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Updated: 13 min 59 sec ago

West Point Researchers Demonstrate Passive Netflix Traffic Analysis Attack

Thu, 13/04/2017 - 1:00pm
hypercard writes: Researchers from West Point recently presented research on a real-time passive analysis of Netflix traffic. The paper, entitled "Identifying HTTPS-Protected Netflix Videos in Real-Time" is based on research conducted by Andrew Reed, Michael Kranch and Benjamin Klimkowski. The team's technique demonstrates frighteningly accurate results based solely on information captured from TCP/IP headers. Even with the recent upgrade to HTTPS, their technique was effective at identifying the correct video with greater than 99.99 percent accuracy against their database of over 42,000 videos. "When tested against 200 random 20-minute video streams, our system identified 99.5 percent of the videos with the majority of the identifications occurring less than two and a half minutes into the video stream," the paper reads. However, there are important points to note. First, the attack described only applies to streams still using Silverlight. Additionally, an attacker would likely need significant resources and access to intercept, fingerprint and process the traffic in real time. Netflix has reacted positively to the team's research and acknowledged the issue as a known drawback to processing video streams with HTTPS.

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The Surprising Rise of China As IP Powerhouse

Thu, 13/04/2017 - 9:00am
hackingbear quotes a report from TechCrunch: China is not only taking the spotlight in strong defense of global markets and free trade, filling a vacuum left by retreating Western capitalist democracies, China is quickly becoming a (if not the) global leader in intellectual property protection and enforcement. And there too, just as Western democracies (especially the United States) have grown increasingly skeptical of the value of intellectual property and have weakened protection and enforcement, China has been steadily advancing its own intellectual property system and the protected assets of its companies and citizens. In addition to filing twice as many patents as the U.S., China is increasingly being selected as a key venue for patent litigation between non-Chinese companies. Why? Litigants feel they are treated fairly. Reports indicated that in 2015, 65 foreign plaintiffs won all of their cases against other foreign companies before Beijing's IP court. And even foreign plaintiffs suing Chinese companies won about 81 percent of their patent cases, roughly the same as domestic Chinese plaintiffs. China's journey from piracy to protection models the journeys of other Western and Asian countries. While building its industrial economies, the U.S. and major European powers violated IP laws with no consideration. As reported by The Guardian, Doron Ben-Atar, a history professor at Fordham University, has noted that "U.S. and every major European state engaged in technology piracy and industrial espionage in the 18th and 19th century." It took Western economies a hundred or more years to change that behavior. China's mind-whipping change is happening over decades, not centuries.

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Scientists Capture First Image of Dark Matter Web

Thu, 13/04/2017 - 5:00am
Kristine Lofgren writes: Scientists have long suspected that the universe is woven together by a vast cosmic connector but, until now, they couldn't prove it. Now, for the first time ever, scientists have captured an image of a dark matter bridge, confirming the theory that galaxies are held together by a cosmic web. Using a technique called weak gravitational lensing, researchers were able to identify distortions of distant galaxies as they are influenced by a large, unseen mass -- in this case, a web of dark matter. In order to create a composite image that shows the dark matter web, scientists had to look at more than 23,000 galaxy pairs located 4.5 billion light-years away. "Results show the dark matter filament bridge is strongest between systems less than 40 million light years apart," reports Phys.Org. The findings have been published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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The Dark Secret At the Heart of AI

