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Breach of MGM Hotels' Cloud Server Exposed Data on 10.6 Million People

Sat, 02/22/2020 - 12:34pm
Personal information from more than 10.6 million people was published online this week, reports ZDNet -- all from people who'd stayed at MGM Resorts hotels (which include the Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, and ARIA): Besides details for regular tourists and travelers, included in the leaked files are also personal and contact details for celebrities, tech CEOs, reporters, government officials, and employees at some of the world's largest tech companies. ZDNet verified the authenticity of the data today, together with a security researcher from Under the Breach, a soon-to-be-launched data breach monitoring service. A spokesperson for MGM Resorts confirmed the incident via email. According to our analysis, the MGM data dump that was shared today contains personal details for 10,683,188 former hotel guests. Included in the leaked files are personal details such as full names, home addresses, phone numbers, emails, and dates of birth... These users now face a higher risk of receiving spear-phishing emails, and being SIM swapped, Under the Breach told ZDNet. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, pop star Justin Bieber, and DHS and TSA officials are some of the big names Under the Breach spotted in the leaked files. While the data appears to be several years old, Irina Nesterovsky, Head of Research at threat intel firm KELA, tells ZDNet that the data has been shared in "hacking forums" since last July. MGM blames the breach on "unauthorized access to a cloud server" last summer -- pointing out that at least no credit card information was stolen, and that they notified all affected customers. But NBC News "spoke to a man with a Secret Service email address who was surprised to learn that he had been hacked. He said MGM never notified him about to breach." MGM told ZDNet that "we take our responsibility to protect guest data very seriously, and we have strengthened and enhanced the security of our network to prevent this from happening again."

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How Artificial Shrimps Could Change the World

Sat, 02/22/2020 - 11:34am
Singaporean company Shiok Meats aims to grow artificial shrimp to combat the negative environmental effects associated with farmed shrimp. An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from The Economist: For a long time, beef has been a target of environmentalists because of cattle farming's contribution to global warming. But what about humble shrimp and prawns? They may seem, well, shrimpy when compared with cows, but it turns out the tasty decapods are just as big an environmental problem. The issue is not so much their life cycle: shrimp (as UN statisticians refer to all commonly eaten species collectively) do not belch planet-cooking methane the way cows do. But shrimp farms tend to occupy coastal land that used to be covered in mangroves. Draining mangrove swamps to make way for aquaculture is even more harmful to the atmosphere than felling rainforest to provide pasture for cattle. A study conducted in 2017 by CIFOR, a research institute, found that in both these instances, by far the biggest contribution to the carbon footprint of the resulting beef or shrimp came from the clearing of the land. As a result, CIFOR concluded, a kilo of farmed shrimp was responsible for almost four times the greenhouse-gas emissions of a kilo of beef. Eating a surf-and-turf dinner of prawn cocktail and steak, the study warned, can be more polluting than driving across America in a petrol-fuelled car. All this has given one Singaporean company a brain wave. "Farmed shrimps are often bred in overcrowded conditions and literally swimming in sewage water. We want to disrupt that -- to empower farmers with technology that is cleaner and more efficient," says Sandhya Sriram, one of the founders of Shiok Meats. The firm aims to grow artificial shrimp, much as some Western firms are seeking to create beef without cows. The process involves propagating shrimp cells in a nutrient-rich solution. Ms Sriram likens it to a brewery, disdaining the phrase "lab-grown." Since prawn-meat has a simpler structure than beef, it should be easier to replicate in this way. Moreover, shrimp is eaten in lots of forms and textures: whole, minced, as a paste and so on. The firm is already making shrimp mince which it has tested in Chinese dumplings. It hopes the by-product of the meat-growing can be used as a flavoring for prawn crackers and instant noodles. Eventually it plans to grow curved "whole" shrimp -- without the head and shell, that is. While producing shrimp this way currently costs $5,000 a kilo, Shiok Meats thinks it can bring the price down dramatically by using less rarefied ingredients in its growing solution.

