Businesses

Ask Slashdot: What Are The Lesser-Known Roles Of The IT Department? 353

chadenright writes: On the same day that I was hired into a new IT position, my new employer also bought a pair of $1,500 conference phones from a third-party vendor, which turned out to be defective; I've spent a chunk of the last two weeks arguing with the vendor. During the process I've learned that, as the IT guy, I'm also the antibody of the corporation and my job is to prevent not just malware and viruses but also junk hardware from entering my business's system. As a software engineer who is new to the IT side of things, I have to ask, what else have you learned about IT?
What fresh hell has this software engineer gotten themselves into? Leave your best answers in the comments. What are the lesser-known roles of the IT department?
Businesses

Work From Home People Earn More, Quit Less, and Are Happier Than Their Office-bound Counterparts (qz.com) 217

An anonymous reader shares a report: Working from home gets a bad rap. Google the phrase and examine the results -- you'll see scams or low-level jobs, followed by links calling out "legitimate" virtual jobs. But Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Nicholas Bloom says requiring employees to be in the office is an outdated work tradition, set up during the Industrial Revolution. Such inflexibility ignores today's sophisticated communications methods and long commutes, and actually hurts firms and employees. "Working from home is a future-looking technology," Bloom told an audience during a conference, which took place in April. "I think it has enormous potential." To test his claim, Bloom studied China's largest travel agency, Ctrip. Headquartered in Shanghai, the company has 20,000 employees and a market capitalization of about $20 billion. The company's leaders -- conscious of how expensive real estate is in Shanghai -- were interested in the impact of working from home. Could they continue to grow while avoiding exorbitant office space costs? They solicited worker volunteers for a study in which half worked from home for nine months, coming into the office one day a week, and half worked only from the office. Bloom tracked these two groups for about two years. The results? "We found massive, massive improvement in performance -- a 13% improvement in performance from people working at home," Bloom says.
The Almighty Buck

Ask Slashdot: Why Do So Many of You Think Carrying Cash Is 'Dangerous'? 660

An anonymous reader writes: Recently, I asked Slashdot what you thought about paying for things online using plastic, and the security of using plastic in general; thank you all for your many and varied responses, they're all much appreciated and gave me things to consider.

However, I got quite a few responses that puzzled me: People claiming that paying for things with cash, and carrying any amount of cash around at all, was somehow dangerous, that I'd be "robbed," and that I shouldn't carry cash at all, only plastic. I'm Gen-Y; I've walked around my entire life, in all sorts of places, and have never been approached or robbed by anyone, so I'm more than a little puzzled by that.

So now I ask you, Slashdotters: Why do you think carrying cash is so dangerous? Where do you live/spend your time that you worry so much about being robbed? Have you been robbed before, and that's why you feel this way? I'm not going to stop carrying cash in my wallet but I'd like to understand why it is so many of you feel this way -- so please be thorough in your explanations.
United Kingdom

Radio Station Hijacked Eight Times In the Past Month To Play 'I'm a Wanker' Song (bleepingcomputer.com) 168

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: An unknown hacker has hijacked the radio frequency of a UK radio station to play an obscene song eight times during the past month, according to the radio station's manager who recently revealed the hacks in an interview with BBC Radio 4. The hacks have been reported to Ofcom, the UK's communications regulator, who together with the radio station's staff have tried to track down the culprit at last three times, without success. Ofcom and radio station officials believe the hacker is using a mobile radio transmitter to broadcast a stronger signal on the radio station's normal frequency, overriding its normal program. In eight different occasions, the hacker has taken over broadcasts and has been heard talking, screaming, or singing, and then playing "The Winker's Song" (NSFW) by British comedian Ivor Biggun, a track about self-pleasure released in the 70s. Station manager Tony Delahunty told BBC Radio he received phone calls from distressed listeners complaining that their kids started humming the song. Fellow radio stations also called Delahunty to inquire about the hack, fearing similar hijacks.
Businesses