Thu, 13/04/2017 - 3:30am
schwit1 shares an excerpt from a report via MIT Technology Review: No one really knows how the most advanced algorithms do what they do. That could be a problem. Last year, a strange self-driving car was released onto the quiet roads of Monmouth County, New Jersey. The experimental vehicle, developed by researchers at the chip maker Nvidia, didn't look different from other autonomous cars, but it was unlike anything demonstrated by Google, Tesla, or General Motors, and it showed the rising power of artificial intelligence. The car didn't follow a single instruction provided by an engineer or programmer. Instead, it relied entirely on an algorithm that had taught itself to drive by watching a human do it. Getting a car to drive this way was an impressive feat. But it's also a bit unsettling, since it isn't completely clear how the car makes its decisions. Information from the vehicle's sensors goes straight into a huge network of artificial neurons that process the data and then deliver the commands required to operate the steering wheel, the brakes, and other systems. The result seems to match the responses you'd expect from a human driver. But what if one day it did something unexpected -- crashed into a tree, or sat at a green light? As things stand now, it might be difficult to find out why. The system is so complicated that even the engineers who designed it may struggle to isolate the reason for any single action. And you can't ask it: there is no obvious way to design such a system so that it could always explain why it did what it did. The mysterious mind of this vehicle points to a looming issue with artificial intelligence. The car's underlying AI technology, known as deep learning, has proved very powerful at solving problems in recent years, and it has been widely deployed for tasks like image captioning, voice recognition, and language translation. There is now hope that the same techniques will be able to diagnose deadly diseases, make million-dollar trading decisions, and do countless other things to transform whole industries. But this won't happen -- or shouldn't happen -- unless we find ways of making techniques like deep learning more understandable to their creators and accountable to their users. Otherwise it will be hard to predict when failures might occur -- and it's inevitable they will. That's one reason Nvidia's car is still experimental. schwit1 adds: "To be fair, we don't really understand how natural intelligence works, either."

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Neuroscientists Weigh In On Elon Musk's Mysterious 'Neural Lace' Company

Thu, 13/04/2017 - 2:05am
the_newsbeagle writes: Elon Musk has set out to change the world with SpaceX's reusable rockets and Tesla's electric cars, and now he plans to change your brain. His new company, Neuralink, will reportedly build delicate brain implants called "neural lace" to help people with neuropsychiatric disorders and to give healthy people strange new mental abilities. But the news announcements about the company contained scant details about what kind of hardware Neuralink might actually build, and what engineering challenges the company will have to overcome in pursuit of miniaturized and safe brain implants. Here, five neuroscience experts describe those challenges, and give hints on what to expect from Musk's neural dust. One of the neuroscientists is Mary Lou Jepsen, founder of the Openwater startup, which is looking for ways to develop a noninvasive BCI for imaging and telepathy. Jepsen was also "an engineering executive at Facebook working on its Oculus virtual reality gear; before that she spent three years at Google X, running advanced projects on display technology," reports IEEE Spectrum. She says that Neuralink will likely face many medical hurdles, even if their process doesn't require splitting open patients' skulls. "The approach as I understand it (not much is published) involves implanting silicon particles (so called "neural lace") into the bloodstream. One concern is that implanting anything in the body can cause unintended consequences," says Jepsen. "For example, even red blood cells can clog capillaries in the brain when the red blood cells are made more stiff by diseases like malaria. This clogging can reduce or even cut off the flow of oxygen to the parts of the brain. Indeed, clogging of cerebral capillaries has been shown to be a major cause of Alzheimer's progression. Back to neural lace: One concern I would have is whether the silicon particles could lead to any clogging."

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Portland Commits To 100 Percent Renewable Energy By 2050

Thu, 13/04/2017 - 1:35am
City of Portland and Multnomah County officials have announced this week that they are committed to 100 percent clean energy by the year 2050. "Getting our community to 100 percent renewable energy is a big goal," Ted Wheeler, City of Portland Mayor, said in a statement. "And while it is absolutely ambitious, it is a goal that we share with Nike, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Google, GM, Coca Cola, Johnson & Johnson, and Walmart. We have a responsibility to lead this effort in Oregon." CNBC reports: Multnomah County is the most populous county in Oregon. Its Chair, Deborah Kafoury, welcomed the news. "This is a pledge to our children's future,'' she said. "100 percent renewables means a future with cleaner air, a stable climate and more jobs and economic opportunity.'' Portland is among a number of U.S. cities looking to embrace renewables. Wheeler noted that tackling climate change would need to be a collaborative effort. "We don't succeed addressing climate change by government action alone,'' he said. "We need our whole community: government, businesses, organizations and households to work together to make a just transition to a 100 percent renewable future.''

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Burger King Runs Ad Triggering Google Home Devices; Google Shuts It Down

Thu, 13/04/2017 - 1:05am
Burger King unveiled a new advertisement earlier today designed to trigger users' Google Home devices. The ad specifically used the Google Home trigger phrase "Okay, Google" to ask "What is the Whopper burger?," thus triggering the Google Assistant to read off the top result from Wikipedia. But less than three hours after Burger King launched the ad, Google disabled the functionality. The Verge reports: As of 2:45PM ET, Google Home will no longer respond when prompted by the specific Burger King commercial that asks "What is the Whopper burger?" It does, however, still respond with the top result from Wikipedia when someone else (i.e., a real user) other than the advertisement asks the same question. Google has likely registered the sound clip from the ad to disable unwanted Home triggers, as it does with its own Google Home commercials.

