Yahoo!

Former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer Apologizes For Data Breach, Blames Russians (reuters.com) 212

Former Yahoo chief executive officer Marissa Mayer apologized today for a pair of massive data breaches at Yahoo and blamed Russian agents on the growing number of incidents involving major U.S. companies. A reader shares a report: "As CEO, these thefts occurred during my tenure, and I want to sincerely apologize to each and every one of our users," she told the Senate Commerce Committee, testifying alongside the interim and former CEOs of Equifax and a senior Verizon Communications executive. "Unfortunately, while all our measures helped Yahoo successfully defend against the barrage of attacks by both private and state-sponsored hackers, Russian agents intruded on our systems and stole our users' data."
Twitter

Twitter Officially Expands Its Character Count To 280 Starting Today (techcrunch.com) 98

Twitter is rolling out an update around the world to allow users to post 280-character tweets. The company first announced the controversial plan to move beyond its traditional 140 characters back in September, noting at the time how a longer character count allowed users to express more of their thoughts without running out of room to tweet. TechCrunch reports: At the time of its original announcement, the company cited data backing up its decision that referenced how the character constraints impacted users differently, depending on their language. Twitter said that those who tweeted in languages like Japanese, Korean and Chinese were able to express around double the amount of information in a single character, compared with users who spoke English, Spanish, Portuguese or French, for example. In today's blog post about the public launch of 280 characters, Twitter aims to assuage people's fears that their timelines will fill with expanded tweets. The company said that during the trial period, people continued to tweet below 140 characters most of the time -- after the novelty of being able to use more characters wore off. Specifically, Twitter found that only 5 percent of tweets were sent out with more than 140 characters and of those, only 2 percent were over 190 characters.
Communications

Sleep Deprivation Disrupts Brain-Cell Communication, Study Finds (npr.org) 87

A new study published in the journal Nature Medicine found that sleep deprivation causes the bursts of electrical activity that brain cells use to communicate to become slower and weaker. "The finding could help explain why a lack of sleep impairs a range of mental functions, says Dr. Itzhak Fried, an author of the study and a professor of neurosurgery at the University of California, Los Angeles," reports NPR. From the report: The finding comes from an unusual study of patients being evaluated for surgery to correct severe epilepsy. As part of the evaluation, doctors place wires in the brain to find out where a patient's seizures are starting. That allows Fried and a team of scientists to monitor hundreds of individual brain cells, often for days. And because patients with epilepsy are frequently kept awake in order to provoke a seizure, the scientists had an ideal way to study the effects of sleep deprivation. In the study, all the patients agreed to categorize images of faces, places and animals. Each image caused cells in areas of the brain involved in perception to produce distinctive patterns of electrical activity. Then, four of the patients stayed up all night before looking at more images. And in these patients, "the neurons are responding slower," Fried says. "The responses are diminished, and they are smeared over longer periods of time." These changes impair the cells' ability to communicate, Fried says. And that leads to mental lapses that can affect not only perception but memory.
Twitter

Twitter Exploit Let Two Pranksters Post 30,000-Character Tweet (engadget.com) 65

sqorbit writes: Two German twitter users were able to post a 30,000-character tweet, blowing way past the 280-character limit it is testing for select users. The accounts were banned for a brief period of time but are now back online after they apologized. The original 30,396-character tweet has been archived and can be viewed here. The two pranksters exploited "a rule Twitter made in 2016 that links would no longer count in the 140-character limit," reports The Daily Dot. "Yes, this is just one big web address with a URL code hidden deep in the large block of text."
The Internet

Comcast's Xfinity Internet Service Is Down Across the US [Update] (theverge.com) 104

Readers share a report: Comcast's internet service, Xfinity, appears to be suffering an outage across the country. DownDetector.com shows it being down around the United States, including in large cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Boston. So far, online reports don't suggest that TV service or home phones are affected. On Twitter, Comcast confirmed the outage. Adding, "Some customers are having issues with their XFINITY Internet service. We apologize & appreciate your patience while we work to fix." The company tweeted moments ago, "Our teams continue to monitor an external network issue. We apologize for the inconvenience -- will provide updates as we learn more." In another tweet, Comcast said the issue is nationwide.

