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Study of 61,000 Microsoft Employees Finds Remote Work Threatened Productivity and Innovation

Sun, 2021-09-12 04:39
"A new study finds that Microsoft's companywide shift to remote work has hurt communication and collaboration among different business groups inside the company, threatening employee productivity and long-term innovation," reports GeekWire: That's one of the key findings in a peer-reviewed study of more than 61,000 Microsoft employees, published Thursday morning by Microsoft researchers in the journal Nature Human Behaviour.... The researchers call it a warning sign for other companies, as well. "Without intervention, the effects we discovered have the potential to impact workers' ability to acquire and share new information across groups, and as a result, affect productivity and innovation," they write in an accompanying blog post. "In light of these findings, companies should be thoughtful about if and how they choose to adopt long-term work-from-home policies." The Microsoft study says remote work has also changed the way employees communicate, causing them to rely more frequently than before on asynchronous communication, such as email and instant messages, and less frequently than before on synchronous communication, such as audio and video calls. "Based on previous research, we believe that the shift to less 'rich' communication media may have made it more difficult for workers to convey and process complex information," the Microsoft researchers write. The study is based on an analysis of anonymized data about emails, calls, meetings, and other work activities by Microsoft employees. At about the same time, Microsoft published a blog post summarizing the results of its own surveys of Microsoft employees — an opt-in survey of a random sample of 2,500. Some highlights: - In a year when we sent 160,000 people home to work and remotely onboarded 25,000 new employees, the share of people who report feeling included at Microsoft is at an all-time high of 90%. According to surveys, employee confidence and support from our managers is also at an all-time high... - Our ongoing research shows employees crave more in-person time with their team but wish to keep the flexibility of remote work... And Microsoft's LinkedIn also surveyed more than 500 C-level executives in the U.S. and U.K., "to better understand how employers are thinking about navigating this new world of work." Top of mind for executives is the same thing on the minds of employees — flexibility. With 87% of people saying they would prefer to stay remote at least half the time, a majority of employers are adapting: 81% of leaders are changing their workplace policies to offer greater flexibility. Despite all the change, leaders feel like there are opportunities ahead — more than half (58%) are optimistic that flexibility will be good for both people and the business.

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Categories: Technology

Fans Ask Questions After First Trailer Released for 'The Matrix Resurrections'

Sun, 2021-09-12 02:34
Moviegoers know that the Matrix trilogy's finale "heavily hinted that our hero will be back at some point in the distant future," writes the Guardian.. "Now he is..." But does the first three-minute trailer for the soon-to-be-released sequel The Matrix Resurrections suggest Keanu Reeves' "Neo" character has been wiped from existence? In his place is a beardy, incredibly well-aged fiftysomething who looks a bit like John Wick, or possibly that brooding weirdo from The Gift. He meets Carrie-Anne Moss's Trinity in a coffee shop, but fails to recognise her despite all their adventures down the digital rabbit hole. Later he's seen training in what appears to be a dojo with Yahya Abdul-Mateen II's unnamed character, who appears to be fulfilling the Morpheus role of martial arts mentor and guide to the Matrix. Is Abdul-Mateen playing a younger version of the human resistance leader, and if so couldn't they just have digitally de-aged him, given the entire movie probably takes place inside Adobe After Effects anyway? The teaser poses further questions. Why is Neo taking blue pills as medication? Does this signal the new Neo's willingness to succumb to the virtual world that keeps him blissfully ignorant of the horrifying reality? And if so, what's been going on — didn't the pesky machines promise to free all humans from the Matrix...? The great thing about Matrix movies is that all usual rules of film-making continuity can be easily placed to one side. Reality can be shifted and reconfigured at every opportunity in the interest of entertainment. This is like the bit in Doctor Who where one Time Lord's face morphs into the next. For all we know, Reeves could be playing the Mad Hatter and Moss a giant pot plant who just appears to be a human being... There could be a genuinely fascinating reason why Neo and Trinity are back and ready to kick machine ass once again. We won't know for sure until just before Christmas, when the movie hits cinemas. ABC News notes the new film "also stars returning Matrix co-star Jada Pinkett Smith, features series newcomers Jessica Henwick from Iron Fist, Christina Ricci, Mindhunters star Jonathan Groff, and Priyanka Chopra Jonas." Though as IndieWire points out, there's no sign (yet) of the original Morpheus, Laurence Fishburne.

