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United States

US Panel Extends Nuclear Power Tax Credit (thehill.com) 1

Slashdot reader mdsolar quotes The Hill: The House Ways and Means Committee voted Wednesday to remove a key deadline for a nuclear power plant tax credit... The credit was first enacted in 2005 to spur construction of new nuclear plants, but it has gone completely unused because no new plants have come online since then...

It would likely benefit two reactors under construction at Southern Co.'s Vogtle Electric Generating Plant in Georgia and another two at Virgil C. Summer Nuclear Generating Station in South Carolina. Both projects are at risk of missing the 2020 deadline... "When Congress passed the 2005 act, it could not have contemplated the effort it would take to get a nuclear plant designed and licensed," said representative Tom Rice (R-S.C.).

Although one Democrat criticized the extension by arguing that nuclear power "does better in a socialist economy than in a capitalist one, because nuclear energy prefers to have the public do the cleanup, do the insurance, cover all of the losses and it only wants the profits."
Government

Senators Accuse Russia Of Disrupting US Election (washingtonpost.com) 112

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes The Washington Post: Two senior Democratic lawmakers with access to classified intelligence on Thursday accused Russia of "making a serious and concerted effort to influence the U.S. election," a charge that appeared aimed at putting pressure on the Obama administration to confront Moscow... "At the least, this effort is intended to sow doubt about the security of our election and may well be intended to influence the outcomes," the statement said. "We believe that orders for the Russian intelligence agencies to conduct such actions could come only from very senior levels of the Russian government..."

White House officials have repeatedly insisted that they are awaiting the outcome of a formal FBI investigation, even though U.S. intelligence are said to have concluded with "high confidence" that Russia was responsible for the DNC breach and other attacks. The White House hesitation has become a source of frustration to critics, including senior members of Congress.

Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence officials are reportedly investigating whether Donald Trump's foreign policy adviser "opened up private communications with senior Russian officials -- including talks about the possible lifting of economic sanctions if the Republican nominee becomes president."
United States

U.S. Funds Challenges To North Korea's 'Information Shield' (freekorea.us) 64

The U.S. State Department is pursuing "a detailed plan for making unrestricted, unmonitored, and inexpensive electronic mass communications available to the people of North Korea." Slashdot reader Greg Jones reports: Plenty of government-designed "information" flows out of North Korea. At One Free Korea Joshua Stanton reports that the U.S. State Department just announced a new grant program for information technology solutions to punch through the wall that prevents the free flow of information into North Korea.
"Those of us who wrote and negotiated the [North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act] were equally concerned with direct engagement of the North Korean people..." Stanton writes on his blog, reporting that there's now grants available to fund multiple projects. "If you have the technical knowledge to make this a reality, or know a place online where people with those talents congregate, please share and repost this solicitation and help spread the word."
Security

Hacker Who Aided ISIS Gets 20 Years In Prison (softpedia.com) 116

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Softpedia: Ardit Ferizi, aka Th3Dir3ctorY, 20, a citizen of Kosovo, will spend 20 years in a U.S. prison for providing material support to ISIS hackers by handing over data for 1,351 U.S. government employees. Ferizi obtained the data by hacking into a U.S. retail company on June 13, 2015. The hacker then filtered the stolen information and put aside records related to government officials, which he later handed over to Junaid Hussain, the then leader of the Islamic State Hacking Division (ISHD). Hussain then uploaded this information online, asking fellow ISIS members to seek out these individuals and execute lone wolf attacks. Because of this leak, the U.S. Army targeted and killed Hussain in a drone strike in Syria in August 2015. Before helping ISIS, Ferizi had a prodigious hacking career as the leader of Kosova Hacker's Security (KHS) hacking crew. He was arrested on October 6, 2015, at the international airport in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, while trying to catch a flight back to Kosovo. Ferizi was in Kuala Lumpur studying computer science.
Government

