hypnosec writes with news that a group of Russian hackers has compromised the security of Ubisoft's digital distribution platform, uPlay, finding a way for users of the service to download any of its games for free. What makes this particularly notable is that the hackers found a copy of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, an unreleased spin-off of Far Cry 3 that hasn't even been officially announced (except as part of an April Fool's joke). The hackers posted a half-hour of gameplay footage to YouTube, and Ubisoft took uPlay down to fix the security vulnerability. They say no user information was compromised.
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
conspirator23 writes "A 64-year-old retired English teacher is being sued by a copyright troll for illegal BitTorrent downloading of a motion picture. Perhaps it's not all that shocking in the current era. That is, until we learn that rather than protecting something like Game of Thrones, the plaintiff is accusing Emily Orlando of Estacada, Oregon of downloading Maximum Conviction, a direct-to-video action flick released earlier this year starring Steven Segal and ex-WWE wrestler Steve Austin. Voltage Pictures is demanding $7500 from Emily and 370 other defendants. If all the defendants were to pay the demands, Voltage would gross over $2.75 million, minus legal fees. Who needs Kickstarter?" As you might expect, Mrs. Orlando had never heard of BitTorrent before receiving the legal threat, and she lives in an area with dynamic IP assignments. This is the same company who has been going after file-sharers by the thousands since 2010.
tsamsoniw writes "Mozilla today unveiled Persona Beta 2, the newest edition of the organization's open authentication system. The release includes Identity Bridging, which lets user sign in to Persona-supported sites using their existing webmail accounts, starting with Yahoo. Mozilla used the release as an opportunity to bash social sign-in offerings from Facebook and Twitter, which 'conflate the act of signing into a website with sharing access to your social network, and often granting the site permission to publish on your behalf,' said Lloyd Hilaiel, technical lead for Mozilla Persona. He added that they are built in such a way that social providers have full visibility into a user's browsing behavior."
An anonymous reader writes "As the age of autonomous cars and drone surveillance draws nearer, it's reasonable to expect government to increasingly automate enforcement of traffic laws. We already deal with red light cameras, speed limit cameras, and special lane cameras. But they aren't widespread, and there are a host of problems with them. Now, Ars reports on a group of academics who are attempting to solve the problem of converting simple laws to machine-readable code. They found that when the human filter was removed from the system, results became unreasonable very quickly. For example, if you aren't shy about going 5 mph over the limit, you'll likely break the law dozens of times during an hour of city driving. On the freeway, you might break it continuously for an hour. But it's highly unlikely you'd get more than one ticket for either transgression. Not so with computers (PDF): 'An automated system, however, could maintain a continuous flow of samples based on driving behavior and thus issue tickets accordingly. This level of resolution is not possible in manual law enforcement. In our experiment, the programmers were faced with the choice of how to treat many continuous samples all showing speeding behavior. Should each instance of speeding (e.g. a single sample) be treated as a separate offense, or should all consecutive speeding samples be treated as a single offense? Should the duration of time exceeding the speed limit be considered in the severity of the offense?' One of the academics said, 'When you're talking about automated enforcement, all of the enforcement has to be put in before implementation of the law—you have to be able to predict different circumstances.'"
concealment writes with news that a court battle has brought to light details on how the FBI's "stingray" surveillance tool works, and how they used it with Verizon's help to collect evidence about an alleged identity thief. Quoting: "Air cards are devices that plug into a computer and use the wireless cellular networks of phone providers to connect the computer to the internet. The devices are not phones and therefore don’t have the ability to receive incoming calls, but in this case Rigmaiden asserts that Verizon reconfigured his air card to respond to surreptitious voice calls from a landline controlled by the FBI. The FBI calls, which contacted the air card silently in the background, operated as pings to force the air card into revealing its location. In order to do this, Verizon reprogrammed the device so that when an incoming voice call arrived, the card would disconnect from any legitimate cell tower to which it was already connected, and send real-time cell-site location data to Verizon, which forwarded the data to the FBI. This allowed the FBI to position its stingray in the neighborhood where Rigmaiden resided. The stingray then "broadcast a very strong signal" to force the air card into connecting to it, instead of reconnecting to a legitimate cell tower, so that agents could then triangulate signals coming from the air card and zoom-in on Rigmaiden’s location. To make sure the air card connected to the FBI’s simulator, Rigmaiden says that Verizon altered his air card’s Preferred Roaming List so that it would accept the FBI’s stingray as a legitimate cell site and not a rogue site, and also changed a data table on the air card designating the priority of cell sites so that the FBI’s fake site was at the top of the list."
