Earth

Germany Considers Free Public Transport in Fight To Banish Air Pollution (theguardian.com) 320

"Car nation" Germany has surprised neighbours with a radical proposal to reduce road traffic by making public transport free, as Berlin scrambles to meet EU air pollution targets and avoid big fines. From a report: The move comes just over two years after Volkswagen's devastating "dieselgate" emissions cheating scandal unleashed a wave of anger at the auto industry, a keystone of German prosperity. "We are considering public transport free of charge in order to reduce the number of private cars," three ministers including Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks wrote to EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella in the letter seen by AFP Tuesday.
EU

Daylight Saving Time Isn't Worth It, European Parliament Members Say (arstechnica.com) 425

AmiMoJo shares a report from Ars Technica: Earlier this week, the European Parliament voted 384 to 153 to review whether Daylight Saving Time is actually worth it. Although the resolution it voted on was non-binding, the majority reflected a growing dissatisfaction with a system that has been used by the U.S., Canada, most of Europe, and regions in Asia, Africa, and South America for decades. The resolution asked the European Commission to review the costs and benefits of Daylight Saving Time. If the EU were to abolish Daylight Saving Time, it would need approval of the majority of EU member states and EU Parliament members.

"We think that there's no need to change the clocks," Ireland Member of European Parliament (MEP) Sean Kelly said to Deutsche Welle. "It came in during World War One, it was supposed to be for energy savings -- the indications are that there are very few energy savings, if any -- and there are an awful lot of disadvantages to both human beings and animals that make it outdated at this point."

Cellphones

Finland Will Introduce a Mobile 'Driver's License' App (yle.fi) 61

The Finnish Broadcasting Corporation reports: Simo Karppinen, Unit Head at the Finnish Transport and Safety Agency Trafi, says it plans to roll out an app that will function as a free digital driving license by the end of summer. The agency said it expects many Finns to take up the use of the digital driving license as soon as it is released. The digital license has been in use by a test group who report successfully using the app where proof of identity is required, such as picking up postal packages. Other uses for the digital license include informing the owner of license renewal dates... The digital driving license will not record the location of its user or serve as a tracking device.
Slashdot reader Kiuas writes that it's being used as a supplement for traditional card licenses rather than a replacement, because "Current Finnish law mandates that all driver's licenses are handed out in a physical form. So everyone will still get a physical driver's license, but those who wish to do so can now leave their card at home and use the app instead.
EU

WHATIS Going To Happen To WHOIS? (vice.com) 66

dmoberhaus writes: A European data privacy law goes into effect in May, but it's already having far reaching consequences, especially when it comes to publicly available WHOIS data. Motherboard spoke to a domain registrar, ICANN and some security researchers about how anticipation of the EU privacy laws implementation has already gutted WHOIS data, why this is dangerous and what the future of WHOIS looks like.
ICANN requires registars to make data on their customers publicly available -- but registrars would be more than happy to stop, according to Tim Chen, the CEO of a WHOIS data analytics firm. Besides hiding their customer lists, it would also address complaints about spammers harvesting email addresses. So registars like GoDaddy "are taking this opportunity to see how far they can push things."

But the article has some sympathy for ICANN. "On the one hand, the organization is under pressure from law enforcement officials and security researchers who depend on WHOIS data to investigate possible crimes or mitigate devastating malware attacks. On the other hand, the organization must also accomodate laws like the GDPR that are the only bulwark against the wholesale of individuals' data by internet giants like Google and Facebook." In 2014 ICANN suggested a "gated" registry that would only authorize access to people who identified themselves and their purpose for accessing the data. But progress has been slow, according to the article, which adds "It's uncertain when ICANN will have a finalized protocol for a next generation version of WHOIS, but an overhaul of this nearly 30-year-old protocol is long overdue.

