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A tsunami of emailed bomb threats is prompting closures at hospitals, schools, public transit agencies, and business across the US and Canada.
Word of the emails surfaced Thursday morning in tweets such as this one:
So I actually just got a bomb threat in my work email today ordering me to send the person $20,000 via bitcoin or they will blow up my place of work.... 2018 is wild pic.twitter.com/sn0vVLwe6v
— Ryan William Grant (@TheeRyanGrant) December 13, 2018
And this one:
A recent phishing campaign targeting US government officials, activists, and journalists is notable for using a technique that allowed the attackers to bypass two-factor authentication protections offered by services such as Gmail and Yahoo Mail, researchers said Thursday. The event underscores the risks of 2fa that relies on one-tap logins or one-time passwords, particularly if the latter are sent in SMS messages to phones.
Attackers working on behalf of the Iranian government collected detailed information on targets and used that knowledge to write spear-phishing emails that were tailored to the targets’ level of operational security, researchers with security firm Certfa Lab said in a blog post. The emails contained a hidden image that alerted the attackers in real time when targets viewed the messages. When targets entered passwords into a fake Gmail or Yahoo security page, the attackers would almost simultaneously enter the credentials into a real login page. In the event targets’ accounts were protected by 2fa, the attackers redirected targets to a new page that requested a one-time password.
“In other words, they check victims’ usernames and passwords in realtime on their own servers, and even if 2 factor authentication such as text message, authenticator app or one-tap login are enabled they can trick targets and steal that information too,” Certfa Lab researchers wrote.
Verizon is parting ways with 10,400 employees in "a voluntary separation program," despite the Trump administration providing a tax cut and various deregulatory changes that were supposed to increase investment in jobs and broadband networks. The cuts represent nearly seven percent of Verizon's workforce and were announced along with a $4.6 billion charge related to struggles in Verizon's Yahoo/AOL business division.
Verizon described the voluntary buyouts as well as ongoing Yahoo/AOL failures in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Tuesday. The buyouts affect "US-based management employees" in multiple business segments, not just Yahoo and AOL.
Here's what Verizon says about its Yahoo/AOL problem:
As President Donald Trump threatened to allow a government shutdown if Congress did not provide funding for his proposed wall along the Mexican border, a Republican congressman from Ohio offered up alternative routes to getting the wall built: through Internet crowdfunding or through an initial coin offering.
During an interview with NPR's Morning Edition on December 12, Rep. Warren Davidson said that he had offered what he referred to as a "modest proposal" in the form of his "Buy a Brick, Build a Wall Act." The bill, which he submitted on November 30, would authorize the Secretary of the Treasury to accept monetary gifts from anyone "on the condition that it be used to plan, design, construct, or maintain a barrier along the international border between the United States and Mexico." The funds would go into an account called the "Border Wall Trust Fund," and a public website would be set up to process donations electronically.
Rep. Davidson told NPR's Steve Inskeep that the donations could come from anyone and be gathered in a number of ways."You could do it with this sort of, like, crowdfunding site," Davidson explained. "Or you could do it with blockchain—you could have Wall Coins."
For the last 18 months, Waymo vehicles have been ferrying passengers around the southeast corner of the Phoenix metropolitan area. The company has tightly controlled information about the project by contractually prohibiting passengers from discussing the experience.
That was supposed to change last week when Waymo officially launched its commercial service, Waymo One. The company said it would lift its nondisclosure requirement for at least some passengers, allowing them to talk to the press about what it's like to be an ordinary passenger in a Waymo car.
For the last week, reporters like me have been scouring the Internet to find Waymo One customers we can talk to—and coming up empty. Waymo One may have officially launched, but the program was still limited to people who were previously part of Waymo's earlier testing program. And so far none of these people had come forward to talk about the experience publicly.
Earlier this year, Apple announced it would launch a major new campus in the US, its second largest behind the Cupertino headquarters. Now we know where.
