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Industry & Technology

Brace yourselves: New variant of Mirai takes aim at a new crop of IoT devices

Ars Technica - 1 hour 39 min ago

Enlarge (credit: LG)

Mirai, the virulent Internet of Things malware that delivered record-setting denial-of-service attacks in 2016, has been updated to target a new crop of devices, including two found inside enterprise networks, where bandwidth is often plentiful, researchers said on Monday.

The malware infects webcams, routers, DVRs, and other Internet-connected devices, which typically ship with default credentials and run woefully outdated versions of Linux that are rarely, if ever, updated. The rapidly spreading Mirai first made a name for itself in 2016, when it helped achieve record-setting DDoS attacks against KrebsOnSecurity and French Web host OVH.

A newly discovered variant contains a total of 27 exploits, 11 of which are new to Mirai, researchers with security firm Palo Alto Networks reported in a blog post Monday. Besides demonstrating an attempt to reinvigorate Mirai’s place among powerful botnets, the new exploits signal an attempt to penetrate an arena that's largely new to Mirai. One of the 11 new exploits targets the WePresent WiPG-1000 Wireless Presentation systems, and another exploit targets LG Supersign TVs. Both of these devices are intended for use by businesses, which typically have networks that offer larger amounts of bandwidth than Mirai’s more traditional target of home consumers.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Google, Microsoft work together for a year to figure out new type of Windows flaw

Ars Technica - 3 hours 4 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Marco Verch / Flickr)

One of the more notable features of Google Project Zero's (GPZ) security research has been its 90-day disclosure policy. In general, vendors are given 90 days to address issues found by GPZ, after which the flaws will be publicly disclosed. But sometimes understanding a flaw and developing fixes for it takes longer than 90 days—sometimes, much longer, such as when a new class of vulnerability is found. That's what happened last year with the Spectre and Meltdown processor issues, and it has happened again with a new Windows issue.

Google researcher James Forshaw first grasped that there might be a problem a couple of years ago when he was investigating the exploitability of another Windows issue published three years ago. In so doing, he discovered the complicated way in which Windows performs permissions checks when opening files or other secured objects. A closer look at the involved parts showed that there were all the basic elements to create a significant elevation of privilege attack, enabling any user program to open any file on the system, regardless of whether the user should have permission to do so. The big question was, could these elements be assembled in just the right way to cause a problem, or would good fortune render the issue merely theoretical?

The basic rule is simple enough: when a request to open a file is being made from user mode, the system should check that the user running the application that's trying to open the file has permission to access the file. The system does this by examining the file's access control list (ACL) and comparing it to the user's user ID and group memberships. However, if the request is being made from kernel mode, the permissions checks should be skipped. That's because the kernel in general needs free and unfettered access to every file.

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Myspace apparently lost 12 years’ worth of music, and almost no one noticed

Ars Technica - 3 hours 27 min ago

Enlarge / Myspace's music player. (credit: Myspace)

Myspace has apparently lost most or all of the music files uploaded by its users before 2015, and it told users that the data was corrupted beyond repair during a server migration. Myspace apparently admitted the problem to concerned users seven or eight months ago, but so few people noticed that there wasn't any news coverage until the past 24 hours.

Myspace, the once-mighty social networking site, has existed since 2003 but has been fading into obscurity for the past decade. Many musicians used to rely on Myspace to spread their music, and over the years it hosted 53 million songs from 14.2 million artists.

Some of Myspace's loyal users noticed more than a year ago that they couldn't play music or download music files and asked Myspace for answers. Myspace initially told those users that it would recover the lost data, but months later it admitted that the files were gone forever.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Report: Trump “would never get in a self-driving car”

Ars Technica - 4 hours 48 min ago

Enlarge / President Donald Trump, as seen on January 27, 2017 in Arlington, Virginia. (credit: Pool Photo/Getty Images)

Donald Trump's choice to lead the Department of Transportation, Elaine Chao, has worked hard to avoid placing regulatory barriers in the way of self-driving cars. But Chao's boss is a driverless car skeptic, Axios reports.

