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Does Python Need to Change?

Sun, 2020-10-25 07:34
The Python programming language "is a big hit for machine learning," read a headline this week at ZDNet, adding "But now it needs to change." Python is the top language according to IEEE Spectrum's electrical engineering audience, yet you can't run Python in a browser and you can't easily run it on a smartphone. Plus no one builds games in Python these days. To build browser applications, developers tend to go for JavaScript, Microsoft's type-safety take on it, TypeScript, Google-made Go, or even old but trusty PHP. On mobile, why would application developers use Python when there's Java, Java-compatible Kotlin, Apple's Swift, or Google's Dart? Python doesn't even support compilation to the WebAssembly runtime, a web application standard supported by Mozilla, Microsoft, Google, Apple, Intel, Fastly, RedHat and others. These are just some of the limitations raised by Armin Ronacher, a developer with a long history in Python who 10 years ago created the popular Flask Python microframework to solve problems he had when writing web applications in Python. Austria-based Ronacher is the director of engineering at US startup Sentry — an open-source project and tech company used by engineering and product teams at GitHub, Atlassian, Reddit and others to monitor user app crashes due to glitches on the frontend, backend or in the mobile app itself... Despite Python's success as a language, Ronacher reckons it's at risk of losing its appeal as a general-purpose programming language and being relegated to a specific domain, such as Wolfram's Mathematica, which has also found a niche in data science and machine learning... Peter Wang, co-founder and CEO of Anaconda, maker of the popular Anaconda Python distribution for data science, cringes at Python's limitations for building desktop and mobile applications. "It's an embarrassing admission, but it's incredibly awkward to use Python to build and distribute any applications that have actual graphical user interfaces," he tells ZDNet. "On desktops, Python is never the first-class language of the operating system, and it must resort to third-party frameworks like Qt or wxPython." Packaging and redistribution of Python desktop applications are also really difficult, he says.

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Categories: Technology

Google Patched an Actively-Exploited Zero-Day Bug in Chrome

Sun, 2020-10-25 05:34
"Google released an update to its Chrome browser that patches a zero-day vulnerability in the software's FreeType font rendering library that was actively being exploited in the wild, Threatpost reported this week: Security researcher Sergei Glazunov of Google Project Zero discovered the bug which is classified as a type of memory-corruption flaw called a heap buffer overflow in FreeType. Glazunov informed Google of the vulnerability on Monday. Project Zero is an internal security team at the company aimed at finding zero-day vulnerabilities. By Tuesday, Google already had released a stable channel update, Chrome version 86.0.4240.111, that deploys five security fixes for Windows, Mac & Linux — among them a fix for the zero-day, which is being tracked as CVE-2020-15999 and is rated as high risk. "Google is aware of reports that an exploit for CVE-2020-15999 exists in the wild," Prudhvikumar Bommana of the Google Chrome team wrote in a blog post announcing the update Tuesday... "The fix is also in today's stable release of FreeType 2.10.4," Ben Hawkes, technical lead for the Project Zero team, tweeted. Meanwhile, security researchers took to Twitter to encourage people to update their Chrome browsers immediately to avoid falling victim to attackers aiming to exploit the flaw... In addition to the FreeType zero day, Google patched four other bugs — three of high risk and one of medium risk — in the Chrome update released this week... So far in the last 12 months Google has patched three zero-day vulnerabilities in its Chrome browser.

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Categories: Technology

Chrome Caught Exempting Google Sites From User Requests To Delete Data

Sun, 2020-10-25 03:34
This week the Verge reported: If you ask Chrome to delete all cookies and site data whenever you quit the browser, it's reasonable to expect that this policy applies to all websites. Recently, though, a bug in the browser meant data wasn't being removed for two sites in particular: Google and YouTube. This problem was first documented by iOS developer Jeff Johnson on his blog. Johnson found that in Chrome version 86.0.4240.75, "local storage" data for Google.com and YouTube.com stuck around even after restarting the browser. We've been able to replicate similar behavior... The Register notes that Chrome's behavior could allow Google to stash cookie-style data as site data, allowing it to track users even when they think they're being careful by deleting their cookie and site data every time they close the browser. In a statement, Google said it was aware of the issue and was working on a fix... At least one of the affected sites, YouTube, appears to have already been fixed. After we upgraded the Chrome browser to version 86.0.4240.111, YouTube's local storage data seems to successfully purge after a restart, although the data from Google.com still sticks around.

