Encrochat Investigation Finds Corrupt Cops Leaking Information To Criminals
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard:
After searching through some of the tens of millions of encrypted messages pulled from Encrochat devices, Dutch police have launched a new investigation team that will look specifically into corruption, the police force announced on Wednesday. In some cases authorities are looking to identify police who leaked information to organized criminals. The news broadens the scope of the Encrochat investigations, which have focused heavily on drug trafficking and organized crime more generally. Earlier this year, French authorities hacked into Encrochat phones en masse to retrieve message content, and then shared those communications with various other law enforcement agencies.
"Criminal investigations into possible corruption are currently underway and there are likely to be more in the near future. In addition to investigations into drug trafficking and money laundering, investigations into corruption are also given top priority," Chief of Police Henk van Essen said in a Politie press release.
Encrochat was an encrypted phone company that took base Android units, made physical alterations to them, and added its own software. Encrochat devices sent messages with end-to-end encryption, meaning only the intended recipient was supposed to be able to read them. The phones also had a remote wipe feature, letting users destroy communications if they lost physical control of the device, as well as a dual-boot system that let users open an innocuous looking operating system, or the second one containing their more sensitive information. The phones were particularly popular with criminals, including drug traffickers and hitmen. There are indications Encrochat may have had legitimate users too, however. Other Encrochat customers are allegedly those involved in corruption, including police themselves, the press release suggests.
Facebook Will Stop Recommending Health Groups
The Verge reports on the
new rules Facebook is
adding to slow the spread of misinformation and other harmful content on its Groups feature. From the report:
Some of the new policies encourage more active administration of groups. If administrators step down, they can invite members to take their place; if nobody does, Facebook will apparently "suggest" admin roles to members, then archive the group if that fails. Also, if group members accrue a community standards violation, moderators will have to approve all their posts for 30 days. If the moderators repeatedly approve posts that violate Facebook's guidelines, the group could be removed.
The health guidelines take a broader approach by focusing on an entire category of content, not specific rule-breaking behavior. Facebook says that although groups can "be a positive space for giving and receiving support during difficult life circumstances ... it's crucial that people get their health information from authoritative sources." Facebook also says it's continuing to limit content from militia groups and other organizations linked to violence. Groups that discuss potential violence will be removed, and it will soon down-rank even non-violating content in the News Feed.
Nintendo 3DS Discontinued After Almost a Decade
has discontinued its 3DS handheld after about 76 million sales over a nine-and-a-half year period. The BBC reports:
A notice on the Japanese firm's site says "manufacturing of the Nintendo 3DS family of systems has ended." The device had the ability to trick the human eye into seeing 3D images like those in some cinema screenings -- but without special glasses. However, its launch received a lukewarm reception and it only gained popularity later. The console's demise has long been expected. Last year, the company said it no longer planned to make any new first-party games for the system. It means the original Nintendo DS retains the title of being the bestselling mobile console. And the Nintendo Switch -- a hybrid handheld-and-home machine -- is the current focus of Nintendo's efforts.
US Charges Chinese and Malaysian Hackers In Global Hacking Campaign
schwit1 shares a report from NewsNation Now:
The Justice Department has charged five Chinese citizens with hacks targeting more than 100 companies and institutions in the United States and elsewhere, including social media and video game companies as well as universities and telecommunications providers, officials said Wednesday. The five defendants remain fugitives, but prosecutors say two Malaysian businessmen accused of conspiring with the alleged hackers to profit off the attacks on video game companies were arrested in that country this week and face extradition proceedings. The indictments announced Wednesday are part of a broader effort by the Trump administration to call out cybercrimes by China.
DuckDuckGo Is Growing Fast
An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer:
DuckDuckGo, the privacy-focused search engine, announced that August 2020 ended in over 2 billion total searches via its search platform. While Google remains the most popular search engine, DuckDuckGo has gained a great deal of traction in recent months as more and more users have begun to value their privacy on the internet. DuckDuckGo saw over 2 billion searches and 4 million app/extension installations, and the company also said that they have over 65 million active users. DuckDuckGo could shatter its old traffic record if the same growth trend continues. Even though DuckDuckGo is growing rapidly, it still controls less than 2 percent of all search volume in the United States. However, DuckDuckGo's growth trend has continued throughout the year, mainly due to Google and other companies' privacy scandal.
