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Industry & Technology

Google bots shut down Baltimore officials’ ransomware workaround Gmail accounts

Ars Technica - 8 min 58 sec ago

Enlarge / Oh, Baltimore. (credit: Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images)

In the wake of the ransomware attack that has kept city networks and infrastructure shut down now for over two weeks, Baltimore officials—including the mayor and city council members—set up Google Gmail accounts as a backup communications channel. But earlier this week, Google's automated systems shut the accounts down, instructing the account holders to purchase a business account.

On May 23, a Google spokesperson said through the company's Twitter account, "We have restored access to the Gmail accounts for the Baltimore City officials. Our automated security systems disabled the accounts due to the bulk creation of multiple consumer Gmail accounts from the same network."

The problem could have been prevented if Baltimore City officials had set up a Google GSuite Government account (or even just a regular GSuite account) at $6 per user per month.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Mona Lisa 'brought to life' with deepfake AI

BBC Technology News - 3 hours 54 min ago
Samsung makes a moving Mona Lisa from a single photo using AI technology.

Rocket Report: SpaceX sues the federal government, Chinese launch failure

Ars Technica - 4 hours 20 min ago

Enlarge / The Electron launch vehicle is ready to soar. (credit: Rocket Lab)

Welcome to Edition 2.01 of the Rocket Report! This week marks one year since the first report. What started as an experiment has grown into something that a lot of people read. So thank you for joining. And if you appreciate this weekly report and the effort that goes into it, I encourage you to subscribe to Ars Technica. It doesn't cost much, and there are perks. But mostly you'll know you're supporting independent journalism like this. Thank you for considering it.

As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don't want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.

Virgin performs full-duration hotfire test. On Tuesday, Virgin Orbit announced that it had performed the "final full-duration, full-scale, full-thrust—hell, full everything—test firing" of its LauncherOne rocket's first stage. The firing lasted for more than 180 seconds and was entirely successful, the company reported. Virgin said the rocket, which will be launched from beneath the wing of an airplane, was within an "arm's reach" of its first orbital flight test.

Read 24 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Texting while crossing road may be banned, and other news

BBC Technology News - 4 hours 34 min ago
BBC Click's Paul Carter looks at some the week's best technology stories.

Google thwarts Baltimore ransomware fightback

BBC Technology News - 5 hours 1 min ago
City set up GMail accounts to thwart hackers but Google suspended them, fearing spammers were at work.

Lift off for SpaceX rocket carrying 60 satellites

BBC Technology News - 8 hours 27 min ago
A Falcon-9 rocket launches from Florida, packed with 60 satellites capable of giving users on the ground high-speed connections to the internet.

SpaceX puts up 60 internet satellites

BBC Technology News - 10 hours 35 min ago
The California firm launches the first spacecraft in its multi-billion-dollar broadband project.

SpaceX launches Starlink mission, deploys 60 satellites [Updated]

Ars Technica - 11 hours 34 min ago

11:40pm ET Update: The Falcon 9 rocket launched. Its first stage landed. And then the second stage coasted for the better part of an hour before making a final burn and deploying its payload of Starlink satellites.

About 1 hour and 3 minutes after the launch, the entire stack of 60 satellites floated away from the Falcon 9's second stage. Slowly—very slowly, it appeared—the 60 satellites began to drift apart. The SpaceX webcast ended without saying whether this deployment went as anticipated, and it probably will take some time for the Air Force to begin identifying and tracking the individual satellites.

A stack of 60 Starlink satellites is released from the Falcon 9 rocket's upper stage. (credit: SpaceX webcast)

In any case, this all made for an interesting evening in space.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Trump says Huawei could be part of trade deal

BBC Technology News - 13 hours 29 min ago
Huawei could feature in a US-China trade pact despite being "very dangerous", says the US president.

Fake cryptocurrency apps on Google Play try to profit on bitcoin price surge

Ars Technica - 14 hours 59 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Google)

Google's official Play Store has been caught hosting malicious apps that targeted Android users with an interest in cryptocurrencies, researchers reported on Thursday.