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Categories: Technology

Cult Expert Predicts QAnon Adherents Will 'Get Angry and Exit'

Sun, 2020-10-25 01:34
"From my time studying cults and helping followers escape them, I can reassure you that QAnon will disintegrate in the United States over time if effective measures are taken if and when Trump is defeated," writes prominent mental health counselor Steven Haasan: When cult adherents get confused, then ashamed, then realize they've been scammed, they get angry and exit. While some followers may continue to believe in the cult for some time — especially if they stay in an information silo — eventually contact with family and friends who care about them and others who have escaped from cults can and will help people come back to themselves. People are not permanently programmed, despite what some pundits and politicians may say. Like fashions and fads, movements end. How do we dismantle a dangerous cult safely and turn this into yet another American fad as embarrassing as bell-bottoms, polyester and pet rocks? By dismantling the power of its mythology so people who have been pulled into it return to independent thinking. Fundamentally, QAnon is a mind virus, and we must bring the rate of transmission down. For starters, stop mocking QAnon and calling it a conspiracy theory; it is a psy-op, an intentional online cult movement aimed at recruiting and indoctrinating people into an all-or-nothing, us-vs.-them, good-vs.-evil frame. It is important to understand that QAnon believers think they are heroes and believe they are aligned with a righteous cause. We must take them seriously and build a rapport of respect. In other words, agree and amplify that human trafficking is bad and wrong. Then show legitimate groups fighting trafficking... Reclaim this issue and demonstrate that QAnon is talking about it but does nothing, while others are taking action to make a difference... [W]hile QAnon promoters are currently being removed from the internet platforms they use to spread their propaganda and interact with adherents, as they should be, this approach will only temporarily disrupt and slow down new recruits, rather than help anyone exit. In fact, these moves can validate followers' beliefs that they are being persecuted, while a large percentage of cult members will simply be directed to alternative platforms... The key to helping these folks out is more respectful interaction — not cancel culture, demonization or mockery. People need to be able to exit with dignity. We need to find ways to allow people to return to society with their humanity intact, in a way that honors the very real questions that led them to look toward alternative answers in the first place.

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Categories: Technology

Slashdot Asks: How Do You Feel About Btrfs?

Sun, 2020-10-25 00:34
emil (Slashdot reader #695) shares an article from Linux Journal re-visiting the saga of the btrfs file system (initially designed at Oracle in 2007): The btrfs filesystem has taunted the Linux community for years, offering a stunning array of features and capability, but never earning universal acclaim. Btrfs is perhaps more deserving of patience, as its promised capabilities dwarf all peers, earning it vocal proponents with great influence. Still, [while] none can argue that btrfs is unfinished, many features are very new, and stability concerns remain for common functions. Most of the intended goals of btrfs have been met. However, Red Hat famously cut continued btrfs support from their 7.4 release, and has allowed the code to stagnate in their backported kernel since that time. The Fedora project announced their intention to adopt btrfs as the default filesystem for variants of their distribution, in a seeming juxtaposition. SUSE has maintained btrfs support for their own distribution and the greater community for many years. For users, the most desirable features of btrfs are transparent compression and snapshots; these features are stable, and relatively easy to add as a veneer to stock CentOS (and its peers). Administrators are further compelled by adjustable checksums, scrubs, and the ability to enlarge as well as (surprisingly) shrink filesystem images, while some advanced btrfs topics (i.e. deduplication, RAID, ext4 conversion) aren't really germane for minimal loopback usage. The systemd init package also has dependencies upon btrfs, among them machinectl and systemd-nspawn . Despite these features, there are many usage patterns that are not directly appropriate for use with btrfs. It is hostile to most databases and many other programs with incompatible I/O, and should be approached with some care. The original submission drew reactions from three disgruntled btrfs users. But the article goes on to explore providers of CentOS-compatible btrfs-enabled kernels, ultimately opining that "There are many 'rough edges' that are uncovered above with btrfs capabilities and implementations, especially with the measures taken to enable it for CentOS. Still, this is far better than ext2/3/4 and XFS, discarding all the desirable btrfs features, in that errors can be known because all filesystem content is checksummed." It would be helpful if the developers of btrfs and ZFS could work together to create a single kernel module, with maximal sharing of "cleanroom" code, that implemented both filesystems... Oracle is itself unwilling to settle these questions with either a GPL or BSD license release of ZFS. Oracle also delivers a btrfs implementation that is lacking in features, with inapplicable documentation, and out-of-date support tools (for CentOS 8 conversion). Oracle is the impediment, and a community effort to purge ZFS source of Oracle's contributions and unify it with btrfs seems the most straightforward option... It would also be helpful if other parties refrained from new filesystem efforts that lack the extensive btrfs functionality and feature set (i.e. Microsoft ReFS). Until such a day that an advanced filesystem becomes a ubiquitous commodity as Linux is as an OS, the user community will continue to be torn between questionable support, lack of features, and workarounds in a fragmented btrfs community. This is an uncomfortable place to be, and we would do well to remember the parties responsible for keeping us here. So how do Slashdot's readers feel about btrfs?

