Security

SEC Discloses Hackers Penetrated EDGAR, Profited in Trading (usatoday.com) 48

Chris Woodyard, writing for USA Today: Hackers made their way into the Security and Exchange Commission's EDGAR electronic filing system last year, retrieving private data that appear to have resulted in "an illicit gain through trading," the agency said. It was only in August that the commission learned that hackers may have been able to use their illegal activities to make ill-gotten gains through market trading, said Chairman Jay Clayton in a lengthy statement posted on the SEC's website. EDGAR, which stands for Electronic Data Gathering Analysis and Retrieval, is considered critical to the SEC's operation and the ability of investors to see the electronic filings of companies and markets. The SEC says about 50 million documents are viewed through EDGAR on a typical day. It receives about 1.7 million filings a year.
Education

2017 'Ig Nobel' Prizes Recognize Funny Research On Cats, Crocodiles, and Cheese (improbable.com) 20

An anonymous reader writes: "The 27th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony" happened Thursday at Harvard's Sanders theatre, recognizing real (but unusual) research papers from all over the world "that make people laugh, then think." This year's prize in the physics category went to Marc-Antoine Fardin, who used fluid dynamics to probe the question "Can a cat be both a solid and a liquid?"

Six prize-winning Swiss researchers also demonstrated that regular playing of a didgeridoo is an effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea and snoring, while two Australians tested how contact with a live crocodile affects a person's willingness to gamble. And five French researchers won the medicine prize for their use of advanced brain-scanning technology to investigate "the neural basis of disugst for cheese."

You can watch the ceremony online -- and Reuters got an interesting quote from the editor of the Annals of Improbable Research, who founded the awards ceremony 27 years ago. "We hope that this will get people back into the habits they probably had when they were kids of paying attention to odd things and holding out for a moment and deciding whether they are good or bad only after they have a chance to think."
Businesses

Union Power Is Putting Pressure on Silicon Valley's Tech Giants (bloomberg.com) 116

An anonymous reader writes: Organized labor doesn't rack up a lot of wins these days, and Silicon Valley isn't most people's idea of a union hotbed. Nonetheless, in the past three years unions have organized 5,000 people who work on Valley campuses. Among others, they've unionized shuttle drivers at Apple, Tesla, Twitter, LinkedIn, EBay, Salesforce.com, Yahoo!, Cisco, and Facebook; security guards at Adobe, IBM, Cisco, and Facebook; and cafeteria workers at Cisco, Intel, and, earlier this summer, Facebook. The workers aren't technically employed by any of those companies. Like many businesses, Valley giants hire contractors that typically offer much less in the way of pay and benefits than the tech companies' direct employees get. Among other things, such arrangements help companies distance themselves from the way their cafeteria workers and security guards are treated, because somebody else is cutting the checks. Silicon Valley Rising, a coalition of unions and civil rights, community, and clergy groups heading the organizing campaign, says its successes have come largely from puncturing that veneer of plausible deniability. That means directing political pressure, media scrutiny, and protests toward the tech companies themselves. "Everybody knows that the contractors will do what the tech companies say, so we're focused on the big guys," says Ben Field, a co-founder of the coalition who heads the AFL-CIO's South Bay Labor Council. Labor leaders say their efforts have gotten some tech companies to cut ties with an anti-union contractor, intervene with others to ease unionization drives, and subsidize better pay for contract workers. "If you want to get people to buy your product, you don't want them to feel that buying your product is contributing to the evils of the world," says Silicon Valley Rising co-founder Derecka Mehrens, who directs Working Partnerships USA, a California nonprofit that advocates for workers. Tech companies have been image-conscious and closely watched of late, she says, and the coalition is "being opportunistic."
Privacy

Trump Administration Sued Over Phone Searches at US Borders (reuters.com) 138

The Trump administration has engaged in an unconstitutional practice of searching without a warrant the phones and laptops of Americans who are stopped at the border, a lawsuit filed on Wednesday alleged. From a report: Ten U.S. citizens and one lawful permanent resident sued the Department of Homeland Security in federal court, saying the searches and prolonged confiscation of their electronic devices violate privacy and free speech protections of the U.S. Constitution. DHS could not be immediately reached for comment. The lawsuit comes as the number of searches of electronic devices has surged in recent years, alarming civil rights advocates.
Businesses

Power Company Kills Nuclear Plant, Plans $6 Billion In Solar, Battery Investment (arstechnica.com) 390

