The founder of Oculus, Palmer Luckey, has backed a pro-Trump political organization called Nimble America that is dedicated to "shitposting" and spreading inflammatory memes about Hillary Clinton. In 2014, Luckey's virtual-reality company, Oculus, was acquired by Facebook for $2 billion. Forbes estimates his current net worth to be $700 million. The Daily Beast reports: "The 24-year-old told The Daily Beast that he had used the pseudonym "NimbleRichMan" on Reddit with a password given to him by the organization's founders. Nimble America says it's dedicated to providing that "shitposting is powerful and meme magic is real," according to the company's introductory statement, and has taken credit for a billboard its founders say was posted outside of Pittsburgh with a cartoonishly large image of Clinton's face alongside the words "Too Big to Jail." "We conquered Reddit and drive narrative on social media, conquered the [mainstream media], now it's time to get our most delicious memes in front of Americans whether they like it or not," a representative for the group wrote in an introductory post on Reddit. Potential donors from Donald Trump's biggest online community -- Reddit's r/The_Donald, where one of the rules is "no dissenters" -- turned on the organization this weekend, refusing to believe "NimbleRichMan" was the anonymous "near-billionaire" he claimed to be and causing a rift on one of the alt-right's most powerful organizational tools. Luckey insists he's just the group's money man -- a wealthy booster who thought the meddlesome idea was funny. But he is also listed as the vice-president of the group on its website. In another post written under Luckey's Reddit pseudonym, Luckey echoes Peter Thiel, the tech billionaire who used his wealth to secretly bankroll Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker. The Daily Beast adds: "'The American Revolution was funded by wealthy individuals," NimbleRichMan wrote on Saturday. Luckey confirmed to The Daily Beast he penned the posts under his Reddit pseudonym. 'The same has been true of many movements for freedom in history. You can't fight the American elite without serious firepower. They will outspend you and destroy you by any and all means.'"
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An anonymous reader quotes a report from USA Today: Electric automaker Tesla Motors filed a lawsuit Thursday against Michigan state officials, escalating its multi-year battle to sell vehicles directly to consumers. Tesla's action comes less than a week after Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson effectively rejected the automaker's application for dealership and service facilities by asking for proof that Tesla is a franchised dealer. Tesla, unlike other automakers, sells its cars directly to consumers through company-owned stores in other states. "Tesla Motors brings this lawsuit to vindicate its rights under the United States constitution to sell and service its critically-acclaimed, all-electric vehicles at Tesla owned facilities in the State of Michigan," the automaker said in its complaint in federal court. The California automaker named Johnson, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette as defendants. Tesla submitted an application for a dealership license in fall 2015 with a plan to open a retail gallery in Grand Rapids, Mich. In a Sept. 7 hearing, a panel of administrative law examiners heard arguments. Last Thursday, they rejected the license for Tesla. "The license was denied because state law explicitly requires a dealer to have a bona fide contract with an auto manufacturer to sell its vehicles," Johnson said in a statement. Tesla wants to sell its high-end battery-powered cars directly to consumers without a franchised dealer, much like Apple sells its products. The automaker's lawsuit asks a federal judge to declare that the state violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment and the constitution's commerce clause. Snyder signed a law in October, 2014, that prohibited Tesla from selling cars directly to consumers by requiring all automakers to sell through a network of franchised dealers.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Taiwan's defense ministry said on Wednesday it is asking Google to blur satellite images showing what experts say appear to be new military installations on Itu Aba, Taipei's sole holding in the disputed South China Sea. The revelation of new military-related construction could raise tensions in the contested waterway, where China's building of airstrips and other facilities has worried other claimants and the United States. The images seen on Google Earth show four three-pronged structures sitting in a semi-circle just off the northwestern shoreline of Itu Aba, across from an upgraded airstrip and recently constructed port that can dock 3,000-ton frigates. "Under the pre-condition of protecting military secrets and security, we have requested Google blur images of important military facilities," Taiwan Defense Ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said on Wednesday, after local media published the images on Itu Aba. The United States has urged against the militarization of the South China Sea, following the rapid land reclamation by China on several disputed reefs through dredging, and building air fields and port facilities. Defense experts in Taiwan said that based on the imagery of the structures and their semi-circular layout, the structures were likely related to defense and could be part of an artillery foundation.