From Bicycles To Washing Machines: Sweden To Give Tax Breaks For Repairs (mnn.com) 136

jenningsthecat writes: The Swedish government is putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to encouraging the repair of stuff that would otherwise be thrown away, according to both The Guardian and Fast Company. The country's Social Democrat and Green party coalition have submitted proposals to Parliament that would reduce the value-added-tax (VAT) on bicycle, clothing, and shoe repairs from 25% to 12%. Also proposed is an income tax deduction equalling half the labor cost of repairing household appliances. According to The Guardian, "the incentives are part of a shift in government focus from reducing carbon emissions produced domestically to reducing emissions tied to goods produced elsewhere." Per Bolund, Sweden's Minister for Financial Markets and Consumer Affairs, said the policy also tied in with international trends around reduced consumption and crafts, such as the "maker movement" and the sharing economy, both of which have strong followings in Sweden. The VAT cut may create more jobs for immigrants as it could spur the creation of a new home-repairs service industry. Also, from a science standpoint, the incentives could help cut the cost of carbon emissions on the planet as it should in theory reduce emissions linked to consumption. "I believe there is a shift in view in Sweden at the moment. There is an increased knowledge that we need to make our things last longer in order to reduce materials' consumption," Bolund said. The Guardian's report concludes: "The proposals will be presented in parliament as part of the government's budget proposals and if voted through in December will become law from January 1, 2017."
Medicine

UPS Is Starting To Test Drone Deliveries In the US (qz.com) 42

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: UPS announced Sept. 23 that it has begun testing drone deliveries in the U.S. with drone manufacturer CyPhy Works. The two companies yesterday completed a test of delivering medicine from the coastal town of Beverly, Massachusetts, to Children's Island, a small island about three miles into the Atlantic Ocean. CyPhy's drone has night-vision capabilities, according to a release shared with Quartz. The test yesterday involved a trial situation where an asthmatic child urgently needed an inhaler, which was dispatched from the mainland to the island, arriving far more quickly than it would've taken a boat to get there. CyPhy's drone autonomously flew supplies over the ocean to a group waiting to receive them on the other end, although there was no actual child with asthma in danger. In May, UPS had announced that it was partnering with the drone company Zipline to deliver medical supplies to rural Rwanda, having invested nearly $1 million into the company. UPS has also invested an undisclosed amount in CyPhy. UPS told Quartz that the FAA was aware of its test, and Houston Mills, a commercial pilot with UPS for over a decade and the company's director of airline safety, was recently announced as a member of the FAA's Drone Advisory Committee. The committee is working with industry experts and companies to figure out how to safely integrate a network of commercial drones into U.S. airspace. You can watch the heroic footage of the trial run here.
Security

Sad Reality: It's Cheaper To Get Hacked Than Build Strong IT Defenses (theregister.co.uk) 177

It's no secret that more companies are getting hacked now than ever. The government is getting hacked, major corporate companies are getting hacked, and even news outlets are getting hacked. This raises the obvious question: why aren't people investing more in bolstering their security? The answer is, as a report on The Register points out, money. Despite losing a significant sum of money on a data breach, it is still in a company's best interest to not spend on upgrading their security infrastructure. From the report: A study by the RAND Corporation, published in the Journal of Cybersecurity, looked at the frequency and cost of IT security failures in US businesses and found that the cost of a break-in is much lower than thought -- typically around $200,000 per case. With top-shelf security systems costing a lot more than that, not beefing up security looks in some ways like a smart business decision. "I've spent my life in security and everyone expects firms to invest more and more," the report's author Sasha Romanosky told The Reg. "But maybe firms are making rational investments and we shouldn't begrudge firms for taking these actions. We all do the same thing, we minimize our costs." Romanosky analyzed 12,000 incident reports and found that typically they only account for 0.4 per cent of a company's annual revenues. That compares to billing fraud, which averages at 5 per cent, or retail shrinkage (ie, shoplifting and insider theft), which accounts for 1.3 per cent of revenues. As for reputational damage, Romanosky found that it was almost impossible to quantify. He spoke to many executives and none of them could give a reliable metric for how to measure the PR cost of a public failure of IT security systems.
United States

Probe Of Leaked US NSA Hacking Tools Examines Operative's Mistake (reuters.com) 56

