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Open Source

Blockchain Platform Developed by Banks To Be Open-Source ( 32

A blockchain platform developed by a group that includes more than 70 of the world's biggest financial institutions is making its code publicly available, in what could become the industry standard for the nascent technology, reports Reuters. From the article: The Corda platform has been developed by a consortium brought together by New-York-based financial technology company R3. It represents the biggest shared effort among banks, insurers, fund managers and other players to work on using blockchain technology in the financial markets. Blockchain, which originated in the digital currency bitcoin, works as a web-based transaction-processing and settlement system. It creates a "golden record" of any given set of data that is automatically replicated for all parties in a secure network, eliminating any need for third-party verification. Banks reckon the technology could save them money by making their operations faster, more efficient and more transparent. They are racing to build products using the technology that will generate new revenue, with dozens of patent applications filed for blockchain-based products by Wall Street's top lenders. R3 says it hopes its platform will become the industry standard, although its intention is indeed for firms to build products on top of it.
Operating Systems

Researchers Bypass ASLR Protection On Intel Haswell CPUs ( 70

An anonymous reader writes: "A team of scientists from two U.S. universities has devised a method of bypassing ASLR (Address Space Layout Randomization) protection by taking advantage of the BTB (Branch Target Buffer), a component included in many modern CPU architectures, including Intel Haswell CPUs, the processor they used for tests in their research," reports Softpedia. The researchers discovered that by blasting the BTB with random data, they could run a successful collision attack that reveals the memory locations where apps execute code in the computer's memory -- the very thing that ASLR protection was meant to hide. While during their tests they used a Linux PC with a Intel Haswell CPU, researchers said the attack can be ported to other CPU architectures and operating systems where ASLR is deployed, such as Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows. From start to finish, the collision attack only takes 60 milliseconds, meaning it can be embedded with malware or any other digital forensics tool and run without needing hours of intense CPU processing. You can read the research paper, titled "Jump Over ASLR: Attacking Branch Predictors to Bypass ASLR," here.

Hillary Clinton's Campaign Creates Way To Make Money From Donald Trump's Tweets ( 323

Hillary Clinton's campaign has created a new fundraising tool called Troll Trump that lets supporters sign up to automatically donate money to the campaign when Donald Trump tweets. Adweek reports: The tool's landing page populates a new Trump tweet each time the site is refreshed to offer a sampling of the candidate's social media style. "Show Donald that his unhinged rhetoric comes at a cost," according to the Clinton campaign's website. "Sign up to donate to Hillary's campaign every time Donald tweets!" The idea was apparently inspired by a tweet by Matt Bellassai, a former BuzzFeed editor and social media star, who made a joke on Twitter threatening to donate to the campaign every time Trump tweets. (When the tool went live, Teddy Goff, a digital strategist with the Clinton campaign, tweeted Bellassai a thank-you.)

Why Your Devices Are Probably Eroding Your Productivity ( 98

University of California, San Francisco neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley and California State University, Dominguez Hills professor emeritus Larry Rosen explain in their book "The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High Tech World" why people have trouble multitasking, and specifically why one's productivity output is lowered when keeping up with emails, for example. Lesley McClurg writes via KQED Science: When you engage in one task at a time, the prefrontal cortex works in harmony with other parts of the brain, but when you toss in another task it forces the left and right sides of the brain to work independently. The process of splitting our attention usually leads to mistakes. In other words, each time our eyes glance away from our computer monitor to sneak a peak at a text message, the brain takes in new information, which reduces our primary focus. We think the mind can juggle two or three activities successfully at once, but Gazzaley says we woefully overestimate our ability to multitask. In regard to answering emails, McClurg writes: Gazzaley stresses that our tendency to respond immediately to emails and texts hinders high-level thinking. If you're working on a project and you stop to answer an email, the research shows, it will take you nearly a half-hour to get back on task. "When a focused stream of thought is interrupted it needs to be reset," explains Gazzaley. "You can't just press a button and switch back to it. You have to re-engage those thought processes, and recreate all the elements of what you were engaged in. That takes time, and frequently one interruption leads to another." In other words, repetitively switching tasks lowers performance and productivity because your brain can only fully and efficiently focus on one thing at a time. Plus, mounting evidence shows that multitasking could impair the brain's cognitive abilities. Stanford researchers studied the minds of people who regularly engage in several digital communication streams at once. They found that high-tech jugglers struggle to pay attention, recall information, or complete one task at a time. And the habit of multitasking could lower your score on an IQ test, according to researchers at the University of London. The saving grace is that we don't need to ditch technology as "there's a time and place for multitasking," according to Gazzaley. "If you're in the midst of a mundane task that just has to get done, it's probably not detrimental to have your phone nearby or a bunch of tabs open. The distractions may reduce boredom and help you stay engaged. But if you're finishing a business plan, or a high-level writing project, then it's a good idea to set yourself up to stay focused."
The Almighty Buck