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Categories: Technology

Some 9/11 News Coverage is Lost. Blame Adobe Flash

Sat, 2021-09-11 23:34
CNN reports that "Some of the most iconic 9/11 news coverage is lost. Blame Adobe Flash." Journalism is often considered the first draft of history, but what happens when that draft is written on a software program that becomes obsolete? Adobe ending support for Flash — its once ubiquitous multimedia content player — last year meant that some of the news coverage of the September 11th attacks and other major events from the early days of online journalism are no longer accessible. For example, The Washington Post and ABC News both have broken experiences within their September 11th coverage, viewable in the Internet Archive. CNN's online coverage of September 11th also has been impacted by the end of Flash. That means what was once an interactive explainer of how the planes hit the World Trade Center or a visually-rich story on where some survivors of the attacks are now, at best, a non-functioning still image, or at worst, a gray box informing readers that "Adobe Flash player is no longer supported." Dan Pacheco, professor of practice and chair of journalism innovation at Syracuse University's Newhouse School, has experienced the issue firsthand. As an online producer for the Post's website in the late 1990s and later for America Online, some of the work he helped build has disappeared. "This is really about the problem of what I call the boneyard of the internet. Everything that's not a piece of text or a flat picture is basically destined to rot and die when new methods of delivering the content replace it," Pacheco told CNN Business. "I just feel like the internet is rotting at an even faster pace, ironically, because of innovation. It shouldn't."

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Pro-China Misinformation Operation Attempting To Exploit US Covid Divisions, Report Says

Sat, 2021-09-11 22:34
"A pro-Chinese government online influence operation is targeting Americans in an effort to exploit divisions over the Covid-19 pandemic," reports CNN, "and 'physically mobilize protestors in the US in response,' according to a new report from cybersecurity firm Mandiant and experts at Google." The operation, which initially attempted to discredit pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in 2019, has expanded into a "global campaign that's operating in seven languages, on at least 30 social media platforms and across 40+ website & forums," experts at Mandiant and Google say, noting parallels to the Russian disinformation campaign around the 2016 presidential election. US officials believe the operation is linked to the Chinese government and have been monitoring its evolution, according to one source familiar with the situation.... [E]xperts have observed an "explosion of activity" across the world and the move to make physical protests happen in the US "demonstrates they are a very serious threat," Mandiant Threat Intelligence Vice President John Hulquist told CNN... [The report says] "While this attempt did not appear to achieve any success, we believe it is critical that observers continue to monitor for such attempts in case greater degrees of organic engagement are later realized by the network...." While there has been limited engagement with these pro-Chinese accounts, the operation's massive scope shows the actors responsible have "significantly expanded their online footprint and appear to be attempting to establish a presence on as many platforms as possible to reach a variety of global audiences," according to Mandiant's experts.... Cyber espionage from China against the United States has spiked since the Covid-19 outbreak began and Beijing has consistently sought to shape the global narrative through overt and covert means. Shane Huntley, Director of Google's Threat Analysis Group, pointed out the scale and persistence of the group (despite its low engagement levels), adding "we've taken an aggressive approach to identifying and removing disinformation from this network."