Socguy writes: After being unable to complete the Levy County Nuclear Plant a few years ago, Duke energy abandoned it, leaving rate payers on the hook. Duke is now in the process of settling legal action as a result. As part of the settlement Duke will construct or acquire 700MW of solar capacity over four years in the western Florida area, construct 50MW of battery storage, undertake grid modernizations and install 530 electric car charging stations. "The Levy nuclear plant was proposed in 2008 and ran into hurdles early on," reports Ars Technica. "With cheap natural gas in 2013, Duke Energy Florida became nervous that it might not recuperate costs spent on the nuclear plant, especially with regulatory delays. The company cancelled its engineering and construction agreements in 2013 but said that it was holding open the possibility of returning to Levy someday. Over nine years, about $800 million had been spent on preparatory work for the plant. With Tuesday's announcement, those costs are sunk costs now. But overall, the changes will save residential customers future nuclear-related rate increases. Those customers will see a cost reduction of $2.50 per megawatt-hour (MWh) 'through the removal of unrecovered Levy Nuclear Project costs,' the utility said. The 700MW of solar won't exactly cover the nameplate capacity of the Levy plant, which was supposed to deliver 2.2 gigawatts to the region. But the Tampa Bay Times wrote that Duke 'is effectively giving up its long-held belief that nuclear power is a key component to its Florida future and, instead, making a dramatic shift toward more solar power.'"
Google

Google Conducted Hollywood 'Interventions' To Change Look of Computer Scientists (usatoday.com) 644

theodp writes: Most TV computer scientists are still white men," USA Today reports. "Google wants to change that. Google is calling on Hollywood to give equal screen time to women and minorities after a new study the internet giant funded found that most computer scientists on television shows and in the movies are played by white men. The problem with the hackneyed stereotype of the socially inept, hoodie-clad white male coder? It does not inspire underrepresented groups to pursue careers in computer science, says Daraiha Greene, Google CS in Media program manager, multicultural strategy." According to a Google-funded study conducted by Prof. Stacy L. Smith and the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Google's Computer Science in Media team conducted "CS interventions" with "like-minded people" to create "Google influenced storytelling." The executive summary for a USC study entitled Cracking the Code: The Prevalence and Nature of Computer Science Depictions in Media notes that "Google influenced" TV programs include HBO's Silicon Valley and AMC's Halt and Catch Fire. The USC researchers also note that "non-tech focused programs may offer prime opportunities to showcase CS in unique and counter-stereotypical ways. As the Google Team moves forward in its work with series such as Empire, Girl Meets World, Gortimer Gibbons Life on Normal Street, or The Amazing Adventures of Gumball, it appears the Team is seizing these opportunities to integrate CS into storytelling without a primary tech focus." The study adds, "In the case of certain series, we provided on-going advisement. The Fosters, Miles from Tomorrowland, Halt and Catch Fire, Ready, Jet, Go, The Powerpuff Girls and Odd Squad are examples of this. In addition to our continuing interactions, we engaged in extensive PR and marketing support including social media outreach, events and press."

Google's TV interventions have even spilled over into public education -- one of Google-sponsored Code.org's signature Hour of Code tutorials last December was Gumball's Coding Adventure, inspired by the Google-advised Cartoon Network series, The Amazing Adventures of Gumball. "We need more students around the world pursuing an education in CS, particularly girls and minorities, who have historically been underrepresented in the field," explains a Google CS First presentation for educators on the search giant's Hour of Code partnership with Cartoon Network. "Based on our research, one of the reasons girls and underrepresented minorities are not pursuing computer science is because of the negative perception of computer scientists and the relevance of the field beyond coding." According to a 2015 USC report, President Obama was kept abreast of efforts to challenge media's stereotypical portrayals of women; White House Visitor Records show that USC's Smith, the Google-funded study's lead author, and Google CS Education in Media Program Manager Julie Ann Crommett (now at Disney) were among those present when the White House Council on Women and Girls met earlier that year with representatives of the nation's leading toy makers, media giants, retailers, educators, scientists, the U.S. Dept. of Education, and philanthropists.

Businesses

Will Millennials Be Forced Out of Tech Jobs When They Turn 40? (ieeeusa.org) 247

dcblogs shared an interesting article from IEEE-USA's "Insight" newsletter: Millennials, which date from the 1980s to mid-2000s, are the largest generation. But what will happen to this generation's tech workers as they settle into middle age? Will the median age of tech firms rise as the Millennial generation grows older...? The median age range at Google, Facebook, SpaceX, LinkedIn, Amazon, Salesforce, Apple and Adobe, is 29 to 31, according to a study last year by PayScale, which analyzes self-reported data... Karen Panetta, the dean of graduate engineering education at Tufts University and the vice president of communications and public relations at the IEEE-USA, believes the outcome for tech will be Logan's Run-like, where age sets a career limit... Tech firms want people with the current skills sets and those "without those skills will be pressured to leave or see minimal career progression," said Panetta...