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Categories: Technology

Greenpeace Claims Fukushima Water Release Could Change Human DNA

Sat, 2020-10-24 23:34
An anonymous reader quotes CNN: Contaminated water that could soon be released into the sea from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant contains radioactive carbon with the potential to damage human DNA, environmental rights organization Greenpeace has warned. The environmental group claims that the 1.23 million metric tons of water stored at the plant — scene of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster — contains "dangerous" levels of the radioactive isotope carbon-14 and other "hazardous" radionuclides, which it says will have "serious long-term consequences for communities and the environment" if the water is released into the Pacific Ocean. To cool fuel cores at the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has pumped in tens of thousands of tons of water over the years. Once used, the water is put into storage. But nine years on from Japan's worst nuclear disaster, storage space is running out, and the government is still deciding what to do with the water. Authorities, including the country's environment minister, have indicated the only solution is to release it into the ocean — a plan facing opposition from environmental campaigners and fishing industry representatives. On Friday, the Japanese government postponed a decision on what to do with the water.

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Researchers Discover Second 'Key' Used By Coronavirus To Enter Human Cells

Sat, 2020-10-24 22:34
Kiuas writes: Researchers from the Technical University of Munich and the University of Helsinki have discovered a second receptor (called neuropilin-1) which is used by the SARS-CoV-2 virus to enter into human cells via the nasal cavity. The discovery is important as it helps explain the rapid spread of the virus, and also helps define a potential target for antirviral intervention... The study itself was published in the Science magazine on the 20th of October. More details announced by the University of Helsinki: "That SARS-CoV-2 uses the receptor ACE2 to infect our cells was known, but viruses often use multiple factors to maximize their infectious potential" says Dr. Giuseppe Balistreri, head of the research group Viral Cell Biology at the University of Helsinki involved in the study. "Unlike the main receptor ACE2, which is present in low levels, Neuropilin-1 is very abundant in the cells of the nasal cavity. This is a strategically important localization possibly contributing to the efficient infectivity of this new coronavirus, which has caused a major pandemic, spreading rapidly around the world", Balistreri explains... By specifically blocking neuropilin-1 with antibodies, the researchers were able to significantly reduce infection in laboratory cell cultures. "If you think of ACE2 as a door lock to enter the cell, then neuropilin-1 could be a factor that directs the virus to the door. ACE2 is expressed at very low levels in most cells. Thus, it is not easy for the virus to find doors to enter. Other factors such as neuropilin-1 might help the virus finding its door", says Balistreri... Balistreri cautiously concludes "it is currently too early to speculate whether blocking directly neuropilin could be a viable therapeutic approach, as this could lead to side effects. This will have to be looked at in future studies. Currently our laboratory is testing the effect of new molecules that we have specifically designed to interrupt the connection between the virus and neuropilin. Preliminary results are very promising and we hope to obtain validations in vivo in the near future."

