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Businesses

A Lithuanian Phisher Tricked Two Big US Tech Companies Into Wiring Him $100 Million (theverge.com) 34

According to a recent indictment from the U.S. Department of Justice, a 48-year-old Lithuanian scammer named Evaldas Rimasauskas managed to trick two American technology companies into wiring him $100 million. He was able to perform this feat "by masquerading as a prominent Asian hardware manufacturer," reports The Verge, citing court documents, "and tricking employees into depositing tens of millions of dollars into bank accounts in Latvia, Cyprus, and numerous other countries." From the report: What makes this remarkable is not Rimasauskas' particular phishing scam, which sounds rather standard in the grand scheme of wire fraud and cybersecurity exploits. Rather, it's the amount of money he managed to score and the industry from which he stole it. The indictment specifically describes the companies in vague terms. The first company is "multinational technology company, specializing in internet-related services and products, with headquarters in the United States," the documents read. The second company is a "multinational corporation providing online social media and networking services." Both apparently worked with the same "Asia-based manufacturer of computer hardware," a supplier that the documents indicate was founded some time in the late '80s. What's more important is that representatives at both companies with the power to wire vast sums of money were still tricked by fraudulent email accounts. Rimasauskas even went so far as to create fake contracts on forged company letterhead, fake bank invoices, and various other official-looking documents to convince employees of the two companies to send him money. Rimasauskas has been charged with one count of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, and aggravated identity theft. In other words, he faces serious prison time of convicted -- each charge of wire fraud and laundering carries a max sentence of 20 years. The court documents don't reveal the names of the two companies. Though, one could surely think of a few candidates that would fit the descriptions provided in the court documents.
AT&T

17,000 AT&T Workers Go On Strike In California and Nevada (fortune.com) 104

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fortune: Approximately 17,000 workers in AT&T's traditional wired telephone business in California and Nevada walked out on strike on Wednesday, marking the most serious labor action against the carrier in years. The walkout -- formally known as a grievance strike -- occurred after AT&T changed the work assignments of some of the technicians and call center employees in the group, the Communications Workers of America union said. The union would not say how long the strike might last. A contract covering the group expired last year and there has been little progress in negotiations over sticking points like the outsourcing of call center jobs overseas, stagnant pay, and rising health care costs. The union said it planned to file an unfair labor charge with the National Labor Relations Board over the work assignment changes. "A walkout is not in anybody's best interest and it's unfortunate that the union chose to do that," an AT&T spokesman told Fortune. "We're engaged in discussion with the union to get these employees back to work as soon as possible."
Microsoft

Microsoft's Edge Was Most Hacked Browser At Pwn2Own 2017, While Chrome Remained Unhackable (tomshardware.com) 137

At the Pwn2Own 2017 hacking event, Microsoft's Edge browser proved itself to be the least secure browser at the event, after it was hacked no less than five times. Google's Chrome browser, on the other hand, remained unhackable during the contest. Tom's Hardware reports: On the first day, Team Ether (Tencent Security) was the first to hack Edge through an arbitrary write in the Chakra JavaScript engine. The team also used a logic bug in the sandbox to escape that, as well. The team got an $80,000 prize for this exploit. On the second day, the Edge browser was attacked fast and furious by multiple teams. However, one was disqualified for using a vulnerability that was disclosed the previous day. (The teams at Pwn2Own are supposed to only use zero-day vulnerabilities that are unknown to the vendor. Two other teams withdrew their entries against Edge. However, Team Lance (Tencent Security) successfully exploited Microsoft's browser using a use-after-free (UAF) vulnerability in Chakra, and then another UAF bug in the Windows kernel to elevate system privileges. The exploit got the team $55,000. Team Sniper (Tencent Security) also exploited Edge and the Windows kernel using similar techniques, which gained this team the same amount of money, as well. The most impressive exploit by far, and also a first for Pwn2Own, was a virtual machine escape through an Edge flaw by a security team from "360 Security." The team leveraged a heap overflow bug in Edge, a type confusion in the Windows kernel, and an uninitialized buffer in VMware Workstation for a complete virtual machine escape. The team hacked its way in via the Edge browser, through the guest Windows OS, through the VM, all the way to the host operating system. This impressive chained-exploit gained the 360 Security team $105,000. The fifth exploit against Edge was done by Richard Zhu, who used two UAF bugs--one in Edge and one in a Windows kernel buffer overflow--to complete the hack. The attack gained Zhu $55,000. At last year's Pwn2Own 2016, Edge proved to be more secure than Internet Explorer and Safari, but it still ended up getting hacked twice. Chrome was only partially hacked once, notes Tom's Hardware.
Advertising

