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US Police Consider Flying Drones Armed With Stun Guns ( 78

Slashdot reader Presto Vivace tipped us off to news reports that U.S. police officials are considering the use of flying drones to taser their suspects. From Digital Trends: Talks have recently taken place between police officials and Taser International, a company that makes stun guns and body cameras for use by law enforcement, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. While no decision has yet been made on whether to strap stun guns to remotely controlled quadcopters, Taser spokesman Steve Tuttle said his team were discussing the idea with officials as part of broader talks about "various future concepts."

Tuttle told the Journal that such technology could be deployed in "high-risk scenarios such as terrorist barricades" to incapacitate the suspect rather than kill them outright... However, critics are likely to fear that such a plan would ultimately lead to the police loading up drones with guns and other weapons. Portland police department's Pete Simpson told the Journal that while a Taser drone could be useful in some circumstances, getting the public "to accept an unmanned vehicle that's got some sort of weapon on it might be a hurdle to overcome."

The article points out that there's already a police force in India with flying drones equipped with pepper spray.

Photographer Glimpses Larry Page's Flying Car Hovering In California (Maybe) ( 59

From Hollister, California -- population 40,000 -- comes a good update from the Mercury News on Larry Page's efforts to fund a flying car: Even from a few hundred yards away, the aircraft made a noise strikingly different from the roar of a typical plane. "It sounded like an electric motor running, just a high-pitched whine," said Steve Eggleston, assistant manager at an airplane-parts company with offices bordering the Hollister Municipal Airport tarmac. But it wasn't only the sound that caught the attention of Eggleston and his co-workers at DK Turbines. It was what the aircraft was doing. "What the heck's that?" saleswoman Brittany Rodriguez thought to herself. It's just hovering."

That, apparently, was a flying car, or perhaps a prototype of another sort of aircraft under development by a mysterious startup called of two reportedly funded by Google co-founder Larry Page to develop revolutionary forms of transportation... A Zee.Aero spokeswoman said the firm is "currently not discussing (its) plans publicly." However, a Zee.Aero patent issued in 2013 describes in some detail an aircraft capable of the hovering seen by people working at the airport. And the drawings showcase a vision of the future in which flying cars park in lots just like their terrestrial, less-evolved cousins.

Page has invested $100 million in Zee.Aero, which appears to have hired more than 100 aerospace engineers. But the article reports that apparently, in the small town where it's headquartered, "the first rule about Zee.Aero is you don't talk about Zee.Aero."

'Picat' Programming Language Creators Surprised With A $10,000 Prize ( 43

An anonymous reader writes: "I didn't even know they gave out prizes," said a Brooklyn College CS professor, remembering how he'd learned that a demo of the Picat programming language won a $10,000 grand prize last month at the NYC Media Lab Summit. Professor Neng-Fa Zhou created Picat with programmer Jonathan Fruhman, and along with graduate student Jie Mei they'd created a demo titled "The Picat Language and its Application to Games and AI Problems" to showcase the language's ability to solve combinatorial search problems, "including a common interface with CP, SAT, and MIP solvers."

Mie tells the Brooklyn College newspaper that Picat "is a multi-paradigm programming language aimed for general-purpose applications, which means theoretically it can be used for everything in life," and Zhou says he wants to continue making the language more useful in a variety of settings. "I want this to be successful, but not only academically... When you build something, you want people to use it. And this language has become a sensation in our community; other people have started using it."


Amazon May Handle 30% Of All US Retail Sales ( 62

An anonymous reader quotes USA Today: Amazon's yearly sales account for about 15% of total U.S. consumer online sales, according to the company's statements and the Department of Commerce. But the Seattle e-commerce company may actually be handling double that amount -- 20% to 30% of all U.S. retail goods sold online -- thanks to the volume of sales it transacts for third parties on its website and app. Only a portion of those sales add to its revenue.

"The punchline is that Amazon's twice as big as people give them credit for, because there's this iceberg under the surface, but you only see the tip," said Scot Wingo, executive chairman of Channel Advisor, an e-commerce software company that works with thousands of online sellers. When third-party sales are taken into account, Amazon's share of what U.S. shoppers spend online could be as high as $125 billion yearly...

Amazon's share will grow even larger when they can offer two-hour deliveries, warns one analyst, while another puts it more succinctly. "Amazon's just going to slowly grab more and more of your wallet."

Quantum Researchers Achieve 10-Fold Boost In Superposition Stability ( 76

An anonymous reader quotes The Stack: A team of Australian researchers has developed a qubit offering ten times the stability of existing technologies. The computer scientists claim that the new innovation could significantly increase the reliability of quantum computing calculations... The new technology, developed at the University of New South Wales, has been named a 'dressed' quantum bit as it combines a single atom with an electromagnetic field. This process allows the qubit to remain in a superposition state for ten times longer than has previously been achieved. The researchers argue that this extra time in superposition could boost the performance stability of quantum computing calculations... Previously fragile and short-lived, retaining a state of superposition has been one of the major barriers to the development of quantum computing. The ability to remain in two states simultaneously is the key to scaling and strengthening the technology further.
Do you ever wonder what the world will look like when everyone has their own personal quantum computer?

