Privacy

Sweden Accidentally Leaks Personal Details of Nearly All Citizens (thehackernews.com) 197

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hacker News: Swedish media is reporting of a massive data breach in the Swedish Transport Agency (Transportstyrelsen) after the agency mishandled an outsourcing deal with IBM, which led to the leak of the private data about every vehicle in the country, including those used by both police and military. The data breach exposed the names, photos and home addresses of millions of Swedish citizen, including fighter pilots of Swedish air force, members of the military's most secretive units, police suspects, people under the witness relocation program, the weight capacity of all roads and bridges, and much more. The incident is believed to be one of the worst government information security disasters ever.

In 2015, the Swedish Transport Agency hand over IBM an IT maintenance contract to manage its databases and networks. However, the Swedish Transport Agency uploaded IBM's entire database onto cloud servers, which covered details on every vehicle in the country, including police and military registrations, and individuals on witness protection programs. The transport agency then emailed the entire database in messages to marketers that subscribe to it. And what's terrible is that the messages were sent in clear text. When the error was discovered, the transport agency merely thought of sending a new list in another email, asking the subscribers to delete the old list themselves.

AI

Quest for AI Leadership Pushes Microsoft Further Into Chip Development (bloomberg.com) 32

From a Bloomberg report: Tech companies are keen to bring cool artificial intelligence features to phones and augmented reality goggles -- the ability to show mechanics how to fix an engine, say, or tell tourists what they are seeing and hearing in their own language. But there's one big challenge: how to manage the vast quantities of data that make such feats possible without making the devices too slow or draining the battery in minutes and wrecking the user experience. Microsoft says it has the answer with a chip design for its HoloLens goggles -- an extra AI processor that analyzes what the user sees and hears right there on the device rather than wasting precious microseconds sending the data back to the cloud. The new processor, a version of the company's existing Holographic Processing Unit, is being unveiled at an event in Honolulu, Hawaii, today. The chip is under development and will be included in the next version of HoloLens; the company didn't provide a date. This is one of the few times Microsoft is playing all roles (except manufacturing) in developing a new processor. The company says this is the first chip of its kind designed for a mobile device. Bringing chipmaking in-house is increasingly in vogue as companies conclude that off-the-shelf processors aren't capable of fully unleashing the potential of AI. Apple is testing iPhone prototypes that include a chip designed to process AI, a person familiar with the work said in May. Google is on the second version of its own AI chips. To persuade people to buy the next generation of gadgets -- phones, VR headsets, even cars -- the experience will have to be lightning fast and seamless.
Programming

IEEE Spectrum Declares Python The #1 Programming Language (ieee.org) 358

An anonymous reader quotes IEEE Spectrum's annual report on the top programming languages: As with all attempts to rank the usage of different languages, we have to rely on various proxies for popularity. In our case, this means having data journalist Nick Diakopoulos mine and combine 12 metrics from 10 carefully chosen online sources to rank 48 languages. But where we really differ from other rankings is that our interactive allows you choose how those metrics are weighted when they are combined, letting you personalize the rankings to your needs. We have a few preset weightings -- a default setting that's designed with the typical Spectrum reader in mind, as well as settings that emphasize emerging languages, what employers are looking for, and what's hot in open source...

Python has continued its upward trajectory from last year and jumped two places to the No. 1 slot, though the top four -- Python, C, Java, and C++ -- all remain very close in popularity. Indeed, in Diakopoulos's analysis of what the underlying metrics have to say about the languages currently in demand by recruiting companies, C comes out ahead of Python by a good margin... Ruby has fallen all the way down to 12th position, but in doing so it has given Apple's Swift the chance to join Google's Go in the Top Ten... Outside the Top Ten, Apple's Objective-C mirrors the ascent of Swift, dropping down to 26th place. However, for the second year in a row, no new languages have entered the rankings. We seem to have entered a period of consolidation in coding as programmers digest the tools created to cater to the explosion of cloud, mobile, and big data applications.