One Axios source had a conversation with Trump in 2017 where he mentioned owning a Tesla with Autopilot technology. According to the source, Trump "was like, 'Yeah that's cool but I would never get in a self-driving car... I don't trust some computer to drive me around.'"

On another occasion, Trump reportedly said, "Can you imagine, you're sitting in the back seat and all of a sudden this car is zig-zagging around the corner and you can't stop the f---ing thing?"

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Apple Watch accurately spotted heart condition 34% of the time in study

Ars Technica - 5 hours 14 min ago

(credit: Apple)

In a large Apple-sponsored study assessing whether the pulse sensor on older versions of the Apple Watch (Series 1, 2, and 3) can pick up heart rhythm irregularities, researchers found that only 34 percent of participants who received an alert of an irregular pulse on their watch went on to have a confirmed case of atrial fibrillation, a common type of irregular heart rhythm.

The study was led by researchers at Stanford, who presented the results Saturday in New Orleans at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology. The results have not been published in a scientific journal and have not been peer-reviewed.

The study, dubbed the Apple Heart Study, began in November 2017, before the release of the Apple Watch Series 4, which includes an electrocardiograph (ECG) feature for monitoring heart activity. Though the study didn’t keep pace with that of wearable device development, it was rather speedy relative to clinical trials. In fact, some cardiologists were impressed simply by the short period of time in which the study was able to recruit such a large number of participants—nearly 420,000—plus follow up with them using telemedicine and get results.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Former Valve designer, writer dishes on his new “co-op” game studio

Ars Technica - 6 hours 12 min ago

Enlarge / Chet Faliszek, Dr. Kimberly Voll announce the creation of Stray Bombay, a new video game studio. (credit: Sam Machkovech)

SAN FRANCISCO—In 2017, game designer and writer Chet Faliszek left Valve Software. The departure was notable in part because Faliszek was perhaps second only to company co-founder Gabe Newell in terms of public exposure, but also because Faliszek's work represented a seemingly long-gone era at the game studio: one of irreverent, story-driven games that emphasized co-op (both Left 4 Dead games and Portal 2, among other titles).

Shortly after that departure, Faliszek emerged with news: he would start making games at Bossa Studios, home of goofy titles like Surgeon Simulator and I Am Bread. It seemed like a good fit. Turns out, it wasn't.

After roughly a year working together, Faliszek and the Bossa Studios team "reconvened and decided it wasn't working out," he told Ars Technica. On one hand, Faliszek described the end of that relationship as "the hardest breakup, because I couldn't get mad at them." On the other, when pressed, Faliszek described the game he'd worked on as "a kind of game they're not known for making, and kind of maybe not suited for making."

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

WorldPay payments firm in $43bn sale to US rival

BBC Technology News - 6 hours 13 min ago
Payment processor WorldPay, once part of RBS bank, is sold to Fidelity National Information Services.

Hong Kong subway trains collide amid new signal system trials

BBC Technology News - 7 hours 40 min ago
Two trains collide during a new signal system trial, threatening travel disruption for millions.

Apple updates $499 iPad Air, $399 iPad mini ahead of services event next week

Ars Technica - 7 hours 49 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Apple)

We're one week out from Apple's services-focused event in Cupertino, and the company just announced a pair of devices we've been expecting for quite some time. Apple debuted a new, $499 10.5-inch iPad Air and a new, $399 7.9-inch iPad mini today. Both have familiar designs but also have the company's new A12 Bionic chip.

The new iPad Air looks like previous models, with thicker bezels on the top and bottom of the advanced Retina display (now with True Tone technology) to house the camera array and the physical Home button. While both new iPads have updated cameras that can better handle low-light situations and immersive AR experiences, they appear to omit FaceID entirely.