Update: At 20:39 GMT on Monday, Comcast said it had resolved the issue.
Censorship

Afghanistan Clarifies It Will Not Block WhatsApp, Telegram (reuters.com) 18

The Afghan government will not block the instant messaging services WhatsApp and Telegram, a spokesman told news agency Reuters on Monday, following days of controversy after reports the services would be suspended. From a report: "Government of Afghanistan isn't going to ban any social media platforms. WhatsApp and Telegram to continue operating in Afghanistan," Javid Faisal, deputy spokesman to government Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah wrote on Twitter. The row over instant messaging services began after a letter from Afghanistan's telecoms regulator to Internet service providers telling them to block the services "without delay" was circulated on social media platforms last week.
Businesses

Failure of Sprint/T-Mobile Merger Means a Missed Chance To Save $30B (kansascity.com) 127

UPDATE (11/5/17): Sprint and T-Mobile confirmed Saturday that they've ended their merger talks, saying they were "unable to find mutually agreeable terms." The Kansas City Star reports that the failure "means shareholders of the two companies gave up $30 billion or more in cost savings that their managements had expected a merger to generate.

"One combined wireless company would have needed to invest less in its network than the two competing companies spend separately... Absent a merger, Sprint now faces a highly competitive marketplace as the smallest national player and with a more aggressive rival in T-Mobile."

Several news outlets had already reported on Monday that Japan's conglomerate SoftBank, which owns Sprint, has pulled the plug on a proposed merger between the two carriers. From a report: SoftBank will reportedly propose ending merger talks with T-Mobile parent company Deutsche Telekom as soon as Tuesday, October 31st. That's according to Nikkei, which says that SoftBank wants to end merger talks due to "a failure to agree on ownership of the combined entity." It's said that Deutsche Telekom insisted on a controlling stake of the combined T-Mobile-Sprint, and that some people at SoftBank were okay with that as long as SoftBank had some sort of influence. However, SoftBank's board recently decided that it wouldn't give up control, and today it decided that it wants to call off the merger talks.
Last Monday Sprint and T-Mobile shares both fell immediately following the media reports.
Encryption

Mozilla Might Distrust Dutch Government Certs Over 'False Keys' (bleepingcomputer.com) 112

Long-time Slashdot reader Artem Tashkinov quotes BleepingComputer: Mozilla engineers are discussing plans to remove support for a state-operated Dutch TLS/HTTPS provider after the Dutch government has voted a new law that grants local authorities the power to intercept Internet communications using "false keys". If the plan is approved, Firefox will not trust certificates issued by the Staat der Nederlanden (State of the Netherlands) Certificate Authority (CA)...

This new law gives Dutch authorities the powers to intercept and analyze Internet traffic. While other countries have similar laws, what makes this one special is that authorities will have authorization to carry out covert technical attacks to access encrypted traffic. Such covert technical capabilities include the use of "false keys," as mentioned in Article 45 1.b, a broad term that includes TLS certificates.

"Fears arise of mass Dutch Internet surveillance," reads a subhead on the article, citing a bug report which notes, among other things, the potential for man-in-the-middle attacks and the fact that the Netherlands hosts a major internet transit point.
Google

Newspaper Obtains James Damore's Complaint Against Google (siliconbeat.com) 471

A Silicon Valley newspaper brings this update on fired Google engineer James Damore: California law allows employers to fire workers for virtually any reason -- and the Constitutional protection of free speech doesn't apply to private company workplaces. Until now it was unclear how Damore might fight back against Google over his termination. Now, this news organization has obtained the U.S. National Labor Relations Board charge sheet that reveals the basis for Damore's battle. His argument hinges on the contents of his memo, which went far beyond discussing a possible biological reason for the gender gap.

The document contained detailed criticism of Google's diversity initiatives and their effects on employees, and it said that the company's biases led to alienation among employees holding conservative views. His Labor Board charge rests on Section 8(a) subsection (1) of the National Labor Relations Act, which gives employees the right to engage in activities for the purpose of "mutual aid or protection." Google discriminated against Damore by firing him "in retaliation" for activities protected by law, and also possibly to discourage such activities within the company, the charge sheet said. It appears clear that the protected activities Damore refers to are his communications, in the memo, with co-workers, about issues in the workplace.