"Speaking of stabilized programming tools and languages," the article concludes, "it's worth noting Fortran's continued presence right in the middle of the rankings (sitting still in 28th place), along with Lisp in 35th place and Cobol hanging in at 40th."
Microsoft

For the First Time, Microsoft Got More Revenue From Office 365 Subscriptions Than From Traditional Office Software Licensing (axios.com) 248

Ina Fried, reporting for Axios: Shares of Microsoft hit record territory in after-hours trading on Thursday, topping $75 a share, after the software giant's better-than-expected financial results. As has been the case for the last several quarters, strength in Microsoft's cloud business, including Office 365 and Windows Azure, was the key to the company's growth. Of note, Microsoft CFO Amy Hood told analysts that, for the first time, Microsoft got more revenue from Office 365 subscriptions than from traditional Office software licensing. Why it matters: Microsoft has shown an ability to grow its business even as the PC market has stalled, reflecting moves the company made in the cloud both since Satya Nadella took over as CEO as well as some that were in place before he took over the top spot.
Windows

'Windows 10 Is Failing Us' (betanews.com) 551

Reader BrianFagioli writes: While Windows 10 is arguably successful from a market share perspective, it is still failing in one big way -- the user experience. Windows 8.x was an absolute disaster, and Microsoft's latest is certainly better than that, but it is still not an enjoyable experience. Before the company tries to add new features (and misses deadlines) like Timeline and Cloud Clipboard, it should focus more on improving the existing user experience. Right now it is failing us and things are not getting better. Even the third-party solutions that aim to turn this spying off aren't 100-percent successful. Unless you unplug from the internet entirely, you can't stop Windows from phoning home to Microsoft. This is a shame, as some consumers are being made to feel violated when using their own computer. Another issue that I can't believe hasn't been resolved is having two locations for system settings. Seriously, Microsoft? We still have "Settings" and "Control Panel" Live Tiles are still worthless, and it is time for Microsoft to kill them. Nobody opens an app launcher and stares at the icons for information. It is distracting and pointless. If I want the weather, I'll open a weather app and see it -- not stare at the icon for the information. It sort of made sense in the Windows 8.x era since you were presented with a full screen of app icons more often, but with a more traditional start-button design in Windows 10, it is time to retire it. Another example: Microsoft doesn't force you to use Edge and Bing entirely, but it still does force you. Cortana is a hot mess, but if you opt to use her, she will only open things in Edge. Searches are Bing-only. In other words, the virtual assistant ignores your default browser settings. Why? Not for the user's benefit. Sadly, the Windows Store is a garbage dump -- many of the "legit" apps are total trash.
Businesses

Amazon Web Services Drops Controversial Patent Clause From Standard User Agreement (geekwire.com) 16

Amazon Web Services has quietly dropped a controversial provision from its user agreement that essentially forced customers to agree that they could never file a patent infringement lawsuit against the public cloud vendor. From a report: The clause in the basic user agreement raised a lot of eyebrows back in 2015 after AWS asserted it as a possible defense in a patent lawsuit filed by Appistry, a former AWS customer that sued the cloud vendor over high-performance computing patents. Until sometime around February 2017, Section 8.5 of the basic agreement for using AWS included this sentence: "During and after the Term, you will not assert, nor will you authorize, assist, or encourage any third party to assert, against us or any of our affiliates, customers, vendors, business partners, or licensors, any patent infringement or other intellectual property infringement claim regarding any Service Offerings you have used.
Cloud

Border Patrol Says It's Barred From Searching Cloud Data On Phones (nbcnews.com) 74

According to a letter obtained by NBC News, U.S. border officers aren't allowed to look at any data stored only in the "cloud" -- including social media data -- when they search U.S. travelers' phones. "The letter (PDF), sent in response to inquiries by Sen. Ron Wyden, (D-Ore.), and verified by Wyden's office, not only states that CBP doesn't search data stored only with remote cloud services, but also -- apparently for the first time -- declares that it doesn't have that authority in the first place." From the report: In April, Wyden and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., introduced legislation to make it illegal for border officers to search or seize cellphones without probable cause. Privacy advocates and former Homeland Security lawyers have said they are alarmed by how many phones are being searched. The CBP letter, which is attributed to Kevin McAleenan, the agency's acting commissioner, is dated June 20, four months after Wyden asked the Department of Homeland Security (PDF), CBP's parent agency, to clarify what he called the "deeply troubling" practice of border agents' pressuring Americans into providing passwords and access to their social media accounts. McAleenan's letter says officers can search a phone without consent and, except in very limited cases, without a warrant or even suspicion -- but only for content that is saved directly to the device, like call histories, text messages, contacts, photos and videos.
China