The idea that the tech industry may have an age bias is not scaring the new college grads away. "They see retirement so far off, so they are more interested in how to move up or onto new startup ventures or even business school," said Panetta. "The reality sets in when they have families and companies downsize and it's not so easy to just pick up and go on to another company," she said. None of this may be a foregone conclusion. Millennials may see the experience of today's older workers as a cautionary tale, and usher in cultural changes...

David Kurtz, a labor relations partner at Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, suggests tech firms should be sharing age-related date about their workforce, adding "The more of a focus you place on an issue the more attention it gets and the more likely that change can happen. It's great to get the new hot shot who just graduated from college, but it's also important to have somebody with 40 years of experience who has seen all of the changes in the industry and can offer a different perspective."
United States

Dozens Of Drones Surveil Houston For Damage After Hurricane Harvey (usatoday.com) 34

An anonymous reader quotes MIT Technology Review: AT&T is using drones to inspect its cellular towers for damage, while insurance companies like Allstate and Farmers are rolling out their own fleets to follow up on claims... Rescue operations are benefitting, too. According to Axios, the company DroneDeploy is sending out vehicles to produce detailed 3-D maps that can help navigate the watery chaos. The company claims it can speed up rescue operations by providing imagery that allows rescuers to see around buildings and beneath tree cover.
The drones can fly high-definition cameras, and there's now dozens of them flying over Houston, reports USA Today: By Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration has authorized 43 drone operators in Harvey's wake, for recovery efforts and for news organizations covering it... Eight approvals went to a railroad company to survey damage along tracks running through Houston. Five went to oil or energy companies to look for damage to fuel tanks, power lines and other facilities. Emergency-management officials are checking damage to roads, bridges and water-treatment plants... The FAA has also prohibited private drone pilots from flying in a broad area around Houston to avoid areas where emergency aircraft such as rescue helicopters are plucking people from rooftops or searching for survivors.
The Media

Police Allegedly Arrest UK News Photographer For Standing In A Field (wordpress.com) 216

Long-time Slashdot reader Andy Smith, a Scotland-based news photographer, writes: I'm a press photographer. Slashdot has previously covered how the police used underhanded tactics to seize some of my work photos. But that was far from the end of the story. Several months of harassment culminated in me being arrested for standing in a field, something protected by law here in Scotland. I was given a police caution, which is a formal alternative to prosecution, but the police then cancelled the caution and prosecuted me anyway. Ironically, I was meant to be joining the police this month as a volunteer, but that has now been delayed by at least six months.
Earlier Andy had filmed the same police sergeant warning him not to photograph a minor traffic accident -- which had "seemed to anger him."
United States

Stanford Study Finds New Dads In US Are Older Than Ever (mercurynews.com) 191

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Mercury News: American fathers keep getting older, raising the prospect of increased birth defects but also greater economic and emotional security for U.S. families, according to new research from Stanford University's School of Medicine. The average age of the fathers of newborns in the United States has climbed by 3.5 years over the past four decades, growing from 27.4 years in 1972 to 30.9 years in 2015, said the study -- the nation's most detailed analysis ever of paternal age. The number of newborns whose fathers were over age 40 has more than doubled over the past four decades. Those births now make up nearly 9 percent of births in the U.S., Dr. Michael Eisenberg and Yash Khandwala reported in the journal Human Reproduction. The share of fathers who were over age 50 rose from 0.5 percent to 0.9 percent. Asian-American fathers -- men of Japanese and Vietnamese descent, in particular -- are the oldest, becoming fathers at the average age of 36 years, the study said. Black and Hispanic men are the youngest fathers -- age 30.4 and 30, respectively. White men, on average, have children at age 31. Paternal age rose with educational attainment. The typical newborn's father with a college degree is 33.3 years old -- compared with 29.8 years for high school graduates.
Privacy

Uber Says It'll Stop Tracking Riders After They're Dropped Off (usatoday.com) 69

Uber is revamping privacy settings that it rolled out last fall to allow iOS users the ability to deny Uber the right to track your whereabouts. Similar tweaks are reportedly coming to the Android version of the app. USA Today reports: The new options for Uber app users are: Always (Uber is allowed to collect rider location information from the moment the app is opened until the trip ends), While Using The App (information flows to Uber while the app is visible on the screen) and Never (no info is transmitted but riders have to manually input their pick-up and drop-off locations). One of the old privacy features that gave many users pause was Uber's ability to track the whereabouts of riders up to 5 minutes after a ride was completed. Uber says the 5-minute feature was never activated on the iOS version of its app, and that it was disabled a few months after being initiated on the Android version. The company maintained that the feature was to enhance safety, but for many the option was too reminiscent of some of Uber's more notorious Big Brother tactics.

