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The Almighty Buck

Uber Loses Right To Classify UK Drivers as Self-Employed ( 1

Uber drivers are not self-employed and should be paid the "national living wage," a UK employment court has ruled in a landmark case which could affect tens of thousands of workers in the gig economy. From a report on the Guardian: The ride-hailing app could now be open to claims from all of its 40,000 drivers in the UK, who are currently not entitled to holiday pay, pensions or other workers' rights. Uber immediately said it would appeal against the ruling. Employment experts said other firms with large self-employed workforces could now face scrutiny of their working practices and the UK's biggest union, Unite, announced it was setting up a new unit to pursue cases of bogus self-employment. The Uber ruling could force a rethink of the gig economy business model, where companies use apps and the internet to match customers with workers. The firms do not employ the workers, but take commission from their earnings, and many have become huge global enterprises.
Operating Systems

Linux Marketshare is Above 2-Percent For Third Month in a Row ( 86

For the third month in a row the share of worldwide desktop computer users running Linux has been above two percent -- up from one percent -- according to data from web analytics company Net Market Share. From a OMGUbuntu report: We reported back in July that Linux marketshare had passed two percent for the first time, and that figure remains the highest they've ever reported for Linux, at 2.33 percent. But the share for September 2016 was almost as good at 2.23 percent. It's the third consecutive month that Linux marketshare has been above 2 percent. Those of us who use Linux as our primary desktop computing platform can take a degree of pride in these figures. They do show a clear trend towards Linux, rather than away from it. But we should also remember that statistics, numbers and reporting methods vary between analytics companies and that all figures, however positive, remain open to interpretation and debate.

FBI Probes Newly Discovered Hillary Clinton Emails and Reopens Investigation ( 469

The FBI said Friday it is reviewing newly discovered emails related to Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server to determine whether she properly handled classified emails. The reopening of the investigation comes after the FBI recently "learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the Clinton investigation," FBI director James Comey said. Comey added, however, that "FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant." It is also unclear "how ling it will take us to complete this additional work." FBI's announcement today is "certain" to become an issue in the final two weeks of the presidential campaign, however. Donald Trump is naturally pleased hearing the news, at New Hampshire, Trump said the new probe offered the FBI the chance to correct a "grave miscarriage of justice." He added, "We must not let her take her criminal scheme into the Oval Office." Supporters responded with chants of "Lock her up!" Trump added that the email investigation is "bigger than Watergate."

Bitcoin Can Be Bought With Cash At Swiss Railway Ticket Machines ( 59

In what is seen as a move that could help boost the spread of Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency will be available to purchase from Swiss railway ticket machines starting next month. Reader Mickeycaskill writes: Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) has more than 1,000 ticket machines and has partnered with regulated financial intermediary SweePay to distribute Bitcoin. Customers need to select mobile top up on the machines, scan the QR code on their Bitcoin digital wallet and enter the number of Swiss Francs, up to 500 CHF, in to the machine, confirm the offer of Bitcoins they receive then identify themselves using a mobile number and a security code sent to their smartphone. While the machine can pay out Bitcoin, for the time being, it will not accept payments made with the cryptocurrency. Furthermore, credit card cannot be used with the machines to buy Bitcoins, SBB is effectively providing a way to swap local currency for a digital version that can be used anywhere around the world, thereby bypassing unfavourable exchange rates"From 11 November 2016, customers will be able to obtain Bitcoin at all SBB ticket machines. Until now, there have only been limited opportunities to purchase Bitcoin in Switzerland," the company was quoted as saying.

Google's AI Created Its Own Form of Encryption ( 119

An anonymous reader shares an Engadget report: Researchers from the Google Brain deep learning project have already taught AI systems to make trippy works of art, but now they're moving on to something potentially darker: AI-generated, human-independent encryption. According to a new research paper, Googlers Martin Abadi and David G. Andersen have willingly allowed three test subjects -- neural networks named Alice, Bob and Eve -- to pass each other notes using an encryption method they created themselves. As the New Scientist reports, Abadi and Andersen assigned each AI a task: Alice had to send a secret message that only Bob could read, while Eve would try to figure out how to eavesdrop and decode the message herself. The experiment started with a plain-text message that Alice converted into unreadable gibberish, which Bob could decode using cipher key. At first, Alice and Bob were apparently bad at hiding their secrets, but over the course of 15,000 attempts Alice worked out her own encryption strategy and Bob simultaneously figured out how to decrypt it. The message was only 16 bits long, with each bit being a 1 or a 0, so the fact that Eve was only able to guess half of the bits in the message means she was basically just flipping a coin or guessing at random.ArsTechnica has more details.