Should Journalists Ignore Some Leaked Emails? ( 321

Tuesday Lawrence Lessig issued a comment about a leaked email which showed complaints about his smugness from a Clinton campaign staffer: "I'm a big believer in leaks for the public interest... But I can't for the life of me see the public good in a leak like this..." Now mirandakatz shares an article by tech journalist Steven Levy arguing that instead, "The press is mining the dirty work of Russian hackers for gossipy inside-beltway accounts." This is perfectly legal. As long as journalists don't do the stealing themselves, they are solidly allowed to publish what thieves expose, especially if, as in this case, the contents are available to all... [But] is the exploitation of stolen personal emails a moral act? By diving into this corpus to expose anything unseemly or embarrassing, reporters may be, however unwillingly, participating in a scheme by a foreign power to mess with our election...

As a 'good' journalist, I know that I'm supposed to cheer on the availability of information... But it's difficult to argue that these discoveries were unearthed by reporters for the sake of public good...

He's sympathetic to the idea that minutiae from campaigns lets journalists "examine the failings of 'business as usual'," but "it would be so much nicer if some disgruntled colleague of Podesta's was providing information to reporters, rather than Vladimir Putin using them as stooges to undermine our democracy." He ultimately asks, "is it moral to amplify anything that's already exposed on the internet, even if the exposers are lawbreakers with an agenda?"

John McAfee Thinks North Korea Hacked Dyn, and Iran Hacked the DNC ( 147

"The Dark Web is rife with speculation that North Korea is responsible for the Dyn hack" says John McAfee, according to a new article on CSO: McAfee said they certainly have the capability and if it's true...then forensic analysis will point to either Russia, China, or some group within the U.S. [And] who hacked the Democratic National Committee? McAfee -- in an email exchange and follow up phone call -- said sources within the Dark Web suggest it was Iran, and he absolutely agrees. While Russian hackers get more media attention nowadays, Iranian hackers have had their share... "The Iranians view Trump as a destabilizing force within America," said McAfee. "They would like nothing more than to have Trump as President....

"If all evidence points to the Russians, then, with 100% certainty, it is not the Russians. Anyone who is capable of carrying out a hack of such sophistication is also capable, with far less effort than that involved in the hack, of hiding their tracks or making it appear that the hack came from some other quarter..."

Bruce Schneier writes that "we don't know anything much of anything" about yesterday's massive DDOS attacks. "If I had to guess, though, I don't think it's China. I think it's more likely related to the DDoS attacks against Brian Krebs than the probing attacks against the Internet infrastructure..." Earlier this month Krebs had warned that source code had been released for the massive DDOS attacks he endured in September, "virtually guaranteeing that the Internet will soon be flooded with attacks from many new botnets powered by insecure routers, IP cameras, digital video recorders and other easily hackable devices."

Google Has Quietly Dropped Ban On Personally Identifiable Web Tracking ( 150

Fudge Factor 3000 writes: Google has quietly changed its privacy policy to allow it to associate web tracking, which is supposed to remain anonymous, with personally identifiable user data. This completely reneges its promise to keep a wall between ad tracking and personally identifiable user data, further eroding one's anonymity on the internet. Google's priorities are clear. All they care about is monetizing user information to rake in the big dollars from ad revenue. Think twice before you purchase the premium priced Google Pixel. Google is getting added value from you as its product without giving you part of the revenue it is generating through tracking through lower prices. The crossed-out section in its privacy policy, which discusses the separation of information as mentioned above, has been followed with this statement: "Depending on your account settings, your activity on other sites and apps may be associated with your personal information in order to improve Google's services and the ads delivered by Google." ProPublica reports: "The change is enabled by default for new Google accounts. Existing users were prompted to opt-in to the change this summer. The practical result of the change is that the DoubleClick ads that follow people around on the web may now be customized to them based on your name and other information Google knows about you. It also means that Google could now, if it wished to, build a complete portrait of a user by name, based on everything they write in email, every website they visit and the searches they conduct. The move is a sea change for Google and a further blow to the online ad industry's longstanding contention that web tracking is mostly anonymous. In recent years, Facebook, offline data brokers and others have increasingly sought to combine their troves of web tracking data with people's real names. But until this summer, Google held the line." You can choose to opt in or out of the personalized ads here.