In all, researchers with security provider ESET recently discovered two fraudulent digital wallets. The first, called Coin Wallet, let users create wallets for a host of different cryptocurrencies. While Coin Wallet purported to generate a unique wallet address for users to deposit coins, the app in fact used a developer-owned wallet for each supported currency, with a total of 13 wallets. Each Coin Wallet user was assigned the same wallet address for a specific currency.

"The app claims it lets users create wallets for various cryptocurrencies," ESET Malware Researcher Lukas Stefanko wrote in a blog post. "However, its actual purpose is to trick users into transferring cryptocurrency into the attackers' wallets—a classic case of what we named wallet address scams in our previous research of cryptocurrency-targeting malware."

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Is Facebook undermining democracy in Africa?

BBC Technology News - 15 hours 59 min ago
Critics say the social media giant has allowed its platform to be weaponised during elections on the continent.

Five tech trends shaping the beauty industry

BBC Technology News - 16 hours 11 min ago
Five tech trends shaping the beauty industry

Stronger than aluminum, a heavily altered wood cools passively

Ars Technica - 16 hours 31 min ago

Enlarge / A look at the lignin-free compressed wood. (credit: University of Maryland)

Most of our building practices aren't especially sustainable. Concrete production is a major source of carbon emissions, and steel production is very resource intensive. Once completed, heating and cooling buildings becomes a major energy sink. There are various ideas on how to handle each of these issues, like variations on concrete's chemical formula or passive cooling schemes.

But now, a large team of US researchers has found a single solution that appears to manage everything using a sustainable material that both reflects sunlight and radiates away excess heat. The miracle material? Wood. Or a form of wood that has been treated to remove one of its two main components.

With the grain

Wood is mostly a composite of two polymers. One of these, cellulose, is made by linking sugars together into long chains. That cellulose is mixed with a polymer called lignin, which is not really a single polymer. The precise chemical formula of its starting material can vary among species, and it typically contains multiple places where chemical bonds can form, turning the polymer into a chaotic but extremely robust mesh.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

New Assange indictment adds 17 espionage charges

Ars Technica - May 23, 2019 - 10:42pm

Enlarge / Supporters of Julian Assange protest outside the Ecuadorian embassy as the WikiLeaks founder awaits a High Court hearing to determine whether he will be extradited to Sweden on sexual charges. Now, new US charges have been added to a previous indictment: 17 counts of espionage. (credit: Amer Ghazzal / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Today, the Department of Justice filed a new indictment of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with the US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia—adding 17 more charges atop the original hacking charge used to file for Assange's extradition from the United Kingdom. The new charges are all espionage-focused: conspiracy to receive, obtaining, and disclosure of "national defense information. Each of the 17 counts carries a potential prison sentence of up to 10 years.

In a statement announcing the filing, a Justice Department spokesperson said, "The superseding indictment alleges that Assange was complicit with Chelsea Manning, a former intelligence analyst in the US Army, in unlawfully obtaining and disclosing classified documents related to the national defense." The new counts allege, among other things, that Assange conspired with Manning to steal "national defense information," obtained that information from Manning, and "aided and abetted her in obtaining classified information with reason to believe that the information was to be used to the injury of the United States or the advantage of a foreign nation."

In a Twitter post, a WikiLeaks spokesperson wrote, "This is madness. It is the end of national security journalism and the First Amendment."

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

NASA officially orders its first segment of a lunar space station

Ars Technica - May 23, 2019 - 10:26pm

Maxar has been selected to build and fly the first element of NASA’s lunar Gateway. (credit: Maxar Technologies)

NASA has chosen its first commercial partner for a proposed space station, known as the Lunar Gateway, to be built near the Moon. On Thursday, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Maxar Technologies would build the first component of the Gateway—the power and propulsion element. Like the name suggests, it will provide electricity to the Gateway and help move it around.