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'Ring' Upgrades Privacy Settings After Accusations It Shares Data With Facebook and Google

Sat, 02/22/2020 - 10:34am
Amazon's Ring doorbell cameras just added two new privacy and security features "amid rising scrutiny on the company," reports The Hill, including "a second layer of authentication by requiring users to enter a one-time code shared via email or SMS when they try to log in to see the feed from their cameras starting this week... "Until recently the company did not notify users when their accounts had been logged in to, meaning that hackers could have accessed camera feeds without owners being aware." But CBS News reports that the changes appeared "two weeks after a study showed the company shares customers' personal information with Facebook, Google and other parties without users' consent." In late January, an Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) study found the company regularly shares user data with Facebook, including that of Ring users who don't have accounts on the social media platform... EFF claims the company shares a lot of other user data, including people's names, email addresses, when the doorbell app was being used, the number of devices a user has, model numbers of devices, user's unique internet addresses and more. Such information could allow third parties to know when Ring users are at home or away, and potentially target them with advertising for services based on that info... The change will let Ring users block the company from sharing most, but not all, of their data. A company spokesperson said people will be able to opt out of those sharing agreements "where applicable." The spokesperson declined to clarify what "where applicable" might mean. Evan Greer, deputy director of digital rights organization Fight for the Future, shared a skeptical response with The Hill. "No amount of security updates will change the fact that these devices are enabling a nationwide, for-profit, surveillance empire. Amazon Ring is fundamentally incompatible with democracy and human rights."

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After Inspecting 50 Airplanes, Boeing Found Foreign Object Debris in 35 Fuel Tanks

Sat, 02/22/2020 - 8:00am
Boeing has found debris in the fuel tanks of 35 of their 737 Max aircraft. After inspecting just 50 of the 400 planes which were awaiting delivery to customers, Boeing found debris in "about two-thirds" of them reports the Wall Street Journal, citing both federal and aviation-industry officials. "The revelation comes as the plane maker struggles to restore public and airline confidence in the grounded fleet." Materials left behind include tools, rags and boot coverings, according to industry officials familiar with the details... [T]he new problem raises fresh questions about Boeing's ability to resolve lingering lapses in quality-control practices and presents another challenge to Chief Executive David Calhoun, who took charge in January... Last year, debris was found on some 787 Dreamliners, which Boeing produces in Everett, Washington... Boeing also twice had to halt deliveries of the KC-46A military refueling tanker to the U.S. Air Force after tools and rags were found in planes after they had been delivered from its Everett factory north of Seattle. Their report include this observation from an Air Force procurement chief last summer. "It does not take a rocket scientist to deliver an airplane without trash and debris on it. It just merely requires following a set of processes, having a culture that values integrity of safety above moving the line faster for profit." But "This isn't an isolated incident either," argues long-time Slashdot reader phalse phace. "The New York Times reported about shody production and weak oversight at Boeing's North Charleston plant which makes the 787 Dreamliner back in April." A New York Times review of hundreds of pages of internal emails, corporate documents and federal records, as well as interviews with more than a dozen current and former employees, reveals a culture that often valued production speed over quality. Facing long manufacturing delays, Boeing pushed its work force to quickly turn out Dreamliners, at times ignoring issues raised by employees... Safety lapses at the North Charleston plant have drawn the scrutiny of airlines and regulators. Qatar Airways stopped accepting planes from the factory after manufacturing mishaps damaged jets and delayed deliveries. Workers have filed nearly a dozen whistle-blower claims and safety complaints with federal regulators, describing issues like defective manufacturing, debris left on planes and pressure to not report violations. Others have sued Boeing, saying they were retaliated against for flagging manufacturing mistakes.

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A Quarter of All Tweets About Climate Crisis Produced By Bots

Sat, 02/22/2020 - 5:00am
XXongo writes: According to a yet-to-be-published study from Brown University of the origin of 6.5 million tweets about climate and global warming, a quarter of all tweets about climate on an average day are produced by bots, disproportionately skeptical of climate science and action. The Brown University study wasn't able to identify any individuals or groups behind the battalion of Twitter bots, nor ascertain the level of influence they have had on the climate debate. "On an average day during the period studied, 25% of all tweets about the climate crisis came from bots," reports The Guardian. "This proportion was higher in certain topics -- bots were responsible for 38% of tweets about 'fake science' and 28% of all tweets about the petroleum giant Exxon. Conversely, tweets that could be categorized as online activism to support action on the climate crisis featured very few bots, at about 5% prevalence."