An anonymous reader writes: 19-year-old hacker qwertyoruiop, aka Luca Todesco, jailbroke the new iPhone 7 just 24 hours after he got it, in what's the first known iPhone 7 jailbreak. Todesco tweeted a screenshot of a terminal where he has "root," alongside the message: "This is a jailbroken iPhone 7." He even has video proof of the jailbreak. Motherboard reports: "He also said that he could definitely submit the vulnerabilities he found to Apple, since they fall under the newly launched bug bounty, but he hasn't decided whether to do that yet. The hacker told me that he needs to polish the exploits a bit more to make the jailbreak 'smoother,' and that he is also planning to make this jailbreak work through the Safari browser just like the famous 'jailbreakme.com,' which allowed anyone to jailbreak their iPhone 4 just by clicking on a link." Apple responded to the news by saying, "Apple strongly cautions against installing any software that hacks iOS."
The hacker who leaked Colin Powell's private email account last week has struck again. This time they have hacked a low-level White House staffer and released a picture of Michelle Obama's passport, along with detailed schedules for top U.S. officials and private email messages. New York Post reports: The information has been posted online by the group DC Leaks. The White House staffer -- who also apparently does advance work for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign -- is named Ian Mellul. The released documents include a PowerPoint outline of Vice President Joe Biden's recent Cleveland trip, showing his planned route, where he'll meet with individuals and other sensitive information, according to the Daily Mail. In an email to The Post, the hacker writes, "The leaked files show the security level of our government. If terrorists hack emails of White House Office staff and get such sensitive information we will see the fall of our country." The hacker adds, "We hope you will tell the people about this criminal negligence of White House Office staffers."
Kashmir Hill has a fascinating story today on what can go wrong when you solely rely on IP address in a crime investigation -- also highlighting how often police resort to IP addresses. In the story she follows a crime investigation that led police to raid a couple's house at 6am in the morning, because their IP address had been associated with the publication of child porn on notorious 4chan porn. The problem was, Hill writes: the couple -- David Robinson and Jan Bultmann -- weren't the ones who had uploaded the child porn. All they did was voluntarily use one of their old laptops as a Tor exit relay, a software used by activists, dissidents, privacy enthusiasts as well as criminals, so that people who want to stay anonymous when surfing the web could do so. Hill writes: Robinson and Bultmann had [...] specifically operated the riskiest node in the chain: the exit relay which provides the IP address ultimately associated with a user's activity. In this case, someone used Tor to make the porn post, and his or her traffic had been routed through the computer in Robinson and Bultmann's house. The couple wasn't pleased to have helped someone post child porn to the internet, but that's the thing about privacy-protective tools: They're going to be used for good and bad purposes, and to support one, you might have to support the other.Robinson added that he was a little let down because police didn't bother to look at the public list which details the IP addresses associated with Tor exit relays. Hill adds: The police asked Robinson to unlock one MacBook Air, and then seemed satisfied these weren't the criminals they were looking for and left. But months later, the case remains open with Robinson and Bultmann's names on police documents linking them to child pornography. "I haven't run an exit relay since. The police told me they'd be back if it happened again," Robinson said; he's still running a Tor node, just not the end point anymore. "I have to take the threat seriously because I don't want my wife or I to wake up with guns in our faces."Technologist Seth Schoen, and EFF Executive Director Cindy Cohn in a white paper aimed at courts and cops. "For many reasons, connecting an individual to a crime linked to an IP address, without any additional investigation, is irresponsible and threatens the civil liberties of innocent people."
An anonymous reader writes: Cybercriminals are spreading malware via torrent distribution networks, using an automated tool to disguise the downloads as trending audio, video and other digital content in an attempt to infect more unsuspecting victims. Researchers at InfoArmor say they have uncovered a malicious torrent distribution network that relies on a tool called RAUM to infect computers with malware. The network begins with a torrent parser, which collects information about some of the most popular torrent files circulating around the web. Computer criminals then apply their RAUM tool to create a series of malicious files. Some are fake copies of those popular torrent files that in reality hide notorious malware such as CryptXXX, Cerber, or Dridex. Others are weaponized torrent files, while others still are parsed torrent files that rely on a high download rating, a reputation which the attackers artificially inflate by abusing compromised users' accounts to set up new seeds.