Joseph Menn and John Walcott, reporting for Reuters: A U.S. investigation into a leak of hacking tools used by the National Security Agency is focusing on a theory that one of its operatives carelessly left them available on a remote computer and Russian hackers found them, four people with direct knowledge of the probe told Reuters. The tools, which enable hackers to exploit software flaws in computer and communications systems from vendors such as Cisco Systems and Fortinet Inc, were dumped onto public websites last month by a group calling itself Shadow Brokers. The public release of the tools coincided with U.S. officials saying they had concluded that Russia or its proxies were responsible for hacking political party organizations in the run-up to the Nov. 8 presidential election. On Thursday, lawmakers accused Russia of being responsible. Various explanations have been floated by officials in Washington as to how the tools were stolen. Some feared it was the work of a leaker similar to former agency contractor Edward Snowden, while others suspected the Russians might have hacked into NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland.
Facebook

Indian Students Score a Partial Win in Facebook Privacy Dispute (bloomberg.com) 47

WhatsApp announced last month that it would stop begin sharing some of users' information -- phone number, contact information of people in your address book etc -- with Facebook. Two Indian students last month expressed their concern over this, adding that WhatsApp was "severely" compromising their privacy and those of other billion plus users, and that it was reneging from its original promise. They approached Delhi High Court, and after hearing from everyone, the bench of chief justice told WhatsApp that it must delete data of users who are opt out of privacy policy changes before September 25. Bloomberg adds: The Delhi High Court on Friday ruled that WhatsApp has to delete all data on users who choose to stop using the service before Sept. 25, when the new policy takes effect. Also, it can only share data collected after that date. However, going forward, WhatsApp is free to share information on users who haven't opted out. The court also asked India's government to consider if it was feasible to craft regulations to oversee WhatsApp and other messaging apps, though it didn't specify what form they could take.
Government

Hacker Leaks Michelle Obama's Passport (nypost.com) 121

The hacker who leaked Colin Powell's private email account last week has struck again. This time they have hacked a low-level White House staffer and released a picture of Michelle Obama's passport, along with detailed schedules for top U.S. officials and private email messages. New York Post reports: The information has been posted online by the group DC Leaks. The White House staffer -- who also apparently does advance work for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign -- is named Ian Mellul. The released documents include a PowerPoint outline of Vice President Joe Biden's recent Cleveland trip, showing his planned route, where he'll meet with individuals and other sensitive information, according to the Daily Mail. In an email to The Post, the hacker writes, "The leaked files show the security level of our government. If terrorists hack emails of White House Office staff and get such sensitive information we will see the fall of our country." The hacker adds, "We hope you will tell the people about this criminal negligence of White House Office staffers."
Security

Yahoo Confirms Massive Data Breach, 500 Million Users Impacted [Updated] (recode.net) 169

Update: 09/22 18:47 GMT by M :Yahoo has confirmed the data breach, adding that about 500 million users are impacted. Yahoo said "a copy of certain user account information was stolen from the company's network in late 2014 by what it believes is a state-sponsored actor." As Business Insider reports, this could be the largest data breach of all time. In a blog post, the company said:Yahoo is notifying potentially affected users and has taken steps to secure their accounts. These steps include invalidating unencrypted security questions and answers so that they cannot be used to access an account and asking potentially affected users to change their passwords. Yahoo is also recommending that users who haven't changed their passwords since 2014 do so. The Intercept reporter Sam Biddle commented, "It took Yahoo two years to announce that info on half a billion user accounts was stolen." Amid its talks with Verizon for a possible acquisition -- which did happen -- Yahoo knew about the attack, but didn't inform Verizon about it, Business Insider reports. Original story, from earlier today, follows.

