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2018-05-22 22:25:53 UTC
2018-05-23 01:23:37 UTC
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From a Business Insider Article
A couple in Portland, Oregon, say that speakers in their home powered by Amazon's Alexa smart voice assistant recorded a private conversation and sent the recording to a person in their contacts.
A woman named Danielle says she and her husband got a call two weeks ago from the contact, who told them to immediately unplug all their devices because he had heard their conversation in his home 176 miles away in Seattle, KIRO-TV first reported. She said he proved it by providing details about the conversation.
Amazon told the news station: "Amazon takes privacy very seriously. We investigated what happened and determined this was an extremely rare occurrence. We are taking steps to avoid this from happening in the future."
[...] Here's what happened, according to Amazon:
"Echo woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like 'Alexa.' Then, the subsequent conversation was heard as a 'send message' request. At which point, Alexa said out loud 'To whom?' At which point, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customers contact list. Alexa then asked out loud, '[contact name], right?' Alexa then interpreted background conversation as 'right'. As unlikely as this string of events is, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely."
If we're going to be unable to resist having devices in our private spaces which can record our private conversations, then Amazon needs to step up and seriously upgrade the security and privacy to the level we've come to expect from IoT devices.
Monique Sedgwick, Jeffrey MacCormack, and Lance Grigg report via AlterNet
Sentencing practices for youth who engage in non-violent crimes have traditionally adopted a punitive approach--for example, ordering time in a juvenile detention centre. However, research suggests that punitive models have little impact on reducing the chances of reoffending.
In fact, punitive sentencing[PDF] can result in poor social outcomes, low rates of employment, and higher school dropout rates.
Some people suggest a more rehabilitative approach to sentencing is needed. For example, youth could be sentenced to programs that provide opportunities for developing life skills and establishing more positive relationships. This may result in increased levels of self-confidence, reducing the chance of reoffending.[PDF]
Alternate sentencing initiatives focus on fair sentencing practices that are appropriate and support the reintegration of youth back into the community.
Within the Young Offenders Branch of the Alberta government and the [Canadian] province's Assistant Deputy Minister's office, there is a movement towards alternate sentencing for youth involved in non-violent crimes. As a result, Alberta's Ministry of Justice and the faculties of education and health sciences at the University of Lethbridge have teamed up to deliver a unique program as an alternate sentence: Chess for Life.
Chess for Life is a 25-hour chess instruction program lead by longtime chess players Dr. Lance Grigg and assistants Riley Kostek and Josh Markle. Youth learn opening, middle, and end-game strategies while playing the program leaders and each other.
While the youth may not know it, they also are developing skills in reasoning, problem-solving, paying attention, planning, focusing, and decision-making.
The malware, called VPNFilter, has infected more than 500,000 routers in 54 countries, researchers say. More than half a million routers and network devices in 54 countries have been infected with sophisticated malware, researchers from Cisco's Talos Intelligence Group warn. The malware, which the security researchers are calling VPNFilter, contains a killswitch for routers, can steal logins and passwords, and can monitor industrial control systems.
An attack would have the potential to cut off internet access for all the devices, William Largent, a researcher with Talos, said Wednesday in a blog post.
Late Wednesday, the FBI received court permission to seize an internet domain that the Justice Department says a Russian hacking group, known as the Sofacy Group, was using to control infected devices. The group, which also goes by the names Apt28 and Fancy Bear, has targeted government, military and security organizations since at least 2007.
"This operation is the first step in the disruption of a botnet that provides the Sofacy actors with an array of capabilities that could be used for a variety of malicious purposes, including intelligence gathering, theft of valuable information, destructive or disruptive attacks, and the misattribution of such activities," Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said in a statement.
Attacks on routers strike a nerve not only because they can halt internet access, but also because hackers can use the malware to monitor web activity, including password use. In April, US and UK officials warned about Russian hackers targeting millions of routers around the world, with plans to carry out massive attacks leveraging the devices. In that announcement, the FBI called routers a "tremendous weapon in the hands of an adversary."
[...] The Cyber Threat Alliance, which Cisco is a member of, has briefed companies about the destructive malware, calling VPNFilter a "serious threat."