Why Passenger Jets Could Soon Be Flying In Formation
Looking at the V-shaped formations of migrating ducks, scientists have long surmised that there are aeronautical efficiencies at play. Airbus is examining this in a practical manner to see if fuel efficiency can be enhanced. "Building on test flights in 2016 with an Airbus A380 megajet and A350-900 wide-body jetliner, [the Airbus fello'fly] hopes to demonstrate and quantify the aerodynamic efficiencies while developing in-flight operational procedures," reports CNN. "Initial flight testing with two A350s began in March 2020. The program will be expanded next year to include the involvement of Frenchbee and SAS airlines, along with air traffic control and air navigation service providers from France, the UK, and Europe." "It's very, very different from what the military would call formation flight. It's really nothing to do with close formation," explained Dr. Sandra Bour Schaeffer, CEO of Airbus UpNext, in an interview with CNN Travel.
Is Apple One a Bargain? It's Complicated
Apple One, Apple's long-awaited services bundle,
has arrived and The Verge's Chaim Gartenberg has
crunched the numbers to see which subscription package, if any, is worth it. From the report:
Let's start with the Apple One Individual plan. Offering a single Apple Music plan ($9.99 per month), a 50GB iCloud storage bucket ($0.99 per month), and access to Apple Arcade ($4.99 per month) and Apple TV Plus ($4.99 per month) for $14.99, it seems like it saves you money. But unless you're interested in subscribing to Apple Music and either Apple Arcade or Apple TV Plus, you're probably better off just saving the $4 and sticking with an $11 Apple Music and iCloud combo. (As a side note, Apple does grant everyone in your family plan access to Apple Arcade and Apple TV Plus, even if you subscribe to it through the "Individual plan," which may impact your calculus.)
It's a similar story with the Family plan: a regular family plan for Apple Music costs $14.99 per month, and a 200GB iCloud bucket (which can already be shared across a whole family) is $2.99. Once again, if you want either Apple Arcade or Apple TV Plus on top of that, the Apple One bundle effectively gets you both of those services for the price of one, but if all you want is Apple Music and iCloud storage, Apple One doesn't really offer any benefits.
The Apple One Premier plan is a slightly different story, though. At $29.99 per month, it's the most expensive of the plans. Comparing it to the unbundled costs, an Apple Music family plan is once again $14.99, while a 2TB iCloud plan is $9.99. If you were already paying for both of those plans -- which isn't unreasonable for a family that's heavily invested in Apple products -- then you're only looking at a $5 per month increase to gain access to Arcade along with the additions of News Plus and Fitness Plus (which, at $9.99 per month each, are among Apple's priciest subscriptions). "But in most cases, Apple One only makes sense if you're already subscribing to Apple's most in-demand services: iCloud storage, which is essential for backing up most iPhones given Apple's increasingly absurd (and stingy) 5GB allowance for new devices, and Apple Music," writes Gartenberg in closing. "And at the end of the day, Apple One doesn't make subscribing to those two key services dramatically cheaper -- it just provides a discount for subscribing to Apple's less popular services. It's a good discount, mind you, but one that still results in most customers paying more than they are right now."
WeChat Users Won't Be Targeted By Trump's Order, US Says
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg:
WeChat users who download the Chinese app for personal or business communications won't be targeted by President Donald Trump's executive order that will prohibit using the app for some transactions, the U.S. said. The U.S. Commerce Department plans to clarify by Sept. 20 which transactions will be prohibited. But it doesn't intend to define "the relevant transactions in such a way that would impose criminal or civil liability on such users," according to a government filing Wednesday in federal court in San Francisco.
