Technology News

Microsoft Is Readying a Consumer Microsoft 365 Subscription Bundle

Slashdot - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 19:03
Microsoft is working on a new "Microsoft 365 Consumer" bundle that "will be the consumer-focused complement to Microsoft's existing Microsoft 365 subscription bundle for business users," reports ZDNet. From the report: A couple of recent Microsoft job postings mention the consumer subscription bundle, which Microsoft has yet to announce publicly. One job posting for a Product Manager for the "M365 Consumer Subscription" notes: "The Subscription Product Marketing team is a new team being created to build and scale the Microsoft 365 Consumer Subscription." The job description says the product manager for this service will help "identify, build, position and market a great new Microsoft 365 Consumer Subscription." The job post notes that the team behind Microsoft 365 Consumer oversees the Windows platform, the Microsoft Surface device portfolio, Office 365 consumer plans, Skype, Cortana, Bing search, as well as the Microsoft Education team. If I were betting on what Microsoft 365 Consumer might include, I'd think some variant of Windows 10, Office 365 Home, Skype, Cortana, Bing, Outlook Mobile, Microsoft To-Do and maybe MSN apps and services could figure into the picture. Maybe this subscription will be tied to Surface devices only? Maybe a monthly leasing fee for Surfaces will be part of the bundle itself?

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Qualcomm Asks China To Ban the iPhone XS and XR

Slashdot - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 18:25
After securing a win in court earlier this week to ban Apple's older phones, Qualcomm is trying to get the newer iPhones banned too. "According to the Financial Times, Qualcomm has now asked Chinese courts to issue an injunction that bans Apple from selling the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR within the country due to the same case of possible patent infringement," reports The Verge. From the report: The new filing will escalate the companies' legal conflict in China, where Apple has so far ignored a court-ordered sales ban. Apple claims the ban only applied to phones running iOS 11 and earlier. Since its phones have now been updated to iOS 12, Apple believes they can remain on sale, and so it has continued to sell them. According to the Financial Times, the Chinese court's order doesn't specifically mention any version of Apple's operating system. That doesn't necessarily mean Apple is wrong, but it does mean that there's more to be hashed out.

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Iranian Phishers Bypass 2fa Protections Offered By Yahoo Mail, Gmail

Slashdot - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 17:45
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A recent phishing campaign targeting U.S. government officials, activists, and journalists is notable for using a technique that allowed the attackers to bypass two-factor authentication protections offered by services such as Gmail and Yahoo Mail, researchers said Thursday. The event underscores the risks of 2fa that relies on one-tap logins or one-time passwords, particularly if the latter are sent in SMS messages to phones. Attackers working on behalf of the Iranian government collected detailed information on targets and used that knowledge to write spear-phishing emails that were tailored to the targets' level of operational security, researchers with security firm Certfa Lab said in a blog post. The emails contained a hidden image that alerted the attackers in real time when targets viewed the messages. When targets entered passwords into a fake Gmail or Yahoo security page, the attackers would almost simultaneously enter the credentials into a real login page. In the event targets' accounts were protected by 2fa, the attackers redirected targets to a new page that requested a one-time password. "In other words, they check victims' usernames and passwords in realtime on their own servers, and even if 2 factor authentication such as text message, authenticator app or one-tap login are enabled they can trick targets and steal that information too," Certfa Lab researchers wrote. "We've seen [it] tried to bypass 2fa for Google Authenticator, but we are not sure they've managed to do such a thing or not," the Certfa representative wrote. "For sure, we know hackers have bypassed 2fa via SMS."