"It has destructive capability. The malware's flexible command structure gives the adversary the ability to use it to 'brick' these devices. That's not a capability usually built into malware like this," Cyber Threat Alliance President Michael Daniel said.
Talos is recommending that people reset their routers to factory defaults to remove the potentially destructive malware and update their devices as soon as possible.
An Uber Technologies Inc. car involved in a deadly crash in Arizona wasn’t designed to automatically brake in case of an emergency, the National Transportation Safety Board said in its preliminary report on the accident.
The self-driving car, which was being tested on a public road with a human operator, struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona in March. Uber said Wednesday that it was closing down its self-driving vehicle program in the state, two months after Arizona barred it from road-testing the technology.
NTSB Preliminary Report Released
The NTSB has released a preliminary report on the Uber pedestrian accident in Arizona. This is being reported widely, but it took a little digging to find the actual report, which is linked from the NTSB press release at: https://www.ntsb.gov/news/press-releases/Pages/NR20180524.aspx The PDF report, 3-1/2 pages with several illustrations, can be downloaded directly with https://goo.gl/2C6ZCH
From the second page of the report:
Uber had equipped the test vehicle with a developmental self-driving system. The system consisted of
forward- and side-facing cameras, radars, LIDAR, navigation sensors, and a computing and data storage
unit integrated into the vehicle. 1 Uber had also equipped the vehicle with an aftermarket camera system
that was mounted in the windshield and rear window and that provided additional front and rear videos,
along with an inward-facing view of the vehicle operator. In total, 10 camera views were recorded over
the course of the entire trip.
The self-driving system relies on an underlying map that establishes speed limits and permissible lanes
of travel. The system has two distinct control modes: computer control and manual control. The operator
can engage computer control by first enabling, then engaging the system in a sequence similar to
activating cruise control. The operator can transition from computer control to manual control by
providing input to the steering wheel, brake pedal, accelerator pedal, a disengage button, or a disable
The vehicle was factory equipped with several advanced driver assistance functions by Volvo Cars, the
original manufacturer. The systems included a collision avoidance function with automatic emergency
braking, known as City Safety, as well as functions for detecting driver alertness and road sign
information. All these Volvo functions are disabled when the test vehicle is operated in computer control
but are operational when the vehicle is operated in manual control.
According to Uber, the developmental self-driving system relies on an attentive operator to intervene if
the system fails to perform appropriately during testing. In addition, the operator is responsible for
monitoring diagnostic messages that appear on an interface in the center stack of the vehicle dash and
tagging events of interest for subsequent review.
On the night of the crash, the operator departed Uber's garage with the vehicle at 9:14 p.m. to run an
established test route. At the time of the crash, the vehicle was traveling on its second loop of the test
route and had been in computer control since 9:39 p.m. (i.e., for the preceding 19 minutes).
According to data obtained from the self-driving system, the system first registered radar and LIDAR
observations of the pedestrian about 6 seconds before impact, when the vehicle was traveling at 43 mph.
As the vehicle and pedestrian paths converged, the self-driving system software classified the pedestrian
as an unknown object, as a vehicle, and then as a bicycle with varying expectations of future travel path.
At 1.3 seconds before impact, the self-driving system determined that an emergency braking maneuver
was needed to mitigate a collision (see figure 2). 2 According to Uber, emergency braking maneuvers are
not enabled while the vehicle is under computer control, to reduce the potential for erratic vehicle
behavior. The vehicle operator is relied on to intervene and take action. The system is not designed to
alert the operator.
Checking your phone dozens of times a day indicates unconscious behaviour, which is "extremely repetitive" say psychologists. A study by Lancaster University and the University of Lincoln is unique in that it is one of a few studies that examined smartphone usage based on what people do rather than what they can remember.
Existing research is yet to conclude whether people really are 'addicted' to their smartphones due to over reliance on people's own estimates or beliefs.
But new research into smartphone behaviour has revealed that while people underestimate time spent on their smartphones, their behaviour is remarkably consistent, thus enabling a more rigorous approach to the study of smartphone behaviours. The researchers analysed usage over 13 days using a simple smartphone app which time stamped when usage began and ended. From this data, they were able to calculate the number of total hours usage and the number of checks for each day, with a check defined as any usage lasting less than 15 seconds.