Several Chinese publications are reporting that "ghost drivers" are frightening Uber passengers into paying for trips they didn't take. Passengers in Tianjin, Qingdao, Chengdu, Beijing, Shanghai and Suzhou have been canceling Uber rides after seeing creepy driver profile pictures pop up in the app. Quartz reports: Passengers using the ride-hailing app in several Chinese cities have reported seeing their requests picked up by drivers with creepy profile photos of zombie faces. According to Chinese news site Sixth Tone, the point of these ghostly profiles is to scare passengers into canceling the trip, so they are fined for a few yuan (less than a dollar), which goes to the driver. Other passengers have reported seeing their rides accepted, but then their trips were "started" by the driver on the app before they even get to the car. These "ghost rides" last less than a minute, with the driver charging customers between 8 and 15 yuan (about 1 to 2 dollars) for a ride that never happened. Calls to the drivers in these cases are never picked up, according to The Paper, a state-owned media. Passengers can however eventually be reimbursed by Uber China if they lodge a complaint.
HockeyPuck writes: The House Oversight Committee has ordered Reddit to preserve deleted posts believed to be written by Paul Combetta, an IT technician the committee suspects may have deleted Hillary Clinton emails that were under subpoena. This follows up on an earlier report on reddit users' findings. Reddit users found that Combetta, through the username "StoneTear," requested help in relation to retaining and purging email messages after 60 days, and requested advice on how to remove a "VERY VIP" individual's email address from archived content. The Hill says in its report: "It's unclear what, exactly, the committee will be able to learn from the information Reddit preserves. According to the company's public policy for handling official requests, it maintains basic subscriber information, like IP logs, which identify the computer used to access a site. According to the policy, Reddit can maintain deleted records -- like a user's account -- for 90 days if it receives an official preservation order. Otherwise, the information will be subject to Reddit's 'normal retention or destruction schedules.'"
MojoKid writes: In early August, the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled the FCC had no authority to prevent states from imposing restrictions on municipal internet. This was a result of the FCC stepping in last year in an effort to "remove barriers to broadband investment and competition." However, the courts sided with the states, which said that the FCC's order impeded on state rights. In the end, this ruling clearly favored firmly entrenched big brand operators like Time Warner Cable, Comcast, and ATT, which lobbied hard to keep competition at bay. The federal ruling specifically barred municipal internet providers from offering service outside of their city limits, denying them from providing service to under-served communities. The fallout from the federal court's rejection of the FCC order to extend a lifeline to municipal internet providers has claimed another victim. The small community of Pinetops, North Carolina -- population 1,300 -- will soon have its gigabit internet connection shut off. Pinetops has been the recipient of Greenlight internet service, which is provided by the neighboring town of Wilson. The town of Wilson has been providing electric power to Pinetops for the past 40 years, and had already deployed fiber through the town in order to bolster its smart grid initiative. What's infuriating to the Wilson City Council and to the Pinetop residents that will lose their high-speed service is that the connections are already in place. There's no logical reason why they should be cut off, but state laws and the lobbyists supporting those laws have deemed what Greenlight is doing illegal. Provide power to a neighboring town -- sure that's OK. Provide better internet to a neighboring town -- lawsuit
The Natural Resources Defense Council has issued a new report accusing Samsung, LG and Vizio of "misleading consumers and regulators about how much energy high-definition screens devour, alleging that the televisions were designed to perform more efficiently during government testing than in ordinary use." The report "estimates that the collective electricity bills during a decade of watching the high-definition TVs will be $1.2 billion higher than the energy ratings imply," and that "the higher energy usage generates an additional 5 million metric tons of carbon pollution." CBS Local reports: The findings are based on an analysis of high-definition TVs with screens spanning at least 55 inches made in 2015 and 2016. The estimates on electricity costs are based on high definition TVs with screens 32 inches and larger. The study concluded that Samsung and LG have gamed the system during government testing in an effort to get better scores on the "Energy Star" yellow labels that appear on the sets in stores. Those scores often influence the buying decisions of consumers looking to save money on their utility bills. The report said Samsung and LG did not break any laws in their manipulation of the tests, but rather exploited weaknesses in the Department of Energy's system to measure electricity usage. The Samsung and LG sets have a dimming feature that turns off the screens' backlight during part of the 10-minute video clip used in government tests. But that does not typically happen when the sets are being used in homes to watch sports, comedies, dramas and news programming. The analysis also found that Samsung, LG and Vizio disable energy-saving features in their TVs when consumers change the factory setting on the picture, a common practice. The energy-saving feature is turned off, with little or no warning on the screen, sometimes doubling the amount of electricity consumed, according to the NRDC report.
