Security

Petya Ransomware Outbreak Originated In Ukraine Via Tainted Accounting Software (bleepingcomputer.com) 6

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: Today's massive ransomware outbreak was caused by a malicious software update for M.E.Doc, a popular accounting software used by Ukrainian companies. According to several researchers, such as Cisco Talos, ESET, MalwareHunter, Kaspersky Lab, and others, an unknown attacker was able to compromise the software update mechanism for M.E.Doc's servers, and deliver a malicious update to customers. When the update reached M.E.Doc's customers, the tainted software packaged delivered the Petya ransomware -- also referenced online as NotPetya, or Petna. The Ukrainian software vendor appears to have inadvertently confirmed that something was wrong when, this morning, issued a security advisory. Hours later, as the ransomware outbreak spread all over Ukraine and other countries across the globe causing huge damages, M.E.Doc denied on Facebook its servers ever served any malware. According to security researcher MalwareHunter, this is not the first time M.E.Doc has carried a malicious software update that delivered ransomware. Back in May, the company's software update mechanism also helped spread the XData ransomware.
Crime

Police Use Lyft As 'Trojan Horse' To Capture Suspect In Murder of Tech CEO (myajc.com) 28

McGruber writes: On Friday, June 23, 2017, three men broke into the home of Albert Eugene DeMagnus, the CEO of Computer Management Services. The men stabbed DeMangus, who was pronounced dead after he had been taken to a hospital. Police officers chased two of the suspects as they fled in DeMangus' gray Lexus. The Lexus crashed and the two men ran away into the woods. Police then set up a perimeter with road checkpoints. Soon, a Lyft driver approached a checkpoint and told police she was picking up a passenger nearby. "This may be one of our suspects trying to leave the scene," Fayette County, Georgia Sheriff Barry Babb thought of the person being picked up. So Babb and three officers got into his car, which happened to be identical to the Lyft driver's. They got the location of the suspect from the Lyft driver and simply drove to the suspect, posing as his ride. "The subject walked all the way up, was about to open the door and get in our vehicle, when we exited and identified ourself," said Sheriff Babb. The suspect fled and got about 100 yards into the woods before being taken into custody. "That was something that was unique for us," Babb said, "a first time for us."
Graphics

NVIDIA To Launch Graphics Cards Specifically Designed For Digital Currency Mining (cnbc.com) 49

Digital currency mining is in high demand, causing GPU prices to skyrocket. Nvidia is planning to capitalize on this trend by releasing graphics cards specifically designed for cryptocurrency. From a product listing on ASUS' website: "ASUS Mining P106 is designed for coin mining with high-efficiency components -- delivering maximum hash-rate production at minimum cost. ASUS Mining P106 enhances the megahash rate by up to 36% compared cards in the same segment that are not tailored for mining. The new card is also engineered to be seriously durable, enabling 24/7 operation for uninterrupted coin production." The ASUS Mining P106 uses an Nvidia chip, according to the specifications page on the website. CNBC reports: Nvidia, AMD and ASUS have not officially announced the digital currency mining cards, according to their website press pages. It is not certain when the cards will be available for sale. Nvidia is likely making the cards designed for this use so that the surging digital currency demand doesn't affect its ability to serve the lucrative PC gaming market.
Microsoft

Microsoft Bringing EMET Back As a Built-In Part of Windows 10 (arstechnica.com) 24

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update will include EMET-like capabilities managed through a new feature called Windows Defender Exploit Guard. Microsoft's EMET, the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit, was a useful tool for hardening Windows systems. It used a range of techniques -- some built in to Windows, some part of EMET itself -- to make exploitable security flaws harder to reliably exploit. The idea being that, even if coding bugs should occur, turning those bugs into actual security issues should be made as difficult as possible. With Windows 10, however, EMET's development was essentially cancelled. But as more mitigation capabilities have been put into Windows, the need for a system for managing and controlling them has not gone away. Some of the mitigations introduce application compatibility issues -- a few even require applications to be deliberately written with the mitigation in mind -- which means that Windows does not simply turn on every mitigation for every application. It's here that Exploit Guard comes in.
Security

Hacker Behind Massive Ransomware Outbreak Can't Get Emails From Victims Who Paid (vice.com) 107

