Businesses

If Data Is the New Oil, Are Tech Companies Robbing Us Blind? (digitaltrends.com) 13

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Trends: Data is the new oil, or so the saying goes. So why are we giving it away for nothing more than ostensibly free email, better movie recommendations, and more accurate search results? It's an important question to ask in a world where the accumulation and scraping of data is worth billions of dollars -- and even a money-losing company with enough data about its users can be worth well into the eight-figure region. The essential bargain that's driven by today's tech giants is the purest form of cognitive capitalism: users feed in their brains -- whether this means solving a CAPTCHA to train AI systems or clicking links on Google to help it learn which websites are more important than others. In exchange for this, we get access to ostensibly "free" services, while simultaneously helping to train new technologies which may one day put large numbers of us out of business.

In an age in which concepts like universal basic income are increasingly widely discussed, one of the most intriguing solutions is one first put forward by virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier. In his book Who Owns the Future?, Lanier suggests that users should receive a micropayment every time their data is used to earn a company money. For example, consider the user who signs up to an online dating service. Here, the user provides data that the dating company uses to match them with a potential data. This matching process is, itself, based on algorithms honed by the data coming from previous users. The data resulting from the new user will further perfect the algorithms for later users of the service. In the case that your data somehow matches someone else successfully in a relationship, Lanier says you would be entitled to a micropayment.

The Internet

Showtime Websites Are Mining Monero With Your CPU, Unclear If Hack Or Experiment (bleepingcomputer.com) 135

An anonymous reader writes: Two Showtime domains are currently loading and running Coinhive, a JavaScript library that mines Monero using the CPU resources of users visiting Showtime's websites. The two domains are showtime.com and showtimeanytime.com, the latter being the official URL for the company's online video streaming service. It is unclear if someone hacked Showtime and included the mining script without the company's knowledge. Showtime did not respond to a request for comment, but it could be an experiment as the setThrottle value is 0.97, meaning the mining script will remain dormant for 97% of the time. Despite this, Coinhive has been recently adopted by a large number of malware operations, such as malvertisers, adware developers, rogue Chrome extensions, and website hackers, who secretly load the code in a page's background and make money off unsuspecting users. At least two ad blockers have added support for blocking Coinhive's JS library -- AdBlock Plus and AdGuard -- and developers have also put together Chrome extensions that terminate anything that looks like Coinhive's mining script -- AntiMiner, No Coin, and minerBlock.

The Pirate Bay recently ran tests using Coinhive. A recent report has calculated that a site like The Pirate Bay could make around $12,000 per month by mining Monero in the background.

Red Hat Software

Analyst: Enterprises Trust Red Hat Because It 'Makes Open Source Boring' (redmonk.com) 97

Tech analyst James Governor reports on what he learned from Red Hat's "Analyst Day": So it turns out Red Hat is pretty good at being Red Hat. By that I mean Red Hat sticks to the knitting, carries water and chops wood, and generally just does a good job of packaging open source technology for enterprise adoption. It's fashionable these days to decry open source -- "it's not a business". Maybe not for you, but for Red Hat it sure is. Enterprises trust Red Hat precisely because it makes open source boring. Exciting and cool, on the other hand, often means getting paged in the middle of the night. Enterprise people generally don't like that kind of thing...

Red Hat remains an anomaly -- it makes money in open source. It has new revenue streams opening up. It is well positioned to keep doing the basics, but also now have a conversation with the C-suite about transformation.

The article notes the popularity of OpenShift, Red Hat's Kubernetes distribution for managing container-based applications. (OpenShift Container Platform, Red Hat's on-premises private PaaS product, now has 400 paying enterprise customers). And it also applauds Red Hat's 2016 launch of Open Innovation Labs -- a enterprise consulting service "to jumpstart innovation and software development initiatives using open source technology and DevOps methods."
Sci-Fi

'Star Trek: Discovery' Premieres Tonight (ew.com) 434

An anonymous reader quotes EW.com: Tonight CBS will premiere the first new Star Trek TV series in 12 years at 8:30 p.m. on the company's regular broadcast network. Immediately afterward, the second episode of Star Trek: Discovery will stream exclusively on CBS All Access -- the company's $6 per month streaming service... CBS saw an opportunity to leverage the built-in popularity of Star Trek to help fuel its fledgling All Access streaming service. The service currently has about 1 million subscribers and the company's goal is to grow it to 4 million by 2020...