WikiLeaks To Its Supporters: 'Stop Taking Down the US Internet, You Proved Your Point' ( 317

MojoKid writes: The Internet took a turn for the worst this morning, when large parts of the DNS network were brought down by a massive distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) targeting DNS provider Dyn. If you couldn't access Amazon, Twitter, and a host of other large sites and online services earlier today, this was why. Now, if a couple of additional tweets are to be believed, it appears supporters of WikiLeaks are responsible for this large scale DDoS attack on Dynamic Network Services Inc's Dyn DNS service. WikiLeaks is alleging that a group of its supporters launched today's DDoS attack in retaliation for the Obama administration using its influence to push the Ecuadorian government to limit Assange's internet access. Another earlier tweet reassures supporters that Mr. Assange is still alive, which -- along with a photo of heavily armed police posted this morning -- implies that he may have been (or may still be) in danger, and directly asks said supporters to stop the attack. WikiLeaks published this tweet a little after 5PM: "Mr. Assange is still alive and WikiLeaks is still publishing. We ask supporters to stop taking down the US internet. You proved your point." It was followed by: "The Obama administration should not have attempted to misuse its instruments of state to stop criticism of its ruling party candidate."

Facebook Employees Tried To Remove Trump Posts As Hate Speech ( 221

An anonymous reader quotes a report from USA Today: Facebook employees pushed to remove some of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's Facebook posts -- such as one proposing the ban of Muslims from entering the U.S. -- from the service as hate speech that violated the giant social network's policies, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday. The decision not to remove the Trump posts was made by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the newspaper reported. Employees complained that Facebook was changing the rules for Trump and some who review content on Facebook threatened to quit. "When we review reports of content that may violate our policies, we take context into consideration. That context can include the value of political discourse," Facebook said in an emailed statement. "Many people are voicing opinions about this particular content and it has become an important part of the conversation around who the next U.S. president will be. For those reasons, we are carefully reviewing each report and surrounding context relating to this content on a case by case basis." Senior members of Facebook's policy team posted more details on its policy on Friday: "In the weeks ahead, we're going to begin allowing more items that people find newsworthy, significant, or important to the public interest -- even if they might otherwise violate our standards."

Amid Major Internet Outages, Affected Websites Have Lessons To Learn ( 134

Earlier today, Dyn, an internet infrastructure company, was hit by several DDoS attacks, which interestingly affected several popular websites including The New York Times, Reddit, Spotify, and Twitter that were directly or indirectly using Dyn's services. The attack is mostly visible across the US eastern seaboard with rest of the world noticing a few things broken here and there. Dyn says it's currently investigating a second round of DDoS attacks, though the severity of the outage is understandably less now. In the meantime, the Homeland Security said that it is aware of the attack and is investigating "all potential causes." Much of who is behind these attacks is unknown for now, and it is unlikely that we will know all the details until at least a few days. The attacks however have revealed how unprepared many websites are when their primary DNS provider goes down. ZDNet adds: The elephant in the room is that this probably shouldn't have happened. At very least there's a lot to learn already about the frailty of the internet DNS system, and the lack of failsafes and backups for websites and tech companies that rely on outsourced DNS service providers. "It's also a reminder of one risk of relying on multi-tenant service providers, be they DNS, or a variety of many other managed cloud service providers," said Steve Grobman, chief technology officer at Intel Security. Grobman warned that because this attack worked, it can be exploited again. "Given how much of our connected world must increasingly rely upon such cloud service providers, we should expect more such disruptions," he said. "We must place a premium of service providers that can present backup, failover, and enhance security capabilities allowing them to sustain and deflect such attacks." And that's key, because even though Dyn is under attack, it's the sites and services that rely on its infrastructure who should rethink their own "in case of emergency" failsafes. It may only be the east coast affected but lost traffic means lost revenue. Carl Levine, senior technical evangelist for NS1, another major managed DNS provider, said that the size and scale of recent attacks "has far exceeded what the industry thought was the upper end of the spectrum." "Large companies need to constantly upgrade their flood defenses. Some approaches that worked just a few years ago are now basically useless," said Kevin Curran, senior member with IEEE.We also recommend reading security reporter Brian Krebs's take on this.
The Internet

Several Sites Including Twitter, GitHub, Spotify, PayPal, NYTimes Suffering Outage -- Dyn DNS Under DDoS Attack [Update] ( 261

Several popular websites and services are down right now for many users. The affected sites include Twitter, SoundCloud, Spotify, and PayPal among others. The cause appears to be a sweeping outage of DNS provider Dyn -- which in turn is under DDoS attack, according to an official blog post. From a TechCrunch report:Other sites experiencing issues include Box, Boston Globe, New York Times, Github, Airbnb, Reddit, Freshbooks, Heroku and Vox Media properties. Users accessing these sites might have more or less success depending on where they're located, as some European and Asian users seem not to be encountering these issues. Last month, Bruce Schneier warned that someone was learning how to take down the internet. Update: 10/21 14:41 GMT by M : Dyn says that it has resolved the issue and sites should function normally. Update: 10/21 17:04 GMT by M : Department of Homeland Security says it is aware of the first DDoS attack on Dyn today and "investigating all potential causes." Dyn says it is still under DDoS attack. News outlet The Next Web says it is also facing issues. Any website that uses Dyn's service -- directly or indirectly -- is facing the issue. Motherboard has more details. Update: 10/21 17:57 GMT by M : It seems even PlayStation Network is also hit. EA Sports Games said it is aware of the issues in live-play. Dyn says it is facing a second round of DDoS attacks.