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VPN Providers Report Huge Increase In Downloads, Usage Since Privacy Rules Were Repealed

Thu, 13/04/2017 - 12:35am
An anonymous reader writes: A number of major VPN providers reported a significant increase in subscriptions, downloads, and traffic from Americans since the U.S. Congress voted to repeal the Broadband Consumer Privacy Rules that would have mandated internet service providers get user permission before collecting information. The International Business Times reports that "several popular VPN providers reported a more than 50 percent increase in downloads." VPN provider ExpressVPN said they "experienced a 105 percent increase in traffic from the U.S. and a 97 percent spike in sales" since the repeal. Additionally, "KeepSolid, the New York-based company behind VPNUnlimited, noted a 32 percent increase in purchases and growth of 49 percent in total downloads," reports IBT. "The company also reports having a considerable amount of increased engagement via social media regarding user privacy." Have you taken any privacy measures since Congress voted to repeal ISP privacy rules? If you use a VPN, which provider do you recommend and why?

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Microsoft Kills Off Security Bulletins

Thu, 13/04/2017 - 12:05am
Microsoft has officially retired the security bulletins this week, which were issued to detail "each month's slate of vulnerabilities and accompanying patches for customers -- especially administrators responsible for companies' IT operations," writes Gregg Keizer via Computerworld. "The move to a bulletin-less Patch Tuesday brought an end to months of Microsoft talk about killing the bulletins that included an aborted attempt to toss them." From the report: Microsoft announced the demise of bulletins in November, saying then that the last would be posted with January's Patch Tuesday, and that the new process would debut Feb. 14. A searchable database of support documents would replace the bulletins. Accessed through the "Security Updates Guide" (SUG) portal, the database's content can be sorted and filtered by the affected software, the patch's release date, its CVE (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures) identifier, and the numerical label of the KB, or "knowledge base" support document. SUG's forerunners were the web-based bulletins that have been part of Microsoft's patch disclosure policies since at least 1998. Microsoft did such a good job turning out those bulletins that they were considered the aspirational benchmark for all software vendors.In February Microsoft canceled that month's Patch Tuesday just hours before the security updates were to reach customers, making the bulletins' planned demise moot. Microsoft kept the bulletins the following month as well, saying it wanted to give users more time to prepare for the change to SUG. Finally, when Microsoft yesterday shipped cumulative security updates for Windows, Internet Explorer, Office and other products, it omitted the usual bulletins.

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Air Force Converts F-16 Jets Into Wingman Drones

Wed, 12/04/2017 - 11:20pm
New submitter Zmobie writes: In a new program, the U.S. Air Force has converted and tested F-16 planes as drones that are able to fly with complex mission parameters. The program is designed to use retiring F-16 jets to act as autonomous "loyal wingman" for manned F-35 jets and fly their own strike missions. Business Insider reports: "The U.S. has used F-16 drones before as realistic targets for the F-35 to blow up in training, but on Monday it announced fully autonomous air-to-air and ground strike capabilities as a new capability thanks to joint research between the service and Lockheed Martin's legendary Skunkworks. [...] But having F-16 drones plan and fly their own missions is only part of a much larger picture. The future of the U.S. Air Force may well depend on advanced platforms like F-35s commanding fleets of unmanned drones which can act as additional ears, eyes, and shooters in the sky during battles." Further reading: TechCrunch, Popular Mechanics, Engadget

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Broadcasters Put New Ad-Skipping Restrictions On YouTube TV

Wed, 12/04/2017 - 10:40pm
YouTube launched its new "YouTube TV" service last week for select markets. One of the biggest features for the service is its DVR functionality, which would in theory allow users to record shows and fast forward through all the commercials. Unfortunately, that is not the case, notes the Wall Street Journal. Karl Bode writes via DSLReports: If a show is available on-demand, viewers won't be able to skip ads, even if they recorded the episode on DVR. Google has confirmed with the Journal that the restriction is courtesy of the licensing agreements the broadcast industry forced Google to adhere to in order to offer the service. As a result, if YouTube TV has the on-demand version of a specific program you may be interested in, then the service won't let viewers watch a recorded version that allows for ad-skipping. Instead, viewers are forced to watch the on-demand episode and all of the ads, even if consumers thought they saved the show on their DVR for ad-skippable viewing.

