Facebook

Facebook Starts Its Facial Recognition Push To Europeans (techcrunch.com) 38

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Jimmy Nsubuga, a journalist at Metro, is among several European Facebook users who have reported getting notifications asking if they want to turn on face recognition technology. Facebook has previously said an opt-in option would be pushed out to all European users, and also globally, as part of changes to its T&Cs and consent flow. In Europe, the company is hoping to convince users to voluntarily allow it to deploy the privacy-hostile tech -- which was turned off in the bloc after regulatory pressure, back in 2012, when Facebook began using facial recognition to offer features such as automatically tagging users in photo uploads. But under impending changes to its T&Cs -- ostensibly to comply with the EU's incoming GDPR data protection standard -- the company has crafted a manipulative consent flow that tries to sell people on giving it their data; including filling in its own facial recognition blanks by convincing Europeans to agree to it grabbing and using their biometric data after all. Users who choose not to switch on facial recognition still have to click through a "continue" screen before they get to the off switch. On this screen Facebook attempts to convince them to turn it on -- using manipulative examples of how the tech can "protect" them.
Desktops (Apple)

Users Complain About Installation Issues With macOS 10.13.4 (theregister.co.uk) 88

An anonymous reader shares a report: The 10.13.4 update for macOS High Sierra is recommended for all users, and was emitted at the end of March promising to "improve stability, performance, and security of your Mac." But geek support sites have started filling up with people complaining that it had the opposite effect: killing their computer with messages that "the macOS installation couldn't be completed."

The initial install appears to be working fine, but when users go to shutdown or reboot an upgraded system, it goes into recovery mode. According to numerous reports, there doesn't appear to be anything wrong with users' Macs -- internal drives report that they're fine. And the issue is affecting a range of different Apple-branded computers from different years. Some have been successful in getting 10.13.4 to install by launching from Safe Mode, but others haven't and are deciding to roll back and stick with 10.13.3 until Apple puts out a new update that will fix whatever the issue is while claiming it has nothing to do with it.

Communications

End of the Landline: BT Aims To Move All UK Customers To VoIP by 2025 (siliconrepublic.com) 96

BT aims to move its UK customers to IP telephony by 2025. From a report: BT is shutting its traditional telephone network in the UK, according to an email seen by The Register. The public switched telephone network (PSTN) closure is part of the company's plans to move in a fibre network direction in terms of its infrastructure. All phonecalls will eventually be made over broadband using VoIP systems, which means the company's existing wholesale line rental products, which are reliant on the PSTN, will need to be removed. BT Openreach runs the network used by all but one of the telecoms providers in the UK.
United Kingdom

Amazon Employee Explains the Poor Working Conditions of An Amazon Warehouse 312

Earlier this week, James Bloodworth, a former UK Amazon employee that worked undercover in the "fulfillment center" for six-months, released a book detailing the mistreatment of warehouse employees at the commerce company. He described the work culture as a prison after discovering that Amazon warehouse staff were peeing in bottles to avoid taking too many breaks. Since the report first broke, many Amazon employees have come out to share their thoughts on the working conditions, including one Reddit user who claims that "the post is pretty spot on": They don't monitor bathroom breaks, but [your] individual rate (or production goal) [doesn't] account for bathroom breaks, or... let's say there is a problem like you need [two] of something and there's only one left, well you have to put on your "andon"... wait for someone to come "fix" for you, all the while your rate is dropping. The [two] most common reasons [people] get fired are not hitting rate, and attendance. They don't really try to help you hit rate, they just fire and replace.