But once fans watch Discovery, they'll notice the show's production values aren't like a typical broadcast show, but more reminiscent of a premium cable or streaming show. CBS was able to justify spending a bit more money on Discovery since it's going onto the paid tier. Sometimes, you really do get what you pay for.

The Los Angeles Times reports each episode costs $8 million -- though Netflix is paying $6 million for each episode's international broadcast rights. The show's main title sequence has been released, and the Verge reports that the show is set before the original 1966 series (but after Star Trek: Enterprise) along with some other possible spoilers.

Space.com asked one of the show's actors who his favorite Star Trek captain was. "I mean, Kirk," answered James Frain, who plays the Vulcan Sarek in Discovery. "That's like, 'Who's your favorite James Bond?', and if you don't say 'Sean Connery,' really? Come on."
Patents

Cloudflare Pays First $7,500 Bounties In War Against Patent Troll (cloudflare.com) 35

Cloudflare declared war on a group of lawyers that files patent lawsuits against tech firms, by offering bounties for the discovery of patent-invalidating "prior art." Now an anonymous reader writes: On Thursday, Cloudflare announced it has paid out the first $7,500 to people who discovered documents that could help invalidate Blackbird's patents. The money is part of a $100,000 war chest the company announced this spring... The company said it is ready to launch individual challenges to specific Blackbird patents. The company believes it has enough examples of prior art on US Patent 7,797,448, "GPS-internet Linkage" and US Patent 6,453,335 (the one asserted against Cloudflare) to lodge a challenge.
"We have received more than 230 submissions so far," Cloudflare reports, "and have only just begun to scratch the surface."
Iphone

Hackers Using iCloud's Find My iPhone Feature To Remotely Lock Macs, Demand Ransom Payments (macrumors.com) 61

AmiMoJo shares a report from Mac Rumors: Over the last day or two, several Mac users appear to have been locked out of their machines after hackers signed into their iCloud accounts and initiated a remote lock using Find My iPhone. With access to an iCloud user's username and password, Find My iPhone on iCloud.com can be used to "lock" a Mac with a passcode even with two-factor authentication turned on, and that's what's going on here. Affected users who have had their iCloud accounts hacked are receiving messages demanding money for the passcode to unlock a locked Mac device. The usernames and passwords of the iCloud accounts affected by this "hack" were likely found through various site data breaches and have not been acquired through a breach of Apple's servers. Impacted users likely used the same email addresses, account names, and passwords for multiple accounts, allowing people with malicious intent to figure out their iCloud details.
Security

SEC Discloses Hackers Penetrated EDGAR, Profited in Trading (usatoday.com) 48

Chris Woodyard, writing for USA Today: Hackers made their way into the Security and Exchange Commission's EDGAR electronic filing system last year, retrieving private data that appear to have resulted in "an illicit gain through trading," the agency said. It was only in August that the commission learned that hackers may have been able to use their illegal activities to make ill-gotten gains through market trading, said Chairman Jay Clayton in a lengthy statement posted on the SEC's website. EDGAR, which stands for Electronic Data Gathering Analysis and Retrieval, is considered critical to the SEC's operation and the ability of investors to see the electronic filings of companies and markets. The SEC says about 50 million documents are viewed through EDGAR on a typical day. It receives about 1.7 million filings a year.
Advertising

Democrats Ask FEC To Create New Rules To Keep Foreign Influence Off Social Media Ads (thehill.com) 195

Cristina Marcos reports via The Hill: Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday asked the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to establish new guidelines for online advertising platforms that would prevent foreign spending to influence U.S. elections. The move comes after Facebook provided information to Congress and special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the FBI's investigation into Russia's election interference, about Russian ad purchases during the 2016 campaign.

"The recent revelations that foreign nationals with suspected ties to the Russian government sought to influence the 2016 election through social media advertisements are deeply concerning and demand a response," 20 House and Senate Democrats wrote in the letter. "We are fast approaching the 2018 election cycle. As such, it is imperative the Federal Election Commission begin this effort in earnest," they wrote. CNN, which first reported on the Democrats' letter, cited Facebook sources saying they expect Congress may try to require disclaimers on online political ads in the future, similar to political television ads. The Democratic lawmakers suggested that any FEC guidance address how foreign actors can use corporate or nonprofit designations to avoid disclosing political spending; what advertisement platforms can do to prevent foreign campaign activity; and possible changes to disclosure standards for political advertisements.