"The notion that individual data should require a requester to also provide their own data is both equitable and intuitive -- the only remaining question is how to make it work."
Science

Hoping That Sucking CO2 From the Air Will Fix the Climate? Good Luck (easac.eu) 316

From a study published on Thursday by scientists on the European Academies Science Advisory Council: Senior scientists from across Europe have evaluated the potential contribution of negative emission technologies (NETs) to allow humanity to meet the Paris Agreement's targets of avoiding dangerous climate change. They find that NETs have "limited realistic potential" to halt increases in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at the scale envisioned in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scenarios. This new report finds that none of the NETs has the potential to deliver carbon removals at the gigaton (Gt) scale and at the rate of deployment envisaged by the IPCC, including reforestation, afforestation, carbon-friendly agriculture, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCs), enhanced weathering, ocean fertilisation, or direct air capture and carbon storage (DACCs).
EU

EU Fines Qualcomm $1.2 Billion for Paying Apple To Use Its Microchips (apnews.com) 112

The European Union on Wednesday slapped a $1.23 billion fine on U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm for abusing its market dominance in the lucrative sector of components in smartphones and tablets for half a decade. From a report: EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said that San Diego-based Qualcomm "illegally shut out rivals from the market" for more than five years by paying key customer Apple to not use chips made by Qualcomm's rivals. Vestager said Qualcomm paid "billions of dollars" to Apple and in the process helped establish itself as the dominant force.
EU

City of Barcelona Dumps Windows For Linux and Open Source Software (europa.eu) 255

An anonymous reader quotes Open Source Observatory: The City of Barcelona is migrating its computer systems away from the Windows platform, reports the Spanish newspaper El País. The City's strategy is first to replace all user applications with open-source alternatives, until the underlying Windows operating system is the only proprietary software remaining. In a final step, the operating system will be replaced with Linux... According to Francesca Bria, the Commissioner of Technology and Digital Innovation at the City Council, the transition will be completed before the current administration's mandate ends in spring 2019. For starters, the Outlook mail client and Exchange Server will be replaced with Open-Xchange. In a similar fashion, Internet Explorer and Office will be replaced with Firefox and LibreOffice, respectively. The Linux distribution eventually used will probably be Ubuntu, since the City of Barcelona is already running 1,000 Ubuntu-based desktops as part of a pilot...

Barcelona is the first municipality to have joined the European campaign 'Public Money, Public Code'. This campaign is an initiative of the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) and revolves around an open letter advocating that publicly funded software should be free. Currently, this call to public agencies is supported by more than 100 organisations and almost 15,000 individuals. With the new open-source strategy, Barcelona's City Council aims to avoid spending large amounts of money on licence-based software and to reduce its dependence on proprietary suppliers through contracts that in some cases have been closed for decades.

EU

Is Finland's Universal Basic Income Trial Too Good To Be True? (theguardian.com) 534

It was one year ago that Finland began giving money to 2,000 unemployed people -- roughly $652 a month (€560 or £475). But have we learned anything about universal basic incomes? An anonymous reader quotes the Guardian: Amid this unprecedented media attention, the experts who devised the scheme are concerned it is being misrepresented. "It's not really what people are portraying it as," said Markus Kanerva, an applied social and behavioural sciences specialist working in the prime minister's office in Helsinki. "A full-scale universal income trial would need to study different target groups, not just the unemployed. It would have to test different basic income levels, look at local factors. This is really about seeing how a basic unconditional income affects the employment of unemployed people."

While UBI tends often to be associated with progressive politics, Finland's trial was launched -- at a cost of around €20m (£17.7m or $24.3 million) -- by a centre-right, austerity-focused government interested primarily in spending less on social security and bringing down Finland's stubborn 8%-plus unemployment rate. It has a very clear purpose: to see whether an unconditional income might incentivise people to take up paid work. Authorities believe it will shed light on whether unemployed Finns, as experts believe, are put off taking up a job by the fear that a higher marginal tax rate may leave them worse off. Many are also deterred by having to reapply for benefits after every casual or short-term contract... According to Kanerva, the core data the government is seeking -- on whether, and how, the job take-up of the 2,000 unemployed people in the trial differs from a 175,000-strong control group -- will be "robust, and usable in future economic modelling" when it is published in 2019.

