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Comic for February 20, 2019

Dilbert - February 21, 2019 - 12:59am
Categories: Geek

Nasty code-execution bug in WinRAR threatened millions of users for 14 years

Ars Technica - 36 min 49 sec ago

Enlarge / Evert (credit: iStock / Getty Images)

WinRAR, a Windows file compression program with 500 million users worldwide, recently fixed a 14-year-old vulnerability that made it possible for attackers to execute malicious code when targets opened a booby-trapped file.

The vulnerability was the result of an absolute path traversal flaw that resided in UNACEV2.DLL, a third-party code library that hasn’t been updated since 2005. The traversal made it possible for archive files to extract to a folder of the archive creator’s choosing, rather than the folder chosen by the person using the program. Because the third-party library doesn’t make use of exploit mitigations such as address space layout randomization, there was little preventing exploits.

Researchers from Check Point Software, the security firm that discovered the vulnerability, initially had trouble figuring out how to exploit the vulnerability in a way that executed code of their choosing. The most obvious path—to have an executable file extracted to the Windows startup folder where it would run on the next reboot—required WinRAR to run with higher privileges or integrity levels than it gets by default.

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With the best air pressure sensor ever on Mars, scientists find a mystery

Ars Technica - 1 hour 23 min ago

Enlarge / An artist's image of InSight on the surface of Mars, showing the location of its weather sensors. (credit: NASA)

There's a new meteorologist on Mars. Although NASA's InSight spacecraft landed on the red planet late in 2018 to measure the planet's geology—primarily by listening for Mars quakes—it also brought some sophisticated meteorology equipment with it.

The space agency has set up a website to share that information, which includes not only daily high and low temperatures, but unprecedented hourly data on wind speed, direction, and air pressure for InSight's location near the equator in Elysium Planitia. "We thought it was something that people might have some fun with," Cornell University's Don Banfield, who leads InSight's weather science, told Ars.

Other spacecraft have brought comparable temperature and wind sensors to Mars before, but none have carried such a precise air pressure sensor. The new sensor is 10 times more sensitive than any previous instrument because InSight needs to detect slight movements in the Martian ground, and from such movements infer details about the red planet's interior. For this, weather matters.

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UK 4G 'slower than most of EU when busy'

BBC Technology News - 1 hour 31 min ago
In a table of 77 countries, the UK ranked 35th for download speeds, a report finds.

Happy Death Day 2 U, Russian Doll give us time loops with a multiverse twist

Ars Technica - 1 hour 41 min ago

Enlarge / (left) Natasha Lyonne as Nadia Vulvokov in Russian Doll. (right) Jessica Rothe as Theresa "Tree" Gelbman in Happy Death Day 2 U. Both women find themselves caught in a time loop where they die over and over on their birthday. (credit: Netflix/Blumhouse Productions)

The time loop is pretty much a classic science fiction trope, thanks in large part to the enormous success of the 1993 film Groundhog Day. It's been used so often, in fact, that it's challenging to come up with a fresh take. But the Netflix series Russian Doll and the new film Happy Death Day 2 U manage to do just that, giving us time loops with a multiverse twist.

Wikipedia has amassed an impressive list of films featuring time loops: 49 so far, and that's not counting TV shows, like The X-Files episode "Monday" (in turn referenced on a Buffy the Vampire episode, "Life Serial"). The earliest film dates back to 1933: Turn Back the Clock, in which a tobacconist named Joe is killed in a hit-and-run and wakes up 20 years earlier. But it's not a true time loop tale, having more in common with It's a Wonderful Life.

A 1987 Russian film, Zerkalo dlya geroya (Mirror for a Hero), does have a lot of the key elements in place. But the real original source material is probably Richard A. Lupoff's 1973 short story, "12:01 PM," adapted into an Oscar-nominated short film in 1990 and a full-length feature in 1993—the same year Groundhog Day came out. (Lupoff definitely noticed the similarities and considered suing for plagiarism, but eventually dropped the idea.) It's pretty much been a sci-fi mainstay ever since.

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