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Louisiana Adopts Digital Driver's Licenses

Slashdot - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 17:03
Louisiana is rolling out a new digital driver's license app, called LA Wallet, that will let retailers digitally verify the age of their customers, if required. "According to IEEE Spectrum, Louisiana's Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control is expected to announce that bars, restaurants, grocery stores and other retails are allowed to accept LA Wallet as proof of age, according to the app's developer, Envoc." From the report: The Baton Rouge-based company launched LA Wallet in June, after two years of collaboration with state officials. But so far only law enforcement officers making routine traffic stops are required to accept the digital driver's license. Next week's announcement would greatly broaden the scope of the app's use. About 71,000 people have downloaded LA Wallet so far, says Calvin Fabre, founder and president of Envoc. The app costs $5.99 in the Google Play and Apple App stores. Users buy it, create an account with some basic information from their physical driver's license, and create a password. That's it. No biometric security -- like iris scans or facial recognition -- required. The app links back to Louisiana's Office of Motor Vehicles database, which completes the digital license with the user's photo and additional information. Any changes to the license, like a suspension or renewal, are updated immediately in the app with a wireless network connection. To present the license -- say, to a cop during a traffic stop -- the driver (hoping his phone battery isn't dead) opens the app with a password, shows the cop the digital license image, and authenticates it by pressing and holding the screen to reveal a security seal. The license can be flipped over to show a scannable bar code on the back. There's also a handy security feature that allows anyone with the LA Wallet app to authenticate another person's Louisiana digital driver's license. It allows the bar patron to select which information she would like to reveal to the bartender -- in this case, simply the fact that she is over 21. That information is displayed on the phone with a photo and embedded QR code. The bartender scans the code with her app, which tells her that the woman seated on the other side of the bar is indeed over 21. None of the customer's personal information, such as her name, birth date, or address, is displayed or stored on the bartender's phone.

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Google Pledges To Hold Off On Selling Facial Recognition Technology

Slashdot - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 16:20
In a blog post today, Google detailed how its facial recognition technology will and won't be used. Citing a number of risks associated with the technology, the company vowed to refrain from selling facial recognition products until it can come up with policies that prevent abuse. Engadget reports: "Like many technologies with multiple uses, facial recognition merits careful consideration to ensure its use is aligned with our principles and values, and avoids abuse and harmful outcomes," Google said. "We continue to work with many organizations to identify and address these challenges, and unlike some other companies, Google Cloud has chosen not to offer general-purpose facial recognition APIs before working through important technology and policy questions." "This is a strong first step," the ACLU's Nicole Ozer said in a statement about Google's announcement. "Google today demonstrated that, unlike other companies doubling down on efforts to put dangerous face surveillance technology into the hands of law enforcement and ICE, it has a moral compass and is willing to take action to protect its customers and communities. Google also made clear that all companies must stop ignoring the grave harms these surveillance technologies pose to immigrants and people of color, and to our freedom to live our lives, visit a church, or participate in a protest without being tracked by the government."

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Dozens of Bomb Threats Reported Across America In Apparent Bitcoin Ransom Scam

Slashdot - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 15:40
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: On Wednesday afternoon, a wave of bomb threats were reported at various locations across the United States. On social media, numerous law enforcement departments issued alerts notifying citizens that they're looking into bomb threats targeting businesses, schools, government offices and even private residents. It appears the threats are being sent by email. NBC News said "dozens" of threats had been reported, but the full extent of these threats is not yet clear. A number of news organizations and law enforcement agencies report remarkably similar sounding emails mentioning a bitcoin ransom of $20,000. And some Twitter users have shared emails they've received demanding the cryptocurrency and warning that an explosion would only encourage others to pay up. NBC News quoted the NYPD's Counterterrorism Bureau's brief statement on the investigation: "We are currently monitoring multiple bomb threats that have been sent electronically to various locations throughout the city. These threats are also being reported to other locations nationwide and are not considered credible at this time."

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Sting on Amazon Booksellers Aims To Weed Out Counterfeit Textbooks, But Small Sellers Getting Hurt

Slashdot - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 15:01
Amazon upended the book industry more than two decades ago by bringing sales onto the web. Now, during the heart of the holiday shopping season, the company is wreaking havoc on used booksellers who have come to rely on Amazon for customers. From a report: In the past two weeks, Amazon has suspended at least 20 used book merchants for allegedly selling one or more counterfeit textbooks. They all received the same generic email from Amazon informing them that their account had been "temporarily deactivated" and reminding them that "the sale of counterfeit products on Amazon is strictly prohibited." [...] The crackdown on textbook sellers stands out at a time when Amazon is dramatically stepping up its broader anti-counterfeiting efforts, suspending third-party sellers across all its popular categories. Unlike most suspensions, which tend to occur after complaints from consumers or from brand owners who are monitoring the site for counterfeits, these booksellers got caught up in what appears to be a coordinated sting operation.