Google Wants To Create Promotions That Aren't Ads For Its Voice-Controlled Assistant (businessinsider.in) 49

Earlier this month, some Google Home users noticed what appeared to be audio ads for Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" movie. After some intense backlash, the company released a statement claiming that the ad was not an ad, but that it was simply "timely content" that Disney didn't pay for. Google's UK director of agencies, Matt Bush, has since spoken out about the company's plans with advertising via the voice-controlled Assistant. Business Insider reports: Bush explained Google isn't looking to offer brand integrations in voice for the time being, since it didn't have enough data to come up with an ad product that adds value for consumers. "We want businesses to have a phenomenal mobile experience and then building on that have a phenomenal voice experience," Bush told Business Insider at Advertising Week Europe. "That might not be, in the early instances, anything that has to do with commercials at all. It might just be something something that adds value to the consumer without needing to be commercialized." Bush explained that the consumer experience with voice is very different from that of text search because the use cases for voice navigation differ depending on the device the function is used on and the context the user finds themselves in. "We don't want to start putting in commercial opportunities that we think users don't want to interact with," Bush said "We don't want anything to come in-between the user and their access to the information they're actually looking for. If a brand can add value in that space, fantastic." Bush cited mobile search ads as successful executions of using context and personal user insights, but voice promotions are unlikely to take the same form. "It's unlikely to be what you see from search as it currently stands, where you might have three or four ads as the top results of a search," he said.
Cellphones

Wells Fargo: All ATMs Will Take Phone Codes, Not Just Cards (go.com) 60

Given the prevalence of smartphones nowadays, Wells Fargo has announced plans to upgrade all 13,000 of its ATMs next week to allow customers to access their money using their cellphones instead of traditional bank cards. Wells Fargo would be the first to upgrade all of its ATMs with the feature across the United States. ABC News reports: To access their money, customers would get unique eight-digit codes from their Wells Fargo smartphone app, and enter the code into the ATM along with their PIN number. The machines will still accept debit cards as well. One limitation of the one-time code, though, is that it won't work on the secure doors that many branches have for non-business hours that require a customer to swipe an ATM or debit card to gain entry. Wells Fargo said those secure doors are found at a small percentage of branches, mostly in major metropolitan areas like New York City or Chicago. Wells said it plans to roll out another upgrade to its ATMs later this year, which will allow customers to access the ATMs by holding their smartphones up to a reader on the machine, instead of entering the eight-digit code. It would be similar to using Apple Pay or Samsung Pay, the bank said.
Mars

Trump Adds To NASA Budget, Approves Crewed Mission To Mars (nbcnews.com) 278

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: President Donald Trump signed a law on Tuesday authorizing funding for a crewed NASA mission to Mars. The new bill (S.442) adds a crewed mission to the red planet as a key NASA objective and authorizes the space agency to direct test human space flight programs that will enable more crewed exploration in deep space. The space agency has $19.5 billion in funding for the 2018 fiscal year, which starts this October. Trump had allocated $19.1 billion for NASA in his budget, which is slightly down from the current year, but still an improvement from the past decade, which saw the end of the space shuttle program. The commander in chief signed the bill surrounded by astronauts and his former Republican rivals, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who both sponsored the bill. Getting to Mars, though, isn't expected to happen during the Trump presidency. NASA has its sights set on getting to the red planet in the 2030s. In the near term, NASA plans to test its Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket, in addition to visiting an asteroid and redirecting a chunk of it into orbit around the moon. Astronauts could later visit the boulder and use the mission to test some of the tools needed for a Mars mission.
IBM