For example, the researchers found that if you check your phone 80 times today, you are likely to repeat this behaviour every day.
[...] Dr Ellis said: "To fully understand the effect of screen time on health and well-being, we probably need to consider measures of smartphone behaviour as well as self-report.
Britain ramped up a Brexit space row with the EU on Thursday, saying it will demand repayment if it is excluded from the Galileo satellite navigation project. Newspaper reports suggested London could seek £1 billion ($1.34 billion, 1.14 billion euros) in compensation for its investment in the programme.
Brussels has said it will deny London access to Galileo's encrypted signals after Brexit, citing legal issues about sharing sensitive security information with a non-member state.
A report issued by Britain's Department for Exiting the European Union said it had "strong objections" to being frozen out of the 10-billion-euro programme and called for an "urgent resolution to the exclusion". "Should the UK's future access be restricted, the UK's past contribution to the financing of space assets should be discussed," the report said. The British report suggested it may have to reopen negotiations on the £39 billion (40-45 billion euros) Brexit "divorce bill" that was agreed in December to make up for its exclusion. It said the deal agreed then had provided for Britain's continued involvement in the Galileo programme, which has important uses in both the civilian and military fields.
[...] Britain played a major role in developing Galileo, an alternative to the US's GPS, which is expected to be fully operational in 2026. It demands continued British access to the secure signal and a right to compete for contracts. Britain is looking into developing its own, separate system if the EU maintains its position, and has also raised the question of Galileo's use of Britain's overseas territories as monitoring bases.
[...] The Times newspaper reported Thursday that the decision to block Britain was being led by a "German-backed clique" in the European Commission, and that it had caused a rift with French officials, who were reportedly unhappy with the plan. Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands and the Baltic states have also objected to denying Britain access, said the report.
Nearly 120lbs (54kg) of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic painkiller, has been seized by police in Nebraska - one of the largest busts in US history.
The drugs, seized last month, could kill over 26 million people, according to estimates by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Police found the fentanyl in a fake compartment of a lorry. The driver and a passenger were arrested.
[...] It was the largest seizure of fentanyl in state history, Nebraska State Patrol said in a Twitter post on Thursday.
[...] Just 2mg of fentanyl - or a few grains of table salt - is a lethal dosage for most people, and even exposure can cause a fatal reaction, according to the DEA.
Another estimate: they could make 260 million people pain-free for a day.
Scientists at the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife have found that mussels in Seattle's waters are testing positive for opioids. The finding suggests "a lot of people" are taking oxycodone in the Puget Sound, researchers say.
Also at the Puget Sound Institute.
Related: Opioid Addiction is Big Business
Heroin, Fentanyl? Meh: Carfentanil is the Latest Killer Opioid
Cop Brushes Fentanyl Off Uniform, Overdoses
Opioid Crisis Official; Insys Therapeutics Billionaire Founder Charged; Walgreens Stocks Narcan
U.S. Life Expectancy Continues to Decline Due to Opioid Crisis
Senate Investigators Google Their Way to $766 Million of Fentanyl
"Synthetic Opioids" Now Kill More People than Prescription Opioids in the U.S.
British Medical Journal Calls for Legalizing All Drugs
Submitted via IRC for Runaway1956
Massachusetts and Rhode Island both awarded major offshore wind contracts on Wednesday, underscoring the increasing economic viability of a kind of renewable energy that has been long considered too expensive.
The Massachusetts installation will have a capacity of 800MW. Situated 14 miles off Martha's Vineyard, the wind farm will be called "Vineyard Wind," and it has an accelerated timetable: it's due to start sending electricity back to the grid as soon as 2021. According to Greentech Media, the contract was won by Avangrid Renewables and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, both companies with headquarters in Europe. The two share 50/50 ownership of the project and beat Deepwater Wind and Bay State Wind in the bidding.
Massachusetts recently approved an ambitious goal to build 1.6GW of wind energy capacity off its coast by 2027. This new contract gets the state half of the way there. According to a press release from Vineyard Wind, the owners of the project will now begin negotiations for transmission services and power purchase agreements. The press release added that the project "will reduce Massachusetts' carbon emissions by over 1.6 million tons per year, the equivalent of removing 325,000 cars from state roads."