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Russians Who Pose Election Threat Have Hacked Nuclear Plants and Power Grid

Sat, 2020-10-24 21:34
The New York Times reports: Cybersecurity officials watched with growing alarm in September as Russian state hackers started prowling around dozens of American state and local government computer systems just two months before the election. The act itself did not worry them so much — officials anticipated that the Russians who interfered in the 2016 election would be back — but the actor did. The group, known to researchers as "Dragonfly" or "Energetic Bear" for its hackings of the energy sector, was not involved in 2016 election hacking. But it has in the past five years breached the power grid, water treatment facilities and even nuclear power plants, including one in Kansas... September's intrusions marked the first time that researchers caught the group, a unit of Russia's Federal Security Service, or F.S.B., targeting states and counties. The timing of the attacks so close to the election and the potential for disruption set off concern inside private security firms, law enforcement and intelligence agencies... American officials described the hackings in an advisory on Thursday as "opportunistic," rather than a clear attack on election infrastructure, but conceded the group had targeted dozens of state and local systems and stolen data from at least two targets' servers. "They're broadly looking to scan for vulnerabilities and they're working opportunistically," said Christopher C. Krebs, the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which issued the warning along with the F.B.I. That hardly reassured researchers who have tracked Energetic Bear for years. "This appears to be preparatory, to ensure access when they decide they need it," said Adam Meyers, the head of threat intelligence at CrowdStrike, a security firm that has monitored the group... A disturbing screenshot in a 2018 Department of Homeland Security advisory showed the groups' hackers with their fingers on the switches of the computers that controlled the industrial systems at a power plant. The group has thus far stopped short of sabotage, but appears to be preparing for some future attack. The hackings so unnerved officials that starting in 2018, the United States Cyber Command, the arm of the Pentagon that conducts offensive cyberattacks, hit back with retaliatory strikes on the Russian grid.

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Categories: Technology

Hundreds of App Developers Want to Join New Apple-Defying Coalition

Sat, 2020-10-24 20:34
The Washington Post reports: App developers are defying Apple in record numbers, according to a new coalition of companies aimed at breaking the iPhone maker's tight grip over its mobile software and the way it governs the App Store. The Coalition for App Fairness, which launched last month and counts as members video-game giant Epic Games, dating company Match Group and music streaming service Spotify, says the original group of 13 companies has grown to 40, and it has received more than 400 requests to join. "The outpouring of interest we've received has exceeded our expectations," Sarah Maxwell, a spokeswoman for the coalition, said in an emailed statement. "As we bring on new members and hear their stories, it's evident that too many developers have been unable to make their voices heard." The soaring membership of the coalition represents a remarkable shift in thinking, as companies and individual developers take the risky step of speaking out in an effort to change the way Apple operates... Developers say they worried that complaining about Apple would hurt their ability to get apps and updates approved. The company's App Store Review Guidelines once contained a warning for developers who might consider protesting Apple's policies: "If your app is rejected, we have a Review Board that you can appeal to. If you run to the press and trash us, it never helps," the guidelines once stated, according to a securities filing... The Coalition for App Fairness aims to sway lawmakers to take action against Apple, either through new legislation or legal action. More freedom on iOS would lead to more innovation, app developers say.