IBM, Remote-Work Pioneer, is Calling Thousands Of Employees Back To the Office (qz.com) 290

An anonymous reader shares a report: Less than a year into her tenure as IBM's chief marketing officer, Michelle Peluso prepared to make an announcement that she knew would excite some of her 5,500 new employees, but also, inevitably, inspire resignation notices from others. In a video message, Peluso explained the "only one recipe I know for success." Its ingredients included great people, the right tools, a mission, analysis of results, and one more thing: "really creative and inspiring locations." IBM had decided to "co-locate" the US marketing department, about 2,600 people, which meant that all teams would now work together, "shoulder to shoulder," from one of six different locations -- Atlanta, Raleigh, Austin, Boston, San Francisco, and New York. Employees who worked primarily from home would be required to commute, and employees who worked remotely or from an office that was not on the list (or an office that was on the list, but different than the one to which their teams had been assigned) would be required to either move or look for another job. Similar announcements had already been made in other departments, and more would be made in the future. At IBM, which has embraced remote work for decades, a relatively large proportion of employees work outside of central hubs. (By 2009, when remote work was still, for most, a novelty, 40% of IBM's 386,000 global employees already worked at home). [...] "When you're playing phone tag with someone is quite different than when you're sitting next to someone and can pop up behind them and ask them a question," Peluso says. Not all IBM employees see it that way.
Businesses

GitHub Now Lets Its Workers Keep the IP When They Use Company Resources For Personal Projects (qz.com) 74

If it's on company time, it's the company's dime. That's the usual rule in the tech industry -- that if employees use company resources to work on projects unrelated to their jobs, their employer can claim ownership of any intellectual property (IP) they create. But GitHub is throwing that out the window. From a report on Quartz: Today the code-sharing platform announced a new policy, the Balanced Employee IP Agreement (BEIPA). This allows its employees to use company equipment to work on personal projects in their free time, which can occur during work hours, without fear of being sued for the IP. As long as the work isn't related to GitHub's own "existing or prospective" products and services, the employee owns it. Like all things related to tech IP, employee agreements are a contentious issue. In some US states, it's not uncommon for contracts to give companies full ownership of all work employees produce during their tenure, and sometimes even before and after their tenure, regardless of when or how they produce it. These restrictions have led to several horror stories, like the case of Alcatel vs. Evan Brown.
Earth

Norway Plans to Build the World's First Ship Tunnel (newatlas.com) 136

Norway is planning to build the world's first ship tunnel through the country's Stad peninsula, which is home to harsh weather conditions that often delay shipments and cause dangerous conditions for ship crews. The proposed tunnel would enable ships to travel through the peninsula in safety. New Atlas recently interviewed Stad Ship Tunnel Project Manager Terje Andreassen about the project: NA: We'd usually expect a canal to be built for this kind of purpose, so why a tunnel? Because in this case we are crossing a hill which is more than 300 meters (984 ft) high. The only alternative is a tunnel. From a maritime point of view this is still a canal, but with a "roof." NA: How would you go about making such a large tunnel -- would you use a boring machine, for example, or explosives? First we will drill horizontally and use explosives to take out the roof part of the tunnel. Then all bolts and anchors to secure the roof rock before applying shotcrete. The rest of the tunnel will be done in the same way as in open mining. Vertical drilling and blasting with explosives down to the level of 12 m (42 ft) below the sea level. NA: How much rock will be removed, and how will you go about removing it? There will be 3 billion cubic meters (over 105 billion cubic ft) of solid rock removed. All transportation from the tunnel area will be done by large barges. NA: What, if any, are the unique challenges to building a ship tunnel when compared with a road tunnel? The challenge is the height of this tunnel. There is 50 m (164 ft) from bottom to the roof, so all secure works and shotcrete must be done in several levels. The tunnel will be made dry down to the bottom. We solve this by leaving some rock unblasted in each end of the tunnel to prevent water flowing in.

