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Industry & Technology

Facebook: Nick Clegg says 'no evidence' of Russian interference in Brexit vote

BBC Technology News - 32 min 18 sec ago
Sir Nick Clegg says Facebook found no "significant attempt" by outside forces to sway the 2016 vote.

Presidential warnings 'easy' to spoof

BBC Technology News - 34 min 22 sec ago
Fake messages could cause widespread panic, the researchers who uncovered the flaws say.

Raspberry Pi used to steal data from Nasa lab

BBC Technology News - 2 hours 13 min ago
Lax security at a Nasa lab let a hacker lurk on the agency's network for almost a year, says report.

EE fined £100,000 for unlawful texts

BBC Technology News - 2 hours 27 min ago
The mobile network sent 2.5 million messages to customers about its app and handset upgrades.

The Raspberry Pi 4 brings faster CPU, up to 4GB of RAM

Ars Technica - 6 hours 37 min ago

Today, Raspberry Pi is introducing a new version of its popular line of single-board computer. The Raspberry Pi 4 Model B is the fastest Raspberry Pi ever, with the company promising "desktop performance comparable to entry-level x86 PC systems."

The new model is built around a Broadcom BCM2711 SoC, which, with four 1.5GHz Cortex A72 CPU cores, should be a big upgrade over the quad core Cortex A53 CPU in the Raspberry Pi 3. The RAM options are the even bigger upgrade though, with options for 1GB, 2GB, and even 4GB of DDR4. The Pi 3 was limited to 1GB of RAM, which really stung for desktop-class use cases.

There has been some upgrades and tweaks to the Pi 4 I/O, too. The Gigabit Ethernet returns, as do the four USB ports, but two of them get an upgrade to USB 3.0. Power is now supplied via a USB-C port, instead of the aging Micro USB of the Pi 3. The headphone jack returns, too, and it's still a four-pole solution providing audio and composite video.

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Ransomware cyber-attacks are targeting large companies and demanding huge payments

BBC Technology News - 12 hours 37 min ago
A Norwegian aluminium producer is recovering after hackers took thousands of computers offline and demanded a ransom.

Review: Teenagers must ward off mischievous supernatural beings in Jinn

Ars Technica - June 23, 2019 - 3:30pm

Supernatural creatures threaten a group of high school students in the new Netflix series Jinn.

A high school field trip to the ancient archaeological site of Petra turns tragic, and supernatural creatures are unleashed to prey on the living in Jinn, the first Arabic language original series from Netflix. Forget the Westernized concept of genies found in our popular culture, like Aladdin or I Dream of Jeannie. This series draws on more traditional Arabian/Islamic mythology for its portrayal of the jinn, and it's all the richer for it.

(Mild spoilers below.)

Mira (Salma Malhas), a high school student in Amman, Jordan, is struggling with the recent loss of her mother and brother, and her mixed feelings for her jealous boyfriend, Fahed (Yasser Al Had), who is pressuring her for sex. When the high school class takes a field trip to Petra, tensions emerge, largely driven by Tareq (Abd Alrazzaq Jarkas), your typical high school bully with a broad misogynistic streak for good measure. He and his cronies torment the shyly anxious Yassin (Sultan Alkhail) because they think he ratted them out to the teacher for their many misdeeds.

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Via the BBC, find out how Apollo 11’s Eagle actually landed

Ars Technica - June 23, 2019 - 3:00pm

Enlarge (credit: NASA)

With the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing fast approaching, there's a veritable deluge of programs, events, and media of various forms, all dedicated to recapturing an astonishing moment in humanity's collective history. All of these things face a serious challenge: the Apollo missions have been revisited so many times and from so many angles, it's difficult to say anything truly new.

Go for the obvious points, and you'll face telling a big chunk of your audience things they already knew. Aim for something truly novel, and there's the risk that you'll end up focusing on an aspect that's obscure simply because it's not that interesting or important. These problems are compounded for an audience like Ars', where most of us have spent a bit of time obsessed by the space program, and the hurdles to finding some novelty grow even higher.