"This time when we go to the Moon, we're actually going to stay," Bridenstine said in making the announcement. He has characterized the Gateway, which will be positioned in a high, elliptical orbit balanced between the Earth and Moon's gravity, as a reusable "Command Module." Under NASA's current plans to land humans on the Moon by 2024, this is where astronauts will launch to from Earth before climbing aboard pre-positioned landers to take them down to the lunar surface.

Despite the fanfare Thursday—Bridenstine provided an hour-long overview of NASA's ambitious Moon plans at the Florida Institute of Technology for a relatively simple contract award—the announcement represents a continuation of a Lunar Gateway plan that was initiated under the Obama administration. The Obama space plan involved using the Gateway as a stepping stone toward Mars, but now the Trump administration is pivoting toward the lunar surface.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

GOP, Dem Senators officially introduce loot box, “pay-to-win” legislation

Ars Technica - May 23, 2019 - 9:50pm

Unlike this ceramic replica, video game loot boxes are not filled with real candy. (credit: ThinkGeek)

Weeks ago, Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) released an outline for the The Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act, aimed at stopping randomized loot boxes and pay-to-win mechanics in the game industry. Today, Hawley was joined by Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) in formally introducing that bill in the Senate, complete with an 18-page draft of its legislative text.

Perhaps the most interesting portion of the bill attempts to define so-called "pay-to-win" mechanics in games. Those are defined broadly here as purchasable content that "assists a user in accomplishing an achievement within the game that can otherwise be accomplished without the purchase of such transaction" or which "permits a user to continue to access content of the game that had previously been accessible to the user but has been made inaccessible after the expiration of a timer or a number of gameplay attempts."

For multiplayer games, this would also include any purchasable in-game content that "from the perspective of a reasonable user, provides a competitive advantage."

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Purdue infiltrated WHO, manipulated opioid policies to boost sales, report finds

Ars Technica - May 23, 2019 - 9:10pm

Enlarge / Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, and its owners, the Sackler family, are facing hundreds of lawsuits across the country for the company's alleged role in the opioid epidemic. (credit: Getty | Drew Angerer)

Infamous OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma used front organizations and sponsored research to deceive the World Health Organization and corrupt global public health policies with the goal of boosting international opioid sales and profits, according to a Congressional report(PDF) released Thursday, May 22.

The investigation identified two WHO guidance documents that appear to parrot some of Purdue's misleading and outright false marketing claims about the safety and efficacy of their highly addictive opioids.

The findings, released by Reps. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) and Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), land as the country is still grappling with an epidemic of opioid abuse and overdoses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioid overdoses kill an average of 130 Americans every day.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Comcast does so much lobbying that it says disclosing it all is too hard

Ars Technica - May 23, 2019 - 8:40pm

Enlarge / A Comcast sign at the Comcast offices in Philadelphia, Penn. (credit: Getty Images | Cindy Ord )

Comcast may be harming its reputation by failing to reveal all of its lobbying activities, including its involvement in trade associations and lobbying at the state level, a group of shareholders says in a proposal that asks for more lobbying disclosures.

Comcast's disclosures for its lobbying of state governments "are often cursory or non-existent," and Comcast's failure to disclose its involvement in trade associations means that "investors have neither an accurate picture of the company's total lobbying expenditures nor an understanding of its priorities, interests, or potential risks from memberships," the proposal said. "Comcast's lack of transparency around its lobbying poses risks to its already troubled reputation, which is concerning in a highly regulated industry, especially given the rise of public Internet alternatives."

The proposal is on the ballot for Comcast's June 5 annual shareholder meeting and was filed by Friends Fiduciary, which "invest[s] based on Quaker values" and says it "actively screen[s] companies for social responsibility." Friends Fiduciary and other investors who joined the proposal collectively hold "over 1 million shares of Comcast stock," they said.

Read 19 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Facebook: Another three billion fake profiles culled

BBC Technology News - May 23, 2019 - 8:06pm
Mark Zuckerberg hits back at calls to break up Facebook, as it reveals it removed a record number of hateful posts.

Baltimore government held hostage by hackers' ransomware

BBC Technology News - May 23, 2019 - 8:03pm
The hack has disabled government email and payments to city departments, with no end in sight.

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