Assuming it does indeed go ahead -- and with the Norwegian government having already set aside the money, this seems relatively likely -- the Stad Ship Tunnel will reach a length of 1.7 km (1.05 miles), and measure 37 m (121 ft) tall and 26.5 m (87 ft) wide. It's expected to cost NOK 2.3 billion (over US$272 million) to build and won't actually speed up travel times, but instead focuses on making the journey safer. Top-tier architecture and design firm Snohetta has designed the entrances, and the company's early plans include sculpted tunnel openings and adding LED lighting on the tunnel ceiling.

Bitcoin

Ask Slashdot: How Does One Freely Use Bitcoin In the Land of the Free? 267

New submitter devrtm writes: It appears that Bitcoin, a currency designed with anonymity in mind, can be effectively used almost anywhere in the world, except in a few countries where it is regulated, and in one country where you can only use it if you give up your privacy. That country is the United States. I have accumulated quite a few BTC from the currency's early days where block rewards were still at $50. There was a period of time where one could get a nearly anonymous debit card, or use BTC online with merchants. Nowadays, non-U.S. payment providers no longer issue debit cards to the U.S. residents and the U.S.-based merchants accepting BTC are nearly extinct. The only way to use BTC in the U.S. is to convert it to USD. Unfortunately, that conversion requires giving up your personal information to a U.S.-based BTC payment processor, and there are rumors that signing up for those services raises red flags with certain three letter acronym organizations. I have nothing to hide, but I do value my privacy. Can one freely and anonymously live off of their Bitcoin wallet in the U.S.? I am afraid the answer is no. Does anyone have an experience that proves me wrong? Please share.
Businesses

Happiness is on the Wane in the US, UN Global Report Finds (theguardian.com) 379

From a report on The Guardian, shared by five anonymous readers: Happiness in the US is declining and is expected to continue on a downward path, with Donald Trump's policies forecast to deepen the country's social crisis. The US has slipped to 15th place in the World Happiness Report 2017, produced by the United Nations. The world's economic superpower is well behind top-ranked Norway, although it remains above Germany in 17th place, the UK in 19th, and France in 32nd. Norway knocked Denmark off the top spot as the world's happiest country, with Iceland and Switzerland rounding out the top four. The report's authors stress, however, that the top four are so close that changes are not statistically significant. The next tier of countries are regular leaders in international happiness surveys: Finland is in fifth place, followed by the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden. The world's "unhappiest" countries are all in the Middle East and Africa: war-stricken Yemen and Syria feature in the bottom 10, with Tanzania, Burundi and Central African Republic making up the final three.
Businesses

Ebay: Yes, Speedy Shipping Really Is a Thing With Us (cnet.com) 62

Fast shipping is -- finally -- no longer all about Amazon. From a report on CNET: On Monday, eBay announced it will offer a new guaranteed-delivery program in the US starting this summer, pledging deliveries in three or fewer days for more than 20 million products. For the first time, Ebay's shoppers will be able to filter searches to see only items guaranteed to arrive in one, two or three days. "We know we need to continue to up our game on shipping," Hal Lawton, eBay's senior vice president of North America, said in an interview. [...] It's worth noting, though, that this Ebay announcement doesn't actually speed up deliveries on the site. Many professional sellers on Ebay have already been providing these faster deliveries, in some cases for years. Ebay, which says 63 percent of packages sold through its site arrive in three days or less, has been offering customers more conservative delivery estimates because it doesn't ship directly.
Education

In 18 Years, A College Degree Could Cost About $500,000 (buzzfeed.com) 372

An anonymous reader shares a report: People worried about college affordability today can at least take this to heart: it could get much, much worse. Tuition has been rising by about 6% annually, according to investment management company Vanguard. At this rate, when babies born today are turning 18, a year of higher education at a private school -- including tuition, fees, and room and board -- will cost more than $120,000, Vanguard said. Public colleges could average out to $54,000 a year. That means without financial aid, the sticker price of a four-year college degree for children born today could reach half a million dollars at private schools, and a quarter million at public ones. That's for a family with one kid; those with more could be facing a bill that reaches seven figures.
Biotech