Russia Unveils 'Satan 2' Missile Powerful Enough To 'Wipe Out UK, France Or Texas' ( 1012

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Telegraph: Russia has released the first image of its new nuclear missile, a weapon so powerful that it could wipe out nearly all of the United Kingdom or France. The RS-28 Sarmat thermonuclear-armed ballistic missile was commissioned in 2011 and is expected to come into service in 2018. The first images of the massive missile were declassified on Sunday and have now been published for the first time. It has been dubbed "Satan 2," as it will replace the RS-36M, the 1970s-era weapon referred to by Nato as the Satan missile. Sputnik, the Russian government-controlled news agency, reported in May that the missile could destroy an area "the size of Texas or France." Russian media report that the missile will weigh up to 10 tons with the capacity to carry up to 10 tons of nuclear cargo. With that type of payload, it could deliver a blast some 2,000 times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Russia reportedly tested a hypersonic warhead in April that is apparently intended for use on the Satan 2 missiles. The warhead is designed to be impossible to intercept because it does not move on a set trajectory.

Microsoft Raises UK Cloud, Software Prices 22% After Brexit-Fuelled Pound Drop ( 214

Reader Mickeycaskill writes: Microsoft is to substantially increase its prices for software and cloud services prices offered in British pounds in order to accommodate the sharp drop in the currency against the US dollar in recent weeks. Beginning in January 2017 on-premises enterprise software prices will go up by 13 percent and most enterprise cloud prices will increase by 22 percent, bringing them into line with euro prices. Microsoft said it isn't planning to change its prices for consumer software and cloud services. The value of the pound has fallen by about 18 percent since the EU referendum on 23 June.

Climate Change Could Cross Key Threshold in a Decade, Scientists Say ( 354

The planet could pass a key target on world temperature rise in about a decade, prompting accelerating loss of glaciers, steep declines in water availability, worsening land conflicts and deepening poverty, scientists said this week. But the planet is already two-thirds of the way to that lower and safer goal, and could begin to pass it in about a decade, according to Richard Betts, head of climate impacts research at the UK Met Office's Hadley Centre. Reuters reports: With world emissions unlikely to slow quickly enough to hit that target, it will probably be necessary to remove some carbon pollution from the atmosphere to stabilize the planet, scientists said. That could happen by planting forests or by capturing and then pumping underground emissions from power plants. But other changes -- such as reducing food waste and creating more sustainable diets, with less beef and fewer imported greenhouse vegetables -- could also play a big role in meeting the goal, without so many risks, he said.

Internet is Becoming Unreadable Because of a Trend Towards Lighter, Thinner Fonts ( 329

An anonymous reader writes: The internet is becoming unreadable because of a trend towards lighter and thinner fonts, making it difficult for the elderly or visually-impaired to see words clearly, a web expert has found. Where text used to be bold and dark, which contrasted well with predominantly white backgrounds, now many websites are switching to light greys or blues for their type. Award winning blogger Kevin Marks, founder of Microformats and former vice president of web services at BT, decided to look into the trend after becoming concerned that his eyesight was failing because he was increasingly struggling to read on screen text. He found a 'widespread movement' to reduce the contrast between the words and the background, with tech giants Apple, Google and Twitter all altering their typography. True black on white text has a contrast ratio of 21:1 -- the maximum which can be achieved. Most technology companies agree that it is good practice for type to be a minimum of 7:1 so that the visually-impaired can still see text. But Mr Marks, found that even Apple's own typography guidelines, which recommended 7:1 are written in a contrast ratio of 5.5:1.

A New Attack Allows Intercepting Or Blocking Of Every LTE Phone Call And Text ( 79

All LTE networks and devices are vulnerable to a new attack demonstrated at the Ruxon security conference in Melbourne. mask.of.sanity shared this article from The Register: It exploits LTE fall-back mechanisms designed to ensure continuity of phone services in the event of emergency situations that trigger base station overloads... The attacks work through a series of messages sent between malicious base stations spun up by attackers and targeted phones. It results in attackers gaining a man-in-the-middle position from where they can listen to calls or read SMS, or force phones back to 2G GSM networks where only voice and basic data services are available...

