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Transportation

South Korea Developing 'Near-Supersonic' Train Similar To Hyperloop (huffingtonpost.co.uk) 55

The South Korean government plans to unveil a high-speed train that can travel at near-supersonic speeds capable of cutting a five hour journey to just 30 minutes. It's reminiscent of the Hyperloop, a proposed mode of passenger and freight transportation that propels a pod-like vehicle through a near-vacuum tube at more than airline speed. Huffington Post UK reports: According to the Korea Railroad Research Institute, it plans to unveil a "hyper tube" format train in the "not too distant" future. Speaking to the South China Morning Post, the government-owned organization said: "We hope to create an ultra-fast train, which will travel inside a state-of-the-art low-pressure tube at lightning speeds, in the not-too-distant future. To that end, we will cooperate with associated institutes as well as Hanyang University to check the viability of various related technologies called the hyper-tube format over the next three years." While this sounds very similar to the low-pressure concept designed initially by Tesla founder Elon Musk it seems as though the KRRI wants to go even further and create a system that will leave Hyperloop looking like a Hornby set. By throwing all their resources at the project, South Korea is hoping to skip past maglev, a still-new propulsion system that uses electromagnets to actually levitate trains above the air. While this removes some of the friction that comes with using conventional wheels, it still doesn't remove the brick wall of friction that is air itself. By building a low-pressure tube however and placing the train inside it you can effectively create a train that could travel at eye-watering speeds.
Power

Two-Thirds of Americans Give Priority To Developing Alternative Energy Over Fossil Fuels (pewresearch.org) 135

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Pew Research Center: A new Pew Research Center survey finds that 65% of Americans give priority to developing alternative energy sources, compared with 27% who would emphasize expanded production of fossil fuel sources. Support for concentrating on alternative energy is up slightly since December 2014. At that time, 60% said developing alternative energy sources was the more important priority. There continue to be wide political differences on energy priorities. While a 2016 Pew Research Center survey found large majorities of Democrats and Republicans supported expanding both wind and solar energy, the new survey shows that Democrats remain far more likely than Republicans to stress that developing alternative energy should take priority over developing fossil fuel sources. About eight-in-ten (81%) Democrats and independents who lean to the Democratic Party favor developing alternative sources instead of expanding production from fossil fuel sources. Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are closely divided: 45% say the more important priority should be developing alternative sources, while 44% say expanding production of oil, coal and natural gas should be given more priority. There also are differences in public priorities about energy by age. Americans under the age of 50 are especially likely to support alternative energy sources over expanding fossil fuels. About seven-in-ten (73%) of those ages 18 to 49 say developing alternative sources of energy should be the more important priority, while 22% say expanding production of fossil fuels should be the more important priority. Older adults are more divided in their views, though they also give more priority to alternatives. Among those 50 and older, 55% say alternative energy development is more important, while 34% say it's more important to expand production of fossil fuel energy sources.
Government

Yahoo Faces SEC Probe Over Data Breaches (wsj.com) 17

New submitter Linorgese quotes a report from The Wall Street Journal (Warning: paywalled; alternate source): U.S. authorities are investigating whether Yahoo Inc.'s two massive data breaches should have been reported sooner to investors, according to people familiar with the matter, in what could prove to be a major test in defining when a company is required to disclose a hack. Last month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said it had begun an investigation into a 2013 data breach that involved more than 1 billion users' accounts. That followed Yahoo's disclosure that a 2014 intrusion involved about 500 million accounts. As part of its investigation, the SEC last month requested documents from Yahoo, the Journal said, citing persons familiar with the situation. The agency has been seeking a model case for cybersecurity rules it issued in 2011, legal experts told the Journal. In a November 2016 SEC filing, Yahoo noted that it was cooperating with the SEC, Federal Trade Commission and other federal, state, and foreign governmental officials and agencies including "a number of State Attorneys General, and the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York." When Yahoo reported the 2014 breach it said that evidence linked it to a state-sponsored attacker. It has not announced a suspected responsibility for the larger 2013 intrusion, but the company has said it does not believe the two breaches are linked.
Movies

