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Password1, Password2, Password3 no more: Microsoft drops password expiration rec

Ars Technica - April 25, 2019 - 6:46pm

For many years, Microsoft has published a security baseline configuration: a set of system policies that are a reasonable default for a typical organization. This configuration may be sufficient for some companies, and it represents a good starting point for those corporations that need something stricter. While most of the settings have been unproblematic, one particular decision has long drawn the ire of end-users and helpdesks alike: a 60-day password expiration policy that forces a password change every two months. That reality is no longer: the latest draft for the baseline configuration for Windows 10 version 1903 and Windows Server version 1903 drops this tedious requirement.

The rationale for the previous policy is that it limits the impact a stolen password can have—a stolen password will automatically become invalid after, at most, 60 days. In reality, however, password expiration tends to make systems less safe, not more, because computer users don't like picking or remembering new passwords. Instead, they'll do something like pick a simple password and then increment a number on the end of the password, making it easy to "generate" a new password whenever they're forced to.

In the early days of computing, this might have been a sensible trade-off, because cracking passwords was relatively slow. But these days, with rainbow tables, GPU acceleration, and the massive computational power of the cloud, that's no longer the case—short passwords are a liability, so any policy that makes people favor short passwords is a bad policy. It's better instead to choose a long password and, ideally, multifactor authentication, supplementing the password with a time-based code or something similar.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

UK To Let Huawei Firm Help Build 5G Network

Slashdot - April 25, 2019 - 6:45pm
Categories: Geek, Opinion

Radioactivity detected from a half-life of once every trillion universes

Ars Technica - April 25, 2019 - 6:05pm

Enlarge / Some of the XENON1T hardware. (credit: XENON collaboration)

One of the ways we measure the age of the Earth is using the half-life of uranium. With a half-life of around four billion years, your typical atom of uranium only has even odds of having decayed during Earth's entire history. But it only takes a few hundred atoms to up the odds for us to see enough decays to be able to accurately measure the age of something, even though the decay itself may be rare. In fact, with enough atoms, it's possible to measure radioactive decays from events that have a half-life longer than the Universe's age.

Now, researchers have used a tank full of two tonnes of liquid xenon, put together to detect dark matter, to identify the rarest decay ever detected. The XENON1T detector picked up some xenon atoms being transformed into tellurium, an event with a half-life measured at 1.8 x 1022 years—or about a trillion times the age of the Universe.

Tonnes of xenon

What's the point of having two tonnes of liquid xenon in the first place? XENON1T was set up to detect a different but also extremely rare event: a dark matter particle bumping into one of the xenon atoms. This would impart enough energy to the atom to allow the event to be picked up by detectors that monitored the xenon tank. For this to work, however, the tank had to be shielded from any events that could also create a signal in the monitoring system. As a result, it was set up deep underground at Italy's Gran Sasso facility, and any potentially radioactive contaminants were eliminated from the liquid xenon.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Dealmaster: Take $20 off the latest version of Apple’s AirPods

Ars Technica - April 25, 2019 - 5:50pm

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

Greetings, Arsians! The Dealmaster is back with another round of deals to share. Today's list is led by one of the first genuine discounts on the latest version of Apple's AirPods, as Amazon currently has the little white wireless earbuds down to $140.

That's only good for a $20 discount, but discounts on the first-gen AirPods weren't terribly frequent this soon after they launched, and massive price cuts have been rare ever since. This deal is for the updated model Apple announced in March, however, which uses a more power-efficient "H1" wireless chip and supports a new wireless charging case. The listing here doesn't come with said case—that's currently going for $70 on Amazon or $199 as a bundle—and is currently backordered until mid-May, so you'll have to wait a bit for them to ship. But hey, it's nice to get newer things for less money, right?

As for the AirPods themselves, well, you probably know the deal with them at this point. They're actually priced competitively compared to other big-name truly wireless earbuds, but they don't sound that great, their design may not fit all ears, and their tiny, non-repairable design gives them a shorter lifespan than most wireless headphones. If you can look past all of that—and lots of people seem to have—they can be incredibly convenient when paired with an iPhone. If you need more details, most of the things we said in our review way back in 2016 still hold true today.

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NASA safety panel offers more detail on Dragon anomaly, urges patience

Ars Technica - April 25, 2019 - 5:40pm

Enlarge / SpaceX's Crew Dragon approaches the International Space Station in March, 2019. (credit: NASA)

Since issuing a brief statement Saturday after a test of its Crew Dragon vehicle resulted in an "anomaly," SpaceX has not offered additional comment about its ongoing investigation. NASA has not said much, either, outside of stating that it's assisting the investigation and that the agency has "full confidence in SpaceX" to understand and address the problem which appears to have destroyed the crew capsule.

A previously scheduled meeting of NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel on Thursday, however, did offer a bit more insight into the problem that occurred with the Crew Dragon vehicle at SpaceX's Landing Zone 1 facility in Florida, near the company's two launch sites there.

"The event occurred during a static fire test conducted prior to the in-flight abort test," said Patricia Sanders, chairwoman of the panel charged with ensuring that NASA has a healthy safety culture and mitigates risks where possible during spaceflight.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Huawei leak row: Government 'cannot exclude' criminal investigation

BBC Technology News - April 25, 2019 - 5:31pm
A cabinet minister condemns the leaks from a National Security Council meeting about a UK 5G network.

