Two Arrested In $10 Million Tech Support Scam That Preyed On the Elderly
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo:
Two individuals were arrested this week in connection with a fraud scheme that manipulated thousands of victims into paying for invented tech services that they didn't need. The Department of Justice announced that the two individuals Romana Leyva, 35, and Ariful Haque, 33, were arrested Wednesday for their alleged participation in the fraud scheme, which involved convincing victims -- many of whom were elderly -- in both the U.S. and Canada that they needed tech and virus protection services that were neither real nor required.
Between March 2015 and December 2018, both Ariful and Haque were allegedly involved with the fraud ring responsible for the crimes. According to an unsealed indictment, the scheme involved targeting victims with pop-up windows -- sometimes under the guise of being a legitimate tech company -- that claimed their computer had been infected with a virus and directed them to call a number for technical support. In some cases, the message threatened that if the individual closed the window or shut down their computer, it would either bork their device or result in a "complete data loss." Once users contacted the number, they were connected with a fake technician. To convince victims to hand over money, after receiving "permission" from the victim, the fraud ring allegedly remotely accessed the individual's computer, loaded an anti-virus tool that's available for free online, and informed the individual that their computer was infected with a virus (which, again, was a lie). The DOJ says the scheme was able to successfully scam "at least" 7,500 victims out of a combined $10 million.
Both of the individuals arrested are charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Each count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment.
Systemd-homed: Systemd Now Working To Improve Home Directory Handling
Freshly Exhumed shares a report from Phoronix,
detailing a new set of systemd capabilities shown off by lead developer Lennart Poettering at the annual
All Systems Go conference:
Improving the Linux handling of user home directories is the next ambition for systemd. Among the goals are allowing more easily migratable home directories, ensuring all data for users is self-contained to the home directories, UID assignments being handled to the local system, unified user password and encryption key handling, better data encryption handling in general, and other modernization efforts. Among the items being explored by systemd-homed are JSON-based user records, encrypted LUKS home directories in loop-back files, and other next-gen features to offering secure yet portable home directories. Systemd-homed is currently being developed in Lennart's Git tree but hopes to see it merged for either systemd 244 (the current cycle) or systemd 245.
TiVo Tests Running Pre-Roll Ads Before DVR Recordings
As noted by Zatz Not Funny, TiVo is
testing pre-roll video ads that start playing when customers view one of their recordings. The Verge reports:
The ad spots are noticeably low-res and worse quality than the DVR'd content that starts playing afterward, according to one TiVo owner who has been served spots for Amazon, Keurig, and Toyota. It sounds like the users can fast-forward through the ads, but doing so is "not that seamless."
There are several potential reasons for TiVo ramping up advertising. Maybe the company plans to offer an ad-supported subscription with lower (or no) monthly fees compared to what regular customers are paying (similar to Amazon's Kindle devices with ads). No one who has paid for a lifetime subscription or even a monthly plan will be pleased to see pre-roll ads. TiVo also handles DVR functionality for many midsized and international cable providers. Squeezing in ads wherever possible could be something that those companies are pushing for as more of their customers spend increased time streaming shows and movies elsewhere.
Latest Lakka Release On Raspberry Pi 4 Showcases Great Retro Gaming
Lakka with RetroArch is one of the most comprehensive open-source retro-gaming console front ends available, with support for a wide array of single-board computers and multiple operating systems. Although the more powerful Raspberry Pi 4 was released months ago, the developers of Lakka had a number of bugs to contend with that prevented an official stable release, until yesterday. Lakka 2.3 (with RetroArch 1.7.8) is available now though, and it appears to leverage the additional horsepower of the Pi 4 quite well. It's even able to play some of the more demanding Sega Dreamcast and Saturn games -- among many other retro-consoles, like the Atari 2600, SuperNES, and many others. In addition to the Pi 4, this latest Lakka release also adds support for the ROCKPro64 and incorporates a wide range of bug fixes and feature enhancements.
iOS 13 Ships With Known Lockscreen Bypass Flaw That Exposes Contacts
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica:
Apple released iOS 13 with a bunch of new features. But it also released the new OS with something else: a bug disclosed seven days ago that exposes contact details without requiring a passcode or biometric identification first. Independent researcher Jose Rodriguez published a video demonstration of the flaw exactly one week ago. It can be exploited by receiving a FaceTime call and then using the voiceover feature from Siri to access the contact list. From there, an unauthorized person could get names, phone numbers, email addresses, and any other information stored in the phone's contacts list. An Apple representative told Ars the bypass will be fixed in iOS 13.1, scheduled for release on Sept. 24.