FBI Is Probing Sundance Cyberattack That Forced Box Office To Close (hollywoodreporter.com) 28

Over the weekend, the Sundance Film Festival was hacked. "Sundance Film Festival has been subject to a cyberattack, causing network outages that have shut down our box office," said a spokesperson for the festival. "No further information about the attack is available at this time, but our team is working hard to get our system back up and running as soon as possible. All screenings will still take place as planned." According to The Hollywood Reporter, the FBI is now investigating the hack and is working with Sundance officials to identify the culprit. From their report: Although the festival was able to get its ticketing systems back online within an hour of the Saturday breach, multiple other denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on Sundance's IT infrastructure followed. A DDoS attack works by flooding the bandwidth or resources of a targeted server. A Sundance Film Festival rep offers the following statement: "The FBI is reviewing the case. At this point, we do not have any reason to believe the cyberattack was targeted towards a specific film. No artist or customer information was compromised." At the time of the hack, the festival offered little in the way of explanation of what happened, but hinted that filmmakers at the annual celebration of independent cinema may have been the target. One producer of a Sundance documentary critical of the Russian government believes his film could have played a role in the attack. "There's been speculation that our film may have sparked retribution," Icarus consulting producer Doug Blush tells THR. "It does not paint a flattering picture of [president Vladimir] Putin." Icarus, which made its world premiere at the festival the day before the hack, centers on a Russian doctor who oversaw and then spoke out about Russia's widespread state-sponsored sports doping. The Bryan Fogel-helmed film, which is being pitched to distributors, has played throughout the weekend in Park City at screenings for both press-and-industry and the public. Icarus isn't the only Sundance film that could antagonize the Russian government and Putin. Evgeny Afineevsky's Cries From Syria -- one of several docs tackling the war-torn nation -- also takes a critical look at Putin and Russia's military intervention in Syria. Cries From Syria made its world premiere at Sundance on Sunday, the day after the initial box-office cyberattack.
China

China Cracks Down On International VPN Usage (thestack.com) 56

An anonymous reader writes: China's government has announced a 14-month crackdown on the use of unauthorised Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), commonly used by visitors and native activists, amongst others, to communicate with the world beyond the Great Firewall of China. Sunday's announcement [Chinese] from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology reiterated regulations first outlined in 2002, but which have since been subject to sparse, selective or lenient enforcement. The new announcement promises a 'clean up' regarding the VPN situation in China, beginning immediately and running until March of 2018.
Google

More People Than Ever Are Using DuckDuckGo; Site Says It Observed 14M Searches in One Day This Month (betanews.com) 165

An anonymous reader shares a BetaNews article: A lot of people are more privacy aware than they have been in the past, and are wary of entrusting everything they search for to Google. That's where privacy-focused sites like DuckDuckGo come in. Its growth since it launched 8 years ago has been nothing short of staggering, with the number of searches skyrocketing since 2013, when Edward Snowden first revealed how the US government was spying on its people. The search site says it has to date served up over 10 billion anonymous searches, with 4 billion of those occurring in the last year alone, and the company says it is growing faster than ever. On January 10 2017, the site received in excess of 14 million private searches.
Crime

Western Union Pays $586M Fine Over Wire Fraud Charges (reuters.com) 110

The head of the FTC says Western Union "facilitated scammers and rip-offs," while the company "looked the other way." An anonymous reader quotes Reuters: The world's biggest money-transfer company agreed to pay $586 million and admitted to turning a blind eye as criminals used its service for money laundering and fraud, U.S. authorities said on Thursday. Western Union, which has over half a million locations in more than 200 countries, admitted "to aiding and abetting wire fraud" by allowing scammers to process transactions, even when the company realized its agents were helping scammers avoid detection, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission said in statements...