The promise of a new angle on a familiar subject was what got me listening to a production by the BBC's World Service entitled 13 Minutes to the Moon. This multi-episode podcast focuses on what's really the key moment in Apollo 11: the final descent and touchdown of the Eagle lander that delivered Armstrong and Aldrin to the Moon's surface.

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It’s possible to build a Turing machine within Magic: The Gathering

Ars Technica - June 23, 2019 - 2:00pm

Enlarge / Assemble just the right deck, and draw just the right cards, and you'll get the equivalent of a universal Turing machine within the game, a new study finds. That makes it the most computationally complex real-world game yet known. (credit: Gordon Chibroski/Portland Press Herald/Getty Images)

Consider this hypothetical scenario: Bob and Alice are playing a game of Magic: The Gathering. It's normal game play at first, as, say, Filigree robots from Kaladesh face off against werewolves and vampires from Innistrad. But then Alice draws just the right card from her customized deck, and suddenly Bob finds himself caught in the equivalent of a Turing machine, the famed abstract device that can simulate any computer algorithm. Thanks to the peculiarities of the rules of Magic, Bob can now only finish the game when he meets whatever condition Alice has programmed her in-game algorithm to accomplish—for example, to find a pair of twin primes greater than one million.

It may be a highly unlikely scenario, but a recent paper posted on the physics arXiv proves that it's possible in principle to build a simple computer within this massively popular tabletop game using just the right combination of Magic cards. While the inputs must be pre-programmed, "Literally any function that can be computed by any computer can be computed within a game of Magic," said co-author Alex Churchill, a longtime Magic fan who has been working on the problem for several years.

Furthermore, he and his co-authors—Stella Biderman of the Georgia Institute of Technology and Austin Herrick of the University of Pennsylvania—have concluded that Magic might be as computationally complex as it's possible for any tabletop game to be. In other words, "This is the first result showing that there exists a real-world game [of Magic] for which determining the winning strategy is non-computable," the authors write.

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Minnesota cop awarded $585,000 after colleagues snooped on her DMV data

Ars Technica - June 23, 2019 - 12:19pm

Enlarge / The most recent graduate from Ford's police academy, the Police Responder Hybrid Sedan.

In 2013, Amy Krekelberg received an unsettling notice from Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources: An employee had abused his access to a government driver’s license database and snooped on thousands of people in the state, mostly women. Krekelberg learned that she was one of them.

When Krekelberg asked for an audit of accesses to her DMV records, as allowed by Minnesota state law, she learned that her information—which would include things like her address, weight, height, and driver’s license pictures—had been viewed nearly 1,000 times since 2003, even though she was never under investigation by law enforcement. In fact, Krekelberg was law enforcement: she joined the Minneapolis Police Department in 2012, after spending eight years working elsewhere for the city, mostly as an officer for the Park & Recreation Board. She later learned that over 500 of those lookups were conducted by dozens of other cops. Even more eerie, many officers had searched for her in the middle of the night.

Krekelberg eventually sued the city of Minneapolis, as well as two individual officers, for violating the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, which governs the disclosure of personal information collected by state Departments of Motor Vehicles. Earlier this week, she won. On Wednesday, a jury awarded Krekelberg $585,000, including $300,000 in punitive damages from the two defendants, who looked up Krekelberg’s information after she allegedly rejected their romantic advances, according to court documents.

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Jedi: Fallen Order hands-on: Finally, a solid EA Star Wars game⁠—is that enough?

Ars Technica - June 22, 2019 - 4:10pm

LOS ANGELES⁠—How much is a solid single-player Star Wars adventure game from EA worth in 2019?

That answer might have been different six years ago, when EA's brand-new investment in the Star Wars universe had everyone wondering how epic its games would turn out. Since then, one huge project sputtered, then was outright canceled, while two Star Wars Battlefront reboots ranged from so-so to alarming.

Hence, at this point, you may breathe a sigh of relief to learn that this November's Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order not only exists but feels quite good, based on my hands-on gameplay session at last week's E3. Or you may yawn while wondering where the heck your Knights of the Old Republic-caliber Star Wars adventure is. After my tests, I think both of those responses are valid.