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Categories: Technology

Twitch Suddenly Mass-Deletes Thousands of Videos, Citing Music Copyright Claims

Sat, 2020-10-24 19:34
"It's finally happening: Twitch is taking action against copyrighted music — long a norm among streamers — in response to music industry pressure," reports Kotaku. But the Verge reports "there's some funny stuff going on here." First, Twitch is telling streamers that some of their content has been identified as violating copyright and that instead of letting streamers file counterclaims, it's deleting the content; second, the company is telling streamers it's giving them warnings, as opposed to outright copyright strikes... Weirdly Twitch decided to bulk delete infringing material instead of allowing streamers to archive their content or submit counterclaims. To me, that suggests that there are tons of infringements, and that Twitch needed to act very quickly and/or face a lawsuit it wouldn't be able to win over its adherence to the safe harbor provision of the DMCA. The email Twitch sent to their users "encourages them to delete additional content — up to and including using a new tool to unilaterally delete all previous clips," reports Kotaku. One business streamer complains that it's "insane" that Twitch basically informs them "that there is more content in violation despite having no identification system to find out what it is. Their solution to DMCA is for creators to delete their life's work. This is pure, gross negligence." Or, as esports consultant Rod "Slasher" Breslau puts it, "It is absolutely insane that record labels have put Twitch in a position to force streamers to delete their entire life's work, for some 10+ years of memories, and that Twitch has been incapable of preventing or aiding streamers for this situation. a total failure all around." Twitch's response? It is crucial that we protect the rights of songwriters, artists and other music industry partners. We continue to develop tools and resources to further educate our creators and empower them with more control over their content while partnering with industry-recognized vendors in the copyright space to help us achieve these goals.

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Massive Criminal Trial Begins For 'Cyberbunker' Dark Web Server

Sat, 2020-10-24 18:34
The Times of London reports: A gang of cyberexperts turned a former German military bunker into one of Europe's biggest hubs for the "dark web" and a superhighway for at least a quarter of a million offences, including drug trafficking and the falsification of identity papers, a court has been told. Four people from the Netherlands, three Germans and a Bulgarian are accused of creating a digital safe haven in which criminals could operate with impunity. Dutch News reports: Deals which were processed through the servers include drugs — with platforms such as Cannabis Road — which had millions of active users, the Telegraaf said on Tuesday. Other sites allowed people to order fake money and ID papers, and the bunker was also used to stage a bot attack on German telecom firm Deutsche Telekom, the paper said. The investigation into the bunker took years of observation and phone tapping, culiminating in a raid involving 650 police officers in September 2019. . Long-time Slashdot reader Qbertino writes: Prosecuters believe to have a case which is set to take 15 months until the end of 2021 simply due to the sheer mass of material they've gatherd to make a case. The defendants, which include adolescents at the time of crime, face up to 15 years in prison should they be convicted. As recently as this June, the cyberbunker was still being contacted by several phishing sites, as well as thousands of bots looking for their old command and control server.

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Debian Donates 10,000 Euros to Fund Free and Decentralized Livestreaming

Sat, 2020-10-24 17:34
PeerTube (developed by Framasoft) is "the free and decentralized alternative to video platforms, providing you over 400,000 videos published by 60,000 users and viewed over 15 million times," according to its web site. But now they're exploring livestreaming, writes Debian developer Phil Hands (Slashdot reader #2,365): Holding DebConf20 online this year highlighted the effort involved in setting up Live Streaming using Free Software — something that is beyond the reach of many smaller events which is where PeerTube with Live Streaming should be a perfect fit. In June PeerTube had posted a roadmap with a humble request for donations in lieu of a crowdfunding campaign: At a time when no one knows what the future holds, we deem it inappropriate to start a crowdfunding campaign and threaten not to do our best on PeerTube if we don't get the necessary funds. We believe in the public utility of PeerTube, so much so that we commit to working on it for six months to make this v3 happen, even if we must do it with our own funds (which we had already done for v2). We still hope that by sharing this roadmap as widely as possible, some of you will support us in our approach with a donation that will allow us to fund this project. And this week PeerTube's official Twitter feed announced that "Thanks to Debian's €10,000 donation we've just reached the 4th step of our PeerTube fundraising" — livestreaming. "Many thanks to all those who donated. And it's not too late to contribute." "We hope this unconventional gesture from the Debian project will help us make this year somewhat less terrible," added the Debian blog, "and give us, and thus humanity, better Free Software tooling to approach the future." It describes their donation as "a strong sign of recognition from an international project — one of the pillars of the Free Software world — towards a small French association which offers tools to liberate users from the clutches of the web's giant monopolies." And secondly, "it's a substantial amount of help in these difficult times, supporting the development of a tool which equally belongs to and is useful to everyone. The strength of Debian's gesture proves, once again, that solidarity, mutual aid and collaboration are values which allow our communities to create tools to help us strive towards Utopia."