Apple is 'Intransigent, Closed and Controlling' Say Banks ( 283

Apple is increasingly trying to get banks to implement its Apple Pay mobile payments solutions, but some banks are avoiding Cupertino giant's offer, saying that the company is "closed and controlling". From a report on Financial Review: Three of Australia's big four banks have described technology giant Apple as being "intransigent, closed and controlling" and accused it of attempting to freeload on their contactless payments infrastructure while slowing innovation in digital wallets. In an increasingly acrimonious dispute, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank, Westpac Banking Corp and Bendigo and Adelaide Bank are arguing that the engineering of Apple iPhones prevent them from delivering mobile wallets to millions of customers. This is because Apple Pay is the only application that works with the iPhone's "near field communication" (NFC) antenna, which communicates with payment terminals. In their latest, 137-page submission filed with the competition regulator, the banks argue that by locking them out, "Apple is seeking for itself the exclusive use of Australia's existing NFC terminal infrastructure for the making of integrated mobile payments using iOS devices. Yet, this infrastructure was built and paid for by Australian banks and merchants for the benefit of all Australians."
The Internet

Say Hello To Branded Internet Addresses ( 146

On September 29, Google published a new blog which uses .google domain rather the standard .com. It seems the company may have inspired other companies to tout their brand names in the digital realm as well. According to a report on CNET, we have since seen requests for domain names such as .kindle, .apple, .ibm, .canon, and .samsung. And it's not just tech companies that are finding this very attractive, other domain requests include .ford, .delta, .hbo, .mcdonalds, and .nike. From the report: Approval, of course, is just a first step. It's not clear how enthusiastic most companies will be about the new names. So far, Google is the eager beaver. What's fun for Google is a daunting financial commitment to others. A $185,000 application fee and annual $30,000 operation fee will keep mom-and-pop shops away from their own domains. Still, plenty of businesses other than Google see the new domain names as a good investment. Branded domains can add distinction to an internet address, and renting out generic top-level domain (GTLD) names can potentially be a lucrative business. At a January auction, GMO Registry bid $41.5 million to win rights to sell .shop domain names. And in July, Nu Dot Co won .web with a bid of $135 million. Hundreds of new top-level domain names are approved. The single most popular in use is .xyz. Hundreds of new top-level domain names are approved. The single most popular in use is .xyz. Where does all the money go? To a nonprofit organization called ICANN -- the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. The organization oversees internet plumbing on behalf of companies, governments and universities, as well as the general public.

Firefox Users Reach HTTPS Encryption Milestone ( 63

For the first time ever, secure HTTPS encryption was used for over half the pageloads served to Mozilla users, representing a big milestone for encryption. TechCrunch reports on the telemetry data tweeted by the Head of Let's Encrypt: Mozilla, which is one of the organizations backing Let's Encrypt, was reporting that 40% of page views were encrypted as of December 2015. So it's an impressively speedy rise...

The Let's Encrypt initiative, which exited beta back in April, is doing some of that work by providing sites with free digital certificates to help accelerate the switch to HTTPS. According to [co-founder Josh] Aas, Let's Encrypt added more than a million new active certificates in the past week -- which is also a significant step up. In the initiative's first six months (when still in beta) it only issued around 1.7 million certificates in all.