[Researcher Wanqiao] Zhang says the attacks are possible because LTE networks allow users to be handed over to underused base stations in the event of natural disasters to ensure connectivity. "You can create a denial of service attack against cellphones by forcing phones into fake networks with no services," Zhang told the conference. "You can make malicious calls and SMS and...eavesdrop on all voice and data traffic."


A British Supercomputer Can Predict Winter Weather a Year In Advance ( 176

The national weather service of the U.K. claims it can now predict the weather up to a year in advance. An anonymous reader quotes The Stack: The development has been made possible thanks to supercomputer technology granted by the UK Government in 2014. The £97 million high-performance computing facility has allowed researchers to increase the resolution of climate models and to test the retrospective skill of forecasts over a 35-year period starting from 1980... The forecasters claim that new supercomputer-powered techniques have helped them develop a system to accurately predict North Atlantic Oscillation -- the climatic phenomenon which heavily impacts winters in the U.K.
The researchers apparently tested their supercomputer on 36 years worth of data, and reported proudly that they could predict winter weather a year in advance -- with 62% accuracy.

Cisco Develops System To Automatically Cut-Off Pirate Video Streams ( 112

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: Pirate services obtain content by capturing and restreaming feeds obtained from official sources, often from something as humble as a regular subscriber account. These streams can then be redistributed by thousands of other sites and services, many of which are easily found using a simple search. Dedicated anti-piracy companies track down these streams and send takedown notices to the hosts carrying them. Sometimes this means that streams go down quickly but in other cases hosts can take a while to respond or may not comply at all. Networking company Cisco thinks it has found a solution to these problems. The company's claims center around its Streaming Piracy Prevention (SPP) platform, a system that aims to take down illicit streams in real-time. Perhaps most interestingly, Cisco says SPP functions without needing to send takedown notices to companies hosting illicit streams. "Traditional takedown mechanisms such as sending legal notices (commonly referred to as 'DMCA notices') are ineffective where pirate services have put in place infrastructure capable of delivering video at tens and even hundreds of gigabits per second, as in essence there is nobody to send a notice to," the company explains. "Escalation to infrastructure providers works to an extent, but the process is often slow as the pirate services will likely provide the largest revenue source for many of the platform providers in question." To overcome these problems Cisco says it has partnered with Friend MTS (FMTS), a UK-based company specializing in content-protection. Among its services, FMTS offers Distribution iD, which allows content providers to pinpoint which of their downstream distributors' platforms are a current source of content leaks. "Robust and unique watermarks are embedded into each distributor feed for identification. The code is invisible to the viewer but can be recovered by our specialist detector software," FMTS explains. "Once infringing content has been located, the service automatically extracts the watermark for accurate distributor identification." According to Cisco, FMTS feeds the SPP service with pirate video streams it finds online. These are tracked back to the source of the leak (such as a particular distributor or specific pay TV subscriber account) which can then be shut-down in real time.
United Kingdom

UK Government Proposes Minimum 10Mbps Broadband For Poor ( 79

An anonymous reader writes: The UK's Local Government Association (LGA) is proposing a social tariff to ensure that minimum broadband access of at least 10 Mbps is available to all UK citizens at an affordable price. Last November, Parliament announced that it would begin work on a Universal Service Obligation (USO), which would grant all citizens the right to request broadband service with a minimum 10Mbps. At the time, Prime Minister David Cameron said, "Access to the Internet shouldn't be a luxury; it should be a right -- absolutely fundamental to life in 21st century Britain." Research by Ofcom in 2014 showed "marked relationships between socio-economic deprivation and [poor] broadband availability in cities". Similar results have been found in rural areas, which means that the demand for increasing broadband service to a minimum level may be high among people with lower incomes.