Microsoft

Bill Gates Says He's Sorry About Control-Alt-Delete (qz.com) 317

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: At the Bloomberg Global Business Forum today, Carlyle Group co-founder and CEO David Rubenstein asked Microsoft founder Bill Gates to account for one of the most baffling questions of the digital era: Why does it take three fingers to lock or log in to a PC, and why did Gates ever think that was a good idea? Grimacing slightly, Gates deflected responsibility for the crtl-alt-delete key command, saying, "clearly, the people involved should have put another key on to make that work." Rubenstein pressed him: does he regret the decision? "You can't go back and change the small things in your life without putting the other things at risk," Gates said. But: "Sure. If I could make one small edit I would make that a single key operation." Gates has made the confession before. In 2013, he blamed IBM for the issue, saying, "The guy who did the IBM keyboard design didn't want to give us our single button."
China

China Orders Bitcoin Exchanges In Capital City To Close (bbc.com) 71

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: China is moving forward with plans to shut down Bitcoin exchanges in the country, starting with trading platforms in key cities. All Bitcoin exchanges in Beijing and Shanghai have been ordered to submit plans for winding down their operations by 20 September. The move follows the Chinese central bank's decision to ban initial coin offerings in early September. Top exchange BTCC said it would stop trading at the end of the month. Chinese authorities decided to ban digital currencies as part of a plan for reducing the country's financial risks. All exchanges are required to send regulators a detailed "risk-free" plan of how they intend to exit the market before 18:30 local time on Wednesday 20 September. The regulator also ordered the exchanges to submit DVDs containing all user trading and holding data to the local authorities. Shareholders, controllers, executives, and core financial and technical staff of exchanges are also required to remain in Beijing during the shutdown and to co-operate fully with authorities.
Google

Google's New Payment App For India Transfers Money Via Ultrasound (buzzfeed.com) 37

Pranav Dixit, writing for BuzzFeed News: Google's goal for the brand-new payments app it launched in India on Monday is simple yet ambitious: to get in on the action each time someone sends or receives money in its largest market outside the United States. The app is called Tez -- Hindi for "fast" -- and it lets users do three things: send money to people in their phones' address books, make payments to businesses (both online as well as in real-world mom-and-pop stores), and zap cash to anyone around them -- all without knowing bank account numbers or personal details. Tez is powered by UPI, short for Unified Payments Interface, a Indian government-backed payments standard that lets users transfer money directly into each other's bank accounts using just their mobile numbers, or a bank-issued payment ID that looks like an email address. It works a lot like Venmo does in the US, except that anyone can build their own payments app on top of UPI. Once you hit Pay or Receive, Tez detects other Tez users around you with a proprietary technology called Audio QR based on ultrasound, and pairs with their phones. Once a sender puts in the amount and authenticates with a preset PIN to confirm who they're sending money to, a transaction happens in seconds.
Businesses

'Bodega' CEO Apologizes, Insists They'll Create More Jobs (cnn.com) 155

Remember those two ex-Googlers who started a company to replace mom-and-pop corner stores with automated vending kiosks? An anonymous reader writes: The company's CEO has now "apologized in the face of mounting outrage," according to CNN. CEO Paul McDonald had shared a vision with Fast Company of a world where centralized shopping locations "won't be necessary" because there'll be a tiny automated one every 100 feet. Within hours McDonald was writing a new apologetic essay insisting he's not trying to replace corner stores, which carry more items and include a human staff who "offer an integral human connection to their patrons that our automated storefronts never will." In fact, he added that "Rather than take away jobs, we hope Bodega will help create them. We see a future where anyone can own and operate a Bodega -- delivering relevant items and a great retail experience to places no corner store would ever open." Promising to review criticism, he added his hope was to "bring a useful, new retail experience to places where commerce currently doesn't exist."
Bodega's CEO sees it as a way to beat Amazon by offering immediate access to popular products, and TechCrunch reports the company has already raised $2.5 million, while Fast Company notes "angel" investments from executives at Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Dropbox.

The company has already begun testing 30 Bodega boxes over the last ten months, and unveiled 50 more boxes last week, with hopes to have over 1,000 by the end of next year.
Medicine

Sedentary Lifestyle Study Called 'A Raging Dumpster Fire' (arstechnica.com) 153

Ars Technica's health reporter argues that a new study suggesting sitting will kill you "is kind of a raging dumpster fire. It's funded by Big Soda and riddled with weaknesses -- including not measuring sitting." An anonymous reader quotes this report: Let's start with the money: It was funded in part by Coca-Cola... [I]t's hard to look past the fact that this is exactly the type of health and nutrition research Coke wants. In fact, Coca-Cola secretly spent $1.5 million to fund an entire network of academic researchers whose goal was to shift the national health conversation away from the harms of sugary beverages. Instead, their research focused on the benefits of exercise -- i.e., the health risks of sedentary and inactive lifestyles. The research network disbanded after The New York Times published an investigation on the network's funding in 2015...

