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New Compilation of Banned Chinese Search-Terms Reveals Curiosities

slashdot - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 06:29
An anonymous reader writes Canada's Citizen Lab has compiled data from various research projects around the world in an attempt to create a manageable Github repository of government-banned Chinese keywords in internet search terms and which may appear in Chinese websites. Until now the study of such terms has proved problematic due to disparate research methods and publishing formats. A publicly available online spreadsheet which CCL have provided to demonstrate the project gives an interesting insight into the reactive and eccentric nature of the Great Blacklist of China, as far as outside research can deduce. Aside from the inevitable column listings of dissidents and references to government officials and the events in Tiananmen Square in 1989, search terms as basic as "system" and "human body" appear to be blocked.

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Study Explains Why Women Miscarry More Males During Tough Times

slashdot - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 05:31
sciencehabit writes In times of trouble, multiple studies have shown, more girls are born than boys. No one knows why, but men need not worry about being overrun by women. An analysis of old church records in Finland has revealed that the boys that are born in stressful times survive better than those born during less challenging periods. The work helps explain why women may have evolved a tendency to abort certain males and could lead to a better understanding of miscarriages.

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Lenovo Recalls LS-15 Power Cords

slashdot - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 03:08
jones_supa writes US Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that Lenovo is recalling a batch of laptop AC power cords due to fire hazard. The power cords have been bundled with IdeaPad brand B-, G-, S-, U-, V- and Z-series laptop computers and Lenovo brand B-, G- and V-series laptop computers. The recalled power cords are black in color and have the "LS-15" molded mark on the base of the IEC 60320 connector. The company seems to have been bitten by the exact same problem that HP faced this summer. Lenovo has set up an info page for affected customers.

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Sony Reportedly Is Using Cyber-Attacks To Keep Leaked Files From Spreading

slashdot - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 01:12
HughPickens.com writes Lily Hay Newman reports at Slate that Sony is counterhacking to keep its leaked files from spreading across torrent sites. According to Recode, Sony is using hundreds of computers in Asia to execute a denial of service attack on sites where its pilfered data is available, according to two people with direct knowledge of the matter. Sony used a similar approach in the early 2000s working with an anti-piracy firm called MediaDefender, when illegal file sharing exploded. The firm populated file-sharing networks with decoy files labeled with the names of such popular movies as "Spider-Man," to entice users to spend hours downloading an empty file. "Using counterattacks to contain leaks and deal with malicious hackers has been gaining legitimacy," writes Newman. "Some cybersecurity experts even feel that the Second Amendment can be interpreted as applying to 'cyber arms'."

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Julian Assange Trying To Raise Nearly $200k For a Statue of Himself

slashdot - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 00:50
Rei writes Julian Assange, from his refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy, has recently taken to Twitter to try to raise nearly $200,000 for a life-size bronze statue of himself. The statue would have him standing front and center between Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning (with Manning pictured as male); the art piece would be then shipped around the world on tour.

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Are the TSA's New Electronic Device Screenings Necessary?

slashdot - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 00:28
First time accepted submitter Amanda Parker writes In July the US warned of a terrorism risk which led countries, such as France and the UK, to step up their security screening for flights to the US. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson directed the TSA to implement enhanced security measures. In his statement on 6 July, Johnson warned that passengers could also be asked to "power up some devices, including cell phones" and stated that "powerless devices will not be permitted on board the aircraft". In light of the US Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) recent tightening of airport security to include stricter screening of electronic devices, is the TSA right to be cautious or have its actions caused unnecessary hassle for passengers?

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"Fat-Burning Pill" Inches Closer To Reality

slashdot - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 23:45
Zothecula writes with news that a fat burning pill may be on the horizon. "Researchers at Harvard University say they have identified two chemical compounds that could replace "bad" fat cells in the human body with healthy fat-burning cells, in what may be the first step toward the development of an effective medical treatment – which could even take the form of a pill – to help control weight gain. Not all fat is created equal. While white fat cells store energy as lipids and contribute to obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, the less common brown fat cells pack energy in iron-rich mitochondria, have been shown to lower triglyceride levels and insulin resistance in mice, and appear to be correlated with lower body weight in humans. Brown fat makes up about five percent of the body mass of healthy newborns, helping them keep warm, and is still present in lower quantities in our neck and shoulders as adults, where it helps burn the white fat cells."