My first week there [two] [people] collapsed from dehydration. It's so [commonplace] to see someone collapse that nobody is even shocked anymore. You'll just hear a manager complain that he has to do some report now, while a couple of new [people] try to help the guy (veterans won't risk helping [because] it drips rate). No sitting allowed, and there's nowhere to sit anywhere except the break rooms. Before the robots (they call them kivas) pickers would regularly walk 10-15 miles a day, now it's just stand for 10-12 hours a day. [People] complain about the heat all the time but we just get told 80 degrees (Fahrenheit obviously) is a safe working temp. [Sometimes] they will pull out a thermometer, but even when it hits 85 they just say it's fine. There's been deaths, at least one in my building... Amazon likes to keep it all hush hush. Heard about others, you can find the stories if you search for it, but Amazon does a good job burying it...
Amazon has denied the allegations, saying: "Amazon ensures all of its associates have easy access to toilet facilities which are just a short walk from where they are working. Amazon provides a safe and positive workplace for thousands of people across the UK with competitive pay and benefits from day one. We have not been provided with confirmation that the people who completed the survey worked at Amazon and we don't recognize these allegations as an accurate portrayal of activities in our buildings."
Businesses

Cybersecurity Tech Accord: More Than 30 Tech Firms Pledge Not to Assist Governments in Cyberattacks (cybertechaccord.org) 67

Over 30 major technology companies, led by Microsoft and Facebook, on Tuesday announced what they are calling the Cybersecurity Tech Accord, a set of principles that include a declaration that they will not help any government -- including that of the United States -- mount cyberattacks against "innocent civilians and enterprises from anywhere."

The companies that are participating in the initiative are: ABB, Arm, Avast, Bitdefender, BT, CA Technologies, Cisco, Cloudflare, DataStax, Dell, DocuSign, Facebook, Fastly, FireEye, F-Secure, GitHub, Guardtime, HP Inc., HPE, Intuit, Juniper Networks, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Nielsen, Nokia, Oracle, RSA, SAP, Stripe, Symantec, Telefonica, Tenable, Trend Micro, and VMware.

The announcement comes at the backdrop of a growing momentum in political and industry circles to create a sort of Digital Geneva Convention that commits the entire tech industry and governments to supporting a free and secure internet. The effort comes after attacks such as WannaCry and NotPetya hobbled businesses around the world last year, and just a day after the U.S. and U.K. issued an unprecedented joint alert citing the threat of cyberattacks from Russian state-sponsored actors. The Pentagon has said Russian "trolling" activity increased 2,000 percent after missile strikes in Syria.

Interestingly, Amazon, Apple, Google, and Twitter are not participating in the program, though the Tech Accord says it "remains open to consideration of new private sector signatories, large or small and regardless of sector."
Earth

Scientists Accidentally Create Mutant Enzyme That Eats Plastic Bottles (theguardian.com) 218

Scientists have created a mutant enzyme that breaks down plastic drinks bottles -- by accident. The breakthrough could help solve the global plastic pollution crisis by enabling for the first time the full recycling of bottles. From a report: The new research was spurred by the discovery in 2016 of the first bacterium that had naturally evolved to eat plastic, at a waste dump in Japan. Scientists have now revealed the detailed structure of the crucial enzyme produced by the bug. The international team then tweaked the enzyme to see how it had evolved, but tests showed they had inadvertently made the molecule even better at breaking down the PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic used for soft drink bottles. "What actually turned out was we improved the enzyme, which was a bit of a shock," said Prof John McGeehan, at the University of Portsmouth, UK, who led the research. "It's great and a real finding." The mutant enzyme takes a few days to start breaking down the plastic -- far faster than the centuries it takes in the oceans. But the researchers are optimistic this can be speeded up even further and become a viable large-scale process.
United Kingdom

State-Sponsored Russian Hackers Actively Seeking To Hijack Essential Internet Hardware, US and UK Intelligence Agencies Say (bbc.com) 170