Google Reportedly Attains 'Quantum Supremacy'
Bioblaze shares a report from CNET:
Google has reportedly built a quantum computer more powerful than the world's top supercomputers. A Google research paper was temporarily posted online this week, the Financial Times reported Friday, and said the quantum computer's processor allowed a calculation to be performed in just over 3 minutes. That calculation would take 10,000 years on IBM's Summit, the world's most powerful commercial computer, Google reportedly said. Google researchers are throwing around the term "quantum supremacy" as a result, the FT said, because their computer can solve tasks that can't otherwise be solved. "To our knowledge, this experiment marks the first computation that can only be performed on a quantum processor," the research paper reportedly said.
VPN Apps With 500M+ Installs Caught Serving Disruptive Ads To Android Users
screwdriver1 shares a report from The Next Web:
In a yet another instance of Android adware, New Zealand-based independent security researcher Andy Michael found four apps with cumulative downloads of over 500 million that not only serve ads while running the background, but are also placed outside the apps, including the home screen. The apps in question are Hotspot VPN, Free VPN Master, Secure VPN, and Security Master by Cheetah Mobile. It's notable that all these apps originate from Hong Kong and China, where citizens have typically relied on VPNs to get around the Great Firewall. The apps are live on the Play Store to this date. But in an interesting twist, the apps containing the adware were all VPN or antivirus apps, suggesting that developers are increasingly banking on users' trust in security-related apps to commit "outside ad fraud."
Google has a strict policy with regards to adware and disruptive ads in general. "We don't allow apps that contain deceptive or disruptive ads. Ads must only be displayed within the app serving them. We consider ads served in your app as part of your app. The ads shown in your app must be compliant with all our policies." The company, when reached for a response, said it would take action on the apps if they're indeed found in violation of its policies.
Some VPN apps lie to us and Google shouldn't allow it.
Google Is Investing $3.3 Billion To Build Clean Data Centers In Europe
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch:
Google announced today that it was investing approximately $3.3 billion to expand its data center presence in Europe. What's more, the company pledged the data centers would be environmentally friendly. This new investment is in addition to the $7 billion the company has invested since 2007 in the EU, but today's announcement was focused on Google's commitment to building data centers running on clean energy, as much as the data centers themselves.
In a blog post announcing the new investment, CEO Sundar Pichai, made it clear that the company was focusing on running these data centers on carbon-free fuels, pointing out that he was in Finland today to discuss building sustainable economic development in conjunction with a carbon-free future with prime minister Antti Rinne. Of the 3 billion Euros, the company plans to spend, it will invest 600 million to expand its presence in Hamina, Finland, which he wrote "serves as a model of sustainability and energy efficiency for all of our data centers." Further, the company already announced 18 new renewable energy deals earlier this week, which encompass a total of 1,600-megawatts in the U.S., South America and Europe. Google is also "investing in new skills training, so people can have the tools to be able to handle the new types of jobs these data centers and other high tech jobs will require," the report says. "The company claims it has previously trained 5 million people in Europe for free in crucial digital skills, and recently opened a
Google skills hub in Helsinki."
AI Takes On Earthquake Prediction
After successfully predicting laboratory earthquakes, a team of geophysicists
has applied a machine learning algorithm to quakes in the Pacific Northwest. From a report:
In May of last year, after a 13-month slumber, the ground beneath Washington's Puget Sound rumbled to life. The quake began more than 20 miles below the Olympic mountains and, over the course of a few weeks, drifted northwest, reaching Canada's Vancouver Island. It then briefly reversed course, migrating back across the U.S. border before going silent again. All told, the monthlong earthquake likely released enough energy to register as a magnitude 6. By the time it was done, the southern tip of Vancouver Island had been thrust a centimeter or so closer to the Pacific Ocean. Because the quake was so spread out in time and space, however, it's likely that no one felt it. These kinds of phantom earthquakes, which occur deeper underground than conventional, fast earthquakes, are known as "slow slips." They occur roughly once a year in the Pacific Northwest, along a stretch of fault where the Juan de Fuca plate is slowly wedging itself beneath the North American plate.
