If you're wondering why ransomware continues to be such a problem for state and local governments and other public institutions, all you have to do to get an answer is poke around the Internet a little. Publicly accessible security-scan data shows that many public organizations have failed to do more than put a bandage over long-standing system vulnerabilities that, if successfully exploited, could bring their operations to a standstill.
While the method by which RobbinHood ransomware infected the network of Baltimore City two weeks ago is still unknown, insiders within city government have pointed to the incomplete efforts by the Office of Information Technology to get a handle on the city's tangle of software, aging servers, and wide-flung network infrastructure. Baltimore isn't even the only city to have been hit by ransomware in the last month—Lynn, Massachusetts, and Cartersville, Georgia, both had electronic payment systems taken offline by ransomware this month. Greenville, North Carolina, was struck by the same RobbinHood ransomware affecting Baltimore in April.
But cities aren't the only highly vulnerable targets to be found by would-be attackers. There are hundreds of thousands of Internet-connected Windows systems in the United States that still appear to be vulnerable to an exploit of Microsoft Windows' Server Message Block version 1 (SMB v. 1) file sharing protocol, despite repeated public warnings to patch systems following the worldwide outbreak of the WannaCry cryptographic malware two years ago. And based on data from the Shodan search engine and other public sources, hundreds of them—if not thousands—are servers in use at US public school systems.
Netflix and other online video services have expanded their customer-satisfaction lead over cable and satellite TV, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) found in its annual telecommunications report released today.
Streaming-video services averaged a score of 76 on the ACSI's 100-point scale, up from 75 last year. Meanwhile, the traditional subscription-TV industry's score remained unchanged at 62.
"For the past six years, customer satisfaction with subscription TV has languished in the mid-to-low 60s, not recovering enough to effectively compete with streaming services," the ACSI report said. "In 2018, subscription sales declined 3 percent to $103.4 billion. Customer service remains poor, and cord cutting is accelerating. As video-streaming services gain traction, a growing number of households may never subscribe to pay TV in the first place."
Last May, Hawaii's Kīlauea volcano erupted suddenly, starting a weeks-long lava creep that destroyed dozens of homes and required thousands of residents to be evacuated. Among the structural casualties, the lava also threatened an important source of electricity on the Island of Hawaii: the Puna Geothermal Complex.
Now, the company behind Puna is projecting that the complex may be restarted by the end of this year, following a potential renegotiation of its contract with Hawaii Electric Light Company.
Geothermal plants like Puna create electricity by using the natural heat of underground rocks to heat a working fluid that produces steam to drive a turbine. Puna provided 25 percent of the electricity that served Hawaii (just the Big Island, not the whole Aloha State). So it was an important low-carbon energy source on an island that has historically imported oil to meet its primary energy needs. Although the Big Island has been aggressively incorporating solar power and energy storage onto its grid, petroleum still plays a prominent role in serving the island, which not only creates carbon emissions but also drives the price of electricity up for residents because the oil must be imported.
To avoid a replay of the problems faced by the Windows 10 October 2018 Update, version 1809, Microsoft has taken a very measured approach to the release of the May 2019 Update, version 1903, with both a long spell as release candidate and a much less aggressive rollout to Windows Update.
That rollout starts today. While you previously needed to be in the Insider Program (or have a source such as an MSDN subscription) to download and install version 1903, it's now open to everyone through Windows Update.
However, Windows users are unlikely to see the update automatically installed for many months. Initially, only those who explicitly visit Windows Update and click "Check for Updates" will be offered version 1903, and even then, they'll have to explicitly choose to download and install the update. This is part of Microsoft's attempt to make Windows Update less surprising: feature updates are offered separately from regular updates because feature updates take a long time to install and regular updates don't (or at least, they shouldn't). This installation experience requires the use of version 1803 or 1809, and it also requires the most recent monthly patch, which is also released today.
Kung Fury is a ridiculously over-the-top short film that became an instant cult classic, racking up over 32 million views on YouTube since it debuted in 2015. And according to The Hollywood Reporter, there's now going to be a feature-length sequel, Kung Fury 2, with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michael Fassbender signed on as co-stars. It will go into production at the end of July, primarily filming in Bulgaria and Germany.