Joseph Cox, reporting for Motherboard: On Tuesday, a new, worldwide ransomware outbreak took off, infecting targets in Ukraine, France, Spain, and elsewhere. The hackers hit everything from international law firms to media companies. The ransom note demands victims send bitcoin to a predefined address and contact the hacker via email to allegedly have their files decrypted. But the email company the hacker happened to use, Posteo, says it has decided to block the attacker's account, leaving victims with no obvious way to unlock their files. [...] The hacker tells victims to send $300 worth of bitcoin. But to determine who exactly has paid, the hacker also instructs people to email their bitcoin wallet ID, and their "personal installation key." This is a 60 character code made up of letters and digits generated by the malware, which is presumably unique to each infection of the ransomware. That process is not possible now, though. "Midway through today (CEST) we became aware that ransomware blackmailers are currently using a Posteo address as a means of contact," Posteo, the German email provider the hacker had an account with, wrote in a blog post. "Our anti-abuse team checked this immediately -- and blocked the account straight away.
Businesses

The App Economy Will Be Worth $6 Trillion in Five Years (recode.net) 63

An anonymous reader shares a report: In five years, the app economy will be worth $6.3 trillion, up from $1.3 trillion last year, according to a report released today by app measurement company App Annie. What explains the growth? More people are spending more time and -- crucially -- more money in apps. While on average people aren't downloading many more apps, App Annie expects global app usership to nearly double to 6.3 billion people in the next five years while the time spent in apps will more than double. And, it expects the average app spend -- including app-store purchases, advertising spend and, most importantly, commerce -- to increase from $379 per person to $1,008 in 2021. The 800-pound -- or $6 trillion -- gorilla in the room is mobile commerce.
Social Networks

Facebook Crosses 2 Billion Monthly Users (theverge.com) 75

Facebook has announced that it now has over 2 billion monthly active users. From a report: That's up from the 1.94 billion total that the company cited as part of its most recent earnings report in May. Mark Zuckerberg shared the news directly, and Fast Company has a story on Facebook's constant efforts to keep pushing growth upward. "It's an honor to be on this journey with you," Zuckerberg wrote. Facebook's other apps are faring well, too: Messenger has over 1.2 billion monthly users and Facebook-owned WhatsApp tallies a similar figure. Twitter, by comparison, has 328 million monthly active users. Instagram has over 700 million.
Transportation

Volvo's Driverless Cars 'Confused' by Kangaroos (bbc.com) 109

An anonymous reader shares a report: Volvo's self-driving technology is struggling to identify kangaroos in the road. The Swedish car-maker's 2017 S90 and XC90 models use its Large Animal Detection system to monitor the road for deer, elk and caribou. But the way kangaroos move confuses it. "We've noticed with the kangaroo being in mid-flight when it's in the air, it actually looks like it's further away, then it lands and it looks closer," its Australia technical manager said. But the problem would not delay the rollout of driverless cars in the country, David Pickett added.
China

China's All-Seeing Surveillance State Is Reading Its Citizens' Faces (wsj.com) 92

China's government is using facial-recognition technology to help promote good behavior and catch lawbreakers, reports the WSJ. From the article: Facial-recognition technology, once a specter of dystopian science fiction, is becoming a feature of daily life in China, where authorities are using it on streets, in subway stations, at airports and at border crossings in a vast experiment in social engineering (alternative source). Their goal: to influence behavior and identify lawbreakers. Ms. Gan, 31 years old, had been caught on camera crossing illegally here once before, allowing the system to match her two images. Text displayed on the crosswalk screens identified her as a repeat offender. "I won't ever run a red light again," she said. China is rushing to deploy new technologies to monitor its people in ways that would spook many in the U.S. and the West. Unfettered by privacy concerns or public debate, Beijing's authoritarian leaders are installing iris scanners at security checkpoints in troubled regions and using sophisticated software to monitor ramblings on social media. By 2020, the government hopes to implement a national "social credit" system that would assign every citizen a rating based on how they behave at work, in public venues and in their financial dealings.
Businesses

Short of IT Workers At Home, Israeli Startups Recruit Elsewhere (reuters.com) 107

New submitter Alex Wilson shares a Reuters report: Driven by startups, Israel's technology industry is the fastest growing part of the economy. It accounts for 14 percent of economic output and 50 percent of exports. But a shortage of workers means its position at the cutting edge of global technology is at risk, with consequences for the economy and employment. When Alexey Chalimov founded software design firm Eastern Peak in Israel four years ago he knew he would not find the developers he needed at home. He went to Ukraine and hired 120 people to develop mobile apps and web platforms for international clients and smaller Israeli startups. "I worked for years in the Israeli market and I knew what the costs were in Israel and I knew there was a shortage of workers," he told Reuters.