Google was unavailable for comment, but the newspaper quoted an earlier statement from Google CEO Sundar Pichai that "An important part of our culture is lively debate. But like any workplace that doesn't mean that anything goes."
Communications

Chelsea Manning Archivist Excludes Hacktivist Jailed By Carmen Ortiz From Aaron Swartz Day (huffingtonpost.com) 124

New submitter Danngggg writes: As you may recall from Slashdot last year, alleged Anonymous hacktivist Martin Gottesfeld has been imprisoned without bail since federal agents arrested him on board a Disney Cruise ship in February of 2016 to face hacking charges brought by controversial former U.S. attorney Carmen Ortiz. Though he's the only activist after Aaron Swartz to face a felony CFAA indictment from Ortiz, apparently Aaron Swartz Day organizer and Chelsea Manning archivist Lisa Rein don't want to include Gottesfeld in the festivities this year. So, he has taken to Huffington Post to argue that his story should be told this November 4th and, perhaps with a sense of irony, to publish some potentially scandalous Signal messages allegedly sent by Rein to his wife revealing what seems to be disdain for hacking in general and Anonymous in particular. Indeed, Rein seems to borrow from the movie Mean Girls in her contemptuous rejection of Mrs. Gottesfeld's appeals on behalf of her embattled husband. What does the Slashdot crowd have to say about whether Gottesfeld's story belongs at Aaron Swartz Day as well as Rein's alleged attitude towards his significant other?

"One might think that my voice would be welcomed at Aaron Swartz Day given all that the late internet/freedom of information activist and I share in common," writes Gottesfeld. "For starters, we were both indicted under the same controversial federal law, the CFAA, by the same Boston U.S. Attorney's Office and indeed under the tenure of the same notorious U.S. Attorney, Carmen Ortiz. Both of us have been persecuted for doing the moral thing; Aaron for trying to make taxpayer-funded research available to the general public and me for stopping the torture of an innocent child."

Communications

The Mobile Internet Is the Internet (qz.com) 156

A reader shares a Quartz report: Think back to the mobile phone you had in 2010. It could access the internet, but it wasn't such a great experience. On average, people only spent 20% of their time online on their phones back then, according to Zenith, a media agency. Today, by contrast, we spend around 70% of our time on the internet on phones, based on estimates and forecasts for more than 50 countries covering two-thirds of the world's population. By 2019, Zenith says this will rise to close to 80%. What used to be called "mobile internet" is now just the internet.
Communications

Scientists Prove Emoticons Are Not Universally Understood (qz.com) 122

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: The most recent such study, published Oct. 24 in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, examined how emotions expressed in symbols and pictures are understood in three nations with varying degrees of internet connectivity and access: Japan, Cameroon, and Tanzania. Psychologists from the University of Tokyo tested subjects on how well they recognized emotions in emoticons and photographs. Participants across cultures could read emotion accurately in images of real people regardless of race -- but symbolic tech expression was not universally comprehensible. The study subjects were shown photographs of happy, neutral, and sad Caucasians, Asians, and Africans and told to describe the emotions expressed in the images. Generally, participants accurately assessed the feelings expressed across the board. The researchers noted one difference: African participants tended to confuse Asian neutral and sad faces, "perhaps due to lack of exposure to the out-group [Asian] faces," they suggest.

When it came to symbols, however, the scientists found clear cultural differences in emotion recognition. Subjects from all three countries were given a tablet, on which they were asked to scroll through a series of emoticons. They were shown emoticons in the Japanese style, with happiness, sadness, and neutrality expressed in the eyes; in a western style with emotion expressed in the mouth; and "smiley face" emoticons (pictured above). The Japanese subjects fluently read emotion in emoticons, whereas subjects from Cameroon and Tanzania found emoticons utterly mystifying at similar rates. This was true both for urban and rural dwellers in both African nations. The researchers believe this is due to the varying levels of internet exposure in the three countries.

United States

Government Won't Pursue Talking Car Mandate (apnews.com) 109

An anonymous reader shares an AP report: The Trump administration has quietly set aside plans to require new cars to be able to wirelessly talk to each other, auto industry officials said, jeopardizing one of the most promising technologies for preventing traffic deaths. The Obama administration proposed last December that all new cars and light trucks come equipped with technology known as vehicle-to-vehicle communications, or V2V. It would enable vehicles to transmit their location, speed, direction and other information 10 times per second. That lets cars detect, for example, when another vehicle is about to run a red light or coming around a blind turn in time to prevent a crash. The administration has decided not to pursue a final V2V mandate, said two auto industry officials who have spoken with White House and Transportation Department officials and two others whose organizations have spoken to the administration.
The Internet