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Scientists Found Breathable Oxygen In Another Galaxy For the First Time

Sat, 02/22/2020 - 2:00am
Astronomers have spotted molecular oxygen in a galaxy far far away, marking the first time that this important element has ever been detected outside of the Milky Way. Motherboard reports: This momentous "first detection of extragalactic molecular oxygen," as it is described in a recent study in The Astrophysical Journal, has big implications for understanding the crucial role of oxygen in the evolution of planets, stars, galaxies, and life. Oxygen is the third most abundant element in the universe, after hydrogen and helium, and is one of the key ingredients for life here on Earth. Molecular oxygen is the most common free form of the element and consists of two oxygen atoms with the designation O2. It is the version of the gas that we humans, among many other organisms, need to breathe in order to live. Now, a team led by Junzhi Wang, an astronomer at the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory, reports the discovery of molecular oxygen in a dazzling galaxy called Markarian 231, located 581 million light years from the Milky Way. The researchers were able to make this detection with ground-based radio observatories. "Deep observations" from the IRAM 30-meter telescope in Spain and the NOEMA interferometer in France revealed molecular oxygen emission "in an external galaxy for the first time," Wang and his co-authors wrote. Motherboard notes that you couldn't just inhale the molecular oxygen found in Markarian 231 like you would the oxygen on Earth. "This is because the oxygen is not mixed with the right abundances of nitrogen, carbon dioxide, methane, and all the other molecules that make Earth's air breathable to humans and other organisms." Still, the discovery "provides an ideal tool to study" molecular outflows from quasars and other AGNs, the team said in the study. [Markarian 231 has remained a curiosity to scientists for decades because it contains the closest known quasar, a type of hyper-energetic object. Quasars are active galactic nuclei (AGN), meaning that they inhabit the core regions of special galaxies, and they are among the most radiant and powerful objects in the universe.] "O2 may be a significant coolant for molecular gas in such regions affected by AGN-driven outflows," the researchers noted. "New astrochemical models are needed to explain the implied high molecular oxygen abundance in such regions several kiloparsecs away from the center of galaxies."

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JP Morgan Economists Warn of 'Catastrophic' Climate Change

Fri, 02/21/2020 - 10:30pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: Human life "as we know it" could be threatened by climate change, economists at JP Morgan have warned. In a hard-hitting report to clients, the economists said that without action being taken there could be "catastrophic outcomes." The bank said the research came from a team that was "wholly independent from the company as a whole." Climate campaigners have previously criticized JP Morgan for its investments in fossil fuels. The firm's stark report was sent to clients and seen by BBC News. While JP Morgan economists have warned about unpredictability in climate change before, the language used in the new report was very forceful. "We cannot rule out catastrophic outcomes where human life as we know it is threatened," JP Morgan economists David Mackie and Jessica Murray said. Carbon emissions in the coming decades "will continue to affect the climate for centuries to come in a way that is likely to be irreversible," they said, adding that climate change action should be motivated "by the likelihood of extreme events." Climate change could affect economic growth, shares, health, and how long people live, they said. It could put stresses on water, cause famine, and cause people to be displaced or migrate. Climate change could also cause political stress, conflict, and it could hit biodiversity and species survival, the report warned. To mitigate climate change net carbon emissions need to be cut to zero by 2050. To do this, there needed to be a global tax on carbon, the report authors said. But they said that "this is not going to happen anytime soon."