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Categories: Technology

New Battery Technologies Are Making Progress

Sat, 2021-09-11 21:44
The New York Times looks at "a wave of new battery technologies that could lead to novel designs in consumer electronics and help accelerate the electrification of cars and airplanes. They may even help store electricity on the power grid, lending a hand to efforts to reduce dependence on fossil fuels..." And a longer-life battery from Sila finally made it into a consumer product — the Whoop fitness tracker, which straps around your wrist, but which can also take the form of a "sliver of electronics stitched into the fabric of clothes." Sila's chief executive and co-founder, Gene Berdichevsky, was an early Tesla employee who oversaw battery technology as the company built its first electric car. Introduced in 2008, the Tesla Roadster used a battery based on lithium-ion technology, the same battery technology that powers laptops, smartphones and other consumer devices. The popularity of Tesla, coupled with the rapid growth of the consumer electronics market, sparked a new wave of battery companies.... Congress created ARPA-E, for Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, to promote research and development in new energy technologies. The agency nurtured the new battery companies with funding and other support. A decade later, those efforts are beginning to bear fruit... Sila is not exactly a battery company. It sells a new material — a silicon powder — that can significantly boost the efficiency of batteries, and plans to build them using many of the same factories and other infrastructure that produce lithium-ion batteries... Today, the company produces this silicon powder from its small facility in Alameda [near Oakland, California]. Then it sells the powder to a battery manufacturer — Sila would not identify the other company — which slots the material into its existing process, producing the new battery for the Whoop fitness tracker. "We are just upgrading the factories that are being used today," Mr. Berdichevsky said... Companies like Sila and QuantumScape already have partnerships with carmakers and expect that their batteries will reach automobiles around the middle of the decade. They hope their technologies significantly reduce the cost of electric cars and extend their driving range... They also hope their batteries lead to new devices and vehicles. Smaller, more efficient batteries could spur the development of "smart glasses" — eyeglasses embedded with tiny computers — by allowing designers to pack a more nimble set of technologies into smaller and lighter frames. The same battery technology could invigorate so-called flying cars, a new type of electric aircraft that could ease commutes across major cities later in the decade. The Times also notes companies like Enovix and Solid Power have been developing improved batteries "for more than a decade, and some hope to move into mass production around 2025." And as the batteries progress, the Times got an interesting prediction from Venkat Viswanathan, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Carnegie Mellon University who specializes in battery technologies. "All aspects of life will become more electrified."

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Categories: Technology

First Evidence of Elusive 'Triangle Singularity' Shows Particles Swapping Identities

Sat, 2021-09-11 20:34
LiveScience reports that physicists sifting through old particle accelerator data "have found evidence of a highly-elusive, never-before-seen process: a so-called triangle singularity." Long-time Slashdot reader fahrbot-bot shares their report: First envisioned by Russian physicist Lev Landau in the 1950s, a triangle singularity refers to a rare subatomic process where particles exchange identities before flying away from each other. In this scenario, two particles — called kaons — form two corners of the triangle, while the particles they swap form the third point on the triangle. "The particles involved exchanged quarks and changed their identities in the process," study co-author Bernhard Ketzer, of the Helmholtz Institute for Radiation and Nuclear Physics at the University of Bonn, said in a statement. It's called a singularity because the mathematical methods for describing subatomic particle interactions break down. If this singularly weird particle identity-swap really happened, it could help physicists understand the strong force, which binds the nucleus together.

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Senator Wyden Reflects on 9/11's Legacy: Mass Surveillance