Fraudsters offering fake prizes and job opportunities swindled tens of thousands of U.S. consumers, giving Western Union agents a cut in return for processing the payments, authorities said. Between 2004 and 2012, the Colorado-based company knew of fraudulent transactions but failed to take steps that would have resulted in disciplining of 2,000 agents, authorities said... Between 2004 and 2015 Western Union collected 550,928 complaints about fraud, with 80 percent of them coming from the United States where it has some 50,000 locations, the government complaint said. The average consumer complaint was for $1,148, the government said.

Reuters seemed to suggest that nearly one out of every thousand transactions was fraudulent, reporting that Western Union "said consumer fraud accounts for less than one-tenth of 1 percent of consumer-to-consumer transactions."
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Three States Propose DMCA-Countering 'Right To Repair' Laws (ifixit.org) 201

Automakers are using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to shut down tools used by car mechanics -- but three states are trying to stop them. An anonymous reader quotes IFixIt.Org: in 2014, Ford sued Autel for making a tool that diagnoses car trouble and tells you what part fixes it. Autel decrypted a list of Ford car parts, which wound up in their diagnostic tool. Ford claimed that the parts list was protected under copyright (even though data isn't creative work) -- and cracking the encryption violated the DMCA. The case is still making its way through the courts. But this much is clear: Ford didn't like Autel's competing tool, and they don't mind wielding the DMCA to shut the company down...

Thankfully, voters are stepping up to protect American jobs. Just last week, at the behest of constituents, three states -- Nebraska, Minnesota, and New York -- introduced Right to Repair legislation (more states will follow). These 'Fair Repair' laws would require manufacturers to provide service information and sell repair parts to owners and independent repair shops.

Activist groups like the EFF and Repair.org want to "ensure that repair people aren't marked as criminals under the DMCA," according to the site, arguing that we're heading towards a future with many more gadgets to fix. "But we'll have to fix copyright law first."
Databases

Database Attacks Spread To CouchDB, Hadoop, and ElasticSearch Servers (bleepingcomputer.com) 66

An anonymous reader writes: Two weeks after cybercriminal groups started to hijack and hold for ransom MongoDB servers, similar attacks are now taking place against CouchDB, Hadoop, and ElasticSearch servers. According to the latest tallies, the number of hijacked MongoDB servers is 34,000 (out of 69,000 available on Shodan), 4,681 ElasticSearch clusters (out of 33,000), 126 Hadoop datastores (out of 5,400), and 452 CouchDB databases (out of 4,600). Furthermore, the group that has hijacked the most MongoDB and ElasticSearch servers is also selling the scripts it used for the attacks.
Two security researchers are tracking the attacks on Google spreadsheets, and report that when a ransom is paid, many victims still report that their data is never restored. But the researchers also identified 124 Hadoop servers where the attacker simply replaced all the tables with a data entry named NODATA4U_SECUREYOURSHIT. "What's strange about these attacks is that the threat actor isn't asking for a ransom demand," reports Bleeping Computer. "Instead, he's just deleting data from Hadoop servers that have left their web-based admin panel open to remote connections on the Internet."
United States

Is The Tech Industry Driving Families Out of San Francisco? (nytimes.com) 378

Why does San Francisco now have fewer children per capita than any of America's largest 100 cities? An anonymous reader writes: A move to the suburbs began in the 1970s, but "The tech boom now reinforces the notion that San Francisco is a place for the young, single and rich," according to the New York Times. "When we imagine having kids, we think of somewhere else," one software engineer tells the paper. The article describes "neighborhoods where employees of Google, Twitter and so many other technology companies live or work" where the sidewalks make it seem "as if life started at 22 and ended somewhere around 40."

Or is San Francisco just part of a larger trend? "California, which has one of the world's 10 largest economies, recently released data showing the lowest birthrate since the Great Depression. And the Los Angeles Times argues California's experience may just be following national trends. The drop "likely stems from the recession, a drop in teenage pregnancies and an increase in people attending college and taking longer to graduate, therefore putting off having children, said Walter Schwarm, a demographer at the Department of Finance."