Created by (and starring) Swedish filmmaker David Sandberg (not to be confused with Shazam!'s David F. Sandberg), the original Kung Fury pays tribute to cheesy 1980s action flicks and included a cameo by David Hasselhoff as the voice of vehicle navigation system Hoff 9000. It's the story of a renegade Miami police detective with kung fu superpowers who goes back in time to take out Hitler (aka "Kung Führer"). Along the way, Kung Fury (yup, that's his name) gets a little help from Thor, a couple of Viking babes, a computer whiz who can transform into a robot, and Triceracop (a man with the head of a triceratops). Together, they form a fighting force dubbed the Thundercops. What's not to love?
Sandberg wrote the script and shot a trailer with friends to launch a Kickstarter campaign to complete the original short. He ended up raising $630,000 and somehow cobbled together Kung Fury. It was shot in Sweden and used stock footage (for the giant wolf ridden by Viking babe Katana), miniature models, and even included a short animated "heaven" sequence. It debuted at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, and even though it didn't win any prizes, it proved an instant favorite among critics.
The Trump administration is working to ban Huawei products from the US market and ban US companies from supplying the Chinese company with software and components. The move will have wide-ranging consequences for Huawei's smartphone, laptop, and telecom-equipment businesses. For the next 90 days, though, Huawei will be allowed to support those products. The US Department of Commerce (DOC) has granted temporary general export license for 90 days, so while the company is still banned from doing business with most US companies, it is allowed to continue critical product support.
Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross explains the new exemption, saying, "The Temporary General License authorizes certain activities necessary to the continued operations of existing networks and to support existing mobile services, including cybersecurity research critical to maintaining the integrity and reliability of existing and fully operational networks and equipment."
The United States' blocking of Huawei was swift and sudden, and companies and people who rely on a Huawei product were no doubt scrambling in the aftermath. Ross says this 90-day exemption "grants operators time to make other arrangements and the Department space to determine the appropriate long-term measures for Americans and foreign telecommunications providers that currently rely on Huawei equipment for critical services."
An Indian company had stored the data of 49 million Instagram users in an unguarded online database.
Stranger Things season 3 is coming to Netflix this July 4, and it's going to be set in the year 1985. As a period detail, the show is going to make reference to New Coke, a disastrous 1980s effort from Coca-Cola to update its namesake drink. For those not old enough to remember, New Coke was met with a massive consumer backlash and a very public climbdown by the company.
But to commemorate New Coke's newfound pop culture relevance, Coca-Cola is going to sell 500,000 cans of New Coke as a Stranger Things tie-in. They'll go on sale online on Thursday May 23 at 17:00 EDT. The resurrected drink is also going to be available at World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta on certain days starting June 3. Cans will carry special Stranger Things promotional designs, and the company has even remade its original New Coke ad to add a Stranger Things twist. The ad will be shown in cinemas.
Marketing tie-ins and product placements happen all the time with major pop culture entities. And normally, a soft drink would do little to deserve such prominent placement in a TV show. But of course, New Coke is no ordinary soft drink; it was a major news story for the three months or so that it was on the market at the time.
The Food and Drug Administration allowed the maker of a faulty implantable heart device to secretly log 50,000 malfunction incidents, according to a series of investigations by Kaiser Health News.
The device—the Sprint Fidelis, made by Medtronic—consists of a pair of wires and a defibrillator to jolt the heart into a regular rhythm. But doctors found that it was giving patients random, harmful zaps and sometimes failed during actual cardiac emergencies.
Medtronic recalled the device in 2007 but only after it was implanted in around 268,000 patients. Many of those patients have since faced the ghastly choice of learning to live with the faulty device or undergoing an invasive, risky—sometimes deadly—surgery to remove it. According to the KHN investigation, they’ve been making that choice without information from the 50,000 incident reports.
Here's something you don't hear often: the dead field mouse looks incredible for its age. It lived and died three million years ago in what is now Germany, but layers of rock preserved nearly its whole skeleton, along with most of the fur and skin on its body, feet, and tail. Even its tiny, delicate ears were preserved.
Thanks to new imaging methods and a better understanding of the chemistry behind pigment in animal fur and feathers, we now know that it had reddish-brown fur with a white underbelly. Paleontologists have had the tools to detect patterns of light and dark coloring in fossil feathers for a few years, but this is their first real glimpse of a colored pigment.It comes in colors
The range of colors in animal fur comes from varying amounts of two types of a pigment called melanin. Eumelanin produces black or dark brown coloring, while pheomelanin creates reddish or yellow hues. Pheomelanin doesn’t tend to hold up well over the millions of years most fossils are buried; eumelanin is more sturdy, which is why we have a decent idea about the patterns of light and dark in the feathers of Archaeopteryx and some of the other ancestors of today’s birds.