Tech Billionaires Invest In Linking Brains To Computers (technologyreview.com) 77

"To many in Silicon Valley, the brain looks like an unconquered frontier whose importance dwarfs any achievement made in computing or the Web," including Bryan Johnson, the founder of Braintree online payments, and Elon Musk. An anonymous reader quotes MIT Technology Review: Johnson is effectively jumping on an opportunity created by the Brain Initiative, an Obama-era project which plowed money into new schemes for recording neurons. That influx of cash has spurred the formation of several other startups, including Paradromics and Cortera, also developing novel hardware for collecting brain signals. As part of the government brain project, the defense R&D agency DARPA says it is close to announcing $60 million in contracts under a program to create a "high-fidelity" brain interface able to simultaneously record from one million neurons (the current record is about 200) and stimulate 100,000 at a time...

According to neuroscientists, several figures from the tech sector are currently scouring labs across the U.S. for technology that might fuse human and artificial intelligence. In addition to Johnson, Elon Musk has been teasing a project called "neural lace," which he said at a 2016 conference will lead to "symbiosis with machines." And Mark Zuckerberg declared in a 2015 Q&A that people will one day be able to share "full sensory and emotional experiences," not just photos. Facebook has been hiring neuroscientists for an undisclosed project at Building 8, its secretive hardware division.

Elon Musk complains that the current speeds for transferring signals from brains are "ridiculously slow".
Communications

Southwest Airlines Is Doing Away With Pneumatic Tubes, Paper Tickets (consumerist.com) 92

As part of Southwest's biggest tech upgrade in its 45 years of existence, the company will doing away with several of its antiquated practices, including paper tickets and the use of pneumatic tubes to send messages at airports. Consumerist reports: The airline says the goal of these upgrades is to keep planes moving in and out of airports as quickly as possible. "We're looking for minutes," Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven told Bloomberg. "How do I save a minute here, a minute there? In 2017, we are more deliberate in our continuous improvement efforts." The new reservation system will allow Southwest to accept foreign money -- something its rivals can already do -- bounce back faster from storms, and have more control over price changes and schedules. Ramp workers will be getting tablets with real-time information to speed up airplanes' "turn time" -- how quickly they can deboard and reboard passengers and take off again. Tarmac staffers also won't be using pneumatic tubes anymore to send notes via canister about lost luggage and other communications to the cargo workers in charge of calculating jet weight and balance. Digital transmissions will replace that system, as well as printouts for workers who transport bags to and fro. Customers will be seeing changes as well, as the new reservation system means Southwest can ditch paper tickets altogether and stick with electronic tickets only.
Mars

Scientists Sent a Rocket To Mars For Less Than It Cost To Make 'The Martian' (backchannel.com) 178

Ipsita Agarwal via Backchannel retells the story of how India's underfunded space organization, ISRO, managed to send a rocket to Mars for less than it cost to make the movie "The Martian," starring Matt Damon as Mark Watney. "While NASA's Mars probe, Maven, cost $651 million, the budget for this mission was $74 million," Agarwal writes. In what appears to be India's version of "Hidden Figures" (a movie that also cost more to make than ISRO's budget for the Mars rocket), the team of scientists behind the rocket launch consisted of Indian women, who not only managed to pull off the mission successfully but did so in only 18 months. Backchannel reports: A few months and several million kilometers later, the orbiter prepared to enter Mars' gravity. This was a critical moment. If the orbiter entered Mars' gravity at the wrong angle, off by so much as one degree, it would either crash onto the surface of Mars or fly right past it, lost in the emptiness of space. Back on Earth, its team of scientists and engineers waited for a signal from the orbiter. Mission designer Ritu Karidhal had worked 48 hours straight, fueled by anticipation. As a child, Minal Rohit had watched space missions on TV. Now, Minal waited for news on the orbiter she and her colleague, Moumita Dutta, had helped engineer. When the signal finally arrived, the mission control room broke into cheers. If you work in such a room, deputy operations director, Nandini Harinath, says, "you no longer need to watch a thriller movie to feel the thrill in life. You feel it in your day-to-day work." This was not the only success of the mission. An image of the scientists celebrating in the mission control room went viral. Girls in India and beyond gained new heroes: the kind that wear sarees and tie flowers in their hair, and send rockets into space. User shas3 notes in a comment on Hacker News' post: "If you are interested in Indian women scientists and engineers, there is a nice compilation (a bit tiresome to read, but worth it, IMO) of biographical essays called 'Lilvati's Daughters.'"
Businesses