So is this part of a larger trend -- or something unique about San Francisco? The New York Times also quotes Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, who believes technology workers are putting off families when they move to the Silicon Valley area because they anticipate long working hours. There's also complaints about San Francisco's public school system -- 30% of its children now attend private schools, the highest percentage of any large American city. But according to the article, Peter Thiel believes that San Francisco is just "structurally hostile to families."
Crime

Geek Avenges Stolen Laptop By Remotely Accessing Thief's Facebook Account (hothardware.com) 355

An anonymous reader quotes Hot Hardware: Stu Gale, who just so happens to be a computer security expert, had the misfortune of having his laptop stolen from his car overnight. However, Gale did have remote software installed on the device which allowed him to track whenever it came online. So, he was quite delighted to see that a notification popped up on one of his other machines alerting him that his stolen laptop was active. Gale took the opportunity to remote into the laptop, only to find that the not-too-bright thief was using his laptop to login to her Facebook account.

The thief eventually left her Facebook account open and left the room, after which Gale had the opportunity to snoop through her profile and obtain all of her private information. "I went through and got her phone numbers, friends list and pictures..." Given that Gale was able to see her phone numbers listed on Facebook, he sent text messages to all of those numbers saying that he was going to report her to the police. He also posted her info to a number of Facebook groups, which spooked the thief enough to not only delete her Facebook account, but also her listed phone numbers.

In 2008 Slashdot ran a similar story, where it took several weeks of remote monitoring before a laptop thief revealed his identity. (The victim complained that "It was kind of frustrating because he was mostly using it to watch porn.") But in this case, Gale just remotely left a note on the laptop -- and called one of the thief's friends -- and eventually turned over all the information to the police, who believe an arrest will follow.

Gale seems less confident, and tells one Calgary newspaper "I'm realistic. I'm not going to see that computer again. But at least I got some comic relief."
Power

New Wyoming Bill Penalizes Utilities Using Renewable Energy (csmonitor.com) 476

An anonymous reader quotes a Christian Science Monitor report on "a bill that would essentially ban large-scale renewable energy" in Wyoming. The new Wyoming bill would forbid utilities from using solar or wind sources for their electricity by 2019, according to Inside Climate News... The bill would require utilities to use "eligible resources" to meet 95 percent of Wyoming's electricity needs in 2018, and all of its electricity needs in 2019. Those "eligible resources" are defined solely as coal, hydroelectric, natural gas, nuclear, oil, and individual net metering... Utility-scale wind and solar farms are not included in the bill's list of "eligible resources," making it illegal for Wyoming utilities to use them in any way if the legislation passes. The bill calls for a fine of $10 per megawatt-hour of electricity from a renewable source to be slapped on Wyoming utilities that provide power from unapproved sources to in-state customers.
The bill also prohibits utilities from raising rates to cover the cost of those penalties, though utilities wouldn't be penalized if they exported that energy to other states. But one local activist described it as 'talking-point' legislation, and even the bill's sponsor gives it only a 50% chance of passing.
Power

Are Squirrels A Bigger Threat To Our Critical Infrastructure? (bbc.com) 148

"The real threat to global critical infrastructure is not enemy states or organizations but squirrels, according to one security expert." Long-time Slashdot reader randomErr quotes the BBC. Cris Thomas has been tracking power cuts caused by animals since 2013... His Cyber Squirrel 1 project was set up to counteract what he called the "ludicrousness of cyber-war claims by people at high levels in government and industry", he told the audience at the Shmoocon security conference in Washington. Squirrels topped the list with 879 "attacks", followed by birds with 434 attacks and then snakes at 83 attacks.
Those three animals -- along with rats -- have caused 1,700 different power cuts affecting nearly 5,000,000 people .
Cellphones