[...] The second major contract awarded on Wednesday came from the state of Rhode Island, and it went to Deepwater Wind. Deepwater Wind built the US' first offshore wind installation ever, a six-turbine, 30MW installation off the coast of Block Island, Rhode Island.
An operation that targets the nerves connected to the kidney has been found to significantly reduce blood pressure in patients with hypertension, according to the results of a clinical trial led in the UK by Queen Mary University of London and Barts Health NHS Trust, and supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).
The results are published in The Lancet and have been presented at the EuroPCR congress in Paris.
If the findings are confirmed in more extensive clinical trials, the surgery could offer hope to patients with high blood pressure who do not respond to drugs, and are at increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, including stroke and heart attack.
The international clinical trial, carried out from 2017 to 2018 at St Bartholomew's Hospital in the UK by the NIHR Barts Biomedical Research Centre, tested a one-hour operation called 'renal denervation', which uses ultrasound energy to disrupt the nerves between the kidneys and the brain that carry signals for controlling blood pressure.
146 patients in the United States, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and the United Kingdom were randomised to receive either renal denervation or a 'sham procedure' -- the surgical equivalent of a placebo. Patients also remained off blood pressure medications for two months unless specified blood pressure levels were exceeded.
After two months, the renal denervation group experienced an 8.5 mm Hg reduction in blood pressure, which was a 6.3 mm Hg greater reduction compared with the sham group. More than 66 per cent of subjects treated with renal denervation demonstrated a 5 mm Hg or greater reduction in blood pressure, compared with 33 per cent in the sham group.
[...] The study has limitations including the short follow-up time of two months. This was done for safety reasons to minimise the duration of patients being off antihypertensive medications. Longer follow-up of this trial and additional numbers of treated patients will be necessary to provide greater assurance of safety and to exclude rare adverse events.
President Trump's practice of blocking Twitter users who are critical of him from seeing his posts on the social media platform violates the First Amendment, a federal judge in Manhattan ruled on Wednesday.
The ruling came in a case brought by seven Twitter users who had been blocked by the @realDonaldTrump account after they criticized the president.
The plaintiffs, who were joined in the suit by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, claimed that Mr. Trump's Twitter feed is an official government account and that blocking users from following it was a violation of their First Amendment rights.
In her ruling, Federal District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald wrote of the plaintiffs that "the speech in which they seek to engage is protected by the First Amendment" and that Mr. Trump and Dan Scavino, the White House social media director, "exert governmental control over certain aspects of the @realDonaldTrump account."
When asked at a press briefing whether Trump's tweets qualify as official statements on behalf of the White House, Spicer said that he "is the President of the United States, so they're considered official statements by the President of the United States."
Pluto may not be categorised as a planet any more, but it still holds plenty of fascination. For instance, how did the dwarf planet form, and why is it so different from the planets? By examining its chemical composition, researchers have come up with a new idea: Pluto is made of comets.
According to the currently accepted model, planets are formed by the gradual accretion of smaller objects - and Pluto, situated right next to the Kuiper Belt asteroid field, has long been thought to have formed the same way. So that part is nothing new.
But there are similarities between Pluto and Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko that scientists from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) believe may not be coincidental. In particular, the nitrogen-rich ice in Pluto's Sputnik Planitia.
[...] "We found an intriguing consistency between the estimated amount of nitrogen inside the glacier and the amount that would be expected if Pluto was formed by the agglomeration of roughly a billion comets or other Kuiper Belt objects similar in chemical composition to 67P, the comet explored by Rosetta."
Also at SwRI.
Primordial N2 provides a cosmochemical explanation for the existence of Sputnik Planitia, Pluto (DOI unknown, Journal Icarus) (arXiv)
Submitted via IRC for TheMightyBuzzard
In the field of self-driving cars, algorithms for controlling lane changes are an important topic of study. But most existing lane-change algorithms have one of two drawbacks: Either they rely on detailed statistical models of the driving environment, which are difficult to assemble and too complex to analyze on the fly; or they're so simple that they can lead to impractically conservative decisions, such as never changing lanes at all.