New type of plastic is a recycling dream

Ars Technica - April 25, 2019 - 4:52pm

Enlarge (credit: Elliot Margolies)

Recycling sounds great in principle (because it is), but a frustrating number of devils lurk in the details. For example, while some materials like aluminum can readily be melted down and turned right back into new aluminum cans, recovered plastics tend to be lower quality than “virgin” material. That’s because recycled plastic retains some of its previous properties—like Lego bricks that can’t be separated. The next plastic you make won’t be exactly the same type, and the recycled material won’t fit perfectly into its new spot.

To improve this situation, plastics engineers want to create new materials that can cleanly and easily break down to the most basic components—individual Lego bricks that can be reassembled into absolutely anything. The difficulty of this task is increased by all the pigments, flame retardants, and other additives used in plastics. But a group led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Peter Christensen has developed a new plastics process that conquers these challenges.

The basic building block of a plastic is called a “monomer”—connect monomers together and you create “polymers” with the useful physical properties you’re after. In this case, the researchers are using triketones and amines as building-block monomers. The process for putting them together sounds like minor sorcery (as chemistry often does): combining chemical ingredients causes different building blocks to form, which then spontaneously assemble.

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Tesla’s autonomy event: Impressive progress with an unrealistic timeline

Ars Technica - April 25, 2019 - 4:14pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty / Aurich Lawson / Tesla)

There's an old joke in the software engineering world, sometimes attributed to Tom Cargill of Bell Labs: "the first 90 percent of the code accounts for the first 90 percent of the development time. The remaining 10 percent of the code accounts for the other 90 percent of the development time."

On Monday, Tesla held a major event to show off the company's impressive progress toward full self-driving technology. The company demonstrated a new neural network computer that seems to be competitive with industry leader Nvidia. And Tesla explained how it leverages its vast fleet of customer-owned vehicles to collect data that helps the company train its neural networks.

Elon Musk's big message was that Tesla was close to reaching the holy grail of fully self-driving cars. Musk predicts that by the end of the year, Tesla's cars will be able to navigate both surface streets and freeways, allowing them to drive between any two points without human input.

Read 51 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Microsoft hits $1 trillion market valuation

BBC Technology News - April 25, 2019 - 3:49pm
It is one of only three public companies to have achieved the milestone, along with Apple and Amazon.

Google Stadia will support “a variety of business models”

Ars Technica - April 25, 2019 - 3:14pm

Last month, when Google revealed its upcoming Stadia streaming gaming platform, it left open the major question of precisely how Google and game developers would make money from these games running on remote servers. In an on-stage discussion at LA's GamesBeat Summit this week, though, Google's Phil Harrison mentioned that "our platform at a fundamental level has been architected to support a very wide variety of what people call 'monetization options.' Everything from purchase to transaction to subscription."

That's not quite a direct confirmation that all those different options will be available to developers on Stadia. All Harrison would reveal is that "there is no technical limitation on how we have architected the platform to support a variety of business models." (Emphasis ours.). But that architecture would be a very odd thing for Harrison to bring up if, say, Google was planning to impose a one-size-fits-all subscription on Stadia users.

In discussing Stadia, Harrison has put a lot of focus on how the platform makes it easy for players to share a game through a link in a text message, for instance, or by letting people instantly jump in to an instance of a game they're watching on YouTube at a specific point on the video. This form of game discovery could "change the way game value is perceived by players," Harrison said, by removing the "retail store pressure" and limited "outward facing" selection of brick-and-mortar and digital storefronts. "When a game is a link, the Internet is your store," he said. "That means we can change the perceived value of games."

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Russia's Facebook is now balanced, as all things should be

BBC Technology News - April 25, 2019 - 2:13pm
Social media website VKontakte temporarily removes 400,000 users by mimicking Avengers: Infinity War.

US Uber drivers plan 12-hour shutdown over pay and conditions

BBC Technology News - April 25, 2019 - 1:48pm
The drivers' protest coincides with the ride-hailing firm's debut on the stock market.

Days Gone impressions: Fun motorcycle times hampered by everything else

Ars Technica - April 25, 2019 - 1:01pm

Enlarge / Your hopes for a lengthy, charisma-filled biker romp in Days Gone should be tempered for many reasons. One of them is the fact that main character Deacon (left) doesn't interact nearly as much with his buddy Boozer as we'd originally hoped. (credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Sony's streak of must-play, open-world video games does not necessarily come to a grinding halt with this week's new PS4 exclusive Days Gone. But it's absolutely a tougher elevator pitch than the likes of Spider-Man, God of War, and Horizon Zero Dawn.

Each of those Sony exclusives has some game-changing gem I can use to insist that they're worth investing in for dozens of hours—that sort of unmistakable highlight to finish the sentence "polished open-world adventure and," including massive-city web-slinging, polished story, and robo-dino safaris, respectively. The special sauce in Days Gone, which arrives with the baggage of "yet another zombie game" as a loud descriptor, is a lot tougher to extract. It's there, but it's mild.

What follows is not a comprehensive Days Gone review, but rather my take after 10 hours of the game convinced me I had seen enough to declare this a fine-enough game rental—nothing more, nothing less.

Read 23 remaining paragraphs | Comments


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