FTC Dismantles Two Huge Robocall Organizations (onthewire.io) 120

Billions of robocalls came from two groups selling extended auto warranties, SEO services, and home security systems over the last seven years -- many to numbers on the "Do Not Call" list -- but this week the Federal Trade Commission took action. Trailrunner7 shares this report from OnTheWire: Continuing its campaign against phone fraud operations, the FTC has dismantled two major robocall organizations... They and many of their co-defendants have agreed to court-ordered bans on robocall activities and financial settlements... The FTC and the FCC both have been cracking down on illegal robocall operations recently. The FCC has formed a robocall strike force with the help of carriers and also has signed an agreement to cooperate with Canadian authorities to address the problem.
"The law is clear about robocalls," says one FTC executive. "If a telemarketer doesn't have consumers' written permission, it's illegal to make these calls."
NASA

NASA Is Planning Mission To An Asteroid Worth $10 Quintillion (usatoday.com) 300

New submitter kugo2006 writes: NASA announced a plan to research 16 Psyche, an asteroid potentially as large as Mars and primarily composed of Iron and Nickel. The rock is unique in that it has an exposed core, likely a result of a series of collisions, according to Lindy Elkins-Tanton, Psyche's principal investigator. The mission's spacecraft would launch in 2023 and arrive in 2030. According to Global News, Elkins-Tanton calculates that the iron in 16 Psyche would be worth $10,000 quadrillion ($10 quintillion).
Movies

CBS, Paramount Settle Lawsuit Over 'Star Trek' Fan Film (hollywoodreporter.com) 146

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Hollywood Reporter: Stand down from battle stations. Star Trek rights holders CBS and Paramount have seen the logic of settling a copyright suit against Alec Peters, who solicited money on crowdfunding sites and hired professionals to make a YouTube short and a script of a planned feature film focused on a fictional event -- a Starfleet captain's victory in a war with the Klingon Empire -- referenced in the original 1960s Gene Roddenberry television series. Thanks to the settlement, CBS and Paramount won't be going to trial on Stardate 47634.44, known to most as Jan. 31, 2017. According to a joint statement, "Paramount Pictures Corporation, CBS Studios Inc., Axanar Productions, Inc. and Alec Peters are pleased to announce that the litigation regarding Axanar's film Prelude to Axanar and its proposed film Axanar has been resolved. Axanar and Mr. Peters acknowledge that both films were not approved by Paramount or CBS, and that both works crossed boundaries acceptable to CBS and Paramount relating to copyright law." Peters' Axanar video and script, which feature such arguably copyrighted elements as Vulcan ears, the Klingon language and an obscure character from a 1969 episode, sparked a lawsuit in December 2015. The litigation then proceeded at warp speed with the case almost making it to trial in just 13 months, an amazingly brisk pace by typical standards. When Axanar comes out, it will look different. "Axanar and Mr. Peters have agreed to make substantial changes to Axanar to resolve this litigation, and have also assured the copyright holders that any future Star Trek fan films produced by Axanar or Mr. Peters will be in accordance with the 'Guidelines for Fan Films' distributed by CBS and Paramount in June 2016," states the parties' joint announcement of a settlement.
Education

New Senate Bill Would Give US Grads Preference In Receiving H-1B Visas (computerworld.com) 221

dcblogs quotes a report from Computerworld: A new bill in Congress would give foreign students who graduate from U.S. schools priority in getting an H-1B visa. The legislation also "explicitly prohibits" the replacement of American workers by visa holders. This bill, the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act, was announced Thursday by its co-sponsors, U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), longtime allies on H-1B reform. Grassley is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which gives this bill an immediate big leg up in the legislative process. This legislation would end the annual random distribution, via a lottery, of H-1B visas, and replace it with a system to give priority to certain types of students. Foreign nationals in the best position to get one of the 85,000 H-1B visas issued annually will have earned an advanced degree from a U.S. school, have a well-paying job offer, and have preferred skills. The specific skills weren't identified, but will likely be STEM-related. "Congress created these programs to complement America's high-skilled workforce, not replace it," said Grassley, in a statement. "Unfortunately, some companies are trying to exploit the programs by cutting American workers for cheaper labor."
AI