'Adding a Phone Number To Your Google Account Can Make it Less Secure' ( 106

You may think that adding a backup phone number to your account will make it prone to hack, but that is not always the case. Vijay Pandurangan, EIR at Benchmark (and formerly with Eng Site Lead at Twitter) argues that your phone number is likely the weakest link for many attackers (at least when they are trying to hack your Google account). He has shared the story of his friend who had his Google account compromised. The friend in this case, let's call him Bob, had a very strong password, a completely independent recovery email, hard-to-guess security questions, and he never logged in from unknown devices. Though Bob didn't have multi-factor authentication enabled, he did add a backup phone number. On October 1, when Bob attempted to check his email, he discovered that he was logged out of his Gmail account. When he tried to login, he was told that his password was changed less than an hour ago. He tried calling Verizon, and discovered that his phone service was no longer active, and that the attacker had switched his service to an iPhone 4. "Verizon later conceded that they had transferred his account despite having neither requested nor being given the 4-digit PIN they had on record." The attacker reset Bob's password and changed the recover email, password, name on the account, and enabled two-factor authentication. He got his account back, thanks to support staff and colleagues at Google, but the story illustrates how telco are the weakest link. From the article: Using a few old Google accounts, I experimented with Google's account recovery options and discovered that if a Google account does not have a backup phone number associated with it, Google requires you to have access to the recovery email account OR know the security questions in order to take over an account. However, if a backup phone number is on the account, Google allows you to type in a code from an SMS to the device in lieu of any other information. There you have it: adding a phone number reduces the security of your account to the lowest of: your recovery email account, your security questions, your phone service, and (presumably) Google's last-ditch customer service in case all other options fail. There are myriad examples of telcos improperly turning over their users' accounts: everything from phone hacking incidents in the UK to more recent examples. Simply put, telcos can be quite bad at securing your privacy and they should not be trusted. Interestingly, it appears that if two-factor-auth via SMS is enabled, Google will not allow your password to be reset unless you can also answer a security question in addition to having access to a phone number.

KickassTorrents Lawyer: 'Torrent Sites Do Not Violate Criminal Copyright Laws' ( 80

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Lawyers representing Artem Vaulin have filed their formal legal response to prosecutors' allegations of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, among other charges. Vaulin is the alleged head of KickassTorrents (KAT). KAT was the world's largest BitTorrent distribution site before it was shuttered by authorities earlier this year. Vaulin was arrested in Poland, where he now awaits extradition to the United States. "Vaulin is charged with running today's most visited illegal file-sharing website, responsible for unlawfully distributing well over $1 billion of copyrighted materials," Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said in a July 2016 statement. The defense's new 22-page court filing largely relies on the argument that there is no such thing as secondary criminal copyright infringement. While secondary copyright infringement as a matter of civil liability was upheld by the Supreme Court in MGM v. Grokster in 2005, Vaulin and his associates have been charged criminally. "The fundamental flaw in the government's untenable theory of prosecution is that there is no copyright protection for such torrent file instructions and addresses," [the brief's author, Ira Rothken,] argued in his Monday motion to dismiss the charges against Vaulin. "Therefore, given the lack of direct willful copyright infringement, torrent sites do not violate criminal copyright laws." "The extradition procedures have formally been started by the US in Poland," Rothken told Ars. "We are in a submissions or briefing period, and our Polish team is opposing extradition." Rothken also said that he has yet to be allowed to meet or speak directly with his client. For now, Rothken has been required to communicate via his Polish counterpart, Alek Kowzan. "Maybe they are afraid that Artem's extradition defense will be enhanced if American lawyers can assist in defending against the US extradition," Rothken added. No hearings before US District Judge John Z. Lee have been set.

Hotspot Vigilantes Are Trying to Beam the Internet To Julian Assange ( 246

Ecuadorian government said earlier this week that it did cut off Julian Assange's internet connection. They noted that Assange's continued interference in the U.S. election campaign was the reason why they decided to disconnect Assange from the internet. But it appears some people are going to great lengths to beam internet connectivity to Mr. Assange. This week 4chan urged people to head to the embassy to set up mobile Wi-Fi hotspots, and many are doing just that. From a Motherboard report:"We are now calling all BRITS to get their ass down to the embassy and stand around in mass, taking shifts with wifi-hotspots on hand!" reads the post. "Give Assange constant network and morale support all while streaming it live for the world to see." Are people actually going to try this? Motherboard UK visited the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has claimed political asylum since August 2012, today to find out. Admittedly, on a late October afternoon, things were rather quiet on the street outside the embassy. Nevertheless, I found my guy. "Marco" was loitering outside the embassy, turning on and off his mobile hotspot. I approached him, and while tentative at first, Marco finally started explaining how he was hoping to aid Assange.
The Military

US Army 'Will Have More Robot Soldiers Than Humans' By 2025, Says Former British Spy ( 113

