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Updated: 19 hours 4 min ago

Twitter Cuts API Access For Media Sonar, Spy Tool Used To Target Black Lives Matter

Fri, 12/09/2016 - 14:00
Police have now one less tool to monitor users on Twitter. The Daily Dot is reporting that Twitter has cut ties with a third-party social network surveillance firm, citing company policies intended to safeguard users against the surreptitious collection of data by law enforcement agencies. From the report: The severed contract follows Twitter nullifying the commercial data agreements of two other leading social-network-surveillance firms, Geofeedia and Snaptrends. Previously unreported, Twitter severed the access of Media Sonar, an Ontario-based company founded in 2012, which has sold surveillance software to police departments across the United States. Nineteen local government services are known to have each spent at least $10,000 on the software between 2014 and 2016, according to documents acquired under state open-records laws. Twitter informed the Daily Dot this week that it had terminated Media Sonar's access to its public API in October. If the company attempts to create other API keys, Twitter said, "we will terminate those as well and take further action as appropriate."

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Bitcoin Hits Highest Levels In Almost Three Years

Fri, 12/09/2016 - 13:20
Digital currency bitcoin hit its highest levels in almost three years on Friday, extending gains since India sparked a cash shortage by removing high-denomination bank notes from circulation a month ago. From a report on Reuters: Bitcoin was trading as high as $774 on the New York-based itBit exchange, up almost 1 percent on the day and the highest since February 2014, having climbed almost 9 percent in the past month. It has climbed around 80 percent so far this year, far exceeding its 35 percent rise in 2015.

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Alphabet Donated Its Employees' Holiday Gifts To Charity

Fri, 12/09/2016 - 12:40
The employee perks at Google are legendary, and they've always included an over-the-top holiday gift for every employee. In the past, the company has surprised its 70,000 employees with Nexus phones, Android smartwatches, and Chromebooks. Fortune adds:This year employees speculated they might get Google's new Pixel phones or a Google Home unit, the company's competitor to Amazon's Echo. But they forgot: They don't work for Google anymore. They work for Alphabet. Instead of a shiny new gadget, Alphabet employees got an email. On Thursday Bloomberg published a bruising story about the new, cost-conscious regime of Alphabet, driven by its corporate re-organization and its ex-Wall Street CFO, Ruth Porat. Shortly after the story hit, employees were informed that their holiday gift this year was a donation to charity, Fortune has learned. Alphabet donated $30 million worth of Chromebooks, phones, and associated tech support to schools on its employees' behalf.

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Verizon Says It Will Not Push Samsung's Update That Disables Galaxy Note7 Because Of User Inconvenience

Fri, 12/09/2016 - 11:40
Samsung confirmed on Friday that it will indeed release an update to Galaxy Note7 smartphones in the United States to "prevent US Galaxy Note7 devices from charging and will eliminate their ability to work as mobile devices." In a new wrinkle to this whole situation, Verizon said today it will not be releasing Samsung's software update to Galaxy Note7 users on Verizon network. In a blog post, Verizon said: "Verizon will not be taking part in this update because of the added risk this could pose to Galaxy Note 7 users that do not have another device to switch to. We will not push a software upgrade that will eliminate the ability for the Note 7 to work as a mobile device in the heart of the holiday travel season. We do not want to make it impossible to contact family, first responders or medical professionals in an emergency situation." To recall, the Galaxy Note7 remains banned on airlines by the FAA and has also been prohibited from being used on many other public transit services in the United States. Elsewhere in the world, similar bans have been imposed on the phone.

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Michigan Lets Autonomous Cars On Roads Without Human Driver

Fri, 12/09/2016 - 11:00
Companies can now test self-driving cars on Michigan public roads without a driver or steering wheel under new laws that could push the state to the forefront of autonomous vehicle development. From a report on ABC: The package of bills signed into law Friday comes with few specific state regulations and leaves many decisions up to automakers and companies like Google and Uber. It also allows automakers and tech companies to run autonomous taxi services and permits test parades of self-driving tractor-trailers as long as humans are in each truck. And they allow the sale of self-driving vehicles to the public once they are tested and certified, according to the state. The bills allow testing without burdensome regulations so the industry can move forward with potential life-saving technology, said Gov. Rick Snyder, who was to sign the bills. "It makes Michigan a place where particularly for the auto industry it's a good place to do work," he said.