More than a dozen slow slips have been detected by the region's sprawling network of seismic stations since 2003. And for the past year and a half, these events have been the focus of a new effort at earthquake prediction by the geophysicist Paul Johnson. Johnson's team is among a handful of groups that are using machine learning to try to demystify earthquake physics and tease out the warning signs of impending quakes. Two years ago, using pattern-finding algorithms similar to those behind recent advances in image and speech recognition and other forms of artificial intelligence, he and his collaborators successfully predicted temblors in a model laboratory system -- a feat that has since been duplicated by researchers in Europe. Now, in a paper posted this week on the scientific preprint site arxiv.org, Johnson and his team report that they've tested their algorithm on slow slip quakes in the Pacific Northwest. The paper has yet to undergo peer review, but outside experts say the results are tantalizing. According to Johnson, they indicate that the algorithm can predict the start of a slow slip earthquake to "within a few days -- and possibly better."
Npm CEO Bryan Bogensberger Exits After Eight Months of Turmoil
Bryan Bogensberger's exit from npm, inc was quietly announced Friday afternoon in a press release stating that Bogensberger "resigned effective immediately to pursue new opportunities." This marked likely one of the few quiet actions in Bogensberger's tumultuous tenure as CEO of npm, the popular package manager of Node.js. Bogensberger started as CEO on January 9 this year, as part of a move announced by original author and co-founder Isaac Z. Schlueter as part of a plan to commercialize the service. Bogensberger's involvement with the company started in mid-2018, although he was not formally named CEO until 2019 pending the resolution of visa requirements. "Commercializing something like this without ruining it is no small task, and building the team to deliver on npm's promise is a major undertaking. We've sketched out a business plan and strategy for the next year, and will be announcing some other key additions to the team in the coming months," Schlueter wrote in January.
Edward Snowden Wants To Come Home: 'I'm Not Asking For a Pass. What I'm Asking For is a Fair Trial'
Edward Snowden, who has been living in exile in Russia after leaking American intelligence secrets in 2013 and was
sued by the U.S. government over his new book this week, says that
he would like to return to the United States if he is guaranteed a fair trial. He said:
I would like to return to the United States. That is the ultimate goal. But if I'm gonna spend the rest of my life in prison, the one bottom line demand that we have to agree to is that at least I get a fair trial. And that is the one thing the government has refused to guarantee because they won't provide access to what's called a public interest defense.
Again, I'm not asking for a parade. I'm not asking for a pardon. I'm not asking for a pass. What I'm asking for is a fair trial. And this is the bottom line that any American should require. We don't want people thrown in prison without the jury being able to decide that what they did was right or wrong. The government wants to have a different kind of trial. They want to use special procedures they want to be able to close the courtroom, they want the public not to be able to go, know what's going on.
And, essentially, the most important fact to the government and this is the thing we have a point of contention on, is that they do not want the jury to be able to consider the motivations. Why I did what I did. Was it better for the United States? Did it benefit us or did it cause harm? They don't want the jury to consider that at all. They want the jury strictly to consider whether these actions were lawful or unlawful, not whether they were right or wrong. And I'm sorry, but that defeats the purpose of a jury trial. In
an interview with The Daily Show (video), Snowden pointed out that it seems unlikely that the U.S. government is going to change its stand. He said:
Just two days before my book came out, there is a whistleblower by the name of Daniel Hale. He is in prison right now. He was arrested for giving documents to journalists about the U.S. drone program. Extrajudicial killings. The United States government filed, in the same court that they are going to charge me -- Eastern District of Virginia -- a complaint before the judge that said the we demand that the court prohibits the jury from hearing and we prohibit the defendant from saying why he did what did because it's irrelevant. The jury shouldn't be distracted with reasons.
Uber Sues New York City Over 'Cruising Cap' Rule
Uber Technologies sued New York City on Friday over a new rule limiting how much time its drivers can spend in their vehicles in Manhattan without passengers, saying the rule threatens to undermine the company's ride sharing model. In its complaint filed in a New York state court in Manhattan, Uber called the "cruising cap" rule adopted last month "arbitrary and capricious," and said it was based on a flawed economic model.