State-sponsored Russian hackers are actively seeking to hijack essential internet hardware, US and UK intelligence agencies say. BBC reports: The UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the FBI and the US Department of Homeland Security issued a joint alert warning of a global campaign. The alert details methods used to take over essential network hardware. The attacks could be an attempt by Russia to gain a foothold for use in a future offensive, it said. "Russia is our most capable hostile adversary in cyber-space, so dealing with their attacks is a major priority for the National Cyber Security Centre and our US allies," said Ciaran Martin, head of the NCSC in a statement. The alert said attacks were aimed at routers and switches that directed traffic around the net. Compromised devices were used to look at data passing through them, so Russia could scoop up valuable intellectual property, business information and other intelligence.
Education

Former Senior VP of Apple Tony Fadell Says Company Needs To Tackle Smartphone Addiction (wired.co.uk) 74

In an op-ed published on Wired, former SVP at Apple Tony Fadell argues that smartphone manufacturers -- Apple in particular -- need to do a better job of educating users about how often they use their mobile phones, and the resulting dangers that overuse might bring about. An excerpt: Take healthy eating as an analogy: we have advice from scientists and nutritionists on how much protein and carbohydrate we should include in our diet; we have standardised scales to measure our weight against; and we have norms for how much we should exercise. But when it comes to digital "nourishment", we don't know what a "vegetable", a "protein" or a "fat" is. What is "overweight" or "underweight"? What does a healthy, moderate digital life look like? I think that manufacturers and app developers need to take on this responsibility, before government regulators decide to step in -- as with nutritional labelling. Interestingly, we already have digital-detox clinics in the US. I have friends who have sent their children to them. But we need basic tools to help us before it comes to that. I believe that for Apple to maintain and even grow its customer base it can solve this problem at the platform level, by empowering users to understand more about how they use their devices. To do this, it should let people track their digital activity in detail and across all devices.
United States

US Bans American Companies From Selling To Chinese Electronics Maker ZTE (reuters.com) 73

An anonymous reader shares a report: The U.S. Department of Commerce is banning American companies from selling components to leading Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE Corp for seven years for violating the terms of a sanctions violation case, U.S. officials said on Monday. The Chinese company, which sells smartphones in the United States, pleaded guilty last year in federal court in Texas for conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions by illegally shipping U.S. goods and technology to Iran. It paid $890 million in fines and penalties, with an additional penalty of $300 million that could be imposed. As part of the agreement, Shenzhen-based ZTE Corp promised to dismiss four senior employees and discipline 35 others by either reducing their bonuses or reprimanding them, senior Commerce Department officials told Reuters. Update: The UK's cyber security watchdog has warned the UK telecoms sector not to use network equipment or services from Chinese supplier ZTE as it would have a "long term negative effect on the security of the UK."
Security

Hackers Stole a Casino's High-Roller Database Through a Thermometer in the Lobby Fish Tank (businessinsider.com) 245

From a report: Nicole Eagan, the CEO of cybersecurity company Darktrace, told the WSJ CEO Council in London on Thursday: "There's a lot of internet of things devices, everything from thermostats, refrigeration systems, HVAC [air conditioning] systems, to people who bring in their Alexa devices into the offices. There's just a lot of IoT. It expands the attack surface and most of this isn't covered by traditional defenses."

Eagan gave one memorable anecdote about a case Darktrace worked on where an unnamed casino was hacked via a thermometer in a lobby aquarium. "The attackers used that to get a foothold in the network. They then found the high-roller database and then pulled that back across the network, out the thermostat, and up to the cloud," she said.

Microsoft

Microsoft Engineer Charged In Reveton Ransomware Case (bleepingcomputer.com) 24

An anonymous reader writes: A Microsoft network engineer is facing federal charges in Florida for allegedly helping launder money obtained from victims of the Reventon ransomware. Florida investigators say that between October 2012 and March 2013, Uadiale worked with a UK citizen going online by the moniker K!NG. The latter would distribute and infect victims with the Reveton ransomware, while Uadiale would collect payments and send the money to K!NG, in the UK. Investigators tracked down Uadiale because this happened before Bitcoin became popular with ransomware authors and they used the now-defunct Liberty Reserve digital currency to move funds. Authorities from 18 countries seized and shut down Liberty Reserve servers in May 2013.
Space