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Windows Server 2019 Officially Supports OpenSSH For the First Time

Slashdot - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 14:20
Microsoft said in 2015 that it would build OpenSSH, a set of utilities that allow clients and servers to connect securely, into Windows, while also making contributions to its development. Neowin: Since then, the company has delivered on that promise in recent releases of Windows 10, being introduced as a feature-on-demand in version 1803. However, Windows Server hadn't received the feature until now, at least not in an officially supported way -- Windows Server version 1709 included it as a pre-release feature. But that's finally changed, as Microsoft this week revealed that Windows Server 2019, which was made available (again) in November, includes OpenSSH as a supported feature.

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ASUS CEO Resigns as Company Shifts Mobile Focus To Power Users

Slashdot - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 13:42
Earlier today, ASUS announced that long-time CEO Jerry Shen is stepping down ahead of "a comprehensive corporate transformation" -- part of which involving a new co-CEO structure, as well as a major shift in mobile strategy to focus on gamers and power users. From a report: In other words, we'll be seeing more ROG Phones and maybe fewer ZenFones, which is a way to admit defeat in what ASUS chairman Jonney Shih described as a "bloody battlefield" in his interview with Business Next. During his 11 years serving as CEO, Shen oversaw the launch of the PadFone series, Transformer series, ZenBook series and ZenFone series. Prior to that, Shen was also credited as the main creator of the Eee PC, the small machine that kickstarted the netbook race in 2006.

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The Oil Industry's Covert Campaign To Rewrite American Car Emissions Rules

Slashdot - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 13:01
When the Trump administration laid out a plan this year that would eventually allow cars to emit more pollution, automakers, the obvious winners from the proposal, balked. The changes, they said, went too far even for them. But it turns out that there was a hidden beneficiary of the plan that was pushing for the changes all along: the nation's oil industry. From an investigation by The New York Times: In Congress, on Facebook and in statehouses nationwide, Marathon Petroleum, the country's largest refiner, worked with powerful oil-industry groups and a conservative policy network financed by the billionaire industrialist Charles G. Koch to run a stealth campaign to roll back car emissions standards, a New York Times investigation has found. The campaign's main argument for significantly easing fuel efficiency standards -- that the United States is so awash in oil it no longer needs to worry about energy conservation -- clashed with decades of federal energy and environmental policy. "With oil scarcity no longer a concern," Americans should be given a "choice in vehicles that best fit their needs," read a draft of a letter that Marathon helped to circulate to members of Congress over the summer. Official correspondence later sent to regulators by more than a dozen lawmakers included phrases or sentences from the industry talking points, and the Trump administration's proposed rules incorporate similar logic. The industry had reason to urge the rollback of higher fuel efficiency standards proposed by former President Barack Obama. A quarter of the world's oil is used to power cars, and less-thirsty vehicles mean lower gasoline sales.

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Data-Wiping Malware Shamoon Destroys Files At Italian Oil and Gas Company; Other Energy Companies Operating in the Middle East Warned of Cyber Attacks

Slashdot - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 12:26
An anonymous reader writes: A new variant of the Shamoon malware was discovered on the network of an Italian and UAE oil and gas companies. While the damage at the UAE firm is currently unknown, the malware has been confirmed to have destroyed files on about ten percent of the Italian company's PC fleet. Shamoon is one of the most dangerous strains of malware known to date. It was first deployed in two separate incidents that targeted the infrastructure of Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia's largest oil producer, in 2012 and 2016. During those incidents, the malware wiped files and replaced them with propaganda images (burning US flag, body of Alan Kurdi). The 2012 attack was devastating in particular, with Shamoon wiping data on over 30,000 computers, crippling the company's activity for weeks. Historically, the malware has been tied to the Iranian regime, but it's unclear if Iranian hackers were behind this latest attacks. This new Shamoon version was revealed to the world when an Italian engineer uploaded the malware on VirusTotal, triggering detections at all major cyber-security firms across the globe.