Apple Sets Up China Data Center To Meet New Cybersecurity Rules (cnbc.com) 61

Apple on Wednesday said it is setting up its first data center in China, in partnership with a local internet services company, to comply with tougher cybersecurity laws introduced last month. From a report: The U.S. technology company said it will build the center in the southern province of Guizhou with data management firm Guizhou-Cloud Big Data Industry. An Apple spokesman in Shanghai told Reuters the center is part of a planned $1 billion investment into the province. "The addition of this data center will allow us to improve the speed and reliability of our products and services while also complying with newly passed regulations," Apple said in a statement to Reuters.
Microsoft

Microsoft To Offer Local Version of Azure Cloud Service (reuters.com) 75

Microsoft on Monday unveiled a new service that allows customers to use its cloud technology on their own servers, part of the company's efforts to refocus its product line to compete more effectively with rivals Amazon and Google. From a report: "One of the key differentiations we have with Azure versus our two biggest competitors in the cloud platform space is our ability to support true hybrid solutions," Judson Althoff, Microsoft's executive vice president of worldwide commercial business, told Reuters. Microsoft is hoping to carve a niche among customers who cannot or do not want to have to move all their computing operations to the massive shared data centers that are collectively known as the cloud. Azure Stack could serve companies in highly regulated industries or in parts of the world where using the cloud is not yet feasible, Althoff said.
Open Source

Microsoft Makes 'Visual Studio Code Extension for Arduino' Open Source (betanews.com) 65

BrianFagioli quotes BetaNews: Thursday, Microsoft released yet another open source tool on GitHub -- Visual Studio Code Extension for Arduino. This MIT-licensed code should greatly help developers that are leveraging Arduino hardware for Internet of Things-related projects and more. "Our team at Visual Studio IoT Tooling, researched the development tools developers are using today, interviewed many developers to learn about their pain points developing IoT applications, and found that of all layers of IoT, there are abundant dev tools for cloud, gateway, interactive devices, and industrial devices, but limited availability and capability for micro-controllers and sensors...

"Keeping open source and open platform in mind, we started the work to add an extension on Visual Studio Code, the cross-platform, open sourced advanced code editor, for Arduino application development," says Zhidi Shang, R&D and Product Development, Microsoft.

Microsoft's adds that its tool "is almost fully compatible and consistent with the official Arduino IDE," extending its capabilities with "the most sought-after features, such as IntelliSense, Auto code completion, and on-device debugging for supported boards."

Maybe this would be a good time to ask if anybody has a favorite IDE that they'd like to recommend?
Encryption

The Pentagon Says It Will Start Encrypting Soldiers' Emails Next Year (vice.com) 63

An anonymous reader shares a Motherboard report: Basic decade-old encryption technology is finally coming to Pentagon email servers next year. For years, major online email providers such as Google and Microsoft have used encryption to protect your emails as they travel across the internet. That technology, technically known as STARTTLS, isn't a cutting edge development -- it's been around since 2002. But since that time the Pentagon never implemented it. As a Motherboard investigation revealed in 2015, the lack of encryption potentially left some soldiers' emails open to being intercepted by enemies as they travel across the internet. The US military uses its own internal service, mail.mil, which is hosted on the cloud for 4.5 million users. But now the Defense Information Systems Agency or DISA, the Pentagon's branch that oversees email, says it will finally start using STARTTLS within the year, according to a letter from DISA. DISA's promise comes months after Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) said he was concerned that the agency wasn't taking advantage of "a basic, widely used, easily-enabled cybersecurity technology."
Data Storage