ULA Is Livestreaming An Atlas V Rocket Launch (upi.com) 59

United Launch Alliance -- a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Boeing -- is livestreaming tonight's launch of an Atlas V rocket. UPI reports: The rocket is set to blast-off at 7:13 p.m. ET from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida... The primary payload is the Continuous Broadcast Augmenting SATCOM, or CBAS, a geostationary communications satellite... Behind the CBAS payload is EAGLE, a platform capable of releasing several secondary payloads into space. According to Gunter's Space Page, EAGLE is carrying five additional payloads, all experimental satellites.
Here's a good overview of the mission: Saturday's mission will begin with ignition of the Atlas Common Core Booster's RD-180 engine, 2.7 seconds before the countdown reaches zero... Five Aerojet Rocketdyne AJ-60A solid rocket motors will augment the CCB at liftoff, igniting about T+1.1 seconds as the rocket lifts off. Climbing away from Cape Canaveral, AV-079 will begin a series of pitch and yaw maneuvers 3.9 seconds into its mission, placing the rocket onto an 89.9-degree azimuth -- almost due East -- for the journey into orbit. Atlas will reach Mach 1, the speed of sound, 34.4 seconds after liftoff, passing through the area of maximum dynamic pressure -- Max-Q -- eleven-and-a-half seconds later.
Long-time Slashdot reader Zorro also shares an interesting remark by the CEO of Boeing when asked if Boeing's cancelled Sonic Cruiser might be making a comeback. "'Something better,' teased the Boeing boss, promising point-to-point connectivity anywhere on Earth in a matter of hours."

And when asked whether Boeing might launch a car into space, he replied instead that "We might pick up the one that's out there and bring it back."
The Military

Robots Replace Soldiers In First of Its Kind Obstacle-Breaching Exercise (military.com) 23

Long-time Slashdot reader cold fjord writes: U.S. and British troops have completed a first-of-its-kind exercise using robots for breaching a complex anti-tank/anti-personnel obstacle as part of what was titled the "Robotic Complex Breach Concept demonstration" at the Grafenwoehr training area in Germany. The exercise included a number of robotic systems, including remotely controlled British Army Terrier engineering vehicles (five cameras, including thermal imaging), UAVs for reconnaissance and chemical agent detection, and the M58 Wolf under remote control and used to provide smoke screens...

British Warrant Officer Robert Kemp stated that breaching enemy obstacles is one of the most dangerous tasks on a battlefield, and that, "Any breach like this will have enemy weapons trained in on the area... Roboticizing breach operations takes away the risk of life and makes clearing enemy obstacles much safer." U.S. Army officer 1st Lt. Felix Derosin said, "As an engineer, this means a lot to me... The casualty rate for a breach is expected to be 50 percent. Being able to take our guys away from that, and have some robots go in there, is a very positive thing for us. In the future, this can save engineers' lives."

The engineer added later that "Being able to see it, eyes on, shows me what the future is going to be like, and it's pretty good."
Google

Google Loses 'Right To Be Forgotten' Case (bbc.com) 160

A businessman fighting for the "right to be forgotten" has won a High Court action against Google. BBC reports: The man, who has not been named due to reporting restrictions surrounding the case, wanted search results about a past crime he had committed removed from the search engine. The judge, Mr Justice Mark Warby, ruled in his favour on Friday. But he rejected a separate claim made by another businessman who had committed a more serious crime. The businessman who won his case was convicted 10 years ago of conspiring to intercept communications. He spent six months in jail. The other businessman, who lost his case, was convicted more than 10 years ago of conspiring to account falsely. He spent four years in jail.
Security

Data Exfiltrators Send Info Over PCs' Power Supply Cables (theregister.co.uk) 131

From a report on The Register: If you want your computer to be really secure, disconnect its power cable. So says Mordechai Guri and his team of side-channel sleuths at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The crew have penned a paper titled PowerHammer: Exfiltrating Data from Air-Gapped Computers through Power Lines that explains how attackers could install malware that regulates CPU utilisation and creates fluctuations in the current flow that could modulate and encode data. The variations would be "propagated through the power lines" to the outside world.