Sat, 2021-09-11 20:11
"After 9/11, I took the threat of terrorism seriously, still do," U.S. Senator Ron Wyden tells Fast Company. "But also I was concerned about how the new surveillance authorities might be abused..." From Fast Company's report: After the 9/11 attacks, one big concern was connecting the dots. Failing to do so was why we missed the warning signs of the attacks and how we would prevent the next ones, the thinking went. One solution, according to the Pentagon, was a project to gather as much data as possible, to look for signs of future bad behavior. It was called Total Information Awareness... Since the 1970s, Congress has been charged with preventing further abuse of the government's surveillance powers, particularly when it comes to spying on Americans. And few in Congress have questioned these powers as vigorously as Sen. Ron Wyden... Sen. Wyden: Total Information Awareness was an ominous sounding idea to put together as much data on Americans as possible, and when used with what was then so-called predictive technology, identify who to watch as a way to stop terrorism. In the fight in Congress, here's the lesson that goes to the concerns we had 20 years ago: Total Information Awareness made it clear that the threat is not just surveillance through the aggressive collection, amalgamating, and mining of information through existing authorities. The bigger problem now is the amount of data on Americans that's available commercially or on social media... the threat to people's privacy is just as great. And the job of getting people's attention is still very, very challenging... This is a national security issue: The personal data of Americans that the data brokers are selling is a gold mine for foreign intelligence services who can exploit it, to target supercharged hacking, blackmail, and influence campaigns. So I'm leading an effort right now that encompasses the biggest online advertising companies, to ask if they're sharing Americans' web browsing and location data with foreign companies.

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Categories: Technology

20 Years After the World Trade Center Attack, a Nation Remembers

Sat, 2021-09-11 19:34
I first saw the news on the front page of Yahoo.com. But every American remembers where they were when they heard the news. "The World Trade Towers in new york were crashed into by 2 planes, one on each tower, 18 minutes apart," CmdrTaco posted on Slashdot. "Nobody really knows who did it, but the planes were big ones. "Normally I wouldn't consider posting this on Slashdot, but I'm making an exception this time because I can't get news through any of the conventional websites, and I assume I'm not alone." CmdrTaco later posted an update. "Both towers havecollapsed, pentagon hit by 3rd plane. Part of it has collapsed." It's 20 years later, and there's plenty of hindsight, recollections, and reflection around the web. But today back on the front page of Yahoo.com there's this remembrance from a U.S. airman who'd been dispatched to crash her plane into one of the hijacked jetliners: As the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks were unfolding, then-Air Force Lt. Heather Penney was given a mission to intercept hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 before it reached Washington, D.C. The rookie F-16 pilot said she believed she would not come back from that mission. "[I remember] how crystal blue the skies were that day," she told ABC News Live anchor Linsey Davis... "I had raised my hand and swore an oath to protect and defend our nation," she said. "If this was where the universe had placed me at this moment in time... that this was my purpose. Anyone who had been in our position would have been willing to do the same thing. "And the proof is in the pudding, because the passengers on Flight 93 did...." Flight 93 passengers attempted to retake the plane, and in the struggle, the aircraft crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, killing everyone on board. It was the only one of the four hijacked aircrafts that day that did not reach the terrorists' intended target.

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Categories: Technology

Security Weaknesses in Mozilla VPN Found and Addressed by Audit

Sat, 2021-09-11 18:34
"Recently, browsing leader Mozilla shared the result of an independent security audit on its VPN service," reports Fossbytes. "Upon inspection, a few vulnerabilities were discovered in the VPN, one of which was reportedly a major risk." In a blog post, Mozilla shared that Cure53, a Berlin-based cybersecurity firm, had identified and fixed the security vulnerabilities in its VPN... The most severe issue, labeled "FVP-02-014," made the user vulnerable to cross-site WebSocket hijacking. Moreover, the medium-risk vulnerabilities revolved around "VPN leak via captive portal detection" and "Auth code leak" by injecting the port. However, these sophisticated terms shouldn't worry you anymore as Cure53 has already addressed these weaknesses. There has also been no mention of any Mozilla VPN users falling victim to these either. The Firefox developer's public post that outlines the security flaws detected by the German firm provides users an insight into the potential risks of using a VPN. Moreover, these audits also help Mozilla iron out any issues that its one-year-old VPN service might have.

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Categories: Technology

Can a Code-Writing AI Be Good News For Humans?