Inside the iPad Air is the new A12 Bionic chip with Apple's neural engine, and the company claims it will make the new Air 70 percent faster than previous versions, with twice the graphics power. The updated display now supports the Apple Pencil as well, giving more users the opportunity to draw, sketch, and take notes on an iPad.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

SpaceX may begin testing its Starship spacecraft this week

Ars Technica - 8 hours 35 min ago

Enlarge / For now, Starship's first mission will be to the Moon. (credit: Elon Musk/Twitter)

For months in south Texas, SpaceX employees have been assembling a test version of the upper stage for its next-generation launch system. This prototype "Starship" is far from space-worthy, but it will allow the company to test the vehicle's ability to "hop" from the spaceport and then land propulsively back on the ground.

On Friday, the company sent a notice to nearby residents saying it planned to conduct testing of the vehicle as soon as the week of March 18, and that it would be closing the main roadway of Highway 4 to non-residents during the tests. This "safety zone perimeter" is part of an agreement with the local county, and has been set up out of an abundance of caution.

On Sunday, company founder Elon Musk confirmed on Twitter that SpaceX was indeed close to beginning tests. Musk said that integration work remained to be done on test vehicle and its Raptor rocket engine, and that the first hops would lift off, but only "barely." Eventually the "Starhopper" test vehicle will have three engines, but for now it appears as though the company will start with just one.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

OWNAFC: Football fans call for refunds over club app

BBC Technology News - 8 hours 49 min ago
Fans say they feel misled by OWNAFC amid claims they could "take charge of a real life football club".

D-Wave 2000Q hands-on: Steep learning curve for quantum computing 

Ars Technica - 9 hours 56 min ago

Enlarge / Algorithms, a complicated work in progress. (credit: Getty Images)

Editor's note: I realize that I do not correctly calculate the Bragg transmission in either the classical or the quantum case; however, it is close enough to get an idea of the differences between programming a classical and a quantum computer.

Time: non-specific 2018. Location: a slightly decrepit Slack channel.

"You know Python?"

Read 36 remaining paragraphs | Comments

MySpace admits losing 12 years' worth of music uploads

BBC Technology News - 11 hours 4 min ago
The social network has apologised for losing the data during a server migration.

Christchurch shootings: Social sites struggle to contain attack video

BBC Technology News - 11 hours 21 min ago
Millions of copies of videos showing the Christchurch attacks have been removed from social media sites.

MPs call for tax on social media companies

BBC Technology News - 14 hours 5 min ago
Their report says the money should be used to fund research into the health impact of social media.

UK space internet firm OneWeb ready for lift-off

BBC Technology News - 14 hours 27 min ago
OneWeb secures new funding enabling it to speed up plans for a global high-speed broadband network.

This medieval astrolabe is officially world’s oldest known such instrument

Ars Technica - 22 hours 41 min ago

Enlarge / Left: A laser imaging scan of the so-called Sodré astrolabe, recovered from the wreck of a Portuguese Armada ship. Right: The astrolabe is believed to have been made between 1496 and 1501. (credit: David Mearns/University of Warwick)

A mariner's astrolabe recovered from the wreck of one of Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama's ships is now officially the oldest known such artifact, according to a new paper in the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology. The device is even going into the Guinness Book of World Records, along with the ship's bell, now that the age of both artifacts has been independently verified.

A key distinction here is that this is the oldest known mariner's astrolabe. Astrolabes are actually very ancient instruments—possibly dating as far back as the second century BCE—for determining the time and position of the stars in the sky by measuring a celestial body's altitude above the horizon. They were mostly used for astronomical studies, although they also proved useful for navigation on land. Navigating at sea on a pitching deck was a bit more problematic, unless the waters were calm.