Tech Giants Rally Today in Support of Net Neutrality (theverge.com) 126

From a report: Technology giants like Amazon, Spotify, Reddit, Facebook, Google, Twitter and many others are rallying today in a so-called "day of action" in support of net neutrality, five days ahead of the first deadline for comments on the US Federal Communications Commission's planned rollback of the rules. In a move that's equal parts infuriating and exasperating, Ajit Pai, the FCC's new chairman appointed by President Trump, wants to scrap the open internet protections installed in 2015 under the Obama administration. Those consumer protections mean providers such as AT&T, Charter, Comcast, and Verizon are prevented from blocking or slowing down access to the web. Sites across the web will display alerts on their homepages showing "blocked," "upgrade," and "spinning wheel of death" pop-ups to demonstrate what the internet would look like without net neutrality, according to advocacy group Battle for the Net. But most of the pop-ups The Verge has seen have been simple banners or static text with links offering more information.
Programming

We Need To Reboot the Culture of View Source (wired.com) 305

theodp writes: Back in ye olde days of the information superhighway," begins Clive Thompson in It's Time to Make Code More Tinker-Friendly, "curious newbies had an easy way to see how websites worked: View Source." But no more. "Websites have evolved into complex, full-featured apps," laments Thompson. "Click View Source on Google.com and behold the slurry of incomprehensible Javascript. This increasingly worries old-guard coders. If the web no longer has a simple on-ramp, it could easily discourage curious amateurs." What the world needs now, Thompson argues, are "new tools that let everyone see, understand, and remix today's web. We need, in other words, to reboot the culture of View Source." Thompson cites Fog Creek Software's Glitch, Chris Coyier's CodePen, and Google's TensorFlow Playground as examples of efforts that embrace the spirit of View Source and help people recombine code in useful ways. Any other suggestions?
Communications

41 Percent of Adults In the US Have Been Harassed Online, Says Pew Study (techcrunch.com) 242

According to a new Pew Research Center study, 41 percent of adults said they have experienced harassment online, and 66 percent of people said they've seen it happen to others. What's the most common form of online harassment? According to the study, it's offensive name-calling. TechCrunch reports: It's worth noting that while men are slightly more likely than women to be harassed online (44 percent versus 37 percent), women are more likely to be sexually harassed online. For example, 53 percent of women surveyed reported receiving explicit images they did not request. Unsurprisingly, social media is where people are most likely to experience online harassment, with 58 percent of those harassed saying the most recent incident happened on a social media platform. Also unsurprising is the fact that more than half of people harassed don't know the person harassing them. Pew also explored "emergent" forms of online harassment, like doxing (posting someone's personal information online without consent), trolling (intentionally trying to provoke or upset someone), hacking (illegally accessing someone's accounts) and swatting (when you call 911 for a fake emergency and have the police show up at that person's house). "While many Americans are not aware of these behaviors, they have all been used to escalate abuse online," the report states.
Security

Kaspersky Lab Has Been Working With Russian Intelligence (bloomberg.com) 175

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Internal company emails obtained by Bloomberg Businessweek show that Kaspersky Lab has maintained a much closer working relationship with Russia's main intelligence agency, the FSB, than it has publicly admitted. It has developed security technology at the spy agency's behest and worked on joint projects the CEO knew would be embarrassing if made public. The previously unreported emails, from October 2009, are from a thread between Eugene Kaspersky and senior staff. In Russian, Kaspersky outlines a project undertaken in secret a year earlier "per a big request on the Lubyanka side," a reference to the FSB offices. Kaspersky Lab confirmed the emails are authentic.

The software that the CEO was referring to had the stated purpose of protecting clients, including the Russian government, from distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, but its scope went further. Kaspersky Lab would also cooperate with internet hosting companies to locate bad actors and block their attacks, while assisting with "active countermeasures," a capability so sensitive that Kaspersky advised his staff to keep it secret. In this case, Kaspersky may have been referring to something even more rare in the security world. A person familiar with the company's anti-DDoS system says it's made up of two parts. The first consists of traditional defensive techniques, including rerouting malicious traffic to servers that can harmlessly absorb it. The second part is more unusual: Kaspersky provides the FSB with real-time intelligence on the hackers' location and sends experts to accompany the FSB and Russian police when they conduct raids. That's what Kaspersky was referring to in the emails, says the person familiar with the system. They weren't just hacking the hackers; they were banging down the doors.
Kaspersky Lab has issued a statement in response to Bloomberg's report. It reads in part: "Regardless of how the facts are misconstrued to fit in with a hypothetical, false theory, Kaspersky Lab, and its executives, do not have inappropriate ties with any government. The company does regularly work with governments and law enforcement agencies around the world with the sole purpose of fighting cybercrime. In the internal communications referenced within the recent article, the facts are once again either being misinterpreted or manipulated to fit the agenda of certain individuals desperately wanting there to be inappropriate ties between the company, its CEO and the Russian government, but no matter what communication they claim to have, the facts clearly remain there is no evidence because no such inappropriate ties exist."
Microsoft