In the second update to the current crop of MacBook Pros since they were released in July 2018, Apple this week has expanded the available CPU options for both the 13-inch and 15-inch models. The 15-inch MacBook Pro has moved to Intel's 9th generation CPUs and offers 8-core options for the first time in the product line's history. The 13-inch saw a more modest CPU specifications bump. The MacBook Pro's price points remain the same.
Just as importantly, Apple has made another update to its butterfly keyboards in the MacBook Pro. This marks the fourth generation of the butterfly keyboard that has divided users and seen some widely publicized hardware failures that resulted in an ongoing repair program from Apple. Apple claimed significant improvements to reliability in the third generation that shipped with laptops introduced in 2018, but users continued to report issues.
Apple says it has changed the material it is using in the new, fourth-generation keyboards, and the company expects the change to substantially reduce the prevalence of issues with keys double-typing without user input or failing to type at all with user input. The company hasn't yet gotten more specific than that, so we'll have to wait on teardowns and testing to learn more.
President Trump's Huawei ban is in full effect, and companies from all over the country are announcing they will no longer be doing business with Huawei. Google, Qualcomm, Broadcom, and Intel are all cutting ties with Huawei, and once this new 90-day exemption is up, really every US company would no longer be allowed to supply Huawei with technology or services. Trump's executive order is very broad, prohibiting "any acquisition, importation, transfer, installation, dealing in, or use of any information and communications technology or service" by any foreign company the US government deems a threat, in this case, Huawei.
With Huawei cut off from US technology, exactly how hard will it be for the company to continue to make smartphones? For an idea of how much Huawei would need to change, let's do a parts audit on the company's latest flagship smartphone, the Huawei P30 Pro. We'll see where each component comes from and what other options exist out there in the ecosystem. Between spec sheets, teardowns from iFixit, and EE Times, we can whip together a pretty good list of components and their countries of origin.The Power of HiSilicon
The System on a Chip is the heart of any smartphone, supplying most of your basic three-letter computer components like the CPU, GPU, LTE modem, GPS, and more. Huawei is better off than most companies in this area—it's one of the few companies (along with Samsung) that has its own chip-design division. Huawei's "HiSilicon" group designs SoCs for its smartphones, and the Huawei P30 Pro uses the HiSilicon Kirin 980 SoC. HiSilicon has its own LTE modem solution and is a leader in 5G modems.
Sony's official video comparing performance of PS4 Pro vs next-gen PlayStation pic.twitter.com/2eUROxKFLq
— Takashi Mochizuki (@mochi_wsj) May 21, 2019
Last month, Sony showed Wired a demo highlighting how the PS4's successor would utilize SSD storage to heavily improve load times over the PS4. Now we can all see a similar demo for ourselves, thanks to video captured at a recent investor presentation.
The video above, taken by the Wall Street Journal's Takashi Mochizuki, shows a scene from Insomniac's Spider-Man loading in 0.83 seconds on Sony's "next generation" console, compared to 8.1 seconds on the PS4 Pro. That's a smaller improvement than the one cited by Wired (which reported a change from "15 seconds" to "0.8 seconds, to be exact") but it's still a difference that can add up over the course of hours spent with a game.
Sony's demo also showed how the upcoming console's SSD can help improve game situations where content is streamed continuously from the hard drive rather than loaded in large chunks. In a fly-through on Spider-Man's version of New York City, a PS4 Pro had to pause every few seconds when the apparent flight speed got too fast. On the next PlayStation, the data streams without any apparent loading pauses even at the increased speed.
An investigation by Business Insider led the site to take down most - but not all - of the videos.
Researchers say it shows driverless cars working together could improve traffic flow by at least 35%.
The long-awaited fifth season of Black Mirror debuts next month, and Netflix just released three—count 'em—new one-minute trailers to stoke fans' anticipation.
Black Mirror is the creation of Charlie Brooker, co-showrunner with Annabel Jones. The series explores the darker side of technology and its impact on people's lives in the near future, and it's in the spirit of classic anthology series like The Twilight Zone. Brooker developed Black Mirror to highlight topics related to humanity's relationship to technology, creating stories that feature "the way we live now—and the way we might be living in 10 minutes' time if we're clumsy." The series debuted on the British Channel 4 in December 2011, followed by a second season. Noting its popularity, Netflix took over the series in 2015, releasing longer seasons 3 and 4 in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
The first season 5 teaser dropped last week, showcasing an impressive cast that includes Anthony Mackie, Miley Cyrus, Topher Grace, Nicole Beharie, Damson Idris, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, among others. We only caught glimpses of what the three episodes might be about, and now we have a separate trailer for each yielding a bit more information.