Apple announced this morning that it will spend $1 billion to open a new campus in the southern tech hub of Austin, Texas, and that it will open new offices and add 1,000 new jobs each to San Diego, Seattle, and Culver City, California, which is a municipality in the heart of Los Angeles. Further expansion is also planned in Pittsburgh, New York, Boston, Boulder, and Portland. It also plans to invest $4.5 billion in data centers like those in Nevada, North Carolina, and Arizona this year and next.
The company has gone to great lengths to position this as part of a narrative about the vast number of people it currently employs and will employ in the future across the United States. Apple hopes this will counter criticisms about its manufacturing operations and partners in China. The industry giant says it is on track to create 20,000 new jobs in the US by 2023. It also plans to spend $30 billion on new facilities by that date. Apple currently employs about 90,000 people in the US.
Microsoft has had success in the enterprise space with its Microsoft 365 subscription, which bundles Office 365, Windows 10, and remote management with Enterprise Mobility + Security. Its home-oriented Office 365 subscriptions have also been growing steadily, with 32.5 million subscriptions as of the company's most recent financial reports. And now Microsoft is planning to bring these things together with a Microsoft 365 subscription aimed at non-corporate users, reports Mary Jo Foley.
Microsoft 365 Consumer would be a subscription bundle with a consumer focus. Foley notes that there have been job advertisements alluding to such a product, and the move would seem to be consistent with the company's plan to re-engage with consumers. At its Inspire partner event earlier this year, the company said that it wanted to target "professional consumers" by offering software and services to enhance their "Modern Life and Devices." The meaning of this is not entirely clear, but it seems to mean that the company will continue to make its services work better wherever you use them (greater support for iOS and Android phones). Syncing and replication will ensure that your work and current context moves seamlessly between devices.
Less clear is what a Microsoft 365 Consumer bundle would actually include. Office 365 is an obvious component; it's already being sold to consumers, and it remains the heart of Microsoft's productivity vision. But beyond that? Windows 10 is, for home users, functionally free already. There have long been fears/rumors/speculation that Microsoft will move to a monthly Windows subscription model for consumers, but there are no signs that this is happening. Given the way Windows 10 has been positioned—the "last version" of Windows that will be updated and upgraded indefinitely—it's hard to imagine it ever happening.
On Wednesday, Volvo Trucks North America announced that in 2019 it will demonstrate an all-electric Volvo semi truck, which it expects to go into production in 2020.
The semi will be an all-electric VNR, similar to Volvo's current diesel VNR model, and it will be used for regional-haul operations as well as drayage (that is, transporting shipping containers from barges to their next mode of transport).
Everyone's favorite sober-minded Vulcan, Spock, cracks a rare smile in a new, action-packed trailer for Star Trek: Discovery's upcoming second season. This go-round, the crew of the USS Discovery will be facing its greatest threat yet: a being or entity intent on wiping out all sentient beings in the Universe.
Discovery is a prequel to the original Star Trek, set roughly 10 years before Captain Kirk and his crew took over the USS Enterprise and boldly went where no man had gone before. The first trailer debuted at New York Comic Con back in October. That's when we learned that last season's Captain Gabriel Lorca has been replaced by iconic character Christopher Pike (Anson Mount). The Klingons have hair again (fans did not care for the bald look), and Michelle Yeoh returns as the former ruler of the Terran Empire, Philippa Georgiou.
We also saw the debut of Rebecca Romijn as Number One and got our first glimpse of a young, bearded Spock (now played by Ethan Peck). His appearance is linked to the mysterious vision of a "red angel" experienced by his adoptive sister, Science Specialist Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). Spock also had recurring visions of such a creature, but the first trailer was coy about what it might mean.
Playing old-school games on the Switch thus far has been a choice between various control compromises. You can use two Joy-Cons held in two hands, but the tiny buttons and lack of a true d-pad make this setup less than ideal. Holding a single Joy-Con sideways eliminates the d-pad completely and forces you to curve your grip around a hand-crampingly small control surface. A Switch Pro Controller or various third-party solutions can solve these problems, but they come with relatively high prices and some added features you don't need for classic games.