Last month, it was reported that a hacker was selling account details of at least 200 million Yahoo users. The company's service had apparently been hacked, putting several hundred million users accounts at risk. Since then Yahoo has remained tight-lipped on the matter, but that could change very soon. Kara Swisher of Recode is reporting that Yahoo is poised to confirm that massive data breach of its service. From the report: While sources were unspecific about the extent of the incursion, since there is the likelihood of government investigations and legal action related to the breach, they noted that it is widespread and serious. Earlier this summer, Yahoo said it was investigating a data breach in which hackers claimed to have access to 200 million user accounts and was selling them online. "It's as bad as that," said one source. "Worse, really." The announcement, which is expected to come this week, also possible larger implications on the $4.8 billion sale of Yahoo's core business -- which is at the core of this hack -- to Verizon. The scale of the liability could be large and bring untold headaches to the new owners. Shareholders are likely to worry that it could lead to an adjustment in the price of the transaction.
Republicans

Trump Opposes Plan For US To Hand Over Internet Oversight To a Global Governance (reuters.com) 522

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump opposes a long-planned transition of oversight of the internet's technical management from the U.S. government to a global community of stakeholders, his campaign said in a statement on Wednesday. Congress should block the handover, scheduled to occur on Oct. 1, "or internet freedom will be lost for good, since there will be no way to make it great again once it is lost," Stephen Miller, national policy director for the Trump campaign, said in a statement. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a former presidential primary foe of Trump's who has refused to endorse the real estate developer, has led a movement in Congress to block the transition, arguing it could cede control of the internet itself to authoritarian regimes like Russia and China and threaten online freedom. Technical experts have said those claims are baseless, and that a delay will backfire by undermining U.S. credibility in future international negotiations over internet standards and security. Publicly proposed in March 2014, the transfer of oversight of the nonprofit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, is expected to go forward unless Congress votes to block the move. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton supports the Obama administration's planned transition to a global community of technologists, civil society groups and internet users, according to policy positions available on her campaign website.
Power

TV Manufacturers Accused of Gaming Energy Usage Tests (cbslocal.com) 86

The Natural Resources Defense Council has issued a new report accusing Samsung, LG and Vizio of "misleading consumers and regulators about how much energy high-definition screens devour, alleging that the televisions were designed to perform more efficiently during government testing than in ordinary use." The report "estimates that the collective electricity bills during a decade of watching the high-definition TVs will be $1.2 billion higher than the energy ratings imply," and that "the higher energy usage generates an additional 5 million metric tons of carbon pollution." CBS Local reports: The findings are based on an analysis of high-definition TVs with screens spanning at least 55 inches made in 2015 and 2016. The estimates on electricity costs are based on high definition TVs with screens 32 inches and larger. The study concluded that Samsung and LG have gamed the system during government testing in an effort to get better scores on the "Energy Star" yellow labels that appear on the sets in stores. Those scores often influence the buying decisions of consumers looking to save money on their utility bills. The report said Samsung and LG did not break any laws in their manipulation of the tests, but rather exploited weaknesses in the Department of Energy's system to measure electricity usage. The Samsung and LG sets have a dimming feature that turns off the screens' backlight during part of the 10-minute video clip used in government tests. But that does not typically happen when the sets are being used in homes to watch sports, comedies, dramas and news programming. The analysis also found that Samsung, LG and Vizio disable energy-saving features in their TVs when consumers change the factory setting on the picture, a common practice. The energy-saving feature is turned off, with little or no warning on the screen, sometimes doubling the amount of electricity consumed, according to the NRDC report.
Network

North Korea Has Just 28 Websites (vice.com) 138

In September of 2014, NetCraft confirmed there to be over 1 billion websites on the world wide web. There are over 140 million .com and .net domains alone, as well as millions of websites for each country code top-level domain (ccTLD), such as .de for Germany and .cn for China. But in North Korea, the number of websites the country has registered for its top-level domain is in the double digits. Motherboard reports: On Tuesday, apparently by mistake, North Korea misconfigured its nameserver, essentially a list that holds information on all of the domains that exist for .kp, allowing anyone to query it and get the list. In other words, a snafu by North Korea's system administrators allowed anyone to ask the country's nameserver: "can I have all of your information on this domain?" and get an answer, giving everyone a peek into the strange world of North Korea's web. North Korea has only 28 registered domains, according to the leaked data. "We didn't think there was much in the way of internet resources in North Korea, and according to these leaked zone files, we were right," Doug Madory, a researcher at Dyn, a company that monitors internet use and access around the world, told Motherboard. Some of the sites aren't reachable, perhaps because after Bryant discovered them, they are being deluged with traffic.
Government