The U.S. WeChat Users Alliance is seeking a preliminary injunction against Trump's executive order. A hearing on the request is scheduled for Thursday. According to the WeChat users group, Trump's Aug. 6 order would sunder the primary and often exclusive channel many U.S. residents use to communicate with family and friends in both China and the U.S. WeChat is also used to run businesses and non-profit organizations, practice religion and as a source news. WeChat is so integral to Chinese and Chinese Americans' lives that a ban would be like "losing a limb" for some users, the group claims. "Having first failed to articulate any actual national security concern, the administration's latest 'assurances' that users can keep using WeChat, and exchange their personal and business information, only further illustrates the hollowness and pre-textual nature of defendants' 'national security' rationales," the group said in a court filing.
FBI Director: It's a Mistake To Get Election Information on Social Media
If a Facebook page or an Instagram post is offering the location of your polling place, you should double check that with your local elections office, the FBI director said Thursday at a congressional hearing. Better yet,
don't get your election information from social media at all. From a report:
The House Committee on Homeland Security hosted on Thursday its annual worldwide threats hearing, where intelligence agencies in past years have warned about international cyberattacks and online disinformation. [...] The FBI director said that social networks like Facebook and Twitter have worked with the bureau to take down disinformation campaigns, but he also warned Americans against getting election information on those platforms. "It's particularly of concern to us in the election context when Americans make the mistake of getting information about elections themselves on social media," Wray said. "We're trying to make sure Americans know [that] to get information about where, when and how you vote, you need to go to your local election official's website. Don't take it from social media."
Amazon Defends Working With Oil Companies To Reach Its Zero-Carbon Goal
Partnering with oil and gas producers is
necessary for Amazon and other companies to achieve their climate goals, the tech giant's chief of sustainability, Kara Hurst, said during an Axios virtual event on Thursday. From a report:
Amazon aims to hit carbon neutrality in 2040, 10 years earlier than the Paris climate accord. The company plans to reach its goal in part by helping companies develop climate-friendly technologies through a $2 billion venture fund. The first recipients were announced on Thursday. "Amazon, like every other company you just mentioned -- Google, Microsoft, many tech companies -- works across a wide variety of industries. And I believe it's absolutely necessary to work with those types of industries to create transformation," referring to oil companies.
Twitter Orders Politicians, Journalists To Fortify Passwords Before Election
Twitter will require certain political candidates, elected officials and journalists to
beef up their passwords, the company said Thursday, in an effort to head off any more breaches of high-profile accounts as the 2020 election draws near. From a report:
The change comes two months after an embarrassing cyberattack in which hackers exploited Twitter employees' credentials to wrest control of dozens of accounts, including those of former President Barack Obama, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and Microsoft founder Bill Gates. The steps announced Thursday would not have prevented that hack but could foil less sophisticated exploits. Accounts deemed to have weak passwords will be compelled to make them stronger, and those users must now verify their phone number or email address before making password changes. The social media company will also encourage, but not force, high-profile users to implement two-factor authentication, a security measure that requires them to input a unique code in addition to their password.
Mozilla Shuts Down Firefox Send and Firefox Notes Services
Mozilla is shutting down two of its legacy products,
Firefox Send and Firefox Notes, the company announced today. From a report:
"Both services are being decommissioned and will no longer be a part of our product family," a Mozilla spokesperson told ZDNet this week. Of the two, the most beloved was Firefox Send, a free file-sharing service, and one of the few that supported sharing files in encrypted formats. Launched in March 2019, the service gained a dedicated fanbase but Send was taken offline earlier this summer after ZDNet reported on its constant abuse by malware groups. At the time, Mozilla said that Send's shutdown was temporary and promised to find a way to curb the service's abuse in malware operations. But weeks later, things changed after Mozilla leadership laid off more than 250 employees as part of an effort to re-focus its business on commercial products.