Enter Nintendo, which is offering subscribers to its new Online service the ability to buy two wireless, Switch-compatible replica NES controllers for $60 (on top of the $20 a year subscription). After spending a few hours testing the little guys (just before pre-orders start shipping out) we found them to be competent, authentic throwbacks with some important limitations.Truly authentic
Anyone with fond memories of gripping an NES controller in their youth will be happy to hear that Nintendo got the authenticity darn-near perfect with these replicas. Everything from the sizing to the tactile feel to the springiness of the buttons and the d-pad is practically indistinguishable from a brand-new NES controller you might have bought three decades ago. This isn't that surprising, since the wired NES Classic Edition controllers had the same level of fidelity, but it's still nice to see.
On a clear and cold Thursday morning in the Mojave Desert, Virgin Galactic's White Knight Two aircraft took off. It carried the VSS Unity spacecraft, which on its fourth powered flight, sought to make the company's highest and fastest flight ever. It succeeded.
With Mark "Forger" Stucky and C.J Sturckow piloting the vehicle, VSS Unity was dropped from White Knight Two before burning its rocket motor for 60 seconds, reaching a velocity of Mach 2.9 and soaring to an altitude of 82.68km. These were records for the company, which may begin flying space tourists in 2019.How big of a deal is suborbital flight?
On one hand, it's difficult to get any rocket to fly high and true. Consider that Virgin Galactic was founded in 2004. It had a basic architecture at that time—an air-launched, rocket-powered spaceship based upon a proven design—and ample funding from a British billionaire. It still took 14 years for the company to make its first spaceflight.
T-Mobile lied to the Federal Communications Commission about the extent of its 4G LTE coverage, according to a trade group that represents rural wireless providers.
T-Mobile claimed—under penalty of perjury—to have coverage in areas where it hadn't yet installed 4G equipment, the Rural Wireless Association (RWA) said in an FCC filing Monday. The same group previously reported to the FCC that Verizon lied about its 4G coverage, leading to the FCC starting an investigation and announcing that at least one carrier exaggerated its 4G coverage.
Inaccurate coverage maps could make it difficult for rural carriers to get money from the Mobility Fund, a government fund intended to build networks in unserved areas. The FCC last year required Verizon and other carriers to file maps and data indicating their current 4G LTE coverage with speeds of at least 5Mbps. Carriers must provide "a certification, under penalty of perjury, by a qualified engineer that the propagation maps and model details reflect the filer's coverage as of the generation date of the map in accordance with all other parameters," the FCC order said.
Amazon and Google haven't played nicely with each other over the past few years, but consumers were just thrown a bone. Amazon has finally restocked Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra devices in its online store, selling them for $35 and $69, respectively.
Back in 2015, Amazon pulled Chromecast devices from its store after it dictated that it would only sell streaming devices that support its own Prime Video service. Since the Chromecast did not support the service, Amazon claimed it would cause "customer confusion" if it offered the Google device for purchase.
The same strange rule applied to the Apple TV, which Amazon didn't sell for some time as well. But Amazon released its Prime Video app for Apple TV this time last year, and Apple's set-top box reappeared on Amazon quickly after that.
If you're a technology enthusiast—and you obviously are, because you're reading Ars Technica—you'll know that poor software or a bad UI can drag down even the best hardware. It's frustrating, and not just because lousy software can make using the newest, shiniest gear less fun. The frustration is also fueled by the vision of what could have been if the manufacturer had truly gotten its act together.
That, in a nutshell, describes my week with the Acura MDX Sport Hybrid.
The MDX is the first hybrid SUV from Acura. It was refreshed for the 2017 model year, and, aside from a few new color options, it is essentially unchanged for 2019. It's a three-row, midsize SUV that sits in the same luxury segment occupied by the Infiniti QX60 (look for our review soon), Audi Q7, Volvo XC90, and Lexus RX 350L. It has a 3.0L, 24-valve V6 under the hood, accompanied by three electric motors—borrowed from the hybrid NSX supercar no less. There's also a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission that works sans torque convertor, which Acura says improves its efficiency.