Microsoft's Xbox chief Phil Spencer has written a paean to video gaming, calling games a unifying force that anyone and everyone can enjoy. He rejoices in gaming's ability to sustain communities, foster friendships, and even reduce stress and depression. He also describes the shift gaming has made; games aren't just the domain of teenage boys but have grown far beyond that: most gamers are adults, and nearly half are women.
But against these positive elements, Spencer recognizes the many flaws in the gaming community. Online life as a whole includes a "growing toxic stew of hate speech, bigotry, and misogyny," he writes, but games can be part of the solution. Spencer says that games have a uniquely equalizing ability to bring people together—we're all just names on a screen, substantially eroding differences in class, race, gender, and so on—and so present an environment that can help dismantle prejudice.
The purpose of his essay is to call on the gaming industry to work together to make gaming a safe space, one where gaming's positive features can be celebrated, without being mired in the same toxicity as contaminates the rest of the online world. To that end, he outlines three principles he wants the games industry to follow.
Reconstructing crime scenes is more or less what most geoscientists do for a living. Sometimes the “whodunnit” revolves around a mass extinction event 66 million years ago, and sometimes it’s about an extreme weather pattern just last week. But as with a homicide investigation, geologists also have to consider natural causes.
A new study led by the University of Oxford’s Karsten Haustein takes a look at the influence of natural causes on the temperatures of the last century. While natural variability inherent to the climate system was thought to play a role in some features of our temperature record, the new results suggest that the record is dominated by external forces—though some of those are natural, too.Explaining wiggles
It’s well-established that human activities are the dominant cause of recent climate change. But looking at the instrumental temperature record, which goes back to the late 1800s, there are significant wiggles that look curious. Why, for example, did global temperatures drop for a time after World War II before resuming their upward ascent in the late 1970s?
Greetings, Arsians! The Dealmaster is back with another round of deals today. Topping our list is a pre-Memorial Day doorbuster from Lenovo for a very popular ThinkPad machine. Now you can get the 5th-gen ThinkPad X1 Carbon, featuring an Intel Core i5-6200U processor, 8GB of RAM, and 512GB SSD for just $849.
The X1 Carbon is a favorite of many, including a few Ars staffers, for its no-nonsense, yet sleek design as well as its power and practicality. Its carbon fiber chassis keeps it lightweight, and at about 16mm thick, it's quite thin as well. Its keyboard stands out as one of the most comfortable we've ever used on a laptop, and TrackPoint ball users will appreciate that Lenovo retained that beloved trackpad alternative. Every model also comes standard with a fingerprint sensor on the palm rest area as well as a versatile array of ports that includes two Thunderbolt 3 ports, two USB-A ports, and a full-sized HDMI port.
The 5th-gen ThinkPad X1 Carbon isn't the newest model—it debuted in 2017 and was updated in 2018 with newer processors and small changes, including a new physical camera shutter over the webcam and an optional IR camera. Lenovo is also gearing up to debut the 7th-gen ThinkPad X1 Carbon later this year, which will include Whiskey Lake chips, an optional 4K display panel, and the high starting price of $1,709.
In a wide-ranging investor presentation that focused on Sony's future gaming plans, Sony Interactive Entertainment President and CEO Jim Ryan echoed comments from companies like Google in saying, "We believe the streaming era is upon us and is about to begin a period of rapid growth."
To support that bold statement, Ryan cited Sony's own internal data on the 5.6 million PS4 owners that use the system's Remote Play functionality, which essentially turns the console into a home server that can stream games to PC/Mac, iOS, and Xperia-branded Android devices. The "growing appetite" for that feature among PS4 users is "one of the concrete reasons we feel the move to streaming is upon us," Ryan said, and the feature will make a return for the PS4's console successor.
Sony has also learned a lot about streaming's potential from PlayStation Now, the streaming game service it launched in 2015. In opening remarks, Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida said examining usage patterns for PlayStation Now's 700,000 subscribers has taught the company "what kinds of games fit the needs of people who subscribe to such a service. We intend to strengthen content catalog, including AAA titles, and are working to make those improvements."