The "50% HTTPS" figure is just a one-day snapshot, and it's from "only a subset of Firefox users who are running Mozilla's telemetry browser...not default switched on for most Firefox users (only for users of pre-release Firefox builds)." But the biggest caveat is it's only counting Firefox users, which in July represented just 7.7% of web surfers (according to Statista), behind both Chrome (49.5%) and Safari (13.68%) -- but also ahead of Internet Explorer (5.4%) and Opera (5.99%).
United States

California City Converts Its Street Lights Into A High-Speed IoT Backbone ( 61

Harvard Law professor Susan Crawford describes how the city of Santa Monica installed its own high-speed IoT backbone on its street lights and traffic signals -- and why it's important. Neutral "micro" cell sites can make very high-capacity wireless transmissions available, competitively, to everyone (and every sensor) nearby. This can and should cause an explosion of options and new opportunities for economic growth, innovation, and human flourishing in general... Very few American cities have carried out this transmogrification, but every single one will need to. Santa a city that will be able to control its future digital destiny, because it is taking a comprehensive, competition-forcing approach to the transmission of data...

Cities that get control of their streetlights and connect them to municipally overseen, reasonably priced dark fiber can chart their own Internet of Things futures, rather than leave their destinies in the hands of vendors whose priorities are driven (rationally) by the desire to control whole markets and keep share prices and dividends high rather than provide public benefits.

Santa Monica's CIO warns that now telecoms "are looking for exclusive rights to poles and saying they can't co-locate [with their competitors]. They're all hiring firms to lock up their permits and rights to as many poles as possible, as quickly as possible, before governments can organize."

Non-Cable Internet Providers Offer Faster Speeds To the Wealthy ( 169

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: When non-cable Internet providers -- outlets like ATT or Verizon -- choose which communities to offer the fastest connections, they don't juice up their networks so everyone in their service area has the option of buying quicker speeds. Instead, they tend to favor the wealthy over the poor, according to an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity. The Center's data analysis found that the largest non-cable Internet providers collectively offer faster speeds to about 40 percent of the population they serve nationwide in wealthy areas compared with just 22 percent of the population in poor areas. That leaves tens of millions of Americans with the choice of either purchasing an expensive connection from the only provider in their area -- typically a cable company -- or just doing the best they can with slower speeds. Middle-income areas don't fare much better, with a bit more than 27 percent of the population having access to a DSL provider's fastest speeds. The Center reached its conclusions by merging the latest Federal Communications Commission (FCC) data with income information from the U.S. Census Bureau. The non-cable Internet providers -- the four largest are ATT Inc, Verizon Communications Inc, CenturyLink Inc, and Frontier Communications Corp -- hook up customers over telephone wires that are Digital Subscriber Lines (DSL), or they use hybrid networks that include some fiber connections near (and sometimes directly to) homes. The Center included all types of connection in its analysis. These companies account for nearly 40 percent of the 92 million Internet connections nationwide. Cable companies, such as Comcast Corp and Charter Communications Inc, operate under a different set of conditions. These providers offer the same fast speeds to almost every community they serve, in part because of franchise agreements with local governments. But a previous Center investigation and other reports have shown that cable firms sometimes avoid lower-income or hard-to-reach areas based on how franchise agreements are written. Poor areas not served by the cable companies are not included in the Centerâ(TM)s analysis, which results in what seems like an equitable distribution of speeds across income levels. "Society said it did not matter if you could pay for electricity; we wanted everyone to have it. Society said we would not limit dial tone to those who could pay the most, we gave it to all," said telecommunications lawyer Gerard Lederer of Best Best and Krieger LCC in Washington, D.C., in an e-mail. "Broadband is quickly becoming that utility, and if applications only work at high speeds, then the universal availability of that speed must be the goal, otherwise you are providing everyone with water, just some of the water is not drinkable."