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Samsung Is Delaying the 'Voice' Part of Its New Bixby Voice Assistant

Wed, 12/04/2017 - 10:00pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Washington Post: A much-touted feature of Samsung's next smartphones isn't going to work as advertised when the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ launch April 21. Samsung said it's delaying the launch of voice-command capabilities for its Bixby voice assistant in English, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Although some of its features will still work, the report said, Bixby -- Samsung's answer to Apple's Siri -- won't be able to respond to any user voice commands, perhaps until as late as May. The Korean-language version of Bixby will have all of its features at launch, the Journal report said. The reason this is a big deal is because Samsung has touted Bixby as a big new feature for the Galaxy S8. Not only is it baked into the software, but it features a dedicated Bixby button on the lefthand side of the phone. The new assistant is designed to "perform almost every task that the app normally supports using touch," according to PhoneDog. "It'll be able to understand the current context and the state of the app that you're in without interrupting the work that you're doing," and will be able to "understand commands with incomplete commands, meaning you don't have to remember the exact phrase that you have to say to perform a task with an assistant."

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AI Wins $290,000 in Chinese Poker Competition

Wed, 12/04/2017 - 9:20pm
An AI program has beaten a team of six poker players at a series of exhibition matches in China. From a report on BBC: The AI system, called Lengpudashi, won a landslide victory and $290,000 in the five-day competition. It is the second time this year that an AI program has beaten competitive poker players. An earlier version of the program, known as Libratus, beat four of the world's best poker pros during a 20-day game in January.

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Japan Automakers Look To Robots To Keep Elderly On the Move

Wed, 12/04/2017 - 8:40pm
Japanese automakers are looking beyond the industry trend to develop self-driving cars and turning their attention to robots to help keep the country's rapidly graying society on the move. From a report: Toyota said it saw the possibility of becoming a mass producer of robots to help the elderly in a country whose population is ageing faster than the rest of the world as the birthrate decreases. The country's changing demographics place its automakers in a unique situation. Along with the issues usually associated with falling populations such as labor shortages and pension squeezes, Japan also faces dwindling domestic demand for cars. Toyota, the world's second largest automaker, made its first foray into commercializing rehabilitation robots on Wednesday, launching a rental service for its walk assist system, which helps patients to learn how to walk again after suffering strokes and other conditions.

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Employees in the Dark About Data Retention Policy

Wed, 12/04/2017 - 8:00pm
An anonymous reader shares a BetaNews article: A new study reveals that over half of office-based employees say their companies don't have written policies on data retention or personal use of work devices, or if they do, they aren't aware of them. The study conducted by Harris Poll for e-discovery company kCura reveals communication habits that could put organizations at risk of incurring increased data retention and discovery costs in today's increasingly litigious business environment. "Complete bans on the personal use of work devices would be difficult -- if not impossible -- to implement, and could be harmful to employee morale. However, companies do need to implement reasonable policies to mitigate risk," the report adds.

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Microsoft Edge Beats Chrome By Over Three Hours In New Battery Usage Test

Wed, 12/04/2017 - 7:20pm
An anonymous reader writes: With the launch of the Windows 10 Creators Update and Edge 40 (EdgeHTML 15), Microsoft has released a new battery usage test that, naturally, trashes the company's competition. This new test shows that Edge uses less power than both Chrome 57 and Firefox 52, and is bound to draw a response from its competition, especially Google, who doesn't like it when Microsoft takes a jab at Chrome's efficiency. The same thing happened last year, in June, when a similar test showcasing Edge's longer battery life was met with responses from both Google and Opera. The most recent tests were performed for the launch of Windows 10 Creators Update. Two tests were carried out until a laptop's battery gave out. For each browser, a minimum of 16 iterations were recorded per test. The first test measured normal browsing performance and the second ran a looped Vimeo fullscreen video. In the normal browsing performance test, Microsoft claims Edge used 31% less power than Chrome 57, and 44% less power than Firefox 52. In the second test, Edge played a looped Vimeo video in fullscreen for 751 minutes (12:31:08), while Chrome lasted 557 minutes (9:17:03) and Firefox for only 424 minutes (7:04:19). That's a whopping three hours over Chrome, and five hours above Firefox.