Walmart Will Stop Selling E-cigarettes
Walmart said Friday it will
stop selling e-cigarettes as the number of deaths tied to vaping grows. The decision from America's largest retailer may influence other stores and marks a significant blow to the vaping industry. From a report:
"Given the growing federal, state and local regulatory complexity and uncertainty regarding e-cigarettes, we plan to discontinue the sale of electronic nicotine delivery products at all Walmart and Sam's Club US locations," the company said in a statement. "We will complete our exit after selling through current inventory." Earlier this year, Walmart raised the minimum age to buy tobacco to 21. The changes took effect July 1 at all American Walmart and Sam's Club locations. The company said at the time that it would stop selling sweet-flavored e-cigarettes, which have become popular among teenagers. The eighth person in the United States died Thursday from lung disease related to vaping, according to Missouri health officials.
Facebook Suspends Tens of Thousands of Apps Following Data Investigation
Facebook revealed Friday that it had
suspended "tens of thousands" of apps that may have mishandled users' personal data,
[Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source] part of an investigation sparked by the social giant's entanglement with Cambridge Analytica. From a report:
The suspensions -- far more than the hundreds against which Facebook has taken action against in the past -- occurred for a "variety of reasons," the company said in a blog post, without elaborating. They were associated with about 400 developers. Facebook said it had investigated millions of apps and targeted those that Facebook said had access to "large amounts of information" or had the "potential to abuse" its policies. Facebook said some of the apps were banned for inappropriately sharing users' data, the same violation of company policy that led to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. It added that its investigation, now 18 months long, isn't yet complete.
Why Prescription Drugs Cost So Much More in America
The US spends more per capita on medication than anywhere else in the world. It's a key electoral issue. From a
report on Financial Times (paywalled):
All over the world, drugmakers are granted time-limited monopolies -- in the form of patents -- to encourage innovation. But America is one of the only countries that does not combine this carrot with the stick of price controls. The US government's refusal to negotiate prices has contributed to spiralling healthcare costs which, said billionaire investor Warren Buffett last year, act "as a hungry tapeworm on the American economy." Medical bills are the primary reason why Americans go bankrupt. Employers foot much of the bill for the majority of health-insurance plans for working-age adults, creating a huge cost for business.
In February, Congress called in executives from seven of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies and asked them: why do drugs here cost so much? The drugmakers' answer is that America is carrying the cost of research and development for the rest of the world. They argue that if Americans stopped paying such high prices for drugs, investment in innovative treatments would fall. President Trump agrees with this argument, in line with his "America first" narrative, which sees other countries as guilty of freeloading. For the patients on the trip, the notion is galling: insulin was discovered 100 years ago, by scientists in Canada who sold the patent to the University of Toronto for just $1. The medication has been improved since then but there seems to have been no major innovation to justify tripling the list price for insulin, as happened in the US between 2002 and 2013.
Traders Who Can't Code May Become Extinct, Goldman's Tech Pioneer Warns
Just how important will the ability to write computer code be to a successful career on Wall Street? From a report:
According to R. Martin Chavez, an architect of Goldman Sachs Group's effort to transform itself with technology, "It's like writing an English sentence." As Chavez prepares to leave the company, the onetime commodities staffer who rose to posts overseeing technology and ultimately trading is reflecting on his "26-year adventure" in the industry. "The short, short description of it is making money, capital and risk programmable," he said in a Bloomberg Television interview. "There are certainly many kinds of manual activities that computers are just better at."
Chavez, 55, outlined strengths that can help humans stay relevant, such as their relationship skills and ability to assess risks. Yet he predicted that longstanding career dichotomies on Wall Street, like trader versus engineer, will go away. To keep working, people will need both of those skills. Even money is going digital, a shift that goes far beyond cryptocurrencies, he said, pointing to the success of Stripe as an example of creating new ways to move funds. Stripe, for its part, has become one of the most valuable companies in Silicon Valley.
They Want To Believe: People Gather Near Area 51 To 'See Them Aliens'
Hundreds of people arrived early Friday at a gate at the once secret Area 51 military base in Nevada at the time appointed by an internet hoaxster to "storm" the facility
to see space aliens and at least two were detained by sheriff's deputies. From a report:
The Storm Area 51 invitation spawned festivals in the tiny Nevada towns of Rachel and Hiko nearest the military site, and a more than two-hour drive from Las Vegas. The Lincoln county sheriff, Kerry Lee, estimated late Thursday that about 1,500 people had gathered at the festival sites and said more than 150 people also made the rugged trip several additional miles on bone-rattling dirt roads to get within selfie distance of the gates.