DHS Warns of Mirai Botnet Threat To Cellular Modems ( 21

chicksdaddy writes from a report via The Security Ledger: The Mirai malware that is behind massive denial of service attacks involving hundreds of thousands of "Internet of Things" devices may also affect cellular modems that connect those devices to the internet, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is warning. An alert issued by DHS's Industrial Control System CERT on Wednesday warned that cellular gateways manufactured by Sierra Wireless are vulnerable to compromise by the Mirai malware. While the routers are not actively being targeted by the malware, "unchanged default factory credentials, which are publicly available, could allow the devices to be compromised," ICS-CERT warned. The alert comes after a number of reports identified devices infected with the Mirai malware as the source of massive denial of service attacks against media websites like Krebs on Security and the French hosting company OVH. The attacks emanated from a global network of hundreds of thousands of infected IP-enabled closed circuit video cameras, digital video recorders (DVRs), network video recorders (NVRs) and other devices. Analysis by the firm Imperva found that Mirai is purpose-built to infect Internet of Things devices and enlist them in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. The malware searches broadly for insecure or weakly secured IoT devices that can be remotely accessed and broken into with easily guessed (factory default) usernames and passwords. The report adds: "Sierra said in an alert that the company has 'confirmed reports of the 'Mirai' malware infecting AirLink gateways that are using the default ACEmanager password and are reachable from the public internet.' Sierra Wireless LS300, GX400, GX/ES440, GX/ES450, and RV50 were identified in the bulletin as vulnerable to compromise by Mirai. Furthermore, devices attached to he gateway's local area network may also be vulnerable to infection by the Mirai malware, ICS-CERT warned. Sierra Wireless asked affected users to reboot their gateway. Mirai is memory resident malware, meaning that is erased upon reboot. Furthermore, administrators were advised to change the password to the management interface by logging in locally, or remotely to a vulnerable device."

Facebook Now Lets You Use Google Cast or AirPlay To Stream Video On Your TV ( 31

Facebook has made it a high priority over the years to improve its video platform so that it can better compete with the monolithic video service that is YouTube. Today, the company has added another feature, one that allows users to stream Facebook video content to the Apple TV via AirPlay and to various Google Cast-enabled devices. Digital Trends reports: The feature is available on the Facebook iOS app and, according to Facebook, it will be available on Android soon. The best thing about it, however, is how easy it is to use. Simply find a video you want to watch, then tap the TV button and select which device the app should stream to. Another highlight of the feature is that it is truly built for Facebook -- that is to say, when you are watching a video on the big screen, your phone is not on lockdown until the video is over. Instead, you can keep scrolling through the News Feed, treating your TV as more of a second screen than simply a mirror of your phone.

Doctors Perform Better Than Internet Or App-Based Symptoms Checkers, Says Study ( 192

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Science Daily: Increasingly powerful computers using ever-more sophisticated programs are challenging human supremacy in areas as diverse as playing chess and making emotionally compelling music. But can digital diagnosticians match, or even outperform, human physicians? The answer, according to a new study led by researchers at Harvard Medical School, is "not quite." The findings, published Oct. 10 in JAMA Internal Medicine, show that physicians' performance is vastly superior and that doctors make a correct diagnosis more than twice as often as 23 commonly used symptom-checker apps. The analysis is believed to provide the first direct comparison between human-made and computer-based diagnoses. Diagnostic errors stem from failure to recognize a disease or to do so in a timely manner. Physicians make such errors roughly 10 to 15 percent of the time, researchers say. In the study, 234 internal medicine physicians were asked to evaluate 45 clinical cases, involving both common and uncommon conditions with varying degrees of severity. For each scenario, physicians had to identify the most likely diagnosis along with two additional possible diagnoses. Each clinical vignette was solved by at least 20 physicians. The physicians outperformed the symptom-checker apps, listing the correct diagnosis first 72 percent of the time, compared with 34 percent of the time for the digital platforms. Eighty-four percent of clinicians listed the correct diagnosis in the top three possibilities, compared with 51 percent for the digital symptom-checkers. The difference between physician and computer performance was most dramatic in more severe and less common conditions. It was smaller for less acute and more common illnesses.