Although the experiment may be impacted by all the hype it's generating, according to the Guardian. "One participant who hoped to start his own business with the help of the unconditional monthly payment complained that, after speaking to 140 TV crews and reporters from as far afield as Japan and Korea, he has simply not been able to find the time."
The Almighty Buck

Bitcoin Debit Cards Suspended After Upstream Visa Rules Infraction (thenextweb.com) 76

At least four pre-paid debit cards that accept cryptocurrencies abruptly suspended service on Friday. An anonymous reader quotes TheNextWeb: Speaking to their customers on Twitter, the affected companies have said the move is the result of actions from their card issuer, [WaveCrest], who was acting on behalf of Visa Europe... A statement from Visa Europe obtained by The Daily Beast reporter Joseph Cox said the action was taken due to WaveCrest's "non-compliance" with VISA's membership regulations... In its statement, Visa makes clear that this isn't a crackdown on cryptocurrencies, but rather action against one company that broke its rules.
"All funds stored on cards are safe and will be returned to your Cryptopay accounts ASAP," one of the affected debit card companies assured users on Twitter, adding "Sorry for all the inconvenience caused..."

According to the article, "Some users on Twitter are reportedly stranded abroad without funds."
EU

WhatsApp Rings in the New Year with a Global Outage (venturebeat.com) 40

WhatsApp went down in several parts of the world today including parts of Europe, Asia, and South America. The crowdsourced website DownDetector found the largest concentration of outages in portions of England, Germany, and virtually all of the Netherlands, as well as parts of Italy, Spain, and central Europe. Outages were also reported in many major cities around the world, from Rio de Janeiro, Kuala Lumpur, and Tel Aviv to Dubai, Mumbai, and Toronto... "WhatsApp users around the world experienced a brief outage today that has now been resolved. We apologize for the inconvenience," a WhatsApp spokesperson told VentureBeat in an email.
Government

Russian Submarines are 'Prowling Around' Undersea Internet Cables (thehill.com) 175

An anonymous reader quotes The Hill: Russian submarine activity around undersea cables that provide internet and other communications connections to North America and Europe has raised concerns among NATO officials, according to The Washington Post. NATO officials say an unprecedented amount of Russian deep-sea activity, especially around undersea internet lines, constitutes a newfound "vulnerability" for NATO nations. "We are now seeing Russian underwater activity in the vicinity of undersea cables that I don't believe we have ever seen," said NATO submarine forces commander and U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Andrew Lennon. "Russia is clearly taking an interest in NATO and NATO nations' undersea infrastructure."
"The Russian Defense Ministry did not respond to a request for comment about the cables," reports the Washington Post, adding that "prowling around" the cables "could give the Kremlin the power to sever or tap into vital data lines, officials said."

They cite the commander of NATO's submarine forces, who says "We know that these auxiliary submarines are designed to work on the ocean floor, and they're transported by the mother ship, and we believe they may be equipped to manipulate objects on the ocean floor."
EU

Lithuania Calls On EU To Stop Adjusting Clocks For Daylight Savings (theguardian.com) 170

AmiMoJo shares a report from The Guardian: Lithuania has said that it would push the European Union to abolish its law on daylight saving time, claiming that most people find it annoying to have to adjust their clocks twice a year. An opinion poll published this year showed that 79% of people in the nation of 2.8 million were against the annual ritual of adjusting clocks forward by one hour in the spring and then back an hour in the autumn. Proponents of daylight saving time, adopted at the beginning of the 20th century, say the longer evening daylight hours in the summer help save energy and bolster productivity. The European Commission said it was "currently examining the summertime question based on all available evidence."
Earth