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Quantum Network Joins Four People Together For Encrypted Messaging

Slashdot - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 11:46
An anonymous reader shares a report: The quantum internet is starting small, but growing. Researchers have created a network that lets four users communicate simultaneously through channels secured by the laws of quantum physics, and they say it could easily be scaled up. Soren Wengerowsky at the University of Vienna and his colleagues devised a network that uses quantum key distribution (QKD) to keep messages secure [the link is paywalled]. The general principle of QKD is that two photons are entangled, meaning their quantum properties are linked. Further reading: Nature.

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The Painful, Costly Journey of Returned Goods -- and How You End Up Purchasing Some of Them Again

Slashdot - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 11:32
Buyers return a huge number of packages they buy from Amazon and other e-commerce sites, so much so that retailers are sometimes left with little choice but to get rid of large swaths of inventory at a cost. Last year, customers in the U.S. returned about $351 billion worth of items that they had purchased from brick-and-mortar retailers and online stores, according to estimates by National Retail Federation. CNBC: There's a good chance that the $100 printer, the $300 wide-screen monitor, or the $170 router you recently bought from Amazon weren't supplied to the e-commerce giant by their original manufacturers. In fact, the order may have been fulfilled by someone like Casey Parris, who resells items that customers previously returned to retailers. Based in Florida, Parris spends about five hours each day visiting thrift stores and scanning auction and liquidation websites for interesting items, he told CNBC. Sometimes he finds auto parts, other times it's a pair of sneakers, and occasionally he purchases printer cartridges -- all with the goal of reselling them. Walter Blake, who lives in Michigan, does the same. For years, he's been selling electronic items on Amazon that he acquires from a network of places. Blake and Parris are part of a growing cottage industry where dealers acquire discarded items at very low prices, only to resell some of them back on Amazon and eBay at a premium.

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Virgin Galactic Successfully Reaches Space

Slashdot - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 10:22
The latest test flight by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic successfully rocketed to space and back. From a report: The firm's SpaceShipTwo passenger rocket ship reached a height of 82.7km, beyond the altitude at which space is said to begin. It marked the plane's fourth test flight and followed earlier setbacks in the firm's space programme. Sir Richard is in a race with Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos to send the first fee-paying passengers into space. He founded the commercial spaceflight company in 2004, shortly after Mr Musk started SpaceX and Jeff Bezos established Blue Origin. In 2008, Virgin Galactic first promised sub-orbital spaceflight trips for tourists would be taking place "within 18 months". It has since regularly made similar promises to have space flights airborne in the near future.

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Ranks of Crypto Users Swelled in 2018 Even as Bitcoin Tumbled

Slashdot - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 09:41
It turns out that cryptocurrency enthusiasts were committed well beyond the HODL rallying call that urged them to hold on during this year's digital-asset market collapse. From a report: The number of verified users of cryptocurrencies almost doubled in the first three quarters of the year even as the market bellwether Bitcoin tumbled almost 80 percent, according to a study from the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance. Users climbed from 18 million to 35 million this year. The figures may provide a silver lining. If user numbers continue to increase even in a deep market downturn, that could signal that an eventual recovery could be coming -- a crucial finding at a time when some critics predict that the value of cryptocurrencies will go down to zero.

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'Blockchain Developer' is the Fastest-Growing US Job

Slashdot - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 09:00
"Blockchain developer" is the top emerging job in the U.S. -- according to data published in LinkedIn's 2018 U.S. Emerging Jobs report. From a report: [...] Using data gleaned from the LinkedIn Economic Graph, which serves as a "digital representation of the global economy" by analyzing the skills and job openings from across 590 million members and 30 million companies, LinkedIn found that "blockchain developers" has grown 33-fold in the past four years. In this case, "emerging jobs" refers to the growth of specific job titles on LinkedIn profiles in the period between 2014 and 2018. It's worth noting here that "blockchain" didn't appear anywhere in the top 20 emerging jobs in 2017, while "machine learning engineer" topped the list last year -- it's in second place this year.

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Ethereum Thinks it Can Change the World. It's Running Out of Time To Prove It.