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Facebook Demands Shutdown of Research Project Into Its Targeting of Political Ads

Sat, 2020-10-24 16:34
"Facebook Inc. is demanding that a New York University research project cease collecting data about its political-ad targeting practices," reports the Wall Street Journal, "setting up a fight with academics seeking to study the platform without the company's permission." The dispute involves the NYU Ad Observatory, a project launched last month by the university's engineering school that has recruited more than 6,500 volunteers to use a specially designed browser extension to collect data about the political ads Facebook shows them. In a letter sent October 16 to the researchers behind the NYU Ad Observatory, Facebook said the project violates provisions in its terms of service that prohibit bulk data collection from its site. "Scraping tools, no matter how well-intentioned, are not a permissible means of collecting information from us," said the letter, written by a Facebook privacy policy official, Allison Hendrix. If the university doesn't end the project and delete the data it has collected, she wrote, "you may be subject to additional enforcement action...." Facebook said it already offers more transparency into political advertising than either traditional media or rival social platforms, and that the automated collection of data from users' on-platform activity — even with their permission — poses an unacceptable privacy threat... What limitations on social media data scraping are enforceable has been the subject of litigation in recent years, with platforms arguing they have both a right and responsibility to prevent the unauthorized use of user-generated data. The NYU project has already collected the targeting data behind more than 200,000 ads. Researchers say it has exposed areas where the publicly available archive of political ads Facebook created after the 2016 election is failing to log advertisements that should be in the system. Facebook said it has appreciated the NYU researchers' efforts to improve the ad library, but won't stand for violations of its rules. Laura Edelson, a researcher at NYU's Tandon School of Engineering who helps oversee the Ad Observatory project, said, "The only thing that would prompt us to stop doing this would be if Facebook would do it themselves, which we have called on them to do...." The article also includes a reaction from the associate director of Georgetown's Institute for Data, Democracy, and Politics. "There's far too much critical information closed up behind Facebook's walled garden. And efforts like the Ad Observatory play a critical role in breaking down those walls."

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92-Year-Old Songwriter Tom Lehrer Releases All His Lyrics Into the Public Domain

Sat, 2020-10-24 15:34
Marketplace reports: Songwriter Tom Lehrer became a star in the 1950s and '60s writing and performing satirical songs that skewered just about everything... Lehrer, 92, announced Tuesday via his website that he's effectively putting everything he ever wrote into the public domain. That means his lyrics and sheet music are available for anyone to use or perform, without having to pay royalties or deal with lawyers... [Most of Lehrer's music "will be added gradually later with further disclaimers," according to Lehrer's web site.] Lehrer's giving up those royalties. But in exchange, he's trying to give his work a new lease on life, said Siva Vaidhyanathan, a media studies professor at the University of Virginia. "Lehrer, in this case, is basically saying, 'Hey everybody, come revisit my material, come do with it what you want,'" he said... That could mean we'll be hearing more of Tom Lehrer's work, said Jennifer Jenkins, who runs the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke Law School. "There is empirical research showing that when material enters the public domain, it actually gets used more," she said. Lehrer's lyrics touched on geeky subjects including nuclear weapons, Wernher von Braun, and one song where he set the names of the chemical elements to a tune by Gilbert and Sullivan. Wikipedia notes he "largely retired" in the 1970s to become a mathematics teacher at the University of California, Santa Cruz (also teaching the history of musical theatre). In the same decade he also wrote ten songs for The Electric Company, an educational TV show about reading broadcast on America's public television, singing two of the songs himself — L-Y and Silent E.