Yahoo Patents Smart Billboard That Would Deliver Targeted Ads To Passersby or Motorists ( 131

An anonymous reader writes: Yahoo has filed a patent for advertising billboards outfitted with a wide array of sensors -- including drone-based cameras -- which would use facial and vehicle recognition, data brokers, cell-tower information and social network information to attempt to identify worthwhile advertising targets and aim personalized ads at them as they pass on foot or in cars. The scheme, which was submitted on October 6th, anticipates using the same kind of micro-auction processes that currently determine which ads users see in webpages and mobile apps. The implementation of public ad-targeting brings up some fascinating and chilling prospects, as users find that the ads which "bloom" around them betray much about their private lives. Yahoo provides an example via its patent application: "According to one example, a digital billboard adjacent a busy freeway might be instrumented with or located near traffic sensors that detect information about the context of the vehicles approaching the billboard, e.g., the number and average speed of the vehicles. Such information might be used in conjunction with information about the time of day and/or the day of the week (e.g., Monday morning rush hour) to select advertisements for display that would appeal to an expected demographic and to display the advertisements for durations that are commensurate with the level of traffic congestion." The patent application also mentions how it will gather required information from individuals: "Various types of data (e.g., cell tower data, mobile app location data, image data, etc.) can be used to identify specific individuals in an audience in position to view advertising content. Similarly, vehicle navigation/tracking data from vehicles equipped with such systems could be used to identify specific vehicles and/or vehicle owners. Demographic data (e.g., as obtained from a marketing or user database) for the audience can thus be determined for the purpose of, for example, determining whether and/or the degree to which the demographic profile of the audience corresponds to a target demographic."
Open Source

France Adds Source Code To List of Documents Covered by Freedom of Information Laws ( 25

An anonymous reader writes: French freedom of information law now treats source code as disclosable in the same way as other government records. The new "Digital Republic" law took effect Saturday, with its publication in France's Official Journal. It adds source code to the long list of government document types that must be released in certain circumstances: dossiers, reports, studies, minutes, transcripts, statistics, instructions, memoranda, ministerial replies, correspondence, opinions, forecasts and decisions. But it also adds a new exception to existing rules on access to administrative documents and reuse of public information, giving officials plenty of reasons to refuse to release code on demand. These rules already allow officials to block the publication of documents they believe threaten national security, foreign policy, personal safety, or matters before court or under police investigation, among things. Now they can oppose publication if they believe it threatens the security of government information systems.

When Her Best Friend Died, She Rebuilt Him Using Artificial Intelligence ( 113

When Roman Mazurenko died, his friend Eugenia Kuyda created a digital monument to him: an artificial intelligent bot that could "speak" as Roman using thousands of lines of texts sent to friends and family. From the report: "It's pretty weird when you open the messenger and there's a bot of your deceased friend, who actually talks to you," Fayfer said. "What really struck me is that the phrases he speaks are really his. You can tell that's the way he would say it -- even short answers to 'Hey what's up.' It has been less than a year since Mazurenko died, and he continues to loom large in the lives of the people who knew him. When they miss him, they send messages to his avatar, and they feel closer to him when they do. "There was a lot I didn't know about my child," Roman's mother told me. "But now that I can read about what he thought about different subjects, I'm getting to know him more. This gives the illusion that he's here now."

Machine Logic: Our Lives Are Ruled By Big Tech's 'Decisions By Data' ( 64

With the advent of artificial intelligence and machine learning, we are increasingly moving to a world where many decisions around us are shaped by calculations rather than traditional human judgement. The Guardian, citing many industry experts, reminds us that these technologies filter who and what counts, including "who is released from jail, and what kind of treatment you will get in hospital." A digital media professor said, these digital companies allow us to act, but in a very fine-grained, datafied, algorithm-ready way. "They put life to work, by rendering life in Taylorist data points that can be counted and measured" From the report (edited and condensed): Jose van Dijck, president of the Dutch Royal Academy and the conference's keynote speaker, expands further. Datification is the core logic of what she calls "the platform society," in which companies bypass traditional institutions, norms and codes by promising something better and more efficient -- appealing deceptively to public values, while obscuring private gain. Van Dijck and peers have nascent, urgent ideas. They commence with a pressing agenda for strong interdisciplinary research -- something Kate Crawford is spearheading at Microsoft Research, as are many other institutions, including the new Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence. There's the old theory to confront, that this is a conscious move on the part of consumers and, if so, there's always a theoretical opt-out. Yet even digital activists plot by Gmail, concedes Fieke Jansen of the Berlin-based advocacy organisation Tactical Tech. The Big Five tech companies, as well as the extremely concentrated sources of finance behind them, are at the vanguard of "a society of centralized power and wealth. "How did we let it get this far?" she asks. Crawford says there are very practical reasons why tech companies have become so powerful. "We're trying to put so much responsibility on to individuals to step away from the 'evil platforms,' whereas in reality, there are so many reasons why people can't. The opportunity costs to employment, to their friends, to their families, are so high" she says.