Sat, 2021-09-11 17:34
"A.I. Can Now Write Its Own Computer Code," blares a headline in the New York Times, adding "That's Good News for Humans. (Alternate URL here.) The article begins with this remarkable story about Codex (the OpenAI software underlying GitHub Copilot): As soon as Tom Smith got his hands on Codex — a new artificial intelligence technology that writes its own computer programs — he gave it a job interview. He asked if it could tackle the "coding challenges" that programmers often face when interviewing for big-money jobs at Silicon Valley companies like Google and Facebook. Could it write a program that replaces all the spaces in a sentence with dashes? Even better, could it write one that identifies invalid ZIP codes? It did both instantly, before completing several other tasks. "These are problems that would be tough for a lot of humans to solve, myself included, and it would type out the response in two seconds," said Mr. Smith, a seasoned programmer who oversees an A.I. start-up called Gado Images. "It was spooky to watch." Codex seemed like a technology that would soon replace human workers. As Mr. Smith continued testing the system, he realized that its skills extended well beyond a knack for answering canned interview questions. It could even translate from one programming language to another. Yet after several weeks working with this new technology, Mr. Smith believes it poses no threat to professional coders. In fact, like many other experts, he sees it as a tool that will end up boosting human productivity. It may even help a whole new generation of people learn the art of computers, by showing them how to write simple pieces of code, almost like a personal tutor. "This is a tool that can make a coder's life a lot easier," Mr. Smith said. The article ultimately concludes that Codex "extends what a machine can do, but it is another indication that the technology works best with humans at the controls." And Greg Brockman, chief technology officer of OpenAI, even tells the Times "AI is not playing out like anyone expected. It felt like it was going to do this job and that job, and everyone was trying to figure out which one would go first. Instead, it is replacing no jobs. But it is taking away the drudge work from all of them at once."

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Categories: Technology

Krebs Also Hit By Massive DDOS, Apparently Caused by Compromised Routers

Sat, 2021-09-11 16:34
"On Thursday evening, KrebsOnSecurity was the subject of a rather massive (and mercifully brief) distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack," the site reports. Citing a new blog post from DDoS protection firm Qrator Labs, Krebs writes that "The assault came from 'Meris,' the same new botnet behind record-shattering attacks against Russian search giant Yandex this week and internet infrastructure firm Cloudflare earlier this summer." A titanic and ongoing DDoS that hit Russian Internet search giant Yandex last week is estimated to have been launched by roughly 250,000 malware-infected devices globally, sending 21.8 million bogus requests-per-second. While last night's Meris attack on this site was far smaller than the recent Cloudflare DDoS, it was far larger than the Mirai DDoS attack in 2016 that held KrebsOnSecurity offline for nearly four days. The traffic deluge from Thursday's attack on this site was more than four times what Mirai threw at this site five years ago. This latest attack involved more than two million requests-per-second. By comparison, the 2016 Mirai DDoS generated approximately 450,000 requests-per-second. According to Qrator, which is working with Yandex on combating the attack, Meris appears to be made up of Internet routers produced by MikroTik. Qrator says the United States is home to the most number of MikroTik routers that are potentially vulnerable to compromise by Meris — with more than 42 percent of the world's MikroTik systems connected to the Internet (followed by China — 18.9 percent- and a long tail of one- and two-percent countries). It's not immediately clear which security vulnerabilities led to these estimated 250,000 MikroTik routers getting hacked by Meris. "The spectrum of RouterOS versions we see across this botnet varies from years old to recent," the company wrote. "The largest share belongs to the version of firmware previous to the current stable one." Krebs writes that the biggest contributor to the IoT botnet problem remains "a plethora of companies white-labeling [cheap] IoT devices that were never designed with security in mind and are often shipped to the customer in default-insecure states... "The good news is that over the past five years, large Internet infrastructure companies like Akamai, Cloudflare and Google (which protects this site with its Project Shield initiative) have heavily invested in ramping up their ability to withstand these outsized attacks..." One year earlier, back in 2015, Krebs had answered questions from Slashdot's readers.