Elite Scientists Have Told the Pentagon That AI Won't Threaten Humanity (vice.com) 159

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: A new report authored by a group of independent U.S. scientists advising the U.S. Dept. of Defense (DoD) on artificial intelligence (AI) claims that perceived existential threats to humanity posed by the technology, such as drones seen by the public as killer robots, are at best "uninformed." Still, the scientists acknowledge that AI will be integral to most future DoD systems and platforms, but AI that could act like a human "is at most a small part of AI's relevance to the DoD mission." Instead, a key application area of AI for the DoD is in augmenting human performance. Perspectives on Research in Artificial Intelligence and Artificial General Intelligence Relevant to DoD, first reported by Steven Aftergood at the Federation of American Scientists, has been researched and written by scientists belonging to JASON, the historically secretive organization that counsels the U.S. government on scientific matters. Outlining the potential use cases of AI for the DoD, the JASON scientists make sure to point out that the growing public suspicion of AI is "not always based on fact," especially when it comes to military technologies. Highlighting SpaceX boss Elon Musk's opinion that AI "is our biggest existential threat" as an example of this, the report argues that these purported threats "do not align with the most rapidly advancing current research directions of AI as a field, but rather spring from dire predictions about one small area of research within AI, Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)." AGI, as the report describes, is the pursuit of developing machines that are capable of long-term decision making and intent, i.e. thinking and acting like a real human. "On account of this specific goal, AGI has high visibility, disproportionate to its size or present level of success," the researchers say.
Encryption

Lavabit Is Relaunching (theintercept.com) 54

The encrypted email service once used by whistleblower Edward Snowden is relaunching today. Ladar Levison, the founder of the encrypted email service Lavabit, announced on Friday that he's relaunching the service with a new architecture that fixes the SSL problem and includes other privacy-enhancing features as well, such as one that obscures the metadata on emails to prevent government agencies like the NSA and FBI from being able to find out with whom Lavabit users communicate. In addition, he's also announcing plans to roll out end-to-end encryption later this year. The Intercept provides some backstory in its report: In 2013, [Levison] took the defiant step of shutting down the company's service rather than comply with a federal law enforcement request that could compromise its customers' communications. The FBI had sought access to the email account of one of Lavabit's most prominent users -- Edward Snowden. Levison had custody of his service's SSL encryption key that could help the government obtain Snowden's password. And though the feds insisted they were only after Snowden's account, the key would have helped them obtain the credentials for other users as well. Lavabit had 410,000 user accounts at the time. Rather than undermine the trust and privacy of his users, Levison ended the company's email service entirely, preventing the feds from getting access to emails stored on his servers. But the company's users lost access to their accounts as well. Levison, who became a hero of the privacy community for his tough stance, has spent the last three years trying to ensure he'll never have to help the feds break into customer accounts again. "The SSL key was our biggest threat," he says.
Businesses

Apple Sues Qualcomm For Roughly $1 Billion Over Royalties (cnbc.com) 54

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: Apple is suing Qualcomm for roughly $1 billion, saying Qualcomm has been "charging royalties for technologies they have nothing to do with." The suit follows the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's lawsuit against Qualcomm earlier this week over unfair patent licensing practices. Apple says that Qualcomm has taken "radical steps," including "withholding nearly $1 billion in payments from Apple as retaliation for responding truthfully to law enforcement agencies investigating them." Apple added, "Despite being just one of over a dozen companies who contributed to basic cellular standards, Qualcomm insists on charging Apple at least five times more in payments than all the other cellular patent licensors we have agreements with combined." Apple also alleges that once it began cooperating with Korean authorities' antitrust investigation of Qualcomm, the company withheld $1 billion in retaliation. Korean regulators fined Qualcomm $854 million for unfair trade practices in December.

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