An Associated Press photographer said it wasn't immediately clear if a woman who began ducking under a gate and a man who urinated nearby were arrested after the crowd gathered about 3am Friday. Millions of people had responded to a June internet post calling for people to run into the remote US air force test site that has long been the focus of UFO conspiracy theories. "They can't stop all of us," the post joked. "Lets see them aliens." The military responded with stern warnings that lethal force could be used if people entered the Nevada Test and Training Range, and local and state officials said arrests would be made if people tried.
Secret FBI Subpoenas Scoop Up Personal Data From Scores of Companies
The F.B.I. has used secret subpoenas to obtain
personal data from far more companies than previously disclosed,
The New York Times reported Friday, citing newly released documents. From the report:
The requests, which the F.B.I. says are critical to its counterterrorism efforts, have raised privacy concerns for years but have been associated mainly with tech companies. Now, records show how far beyond Silicon Valley the practice extends -- encompassing scores of banks, credit agencies, cellphone carriers and even universities. The demands can scoop up a variety of information, including usernames, locations, IP addresses and records of purchases. They don't require a judge's approval and usually come with a gag order, leaving them shrouded in secrecy. Fewer than 20 entities, most of them tech companies, have ever revealed that they've received the subpoenas, known as national security letters.
The documents, obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit and shared with The New York Times, shed light on the scope of the demands -- more than 120 companies and other entities were included in the filing -- and raise questions about the effectiveness of a 2015 law that was intended to increase transparency around them. "This is a pretty potent authority for the government," said Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas who specializes in national security. "The question is: Do we have a right to know when the government is collecting information on us?"
47% of Organizations Have Cyber Insurance, Up From 34% in 2017: Study
Cyberattacks are now
considered by most execs to be the top business concern, far outranking economic uncertainty, brand damage, and regulation, according to a survey by insurance consultancy Marsh and tech giant Microsoft. From a report:
The global survey of over 1,500 business leaders illustrates the rapid change in business leaders' perceived risks to their organizations and shows that having a cyber insurance policy is now more common than two years ago. In 2017, Marsh and Microsoft found that 62% of respondents saw cyberattacks as a top-five risk, whereas this year 79% do. The share of respondents who see cyber attacks as the number one risk has also risen from 6% to 22% over two years. This year, the second most widely considered top-five risk is economic uncertainty, followed by brand damage, regulation, and loss of key personnel. [...] According to Marsh and Microsoft's survey, 47% of organizations have cyber insurance [PDF], up from 34% in 2017. Additionally, 57% of large firms with annual revenues of over $1bn report having cyber insurance compared with 36% of organizations with revenues below $100m. Nearly all respondents, totaling 89%, are confident their cyber insurance policy would cover the cost of a cyber event.
French Court Rules that Steam's Ban on Reselling Used Games is Contrary To European Law
A French high court this week delivered a blow to Valve, ruling that European consumers are
legally free to resell digital games bought on Steam, just as they're able to resell packaged, physical games. From a report:
The ruling was delivered by the High Court of Paris (Tribunal de grande instance de Paris) two days ago, according to a report on French games site Numerama. In a statement released today, Valve pledged to appeal the decision. The court's ruling is a victory for French consumer group UFC-Que Choisir, which filed a suit against Steam four years ago, alleging anti-consumer rights activities. The court rejected Valve's defense that argued Steam is a subscription service. According to Numerama, the court found that Steam sells games in perpetuity, and not as part of a subscription package. The ban on reselling games is therefore counter to European Union laws on digital goods that are designed to block prohibitions on "the free movement of goods within the Union." According to EU law, all goods, including software, can be sold used without the permission of the maker or the original seller.
Silicon Valley Is Terrified of California's Privacy Law
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch:
Silicon Valley is terrified. In a little over three months, California will see the widest-sweeping state-wide changes to its privacy law in years. California's Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) kicks in on January 1 and rolls out sweeping new privacy benefits to the state's 40 million residents -- and every tech company in Silicon Valley. California's law is similar to Europe's GDPR. It grants state consumers a right to know what information companies have on them, a right to have that information deleted and the right to opt-out of the sale of that information.