In 2016, Uber settled an investigation brought by New York's attorney general by agreeing to encrypt rider geo-location. The inquiry was sparked by reports that Uber executives had access to riders' locations, and that Uber displayed rider information in an aerial view known internally as "God View." Earlier this year, federal regulators began investigating an Uber practice known as "greyballing," which allowed engineers to take over an app and create a screen showing cars that did not really exist. The practice was used to steer regulators investigating Uber away from drivers, and was halted by Uber after being reported by The New York Times.

Government

On Internet Privacy, Be Very Afraid (harvard.edu) 149

Cybersecurity expert and Berkman Klein fellow Bruce Schneier talked to the Gazette about what consumers can do to protect themselves from government and corporate surveillance. From the interview: GAZETTE: After whistleblower Edward Snowden's revelations concerning the National Security Agency's (NSA) mass surveillance operation in 2013, how much has the government landscape in this field changed?
SCHNEIER: Snowden's revelations made people aware of what was happening, but little changed as a result. The USA Freedom Act resulted in some minor changes in one particular government data-collection program. The NSA's data collection hasn't changed; the laws limiting what the NSA can do haven't changed; the technology that permits them to do it hasn't changed. It's pretty much the same.
GAZETTE: Should consumers be alarmed by this?
SCHNEIER: People should be alarmed, both as consumers and as citizens. But today, what we care about is very dependent on what is in the news at the moment, and right now surveillance is not in the news. It was not an issue in the 2016 election, and by and large isn't something that legislators are willing to make a stand on. Snowden told his story, Congress passed a new law in response, and people moved on.
GAZETTE: What about corporate surveillance? How pervasive is it?
SCHNEIER: Surveillance is the business model of the internet. Everyone is under constant surveillance by many companies, ranging from social networks like Facebook to cellphone providers. This data is collected, compiled, analyzed, and used to try to sell us stuff. Personalized advertising is how these companies make money, and is why so much of the internet is free to users. We're the product, not the customer.

Crime

Tasers Implicated In Far More Deaths Than We Previously Thought (fastcompany.com) 191

tedlistens writes: Independent studies have showed that when deployed correctly -- according to "guidelines" manufacturer Axon offers to police -- Tasers reduce injuries among both officers and the people they subdue. But amid a lack of official data about their use and effects, a new report by Reuters found 1,005 incidents in the U.S. in which people died after police stunned them with the electrical weapons, most since the early 2000s. The Taser was ruled to be a cause or contributing factor in 153 of those deaths -- far more than the 24 cases the company has counted. Reuters found that 9 in 10 of those who died were unarmed and one in four suffered from mental illness or neurological disorders; In 9 of every 10 incidents reviewed, the deceased was unarmed; More than 100 of the fatal encounters began with a 911 call for help during a medical emergency. Earlier this year, Axon rebranded, dropping the name Taser International to underscore its focus on body cameras and digital evidence, which is meant in part to add new transparency to fatal police encounters.
Government

DC Judge Approves Government Warrant For Data From Anti-Trump Website (reuters.com) 142

According to Reuters, a D.C. Superior Court judge on Thursday approved a government warrant seeking data from an anti-Trump website related to Inauguration Day protests, but he added protections to safeguard "innocent users." From the report: Chief Judge Robert Morin said DreamHost, a Los Angeles-based web-hosting company, must turn over data about visitors to the website disruptj20.org, which is a home to political activists who organized protests at the time of Donald Trump's inauguration as U.S. president in January. Morin, who will oversee review of the data, said the government must explain what protocols it will use to make sure prosecutors do not seize the data of "innocent users." Morin said at a hearing on Thursday that he recognized the tension between free speech rights and law enforcement's need to search digital records for evidence. He said he added safeguards to his order granting the government's request for information in an effort to balance those two concerns. Besides reviewing the prosecutors' privacy protocols, Morin also shortened the time frame for records to those generated from October to Inauguration Day and instructed the prosecutors to explain why anything they want to seize is germane to the investigation.
Government

US State Department Suffers Worldwide Email Outage (usatoday.com) 69

An anonymous reader quotes USA Today: The U.S. State Department's email system underwent a worldwide outage Friday, affecting all its unclassified communications within and outside of the department. The system was fully restored by Friday afternoon [after 12 hours], said a State Department official briefed on the incident who was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.