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New Texas Law Tries Making it Illegal for Social Media Sites to Ban Users Over Political Viewpoints

Sat, 2021-09-11 15:34
The U.S. state of Texas "has made it illegal for social media platforms to ban users 'based on their political viewpoints'," repots the BBC: Prominent Republican politicians have accused Facebook, Twitter and others of censoring conservative views... The social networks have all denied stifling conservative views. However, they do enforce terms of service which prohibit content such as incitement to violence and co-ordinated disinformation. "Social media websites have become our modern-day public square," said Texas governor Greg Abbott, after signing the bill into law on Thursday. "They are a place for healthy public debate where information should be able to flow freely...." The new law states social media platforms with more than 50 million users cannot ban people based on their political viewpoints. Facebook, Twitter and Google's YouTube are within its scope... The law is due to come in to force in December, but may face legal challenges. "Critics say the law does not respect the constitutional right of private businesses to decide what sort of content is allowed on their platforms," the BBC adds, with the president of NetChoice trade association arguing that the bill "would put the Texas government in charge of content policies."

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Categories: Technology

Sonos Announces 10% Price Hikes On Most Speakers

Sat, 2021-09-11 12:00
CIStud writes: Sonos announces price hikes for Arc, Amp, Roam, Sub, Five, One and One SL speakers citing chip shortage and supply chain. Sonos Arc's price is leaping by $100 from $799 to $899. Not every product will be seeing a large jump in price, as some products like the Sonos Roam are seeing increases of just $10. Other products receiving only small price increases include the Sonos One and Sonos One SL ($20 increase), while others are not seeing pricing changes whatsoever like the Sonos Move and Sonos Port. Speaking of the far-reaching impact of the global chip shortage, Google and Indian telecom operator Jio announced this week they are delaying the launch of their affordable smartphone aimed at 300 million users.

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Categories: Technology

China Bans All New Video Games

Sat, 2021-09-11 09:00
JustAnotherOldGuy writes: Chinese authorities have banned all new video games from being released indefinitely, as the government attempts to tackle what it calls gaming addiction in the under-18s. The suspension was revealed at a meeting with game company Tencent. The ban was reportedly revealed during a meeting between Chinese gaming companies Tencent and the authorities. Neither company has commented on the suspension, which has not yet been given an end date. The suspension comes as part of a wider bid by the Chinese Communist Party to crack down on gaming addiction amongst children. Just last month, the Chinese government banned under-18s from playing online games for more than three hours per week, and restricted weekend play between 8PM and 9PM. Online gaming companies are required to enforce the ban, which came after state media labelled videogames "spiritual opium" and "electronic drugs" a few weeks prior.

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Indonesian Intelligence Agency Compromised in Suspected Chinese Hack

Sat, 2021-09-11 06:45
Chinese hackers have breached the internal networks of at least ten Indonesian government ministries and agencies, including computers from Indonesia's primary intelligence service, the Badan Intelijen Negara (BIN). From a report: The intrusion, discovered by Insikt Group, the threat research division of Recorded Future, has been linked to Mustang Panda, a Chinese threat actor known for its cyber-espionage campaigns targeting the Southeast Asian region. Insikt researchers first discovered this campaign in April this year, when they detected PlugX malware command and control (C&C) servers, operated by the Mustang Panda group, communicating with hosts inside the networks of the Indonesian government. These communications were later traced back to at least March 2021. The intrusion point and delivery method of the malware are still unclear.