GTRacer writes "In response to Aereo's recent win allowing per-user over-the-air antenna feeds to remote devices, Fox COO Chase Carey said, 'We need to be able to be fairly compensated for our content. This is not an ideal path we look to pursue [...],' that path being a switch to a subscription model. Spanish-language stalwart Univison may join Fox, per CEO Haim Saban. Aereo replied, in part, 'When broadcasters asked Congress for a free license to digitally broadcast on the public's airwaves, they did so with the promise that they would broadcast in the public interest and convenience, and that they would remain free-to-air. Having a television antenna is every American's right.' A switch to a pay-TV subscription model would stymie Aereo but could hurt affiliate stations."
RougeFemme writes with this story in the New York Times about one disconcerting aspect of the ongoing move to electronic textbooks: "Teachers at 9 colleges are testing technology from a Silicon Valley start-up that lets them know if you're skipping pages, highlighting text, taking notes — or, of course, not opening the book at all. '"It's Big Brother, sort of, but with a good intent," said Tracy Hurley, the dean of the school of business at Texas A&M.' 'Major publishers in higher education have already been collecting data from millions of students who use their digital materials. But CourseSmart goes further by individually packaging for each professor information on all the students in a class — a bold effort that is already beginning to affect how teachers present material and how students respond to it, even as critics question how well it measures learning.'"
Nerval's Lobster writes "According to an appellate court in California, checking your smartphone while driving your Volkswagen (or any other vehicle) is officially verboten. In January 2012, one Steven R. Spriggs was pulled over and cited for checking a map on his smartphone while driving. In a trial held four months later, Spriggs disputed that his action violated California's Section 23123 subdivision (a), which states that a person can't use a phone while driving unless 'that telephone is specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free driving and talking, and is used in that manner while driving.' In short, he argued that the statute was limited to those functions of listening and talking—things he insisted could have been followed to the letter of the law. But the judge ruled that operating a phone for GPS, calling, texting, or whatever else was still a distraction and allowed the conviction to stand. That leads to a big question: with everything from Google Glass to cars' own dashboard screens offering visual 'distractions' like dynamic maps, can (and should) courts take a more active role in defining what people are allowed to do with technology behind the wheel? Or are statutes like California's hopelessly outdated?"
waderoush writes "At a time of sequesters and shrinking R&D spending, critics are attacking President Obama's proposed Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative, which would have a $100 million budget starting in 2014. But in fact, the project 'runs the risk of becoming a casualty of small-bore thinking in science business, and politics,' argues Xconomy national life sciences editor Luke Timmerman. The goal of the BRAIN initiative is to develop technologies for exploring the trillions of synapses between neurons in the human brain. If the $3 billion Human Genome Project and its even more productive sequel, the $300-million-per-year Advanced Sequencing Technologies program, are any guide, the initiative could lead to huge advances in our understanding of Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, and consciousness itself. Only government can afford to think this big, argues Timmerman. 'Even though $100 million a year is small change by federal government standards,' Timmerman writes, 'it is enough to create a small market that gives for-profit companies assurance that if they build such tools, someone will buy them. We ought to be talking about how we can free up more money to achieve our neuroscience goals faster, rather than talking about whether we can afford this puny appropriation at all.'"
An anonymous reader points out a story at Ars about how the "significant reduction" in the backlog of pending patent applications may not be all that it seems. "...a new study suggests another explanation for the declining backlog: the patent office may have lowered its standards, approving many patents that would have been (and in some cases, had been) rejected under the administration of George W. Bush. The authors—Chris Cotropia and Cecil Quillen of the University of Richmond and independent researcher Ogden Webster—used Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain detailed data about the fate of patent applications considered by the USPTO since 1996. They found that the "allowance rate," the fraction of applications approved by the patent office, declined steadily from 2001 and 2009. But in the last four years there's been a sharp reversal, with a 2012 allowance rate about 20 percent higher than it was in 2009."
An anonymous reader writes to note the latest large-scale document release from WikiLeaks: "The cables are all from the time period of 1973 to 1976. Without droning about too many numbers that can be found in the press release, about 200,000 of the cables relate directly to former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. These cables include significant revelations about U.S. involvements with fascist dictatorships, particularly in Latin America, under Franco's Spain (including about the Spanish royal family) and in Greece under the regime of the Colonels. The documents also contain hourly diplomatic reporting on the 1973 war between Israel, Egypt and Syria (the 'Yom Kippur war'). While several of these documents have been used by U.S. academic researchers in the past, the Kissinger Cables provides unparalleled access to journalists and the general public. 'The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer.' — Henry A. Kissinger, U.S. Secretary of State, March 10, 1975."