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Claims of Tesla hack wide of the mark—we dig into GNSS hacking

Ars Technica - June 22, 2019 - 3:00pm

On Wednesday of this week, an Israeli firm called Regulus Cyber issued a press release stating that "spoofing attacks on the Tesla GNSS (GPS) receiver could easily be carried out wirelessly and remotely." In the firm's demonstration attack on a Model 3, "the car reacted as if the exit was just 500 feet away—abruptly slowing down, activating the right turn signal, and making a sharp turn off the main road," according to Regulus. "The driver immediately took manual control but couldn't stop the car from leaving the road."

Tesla's official response could best be described as "brusque."

So, a company most of us haven't heard of tells us that it's demonstrated disturbing vulnerabilities in Tesla. Tesla, in effect, says said company is just looking for a buck and there's no problem, but it doesn't really provide any details. Where does the truth lie? That question necessitates a look at the merits of this specific Regulus-vs-Tesla claim—and then a broader glance into the history, technology, and possibilities of GNSS spoofing itself.

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Sorcerer’s greatest trick? Shrinking a CCG experience into a single box

Ars Technica - June 22, 2019 - 2:00pm

Enlarge / From the animist deck. I hope you like spiders...

Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage at

Card battle games are a cornerstone of analog gaming. From the venerable Magic: The Gathering to the recently departed Android: Netrunner, their addictive blend of brainy strategy and beautiful artwork have brought millions of players to the table. Their other big draw? The potential for personalization—players can spend hours honing and perfecting their decks, tweaking tactics and hunting for powerful card combinations.

It’s a rich, engrossing process, but it's not for everyone. If recent releases are anything to go by, a substantial audience of gamers would rather just skip it. Keyforge, the recent game from Magic creator Richard Garfield, removed custom decks from the equation, instead handing players pre-assembled, algorithmically generated collections of cards. And now there’s Sorcerer, the latest release from Star Realms studio White Wizard Games. The game takes a more low-tech approach to bypassing deck construction, throwing players straight into a battle of cunning, cleverness, and giant spiky demons.

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Argentina’s blackout and the storm-battered future of the grid

Ars Technica - June 22, 2019 - 12:47pm

Enlarge (credit: Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Early Sunday morning, all of mainland Argentina lost power in an “unprecedented” blackout event that left most of the country’s 44 million citizens in the dark until the evening. The blackout also extended to Uruguay (which is connected to Argentina’s power grid) and limited parts of Chile. Although the exact cause of the blackout is still being investigated, Argentina experienced heavy rains over the weekend, and there is reason to believe that the inclement weather played a starring role in the largest blackout in recent history.

Extreme weather events are a leading cause of blackouts around the world, and the blackout in Argentina is a reminder that our electric grids aren’t ready to handle the increasing intensity of storms resulting from climate change. Although the United States isn’t likely to see a nationwide blackout like the one that hit Argentina, localized blackouts in the United States have increased in both frequency and duration in recent years. This is due in no small part to massive forest fires, snow storms, tornadoes, and hurricanes that cause localized blackouts often affecting tens of thousands of people.

“There is clear evidence that extreme weather events have increased over the past 20 years, and so have the number of outages and the number of customer hours out of service,” says Alison Silverstein, an independent energy consultant and previous advisor to the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. “We need to accept this and do a better job at helping customers and communities survive these growing outages and threats.”

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X-Prize winner: Children are not a product

BBC Technology News - June 22, 2019 - 2:10am
The winner of Elon Musk's global learning award warns that children's data should be protected.

Bitcoin rises above $10,000 for the first time in a year

Ars Technica - June 22, 2019 - 1:50am

Enlarge (credit: Peter KovalevTASS via Getty Images)

Bitcoin's price has soared above $10,000 for the first time since early 2018, a new milestone in the virtual currency's latest comeback.

The price has more than tripled since hitting rock-bottom last December around $3,200. That was after crashing from an all-time high around $19,500 in December 2017.