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Bank Security Software EULA Allows Spying On Users

slashdot - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 23:03
An anonymous reader writes Trusteer Rapport, a software package whose installation is promoted by several major banks as an anti-fraud tool, has recently been acquired by IBM and has an updated EULA. Among other things, the new EULA includes this gem: "In addition, You authorize personnel of IBM, as Your Sponsoring Enterprise's data processor, to use the Program remotely to collect any files or other information from your computer that IBM security experts suspect may be related to malware or other malicious activity, or that may be associated with general Program malfunction." Welcome to the future...

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How Your In-Store Shopping Affects the Ads You See On Facebook

slashdot - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 22:22
itwbennett writes Facebook has made several acquisitions over the years to help advertisers target their ads and extend their reach. Custom Audiences is one such targeting tool, allowing retailers to match shoppers in their stores with their accounts on Facebook. It's often done through an email address, phone number or name. Facebook won't give hard numbers, but there seems to be a lot of matching going on. For decades, marketers have been trying to understand more about what's happening at the point of sale, 'so their systems are really robust at capturing a strikingly large amount of transactions,' says Brian Boland, Facebook's VP of advertising technology.

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Congress Passes Bill Allowing Warrantless Forfeiture of Private Communications

slashdot - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 21:26
Prune writes Congress has quietly passed an Intelligence Authorization Bill that includes warrantless forfeiture of private communications to local law enforcement. Representative Justin Amash unsuccessfully attempted a late bid to oppose the bill, which passed 325-100. According to Amash, the bill "grants the executive branch virtually unlimited access to the communications of every American." According to the article, a provision in the bill allows “the acquisition, retention, and dissemination” of Americans’ communications without a court order or subpoena. That type of collection is currently allowed under an executive order that dates back to former President Reagan, but the new stamp of approval from Congress was troubling, Amash said. Limits on the government’s ability to retain information in the provision did not satisfy the Michigan Republican."

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U.S. Passenger Vehicle Fleet Dirtier After 2008 Recession

slashdot - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 20:33
MTorrice writes The 2008 recession hammered the U.S. auto industry, driving down sales of 2009 models to levels 35% lower than those before the economic slump. A new study has found that because sales of new vehicles slowed, the average age of the U.S. fleet climbed more than expected, increasing the rate of air pollutants released by the fleet. In 2013, the researchers studied the emissions of more than 68,000 vehicles on the roads in three cities—Los Angeles, Denver, and Tulsa. They calculated the amount of pollution released per kilogram of fuel burned for the 2013 fleet and compared the rates to those that would have occurred if the 2013 fleet had the same age distribution as the prerecession fleet. For the three cities, carbon monoxide emissions were greater by 17 to 29%, hydrocarbons by 9 to 14%, nitrogen oxide emissions by 27 to 30%, and ammonia by 7 to 16%.

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Keurig 2.0 Genuine K-Cup Spoofing Vulnerability

slashdot - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 19:48
An anonymous reader writes A security researcher has released a humorous vulnerability description for the Keurig 2.0 coffee maker, which includes DRM designed to only brew Keurig brand coffe pods (K-Cups): "Keurig 2.0 Coffee Maker contains a vulnerability in which the authenticity of coffee pods, known as K-Cups, uses weak verification methods, which are subject to a spoofing attack through re-use of a previously verified K-Cup." The vulnerability description even includes mitigating controls, such as keeping the Keurig in a locked cabinet when not in use. Also at Hackaday.

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In Iowa, a Phone App Could Serve As Driver's License

slashdot - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 19:01
New submitter dubner writes Simply hand the law enforcement officer your mobile phone. That's what you can do in Iowa rather than "digging through clutter in your glove compartment for an insurance card." And soon your driver's license will be available on your phone too, according to a story in the (Des Moines Register). Iowans will soon be able to use a mobile app on their smartphones as their official driver's license issued by the Iowa Department of Transportation. Some marvelous quotes in TFA: "The new app should be highly secure ... People will use a pin number for verification." And "Branstad (Iowa governor)... noted that even Iowa children are now working on digital development projects." A raft of excuses ("battery's dead") and security problems come to mind; how would you implement such a system?