A Utah Company Claims It Invented Contact Tracing Tech
In the fight against Covid-19, contact tracing apps have so far largely been disappointments -- in the United States, at least. Proposed in the spring as a way to help quickly stifle viral outbreaks by tracking down potential exposures using smartphones, they were stunted by technical glitches, concerns over privacy, and the US's fragmented, haphazard pandemic response. Now, they may become mired in a fight over patents. From a report:
The challenge comes from Blyncsy, a Salt Lake City-based maker of software that helps cities gather and analyze mobility data. In recent weeks, the company has sent claims seeking the equivalent of $1 per resident to states that have released or plan to release contact tracing apps, including Pennsylvania, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Virginia. The company holds three patents related to contact tracing. One of them, granted in February 2019, for "tracking proximity relationships and uses thereof," describes methods of tracking the spread of "contagion" using technology such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and cellular signals. Apps launched by public health agencies during the Covid-19 pandemic infringe upon it, the company says.
In April, Blyncsy launched a portal for others to request a license for its technology and submit plans for a privacy review. That was shortly after Google and Apple jointly announced an effort to get contact tracing technology in the hands of state and national governments, using Bluetooth features on the companies' smartphones. Blyncsy did not get any takers. "State governments have taken it upon themselves to roll out a solution in their name in which they're using our property without compensation," says Blyncsy CEO Mark Pittman. He describes the current crop of contact tracing apps as "fly-by-night" efforts and says his patent fight is driven by concerns about their privacy and effectiveness, not an attempt to profit.
Voice Assistants Are Doing a Poor Job of Conveying Information About Voting
reporting for VentureBeat:
Over 111.8 million people in the U.S. talk to voice assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant every month, eMarketer estimates. Tens of millions of those people use assistants as data-finding tools, with the Global Web Index reporting that 25% of adults regularly perform voice searches on smartphones. But while voice assistants can answer questions about pop culture and world events like a pro, preliminary evidence suggests they struggle to supply information about elections. In a test of popular assistants' abilities to provide accurate, localized context concerning the upcoming U.S. presidential election, VentureBeat asked Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant a set of standardized questions about procedures, deadlines, and misconceptions about voting. In general, the assistants fared relatively poorly, often answering questions with information about voting in other states or punting questions to the web instead of answering them directly.
First Intel Tiger Lake Benchmarks Show Big CPU and Graphics Performance Gains
Intel formally announced its 11th Gen Core mobile processor family, known by the code name Tiger Lake, a few weeks back and made some bold performance claims for it as well. The company even compared its quad-core variant to AMD's 8-core Ryzen 7 4800U in gaming and content creation. Today Intel lifted the embargo veil on benchmarks with its Core i7-1185G7 Tiger Lake CPU with on-board Iris Xe graphics and there's no question Tiger Lake is impressive. Intel indeed achieved single-threaded performance gains north of 20% with even larger deltas for multithreaded throughput in some cases as well. In addition, Tiger Lake's integrated Iris Xe graphics put up over 2X the gaming performance over the company's 10th Gen Ice Lake processors, and it looks to be the fastest integrated graphics solution for laptops on the market currently, besting AMD's Ryzen 4000 series as well. Battery life measurements are still out, however, as retail ready products have yet to hit the channel. Intel notes Tiger Lake-powered laptops from OEM partners should be available in the next month or so.
Google 'Formally' Bans Stalkerware Apps From the Play Store
Google has updated its Play Store rules to
impose a "formal" ban on stalkerware apps, but the company has left a pretty huge loophole in place for stalkerware to be uploaded on the official store as child-tracking applications. From a report:
Stalkerware is a term used to describe apps that track a user's movements, snoop on calls and messages, and record other apps' activity. Stalkerware, also known as spouseware, is usually advertised to users as a way to discover cheating partners, track children while outside their homes, and as a way to keep an eye on employees at work. The primary feature of all stalkerware apps, regardless if they're intended to be used on smartphones or laptops, is that these apps can be installed and run without the device owner's knowledge, operating in the operating system's background. Over the past decade, the Play Store has hosted hundreds of applications that fit into the stalkerware category. Google, which has intervened to take down stalkerware apps when they've been pointed out by security researchers, has usually avoided making public statements on the topic.
