop anything they feel is making their lives easier, or is to their benefit. And this certainly is, in their eyes, a very quick, clean way of doing things. It's a very slick, efficient way to conduct the war, without having to have the massive ground invasion mistakes of Iraq and Afghanistan."
United States

What's In a Tool? a Case For Made In the USA ( 329

szczys writes: You have the choice of buying a wrench made in the USA and one made in China. Which one should you buy? The question is not a straightforward one. Tools are judged by their ability to do the job repeatedly and without fail. To achieve this, only the best of design and manufacturing will do. But this is a high bar when you factor in price competition which often leads to outsourcing production. Gerrit Coetzee looks at this issue, comparing two instances of the same model of Crescent brand adjustable wrench; one a legacy manufactured in the USA, another outsourced for manufacture in China.

Ann Caracristi, Who Cracked Codes, and the Glass Ceiling At NSA, Dies At 94 ( 96

An anonymous reader writes with this story at The Washington Post about the life and death of Ann Caracristi. From the article: "Ann Caracristi, who became one of the highest ranking and most honored women at the code breaking National Security Agency after a career extending from World War II through much of the Cold War, died Jan. 10 at her home in Washington. She was 94. ... Ms. Caracristi formally retired from her intelligence career in 1982, after becoming the sixth deputy director of the NSA . . . She was the first woman to serve as deputy director. One of her strengths was reconstructing enemy code books, said Liza Mundy, a former Washington Post staff writer who is working on a book about U.S. female code breakers during the war. Admired for her early accomplishments as a young woman in wartime Washington, Ms. Caracristi was credited in her later career with providing leadership for new generations of code breakers and for her efforts to bring computers and technology to bear on the work. ... One of her jobs at the NSA was as chief from 1959 to 1980 of branches devoted to research and operations. Her honors there included the Defense Department's Distinguished Civilian Service Award and the National Security Medal, among other top federal honors. After retiring, she began serving on a variety of prominent scientific, defense and intelligence advisory boards and committees."
United States

Should the US Change Metal Coins? ( 702

coondoggie writes: It may be time for the United States to rethink how the smallest parts of its monetary system — the penny, nickel and dime – are made. According to a report this week from watchdogs at the Government Accountability Office, since 2006 the prices of metals used in coins have risen so much that the total production unit costs of the penny and nickel exceed their face value resulting in financial losses to the U.S. Mint.

IRS: Identity Theft Protection a Tax Deductible Benefit - Even Without a Breach ( 51

chicksdaddy writes: The U.S. Internal Revenue Service has announced that it will treat identity theft protection as a non-taxable, non-reportable benefit that companies can offer — even when the company in question hasn't experienced a data breach, and regardless of whether it is offered by an employer to employees, or by other businesses (such as online retailers) to its customers, the blog E for ERISA reports. In short: companies can now deduct the cost of offering identity theft protection as a benefit for employees or extending it to customers, even if their data hasn't been exposed to hackers.

The announcement comes only four months after an earlier announcement by the IRS that it would treat identity theft protection offered to employees or customers in the wake of a data breach as a non-taxable event. Comments to the IRS following the earlier decision suggested that many businesses view a data breach as "inevitable" rather than as a remote risk.

The truth of that statement was made clear to the IRS itself, which had to provide identity theft protection earlier this year in response to a hack of its online database of past-filed returns and other filed documents which ultimately affected over 300,000 taxpayers. The new IRS guidance could be a boon to providers of identity protection services such as Experian and Lifelock, though maybe not as much as one would expect. Data from Experian suggests that consumer adoption rates for identity theft protection services is low. Fewer than 10% of those potentially affected by a breach opt for free identity protection services when they are offered. For very large breaches that number is even lower — in the single digit percentages.

United States

Hackers and Heroes: A Tale of Tech Communities In Two Countries ( 27

szczys writes: "Hackers" — people who non-maliciously test the limits of technology — have a very different societal standing depending on the country they live in. To illustrate the concept, consider the history of hackers in the United States versus those in Germany. Both communities have their genesis with the telecom systems of the 1980's, when hackers were called Phone Phreakers and traded secrets on telephone system exploits. These groups were the earliest to test the security and vulnerability of the burgeoning Internet, but their paths diverged. Hackers in Germany formed political parties while in the US they were targeted by law enforcement. The result is two very different communities filled with highly skilled individuals, but one must fly under the radar while the other enjoys much wider open acceptance.

Feds: Your Employer Can't Stop You From Recording Conversations At Work ( 139

schwit1 writes with news about a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board about your right to record conversations at work. The Huffington Post reports: "If you're looking to catch your boss breaking labor law, that smartphone in your pocket might be your best friend, thanks to a new ruling from federal officials. On Thursday, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that upscale grocer Whole Foods cannot forbid employees from recording conversations or taking photographs at work without a supervisor's permission. (Local laws, however, could still come into play in certain situations, as several states require the consent of two parties in order for a conversation to be recorded legally.) At the center of the case were stipulations in Whole Foods' 'General Information Guide,' an employee manual laying out worker do's and don'ts. The guide prohibited workers from taking photos or recording conversations inside a store 'unless prior approval is received' from a manager or executive, or 'unless all parties to the conversation give their consent.'"
United States

US Dept. of Ed: English, History, and Civics Teachers Good Enough For CS Class 242

theodp writes: In A New Chapter for Computer Science Education, the U.S. Department of Education explained earlier this month that the federal STEM Education Act of 2015 'provides an unprecedented opportunity to fully leverage federal resources' to address large gaps in students' participation in Advanced Placement (AP) computer science classes based on gender and race. "In three states," lamented the DOE, "not a single female student took the AP computer science exam" (that only 8 boys took the AP CS exam in those same 3 states was apparently not a concern). And the DOE has good news for those hoping to tap Title I and II funds for CS, but don't have any computer science teachers. "A background in math or science isn't necessarily a requirement to teach CS," explains the Dept. of Ed, "as disciplines like English, history and civics can also provide a solid foundation for teaching CS concepts."

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