Update: 10/21 18:45 GMT by M : U.S. government probing whether east coast internet attack was a 'criminal act' - official.

Editor's note: the story is being updated as we learn more. The front page was updated to move this story up. Are you also facing issues? Share your experience in the comments section below.

Macs End Up Costing 3 Times Less Than Windows PCs Because of Fewer Tech Support Expense, Says IBM's IT Guy ( 492

An anonymous reader shares a report on Yahoo (edited): Last year, Fletcher Previn became a cult figure of sorts in the world of enterprise IT. As IBM's VP of Workplace as a Service, Previn is the guy responsible for turning IBM (the company that invented the PC) into an Apple Mac house. Previn gave a great presentation at last year's Jamf tech conference where he said Macs were less expensive to support than Windows. Only 5% of IBM's Mac employees needed help desk support versus 40% of PC users. At that time, some 30,000 IBM employees were using Macs. Today 90,000 of them are, he said. And IBM ultimately plans to distribute 150,000 to 200,000 Macs to workers, meaning about half of IBM's approximately 370,000 employees will have Macs. Previn's team is responsible for all the company's PCs, not just the Macs. All told IBM's IT department supports about 604,000 laptops between employees and its 100,000+ contractors. Most of them are Windows machines -- 442,000 -- while 90,000 are Macs and 72,000 are Linux PCs. IBM is adding about 1,300 Macs a week, Previn said.

Microsoft Shares Hit All-Time High As Company Strengthens Its Cloud Grip ( 43

Marco della Cava, reporting for USA Today: Microsoft shares surged 5% in early trading Friday, and passed a high set in 1999, helped by enthusiasm for progress in its cloud business. The stock was at up at $60.11, breezing past the $58.72 mark set in December 1999. Friday's rally follows Microsoft's latest quarterly report, out late Thursday, that beat analyst expectations for adjusted sales and profit and showcased a doubling of growth in its Azure cloud business, while reflecting continued strain from consumers' pivot away from PCs and traditional software purchases.Microsoft reported its Q1 2017 earnings yesterday, noting a revenue of $20.5 billion, which was higher than Wall Street's expectations. Company's Intellgent Cloud revenue was up 8 percent, whereas Azure revenue observed 116 percent growth year-on-year.

'Adding a Phone Number To Your Google Account Can Make it Less Secure' ( 105

You may think that adding a backup phone number to your account will make it prone to hack, but that is not always the case. Vijay Pandurangan, EIR at Benchmark (and formerly with Eng Site Lead at Twitter) argues that your phone number is likely the weakest link for many attackers (at least when they are trying to hack your Google account). He has shared the story of his friend who had his Google account compromised. The friend in this case, let's call him Bob, had a very strong password, a completely independent recovery email, hard-to-guess security questions, and he never logged in from unknown devices. Though Bob didn't have multi-factor authentication enabled, he did add a backup phone number. On October 1, when Bob attempted to check his email, he discovered that he was logged out of his Gmail account. When he tried to login, he was told that his password was changed less than an hour ago. He tried calling Verizon, and discovered that his phone service was no longer active, and that the attacker had switched his service to an iPhone 4. "Verizon later conceded that they had transferred his account despite having neither requested nor being given the 4-digit PIN they had on record." The attacker reset Bob's password and changed the recover email, password, name on the account, and enabled two-factor authentication. He got his account back, thanks to support staff and colleagues at Google, but the story illustrates how telco are the weakest link. From the article: Using a few old Google accounts, I experimented with Google's account recovery options and discovered that if a Google account does not have a backup phone number associated with it, Google requires you to have access to the recovery email account OR know the security questions in order to take over an account. However, if a backup phone number is on the account, Google allows you to type in a code from an SMS to the device in lieu of any other information. There you have it: adding a phone number reduces the security of your account to the lowest of: your recovery email account, your security questions, your phone service, and (presumably) Google's last-ditch customer service in case all other options fail. There are myriad examples of telcos improperly turning over their users' accounts: everything from phone hacking incidents in the UK to more recent examples. Simply put, telcos can be quite bad at securing your privacy and they should not be trusted. Interestingly, it appears that if two-factor-auth via SMS is enabled, Google will not allow your password to be reset unless you can also answer a security question in addition to having access to a phone number.

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