It was not clear what caused the early morning outage, but spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters it was not "any external action or interference."

Science

Self-sufficient Eclipse Chasers Hit the Road To 'Totality' (reuters.com) 42

An anonymous reader shares a report: Michael Zeiler packed his portable toilet then headed out on a 10-hour drive from New Mexico to Wyoming where, on Monday, he intends to mark the ninth time he has seen the moon pass in front of the sun in a total solar eclipse. Zeiler is a self-described "eclipse chaser," part of a group of avid astronomy buffs, telescope hobbyists and amateur photographers whose passion for such celestial events takes them to the far corners of the earth. For the first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in the United States in almost a century, and the first visible anywhere in the Lower 48 states since 1979, Zeiler had only to drive some 650 miles (1,046 km) from the desert Southwest to the Rockies. He showed up prepared and early on Wednesday at his destination in Casper, Wyoming, within the "path of totality," the corridor over which the moon's 70-mile-wide shadow will be cast as it crosses the United States over 93 minutes. Along that path at the height of the eclipse on Aug. 21, the sun will be completely blotted out except for its outer atmosphere, known as the corona.
Encryption

How Security Pros Look at Encryption Backdoors (helpnetsecurity.com) 52

An anonymous reader shares a report: The majority of IT security professionals believe encryption backdoors are ineffective and potentially dangerous, with 91 percent saying cybercriminals could take advantage of government-mandated encryption backdoors. 72 percent of the respondents do not believe encryption backdoors would make their nations safer from terrorists, according to a Venafi survey of 296 IT security pros, conducted at Black Hat USA 2017. Only 19 percent believe the technology industry is doing enough to protect the public from the dangers of encryption backdoors. 81 percent feel governments should not be able to force technology companies to give them access to encrypted user data. 86 percent believe consumers don't understand issues around encryption backdoors.
Communications

Tech Companies Urge Supreme Court To Boost Cellphone Privacy (reuters.com) 29

More than a dozen high technology companies and the biggest wireless operator in the United States, Verizon, have called on the U.S. Supreme Court to make it harder for government officials to access individuals' sensitive cellphone data. From a report: The companies filed a 44-page brief with the court on Monday night in a high-profile dispute over whether police should have to get a warrant before obtaining data that could reveal a cellphone user's whereabouts. Signed by some of Silicon Valley's biggest names, including Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Snap and Alphabet's Google, the brief said that as individuals' data is increasingly collected through digital devices, greater privacy protections are needed under the law. "That users rely on technology companies to process their data for limited purposes does not mean that they expect their intimate data to be monitored by the government without a warrant," the brief said.
The Military

US Army Walks Back Decision To Ban DJI Drones Ever So Slightly (suasnews.com) 27

garymortimer shares a report from sUAS News: News has reached me that another DJI memo was passed around on Friday the 11th of August. An exception to policy with recommendations from the asymmetric warfare group that will permit the use of DJI kit once some conditions have been met. The Android Tactical Assault Kit will become the ground control station (GCS) of choice when a DJI plugin has passed OPSEC (Operational Security) scrutiny. In a separate report from Reuters, DJI said it is "tightening data security in the hopes that the U.S. Army will lift its ban on DJI drones because of 'cyber vulnerabilities.'" The company is "speeding deployment of a system that allows users to disconnect from the internet during flights, making it impossible for flight logs, photos or videos to reach DJI's computer servers," reports Reuters. While the security measure has been in the works for several months, it's being rolled out sooner than planned because of the Army's decision to discontinue the use of DJI drones.
Transportation

Uber and Lyft May Cause Lower Car Ownership In Big Cities, Says Report (slashgear.com) 118

A new study from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute has shed light on what may turn out to be a growing trend: lower car ownership in cities where ride-sharing services are available. SlashGear reports: While Uber and Lyft have both deployed in a number of cities, they have, at times, had to abandon those cities due to local governments driving them out for one reason or another. That's what happened in Austin, Texas, opening the door for an interesting study on personal car ownership. Did the sudden absence of these two services cause increased car usage and/or ownership, or did things remain unaffected? The result, according to the study, was a big increase in personal car usage and a statistically significant increase in car ownership. The researchers surveyed a total of 1,200 people from the Austin region, and found that 41-percent of them started using their own car more often to make up for the lack of Uber and Lyft rides. As well, a total of 9-percent of those surveyed bought their own personal car to make up for the services' absences.

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