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Apple Risks Losing Billions of Dollars Annually From Ruling

Sat, 2021-09-11 04:30
Mark Gurman, reporting on Friday's ruling in Apple and Epic lawsuit: So how much does Apple stand to lose? That all comes down to how many developers try to bypass its payment system. Loup Venture's Gene Munster, a longtime Apple watcher, put the range at $1 billion to $4 billion, depending on how many developers take advantage of the new policy. Apple depicted the ruling as a victory, signaling that it's not too worried about the financial impact. "The court has affirmed what we've known all along: The App Store is not in violation of antitrust law" and "success is not illegal," Apple said in a statement. Kate Adams, the iPhone maker's general counsel, called the ruling a "resounding victory" that "underscores the merit" of its business. Apple's adversary in the trial -- Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite -- also contended that the judge sided with Apple. This "isn't a win for developers or for consumers," Epic Chief Executive Officer Tim Sweeney said on Twitter. [...] Apple made about $3.8 billion in U.S. revenue from games in 2020, most of which came from in-app purchases, according to estimates from Sensor Tower. But even if the ruling ends up costing Apple a few billion dollars a year, that's still a small fraction of its total revenue. In fiscal 2021 alone, the company is estimated to bring in more than $360 billion, meaning the change won't make or break its overall financial performance. And many developers may choose to stick to Apple's payment system so they don't have to build their own web payment platform. More concerns were shared by the EFF in a thread on Twitter. "Disappointingly, a court found that Apple is not a monopolist in mobile gaming or in-app transactions, so its App Store commissions don't violate antitrust law. One bright spot: the court found Apple's gag rules on app developers violate California law... "The court's opinion spells out many serious problems with today's mobile app ecosystem, such as false tensions between user choice and user privacy. Congress can help with real antitrust reform and new legal tools, and shouldn't let Apple's privacywashing derail that work."

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Study Links Too Much Free Time To Lower Sense of Wellbeing

Sat, 2021-09-11 02:00
Research shows there is a 'sweet spot' and subjective wellbeing drops off after about five hours. The Guardian: The lesson of Goldilocks, that one can have too much of a good thing, even when it comes to the size of a chair, has applied in fields from astrobiology to economics. Now, it seems it may even govern our free time. Researchers have found that while levels of subjective wellbeing initially rise as free time increases, the trend does not necessarily hold for very high levels of leisure. "The sweet spot is a moderate amount of free time," said Dr Marissa Sharif, a co-author of the study from the University of Pennsylvania. "We found that having too much time was associated with lower subjective wellbeing due to a lacking sense of productivity and purpose." Writing in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Sharif and colleagues reported how they analysed results from two large-scale surveys, involving a combined total of more than 35,000 participants. One was the American Time Use Survey, which was carried out between 2012 and 2013 and asked participants what they had done in the past 24 hours. After crowdsourcing opinions on which activities would be equated with leisure time and then calculating this time for participants, the team found that while subjective wellbeing rose with the amount of free time up to about two hours, it began to drop once it exceeded five hours. Meanwhile data from the National Study of the Changing Workforce, carried out between 1992 and 2008, revealed that beyond a certain point, having more free time was no longer linked to greater subjective wellbeing, but it did not dip -- possibly because few of the participants reported having more than five hours of free time a day.

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A Secretive Pentagon Program That Started on Trump's Last Day in Office Just Ended. The Mystery Has Not.

Sat, 2021-09-11 00:00
A Pentagon program that delegated management of a huge swath of the Internet to a Florida company in January -- just minutes before President Trump left office -- has ended as mysteriously as it began, with the Defense Department this week retaking control of 175 million IP addresses. New submitter echo123 shares a report: The program had drawn scrutiny because of its unusual timing, starting amid a politically charged changeover of federal power, and because of its enormous scale. At its peak, the company, Global Resource Systems, controlled almost 6 percent of a section of the Internet called IPv4. The IP addresses had been under Pentagon control for decades but left unused, despite being potentially worth billions of dollars on the open market. Adding to the mystery, company registration records showed Global Resource Systems at the time was only a few months old, having been established in September 2020, and had no publicly reported federal contracts, no obvious public-facing website and no sign on the shared office space it listed as its physical address in Plantation, Fla. The company also did not respond to requests for comment, and the Pentagon did not announce the program or publicly acknowledge its existence until The Washington Post reported on it in April. And now it's done. Kind of. On Tuesday, the Pentagon made a technical announcement -- visible mainly to network administrators around the world -- saying it was resuming control of the 175 million IP addresses and directing the traffic to its own servers. On Friday the Pentagon told The Post that the pilot program, which it previously had characterized as a cybersecurity measure designed to detect unspecified "vulnerabilities" and "prevent unauthorized use of DoD IP address space," was over. Parts of the Internet once managed by Global Resource Systems, the Pentagon said, now were being overseen by the Department of Defense Information Network, known by the acronym DODIN and part of U.S. Cyber Command, based at Fort Meade.