Faced With Rising Temperatures, People May Seek Asylum (axios.com) 210

Europe is already struggling to absorb an influx of refugees from war-torn Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Africa. Germany alone has taken in more than a million people since 2015. This wave of immigration has led to political upheaval, with the rise of right-wing political parties in Germany, Poland, Austria, and Hungary, among others. Now a new study, published in the journal Science, shows that the current surge in refugees may just be a preview of what's to come due in large part to global warming. From a report: At an average growing season temperature of about 68 Fahrenheit, which is the optimum one for agriculture, the number of applications for asylum was lowest. As the average temperature rose, so did the number of people from Somalia, Bangladesh and other warmer climate countries seeking asylum. But when cooler countries -- such as Serbia and Peru -- got warmer, fewer applications were received. The acceptance rate for asylum application to the EU is less than 10%. But when there was a spike in applications tied to weather fluctuations, the admittance rate rose to about 30%, suggesting agencies who evaluate the applicants find their cause worthy.
Businesses

EU's Top Court Rules That Uber Is a Transportation Company (axios.com) 139

Uber is a taxi company, according to a landmark ruling from Europe's highest court. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled Wednesday that the U.S. ride-hailing app is a transportation firm and not a digital company. The verdict is a long-awaited judgment expected to have major implications for how Uber is regulated throughout Europe. From a report: The E.U.'s member countries now have more clarity and authority to regulate Uber as a transportation company (more strictly than as a tech service), though many already do so. As a technology company, Uber would have been protected by E.U. law from certain restrictions by individual countries, and would have required them to notify the commission of any new regulations.
Google

Google's Record Fine of $2.8 Billion Was a 'Deterrent,' EU Says (bloomberg.com) 71

The European Union was aiming for a "deterrent effect" on Google and other technology giants when it ordered the Android-maker to pay 2.4 billion euros ($2.8 billion) for breaching antitrust law over how it displays shopping ads. From a report: Regulators weighed "the need to ensure that the fine has a sufficiently deterrent effect not only on Google and Alphabet but also on undertakings of a similar size and with similar resources," the European Commission said in a 215-page document laying out details of its seven-year investigation into the company. The "particularly large" revenue of Google's parent, Alphabet, also determined the size of the fine, the EU said. The penalty, levied in June, was more than double an earlier 1 billion-euro fine on Intel and came with a threat of more daily fines for Google if it didn't comply with an order to offer equal treatment to rival shopping-comparison services. Big numbers for big technology names have been a theme for EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who ordered Apple Inc. to pay back some 13 billion euros in taxes last year.
Businesses

Google and Facebook 'Must Pay For News' From Which They Make Billions (yahoo.com) 168

Internet giants such as Google and Facebook must pay copyright charges for using news content on their platforms, nine European press agencies said. These giant platforms, news agencies said, make vast profits from news content on their platforms. The call comes at a time when the EU is debating a directive to make Facebook, Google, Twitter and other major players pay for the millions of news articles they use or link to. From a report: "Facebook has become the biggest media in the world," the agencies said in a plea published in the French daily Le Monde. "Yet neither Facebook nor Google have a newsroom... They do not have journalists in Syria risking their lives, nor a bureau in Zimbabwe investigating Mugabe's departure, nor editors to check and verify information sent in by reporters on the ground." The agencies argued, "access to free information is supposedly one of the great victories of the internet. But it is a myth."
Facebook

Russia-Linked Accounts Were Active on Facebook Ahead of Brexit (ft.com) 254

The Russia-linked troll farm that used Facebook to target Americans during last year's election was also active in the UK ahead of the Brexit vote (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source), the social media company has admitted. From a report: In a letter to the Electoral Commission, Facebook said accounts associated with the Internet Research Agency spent $0.97 for three ads in the days before the EU referendum. These ads appeared on approximately 200 news feeds in the UK before the country voted to leave the EU last year. For months the social media company has sidestepped questions from MPs and journalists about Russian interference through its platform in the UK. The concerns were fuelled by revelations this summer that Facebook had been weaponised by Russian entities before the election of US President Donald Trump. France and Germany have said their elections were also targeted. "We strongly support the Commission's efforts to regulate and enforce political campaign finance rules in the United Kingdom, and we take the Commission's request very seriously," Facebook said in the letter.
Python