The government's Innovation Authority forecasts a shortage of 10,000 engineers and programmers over the next decade in a market that employs 140,000. Israel has dropped six spots in three years to 17th in the World Economic Forum's ranking of the ease of finding skilled technology employees. In the meantime, many Israeli startups are looking abroad.

Apple

The New iPad Pro Review (twitter.com) 175

An anonymous reader writes: As tech reviewers across the United States and Europe sing praises of Apple's new iPad Pro, here's what Joshua Topolsky, former editor-in-chief of The Verge and Engadget (and now with The Outline) had to say: "It [10.5-inch iPad Pro] is inferior to a laptop in almost every way, unless you like to draw. If you think you can replace you laptop with this setup: you cannot. Imagine a computer, but everything works worse than you expect. That is the new iPad. Now, I know the software is in beta, but I also know how Apple betas work. They don't massively change. I have no doubt it's a very powerful piece of hardware, and the screen is gorgeous. Garageband is a lot of fun to play with. But this doesn't COME CLOSE to replacing your laptop, even for simple things you do, like email. AND one other thing. Apple's keyboard cover is a fucking atrocity. A terrible piece of hardware. Awkward to use, poor as a cover. Okay in a pinch if you need something LIKE a keyboard. Anyhow good to know there are still Apple fanboys who get mad if you insult their products. But I don't think it's a very good product. Finally, iOS 11 is definitely a STEP in the right direction. But guys the iPad has been around forever and it still feels half-assed. I think a lot of people are willing to contort themselves around a bad UX because marketing is powerful."
Google

Google Slapped With $2.7 Billion By EU For Skewing Searches (bloomberg.com) 297

Google suffered a major regulatory blow on Tuesday after European antitrust officials fined the search giant 2.4 billion euros, or $2.7 billion, for unfairly favoring some of its own search services over those of rivals. The European Commission concluded that the search giant abused its near-monopoly in online search to "give illegal advantage" to its own Shopping service. Margrethe Vestager, the EU's competition commissioner, said Google "denied other companies the chance to compete" and left consumers without "genuine choice." The hefty fine marks the latest chapter in a lengthy standoff between Europe and Google, which also faces two separate charges under the region's competition rules related to Android, its popular mobile software, and to some of its advertising products. From a report: Google has 90 days to "stop its illegal conduct" and give equal treatment to rival price-comparison services, according to a binding order from the European Commission on Tuesday. It's up to Google to choose how it does this and it must tell the EU within 60 days of its plans. Failure to comply brings a risk of fines of up to 5 percent of its daily revenue. [...] "I expect the Commission now to swiftly conclude the other two ongoing investigations against Google," Markus Ferber, a member of the European Parliament from Germany. "Unfortunately, the Google case also illustrates that competition cases tend to drag on for far too long before they are eventually resolved. In a fast-moving digital economy this means often enough that market abuse actually pays off and the abuser succeeds in eliminating the competition." Google has been pushing its own comparison shopping service since 2008, systematically giving it prominent placement when people search for an item, the EU said. Rival comparison sites usually only appear on page four of search results, effectively denying them a massive audience as the first page attracts 95 percent of all clicks. In a blog post, Google said the EU has "underestimated" the value Google's services brings to the table. "We believe the European Commission's online shopping decision underestimates the value of those kinds of fast and easy connections. While some comparison shopping sites naturally want Google to show them more prominently, our data show that people usually prefer links that take them directly to the products they want, not to websites where they have to repeat their searches. We think our current shopping results are useful and are a much-improved version of the text-only ads we showed a decade ago. Showing ads that include pictures, ratings, and prices benefits us, our advertisers, and most of all, our users. And we show them only when your feedback tells us they are relevant. Thousands of European merchants use these ads to compete with larger companies like Amazon and eBay. [...] Given the evidence, we respectfully disagree with the conclusions announced today. We will review the Commission's decision in detail as we consider an appeal, and we look forward to continuing to make our case," wrote Kent Walker, SVP and General Counsel at Google.
Robotics