OneDrive Has Stopped Working On Non-NTFS Drives (arstechnica.com) 130

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: OneDrive users around the world have been upset to discover that with its latest update, Microsoft's cloud file syncing and storage system no longer works with anything other than disks formatted with the NTFS file system. Both older file systems, such as FAT32 and exFAT, and newer ones, such as ReFS, will now provoke an error message when OneDrive starts up. To continue to use the software, files will have to be stored on an NTFS volume. While FAT disks can be converted, ReFS volumes must be reformatted and wiped. This has left various OneDrive users unhappy. While NTFS is the default file system in Windows, people using SD cards to extend the storage on small laptops and tablets will typically use exFAT. Similarly, people using Storage Spaces to manage large, redundant storage volumes will often use ReFS. The new policy doesn't change anything for most Windows users, but those at the margins will feel hard done by. Microsoft said in a statement that it "discovered a warning message that should have existed was missing when a user attempted to store their OneDrive folder on a non-NTFS filesystem -- which was immediately remedied." According to Ars, Microsoft's position, apparently, is that OneDrive should always have warned about these usage scenarios and that it's only a bug or an oversight that allowed non-NTFS volumes to work.
Microsoft

Microsoft Plans Up To 3,000 Job Cuts In a Sales Staff Overhaul To Fuel Cloud Growth (cnbc.com) 44

Microsoft announced a major reorganization on Wednesday that will include thousands of layoffs, largely in sales. From a report: The job cuts amount to less that 10 percent of the company's total sales force, and about 75 percent of them will be outside the U.S., the company said. Reports from last week suggested this was going to happen, and that Microsoft was going to specifically focus on how it sells its cloud services product, Azure. Microsoft's cloud business has been booming over recent quarters -- Microsoft noted Azure sales growth of 93 percent last quarter. While Amazon has become a bigger competitor in the space, Microsoft's restructuring is to pivot to software as a service, platform as a service and infrastructure.
Microsoft

Microsoft Is Laying off 'Thousands' of Staff in a Major Global Sales Reorganization (techcrunch.com) 118

An anonymous reader shares a report: Microsoft is poised to layoff thousands of employees worldwide in a move to reorganize its salesforce. A source with knowledge of the planned downsizing told TechCrunch that the U.S. firm would lay off "thousands" of staff across the world. The restructuring is set to include an organizational merger that involves its enterprise customer unit and one or more of its SME-focused divisions. The changes are set to be announced this coming week, we understand. Microsoft declined to comment. Earlier this weekend, the Puget Sound Business Journal, Bloomberg and The Seattle Times all reported 'major' layoffs related to a move to increase the emphasis on cloud services within Microsoft's sales teams worldwide. Bloomberg said the redundancies would be "some of the most significant in the sales force in years."
Earth

'Infarm' Startup Wants To Put a Farm In Every Grocery Store (techcrunch.com) 85

Infarm, a 40-plus person startup based in Berlin, imagines a future where every grocery store has its own farm packed with herbs, vegetables and fruit. "The plants themselves are being monitored by multiple sensors and fed by an internet-controlled irrigation and nutrition system," reports TechCrunch. "Growing out from the center, the basil is at ascending stages of its life, with the most outer positioned ready for you, the customer, to harvest." From the report: The concept might not be entirely new -- Japan has been an early pioneer in vertical farming, where the lack of space for farming and very high demand from a large population has encouraged innovation -- but what potentially sets Infarm apart, including from other startups, is the modular approach and go-to-market strategy it is taking. This means that the company can do vertical farming on a small but infinitely expandable scale, and is seeing Infarm place farms not in offsite warehouses but in customer-facing city locations, such as grocery stores, restaurants, shopping malls, and schools, enabling the end-customer to actually pick the produce themselves. In contrast, the Infarm system is chemical pesticide-free and can prioritize food grown for taste, color and nutritional value rather than shelf life or its ability to sustain mass production. Its indoor nature means it isn't restricted to seasonality either and by completely eliminating the distance between farmer and consumer, food doesn't get much fresher. When a new type of herb or plant is introduced, Infarm's plant experts and engineers create a recipe or algorithm for the produce type, factoring in nutrition, humidity, temperature, light intensity and spectrum, which is different from system to system depending on what is grown. The resulting combination of IoT, Big Data and cloud analytics is akin to "Farming-as-a-Service," whilst , space permitting, Infarm's modular approach affords the ability to keep adding more farming capacity in a not entirely dissimilar way to how cloud computing can be ramped up at the push of a button.
Cloud

Should Your Company Switch To Microservices? (cio.com) 118

Walmart Canada claims that it was microservices that allowed them to replace hardware with virtual servers, reducing costs by somewhere between 20 and 50 percent. Now Slashdot reader snydeq shares an article by a senior systems automation engineer arguing that a microservices approach "offers increased modularity, making applications easier to develop, test, deploy, and, more importantly, change and maintain."