Did Programming Language Flaws Create Insecure Apps? (bleepingcomputer.com) 100

Several popular interpreted programming languages are affected by severe vulnerabilities that expose apps built on these languages to attacks, according to research presented at the Black Hat Europe 2017 security conference. An anonymous reader writes: The author of this research is IOActive Senior Security Consultant Fernando Arnaboldi, who says he used an automated software testing technique named fuzzing to identify vulnerabilities in the interpreters of five of today's most popular programming languages: JavaScript, Perl, PHP, Python, and Ruby.

Fuzzing involves providing invalid, unexpected, or random data as input to a software application. The researcher created his own fuzzing framework named XDiFF that broke down programming languages per each of its core functions and fuzzed each one for abnormalities. His work exposed severe flaws in all five languages, such as a hidden flaw in PHP constant names that can be abused to perform remote code execution, and undocumented Python methods that can be used for OS code execution. Arnaboldi argues that attackers can exploit these flaws even in the most secure applications built on top of these programming languages.

Space

New Satellite Experiment Helps Confirm Einstein's Equivalence Principle (presse.cnes.fr) 71

Part of Einstein's theory of general relativity posits that gravity equals inertial mass -- and for the first time in 10 years, there's new evidence that he's right. Slashdot reader orsayman reports: Most stories around space today seem to revolve around SpaceX, but let's not forget that space is also a place for cool physics experiments. One such experiment currently running into low orbit is the MICROSCOPE satellite launched in 2016 to test the (weak) Equivalence Principle (also knows as the universality of free fall) a central hypothesis in General Relativity.

The first results confirm the principle with a precision ten times better than previous experiments. And it's just the beginning since they hope to increase the precision by another factor of 10. If the Equivalence Principle is still verified at this precision, this could constrain or invalidate some quantum gravity theories. For those of you who are more satellite-science oriented, the satellite also features an innovative "self destruct" mechanism (meant to limit orbit pollution) based on inflatable structures described in this paper.

"The science phase of the mission began in December 2016," reports France's space agency, "and has already collected data from 1,900 orbits, the equivalent of a free fall of 85 million kilometres or half the Earth-Sun distance."
Security

'Process Doppelganging' Attack Bypasses Most Security Products, Works On All Windows Versions (bleepingcomputer.com) 126

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: Yesterday, at the Black Hat Europe 2017 security conference in London, two security researchers from cyber-security firm enSilo have described a new code injection technique called "Process Doppelganging." This new attack works on all Windows versions and researchers say it bypasses most of today's major security products. Process Doppelganging is somewhat similar to another technique called "Process Hollowing," but with a twist, as it utilizes the Windows mechanism of NTFS Transactions.

"The goal of the technique is to allow a malware to run arbitrary code (including code that is known to be malicious) in the context of a legitimate process on the target machine," Tal Liberman & Eugene Kogan, the two enSilo researchers who discovered the attack told Bleeping Computer. "Very similar to process hollowing but with a novel twist. The challenge is doing it without using suspicious process and memory operations such as SuspendProcess, NtUnmapViewOfSection. In order to achieve this goal we leverage NTFS transactions. We overwrite a legitimate file in the context of a transaction. We then create a section from the modified file (in the context of the transaction) and create a process out of it. It appears that scanning the file while it's in transaction is not possible by the vendors we checked so far (some even hang) and since we rollback the transaction, our activity leaves no trace behind." The good news is that "there are a lot of technical challenges" in making Process Doppelganging work, and attackers need to know "a lot of undocumented details on process creation." The bad news is that the attack "cannot be patched since it exploits fundamental features and the core design of the process loading mechanism in Windows."
More research on the attack will be published on the Black Hat website in the following days.

Slashdot Top Deals