Cloudflare and the Wayback Machine, Joining Forces For a More Reliable Web
Cloudflare and the Internet Archive are now working together to help make the web more reliable. Websites that enable Cloudflare's Always Online service
will now have their content automatically archived, and if by chance the original host is not available to Cloudflare, then the Internet Archive will step in to make sure the pages get through to users. From a report:
Cloudflare has become core infrastructure for the Web, and we are glad we can be helpful in making a more reliable web for everyone."The Internet Archive's Wayback Machine has an impressive infrastructure that can archive the web at scale," said Matthew Prince, co-founder and CEO of Cloudflare. "By working together, we can take another step toward making the Internet more resilient by stopping server issues for our customers and in turn from interrupting businesses and users online."
For more than 20 years the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine has been archiving much of the public Web, and making those archives available to journalists, researchers, activists, academics and the general public, in total to hundreds of thousands of people a day. To date more than 468 billion Web pages are available via the Wayback Machine and we are adding more than 1 billion new archived URLs/day. We archive URLs that are identified via a variety of different methods, such as "crawling" from lists of millions of sites, as submitted by users via the Wayback Machine's "Save Page Now" feature, added to Wikipedia articles, referenced in Tweets, and based on a number of other "signals" and sources, such multiple feeds of "news" stories. An additional source of URLs we will preserve now originates from customers of Cloudflare's Always Online service. As new URLs are added to sites that use that service they are submitted for archiving to the Wayback Machine. In some cases this will be the first time a URL will be seen by our system and result in a "First Archive" event.
Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott Hacked After Posting Boarding Pass on Instagram
Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott had his
phone number and passport details obtained by a hacker after posting a picture of his boarding pass on Instagram. From a report:
Hacker Alex Hope said he uncovered Mr Abbott's details from his Qantas boarding pass in just 45 minutes. He then spent months attempting to contact Mr Abbott to alert him of the security breach. Qantas said it had now updated its cyber security protocols. Mr Abbott posted an image of a boarding pass for his flight from Sydney to Tokyo on 21 March on his Instagram account, thanking the crew. Mr Hope said he received a message from a friend daring him to hack the former prime minister as they had recently been discussing the dangers of posting your boarding pass online. The hacker explained in a blog post published on Wednesday that he was able to find Mr Abbott's information because his booking reference was printed on the boarding pass.
He was then able to log in to Mr Abbott's booking and search through HTML code to find his passport number and phone number. The code also included conversations with Qantas staff about Mr Abbott. "I had Tony Abbott's passport number, phone number and weird Qantas messages about him. I was the only one who knew I had these," Mr Hope said in a blog post. "Anyone who saw that Instagram post could also have them. I felt like I had to like, tell someone about this. Someone with like, responsibilities. Someone with an email signature." Mr Hope said he contacted the Australian Signals Directorate which handles cyber security. They thanked him for bringing the issue to their attention and said they would investigate.
YouTube's Recommendation System is Criticized as Harmful. Mozilla Wants To Research It
YouTube's video recommendation system has been repeatedly accused by critics of sending people down rabbit holes of disinformation and extremism. Now Mozilla, the nonprofit that makes the Firefox browser, wants YouTube's users to help it
research how the controversial algorithms work. From a report:
Mozilla on Thursday announced a project that asks people to download a software tool that gives Mozilla's researchers information on what video recommendations people are receiving on the Google-owned platform. YouTube's algorithms recommend videos in the "What's next" column along the right side of the screen, inside the video player after the content has ended, or on the site's homepage. Each recommendation is tailored to the person watching, taking into account things like their watch history, list of channel subscriptions or location. The recommendations can be benign, like another live performance from the band you're watching. But critics say YouTube's recommendations can also lead viewers to fringe content, like medical misinformation or conspiracy theories.
