Technology News

Arctic Posts Second Warmest Year On Record In 2018, NOAA Says

Slashdot - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 03:00
According to a new report released on Tuesday by the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the Arctic had its second-hottest year on record in 2018. "Arctic air temperatures for the past five years have exceeded all previous records since 1900," according to the annual NOAA study, the 2018 Arctic Report Card, which said the year was second only to 2016 in overall warmth in the region. Reuters reports: The study said the Arctic warming continues at about double the rate of the rest of the planet, and that the trend appears to be altering the shape and strength of the jet stream air current that influences weather in the Northern Hemisphere. "Growing atmospheric warmth in the Arctic results in a sluggish and unusually wavy jet-stream that coincided with abnormal weather events," it said, noting that the changing patterns have often brought unusually frigid temperatures to areas south of the Arctic Circle. Some examples are "a swarm of severe winter storms in the eastern United States in 2018, and the extreme cold outbreak in Europe in March 2018 known as 'the Beast from the East.'"

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Russian State TV Shows Off 'Robot' That's Actually a Man In a Robot Suit

Slashdot - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 00:00
A "hi-tech robot" shown on Russian state television turns out to be a man in a suit. While airing footage of a technology forum aimed at kids, a Russian state TV reporter proclaimed that Boris the robot "has already learned to dance and he's not that bad." Gizmodo reports: This "robot" actually retails for 250,000 rubles (about $3,770), as first reported by the Guardian, and is made by a company called Show Robots. "Boris" features glowing eyes, and plastic parts -- and shockingly human-like movements. Probably because he needs a human inside to operate properly. This faux-robot (fauxbot?) mystery was actually first unraveled when some eagled-eyed Russian viewers on the internet noticed that a suspiciously human-like neck was showing in the video. The report notes that "there's no indication" that there was intent to deceive anyone. Instead, it "appears to be a case of a TV presenter getting confused with what he believed to be 'modern robots.'" You can watch the broadcast on Russia-24's YouTube channel.

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'Cryptocurrencies Are Like Lottery Tickets That Might Pay Off in Future'

Slashdot - Wed, 12/12/2018 - 22:30
With the price of bitcoin down 80% from its peak a year ago, and the larger cryptocurrency market in systemic collapse, has "peak crypto" come and gone? From a column: Perhaps, but don't expect to see true believers lining up to have their cryptocurrency tattoos removed just yet. At a recent conference I attended, the overwhelming sentiment was that market capitalisation of cryptocurrencies could explode over the next five years, rising to $5-10tn. For those who watched the price of bitcoin go from $13 in December 2012 to roughly $4,000 today, this year's drop from $20,000 was no reason to panic. It is tempting to say, "Of course the price is collapsing." Regulators are gradually waking up to the fact that they cannot countenance large expensive-to-trace transaction technologies that facilitate tax evasion and criminal activity. At the same time, central banks from Sweden to China are realising that they, too, can issue digital currencies. As I emphasised in my 2016 book on the past, present, and future of currency, when it comes to new forms of money, the private sector may innovate, but in due time the government regulates and appropriates. But as I also pointed out back then, just because the long-term value of bitcoin is more likely to be $100 than $100,000 does not necessarily mean that it definitely should be worth zero. The right way to think about cryptocurrency coins is as lottery tickets that pay off in a dystopian future where they are used in rogue and failed states, or perhaps in countries where citizens have already lost all semblance of privacy. It is no coincidence that dysfunctional Venezuela is the first issuer of a state-backed cryptocurrency (the "petro").