A federal appeals court ruled this week against Defense Distributed, the Texas organization that promotes 3D-printed guns, in a lawsuit that it brought last year against the State Department. In a 2-1 decision, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals was not persuaded that Defense Distributed's right to free speech under the First Amendment outweighs national security concerns. From an ArsTechnica report: The majority concluded: 'Ordinarily, of course, the protection of constitutional rights would be the highest public interest at issue in a case. That is not necessarily true here, however, because the State Department has asserted a very strong public interest in national defense and national security. Indeed, the State Department's stated interest in preventing foreign nationals -- including all manner of enemies of this country -- from obtaining technical data on how to produce weapons and weapon parts is not merely tangentially related to national defense and national security; it lies squarely within that interest.'
An anonymous reader writes: Threatening file-sharers with high fines or even prison sentences is not the best way to stop piracy. New research published by UK researchers shows that perceived risk has no effect on people's file-sharing habits. Instead, the entertainment industries should focus on improving the legal options, so these can compete with file-sharing. Unauthorized file-sharing (UFS) is best predicted by the supposed benefits of piracy. As such, the researchers note that better legal alternatives are the best way to stop piracy. The results are based on a psychological study among hundreds of music and ebook consumers. They were subjected to a set of questions regarding their file-sharing habits, perceived risk, industry trust, and online anonymity. By analyzing the data the researchers found that the perceived benefit of piracy, such as quality, flexibility of use and cost are the real driver of piracy. An increase in legal risk was not directly associated with any statistically significant decrease in self-reported file-sharing.
The video-sharing site is looking for "heroes." YouTube is looking for a few good users who want to be "Heroes." Google's video-sharing site wants volunteers to help moderate its content by flagging inappropriate content, fielding questions in YouTube Help forums, and contributing video captions and subtitles, reports Reuters. From the report:Performing those types of tasks will help users earn points in the site's new crowdsourcing program, called "YouTube Heroes." YouTube announced the "Heroes" program in a post on the site's help channel on Wednesday that included a video showing prospective volunteers how they can participate and the perks they can earn. "You work hard to make YouTube better for everyone and, like all heroes, you deserve a place to call home," YouTube says in the video.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A non-practicing entity called MobileMedia Ideas LLC won a patent lawsuit against Apple today, with a Delaware federal jury finding that Apple should pay $3 million for infringing MobileMedia's patent RE39,231, which relates to ring-silencing features on mobile phones. MobileMedia is an unusual example of the kind of pure patent-licensing entity often derided as a "patent troll." It is majority-owned by MPEG-LA, a patent pool that licenses common digital video technologies like H-264, MPEG-2, and MPEG-4. Minority stakes in MobileMedia are owned by Sony and Nokia, which both contributed the patents owned by the company. MobileMedia also has the same CEO as MPEG-LA, Larry Horn. The battle ended up being a long one, as MobileMedia first filed the case in 2010. It went to trial in 2012, and the jury found that Apple infringed three patents. After reviewing post-trial motions, the judge knocked out some, but not all, of the infringed patent claims. Then came an appeal in which a panel of Federal Circuit judges upheld (PDF) some of the lower court's judges and overturned others. A $3 million verdict is hardly going to make an impact on Apple, and it doesn't represent a huge win for MobileMedia, which was reportedly seeking $18 million in royalties from the trial. Still, getting a verdict in its favor does represent some validation of MobileMedia's business model, which was a striking example of technology corporations using the "patent troll" business model as a kind of proxy war. Nokia and Sony were able to use MobileMedia and the licensing talent at MPEG-LA to wage a patent attack on Apple without engaging directly in court. In all, after years of back-and-forth, the ring-silencing patent was the one that MobileMedia had left. While Apple didn't win the case against one of the first "corporate trolls," it was able to severely pare down the scale of the attack and show that it's willing to fight a long legal war of attrition to make its point.