Microsoft Pledges To Bring Better Broadband To Two Million Rural Americans in the Next Five Years (recode.net) 99

Microsoft on Tuesday announced a new campaign to try to "eliminate" the gap in high-speed internet access in the country's hardest-to-reach areas -- an effort called the Rural Airband Initiative, which will set an ambitious target of bringing better broadband to two million Americans within the next five years. From a report: The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant plans to start its efforts in 12 states, offering seed money -- Microsoft wouldn't specify the amount -- to local telecom providers that are trying to improve internet access through means like "white spaces," which are the invisible, wireless radio airwaves that aren't already owned by broadcasters. From Microsoft point of view, this approach -- aimed at delivering speedy wireless internet -- is the best way to improve connectivity in parts of the country that broadband providers long have ignored, given the prohibitive costs of building and sustaining networks there. By Microsoft's count, more than 23 million Americans in rural areas currently lack high-speed internet access, despite billions of dollars in federal investment. But the company emphasized that it is not looking to become a telecom provider -- it's only providing capital to local firms -- and does not seek to profit from the endeavor. Through revenue-sharing agreements, Microsoft instead plans to invest any money it raises in additional projects in other states where internet access is lacking.
China

Ask Slashdot: Is There a Way To Experience the Chinese Internet From Outside? (fffff.at) 93

dryriver writes: In 2008, a bunch of crafty developers created a Firefox plugin called China Channel. It apparently allowed you to connect to a proxy server in China, and experience the -- heavily censored and filtered -- internet as Chinese citizens experienced it back then. The nearly decade old plugin doesn't seem to work anymore. My modern Firefox browser couldn't install it. So the question: is there a way to surf the internet as if you were inside China, and experience for yourself how much of the experience is censored or filtered? It would be interesting to experience firsthand what the Great Firewall of China lets you see of the free world and internet as we know it in 2017, and what it does not.
United States

Group Files FCC Motion To Delay Net Neutrality Proceedings (thehill.com) 46

"A public interest group wants the Federal Communications Commission to hold off on its proposal to kill net neutrality regulations," according to The Hill. An anonymous reader quotes their report: The National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) filed a motion on Friday to delay the FCC's proceeding to undo its net neutrality rules, pending the release of documents the group has requested from the agency. The NHMC says it filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act for consumer complaints about the open internet since the net neutrality rules went into place in 2015. Carmen Scurato, the group's director of legal affairs, said that the requested documents will affect the public's view of the rules... "Millions of consumers have voiced their concerns about eliminating net neutrality protections and the agency should release all complaints that members of the public have submitted showing how the Open Internet Order has served as a tool in protecting our consumer rights."
"The FCC has confirmed that there is an overwhelming amount of responsive documents, therefore the disclosure of this information must be paired with sufficient time for members of the public to review and contribute meaningful input..." the group said in a statement. "To date, the FCC has only released a small fraction of the documents requested. This is a clear indication that the FCC must delay its Net Neutrality proceeding until all documents requested by NHMC are released. The FCC must then provide NHMC and members of the public adequate time to review and comment on this information before moving forward with its Net Neutrality proceeding."