Depending on the attacker's approach, data could be exfiltrated at between 10 and 1,000 bits-per-second. The higher speed would work if attackers can get at the cable connected to the computer's power supply. The slower speed works if attackers can only access a building's electrical services panel. The PowerHammer malware spikes the CPU utilisation by choosing cores that aren't currently in use by user operations (to make it less noticeable). Guri and his pals use frequency shift keying to encode data onto the line.

Facebook

Facebook Launches Bug Bounty Program To Report Data Thieves (cnet.com) 66

Facebook on Tuesday launched a data abuse bug bounty program, just hours ahead of CEO Mark Zuckerberg's testimony to the Senate judiciary and commerce committees in Washington, DC. The bug bounty program is asking for people to report any apps that abuse data on Facebook, and it offers a reward based on how severe the abuse is. From a report: "While there is no maximum, high impact bug reports have garnered as much as $40,000 for people who bring them to our attention," Collin Greene, Facebook's head of product security, said in a post. The new program comes almost a month after the New York Times and the UK's Observer and Guardian papers revealed that Cambridge Analytica, a voter profiling firm, took advantage of a Facebook app to siphon off personal information on 87 million people. The scandal has fanned the flames of a backlash against Facebook by lawmakers and users.
Facebook

Facebook Donated To 46 of 55 Members On Committee That Will Question Zuckerberg (usatoday.com) 160

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will be questioned about user privacy protections next week by members of the House and Senate committees, but as USA Today notes, many of these members were also "some of the biggest recipients of campaign contributions from Facebook employees directly and the political action committee funded by employees." An anonymous reader shares the report: The congressional panel that got the most Facebook contributions is the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which announced Wednesday morning it would question Zuckerberg on April 11. Members of the committee, whose jurisdiction gives it regulatory power over Internet companies, received nearly $381,000 in contributions tied to Facebook since 2007, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The center is a non-partisan, non-profit group that compiles and analyzes disclosures made to the Federal Election Commission.

The second-highest total, $369,000, went to members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which announced later that it would have a joint hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee to question Zuckerberg on Tuesday. Judiciary Committee members have received $235,000 in Facebook contributions. On the House committee, Republicans got roughly twice as much as Democrats, counter to the broader trend in Facebook campaign gifts. Of the $7 million in contributions to all federal candidates tied to the Menlo Park, Calif.-based social network, Democrats got 65% to Republicans' 33%. Of the 55 members on the Energy and Commerce Committee this year, all but nine have received Facebook contributions in the past decade. The average Republican got $6,800, while the average Democrat got $6,750.

Security

'Vigilante Hackers' Strike Routers In Russia and Iran, Reports Motherboard (vice.com) 121

An anonymous reader quotes Motherboard: On Friday, a group of hackers targeted computer infrastructure in Russia and Iran, impacting internet service providers, data centres, and in turn some websites. "We were tired of attacks from government-backed hackers on the United States and other countries," someone in control of an email address left in the note told Motherboard Saturday... "We simply wanted to send a message...." In addition to disabling the equipment, the hackers left a note on affected machines, according to screenshots and photographs shared on social media: "Don't mess with our elections," along with an image of an American flag...

In a blog post Friday, cybersecurity firm Kaspersky said the attack was exploiting a vulnerability in a piece of software called Cisco Smart Install Client. Using computer search engine Shodan, Talos (which is part of Cisco) said in its own blog post on Thursday it found 168,000 systems potentially exposed by the software. Talos also wrote it observed hackers exploiting the vulnerability to target critical infrastructure, and that some of the attacks are believed to be from nation-state actors...