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Apple Pays Hackers Six Figures To Find Bugs in Its Software. Then It Sits On their Findings.

Fri, 2021-09-10 23:00
Lack of communication, confusion about payments and long delays have security researchers fed up with Apple's bug bounty program. The Washington Post: Hoping to discover hidden weaknesses, Apple for five years now has invited hackers to break into its services and its iconic phones and laptops, offering up to $1 million to learn of its most serious security flaws. [...] But many who are familiar with the program say Apple is slow to fix reported bugs and does not always pay hackers what they believe they're owed. Ultimately, they say, Apple's insular culture has hurt the program and created a blind spot on security. "It's a bug bounty program where the house always wins," said Katie Moussouris, CEO and founder of Luta Security, which worked with the Defense Department to set up its first bug bounty program. She said Apple's bad reputation in the security industry will lead to "less secure products for their customers and more cost down the line." Apple said its program, launched in 2016, is a work in progress. Until 2019, the program was not officially opened to the public, although researchers say the program was never exclusive. [...] In interviews with more than two dozen security researchers, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because of nondisclosure agreements, the approaches taken by Apple's rivals were held up for comparison. Facebook, Microsoft and Google publicize their programs and highlight security researchers who receive bounties in blog posts and leader boards. They hold conferences and provide resources to encourage a broad international audience to participate. And most of them pay more money each year than Apple, which is at times the world's most valuable company. Microsoft paid $13.6 million in the 12-month period beginning July 2020. Google paid $6.7 million in 2020. Apple spent $3.7 million last year, Krstic said in his statement. He said that number is likely to increase this year. Payment amounts aren't the only measure of success, however. The best programs support open conversations between the hackers and the companies. Apple, already known for being tight-lipped, limits communication and feedback on why it chooses to pay or not pay for a bug, according to security researchers who have submitted bugs to the bounty program and a former employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of a nondisclosure agreement. Apple also has a massive backlog of bugs that it hasn't fixed, according to the former employee and a current employee, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity because of an NDA.

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Categories: Technology

Wide-Ranging SolarWinds Probe Sparks Fear in Corporate America

Fri, 2021-09-10 22:00
A U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into the SolarWinds Russian hacking operation has dozens of corporate executives fearful information unearthed in the expanding probe will expose them to liability, Reuters reported Friday, citing six people familiar with the inquiry. From the report: The SEC is asking companies to turn over records into "any other" data breach or ransomware attack since October 2019 if they downloaded a bugged network-management software update from SolarWinds, which delivers products used across corporate America, according to details of the letters shared with Reuters. People familiar with the inquiry say the requests may reveal numerous unreported cyber incidents unrelated to the Russian espionage campaign, giving the SEC a rare level of insight into previously unknown incidents that the companies likely never intended to disclose. "I've never seen anything like this," said a consultant who works with dozens of publicly traded companies that recently received the request. "What companies are concerned about is they don't know how the SEC will use this information. And most companies have had unreported breaches since then." The consultant spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss his experience. The requests are voluntary, and companies are obliged to disclose anything material to investors. But the fact the inquiries comes from the SEC's enforcement staff could raise the prospect of investigations and steep penalties if companies fail to disclose breaches or did not have the appropriate controls in place to deal with past attacks, four attorneys who regularly handle SEC cases said. Further reading: What it was like inside Microsoft during the worst cyberattack in history.

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