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President Obama Orders Review of Cyber Attacks On 2016 Election

Fri, 12/09/2016 - 10:20
President Barack Obama has ordered a full review of hacking activities aimed at disrupting last month's presidential election, media outlets reported Friday citing a top White House official. The results are to be delivered to Obama before he leaves the office. From a report on Reuters: "The president has directed the intelligence community to conduct a full review of what happened during the 2016 election process ... and to capture lessons learned from that and to report to a range of stakeholders, to include the Congress," homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco said during an event hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

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Facebook Discloses New Measurement Errors, Continues To Hone Its Math

Fri, 12/09/2016 - 09:40
An anonymous reader shares an article on MarketingLand: For the third time since September, Facebook is disclosing new measurement errors. The two new errors affected the reaction counts Facebook reports on Pages' Live videos, as well as the engagement figures Facebook reports for off-Facebook links; the latter link engagement metrics were recently used in investigations by BuzzFeed and The New York Times into fake news articles' performance on Facebook. In addition to acknowledging the two new errors -- of which one has been corrected and one is still being inspected -- Facebook has refined a measurement marketers may reference when buying ads through the social network. None of the aforementioned metrics had any impact on how much money Facebook charges advertisers for their campaigns. But they may have informed brands' Facebook ad-buying strategies as well as brands', publishers' and others' Facebook-related content-publishing strategies.

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Magic Leap Used Fake Tech Demos and Is 'Years' Behind Schedule

Fri, 12/09/2016 - 09:00
New submitter drunkdrone writes: Magic Leap's coveted mixed reality technology has been the subject of intense speculation since it broke ground in 2014. Having secured billions of dollars in funding from some of the world's biggest tech giants, the secretive start-up has managed to stay at the centre of the VR/AR conversation despite showing little of the so-called revolutionary technology it has in the works. Now, the Magic Leap hype bubble may be about to burst in spectacularly disappointing fashion. According to reports, the Florida-based start-up is years behind on its plans and may have used deceptive product demos in order to keep interest in its tech alive. The Verge, which quotes an exclusive article from The Information, reports that Magic Leap's mixed reality technology has long since been overtaken by other products already on the market such as Microsoft's HoloLens, which Magic Leap's technology is said to most closely resemble. Allegedly, Magic Leap has struggled to scale-down a bulky piece of laser projection equipment used within the headset's display. "The crux of the problem appears to be Magic Leap's gamble on a so-called fibre scanning display, which shines a laser through a fibre optic cable that moves rapidly back and forth to draw images out of light," reports the Verge.

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Mars One Delayed Its Mars Mission -- Again

Fri, 12/09/2016 - 08:20
Mars One says its project to start a human colony on the Red Planet will be delayed by five years. The Dutch company says it will send its first crews to Mars in 2031 instead of its previous target date of 2026. From a report on Time: The venture is delaying its missions so it can raise more money, according to CEO Bas Lansdorp. "Of course the whole Mars One team would have preferred to be able to stick to the original schedule, but this new timeline significantly improves our odds of successfully achieving this mission roadmap," he said in a statement. This is far from the first time Mars One has delayed its project. Despite Lansdorp's confidence, other scientists have expressed significant doubts about the mission's feasibility.

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White House Voices Concerns About China Cyber Law

Fri, 12/09/2016 - 07:40
The White House said on Thursday that it raised concerns about China's new cyber security law during a meeting with a Chinese official after the latest round of talks between the two countries on cyber crime. From a report on Reuters: U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice met with Chinese State Councilor Guo Shengkun to discuss the importance "of fully adhering" to an anti-hacking accord signed last year between the China and the United States, National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said. The deal, brokered during Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to Washington in 2015, included a pledge that neither country would knowingly carry out hacking for commercial advantages. Rice told Guo that the United States was concerned "about the potential impacts" of a law that China adopted in November aimed at combating hacking and terrorism.

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Nintendo Legend Miyamoto: Mario Needs To Evolve To Survive

Fri, 12/09/2016 - 07:01
Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo's legendary game designer, and his fellow developers were tinkering with a "one-button control scheme" for Mario, where all a player can do is make Mario jump. This dead simple idea became the crux of the company's new Super Mario Run, one of the most anticipated mobile-app games of the year. CNET adds: "We found a great way to make an accessible Mario game and bring it to iPhone and reach a lot of people," Miyamoto said Thursday through his translator. "That's when we decided to make Super Mario Run." Super Mario Run may become a critical next step for Nintendo, which has struggled for years to maintain its relevance in gaming against Sony's PlayStation and Microsoft's Xbox, as well as a surge of mobile gaming apps. This year, it garnered some attention from Pokemon Go, though it's only partly involved in that game. Now, two more Nintendo mobile gaming apps -- Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem -- are on the way, which could provide the Japanese company with a big boost.