At the International Conference on Robotics and Automation tomorrow, researchers from MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) will present a new lane-change algorithm that splits the difference. It allows for more aggressive lane changes than the simple models do but relies only on immediate information about other vehicles' directions and velocities to make decisions.
[...] One standard way for autonomous vehicles to avoid collisions is to calculate buffer zones around the other vehicles in the environment. The buffer zones describe not only the vehicles' current positions but their likely future positions within some time frame. Planning lane changes then becomes a matter of simply staying out of other vehicles' buffer zones.
[...] With the MIT researchers' system, if the default buffer zones are leading to performance that's far worse than a human driver's, the system will compute new buffer zones on the fly — complete with proof of collision avoidance.
Let me know when someone finds an algorithm that can deal with unknown situations as intuitively as human beings can. Until then...
[NB: A unicorn "is a privately held startup company valued at over $1 billion." --Ed.]
Submitted via IRC for Runaway1956
In case you missed it, the peak in the tech unicorn bubble already has been reached. And it's going to be all downhill from here. Massive losses are coming in venture capital-funded start-ups that are, in some cases, as much as 50 percent overvalued.
The age of the unicorn likely peaked a few years ago. In 2014 there were 42 new unicorns in the United States; in 2015 there were 43. The unicorn market hasn't reached that number again. In 2017, 33 new U.S. companies achieved unicorn status from a total of 53 globally. This year there have been 11 new unicorns, according to PitchBook data as of May 15, but these numbers tend to move around, and I believe the 279 unicorns recorded globally in late February by TechCrunch was the peak, where the start-up bubble was stretched to its limit.
A recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research concludes that, on average, unicorns are roughly 50 percent overvalued. The research, conducted by Will Gornall at the University of British Columbia and Ilya Strebulaev of Stanford, examined 135 unicorns. Of those 135, the researchers estimate that nearly half, or 65, should be more fairly valued at less than $1 billion.
In 1999 the average life of a tech company before it went public was four years. Today it is 11 years. The new dynamic is the increased amount of private capital available to unicorns. Investors new to the VC game, including hedge funds and mutual funds, came in when the Jobs Act started to get rid of investor protections in 2012, because there were fewer IPOs occurring.
These investors focus on growing the unicorn customer base, not turning a profit. New regulatory conditions, including wildly separate share classes, which give some shareholders significantly more rights than others, have resulted in a danger of widespread overvaluation. Some shareholders have voting, rights to assets, rights to dividends, rights to inspect records. Snap won't give any shareholders voting rights, and the shares have steadily declined since the IPO.
Also at MarketWatch.
Writing just for himself -- not for GnuPG and not for Enigmail and definitely not for his employer -- Robert J Hansen, an Enigmail developer and GnuPG volunteer, put together a postmortem on Efail:
Less than a week ago, some researchers in Europe published a paper with the bombshell title "Efail: Breaking S/MIME and OpenPGP Email Encryption using Exfiltration Channels." There were a lot of researchers on that team but in the hours after release Sebastian Schinzel took the point on Twitter for the group.
Oh, my, did the email crypto world blow up. The following are some thoughts that have benefited from a few days for things to settle.
They say that when there's a fire in a nightclub you're at more risk of dying from the stampede than the blaze. The panic kills both by crushing people underfoot, and by clogging the exits so that people have to stay in the club longer and breathe more hot smoke-filled air. The fire is a problem but the panic is worse. That's what we saw here, and frankly I place a lot of blame for that at the feet of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
A web server set up by an enterprising student for a conference in 2004 and then forgotten about has left the University of Greenwich nursing a £120,000 ($160,000) fine from Britain's Information Commissioner (ICO).
Forgetting about a web server isn't generally a good idea, but this was a particularly dangerous oversight because it had been linked to a database containing the personal data of 19,500 University staff, students, alumni, and conference attendees.
The data also included more intimate personal data of 3,500 people covering learning difficulties, staff sickness, food allergies, and extenuating circumstances put forward by students during their studies.
You can probably guess where this is heading – eventually cybercriminals chanced upon the forgotten server and did their worst.
-- submitted from IRC