In the end, the Streisand Effect prevailed, as you might expect, when a French domestic intelligence agency apparently browbeat a French citizen into removing content from Wikipedia. The attention caused the Wikipedia entry on a formerly obscure military radio site (English version) to leap in popularity not only in French, but in languages where it was formerly far less likely to have been noticed at all. Lauren Weinstein makes the case, though, that this sort of move isn't just something to shrug at or assume will always end so nicely. "Even though attempts at Internet censorship will almost all fail in the end, governments and authorities have the capability to make groups' and individuals' lives extremely uncomfortable, painful, or even terminated — in the process of attempts at censorship, and equally important, by instilling fear to encourage self-censorship in the first place."
First time accepted submitter snobody writes "Recently, an article was posted on Slashdot about the claim that law enforcement made about being frustrated by their inability to decrypt messages using Apple's iMessage. However, this article on Techdirt suggests that the DEA may be spewing out disinformation. As the Techdirt article says, if you switch to a new iDevice, you still are able to access your old iMessages, suggesting that Apple has the key somewhere in the cloud. Thus, if law enforcement goes directly to Apple, they should be able to get the key."
MarkWhittington writes "A clash over the future course of American space exploration flared up at a recent joint meeting of the Space Studies Board and the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board. In one corner was Al Carnesale of UCLA, who headed the recent study issued by the National Research Council that found fault with the Obama administration's plan to send American astronauts to an asteroid. In the other corner was NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who has been charged with carrying out the policy condemned by the NRC report."
girlmad writes "Rackspace has come out fighting against one of the U.S.'s most notorious patent trolls, Parallel Iron. The cloud services firm said it's totally fed up with trolls of all kinds, which have caused a 500 percent rise in its legal bills. Rackspace was last week named among 12 firms accused of infringing Parallel Iron's Hadoop Distributed File System patents. Rackspace is now counter-suing the troll, as the firm said it has a deal in place with Parallel Iron after signing a previous patent settlement with them."
Lasrick writes "Derrin Culp of the National Center for Disease Preparedness explores the different levels of scrutiny that scientists in microbiology undergo, when compared to those who work in the nuclear weapons field. His complaint is that, even though America's most notorious biosecurity breach — the 2001 anthrax mailings — was the work of an insider, expert panels have concluded that there is no need for intrusive monitoring of microbiologists engaged in unclassified research."
New submitter anderzole writes "Germany's Federal Patent Court on Thursday invalidated all of Apple's claims for its slide-to-unlock patent. They death blow for Apple's slide to unlock patent was likely a Swedish phone called the Neonode N1m that launched well before the iPhone and featured its own slide to unlock implementation. The N1m was released in 2005 while Apple's own patent for slide to unlock wasn't filed until December of 2005."
We've mentioned a few times the "gentleman's agreements" which some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley used to reduce the risk of employee poaching. walterbyrd writes "This comes from the same judge who awarded Apple $1 billion from Samsung. 'A federal judge on Friday struck down an effort to form a class action lawsuit to go after Apple, Google and five other technology companies for allegedly forming an illegal cartel to tamp down workers' wages and prevent the loss of their best engineers during a multiyear conspiracy broken up by government regulators.'" The lawsuit itself is ongoing (thanks to a ruling last year by the same judge); it's just that the plaintiff's claims cannot be combined.
After being saddled with a half-billion dollars in loans from the U.S. Department of Energy, electric car manufacturer Fisker just can't catch a break. It's not just the cars; it's the company itself. From a Reuters report: "In a statement, Fisker confirmed that it let go about 75 percent of its workforce. The automaker said it was 'a necessary strategic step in our efforts to maximize the value of Fisker's core assets.' A Fisker representative could not immediately answer questions on the company's financial position. In the past, the automaker has declined to comment on the possibility of bankruptcy. ... About 160 employees were terminated at a Friday morning meeting at Fisker's Anaheim, California, headquarters, according to a second source who attended the meeting. They were told that the company could not afford to give them severance payments."
saibot834 writes "The French domestic intelligence agency DCRI has forced a Wikipedia administrator to delete an article about a local military base. The administrator, who is also the president of Wikimédia France, has been threatened by the agency with immediate reprisals after his initial refusal to comply. Following a discussion on the administrator's noticeboard, the article (which is said to violate a law on the secrecy of the national defense) has been reinstated by a foreign user. Prior to pressuring the admin, DCRI contacted the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF), which refused to remove the article. WMF claimed the article only contained publicly available information, in accordance with Wikipedia's verifiability policy. While the consequences for Wikimedia's community remain unclear, one thing is certain: The military base article – now available in English – will get more public awareness than ever before."