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Ships Infected With Ransomware, USB Malware, Worms

Slashdot - Wed, 12/12/2018 - 20:30
An anonymous reader writes: IT systems on boats aren't as air-gapped as people think and are falling victims to all sorts of cyber-security incidents, such as ransomware, worms, viruses, and other malware -- usually carried on board via USB sticks. These cyber-security incidents have been kept secret until now, and have only been recently revealed as past examples of what could go wrong, in a new "cyber-security guideline" released by 21 international shipping associations and industry groups. One of the many incidents: "A new-build dry bulk ship was delayed from sailing for several days because its ECDIS was infected by a virus. The ship was designed for paperless navigation and was not carrying paper charts. The failure of the ECDIS appeared to be a technical disruption and was not recognized as a cyber issue by the ship's master and officers. A producer technician was required to visit the ship and, after spending a significant time in troubleshooting, discovered that both ECDIS networks were infected with a virus. The virus was quarantined and the ECDIS computers were restored. The source and means of infection in this case are unknown. The delay in sailing and costs in repairs totaled in the hundreds of thousands of dollars (U.S.)." The document also highlights an incident involving ransomware. "For example, a shipowner reported not one, but two ransomware infections, both occurring due to partners, and not necessarily because of the ship's crew," reports ZDNet. Another ransomware incident occurred because the ship failed to set up proper (RDP) passwords: A ransomware infection on the main application server of the ship caused complete disruption of the IT infrastructure. The ransomware encrypted every critical file on the server and as a result, sensitive data were lost, and applications needed for ship's administrative operations were unusable. The incident was reoccurring even after complete restoration of the application server. The root cause of the infection was poor password policy that allowed attackers to brute force remote management services successfully. The company's IT department deactivated the undocumented user and enforced a strong password policy on the ship's systems to remediate the incident.

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FCC Panel Wants To Tax Internet-Using Businesses, Give the Money To ISPs

Slashdot - Wed, 12/12/2018 - 17:50
The FCC's Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC), which includes members like AT&T, Comcast, Google Fiber, Sprint, and other ISPs and industry representatives, is proposing a tax on websites to pay for rural broadband. Ars Technica reports: If adopted by states, the recommended tax would apply to subscription-based retail services that require Internet access, such as Netflix, and to advertising-supported services that use the Internet, such as Google and Facebook. The tax would also apply to any small- or medium-sized business that charges subscription fees for online services or uses online advertising. The tax would also apply to any provider of broadband access, such as cable or wireless operators. The collected money would go into state rural broadband deployment funds that would help bring faster Internet access to sparsely populated areas. Similar universal service fees are already assessed on landline phone service and mobile phone service nationwide. Those phone fees contribute to federal programs such as the FCC's Connect America Fund, which pays AT&T and other carriers to deploy broadband in rural areas. The BDAC tax proposal is part of a "State Model Code for Accelerating Broadband Infrastructure Deployment and Investment." Once finalized by the BDAC, each state would have the option of adopting the code. An AT&T executive who is on the FCC advisory committee argued that the recommended tax should apply even more broadly, to any business that benefits financially from broadband access in any way. The committee ultimately adopted a slightly more narrow recommendation that would apply the tax to subscription services and advertising-supported services only. The BDAC model code doesn't need approval from FCC commissioners -- "it is adopted by the BDAC as a model code for the states to use, at their discretion," Ajit Pai's spokesperson told Ars. As for how big the proposed taxes would be, the model code says that states "shall determine the appropriate State Universal Service assessment methodology and rate consistent with federal law and FCC policy."

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Google Training Document Reveals How Temps, Vendors, and Contractors Are Treated

Slashdot - Wed, 12/12/2018 - 17:10
"An internal Google training document exposed by The Guardian reveals how the company instructs employees on how to treat temps, vendors, and contractors (TVCs)," writes Slashdot reader Garabito. "This includes: 'not to reward certain workers with perks like T-shirts, invite them to all-hands meetings, or allow them to engage in professional development training.'" From the report: "Working with TVCs and Googlers is different," the training documentation, titled the The ABCs of TVCs, explains. "Our policies exist because TVC working arrangements can carry significant risks." The risks Google appears to be most concerned about include standard insider threats, like leaks of proprietary information, but also -- and especially -- the risk of being found to be a joint employer, a legal designation which could be exceedingly costly for Google in terms of benefits. Google's treatment of TVCs has come under increased scrutiny by the company's full-time employees (FTEs) amid a nascent labor movement at the company, which has seen workers speak out about both their own working conditions and the morality of the work they perform. American companies have long turned to temps and subcontractors to plug holes and perform specialized tasks, but Google achieved a dubious distinction this year when Bloomberg reported that in early 2018, the company did not directly employ a majority of its own workforce. According to a current employee with access to the figures, of approximately 170,000 people around the world who now work at Google, 50.05% are FTEs. The rest, 49.95%, are TVCs. The report notes that "the two-tier system has complicated labor activism at Google." On November 1st, after 20,000 workers joined a global walkout, "the company quickly gave in to one of the protesters' demands by ending forced arbitration in cases of sexual harassment -- but only for FTEs."