Patient Dies After Hospital Hit By Ransomware Attack
A patient died after a German hospital was hit by ransomware attack, when hackers thought they were targeting a university. German authorities said that what appears to have been a misdirected hacker attack impacted systems at a major hospital in Duesseldorf, and a woman who needed urgent admission died after she had to be taken to another city for treatment. Duesseldorf police established contact and told the attacker that the hospital, and not the university, had been affected, endangering patients. The attacker then withdrew the extortion attempt and provided a digital key to decrypt the data.
Amazon Plans To Put 1,000 Warehouses In Suburban Neighborhoods
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg:
Amazon plans to open 1,000 small delivery hubs in cities and suburbs all over the U.S., according to people familiar with the plans. The facilities, which will eventually number about 1,500, will bring products closer to customers, making shopping online about as fast as a quick run to the store. It will also help the world's largest e-commerce company take on a resurgent Walmart. Amazon couldn't fulfill its two-day delivery pledge earlier this year when shoppers in Covid-19 lockdown flooded the company with more orders than it could handle. While delivery times have improved thanks to the hiring of 175,000 new workers, Amazon is now consumed with honoring a pre-pandemic pledge to get many products to Prime subscribers on the same day. So with the holidays approaching, Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos is doubling down by investing billions in proximity, putting warehouses and swarms of blue vans in neighborhoods long populated with car dealerships, fast-food joints, shopping malls and big-box stores. Amazon didn't comment on the expansion plans, but has said its last-mile delivery efforts are meant to supplement, not replace, its long-time partners. "Our dedicated last-mile delivery network just delivered its 10 billionth package since launching over five years ago, and we're proud to provide a great service for our customers," an Amazon spokeswoman said.
"In just a few years, Amazon has built its own UPS," says Marc Wulfraat, president of the logistics consulting firm MWPVL International Inc., who estimates Amazon will deliver 67% of its own packages this year and increase that to 85%. "Amazon keeps spreading itself around the country, and as it does, its reliance on UPS will go away."
Disney+ Takes First Emmy Win With 'The Mandalorian' For Visual Effects
At the Creative Arts Emmys on Wednesday night, The Mandalorian not only scored its first Emmy but also
won the first Emmy for Disney+. Deadline reports:
As a brand new streamer, this year marks the first year of eligibility for Disney+. The Mandalorian has racked up a staggering 15 Emmy nominations with 8 of those trophies being handed out tonight. Outstanding Special Visual Effects is the first win for the sci-fi series that stars Pedro Pascal as the titular masked hero and introduced the world to Baby Yoda -- which won everyone's hearts. This win will likely be the first of many tonight and at Sunday's ceremony. The Mandalorian is also up for Outstanding Drama Series as well as Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance for Taika Waitti's role as droid IG-11 and Outstanding Guest Actor In A Drama Series for Giancarlo Esposito's performance as Moff Gideon.
Scientists Say a Mind-Bending Rhythm In the Brain Can Act Like Ketamine
In mice and one person, scientists were
able to reproduce out-of-body experiences often associated with ketamine by inducing certain brain cells to fire together in a slow-rhythmic fashion. The findings have been
published in the journal Nature. NPR reports:
"There was a rhythm that appeared and it was an oscillation that appeared only when the patient was dissociating," says Dr. Karl Deisseroth, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist at Stanford University. Dissociation is a brain state in which a person feels separated from their own thoughts, feelings and body. It is common in people with some mental illnesses, or who have experienced a traumatic event. It can also be induced by certain drugs, including ketamine and PCP (angel dust). Deisseroth's lab made the discovery while studying the brains of mice that had been given ketamine or other drugs that cause dissociation. The team was using technology that allowed them to monitor the activity of cells throughout the brain
"It was like pointing a telescope at a new part of the sky," Deisseroth says. "And something really unexpected jumped out at us." What jumped out was a very distinct rhythm produced by cells in an area involved in learning and navigation. Those cells were firing three times each second. To learn more, the team used a tool called optogenetics, which Deisseroth helped invent. It uses light to control the firing of specific cells in the brain. As a result, the team was able to artificially generate this rhythm in the brains of mice. We could see, right before our eyes, dissociation happening," Deisseroth says.