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Samsung May Permanently Disable Galaxy Note 7 Phones In The US As Soon As Next Week

Fri, 12/09/2016 - 06:00
Those who are still clinging on to their Galaxy Note 7, even after Samsung recalled the devices due to faulty batteries in mid-September, may want to seriously reconsider returning them to the Korean company. The Verge has obtained an image of an alert that went out to at least one Note 7 owner on U.S. Cellular today stating that, "As of December 15th, Samsung will modify the software to prevent the Galaxy Note 7 from charging. The phone will no longer work." The Verge reports: It's not clear whether Note 7s will be disabled across the major U.S. carriers as well, but it seems likely that'll be the case. In the past, updates disabling Note 7 features have rolled out across Verizon, ATT, and other carriers within a matter of days. That's probably what'll happen here, as well. By preventing the phone from charging, Samsung takes the final step to making the phone entirely unusable. It's still offering Note 7 owners the ability to fully return the phone or exchange it for another Samsung device. As of November 4th, when Samsung last provided an update, 85 percent of Note 7s sold in the U.S. had been recovered. That still left around 285,000 phones unaccounted for. Completely disabling the phone seems to be Samsung's last-ditch effort to either recover the remaining devices or remove what risk they still pose to consumers.

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Zeus Variant 'Floki Bot' Targets PoS Data

Fri, 12/09/2016 - 03:00
Trailrunner7 quotes a report from On the Wire: Malware gangs, like sad wedding bands bands, love to play the hits. And one of the hits they keep running back over and over is the Zeus banking Trojan, which has been in use for many years in a number of different forms. Researchers have unearthed a new piece of malware called Floki Bot that is based on the venerable Zeus source code and is being used to infect point-of-sale systems, among other targets. Flashpoint conducted the analysis of Floki Bot with Cisco's Talos research team, and the two organizations said that the author behind the bot maintains a presence on a number of different underground forums, some of which are in Russian or other non-native languages for him. Kremez said that attackers sometimes will participate in foreign language forums as a way to expand their knowledge. Along with its PoS infection capability, Floki Bot also has a feature that allows it to use the Tor network to communicate. "During our analysis of Floki Bot, Talos identified modifications that had been made to the dropper mechanism present in the leaked Zeus source code in an attempt to make Floki Bot more difficult to detect. Talos also observed the introduction of new code that allows Floki Bot to make use of the Tor network. However, this functionality does not appear to be active for the time being," Cisco's Talos team said in its analysis.

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Google Now Lets Developers Write Apps For the Assistant On Google Home

Fri, 12/09/2016 - 00:00
Google today announced it will open up Home to third-party developers, allowing all developers to start bringing their applications and services to the Google Assistant. Developers can start building "conversation actions" for the Google Assistant, which "allows developers to create back-and-forth conversations with users through the Assistant," writes Frederic Lardinois via TechCrunch. "Users can simply start these conversations by using a phrase like 'OK Google, talk to Eliza.'" TechCrunch reports: While the Assistant also runs on the Pixel phones and inside the Allo chat app, Google says it plans to bring actions to these other "Assistant surfaces" in the future, but it's unclear when exactly this will happen. To help developers who want to build these new Conversation Actions get started, Google has teamed up with a number of partners, including API.AI, GupShup, DashBot and VoiceLabs, Assist, Notify.IO, Witlingo and Spoken Layer. Google has also allowed a small number of partners to enable their apps on Google Home already. These integrations will roll out as early as next week. Given that users will be able to invoke these new actions with a simple command (and without having to first enable a skill, like on Alexa), Google's platform looks to be a rather accessible and low-friction way for developers to get their voice-enabled services to users. Google will have the final say over which actions will be enabled on Google Home.

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US Life Expectancy Declines For the First Time Since 1993

Thu, 12/08/2016 - 20:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Washington Post: For the first time in more than two decades, life expectancy for Americans declined last year (Warning: may be paywalled; alternate source) -- a troubling development linked to a panoply of worsening health problems in the United States. Rising fatalities from heart disease and stroke, diabetes, drug overdoses, accidents and other conditions caused the lower life expectancy revealed in a report released Thursday by the National Center for Health Statistics. In all, death rates rose for eight of the top 10 leading causes of death. The new report raises the possibility that major illnesses may be eroding prospects for an even wider group of Americans. Its findings show increases in "virtually every cause of death. It's all ages," said David Weir, director of the health and retirement study at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. Over the past five years, he noted, improvements in death rates were among the smallest of the past four decades. "There's this just across-the-board [phenomenon] of not doing very well in the United States." Overall, life expectancy fell by one-tenth of a year, from 78.9 in 2014 to 78.8 in 2015, according to the latest data. The last time U.S. life expectancy at birth declined was in 1993, when it dropped from 75.6 to 75.4, according to World Bank data. The overall death rate rose 1.2 percent in 2015, its first uptick since 1999. More than 2.7 million people died, about 45 percent of them from heart disease or cancer.