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Hackers Behind Life-Threatening Attack On Chemical Maker Are Sanctioned

Sat, 2020-10-24 14:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Russian state nationals accused of wielding life-threatening malware specifically designed to tamper with critical safety mechanisms at a petrochemical plant are now under sanction by the US Treasury Department. The attack drew considerable concern because it's the first known time hackers have used malware designed to cause death or injury, a prospect that may have actually happened had it not been for a lucky series of events. The hackers -- who have been linked to a Moscow-based research lab owned by the Russian government -- have also targeted a second facility and been caught scanning US power grids. Now the Treasury Department is sanctioning the group, which is known as the State Research Center of the Russian Federation FGUP Central Scientific Research Institute of Chemistry and Mechanics or its Russian abbreviation TsNIIKhM. Under a provision in the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, the US is designating the center for "knowingly engaging in significant activities undermining cybersecurity against any person, including a democratic institution, or government on behalf of the Government of the Russian Federation." Under the sanctions, all property of TsNIIKhM that is or has come within the possession of a US person is blocked, and US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with anyone in the group. What's more, any legal entity that's 50-percent or more owned by one of the center members is also blocked. Some non-US persons who engage in transactions with TsNIIKhM may be subject to sanctions.

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Scientists Capture World's First 3,200-Megapixel Photos

Sat, 2020-10-24 11:00
Scientists at the Menlo Park, California-based SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have taken the world's first 3,200-megapixel digital photos, using an advanced imaging device that's built to explore the universe. CNET reports: "We will measure and catalog something like 20 billion galaxies." said Steven Kahn, director of the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile. That observatory is where the world's largest digital camera will become the centerpiece of a monumental effort to map the night sky. The camera will spend 10 years capturing the most detailed images of the universe ever taken. The team working on the camera just completed the focal plane, which is an array of imaging sensors more than two feet wide. (The equivalent focal length on an iPhone 11 camera is 26 millimeters.) It took the team about six months to assemble the sensors, largely because the sensors can easily crack if they touch each other during the installation process. Since the camera isn't complete, scientists used a pinhole projector to test the focal plane. They snapped photos of an image of Vera C. Rubin (the late scientist the observatory is named for), the camera team, and a head of romanesco broccoli. CNET posted a video describing how scientists designed and built the focal plane.

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Einstein's Theory of Relativity, Critical For GPS, Seen In Distant Stars

Sat, 2020-10-24 08:00
Using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, astronomers have discovered that "gravitational redshift" exists in two stars orbiting each other in our galaxy about 29,000 light years (200,000 trillion miles) away from Earth. Gravitational redshifts, where light is shifted to redder colors because of gravity, "have tangible impacts on modern life, as scientists and engineers must take them into account to enable accurate positions for GPS," reports Phys.Org. From the report: The intriguing system known as 4U 1916-053 contains two stars in a remarkably close orbit. One is the core of a star that has had its outer layers stripped away, leaving a star that is much denser than the Sun. The other is a neutron star, an even denser object created when a massive star collapses in a supernova explosion. The neutron star (grey) is shown in this artist's impression at the center of a disk of hot gas pulled away from its companion (white star on left). These two compact stars are only about 215,000 miles apart, roughly the distance between the Earth and the Moon. While the Moon orbits our planet once a month, the dense companion star in 4U 1916-053 whips around the neutron star and completes a full orbit in only 50 minutes. In the new work on 4U 1916-053, the team analyzed X-ray spectra -- that is, the amounts of X-rays at different wavelengths -- from Chandra. They found the characteristic signature of the absorption of X-ray light by iron and silicon in the spectra. In three separate observations with Chandra, the data show a sharp drop in the detected amount of X-rays close to the wavelengths where the iron or silicon atoms are expected to absorb the X-rays. One of the spectra showing absorption by iron -- the dips on the left and right -- is included in the main graphic. An additional graphic shows a spectrum with absorption by silicon. In both spectra the data are shown in grey and a computer model in red. However, the wavelengths of these characteristic signatures of iron and silicon were shifted to longer, or redder wavelengths compared to the laboratory values found here on Earth (shown with the blue, vertical line for each absorption signature). The researchers found that the shift of the absorption features was the same in each of the three Chandra observations, and that it was too large to be explained by motion away from us. Instead they concluded it was caused by gravitational redshift. The article goes on to explain how gravitational redshifts connect with Einstein's General Theory Relativity: "As predicted by Einstein's theory, clocks under the force of gravity run at a slower rate than clocks viewed from a distant region experiencing weaker gravity. This means that clocks on Earth observed from orbiting satellites run at a slower rate. To have the high precision needed for GPS, this effect needs to be taken into account or there will be small differences in time that would add up quickly, calculating inaccurate positions..." The findings have been published in the Astrophysical Journal.