Amazon Robots Poised To Revamp How Whole Foods Runs Warehouses (bloomberg.com) 91

After Amazon announced it would buy Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion earlier this month, John Mackey, Whole Foods' chief executive officer, rejoiced and reportedly gushed about Amazon's technological innovation. "We will be joining a company that's visionary," Mackey said. "I think we're gonna get a lot of those innovations in our stores. I think we're gonna see a lot of technology. I think you're gonna see Whole Foods Market evolve in leaps and bounds." Specifically, Mackey is talking about the thousands of delivery robots Amazon uses in its facilities. Bloomberg reports: In negotiations, Amazon spent a lot of time analyzing Whole Foods' distribution technology, pointing to a possible way in which the company sees the most immediate opportunities to reduce costs, said a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because the issue was private. Experts say the most immediate changes would likely be in warehouses that customers never see. That suggests the jobs that could be affected the earliest would be in the warehouses, where products from suppliers await transport to store shelves, said Gary Hawkins, CEO of the Center for Advancing Retail and Technology, a Los Angeles nonprofit that helps retailers and brands innovate. As Amazon looks to automate distribution, cashiers will be safe -- for now. Amazon sees automation as a key strategic advantage in its overall grocery strategy, according to company documents reviewed by Bloomberg before the Whole Foods acquisition was announced. Whole Foods has 11 distribution centers specializing in perishable foods that serve its stores. It also has seafood processing plants, kitchens and bakeries that supply prepared food to each location. Those are the places where Amazon could initially focus, according to experts. While the company said it has no current plans to automate the jobs of cashiers in Whole Foods stores after it finishes acquiring the grocery chain, it's likely only a matter of time before cashier positions become automated. According to Bloomberg's report, Amazon may bring the robots to the stores after automating Whole Foods' warehouses. "The first ones will likely navigate aisles to check inventory and alert employees when items run low, said Austin Bohlig, an advisor at Loup Ventures, which invests in robotics startups," reports Bloomberg.
Science

Physicists Have Created the Brightest Light Ever Recorded (vice.com) 95

Jason Koebler writes: A group of physicists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Extreme Light Laboratory announced Monday that they have created the brightest light ever produced on Earth using Diocles, one of the most powerful lasers in the United States. When this high intensity laser pulse, which is one billion times brighter than the surface of the sun, strikes the electron, it causes it to behave differently. By firing this laser at individual electrons, the researchers found that past a certain threshold, the brightness of light will actually change an object's appearance rather than simply making it brighter. The x-rays that are produced in this fashion have an extremely high amount of energy, and Umstadter and his colleagues think this could end up being applied in a number of ways. For starters, it could allow doctors to produce x-ray medical images on the nanoscale, which would allow them to detect tumors and other anomalies that regular x-rays might have missed. Moreover, it could also be used for more sophisticated x-ray scanning at airports and other security checkpoints.
The Internet

Social Media Giants Step Up Joint Fight Against Extremist Content (reuters.com) 156

Social media giants Facebook, Google's YouTube, Twitter and Microsoft said on Monday they were forming a global working group to combine their efforts to remove terrorist content from their platforms. From a report: Responding to pressure from governments in Europe and the United States after a spate of militant attacks, the companies said they would share technical solutions for removing terrorist content, commission research to inform their counter-speech efforts and work more with counter-terrorism experts. The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism "will formalize and structure existing and future areas of collaboration between our companies and foster cooperation with smaller tech companies, civil society groups and academics, governments and supra-national bodies such as the EU and the UN," the companies said in a statement.
Twitter