US Regulators Issue Comprehensive Policy On Self-Driving Cars (vox.com) 239

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Vox: On Monday, [The U.S. Department of Transportation] released a surprisingly far-reaching "Federal Automated Vehicles Policy." The policy attempts to do all sorts of things -- we'll get into the details below -- but the overarching motivation is that DOT wants to accelerate the development and adoption of AVs. DOT views AVs as a safety technology that could reduce some of the 38,000 traffic fatalities a year in the U.S., 95 percent of which are caused by human error. It also sees AVs as an accessibility technology that could provide personal transportation to whole populations (disabled, elderly, etc.) who have lacked it. The policy comes in four buckets: What the vehicles need to do to be safe; What federal and state governments need to do; How DOT will use its existing regulatory tools; DOT may need brand new regulatory tools to deal with AVs. The "vehicle performance" section lays out a 15-point safety assessment, so that AV developers and manufacturers know the sorts of things that federal regulators will expect. It covers everything from cybersecurity to data collection to crash response. And then there are "ethical considerations." AVs will have to make life-or-death decisions. The second section addresses the division of responsibilities and authorities between the federal government and state governments, and suggests a model policy that states can adapt for their own use. The feds will retain their authority to set and enforce safety standards, communicate with the public about safety, and occasionally issue guidances about how to meet national standards. States will retain their authority to license human drivers and register cars, set and enforce traffic laws, and regulate vehicle insurance and liability. There are three broad ways that DOT communicates about standards with automakers: letters of interpretation, exemptions and rule-makings. It is promising to speed up all of them in regard to HAVs. DOT is considering a range of new authorities that may be necessary to properly regulate HAVs. The report adds that "DOT has officially abandoned the NHTSA's own levels-of-automation classification in favor of SAE's, which is preferred by the industry. Vox has neat graphic you can view here. President Obama also wrote a piece about self-driving cars in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "In the seven-and-a-half years of my presidency, self-driving cars have gone from sci-fi fantasy to an emerging reality with the potential to transform the way we live..."
Privacy

Assange Agrees to US Prison If Obama Pardons Chelsea Manning (theverge.com) 374

"If Obama grants Manning clemency, Assange will agree to U.S. prison in exchange -- despite its clear unlawfulness," Wikileaks announced on Twitter Thursday. An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes The Verge: WikiLeaks' statement was released one day before a Swedish appeals court decided to maintain a warrant for Assange's arrest over a 2010 rape charge. Assange has said that extradition to Sweden would lead to his eventual extradition to the US, where he could face charges related to WikiLeaks' publication of secret government documents... Assange has been living in political asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012...

Chelsea Manning, a former US Army private, was convicted in 2013 for providing a trove of documents and videos to WikiLeaks, and is currently serving a 35-year sentence at the US Disciplinary Barracks in Leavenworth, Kansas. She was hospitalized after a reported suicide attempt in July, and this month went on a hunger strike to seek treatment for her gender dysphoria. Manning ended her hunger strike this week after the military agreed to allow her to have gender reassignment surgery. She still faces indefinite solitary confinement due to administrative charges related to her suicide attempt.

The tweet also included a link to a letter from Assange's attorney, Barry Pollack, calling on the Justice Department to be more transparent about its investigation into WikiLeaks -- and citing the FBI's investigation into Hillary Clinton's handling of classified information. "Director Comey made it clear his conclusion was based on the necessity of proving criminal intent [and] noted that responsible prosecutors consider the context of a person's actions... Criminal prosecution is appropriate only when a person...was intending to aid enemies of the United States or was attempting to obstruct justice."
United States

Oregon Settles $6 Billion Lawsuit Over Oracle's Botched Healthcare Website (registerguard.com) 113

"While the crippled website eventually worked, Oregon failed to enroll a single person online [and] had to resort to hiring 400 people to process paper applications." An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes the AP: The state paid Oracle $240 million to create its Cover Oregon website but ultimately abandoned the site and joined the federal exchange to comply with the Affordable Care Act... The state initially asked for more than $6 billion in punitive damages when it filed the lawsuit in 2014 against the Redwood City company, but Oregon ultimately accepted a package that included $35 million in cash payments and software licensing agreements and technical support with an estimated upfront worth of $60 million...