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President Trump To Use Huawei CFO As a Bargaining Chip

Slashdot - Wed, 12/12/2018 - 16:30
hackingbear shares a report from Politico, adding: "This fuels the suspicion that the Chinese executive is held as a hostage for the ongoing trade negotiation with China." From the report: President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he reserved the right to weigh in on the Justice Department's case against the CFO of Huawei, if it would help him close a trade deal with Beijing or would serve other American national security interests. "If I think it's good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made -- which is a very important thing -- what's good for national security -- I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary," Trump told Reuters. Trump added that President Xi Jinping of China had not called him about the case, but that the White House had been in touch with both the Justice Department and Chinese officials. Huawei's CFO, Meng Wanzhou, was arrested in Canada earlier this month at the request of American authorities, who allege that she violated U.S. sanctions against Iran. Yesterday, a Vancouver judge ruled that Meng would be released on a $7.5 million bail if she remains in British Columbia.

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Apple Is Making Its Own Modem To Compete With Qualcomm, Report Says

Slashdot - Wed, 12/12/2018 - 15:50
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Apple is apparently working on its own, in-house developed modem to allow it to better compete with Qualcomm, according to several new Apple job listings that task engineers to design and develop a layer 1 cellular PHY chip -- implying that the company is working on actual, physical networking hardware. Two of the job posts are explicitly to hire a pair of cellular modem systems architects, one in Santa Clara and one in San Diego, home of Qualcomm. That's alongside several other job postings Apple has listed in San Diego for RF design engineers. The Information, which spotted the first job posting, cites sources that go a step further, claiming that Apple is not only potentially working to develop its own modem, but is in fact specifically targeting it for use in future iPhones, with the company looking to leave longtime partner Intel behind in favor of its own, in-house solution. According to The Information's report, the new modem would still be years away, with even Apple's purported 5G iPhone slated for 2020 using Intel's in-development 5G modem instead. It makes sense logically, too -- if Apple is only just starting to hire now, it'll take at least a few years before it'll actually be ready to ship hardware. But the move would have big ramifications for the mobile space, particularly for Qualcomm and Intel, two of the biggest modem suppliers in the world.

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California Considers Text Messaging Tax To Fund Cell Service For Low-Income Residents

Slashdot - Wed, 12/12/2018 - 15:10
According to a report from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), California may soon tax text messaging to help fund programs that make phone service available for low-income residents. The report says the tax would likely be a flat fee added to a monthly bill instead of a per text tax. The Hill reports: The report outlines the shrinking revenue coming from a current tax on the telecommunications industry and argues that a new tax on text messaging should be put in place to make up for it. "From a consumer's point of view, surcharges may be a wash, because if more surcharge revenues come from texting services, less would be needed from voice services," CPUC spokeswoman Constance Gordon said in a statement. "Generally, those consumers who create greater texting revenues may pay a bit more, whereas consumers using more voice services may pay less." "Parties supporting the collection of surcharges on text messaging revenue argue that it will help preserve and advance universal service by increasing the revenue base upon which Public Purpose Programs rely. We agree," the report states. The CTIA, a trade association representing major carriers in the wireless industry, says the tax is anti-competitive and would put carriers at a disadvantage against social media messaging apps from tech companies such as Google and Facebook. The CPUC is expected to vote on the proposal in January 2019.