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MIT Removes Online Physics Lectures and Courses By Walter Lewin

slashdot - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 18:32
jIyajbe writes MIT is indefinitely removing retired physics faculty member Walter Lewin's online lectures from MIT OpenCourseWare and online MITx courses from edX, the online learning platform co-founded by MIT, following a determination that Dr. Lewin engaged in online sexual harassment in violation of MIT policies. For an example of Lewin's colorful style, see this YouTube video. MIT has also revoked Lewin's title as professor emeritus, after the school determined that he "had sexually harassed at least one student online."

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Canadian Supreme Court Rules In Favor of Warrantless Cellphone Searches

slashdot - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 17:41
An anonymous reader writes In a surprising decision, a split Supreme Court of Canada ruled this morning that police can search cellphones without a warrant incident to an arrest. The majority established some conditions, but ultimately ruled that it could navigate the privacy balance by establishing some safeguards with the practice. Michael Geist notes that a strongly worded dissent disagreed, emphasizing the privacy implications of access to cellphones and the need for judicial pre-authorization as the best method of addressing the privacy implications. The U.S. Supreme Court's June 2014 decision in Riley addressed similar issues and ruled that a warrant is needed to search a phone.

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Study of Massive Preprint Archive Hints At the Geography of Plagiarism

slashdot - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 16:51
sciencehabit writes with this excerpt from Science Insider: New analyses of the hundreds of thousands of technical manuscripts submitted to arXiv, the repository of digital preprint articles, are offering some intriguing insights into the consequences — and geography — of scientific plagiarism. It appears that copying text from other papers is more common in some nations than others, but the outcome is generally the same for authors who copy extensively: Their papers don't get cited much. The system attempts to rule out certain kinds of innocent copying: "It's a fairly sophisticated machine learning logistic classifier," says arXiv founder Paul Ginsparg, a physicist at Cornell University. "It has special ways of detecting block quotes, italicized text, text in quotation marks, as well statements of mathematical theorems, to avoid false positives."

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The Case For Flipping Your Monitor From Landscape to Portrait

slashdot - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 16:10
Molly McHugh writes The vast majority of computer-related tasks see no benefit from a screen that is longer than it is tall. Sure, video playback and gaming are some key exceptions, but if you watch Netflix on your TV instead of your computer monitor and you're not into PC gaming, that long, wide display is doing nothing but hampering your experience. Let's flip it. No, seriously. Let's flip it sideways.

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Army Building an Airport Just For Drones

slashdot - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 15:16
schwit1 writes The Army's ever-growing use of unmanned aerial systems has gotten to the point where two of the most commonly used UAS are getting their own airport. The service's Corps of Engineers at Fort Worth, Texas, has awarded a $33 million contract to SGS to build a 150-acre unmanned aircraft launch and recovery complex at Fort Bliss for Grey Eagle and Shadow UAS. In related news, the FAA has just cleared 4 companies (Trimble Navigation Limited, VDOS Global, Clayco Inc. and Woolpert Inc.) to use drones commercially, for purposes such as site inspection and aerial surveys. (A lot of drones are already in use, of course, but the FAA doesn't like it.)

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California Sues Uber Over Practices

slashdot - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 10:35
mpicpp writes with news that California is the latest government to file a lawsuit against Uber. "California prosecutors on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against Uber over the ridesharing company's background checks and other allegations, adding to the popular startup's worldwide legal woes. San Francisco County District Attorney George Gascon, meanwhile, said Uber competitor Lyft agreed to pay $500,000 and change some of its business practices to settle its own lawsuit. Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey partnered with Gascon in a probe of the nascent ridesharing industry. A third company — Sidecar — is still under investigation and could face a lawsuit of its own if it can't reach an agreement with prosecutors. Uber faces similar legal issues elsewhere as it tries to expand in cities, states and countries around the world. The companies have popular smartphone apps that allow passengers to order rides in privately driven cars instead of taxis."

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Rosetta Results: Comets "Did Not Bring Water To Earth"

slashdot - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 08:05
An anonymous reader writes with findings from the Rosetta mission which suggests water on Earth probably came from asteroids, and not comets."Scientists have dealt a blow to the theory that most water on Earth came from comets. Results from Europe's Rosetta mission, which made history by landing on Comet 67P in November, shows the water on the icy mass is unlike that on our planet. The results are published in the journal Science. The authors conclude it is more likely that the water came from asteroids, but other scientists say more data is needed before comets can be ruled out."

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