Slashdot - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 08:21
The blockchain system has daunting technical problems to fix. But first, its disciples need to figure out how to govern themselves. From a report: The handful of idealistic researchers, developers, and administrators in charge of maintaining its software are under increasing pressure to overcome technical limitations that stymie the network's growth. At the same time, well-funded competitors have emerged, claiming that their blockchains perform better. Crackdowns by regulators, and a growing understanding of how far most blockchain applications are from ready for prime time, have scared many cryptocurrency investors away: Ethereum's market value in dollars has fallen more than 90% since its peak last January. The reason Devcon (the annual "family reunion" organized by the Ethereum Foundation; this year's edition was held in October) feels so upbeat despite these storm clouds is that the people building Ethereum have something bigger in mind -- something world-changing, in fact. Yet to achieve its goal, this ragtag community needs to crack a problem as complicated as any of the toe-curling technical challenges it faces: how to govern itself. It must find a way to organize a scattered global network of contributors and stakeholders without sacrificing "decentralization" -- the principle, which any cryptocurrency community strives for, that no one entity or group should be in control.

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In a Test, 3D Model of a Head Was Able To Fool Facial Recognition System of Several Popular Android Smartphones

Slashdot - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 07:40
Forbes magazine tested four of the most popular handsets running Google's operating systems and Apple's iPhone to see how easy it'd be to break into them with a 3D-printed head. All of the Android handsets opened with the fake. Apple's phone, however, was impenetrable. From the report: For our tests, we used my own real-life head to register for facial recognition across five phones. An iPhone X and four Android devices: an LG G7 Linq, a Samsung S9, a Samsung Note 8 and a OnePlus 6. I then held up my fake head to the devices to see if the device would unlock. For all four Android phones, the spoof face was able to open the phone, though with differing degrees of ease. The iPhone X was the only one to never be fooled. There were some disparities between the Android devices' security against the hack. For instance, when first turning on a brand new G7 Linq, LG actually warns the user against turning facial recognition on at all. No surprise then that, on initial testing, the 3D-printed head opened it straightaway. [...] The OnePlus 6 came with neither the warnings of the other Android phones nor the choice of slower but more secure recognition.

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Apple To Build $1B Austin Campus, Add Thousands of Jobs in US Expansion

Slashdot - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 07:00
Apple said Thursday it plans to invest $1 billion building a new corporate campus in Austin, Texas, that could eventually create 15,000 jobs. From a report: The iPhone maker will also set up new offices in Seattle, San Diego and Culver City, Los Angeles County, as well as expanding operations in Pittsburgh, New York and Boulder, Colorado, according to the press release. The Austin campus will be located less than a mile away from Apple's existing facilities in the Texas city, which already employ 6,200 people (its largest group of employees outside Cupertino). The new area will initially hold 5,000 employees, with capacity to grow to 15,000 over time.

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Tesla Is Seeking $167 Million From Former Employee Accused of Sabotage

Slashdot - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 06:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: Tesla is seeking more than $167 million in a lawsuit against former employee Martin Tripp, recent legal filings revealed. In the lawsuit, which was filed by the electric car maker in June, Tesla alleges that Tripp, a former process engineer, had illegally exported data and made false claims to reporters, among other things. Tripp had earlier claimed in a number of press interviews that Tesla engaged in poor manufacturing practices at its massive battery plant outside of Reno, Nevada, and that it may have used damaged battery modules in its Model 3 vehicles, posing a risk to drivers. An interim case management report published on Nov. 27 reveals that Tripp's attorneys aim to depose Tesla CEO Elon Musk and more than 10 people involved with the company. Tesla has refused to make Musk available and sought to limit the number of people deposed by Tripp's defense team at the law firm Tiffany & Bosco. Tripp's lawyers wrote in that report: "Tesla has objected to Mr. Tripp's desire to take more than ten depositions... In this case, where Mr. Tripp is being sued for more than $167,000,000 and has asserted counterclaims against Tesla, more than ten depositions is certainly reasonable and appropriate." Tripp attorney Robert D. Mitchell said in an email to CNBC: "The purported damage amount claimed by Tesla relates to supposed dips in Tesla's stock price by virtue of the information Mr. Tripp provided to the press last summer." He characterized the damage claims as "absurd."

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