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First 'Murder Hornet' Nest In US Is Found In Washington State

Sat, 2020-10-24 04:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: Remember the "murder hornets"? You know, the terrifyingly large Asian giant hornets that are threatening to wipe out the North American bee population? Entomologists with the Washington State Department of Agriculture have now located a nest of them -- the first to be found in the U.S., the agency says. The nest was discovered in the cavity of a tree on a property in the city of Blaine, near the Canadian border. This achievement closely follows another advance: State entomologists had recently had luck trapping the hornets. This week, they were able to collect four live Asian giant hornets using a new type of trap -- and managed to attach radio trackers to three of them. One of those tagged hornets led staffers to the nest. The plan now? Destroy the nest. The agency says it intends to eradicate it on Saturday, removing the tree if necessary. Asian giant hornets are an invasive pest that prey on honeybees and other insects. "Only a couple of hornets can slaughter an entire healthy honeybee hive in just a matter of a few hours," Sven-Erik Spichiger, chief entomologist for the state's agriculture department, told NPR last week.

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Categories: Technology

A Massive Spam Attack Is Ruining Public 'Among Us' Games

Sat, 2020-10-24 01:50
Just days after US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez played Among Us to an audience of more than 435,000 viewers, InnerSloth, the developer of the popular multiplayer title, is struggling to contain a spam attack that is affecting most of the game's community. Engadget reports: The hack started to spread through the game's userbase on Thursday evening. It causes players to spam their match's text chat with messages that direct people to the YouTube and Discord channels of a person who goes by the pseudonym "Eris Loris," threatening them if they don't subscribe. For good measure, some of the messages also promote President Donald Trump's 2020 campaign. InnerSloth said it's "super duper aware of the current hacking issue" and that it had planned to roll out an emergency server-side update to address the spam. Forest Willard, one of three developers who make up the InnerSloth team, said they had begun rolling out the update at some point in the middle of the night, but it doesn't seem to have addressed the issue; new reports of spam-filled matches continue to flood Twitter. The studio is advising people to play private games with friends while it works to solve the problem. As for the hacker, it appears their primary motive in all of this was to troll people. "I was curious to see what would happen, and personally I found it funny," they told Kotaku. "The anger and hatred is the part that makes it funny. If you care about a game and are willing to go and spam dislike some random dude on the internet because you cant [sic] play it for three minutes, it's stupid."

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Categories: Technology

'youtube-dl' Downloading Software Removed From GitHub By RIAA Takedown Notice

Sat, 2020-10-24 01:10
Jahta writes: The GitHub repository for the popular youtube-dl utility is offline after GitHub received a DMCA takedown notice from the RIAA. The notice claims that "The clear purpose of this source code is to (i) circumvent the technological protection measures used by authorized streaming services such as YouTube, and (ii) reproduce and distribute music videos and sound recordings owned by our member companies without authorization for such use." "Whether you're looking to backup contents of your personal YouTube account or download some of your favorite YouTuber's videos for offline use, many turn to youtube-dl as the most reliable and in-depth tool for downloading videos from YouTube -- along with many, many other sites that have videos like Vimeo, CNN, etc," writes Kyle Bradshaw via 9to5Google. "Beyond simple downloading features, youtube-dl is also able to convert your download into nearly any format, including creating an mp3 of just a video's audio track." "One of the primary bases for the RIAA's claim is that youtube-dl appears to be developed with the explicit intention of enabling the downloading of copyrighted works, with music videos from the likes of Icona Pop, Justin Timberlake, and Taylor Swift being used to test the tool's functionality, a claim which we were able to independently verify." It's now up to the project's creators to file a counterclaim in the hopes of restoring youtube-dl's status on GitHub.

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Categories: Technology

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