John Bassett, a British spy who worked for the agency GCHQ for nearly two decades, has told Daily Express that the U.S. was considering plans to employ thousands of robots by 2025. At a meeting with police and counter-terrorism officials in London, he said: "At some point around 2025 or thereabouts the U.S. army will actually have more combat robots than it will have human soldiers. Many of those combat robots are trucks that can drive themselves, and they will get better at not falling off cliffs. But some of them are rather more exciting than trucks. So we will see in the West combat robots outnumber human soldiers." Daily Express reports: Robotic military equipment is already being used by the U.S Navy and Air Force, in the shape of drones and autonomous ships. In April robotic warfare took a major leap forward after the U.S. Navy launched its very first self-piloting ship designed to hunt enemy submarines. Drones have been a feature of U.S. operations in the Middle East to disrupt terrorist groups. However, those aircrafts are still controlled by humans operating from bases in the U.S. Mr. Bassett also said artificial intelligence and robots technology would combine to create powerful fighting machines. The cyber security expert said: "Artificial intelligence, robotics in general, those will begin to mesh together."

BBC Micro Bit Mini-Computer To Expand Internationally With New Hardware ( 40

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: The Micro Bit mini-computer is to be sold across the world and enthusiasts are to be offered blueprints showing how to build their own versions. The announcements were made by a new non-profit foundation that is taking over the educational project, formerly led by the BBC. About one million of the devices were given away free to UK-based schoolchildren earlier this year. Beyond the UK, Micro Bits are also in use in schools across the Netherlands and Iceland. But the foundation now intended to co-ordinate a wider rollout. "Our goal is to go out and reach 100 million people with Micro Bit, and by reach I mean affect their lives with the technology," said the foundations' new chief executive Zach Shelby. "That means [selling] tens of millions of devices... over the next five to 10 years." His organization plans to ensure Micro Bits can be bought across Europe before the end of the year and is developing Norwegian and Dutch-language versions of its coding web tools to boost demand. Next, in 2017, the foundation plans to target North America and China, which will coincide with an upgrade to the hardware. TrixX adds: The makers of the BBC micro:bit have announced that they are releasing the full specs for the device under an open license, (SolderPad License, similar to Apache License but for hardware). This means that anyone can legally use the specs and build their own device, or fork the reference design GitHub repo and design their derivatives.

Donald Trump Running Insecure Email Servers ( 441

Donald Trump has slammed Hillary Clinton for using private email servers numerous times, but it turns out his inboxes aren't that secure either. From a report on The Register: Security researcher Kevin Beaumont discovered the Trump organization uses a hopelessly outdated and insecure internet setup. Servers on the Trump Organization's domain,, are using outdated software, run Windows Server 2003 and the built-in Internet Information Server 6 web server. Microsoft cut off support for this technology in July 2015, leaving the systems unpatched for the last 15 months. In addition, Beaumont said he'd found that emails from the Trump Organization failed to support two-factor authentication. That's particularly bad because the Trump Organization's web-based email access page relies on an outdated March 2015 build of Microsoft Exchange 2007, he says. "Windows Server 2003, IIS 6 and Exchange 2003 went end of life years ago. There are no security fixes. They don't have basics down," the UK-based researcher concludes. Beaumont's findings are based simply on inspecting publicly available information rather than actively scanning for vulnerabilities or attempting to gain access to insecure systems, a point lost on Trump supporters who have reported him to the Feds.
Operating Systems

OMGUbuntu: 'Why Use Linux?' Answered in 3 Short Words ( 268

Linux-focused blog OMGUbuntu's Joey-Elijah Sneddon shared a post today in which he is trying to explain why people should Linux. He stumbled upon the question when he typed "Why use" and Google suggested Linux as one of the most frequent questions. From the article: The question posed is not one that I sincerely ask myself very often. The answer has, over the years, become complicated. It's grown into a bloated ball of elastic bands, each reason stretched around and now reliant on another. But I wanted to answer. Helpfully, my brain began to spit out all the predictable nouns: "Why use Linux? Because of security! Because of control! Because of privacy, community, and a general sense of purpose! Because it's fast! Because it's virus free! Because I'm dang-well used to it now! Because, heck, I can shape it to look like pretty much anything I want it to using themes and widgets and CSS and extensions and blingy little desktop trinkets!"

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