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Audi Cars Now Talk To Stop Lights In Vegas

Thu, 12/08/2016 - 13:45
Audi says its cars can now tell drivers how many seconds remain until the traffic light turns green. It's the first commercial offering of vehicle-to-infrastructure communication in the United States, it adds. From a report, submitted by an anonymous reader: Of course, nobody would pay much extra for an electronic gadget that just lowered your stoplight waiting anxiety. But this feature is just testing the waters; bigger applications are in view. The cars -- recently manufactured Audi A4 and Q7 models signed onto Audi's prime connection service -- communicate with the Las Vegas traffic management system via 4G LTE, the standard mobile phones use. The countdown appears on the dashboard or heads-up display, then shuts off a few seconds before the light changes (presumably to keep drivers from getting mesmerized). Audi manages the transfer of data with the help of its partner, Traffic Technology Services (TTS), of Beaverton, Ore. The plan is to eventually give drivers the information they need to make fairly ambitious predictions, like choosing the right speed to go sailiing through several green lights in a row. Or the system might bypass the driver and go straight to the engine's "start-stop" system, shutting it down for a long count, then starting it up again seconds before getting a green light.

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Every US Taxpayer Has Effectively Paid Apple At Least $6 in Recent Years

Thu, 12/08/2016 - 13:05
An anonymous reader shares an ArsTechnica report: Apple has received at least $6 per American taxpayer over the last five years in the form of interest payments on billions' worth of United States Treasury bonds, according to a report by Bloomberg. Citing Apple's regulatory filings and unnamed sources, the business publication found "the Treasury Department paid Apple at least $600 million and possibly much more over the past five years in the form of interest." By taking advantage of a provision in the American tax code, Bloomberg says that Apple has "stashed much of its foreign earnings -- tax-free -- right here in the US, in part by purchasing government bonds." As The Wall Street Journal reported in September, American companies are believed to be holding approximately $2 trillion in cash overseas that is shielded from US taxes. Under American law, companies must pay a 35-percent corporate tax rate on global profits when that money is brought home -- so there is an incentive to keep as much of that money overseas as possible.

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First Dinosaur Tail Found Preserved in Amber

Thu, 12/08/2016 - 12:37
The tail of a beautiful, feathered dinosaur has been found perfectly preserved in amber from Myanmar. It is a huge breakthrough that could help open a new window on the biology of a group that dominated Earth for more than 160 million years. From a report on the National Geographic: The semitranslucent mid-Cretaceous amber sample, roughly the size and shape of a dried apricot, captures one of the earliest moments of differentiation between the feathers of birds of flight and the feathers of dinosaurs. Inside the lump of resin is a 1.4-inch appendage covered in delicate feathers, described as chestnut brown with a pale or white underside. CT scans and microscopic analysis of the sample revealed eight vertebrae from the middle or end of a long, thin tail that may have been originally made up of more than 25 vertebrae. NPR has a story on how this amber was found. An excerpt from it reads: In 2015, Lida Xing was visiting a market in northern Myanmar when a salesman brought out a piece of amber about the size of a pink rubber eraser. Inside, he could see a couple of ancient ants and a fuzzy brown tuft that the salesman said was a plant. As soon as Xing saw it, he knew it wasn't a plant. It was the delicate, feathered tail of a tiny dinosaur.

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PowerShell Security Threats Greater Than Ever, Researchers Warn

Thu, 12/08/2016 - 11:50
Microsoft's Windows PowerShell configuration management framework continues to be abused by cyber attackers, according to researchers at Symantec, who have seen a surge in associated threats. From a report on ComputerWeekly: More than 95% of PowerShell scripts analysed by Symantec researchers have been found to be malicious, with 111 threat families using PowerShell. Malicious PowerShell scripts are on the rise, as attackers are using the framework's flexibility to download their payloads, traverse through a compromised network and carry out reconnaissance, according to Candid Wueest, threat researcher at Symantec.

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Slashdot Asks: Would You Like Early Access To Movies And Stop Going To Theatres?

Thu, 12/08/2016 - 11:05
It appears many major stakeholders in the movie industry want to bring new titles to you within days, if not hours, as they hit cinemas. Earlier this year, we learned that Sean Parker is working on a service called "Screening Room", an idea that was reportedly backed by Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg and JJ Abrams, to bring movies on the same day as they show up in theaters. Apple seems interested as well. It is reportedly in talks with Hollywood studios to get iTunes rentals of movies that are still playing on the big screen. Earlier this month, Bloomberg reported that several studios are exploring the idea of renting new movies for $25 to $50 just two weeks after they have hit cinemas. None of such deals have materialized yet, of course, and also it needs to be pointed out that several movie companies have discarded these ideas before because they know that by offering you new titles so early they are going to lose on all the overpriced cold drinks, and snacks they sell you at the theatre. There's also piracy concerns. If a movie is available early, regardless of the DRM tech these companies deploy, good-enough footage of the movies will crop up on file-sharing websites almost immediately. But leaving all those aspects aside, would you be interested in getting new titles just hours or a week or two after they hit the cinemas? Would you want to end the decades-long practice of going to a theater?

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