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Facebook Settles Oculus VR Lawsuit With ZeniMax

Slashdot - Wed, 12/12/2018 - 14:30
"Gaming giant ZeniMax Media's lawsuit against Facebook over the misuse of intellectual property related to the founding of Oculus VR has finally been settled," reports TechCrunch. In a statement, ZeniMax CEO Robert Altman said, "We are pleased that a settlement has been reached and are fully satisfied by the outcome. While we dislike litigation, we will always vigorously defend against any infringement or misappropriation of our intellectual property by third parties." From the report: At the trial's conclusion, the judge awarded ZeniMax $500 million in damages to be paid by the defendants, including Facebook and some of the Oculus VR co-founders, a figure that Facebook appealed and had reduced to $250 million. Following the initial verdict, ZeniMax sought an injunction on sales of Facebook's Oculus Rift headset, claiming the device violated key IP. Terms of this settlement weren't disclosed. The trial was notable in that it offered a rare moment on the stand for a number of Facebook executives, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg. It also gave rare insight into the details surrounding the company's founding and acquisition.

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FCC Gives Carriers the Option To Block Text Messages

Slashdot - Wed, 12/12/2018 - 13:50
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: The Federal Communications Commission said it's getting tough on text message spam by clarifying that phone companies can block unwanted texts. At its monthly meeting Wednesday, the Republican-led agency voted 3-1 to classify SMS text messages as a so-called Title I information service under the Telecom Act. The three Republicans on the FCC, which voted to adopt the classification, said this would allow phone companies to block spam text messages. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the new classification would empower wireless providers to stop unwanted text messages. "The FCC shouldn't make it easier for spammers and scammers to bombard consumers with unwanted texts," he said during the meeting. "And we shouldn't allow unwanted messages to plague wireless messaging services in the same way that unwanted robocalls flood voice services." But he said that's what would happen if the FCC were to classify text messages as a Title II telecommunications service under the law. Jessica Rosenworcel, the lone Democrat on the FCC, disagrees with the classification. "Today's decision offers consumers no new ability to prevent robotexts," she said."It simply provides that carriers can block our text messages and censor the very content of those messages themselves." She says the FCC did the same thing to the internet last year when it repealed Obama-era net neutrality rules. "That means on the one-year anniversary of the FCC's misguided net neutrality decision -- which gave your broadband provider the power to block websites and censor online content -- this agency is celebrating by expanding those powers to also include your text messages," she added.

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New LG Gram is the Lightest 17-inch Laptop Ever at Just 3 Pounds

Slashdot - Wed, 12/12/2018 - 11:05
LG has unveiled two new laptops in its Gram lineup in advance of CES in Las Vegas next month, and the Gram 17 looks like a stunner. LaptopMag: It weighs just 3 pounds, which is crazy light for a notebook with a 17-inch display. That's the same weight as the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. A typical 17-inch laptop weighs 6 to 6.5 pounds, so getting such a big screen in such a lightweight package is definitely no small feat. Does that mean the specs skimpy? Nope. LG says the 15 x 10.5 x 0.7-inch Gram 17 packs a 8th-generation Intel Core i7-8565U, up to 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. (There's also a slot for an additional SSD). The Gram 17's 72W battery is rated for up to 19.5 hours of usage, which we will obviously put to the test once we get our hands on the laptop. Other highlights include a sharp 2560 x 1600 pixel display with a 16:10 aspect ratio, a fingerprint reader and a chassis that's rated MIL-STD-810G for durability. LG's website lists a suggested price of $1,699.99 for the LG Gram 17.

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Europe -- not the US or China -- Publishes the Most AI Research Papers

Slashdot - Wed, 12/12/2018 - 10:21
The popular narrative around artificial intelligence research is that it's mainly a war between China and the United States. Not so fast, says Europe. From a report: New data released today (Dec. 12; PDF file) by the AI Index, a project to track the advancement of artificial intelligence, shows a trend of Europe releasing more papers than either the US or China. The data was assembled from Scopus, a citation database owned by scientific publishing company Elsevier. If the current trend continues, China will soon overtake Europe in the number of papers published. The number of papers out of China grew 17% in 2017, compared to a 13% increase in the US, and 8% in Europe. Europe boasts top universities doing work in AI, such as Oxford, University College London, and ETH Zurich, in addition to being home to branches of tech companies like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon. Alphabet's DeepMind operates out of London, and French president Emmanuel Macron has been particularly bullish on AI in Europe. Since being elected in 2017, he has already laid out initiatives to bolster the amount of research and corporate AI stationed in France. [...] The AI Index report credits the huge 70% increase in Chinese AI papers in 2008 to a government program promoting long-term research in artificial intelligence through 2020.