Since the law passed, tech giants have pulled out their last card: pushing for an overarching federal bill. In doing so, the companies would be able to control their messaging through their extensive lobbying efforts, allowing them to push for a weaker statute that would nullify some of the provisions in California's new privacy law. In doing so, companies wouldn't have to spend a ton on more resources to ensure their compliance with a variety of statutes in multiple states. Just this month, a group of 51 chief executives -- including Amazon's Jeff Bezos, IBM's Ginni Rometty and SAP's Bill McDermott -- signed an open letter to senior lawmakers asking for a federal privacy bill, arguing that consumers aren't clever enough to "understand rules that may change depending upon the state in which they reside." Then, the Internet Association, which counts Dropbox, Facebook, Reddit, Snap, Uber (and just today ZipRecruiter) as members, also pushed for a federal privacy law. "The time to act is now," said the industry group. If the group gets its wish before the end of the year, the California privacy law could be sunk before it kicks in. TechNet, a "national, bipartisan network of technology CEOs and senior executives," also demanded
a federal privacy law, claiming -- and without providing evidence -- that any privacy law should ensure "businesses can comply with the law while continuing to innovate." Its members include major venture capital firms, including Kleiner Perkins and JC2 Ventures, as well as other big tech giants like Apple, Google, Microsoft, Oracle and Verizon
"It's no accident that the tech industry launched this campaign right after the California legislature rejected their attempts to undermine the California Consumer Privacy Act," Jacob Snow, a technology and civil liberties attorney at the ACLU of Northern California, told TechCrunch. "Instead of pushing for federal legislation that wipes away state privacy law, technology companies should ensure that Californians can fully exercise their privacy rights under the CCPA on January 1, 2020, as the law requires."
Experts Warn World 'Grossly Unprepared' For Future Pandemics
Prominent international experts are warning that a virulent flu pandemic capable of spreading across the world in 36 hours, killing up to 80 million people,
is entirely plausible and efforts by governments to prepare for it are "grossly insufficient." The Guardian reports:
The first annual report by the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, an independent group of 15 experts convened by the World Bank and WHO after the first Ebola crisis, describes the threat of a pandemic spreading around the world, potentially killing tens of millions of people, as "a real one." There are "increasingly dire risks" of epidemics, yet the world remained unprepared, the report said. It warned epidemic-prone diseases such as Ebola, influenza and Sars are increasingly difficult to manage in the face of increasing conflict, fragile states and rising migration. The climate crisis, urbanization and a lack of adequate sanitation and water are breeding grounds for fast-spreading, catastrophic outbreaks.
The report acknowledges governments and international institutions have taken steps to increase preparedness for outbreaks in the five years since the Ebola crisis in west Africa, but concludes current preparedness is "grossly insufficient." A growing lack of public trust in institutions in some countries, exacerbated by misinformation, hinders disease control, said the study. The report outlined seven steps to ensure the world's health system is better prepared for the next health emergency, calling on heads of states to increase funding and for international organizations to build preparedness into funding mechanisms. "Poverty and fragility exacerbate outbreaks of infectious disease and help create the conditions for pandemics to take hold," said Axel van Trotsenburg, acting CEO of the World Bank. "Investing in stronger institutions and health systems will promote resilience, economic stability and global health security."
Japan's Hayabusa 2 Targets Final Asteroid Landing
The team overseeing the Hayabusa2 mission for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is putting the vehicle through its paces one more time as it
prepares to release the last rover it has on board. "That rehearsal, which took place Sept. 16 (Sept. 17 local time at mission control), sent two target markers toward the asteroid," reports Space.com. From the report:
Each target marker is a reflective ball that's about 4 inches (10 centimeters) across and filled with smaller balls -- like a high-tech beanbag. Hayabusa2 launched with five of these markers and had already deployed two, one last October and one in May. Two more left the spacecraft during the rehearsal this week, according to JAXA. During the procedure, the spacecraft photographed the target markers every 4 seconds, producing the raw material that mission personnel have turned into stunning would-be multiple-exposure images.
As the camera snapped, the target marker itself stayed more or less in the same place, while the spacecraft itself rose at a speed of about 4 inches per second, according to a statement from JAXA. All told, the target markers took a few days to reach the asteroid's surface, on account of the space rock's very weak gravity. Since deploying the two target markers, Hayabusa2 has focused on observing the pair, which it will continue to do until Sept. 23, according to JAXA. The agency has not yet announced when it will deploy the spacecraft's final rover. That deployment marks the last task Hayabusa2 needs to complete before it ferries its precious space-rock cargo back to Earth. The spacecraft will leave Ryugu in November or December.