The article touts things like cost savings and flexibility for multiple device types, suggesting microservices offer increased resilience and improved scalabiity (not to mention easier debugging and a faster time to market with an incremental development model). But it also warns that organizations need the resources to deploy the new microservices quicky (and the necessary server) -- along with the ability to test and monitor them for database errors, network latency, caching issues and ongoing availability. "You must embrace devops culture," argues the article, adding that "designing for failure is essential... In a traditional setting, developers are focused on features and functionalities, and the operations team is on the hook for production challenges. In devops, everyone is responsible for service provisioning -- and failure."

The original submission ends with a question for Slashdot reader. "What cautions do you have to offer for folks considering tapping microservices for their next application?"
Google

Google Will Stop Reading Your Emails For Gmail Ads (bloomberg.com) 67

Google will soon stop scanning emails received by some Gmail users, a practice that has allowed it to show them targeted advertising but which stirred privacy worries. From a report: The decision didn't come from Google's ad team, but from its cloud unit, which is angling to sign up more corporate customers. Alphabet's Google Cloud sells a package of office software, called G Suite, that competes with market leader Microsoft. Paying Gmail users never received the email-scanning ads like the free version of the program, but some business customers were confused by the distinction and its privacy implications, said Diane Greene, Google's senior vice president of cloud. "What we're going to do is make it unambiguous," she said. Ads will continue to appear inside the free version of Gmail, as promoted messages. But instead of scanning a user's email, the ads will now be targeted with other personal information Google already pulls from sources such as search and YouTube.
Businesses

Walmart to Vendors: Get Off Amazon's Cloud (wsj.com) 173

Amazon vs. Walmart saga continues. It turns out, Walmart isn't thrilled about its partners using Amazon's cloud, and it's telling them to get off it (alternative source). From a report: Walmart is telling some technology companies that if they want its business, they can't run applications for the retailer on Amazon's leading cloud-computing service, Amazon Web Services, several tech companies say. [...] Walmart, loath to give any business to Amazon, said it keeps most of its data on its own servers and uses services from emerging AWS competitors, such as Microsoft's Azure.
Privacy

If It Uses Electricity, It Will Connect To the Internet: F-Secure's CRO (theregister.co.uk) 308

New submitter evolutionary writes: According to F-Secure's Chief Research Officer "IoT is unavoidable. If it uses electricity, it will become a computer. If it uses electricity, it will be online. In future, you will only buy IoT appliances, whether you like it or not, whether you know it or not." F-Secure's new product to help mitigate data leakage, "Sense", is a IoT Firewall, combining a traditional firewall with a cloud service and uses concepts including behaviour-based blocking and device reputation to figure out whether you have insecure devices.
Businesses

Amazon Web Services Quietly Forms a Mixed Reality Team, But What Is It Building? (geekwire.com) 41

Nat Levy, reporting for GeekWire: Amazon is building a new "two pizza team" within Amazon Web Services focused on mixed-reality technology, another sign that the cloud powerhouse is expanding its reach and branching out into new areas. AWS isn't talking publicly about the initiative, but a job posting for a software engineer sheds some light on the team's goals. The posting says the company is "building a set of services, and platform to bring AWS and Amazon into the world of Mixed Reality." The company wants engineers with experience in "Computer Vision, 3D objects, rendering and data storage by designing, developing and testing software solutions." The posting further states that "applications would include real-time 3D modeling, image and video stream processing all within a scalable distributed environment." The posting calls the group a "true start-up within AWS (a real two pizza team)." The two-pizza term goes back to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and his well-known rule that any team or meeting that can't be fed with two pizzas is too large.

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