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Intel Unveils Roadmaps For Core Architecture and Atom Architecture

Slashdot - Wed, 12/12/2018 - 09:40
Intel on Wednesday surprised a number of people when it shared not one roadmap on CPUs, but two. AnandTech: For the high performance Core architecture, Intel lists three new codenames over the next three years. To be very clear here, these are the codenames for the individual core microarchitecture, not the chip, which is an important departure from how Intel has previously done things. Sunny Cove, built on 10nm, will come to market in 2019 and offer increased single-threaded performance, new instructions, and 'improved scalability'. Willow Cove looks like it will be a 2020 core design, most likely also on 10nm. Intel lists the highlights here as a cache redesign (which might mean L1/L2 adjustments), new transistor optimizations (manufacturing based), and additional security features, likely referring to further enhancements from new classes of side-channel attacks. Golden Cove rounds out the trio, and is firmly in that 2021 segment in the graph. Process node here is a question mark, but we're likely to see it on 10nm and or 7nm. Golden Cove is where Intel adds another slice of the serious pie onto its plate, with an increase in single threaded performance, a focus on AI performance, and potential networking and AI additions to the core design. Security features also look like they get a boost. The lower-powered Atom microarchitecture roadmap is on a slower cadence than the Core microarchitecture, which is not surprising given its history. The upcoming microarchitecture for 2019 is called Tremont, which focuses on single threaded performance increases, battery life increases, and network server performance. Based on some of the designs later in this article, we think that this will be a 10nm design. Following Tremont will be Gracemont, which Intel lists as a 2021 product. Beyond this will be a future 'mont' core (and not month as listed in the image).

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Intel Reveals 10nm Sunny Cove CPU Cores That Go Deeper, Wider, and Faster

Slashdot - Wed, 12/12/2018 - 09:00
Long criticized for reusing old cores in its recent CPUs, Intel on Wednesday showed off a new 10nm Sunny Cove core that will bring faster single-threaded and multi-threaded performance along with major speed bumps from new instructions. From a report: Sunny Cove, which many believe will go into Intel's upcoming Ice Lake-U CPUs early next year, will be "deeper, wider, and smarter," said Ronak Singhal, director of Intel's Architecture Cores Group. Singhal said the three approaches should boost the performance of Sunny Cove CPUs. By doing "deeper," Sunny Cove cores find greater opportunities for parallelism by increasing the cache sizes. "Wider" means the new cores will execute more operations in parallel. Compared to the Skylake architecture (which is also the basis of Kaby Lake and Coffee Lake chips), the chip goes from a 4-wide design to 5-wide. Intel says Sunny Cove also increases performance in specialized tasks by adding new instructions that will improve the speed of cryptography and AI and machine learning.