New Study Explains Why Trump's 'Sad' Tweets Are So Effective (theverge.com) 240

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: During his campaign and presidency, Donald Trump has used Twitter to circumvent traditional media broadcasters and speak directly to the masses. He is particularly known for one specific tweet construction: he sets up a situation that he feels should inspire anger or outrage, then punctuates it with "Sad!" New research from New York University suggests a reason why this style is so effective: a tweet containing moral and emotional language spreads farther among people with similar political persuasion. The study offered up "duty" as an example of a purely moral word, "fear" as a purely emotional one, and "hate" as word that combined the two categories. The research found that the use of purely moral or purely emotional language had a limited impact on the spread of a tweet, but the "presence of moral-emotional words in messages increased their diffusion by a factor of 20% for each additional word." The impact of this language cut both ways. Tweets with moral-emotional words spread further among those with a similar political outlook, and they spread less with those who held opposing views, according to the research published in the journal PNAS. The study looked at 563,312 tweets on the topics of gun control, same-sex marriage, and climate change, and rated their impact by the number of retweets each one received.
Businesses

Zillow Threatens To Sue Blogger For Using Its Photos For Parody (theverge.com) 128

Kate Wagner is facing potential legal charges by real estate Zillow for allegedly violating the site's terms of service by reproducing images from their site on her blog. Wagner's blog is called McMansion Hell -- a Tumblr blog that "highlights the absurdity of giant real estate properties and the ridiculous staging and photography that are omnipresent in their sales listings," writes Natt Garun via The Verge. From the report: A typical McMansion Hell blog post will have a professional photo of a home and / or its interior, along with captions scattered throughout by Wagner. She also adds information about the history and characteristics of various architecture styles, and uses photos from the likes of Zillow and Redfin to illustrate how so many real estate listings inaccurately use the terms. Under each post, Wagner adds a disclaimer that credits the original source of the images and cites Fair Use for the parody, which allows for use of copyrighted material for "criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research." In a cease and desist letter to Wagner, Zillow claims Wagner's reproduction of these images do not apply under the Copyright Act. Additionally, the company claims McMansion Hell may "[interfere] with Zillow's business expectations and interests." As a result of the potential lawsuit, Wagner has temporarily taken McMansionHell.com down. In a statement to The Verge, Zillow said: "Zillow has a legal obligation to honor the agreements we make with our listing providers about how photos can be used. We are asking this blogger to take down the photos that are protected by copyright rules, but we did not demand she shut down her blog and hope she can find a way to continue her work."
Earth

'Infarm' Startup Wants To Put a Farm In Every Grocery Store (techcrunch.com) 83

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.
Google

Google Home Is 6 Times More Likely To Answer Your Question Than Amazon Alexa (adweek.com) 60

According to software developed by New York-based 360i, Google Home is six times more likely to answer your question than Amazon Alexa -- its biggest competitor. Adweek reports: It's relatively surprising, considering that RBC Capital Markets projects Alexa will drive $10 billion of revenue to Amazon by 2020 -- not to mention the artificial intelligence-based system currently owns 70 percent of the voice market. 360i's proprietary software asked both devices 3,000 questions to come to the figure. While Amazon Alexa has shown considerable strength in retail search during the agency's research, Google won the day thanks to its unmatched search abilities.
The Internet

'I'm Suing New York City To Loosen Verizon's Iron Grip' (wired.com) 61

New submitter mirandakatz writes: New York City is lagging far behind when it comes to ensuring ubiquitous, reasonably priced fiber optic internet access for every resident. There's a jaw-dropping digital divide in the city, and more than a quarter of households are still using dial-up. The city could be doing more to fix that -- but it's not. That's why Susan Crawford, a professor at Harvard Law School and fierce advocate for nationwide fiber, is suing the city. At Backchannel, Crawford writes that "the city's intransigence should be embarrassing to it. Instead of a plan, instead of exercising power and acting coherently, all we've got is shuffling and nay-saying. Getting information regarding access is the key to transforming telecommunications policy in the U.S. -- as well as in New York City. We must do better." "New York City is the regulator of all the underground conduit in those two boroughs -- meaning the pipes running under the streets through which fiber optic lines are threaded," Crawford writes. "At any moment, it could require that additional conduit be built where it doesn't now exist. It could require that choked-up conduit that is now decades old be cleaned and repaired. And it could require that that conduit run to every building in the city, and require that all new buildings have neutral connection points in their basements allowing many competitors to hawk their services to tenants. If the city took these steps [...] it would foster a vibrantly competitive marketplace for retail fiber-based services for everyone. Dozens of competitors. Low prices for data transmission. But the problem is that, as far as I can tell, the city that never sleeps is, in fact, asleep: It is not taking advantage of its powers. That is why I sued the city five years ago seeking information about its regulatory efforts."

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