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Radical Hydrogen-Boron Reactor Leapfrogs Current Nuclear Fusion Tech

Fri, 02/21/2020 - 9:02pm
HB11 Energy, a spin-out company originating at the University of New South Wales, claims its hydrogen-boron fusion technology is already working a billion times better than expected. Along with this announcement, the company also announced a swag of patents through Japan, China and the USA protecting its unique approach to fusion energy generation. New Atlas reports: The results of decades of research by Emeritus Professor Heinrich Hora, HB11's approach to fusion does away with rare, radioactive and difficult fuels like tritium altogether -- as well as those incredibly high temperatures. Instead, it uses plentiful hydrogen and boron B-11, employing the precise application of some very special lasers to start the fusion reaction. Here's how HB11 describes its "deceptively simple" approach: the design is "a largely empty metal sphere, where a modestly sized HB11 fuel pellet is held in the center, with apertures on different sides for the two lasers. One laser establishes the magnetic containment field for the plasma and the second laser triggers the 'avalanche' fusion chain reaction. The alpha particles generated by the reaction would create an electrical flow that can be channeled almost directly into an existing power grid with no need for a heat exchanger or steam turbine generator." HB11's Managing Director Dr. Warren McKenzie clarifies over the phone: "A lot of fusion experiments are using the lasers to heat things up to crazy temperatures -- we're not. We're using the laser to massively accelerate the hydrogen through the boron sample using non-linear forced. You could say we're using the hydrogen as a dart, and hoping to hit a boron , and if we hit one, we can start a fusion reaction. That's the essence of it. If you've got a scientific appreciation of temperature, it's essentially the speed of atoms moving around. Creating fusion using temperature is essentially randomly moving atoms around, and hoping they'll hit one another, our approach is much more precise." He continues: "The hydrogen/boron fusion creates a couple of helium atoms. They're naked heliums, they don't have electrons, so they have a positive charge. We just have to collect that charge. Essentially, the lack of electrons is a product of the reaction and it directly creates the current." The lasers themselves rely upon cutting-edge "Chirped Pulse Amplification" technology, the development of which won its inventors the 2018 Nobel prize in Physics. Much smaller and simpler than any of the high-temperature fusion generators, HB11 says its generators would be compact, clean and safe enough to build in urban environments. There's no nuclear waste involved, no superheated steam, and no chance of a meltdown. "This is brand new," Professor Hora tells us. "10-petawatt power laser pulses. It's been shown that you can create fusion conditions without hundreds of millions of degrees. This is completely new knowledge. I've been working on how to accomplish this for more than 40 years. It's a unique result. Now we have to convince the fusion people -- it works better than the present day hundred million degree thermal equilibrium generators. We have something new at hand to make a drastic change in the whole situation. A substitute for carbon as our energy source. A radical new situation and a new hope for energy and the climate."

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Scientists Condemn Conspiracy Theories About Origin of Coronavirus Outbreak

Fri, 02/21/2020 - 8:25pm
hackingbear writes: A group of 27 prominent public health scientists from outside China, who have studied SARS-CoV-2 and "overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife" just like many other viruses that have recently emerged in humans, is pushing back against a steady stream of stories and even a scientific paper suggesting a laboratory in Wuhan, China, may be the origin of the outbreak of COVID-19. "The rapid, open, and transparent sharing of data on this outbreak is now being threatened by rumors and misinformation around its origins," the scientists, from nine countries, write in a statement published online by The Lancet . Many posts on social media have singled out the Wuhan Institute of Virology for intense scrutiny because it has a laboratory at the highest security level -- biosafety level 4 -- and its researchers study coronaviruses from bats; speculations have included the possibility that the virus was bioengineered in the lab or that a lab worker was infected while handling a bat. Researchers from the institute have insisted there is no link between the outbreak and their laboratory. Peter Daszak, president of the EcoHealth Alliance and a cosignatory of the statement, has collaborated with researchers at the Wuhan institute who study bat coronaviruses. "We're in the midst of the social media misinformation age, and these rumors and conspiracy theories have real consequences, including threats of violence that have occurred to our colleagues in China."