Six years of unlimited Oracle software and technical support included in the deal will save the state hundreds of millions of dollars in years to come and ends a bitter legal battle that has damaged Oregon's "collective psyche," Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said in a statement. "The beauty of the deal is that if we choose to take full advantage of the free (software), we are uniquely situated to modernize our statewide IT systems over the next six years -- something we could not otherwise afford to do," she said.

"Oracle has insisted the website worked but former Gov. John Kitzhaber chose not to use it for political reasons."
Biotech

Ask Slashdot: Why Aren't Techies Improving The World? 529

Slashdot reader marmot7 isn't impressed by "the latest app that solves some made up problem. I'm impressed by apps that solve real problems..." I don't feel that developers, sys admins, finance people, even policy wonks focus on the problems that we need to solve to have a healthy functioning society. It seems like it's mostly about short-term gain and not much about making the world better. That may be just the way the market works.

Is it that there's no profit to be made in solving the most important problems? I'm puzzled by that as I would think that a good solution to an important problem could find some funding from somewhere but maybe government, for example, won't take investment risks in that way?

Is there a systematic bias that channels technology workers into more profitable careers? (Or stunning counter-examples that show technology workers are making the world a better place?) Leave your answers in the comments. Why aren't geeks doing more to improve the world?
Communications

The Ham Radio Parity Act Unanimously Passed By US House (arrl.org) 195

This week the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed "The Ham Radio Parity Act" -- a huge victory for grass-roots advocates of amateur radio. Slashdot reader bobbied reports: This will allow for the reasonable accommodation of amateur radio antennas in many places where they are currently prohibited by homeowner associations or private land use restrictions... If this bill passes the Senate, we will be one step closer to allowing amateur radio operators, who provide emergency communications services, the right to erect reasonable antenna structures in places where they cannot do so now.
The national ham radio association is now urging supporters to contact their Senators through a special web page. "This is not just a feel-good bill," said representative Joe Courtney, remembering how Hurricane Sandy brought down the power grid, and "we saw all the advanced communications we take for granted...completely fall by the wayside."
Education

Code.org Disses Wolfram Language, Touts Apple's Swift Playgrounds (edsurge.com) 240

America is changing the way it teaches computer science. "There are now 31 states that allow CS to count towards high school graduation," according to an announcement this week by the White House, while a new Advance Placement course "will be offered in more than 2,000 U.S. classrooms this fall...the largest course launch in the history of the AP exam." But what's the best way to teach coding? theodp reports: Tech-backed Code.org, one of the leaders of the new CSforAll Consortium that was announced at the White House on Wednesday, took to its blog Thursday to say "Thanks, Tim [Cook], for supporting the effort to give every student the opportunity to learn computer science," giving a shout out to Apple for providing "resources for teachers who want to put Swift Playgrounds in their classrooms. (A day earlier, the White House said Apple developed Swift Playgrounds "in support of the President's call to action" for CS for All).

Curiously, Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi argued Friday that "the Wolfram Language has serious shortcomings for broad educational use" in an EdSurge op-ed that was called a "response to a recent blog post by Stephen Wolfram" on Wolfram's ambitious plan to teach computational thinking in schools. Partovi's complaints? "It requires login for all but the simplest use cases, but doesn't provide any privacy safeguards for young children (required in the U.S. through legislation such as COPPA). Also, a serious user would need to pay for usage, making implementation inaccessible in most schools. Lastly, it's a bit difficult to use by students who struggle with English reading or writing, such as English language learners or early elementary school students."

The submission ultimately asks how should computer science be taught to teenagers. "Would you be inclined to embrace Wolfram's approach, Apple's Swift Playgrounds, Microsoft TEALS' Java-centric AP CS curriculum, or something else (e.g., R, Tableau, Excel+VBA)?"

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