Reuters reported that Iran's IT Minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi said the attack mainly impacted Europe, India, and the U.S.... The hackers said they did scan many countries for the vulnerable systems, including the U.K., U.S., and Canada, but only "attacked" Russia and Iran, perhaps referring to the post of an American flag and their message. They claimed to have fixed the Cisco issue on exposed devices in the US and UK "to prevent further attacks... As a result of our efforts, there are almost no vulnerable devices left in many major countries," they claimed in an email.

Their image of the American flag was a black-and-white drawing done with ASCII art.
Twitter

Twitter Bans 270,000 Accounts For 'Promoting Terrorism' (theguardian.com) 95

According to Twitter's latest transparency report, the social media company removed more than 270,000 accounts around the world for promoting terrorism in the second half of 2017. The number of accounts permanently suspended for sharing what the firm called extremist content between July and December represents a drop for the second period in a row. The Guardian reports: The social network puts this down to "years of hard work making our site an undesirable place for those seeking to promote terrorism." Nick Pickles, Twitter UK's head of public policy, said: "The overwhelming majority of these accounts were detected by our own technology, with just 0.2% of the accounts we suspended in 2017 being flagged by the police." Almost 75% of accounts were suspended before they sent their first tweet, according to the report, and 93% were discovered by tools that Twitter engineers had built. Twitter is understood to also use a combination of US and EU lists of terrorist organizations as well as research from academics and experts to identify terrorists on its network. The number of reports of abusive behavior submitted by government representatives also dropped amid a marked change in the type of abusive behavior reported. Two-thirds of the 10,000 reports concerned violated rules over impersonation, with only 16% of the reports for harassment and 12% for hateful conduct. Harassment and hateful conduct each accounted for a third of reported accounts in the first half of 2017. Only a quarter of reports of abusive behavior submitted by government representatives were acted upon by Twitter, compared with 98% of reports relating to the "promotion of terrorism."
Anime

Animation Legend Isao Takahata, Co-founder of Studio Ghibli, Dies at 82 (nbcnews.com) 27

Isao Takahata, co-founder of the prestigious Japanese animator Studio Ghibli, which stuck to a hand-drawn "manga" look in the face of digital filmmaking, has died. He was 82. From a report: Takahata started Ghibli with Oscar-winning animator Hayao Miyazaki in 1985, hoping to create Japan's Disney. He directed "Grave of the Fireflies," a tragic tale about wartime childhood, and produced some of the studio's films, including Miyazaki's 1984 "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind," which tells the horror of environmental disaster through a story about a princess. Takahata died Thursday of lung cancer at a Tokyo hospital, the studio said in a statement Friday.

He was fully aware of how the floating sumie-brush sketches of faint pastel in his works stood as a stylistic challenge to Hollywood's computer-graphics cartoons. In a 2015 interview with The Associated Press, Takahata talked about how Edo-era woodblock-print artists like Hokusai had the understanding of Western-style perspective and the use of light, but they purposely chose to depict reality with lines, and in a flat way, with minimal shading.
"Pom Poko", a movie released in 1994, is often considered the best work of Takahata. The New York Times described it as, "a comic allegory about battling packs of tanuki (Japanese raccoon dogs) joining forces to fight human real estate developers. It's earthy and rollicking in a way that his co-founder's films aren't." In an interview with Wired in 2015, when Takahata was asked what he felt about people regarding him as the heart of Studio Ghibli. "Now you've both finished your final films, what are your feelings on Ghibli's legacy and reputation?, the interviewer asked. Takahata said, "I'm not sure I can respond in any meaningful way. What Hayao Miyazaki has built up is the greatest contribution. The existence of that thick trunk has allowed leaves to unfurl and flowers to bloom to become the fruitful tree that is Studio Ghibli."

Further reading: Isao Takahata's stark world of reality (The Japan Times).

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