Russia's Anti-VPN Law Goes Into Effect (theregister.co.uk) 185

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Register: A Russian law that bans the use or provision of virtual private networks (VPNs) will come into effect Wednesday. The legislation will require ISPs to block websites that offer VPNs and similar proxy services that are used by millions of Russians to circumvent state-imposed internet censorship. It was signed by President Vladimir Putin on July 29 and was justified as a necessary measure to prevent the spread of extremism online. Its real impact, however, will be to make it much harder for ordinary Russians to access websites ISPs are instructed to block connections to by Russian regulator Roskomnadzor, aka the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media. The law is just one part of a concerted effort by the Russian government to restrict access to information online. While Russia does not appear to be going the same route as China -- which has a country wide, constantly maintained censorship apparatus, known as the Great Firewall of China -- it is clearly following its lead. At the same time as Putin signed the VPN legislation, he signed another that will come into effect in January. That law, like a similar one passed by the Chinese government earlier this year, will require operators of messaging services to verify their users' identities through phone numbers. And it will require operators to introduce systems to cut off any users that are deemed by the Russian government to be spreading illegal content.
Businesses

Vendor Tracks LinkedIn Profile Changes To Alert Client Employers (techtarget.com) 101

dcblogs shares a report from TechTarget: IT managers have long had the ability and right to monitor employee behavior on internal networks. Now, HR managers are getting similar capabilities thanks to cloud-based services -- but for tracking employee activity outside of their employer's network. A controversy and court fight is swelling over its potential impact on employee privacy. A San Francisco-based startup, hiQ Labs Inc., offers products based on its analysis of publicly available LinkedIn data. One is Keeper, which identifies employees at risk of being recruited away, and another is Skill Mapper, which analyzes employee skills. The profile data is collected by software bots. The clients of hiQ's service may learn whether a LinkedIn member is a flight risk thanks to an individual risk score: high (red), medium (yellow) or low (green), according to court papers. LinkedIn is in court fighting this, but so far it's losing. A federal judge recently took exception to the use of the CFAA in this case "to punish hiQ for accessing publicly available data." The judge warned such an interpretation "could profoundly impact open access to the internet."
Businesses

Apple Is Designing iPhones, iPads That Would Drop Qualcomm Components (wsj.com) 131

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Wall Street Journal (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): Apple, locked in an intensifying legal fight with Qualcomm, is designing iPhones and iPads for next year that would jettison the chipmaker's components, according to people familiar with the matter. Apple is considering building the devices only with modem chips from Intel and possibly MediaTek because San Diego, Calif.-based Qualcomm has withheld software critical to testing its chips in iPhone and iPad prototypes, according to one of the people. Apple's planned move for next year involve the modem chips that handle communications between wireless devices and cellular networks. Qualcomm is by far the biggest supplier of such chips for the current wireless standard. The Apple plans indicate the battle with Qualcomm could spill beyond the courtroom feud over patents into another important Qualcomm business where it has the potential to send ripples through the smartphone supply chain.
Communications

Algorithm Can Identify Suicidal People Using Brain Scans (wired.com) 87

An anonymous reader quotes a report from WIRED: In a study published today in Nature Human Behavior, researchers at Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh analyzed how suicidal individuals think and feel differently about life and death, by looking at patterns of how their brains light up in an fMRI machine. Then they trained a machine learning algorithm to isolate those signals -- a frontal lobe flare at the mention of the word "death," for example. The computational classifier was able to pick out the suicidal ideators with more than 90 percent accuracy (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). Furthermore, it was able to distinguish people who had actually attempted self-harm from those who had only thought about it. In today's study, the researchers started with 17 young adults between the ages of 18 and 30 who had recently reported suicidal ideation to their therapists. Then they recruited 17 neurotypical control participants and put them each inside an fMRI scanner. While inside the tube, subjects saw a random series of 30 words. Ten were generally positive, 10 were generally negative, and 10 were specifically associated with death and suicide. Then researchers asked the subjects to think about each word for three seconds as it showed up on a screen in front of them. "What does 'trouble' mean for you?" "What about 'carefree,' what's the key concept there?" For each word, the researchers recorded the subjects' cerebral blood flow to find out which parts of their brains seemed to be at work.
Blackberry

BlackBerry CEO Promises To Try To Break Customers' Encryption If the US Government Asks Him To (techdirt.com) 107

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Techdirt that claims the company has "chosen to proclaim its willingness to hack into its own customers' devices if the government asks." From the report: From a Forbes article: "[CEO John] Chen, speaking at a press Q&A during the BlackBerry Security Summit in London on Tuesday, claimed that it wasn't so simple for BlackBerry to crack its own protections. 'Only when the government gives us a court order we will start tracking it. Then the question is: how good is the encryption? 'Today's encryption has got to the point where it's rather difficult, even for ourselves, to break it, to break our own encryption... it's not an easily breakable thing. We will only attempt to do that if we have the right court order. The fact that we will honor the court order doesn't imply we could actually get it done.'"