We weren't impressed with this year's Notebook 9 Pen, Samsung's attempt at a high-end ultrabook, but the company will be trying again in 2019. Samsung announced two new versions of the Notebook 9 Pen—a 13-inch and a 15-inch model—that it will show off at CES in January and release sometime in 2019. At first glance, not much seems to have changed in the new convertibles, but upon closer inspection, Samsung has made some changes that will (hopefully) make the new devices worth their inevitably high price tags.
Regardless of how you feel about the blue-and-gold color scheme on this year's Note 9 smartphone, Samsung clearly likes it because the company brought it over to the Notebook 9 Pen. The new device has that navy blue over most of its chassis, and its edges remain the only parts where silver pokes through.
Microsoft has released version 16.20.18120801 of Office 365 for the Mac platform, bringing support for a couple of key Mac features introduced in September's macOS 10.14 Mojave release, as well as a number of small features and user experience improvements not related to Mojave.
The headline feature is, of course, dark mode support, which requires Mojave to work. Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook all support Mojave's dark theme. Also related to Mojave, you can now use Apple's Continuity Camera feature to insert a photo directly from your iPhone's photos to a slide in PowerPoint.
In part one of our interview with United Launch Alliance Chief Executive Tory Bruno, we talked about the company's efforts to develop the Vulcan rocket, its Centaur upper stage, and other projects at the Colorado-based rocket builder. In part two, below, we asked Bruno about the company's collaboration with new space company Blue Origin and its ongoing rivalry with SpaceX.
These two relatively new launch companies have taken different approaches with United Launch Alliance, which was founded by legacy aerospace firms in 2006 to provide national security launches for the US government. Blue Origin has sought to work with ULA, reaching an agreement in 2014 to provide BE-4 rocket engines for the Vulcan booster. But the companies are also competing, amicably, as Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket will also bid for national security launches, and there is some overlap in the commercial market interests.
SpaceX has taken a significantly more confrontational posture toward United Launch Alliance from the beginning, suing to stop the formation of ULA in 2005 and battling for government business in the years since, both for military and civil space missions.
When Apple introduced the fourth iteration of its smartwatch, the big new selling point wasn't a feature we typically associate with a watch or any sort of smart device. Instead, the company added a feature that had only recently arrived in the form of specialized consumer devices: an electrocardiograph (ECG), a device made for monitoring the heart's electrical activity.
But the watch was ready before the software was, meaning an examination of the technology wasn't possible in our comprehensive review of the Apple Watch Series 4. Last week, Apple finally enabled the missing features, and we've spent a few days checking them out.Basic features
People who haven't used the Apple Watch may not realize just how much it's an extension of an iPhone. This includes the heart-monitoring software, which requires an update to both the Watch and iPhone OSes before it will work. (This caused a small bit of confusion when the software wouldn't launch after we upgraded only the watch's OS.) Once the update is done, the Health app on the iPhone will incorporate any ECG data generated using the watch. On the watch side, the update will install a new app.
Oakland is just one of many cities across America that is trying to sort out how it will manage the rapid influx of shared electric scooters on its streets. A new permitting process is being discussed at forums held across the city, with a vote expected within months.
After all, tech startups have sprung up with essentially the same business model: via a smartphone app, unlock a scooter for $1, then pay $0.15 per minute afterward.
Greetings, Arsians! Courtesy of our friends at TechBargains, we have another round of deals to share. Today's list is a busy one, but we'll highlight a deal on the Xbox One X, which is down to $400 at Walmart.
Microsoft's beefed-up console has been down at that price for most of the holiday season, but it remains a solid discount of $100 nonetheless. While you'll need a 4K and HDR-capable TV to truly take advantage of the device—and while the PS4 still has a larger community—the One X is still a performance improvement over the Xbox One S for those who have already boarded the Xbox bandwagon. Just make sure you plan to play games that actually support its added horsepower, since the cheaper One S is already capable of playing 4K video.
If you're not an Xbox fan, though, we also have deals on Razer's DeathAdder Elite gaming mouse, Nintendo Switch games, the Apple Watch Series 3, a bunch of Amazon devices, and much more. Have a look for yourself below.