An FCC spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
Communications

Google and Facebook Give Net Neutrality Campaign a Boost (fortune.com) 73

The fight over net neutrality just got more interesting as two tech giants said they will step off the sidelines and join a so-called "day of action" on July 12, which aims to preserve rules that forbid Internet providers from favoring some websites over others. From a report: Until now, Google and Facebook -- which have been staunch supporters of net neutrality in the past -- have stayed out of the debate. But this week, they confirmed they will join other companies in telling consumers to oppose the FCC's plan to tear up the current rules. The participation of Google and Facebook in the day-of-action campaign could be a game-changer because their sites are visited by hundreds of millions of Americans, and a message from them could rally new opposition to the FCC plan. The two tech giants have yet to explain what specific actions -- such as displaying a banner on their homepage -- they will take. Other companies that are participating in the protest are.
Communications

Skype Users Slam Microsoft's Attempt To Infuse App With Social Media Magic (theregister.co.uk) 145

Last month Skype announced a major update to its messaging and video calling app. The update brought a visual revamp, as well as "social features" such as Highlights that were first introduced by Snapchat. At any rate, it turns out, people are not enjoying the update as much as Microsoft had hoped. From a report: Reviews of the Android and iOS versions of the app have been mostly terrible, and those posted to the Windows App Store have not been much better. Chief among the issues is that the redesign imagines Skype as a youth-oriented social media app along the lines of Instagram or Snapchat, rather than a staid business communications tool. "This new app is absolutely terrible," observes an individual posting to Google Play under the name Kulli Kelder. "Skype is mostly used by people for professional use or for connecting with friends far away. This looks as far from simple and professional as it can be. Skype does NOT need to be Snapchat ." The Skype team clearly has a different view of its work. "We think it's the best Skype we've ever built -- inside and out -- and it's been designed to make it easier for you to use for your everyday communications," the company said last month. A few individuals have expressed similar enthusiasm, but among those reviewing the most recent update, one-star ratings dominate. Of the 20 most-recent reviews posted to the iTunes App Store, 19 out of 20 award one star out of five. The other is two stars.
Security

New Attack Can Now Decrypt Satellite Phone Calls in 'Real Time' (zdnet.com) 50

Chinese researchers have discovered a way to rapidly decrypt satellite phone communications -- within a fraction of a second in some cases. From a report on ZDNet: The paper, published this week, expands on previous research by German academics in 2012 by rapidly speeding up the attack and showing that the encryption used in popular Inmarsat satellite phones can be cracked in "real time." Satellite phones are used by those in desolate environments, including high altitudes and at sea, where traditional cell service isn't available. Modern satellite phones encrypt voice traffic to prevent eavesdropping. It's that modern GMR-2 algorithm that was the focus of the research, given that it's used in most satellite phones today. The researchers tried "to reverse the encryption procedure to deduce the encryption-key from the output keystream directly," rather than using the German researchers' method of recovering an encryption key using a known-plaintext attack. Using their proposed inversion attack thousands of time on a 3.3GHz satellite stream, the researchers were able to reduce the search space for the 64-bit encryption key, effectively making the decryption key easier to find. The end result was that encrypted data could be cracked in a fraction of a second.
Businesses

Broadcom Gets Green Light From Feds To Buy San Jose's Brocade For $5.9 billion (bizjournals.com) 27

Chipmaker Broadcom on Monday won approval from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to purchase San Jose-based Brocade Communications Systems for $5.9 billion. From a report: To land U.S. approval, Broadcom had to promise federal regulators not to use information from the acquisition to hurt Cisco Systems. At issue with U.S. regulators was possible impacts on Cisco, since Cisco buys chips from Broadcom, but competes with Brocade. On the flip side, regulators worried Broadcom might use its position as supplier and competitor to raise the prices on fiber channel switches, a niche networking segment that's owned completely by Brocade and Cisco. To assuage those concerns, Broadcom agreed to set up an operations "firewall" internally, so that competitive information that might hurt Cisco won't be shared internally. It also agreed to submit to regulatory oversight for five years after the deal is completed.
Facebook

Germany's Federal Cartel Office Claims Facebook 'Extorts' Personal Data From Users (independent.co.uk) 83