Oddly, this came coupled with Chen's assertions its user protections were better than Apple's and its version of the Android operating system more secure than the one offered by competitors. This proactive hacking offer may be pointed to in the future by DOJ and FBI officials as evidence Apple, et al aren't doing nearly enough to cooperate with U.S. law enforcement. Of course, Chen's willingness to try doesn't guarantee the company will be able to decrypt communications of certain users. Blackberry may be opening up to law enforcement but it won't be sharing anything more with its remaining users. From the Forbes article: "Chen also said there were no plans for a transparency report that would reveal more about the company's work with government. 'No one has really asked us for it. We don't really have a policy on whether we will do it or not. Just like every major technology company that deals with telecoms, we obviously have quite a number of requests around the world.'"

Space

SpaceX Lands the 13th Falcon 9 Rocket of the Year In Flames (theverge.com) 106

SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida this afternoon and, while the rocket successfully delivered the Koreasat-5A to its designated orbit, it managed to catch fire after landing on one of SpaceX's autonomous barges. The Verge reports: That rocket's mission [was] to send a satellite known as Koreasat-5A into space, where it will hang above Earth for 15 years while providing communications bandwidth for Korea and Southern Asia. SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket successfully delivered Koreasat-5A to its designated orbit, marking the the company's 16th successful mission of the year -- twice the number of successful missions in 2016. Shortly after liftoff, the first stage of the rocket returned to Earth and landed (flamboyantly) in the Atlantic Ocean on one of SpaceX's autonomous barges. (The fires eventually went out.) It was the 13th successful landing of a Falcon 9 rocket this year, the 15th in a row, and the 19th overall.
Math

How Data Science Powered the Search for MH370 (hpe.com) 133

"In the absence of physical evidence, scientists are employing powerful computational tools to attempt to solve the greatest aviation mystery of our time: the disappearance of flight MH370." Slashdot reader Esther Schindler shared this article from HPE Insights: Satellite communications provider Inmarsat announced it had found recorded signals in its archives that MH370 had sent for another six hours after it disappeared. The plane had been aloft and flying for that whole time -- but where had it gone? As Inmarsat scientists examined the signals, they saw that what they had was not data such as text messages or location information. Rather, the signals contained metadata: information about the signal itself. This was recorded as the satellite automatically contacted the plane's communications system every hour to see if it was still logged on. Bafflingly, whoever had taken the plane hadn't used the satcom system to communicate with the outside world, but had switched it off and then on again, leaving it able to exchange hourly "pings" with the satellite. Some of the metadata related to extremely subtle variations in the frequency of the signal. "We're talking about changes as big as one part in a billion," says Inmarsat scientist Chris Ashton.

Nobody had tried to use this kind of data to try to locate an airplane before. At first, Ashton's team didn't know if the attempt would work. But painstakingly, over the course of weeks, the team figured out how the movement of the plane, the orbital wobble of the satellite, and the electronics within the satcom system all interacted to create the data values that had been received. "We had to create the model from scratch," Ashton says. Their work revealed that the plane had flown into the remote southern Indian Ocean. They didn't know where exactly. But since there are no islands in that part of the world, it was impossible that anyone could have survived. For the first time in history, hundreds of people were declared legally dead based on mathematics alone.

Then mathematician Dr. Neil Gordon led a team from the Defense Science and Technology Group "to extract a path from a subset of the Inmarsat data called the Burst Timing Offset. This measured how quickly the aircraft responded each time the satellite pinged it, and was used to determine the distance between the satellite and the plane." They ultimately generate "a probabilistic 'heat map' of the plane's most likely resting places using a technique called Bayesian analysis. These calculations allowed the DSTG team to draw a box 400 miles long and 70 miles across, which contained about 90 percent of the total probability distribution.

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