As always, it's difficult to be sure what drives changes in bitcoin's price. But one obvious candidate is Facebook's announcement of its own cryptocurrency, called Libra, earlier this week. Libra is a potential bitcoin competitor, but the announcement also brings added legitimacy to the overall cryptocurrency market.

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A tale of two cities: Why ransomware will just get worse

Ars Technica - June 21, 2019 - 10:40pm

Enlarge / Baltimore, Maryland; Riviera Beach, Florida. Both got ransomware, and the outcomes were... the worst of times, and the worst of times.

Earlier this week, the city of Riviera Beach, Florida, faced a $600,000 demand from ransomware operators in order to regain access to the city's data. The ransom was an order of magnitude larger than the ransom demanded by the attackers that struck Baltimore's city government in May. Against the advice of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, however, the Riviera Beach city council voted to pay the ransom—more than $300,000 of it covered by the city's insurance policy.

Baltimore had refused to pay $76,000 worth of Bitcoin despite facing an estimated ransomware cost of more than $18 million, of which $8 million was from lost or deferred revenue. Baltimore lacked cyber insurance to cover those costs.

Riviera Beach is much smaller than Baltimore—with an IT department of 10 people, according to the city's most recent budget, and an annual budget of $2.5 million to support a total city government of 550 employees. (Baltimore has about 50 IT staffers supporting more than 13,000 employees by comparison.) It's not a surprise that Riviera Beach's leadership decided to pay, given that a full incident response and recovery would have likely cost two to three times what they've agreed to pay the ransomware operators, and half of that price tag is covered by insurance. So, Riviera Beach's decision to pay looks like the easiest way out. It's a decision that has been made by many local governmental organizations and businesses alike over the past few years.

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Slack: Why is this loss-making tech firm worth $20bn?

BBC Technology News - June 21, 2019 - 10:33pm
The messaging app has investors piling in on hopes it can replace email for workplace communication.

We’re one step closer to atomic radio

Ars Technica - June 21, 2019 - 9:35pm

Enlarge / Physicist C.J. Holloway in his atomic recording studio at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Maryland. (credit: J. Burras/NIST)

Scientists at the National Institute for Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland, have brought us one step closer to "atomic radio" by using an atom-based receiver to make a stereo recording of music streamed into the laboratory—namely, Queen's "Under Pressure." They described their work in a new paper in AIP Advances.

So-called "Rydberg atoms" are atoms that are in an especially excited state well above their ground (lowest-energy) state. This makes them extra-sensitive to passing electric fields, like the alternating fields of radio waves. All you need is a means of detecting those interactions to turn them into quantum sensors—like a laser. That means, in principle, that Rydberg atoms could receive and play back radio signals.

This isn't the first time Rydberg atoms have been used for audio recording. Last September, we reported on the development of a new type of antenna capable of receiving signals across a much wider range of frequencies (more than four octaves) that is highly resistant to electromagnetic interference. Scientists at Rydberg Technologies zapped vapor cells filled with excited cesium atoms with laser light tuned to just the right critical frequency, essentially saturating the atoms to prevent them from absorbing any more light. The critical frequency at which this transition happens will change in response to a passing radio wave, so the light from that second laser beam will flicker in response.

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Wizards Unite is a bloated, slow, Harry Potter-ified Pokémon Go

Ars Technica - June 21, 2019 - 6:45pm

Three years ago, Nintendo and Niantic released Pokémon Go, and the resulting game became an instant cultural phenomenon on hundreds of millions of mobile phones. In retrospect, the formula seems simple enough: combine a beloved children's series with a wander-and-collect-with-your-phone gameplay hook, and everyone will fall in love, right?

This week, Niantic returns with an entirely new game, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, and it proves that the above formula isn't necessarily an instant winner.

Wizards Unite tries to expand the Pokémon Go formula with a few new features and a completely new visual and gameplay theme. But its barrage of timers, currencies, missions, and screens full of text does something interesting: it proves in its failures how much more elegant and focused Pokémon Go really was. Getting this particular AR gaming formula right isn't as simple as slapping fan-favorite characters on a go-anywhere phone game.

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