CIA 'Siren Servers' Can Predict Social Uprisings Several Days Before They Happen ( 174

Through a combination of machine learning and deep learning, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is using powerful supercomputers, dubbed "Siren Servers" by computer philosophy writer Jaron Lanier, to predict social unrest days before it happens. The Sociable reports: CIA Deputy Director for Digital Innovation Andrew Hallman announced that the agency has beefed-up its "anticipatory intelligence" through the use of deep learning and machine learning servers that can process an incredible amount of data. "We have, in some instances, been able to improve our forecast to the point of being able to anticipate the development of social unrest and societal instability some I think as near as three to five days out," said Hallman on Tuesday at the Federal Tech event, Fedstival. The CIA deputy director said that it was "much harder to convey confidence for the policymaker who may make an important decision from advanced analytics with deep learning algorithms." Now that the CIA claims to be able to predict social unrest days in advance, there are some interesting theoretical possibilities that can come of this. One is that the CIA's siren servers will become so efficient that they will predict all social uprising and will be able to prevent it. If they are successful in doing that, there would be no need for the CIA as their technology could predict and prevent any societal upheavals, and the agency would be obsolete. Another potential outcome would be that the CIA could use the data and not tell anyone, just like the finance sector did, and then make calculated decisions on whether or not to intervene in any socially distressing situation.
Social Networks

Facebook Wins 'Big Brother' Award in Belgium After Being Declared Worst Privacy Villain ( 37

Facebook won the "Big Brother" award in Belgium on Thursday, after people in the nation reached a conclusion that the social juggernaut is the ultimate privacy villain. "Facebook is a multi-billion dollar company that has one commodity - you!" said Joe McNamee, Executive Director of European Digital Rights. From a CNET report: Facebook, nominated by international digital advocacy group EDRi, won after being criticized for its default privacy settings in a unanimous decision. The social network didn't respond to requests for comment. "Facebook has access to a wide range of personal data, and it tracks your movements across the web, whether you are logged in or not," EDRi said. "And the devil is in the default: To opt out, you are expected to navigate Facebook's complex web of settings."

US Intel Officially Blames the Russian Government For Hacking DNC ( 287

It's official, the Director of National Intelligence and Department of Homeland Security has blamed Russia for stealing and publishing archived emails from the Democratic National Committee in July. Wikileaks released over 19,000 emails and more than 8,000 attachments from the DNC in what was "part one of [their] new Hillary Leaks series." The Verge reports: "The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts," the statement reads. "We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized these activities." The release also mentions recent reports of attempted intrusions into voting systems in 20 different states, but says there is not yet enough evidence to attribute those attacks to the Russian government. Despite the acknowledged threat, the DNI says digital attacks are unlikely to directly alter election results. "It would be extremely difficult for someone, including a nation-state actor, to alter actual ballot counts or election results by cyber attack or intrusion," the statement reads. "This assessment is based on the decentralized nature of our election system in this country and the number of protections state and local election officials have in place." "Nevertheless," it continues, "DHS continues to urge state and local election officials to be vigilant."
The Internet

Bruce Schneier: We Need To Save the Internet From the Internet of Things ( 164

Bruce Schneier, writing for Motherboard:What was new about the Krebs attack was both the massive scale and the particular devices the attackers recruited. Instead of using traditional computers for their botnet, they used CCTV cameras, digital video recorders, home routers, and other embedded computers attached to the internet as part of the Internet of Things. Much has been written about how the IoT is wildly insecure. In fact, the software used to attack Krebs was simple and amateurish. What this attack demonstrates is that the economics of the IoT mean that it will remain insecure unless government steps in to fix the problem. This is a market failure that can't get fixed on its own.

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