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FreeBSD 12 Released

Slashdot - Wed, 12/12/2018 - 08:25
New submitter vivekgite writes: The 12th version of the FreeBSD has been released, bringing support for updated hardware. Some of the highlights include: OpenSSL has been updated to version 1.1.1a (LTS). Unbound has been updated to version 1.8.1, and DANE-TA has been enabled by default. OpenSSH has been updated to version 7.8p1. Additonal capsicum(4) support has been added to sshd(8). Clang, LLVM, LLD, LLDB, compiler-rt and libc++ has been updated to version 6.0.1. The vt(4) Terminus BSD Console font has been updated to version 4.46. The bsdinstall(8) utility now supports UEFI+GELI as an installation option. The VIMAGE kernel configuration option has been enabled by default. The NUMA option has been enabled by default in the amd64 GENERIC and MINIMAL kernel configurations. The netdump(4) driver has been added, providing a facility through which kernel crash dumps can be transmitted to a remote host after a system panic. The vt(4) driver has been updated with performance improvements, drawing text at rates ranging from 2- to 6-times faster. Various improvements to graphics support for current generation hardware. Support for capsicum(4) has been enabled on armv6 and armv7 by default. The UFS/FFS filesystem has been updated to consolidate TRIM/BIO_DELETE commands, reducing read/write requests due to fewer TRIM messages being sent simultaneously. The NFS version 4.1 server has been updated to include pNFS server support. The pf(4) packet filter is now usable within a jail(8) using vnet(9). The bhyve(8) utility has been updated to add NVMe device emulation. The bhyve(8) utility is now able to be run within a jail(8). Various Lua loader(8) improvements. KDE has been updated to version 5.12.

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The Record For High-Temperature Superconductivity Has Been Smashed Again

Slashdot - Wed, 12/12/2018 - 07:50
Chemists have found a material that can display superconducting behavior at a temperature warmer than it currently is at the North Pole. The work brings room-temperature superconductivity tantalizingly close. From a report: The work comes from the lab of Mikhail Eremets and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany. Eremets and his colleagues say they have observed lanthanum hydride (LaH10) superconducting at the sweltering temperature of 250 K, or -23C. That's warmer than the current temperature at the North Pole. "Our study makes a leap forward on the road to the room-temperature superconductivity," say the team. (The caveat is that the sample has to be under huge pressure: 170 gigapascals, or about half the pressure at the center of the Earth.)

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Linux Kernel Developers Discuss Dropping x32 Support

Slashdot - Wed, 12/12/2018 - 07:00
An anonymous reader shared a report: It was just several years ago that the open-source ecosystem began supporting the x32 ABI, but already kernel developers are talking of potentially deprecating the support and for it to be ultimately removed.. [...] While the x32 support was plumbed through the Linux landscape, it really hasn't been used much. Kernel developers are now discussing the future of the x32 ABI due to the maintenance cost involved in still supporting this code but with minimal users. Linus Torvalds is in favor of sunsetting x32 and many other upstream contributors in favor of seeing it deprecated and removed.

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Chinese Spies Reportedly Behind Massive Marriott Hack

Slashdot - Wed, 12/12/2018 - 06:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: A Chinese intelligence-gathering effort was behind the massive Marriott hotels data breach that exposed the personal information for up to 500 million people, the New York Times reported Tuesday. The hackers are believed to have been working for China's Ministry of State Security, the Times reported citing sources who had been briefed on the investigation's preliminary results. The revelation emerges as the U.S. Justice Department is preparing to announce new indictments against Chinese hackers working for the intelligence and military services, the Times reported. The hotel chain revealed last month that it had discovered that hackers had compromised the guest reservation database of its Starwood division, whose brands include Sheraton, W Hotels, Westin, Le Meridien, Four Points by Sheraton, Aloft and St. Regis. Marriott said some of the stolen information also included payment card numbers and expiration dates. Private investigators involved in a probe into the breach had previously discovered hacking tools, techniques and procedures that were used in earlier cyberattacks that have been linked to Chinese hackers.

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Mapping Service Blurs Out Military Bases, But Accidentally Locates Secret Ones

Slashdot - Wed, 12/12/2018 - 03:00
schwit1 shares a report from Popular Mechanics: A Russian online mapping company was trying to obscure foreign military bases. But in doing so, it accidentally confirmed their locations -- many of which were secret. Yandex Maps, Russia's leading online map service, blurred the precise locations of Turkish and Israeli military bases, pinpointing their location. The bases host sensitive surface-to-air missile sites and facilities housing nuclear weapons. The Federation of American Scientists reports that Yandex Maps blurred out "over 300 distinct buildings, airfields, ports, bunkers, storage sites, bases, barracks, nuclear facilities, and random buildings" in the two countries. Some of these facilities were well known, but some of them were not. Not only has Yandex confirmed their locations, the scope of blurring reveals their exact size and shape.

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