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US Defense Agency That Secures Trump's Communications Confirms Data Breach

Fri, 02/21/2020 - 7:45pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Forbes: The Department of Defense agency responsible for securing the communications of President Trump has suffered a data breach. Here's what is known so far. The U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) describes itself as a combat support agency of the Department of Defense (DoD) and is tasked with the responsibility for supporting secure White House communications, including those of President Trump. As well as overseeing Trump's secure calls technology, DISA also establishes and supports communications networks in combat zones and takes care of military cyber-security issues. It has also confirmed a data breach of its network, which exposed data affecting as many as 200,000 users. First picked up by Reuters, disclosure letters dated February 11 have been sent out to those whose personal data may have been compromised. Although it is not clear which specific servers have been breached, nor the nature of the users to whom the letters have been sent, that an agency with a vision to "connect and protect the war-fighter in cyberspace" should suffer such an incident is concerning, to say the least. While many of the details surrounding this breach are likely to remain, understandably, confidential, given the nature of the DISA work, the letter itself has already been published on Twitter by one recipient. Signed by Roger S. Greenwell, the chief information officer at DISA, the letter revealed the breach took place between May and July last year, and information including social security numbers may have been compromised as a result. It also stated that there is no evidence that any personally identifiable information (PII) has been misused as a result. The letter does, however, confirm that DISA will be offering free credit monitoring services to those who want it.

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Gopher's Rise and Fall Shows How Much We Lost When Monopolists Stole the Net

Fri, 02/21/2020 - 7:23pm
Science-fiction writer, journalist and longtime Slashdot reader, Cory Doctorow, a.k.a. mouthbeef, writes: The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) just published the latest installment in my case histories of "adversarial interoperability" -- once the main force that kept tech competitive. Today, I tell the story of Gopher, the web's immediate predecessor, which burrowed under the mainframe systems' guardians and created a menu-driven interface to campus resources, then the whole internet. Gopher ruled until browser vendors swallowed Gopherspace whole, incorporating it by turning gopher:// into a way to access anything on any Gopher server. Gopher served as the booster rocket that helped the web attain a stable orbit. But the tools that Gopher used to crack open the silos, and the moves that the web pulled to crack open Gopher, are radioactively illegal today. If you wanted do to Facebook what Gopher did to the mainframes, you would be pulverized by the relentless grinding of software patents, terms of service, anticircumvention law, bullshit theories about APIs being copyrightable. Big Tech blames "network effects" for its monopolies -- but that's a counsel of despair. If impersonal forces (and not anticompetitive bullying) are what keeps tech big then there's no point in trying to make it small. Big Tech's critics swallow this line, demanding that Big Tech be given state-like duties to police user conduct -- duties that require billions and total control to perform, guaranteeing tech monopolists perpetual dominance. But the lesson of Gopher is that adversarial interoperability is judo for network effects.

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Company Buying<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.Org Offers To Sign a Contract Banning Price Hikes

Fri, 02/21/2020 - 7:02pm
Ethos Capital, the company controversially buying the .org top-level domain, says it will sign legally binding agreements banning steep fee increases for nonprofit domain holders and establishing an independent "stewardship council" that could veto attempts at censorship or inappropriate data use. "The rules would kick in if Ethos successfully acquires Public Interest Registry (PIR), a nonprofit organization that manages .org," reports The Verge. From the report: ICANN, which oversees the internet's top-level domains, is currently scrutinizing the acquisition. President and CEO Goran Marby previously expressed discomfort with the deal, and PIR announced today that it's extending the review period until March 20th. ICANN hasn't yet taken a position on the latest proposal. "We are in the process [of] analyzing the information we have received and therefore have no comment beyond the fact that we welcome Ethos' efforts to engage with the Internet Society community and .org customers, and look forward to the outcome of those discussions," said Marby in a statement to The Verge. PIR said it would "continue to work collaboratively" to address any outstanding issues with ICANN. In addition to the details above, Ethos and PIR committed to creating a "Community Enablement Fund" to support .org initiatives, and PIR promised to publish an annual transparency report. The price restrictions, meanwhile, would forbid Ethos from raising domain registration and renewal fees by more than 10 percent per year (on average) for the next eight years. Ethos and PIR's press release quotes Sullivan praising the new agreements. "Ethos shows that it has been listening to the questions some have raised. Ethos has responded by embedding its commitments on pricing, censorship and data use policies in a legally-binding contract, and giving ICANN and the community the ability to hold Ethos to its commitments," says the statement.