Insurance Startup Uses Behavioral Science To Keep Customers Honest (fastcompany.com) 52

tedlistens quotes a report from Fast Company: Insurance startup Lemonade won itself headlines in January with the boast that it had successfully approved a claim in just three seconds. In that time, Lemonade's software had run 18 anti-fraud algorithms and sent a payment to the lucky customer's bank account -- a process that would have taken a traditional property and casualty insurer days, if not weeks. But it's what happened before Lemonade's artificial intelligence kicked into gear that makes the renegade insurer so potentially disruptive to this trillion-dollar industry, for which premiums alone comprise 7% of U.S. GDP. The customer, Brooklyn educator Brandon Pham, opened Lemonade's mobile app, signed an "honesty pledge" to attest to the truth of his claim, and then recorded a short video explaining that his Canada Goose parka, worth nearly $1,000, had been stolen. That deceptively simple claims process is the byproduct of academic research on psychology and behavioral economics conducted by Dan Arielyblog, one of the field's most prominent voices and Lemonade's chief behavioral officer. "There's a lot of science about when people behave and misbehave that has not been put to use," says Lemonade cofounder and CEO Daniel Schreiber. Lemonade is even applying behavioral science to itself, publishing unusually transparent blog posts that include data on customer growth, bank account balances, and more.
IBM

IBM To Hire 2,000 More Veterans, Expand Tech Training Schools (axios.com) 32

Ina Fried, reporting for Axios: IBM CEO Ginni Rometty is among the tech leaders meeting Friday with President Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Axios has learned. They'll discuss worker training. And IBM will announce plans to: Open 20 more of its P-TECH schools, which let students get a combined high school degree and associate degree in science and technology in as little as four and a half years. Hire 2,000 U.S. military veterans over the next four years and expand a program that trains and certifies veterans in the use of the type of IBM software often used by law enforcement, cybersecurity and national security agencies.
Businesses

What If You Could Eat Chicken Without Killing a Chicken? (theoutline.com) 330

From a report on The Outline: San Francisco-based startup Memphis Meats announced this week that it had grown chicken in a lab -- chicken strips, to be precise. The strips, which were grown using self-reproducing cells, are technically "meat," but because the cells were not from an animal, the process by which this "meat" was "raised" is much cleaner, resulting in animal food that has the potential to sate both environmental groups as well as animal rights activists and vegetarians. Memphis Meats says it's hoping the product is ready for commercial sale by 2021. The company is part of an ever-increasing horde of Silicon Valley startups trying to solve the complicated problems of the meat industry, which range from cultural ideas about food to industrial and environmental issues to, increasingly, discussions about animal cruelty. [...] About 99 percent of animals raised for slaughter in the U.S. come from factory farms, and about a third of the land mass of the Earth is used in raising livestock. More so than chicken, livestock is incredibly inefficient to raise: It takes about 2,500 gallons of water to produce just a pound of beef.
United Kingdom

Elderly 'Hit by Line Rental Charges' (bbc.com) 82

An anonymous reader shares a BBC report: Recent increases in line rental charges have hit elderly people the hardest, according to an Ofcom report. Between December 2009 and December 2016, line rental prices had increased by as much as 49% for some customers, the regulator said. And of the people with standalone landlines in their homes, 71% were aged 65 or over. Ofcom recently revealed plans to make BT -- with nearly 80% of the UK market -- cut line rental costs by 5 British Pound ($6.1). A huge proportion (43%) of the 2.9 million households with a landline only are occupied by people aged 75 and over. "Older consumers are particularly affected, as they are more likely to be dependent on fixed voice services if they do not have a mobile phone or an internet connection," the report said.

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