It didn't actually measure sitting... In their words, "Our study has several limitations. First, the Actical accelerometer cannot distinguish between postures (such as sitting vs. standing); thus, we relied on an intensity-only definition of sedentary behavior." The "intensity-only" definition of sedentary behavior is based on metabolic equivalents, basically units defined by how much oxygen a person uses up doing various activities. But those definitions are also not cut and dried. There are no clear lines between lying down, sitting, standing in place, or light movement... Then there's the participant data: It's not representative -- like, at all... At the time of wearing the accelerometer, the most active group's mean age was 65. The mean age of the least active group: 75.

Groups were assigned based on just a week's worth of data -- or less. And the people placed in the least-active group were already more likely to be smokers, to have diabetes and hypertension, and to have a history of coronary heart disease and stroke.
Social Networks

Facebook Shares Details Of Russia-Bought Ads With US Investigators (cnn.com) 232

An anonymous reader quotes CNN: Special counsel Robert Mueller and his team are now in possession of Russian-linked ads run on Facebook during the presidential election, after they obtained a search warrant for the information. Facebook gave Mueller and his team copies of ads and related information it discovered on its site linked to a Russian troll farm, as well as detailed information about the accounts that bought the ads and the way the ads were targeted at American Facebook users, a source with knowledge of the matter told CNN. The disclosure, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, may give Mueller's office a fuller picture of who was behind the ad buys and how the ads may have influenced voter sentiment during the 2016 election...

As CNN reported Thursday, Facebook is still not sure whether pro-Kremlin groups may have made other ad buys intended to influence American politics that it simply hasn't discovered yet. It is even possible that unidentified ad buys may still exist on the social media network today.

Government

Trump Blocks China-Backed Takeover of US Chip Maker 'Lattice Semi' (cnn.com) 151

MountainLogic shares a report from CNN: President Trump has stopped the takeover of an American chip maker by a private equity firm with ties to China. The deal, which would have seen China-backed Canyon Bridge Capital Partners acquire Lattice Semiconductors, was blocked over national security concerns. "Today, consistent with the administration's commitment to take all actions necessary to ensure the protection of U.S. national security, the president issued an order prohibiting the acquisition," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement Wednesday. The national security risk included "the potential transfer of intellectual property" to the Chinese-backed company and the "Chinese government's role in supporting this transaction," according to Mnuchin's statement. Those are sensitive matters: the Trump administration launched an investigation last month into whether China is unfairly getting hold of American technology and intellectual property. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., which reviews deals that could result in a foreign entity taking control of an American company, had previously recommended halting the deal. Lattice CEO Darin G. Billerbeck called the outcome "disappointing" and called the proposed acquisition "an excellent deal" for Lattice and for "expanding the opportunity to keep jobs in America." According to CNN, Lattice currently employs 300 people in Oregon -- and Canyon Bridge has committed to adding 350 more if the takeover deal went through.
Facebook

The Fake News Machine: Inside a Town Gearing Up for 2020 (cnn.com) 225

CNN has a story on Veles, riverside town in Macedonia, which back in the day was known to make porcelain for the whole of Yugoslavia. But now, as an investigation by the news outlet has found, it makes fake news. Veles has become home to dozens of website operators who churn out bogus stories designed to attract the attention of Americans. Each click adds cash to their bank accounts. From the report: The scale is industrial: Over 100 websites were tracked here during the final weeks of the 2016 U.S. election campaign, producing fake news that mostly favored Republican candidate for President Donald Trump. One of the shadowy industry's pioneers is a soft-spoken law school dropout. Worried that his online accounts could be shut down, the 24-year-old asked to be known only as Mikhail. He takes on a different persona at night, prowling the internet as "Jesica," an American who frequently posts pro-Trump memes on Facebook. The website and Facebook page that "Jesica" runs caters to conservative readers in the U.S. The stories are political -- and often wrong on the facts. But that doesn't concern Mikhail. "I don't care, because the people are reading," he said. "At 22, I was earning more than someone [in Macedonia] will ever learn in his entire life." He claims to have earned up to $2,500 a day from advertising on his website, while the average monthly income in Macedonia is just $426. The profits come primarily from ad services such as Google's AdSense, which place targeted advertisements around the web. Each click sends a little bit of cash back to the content creator. Mikhail says he has used his profits to buy a house and put his younger sister through school. [...] That site was blocked a few months ago after Facebook and Google started cracking down on fake news sites. Mikhail is now retooling his operation, with his sights set firmly on the 2020 presidential election.
Bitcoin