The development of a mariner's astrolabe—a simple ring marked in degrees for measuring celestial altitudes—helped solve that problem. It was eventually replaced by the invention of the sextant in the 18th century, which was much more precise for seafaring navigation. Mariner's astrolabes are among the most prized artifacts recovered from shipwrecks; only 108 are currently catalogued worldwide.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Behind the Curve a fascinating study of reality-challenged beliefs

Ars Technica - March 17, 2019 - 3:30pm

Enlarge (credit: Gabriela Pinto / Flickr)

There's a scene somewhere in the middle of a new flat Earth documentary that acts as a metaphor for so much that surrounds it. Two of the central figures of Behind the Curve are visiting a spaceflight museum that pays tribute to NASA, an organization that they believe is foisting a tremendous lie on an indoctrinated and incurious public. One of them, Mark Sargent, sits in a re-entry simulator that suggests he should press "Start" to begin. He dutifully bangs away at the highlighted word "Start" on screen, but nothing happens.

He wanders away muttering even more about how NASA's a giant fraud. Meanwhile, the camera shifts back to the display and zeroes in on the giant green "Start" button next to the seat Sargent was in.

Into the fringes

It's hard not to think back to two earlier scenes in the movie. In the first, Sargent talks about how he started having suspicions about the globe when he spent weeks watching a flight tracker for flights crossing the southern oceans but couldn't find any. This seemed to fit with his favored model of the Earth's disk, one with the North Pole at the center and the continents spread out like spokes from there. This would place the southern continents much farther apart and make air travel prohibitive—just as the lack of flights suggested.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

New documentary has a good time asking how gene editing might change the world

Ars Technica - March 17, 2019 - 3:00pm

Enlarge / An artist's representation of a Cas9 protein immediately interrupting and changing a living creature's genes. (credit: Wonder Collaborative)

Here's a poorly kept secret: the internal chatter at a given research and scientific institution is typically more interesting than what emerges on the public record. Published papers and newspaper interviews don't come with the banter, pop-culture references, or sheer wit that pumps through most nerds' veins.

I thought back to all that nerd humor when I reflected on Human Nature, a documentary about gene editing and CRISPR that had its world premiere at South by Southwest 2019. There's a lot of ground to cover on such a topic, and the film, co-produced by Dan Rather, does quite well by identifying existing research and studies, then grounding them with context and equal parts optimism and pessimism. But Human Nature is also the rare science film that isn't afraid to let its smart talking heads be funny, dorky, or just plain sharp.

Meaning: if you already know everything about CRISPR (and if you read Ars Technica, you very well might), Human Nature still has something for you.

Read 20 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Sloth-by-sloth-west: The good and the Goop of SXSW 2019 (in pictures)

Ars Technica - March 17, 2019 - 2:30pm

AUSTIN, Texas—While sitting in the auditorium waiting to hear Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren talk further about her views on Silicon Valley, an older gentleman leaned over to ask about something that had absolutely nothing to do with politics. "I don't get it," he began. "It's a music festival, but a film festival, too? And you're here for the technology stuff, right? Where do all these politicians fit? How do you describe this conference to someone in 30 seconds?"Ars at SXSW 2019

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The answer, of course, is obvious to Ars after our fourth straight year of coverage: you can't. While the three core tenets of South by Southwest remain film, music, and tech, this conference has become the ultimate convergence event—not just of topics, but of people. Where else can you, in a single day, see a cookie vending machine from Milk Bar baking guru Christina Tosi, a massive HBO installation to promote Game of Thronesexperts from Unicode talking about emoji evolution, and then Senator Warren on -isms from capital- to rac- all in the same place? None of that stuff perfectly fits into SXSW's overarching programming tracks, but perhaps that itself is the message. These days, the boundaries between art, business, and innovation blur together more than ever. Put a bunch of movers and shakers in those areas together for a week, and interesting stuff is bound to happen.

Unfortunately, explaining that (even succinctly) takes more than 30 seconds, so we failed this impromptu summarization quiz. But our time in Austin certainly felt like a success overall. Above is just a small sampling of the sights that spanned almost every topic you can find on the pages of Ars Technica. We may have missed Bill Nye crashing New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Q&A to talk about the environment, but we damn well made sure to snag one of those cookies.

Read on Ars Technica | Comments


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