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Dozens Of Canonical Employees Resign As Ubuntu Switches To GNOME, Shuttleworth Returns As CEO

Wed, 12/04/2017 - 6:45pm
Alexander J Martin, reporting for The Register: More than 80 Canonical workers are facing the axe as founder Mark Shuttleworth has taken back the role of chief executive officer. The number, revealed today by The Reg, comes as Shuttleworth assumed the position from CEO of eight years Jane Silber, previously chief operating officer. The Reg has learned 31 or more staffers have already left the Ubuntu Linux maker ahead of Shuttleworth's rise, with at least 26 others now on formal notice and uncertainty surrounding the remainder. One individual has resigned while others, particularly in parts of the world with more stringent labour laws (such as the UK), are being left in the dark. The details come after The Reg revealed plans for the cuts as a commercial get-fit programme instituted by Shuttleworth. The Canonical founder is cutting numbers after an external assessment of his company by potential new financial backers found overstaffing and that projects lacked focus.

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For Programmers, the Ultimate Office Perk is Avoiding the Office Entirely

Wed, 12/04/2017 - 6:00pm
From a report on Quartz: Over the past decade, designers and engineers have invented dozens of new tools to keep us connected to the office without actually going there. Unsurprisingly, those same engineers have been among the first to start using them in large numbers. More programmers are working from home than ever and, among the most experienced, some are even beginning to demand it. In 2015, an estimated 300,000 full-time employees in computer science jobs worked from home in the US. Although not the largest group of remote employees in absolute numbers, that's about 8% of all programmers, which is a significantly larger share than in any other job category, and well above the average for all jobs of just under 3%. [...] Programmers not only work from home more often than other employees, when they do they are more likely to work all day at home. From 2012 to 2015, the average full-time programmer who worked from home said they spent an average of five and a half hours doing so. That's an 92% increase in the average time spent at home from 2003 to 2005, and nearly double the average for all jobs.

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Silicon Valley Kicks Off Fight On Net Neutrality

Wed, 12/04/2017 - 5:20pm
Web companies met with FCC Ajit Pai on Tuesday and urged him not to gut the net neutrality rules that protect their traffic, a week after he met with broadband providers that have tried to kill the Obama-era regulations. From a report: The Internet Association, a trade group representing companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon, stressed the importance of defending current net neutrality rules in a meeting with Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai on Tuesday. "The internet industry is uniform in its belief that net neutrality preserves the consumer experience, competition and innovation online," the group said in the meeting, according to a filing with the FCC. "Existing net neutrality rules should be enforced and kept in tact." The net neutrality rules, approved by the FCC in 2015, are intended to keep the internet open and fair. The rules prevent internet providers from playing favorites by deliberately speeding up or slowing down traffic from specific websites and apps. This is the first face-to-face encounter between the tech association and the new FCC head. It comes on the heels of reports Pai met with the telecom industry to discuss changing how the rules are enforced, potentially weakening them.

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We Tracked Every Dollar 235 US Households Spent for a Year, and Found Widespread Financial Vulnerability

Wed, 12/04/2017 - 4:40pm
Income inequality in the United States is growing, but the most common economic statistics hide a significant portion of Americans' financial instability by drawing on annual aggregates of income and spending. An article on the Harvard Business Review adds: Annual numbers can hide fluctuations that determine whether families have trouble paying bills or making important investments at a given moment. The lack of access to stable, predictable cash flows is the hard-to-see source of much of today's economic insecurity. We came to understand this after analyzing the U.S. Financial Diaries (USFD), an unprecedented study to collect detailed cash flow data for U.S. households. From 2012 to 2014 we set up research sites in 10 communities across the country. The USFD research team engaged 235 households that were willing to let us track their financial lives for a full year. We tried to record every single dollar the households earned, spent, saved, borrowed, and shared with others. [...] Our first big finding was that the households' incomes were highly unstable, even for those with full-time workers. We counted spikes and dips in earning, defined as months in which a household's income was either 25% more or 25% less than the average. It turned out that households experienced an average of five months per year with either a spike or dip. In other words, incomes were far from average almost half of the time. Income volatility was more extreme for poorer families, but middle class families felt it too.

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