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AT&amp;T Loses Key Ruling In Class Action Over Unlimited-Data Throttling

Fri, 02/21/2020 - 6:20pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: AT&T's mandatory-arbitration clause is unenforceable in a class-action case over AT&T's throttling of unlimited data, a panel of U.S. appeals court judges ruled this week. The nearly five-year-old case has gone through twists and turns, with AT&T's forced-arbitration clause initially being upheld in March 2016. If that decision had stood, the customers would have been forced to have any complaints heard individually in arbitration. But an April 2017 decision by the California Supreme Court in a different case effectively changed the state's arbitration law, causing a U.S. District Court judge to revive the class action in March 2018. AT&T appealed that ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, but a three-judge panel at that court rejected AT&T's appeal in a ruling issued Tuesday. Judges said they must follow the California Supreme Court decision -- known as the McGill rule -- which held that an agreement, like AT&T's, that waives public injunctive relief in any forum is contrary to California public policy and unenforceable." AT&T claimed that the Federal Arbitration Act preempts the California law, but the appeals court had already ruled in Blair [another case involving the McGill rule] that this federal law doesn't preempt the McGill rule. The judges were also not persuaded by AT&T's argument that the court "abused its discretion in reconsidering its initial order compelling arbitration."

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Slickwraps Data Breach Exposing Financial and Customer Info

Fri, 02/21/2020 - 6:00pm
Slickwraps, a mobile device case retailer, has suffered a major data breach exposing employee resumes, personal customer information, API credentials, and more. Bleeping Computer reports: In a post to Medium, a security researcher named Lynx states that in January 2020 he was able to gain full access to the Slickwraps web site using a path traversal vulnerability in an upload script used for case customizations. Using this access, Lynx stated that they were allegedly able to gain access to the resumes of employees, 9GB of personal customer photos, ZenDesk ticketing system, API credentials, and personal customer information such as hashed passwords, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, and transactions. After trying to report these breaches to Slickwraps, Lynx stated they were blocked multiple times even when stating they did not want a bounty, but rather for Slickwraps to disclose the data breach. "They had no interest in accepting security advice from me. They simply blocked and ignored me," Lynx stated in the Medium post. This post has since been taken down by Medium, but is still available via archive.org. Since posting his Medium post, Lynx told BleepingComputer that another unauthorized user sent an email to 377,428 customers using Slickwraps' ZenDesk help desk system. These emails begin with "If you're reading this it's too late, we have your data" and then link to the Lynx's Medium post. [...] In a statement posted to their Twitter account, Slickwraps CEO Jonathan Endicott has apologized for the data breach and promises to do better in the future. In the statement, though, Endicott says they first learned about this today, February 21st, while Lynx stated and showed screenshots of attempts to contact both Endicott via email and Slickwraps on Twitter prior to today.

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FBI Recommends Passphrases Over Password Complexity

Fri, 02/21/2020 - 5:40pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: For more than a decade now, security experts have had discussions about what's the best way of choosing passwords for online accounts. There's one camp that argues for password complexity by adding numbers, uppercase letters, and special characters, and then there's the other camp, arguing for password length by making passwords longer. This week, in its weekly tech advice column known as Tech Tuesday, the FBI Portland office leaned on the side of longer passwords. "Instead of using a short, complex password that is hard to remember, consider using a longer passphrase," the FBI said. "This involves combining multiple words into a long string of at least 15 characters," it added. "The extra length of a passphrase makes it harder to crack while also making it easier for you to remember."

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More Bosses Give 4-Day Workweek A Try

Fri, 02/21/2020 - 5:05pm
Companies around the world are embracing what might seem like a radical idea: a four-day workweek. From a report: The concept is gaining ground in places as varied as New Zealand and Russia, and it's making inroads among some American companies. Employers are seeing surprising benefits, including higher sales and profits. The idea of a four-day workweek might sound crazy, especially in America, where the number of hours worked has been climbing and where cellphones and email remind us of our jobs 24/7. But in some places, the four-day concept is taking off like a viral meme. Many employers aren't just moving to 10-hour shifts, four days a week, as companies like Shake Shack are doing; they're going to a 32-hour week -- without cutting pay. In exchange, employers are asking their workers to get their jobs done in a compressed amount of time. Last month, a Washington state senator introduced a bill to reduce the standard workweek to 32 hours. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is backing a parliamentary proposal to shift to a four-day week. Politicians in Britain and Finland are considering something similar. In the U.S., Shake Shack started testing the idea a year and a half ago. The burger chain shortened managers' workweeks to four days at some stores and found that recruitment spiked, especially among women. Shake Shack's president, Tara Comonte, says the staff loved the perk: "Being able to take their kids to school a day a week, or one day less of having to pay for day care, for example." So the company recently expanded its trial to a third of its 164 U.S. stores. Offering that benefit required Shake Shack to find time savings elsewhere, so it switched to computer software to track supplies of ground beef, for example.