North Korea Is Dodging Sanctions With a Secret Bitcoin Stash (bloomberg.com) 188

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: North Korea appears to be stepping up efforts to secure bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, which could be used to avoid trade restrictions including new sanctions approved by the United Nations Security Council. Hackers from Kim Jong Un's regime are increasing their attacks on cryptocurrency exchanges in South Korea and related sites, according to a new report from security researcher FireEye Inc. They also breached an English-language bitcoin news website and collected bitcoin ransom payments from global victims of the malware WannaCry, according to the researcher. Kim's apparent interest in cryptocurrencies comes amid rising prices and popularity. The same factors that have driven their success -- lack of state control and secretiveness -- would make them useful fund raising and money laundering tools for a man threatening to use nuclear weapons against the U.S. With tightening sanctions and usage of cryptocurrencies broadening, security experts say North Korea's embrace of digital cash will only increase. The 15-member Security Council on Monday approved sanctions aimed at punishing North Korea for its latest missile and nuclear tests. U.S. officials said the new measures would cut the country's textile exports by 90 percent, restricting its ability to get hard currency.
Botnet

At Least 1.65 Million Computers Are Mining Cryptocurrency For Hackers So Far This Year (vice.com) 37

According to new statistics released on Tuesday by Kaspersky Lab, a prominent Russian information security firm, 2017 is on track to beat 2016 -- and every year since 2011 -- in terms of the sheer number of computers infected with malware that installs mining software. From a report: So far in 2017, the company says it has detected 1.65 million infected machines. The total amount of infected computers for all of the previous year was roughly 1.8 million. The infected machines are not just home computers, the firm stated in a blog post, but company servers as well. "The main effect for a home computer or organization infrastructure is reduced system performance," Anton Ivanov, a security researcher for Kaspersky, wrote me in an email. "Also some miners could download modules from a threat actor's infrastructure, and these modules could contain other malware such as Trojans [malware that disguises itself as legitimate software]." Ivanov said that the firm doesn't know how much money has been made overall with this scheme, but a digital wallet for one mining botnet that the company identified currently contains over $200,000 USD.
Canada

Kodi Is Fighting Trademark Trolls (betanews.com) 92

Friday the makers of an open source media player Kodi called out trademark trolls who they say have "attempted to register the Kodi name in various countries outside the United States with the goal of earning money off the Kodi name without doing any work beyond sending threatening letters." BrianFagioli shares an article in which BetaNews quotes Kodi community and project manager Nathan Betzen: "At least one trademark troll has so far not agreed to voluntarily release their grasp on their registration of our trademark and is actively blackmailing hardware vendors in an entire country, trying to become as rich as possible off of our backs and the backs of Kodi volunteers everywhere. His name is Geoff Gavora. He had written several letters to the Foundation over the years, expressing how important XBMC and Kodi were to him and his sales. And then, one day, for whatever reason, he decided to register the Kodi trademark in his home country of Canada. We had hoped, given the positive nature of his past emails, that perhaps he was doing this for the benefit of the Foundation. We learned, unfortunately, that this was not the case," says Nathan Betzen, Kodi Project Manager.

"Instead, companies like Mygica and our sponsor Minix have been delisted by Gavora on Amazon, so that only Gavora's hardware can be sold, unless those companies pay him a fee to stay on the store. Now, if you do a search for Kodi on Amazon.ca, there's a very real chance that every box you see is giving Gavora money to advertise that they can run what should be the entirely free and open Kodi. Gavora and his company are behaving in true trademark troll fashion."

Privacy

Ask Slashdot: What's a Practical Response To the Equifax Breach? 217

In response to the massive Equifax cybersecurity incident impacting approximately 143 million U.S. consumer -- making it possibly the worst leak of personal info ever -- Slashdot reader AdamStarks asks: What steps can the average Joe take to protect their identity? Accepting Equifax's help forfeits your right to sue; it's the same with applying for protection at TransUnion (not sure about Experian). Extra services at those companies also cost money, but that's putting even more of your data in their hands, and it's not clear whether the protection/help they provide is worth it (leaving aside not wanting to reward bad behavior).

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