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Independent: Germany's Federal Cartel Office is examining whether Facebook essentially takes advantage of its popularity to bully users into agreeing to terms and conditions they might not understand. The details that users provide help generate the targeted ads that make the company so rich. In the eyes of the Cartel Office, Facebook is "extorting" information from its users, said Frederik Wiemer, a lawyer at Heuking Kuhn Lueer Wojtek in Hamburg. "Whoever doesn't agree to the data use, gets locked out of the social network community," he said. "The fear of social isolation is exploited to get access to the complete surfing activities of users." Andreas Mundt, the Cartel Office's president, said last week he's "eager to present first results" of the Facebook investigation this year. Like the EU's Google investigation, he said the Facebook case tackles "central questions ensuring competition in the digital world in the future".
Facebook

Facebook Can Track Your Browsing Even After You've Logged Out, Judge Says (theguardian.com) 124

A U.S. judge has dismissed nationwide litigation accusing Facebook of tracking users' internet activity even after they logged out of the social media website. From a report: The plaintiffs alleged that Facebook used the "like" buttons found on other websites to track which sites they visited, meaning that the Menlo Park, California-headquartered company could build up detailed records of their browsing history. The plaintiffs argued that this violated federal and state privacy and wiretapping laws. US district judge Edward Davila in San Jose, California, dismissed the case because he said that the plaintiffs failed to show that they had a reasonable expectation of privacy or suffered any realistic economic harm or loss. Davila said that plaintiffs could have taken steps to keep their browsing histories private, for example by using the Digital Advertising Alliance's opt-out tool or using "incognito mode", and failed to show that Facebook illegally "intercepted" or eavesdropped on their communications.
Communications

The US Considers A Remote Identification System For Drones (engadget.com) 99

An anonymous reader quotes Engadget: The FAA is still trying to figure out the best way to regulate drones to ensure safety. Last week, a committee tasked with tackling the issue met for the first time, including representatives from Amazon, Ford and NYPD. One of the items discussed was a better way to identify registered drones from the ground since any ID numbers are pretty much invisible while the UAV is airborne...

As Recode notes, Congress is working to restore mandatory registration which would be key to tying a drone to its owner for the purposes of any remote identification... Back in March, [drone manufacturer] DJI proposed what it calls an "electronic identification framework" for all drones that would give authorities in the U.S. information about the owner when necessary. That proposal includes using the radio tech DJI says is already on most drones to transmit details like location and registration number. EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center) made a similar recommendation back in January 2016... [T]he FAA committee is scheduled to meet again on July 18th. Any formal recommendations are currently due to the agency by September 30th.

China

China's Rocket Fails After Liftoff (cnn.com) 114

An anonymous reader quotes CNN: The second launch of China's new-generation Long March-5 carrier rocket failed Sunday -- dealing a blow to the country's ambitious space aspirations. Carrying an experimental communications satellite, China's largest rocket lifted off at 7:23 p.m. local time (7:23 a.m. ET) toward clear skies from the seaside Wenchang space launch center on the southern Chinese island of Hainan. But 40 minutes later, the state-run Xinhua news agency flashed a headline declaring the launch a failure -- without providing any details.

Dubbed "Chubby 5" for its huge size -- 5 meters in diameter and 57 meters tall -- the LM-5 rocket is designed to carry up to 25 tons of payload into low orbit, more than doubling the country's previous lift capability... The launch failure means further delay for a series of planned Chinese space endeavors -- including its robotic and eventual human lunar programs -- according to Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor at the US Naval War College and an expert on China's space program... China has announced plans to land a robotic probe on the dark side of the moon later this year and to reach Mars around 2020. All such future missions will depend on the LM-5 and space officials told reporters Sunday that the latest launch would help perfect the rocket design, including enabling it to send a space station into orbit "in a year or two."

This morning Elon Musk tweeted his condolences, adding "I know how painful that is to the people who designed & built it."
Space

Rocket Lab Inaugurates The Era Of Even Cheaper Rocket Launches (bloomberg.com) 57

pacopico writes: Elon Musk and SpaceX kicked off the New Space era with low-cost, reusable rockets. But now there's something just as dramatic brewing with really, really cheap rockets and really, really cheap satellites. Bloomberg has just profiled Peter Beck, a self-taught rocket engineer from New Zealand, who has built a $5 million rocket that will be taking cubesats [miniaturized satellites] from Planet Labs and others to space in the next few weeks. The story talks about a new type of computing shell being built around the Earth and all the players trying to fill it up.

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