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Finnish City Espoo Pioneers Civic AI With Education and Explainability

Fri, 02/21/2020 - 4:25pm
While civic leaders believe AI could help reinvent government services, they are also aware of citizens' profound privacy concerns. To navigate this challenge, the Finnish city of Espoo is conducting experiments that mix consultations, transparency, and limited use cases to demonstrate the potential of civic AI. From a report: Espoo has already conducted AI trials that initially required overcoming technical hurdles but ultimately improved city services. Over the long-term, the city is crafting a model that places ethics at the center of its AI plans by ensuring citizens can understand how these systems work and participate in debates about their implementation. Though the plan is still very much in its early stages, the city hopes to blaze a trail that other governments can follow. "I think Finns trust the government and the public sector more than [citizens] in any country in Europe," said Tomas Lehtinen, data analyst consultant for Espoo. "We wanted to keep that trust in the future. And so we wanted to be transparent about this project for citizens, but also because many of our employees also don't understand AI."

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150K Nature Illustrations Spanning Hundreds of Years Are Now Free Online

Fri, 02/21/2020 - 3:45pm
The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) has uploaded more than 150,000 images of biological sketches, some dating back to the 15th century, onto the internet. A report adds: They're all in the public domain, and free for anyone who wants them. The images are pulled from journals, research material, and libraries, altogether more than 55 million pages of literature. BHL is "the world's largest open access digital library for biodiversity literature and archives," according to its website. On top of public domain content, BHL also works with rights holders to get permission to make copyrighted materials available under a Creative Commons license.

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Global Telcos Join Alphabet, SoftBank's Flying Cellphone Antenna Lobbying Effort

Fri, 02/21/2020 - 3:01pm
Alphabet and SoftBank's attempts to launch flying cellphone antennas high into the atmosphere have received backing from global telcos, energizing lobbying efforts aimed at driving regulatory approval for the emerging technology. From a report: Loon, which was spun out of Google parent Alphabet's business incubator, and HAPSMobile, a unit of SoftBank Group's domestic telco, plan to deliver high speed internet to remote areas by flying network equipment at high altitudes. Lobbying efforts by the two firms, which formed an alliance last year, are being joined by companies including aerospace firm Airbus, network vendors Nokia and Ericsson and telcos China Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica and Bharti Airtel.

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The CIA Won't Admit It Uses Slack

Fri, 02/21/2020 - 2:21pm
Given its traditional missions, which include subverting democracy around the world and providing U.S. leaders with unreliable intelligence analysis, it's understandable that the Central Intelligence Agency would be among our less transparent federal agencies. From a report: Now, though, it's gripping even more tightly to inconsequential information about what it gets up to than the ultra-secretive National Security Agency -- and for no evident reason. Last year, VICE filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking for any Slack domains in use by the CIA. The NSA, responding to a similar request, admitted that it had records responsive to the request -- that the agency uses the demonic chat app, in other words -- but said it couldn't release them because they were a state secret. Recently, the CIA replied to our request by saying this: "CIA can neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records responsive to your request. The fact of the existence or nonexistence of such records is itself currently and properly classified." In its response to our request, the CIA cited broad provisions in federal law that allow it to keep all sorts of information from the public by claiming it has to do with "intelligence sources and methods," which can mean anything from the identity of a spy in a foreign leader's inner circle to the podcasts a random bureaucrat listens to while driving to work. The agency is within its rights to do this, but it's just another in a long list of examples of why federal classification laws should be changed to give more weight to the public's right to get answers to even stupid questions relative to the right of public employees to keep what they do and how they do it entirely secret.

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