Privacy

Researchers From MIT and Harvard University Present a Paper Describing a New System, Dubbed Veil, That Makes Private Browsing More Private (mit.edu) 7

From a blog post on MIT News Office: Veil would provide added protections to people using shared computers in offices, hotel business centers, or university computing centers, and it can be used in conjunction with existing private-browsing systems and with anonymity networks such as Tor, which was designed to protect the identity of web users living under repressive regimes. "Veil was motivated by all this research that was done previously in the security community that said, 'Private-browsing modes are leaky -- Here are 10 different ways that they leak,'" says Frank Wang, an MIT graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science and first author on the paper. "We asked, 'What is the fundamental problem?' And the fundamental problem is that [the browser] collects this information, and then the browser does its best effort to fix it. But at the end of the day, no matter what the browser's best effort is, it still collects it. We might as well not collect that information in the first place."
Data Storage

Dropbox Shows How It Manages Costs By Deleting Inactive Accounts (cnbc.com) 9

Dropbox employs a somewhat unusual technique to lower its costs, the cloud software company revealed on Friday in its filing to go public . From a report: In a process the company calls "infrastructure optimization," Dropbox said it deletes users' accounts if they don't sign in for a year and don't respond to emails. That keeps the company from incurring storage costs for inactive users, a tactic Yahoo has used in the past. Dropbox said that the costs of revenue dropped 6 percent in 2017 to $21.7 million, mostly due to a $35.1 million reduction "in our infrastructure costs." As it prepares to lure public market investors, Dropbox is paying particularly close attention to its expenses. The company operates in an intensively competitive market against vendors including Apple, Amazon, Box, Google and Microsoft. Once reliant on Amazon Web Services , Dropbox has moved away from public cloud in recent years and has been building its own data center infrastructure to store the majority of user data. Another way it's managed costs is by making sure that there weren't too many copies of users' files on third-party infrastructure.
Bitcoin

Nearly Half of 2017's Cryptocurrencies Have Already Failed (engadget.com) 7

An anonymous reader shares an Engadget report: The surging price of bitcoin (among others) in 2017 led more than a few companies to hop on the cryptocurrency bandwagon with hopes of striking it rich almost overnight. Many of their initial coin offerings seemed dodgy from the outset... and it turns out they were. Bitcoin.com has conducted a study of ICOs tracked by Tokendata, and a whopping 46 percent of the 902 crowdsale-based virtual currencies have already failed. Of these, 142 never got enough funding; another 276 have either slowly faded away or were out scams.
Businesses

Visa Claims Chip Cards Reduced Fraud By 70% (arstechnica.com) 144

An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: Although only 59 percent of US storefronts have terminals that accept chip cards, fraud has dropped 70 percent from September 2015 to December 2017 for those retailers that have completed the chip upgrade, according to Visa.

There are a few ways to interpret those numbers. First, it seems like two years has resulted in staggeringly little progress in encouraging storefronts to shift from magnetic stripe to chip-embedded cards, given that in early 2016, 37 percent of US storefronts were able to process chip cards. On the other hand, fraud dropping 70 percent for retailers who install chip cards seems great. Chip-embedded cards aren't un-hackable, but they do make it harder to steal card numbers en masse as we saw in the Target's 2013 breach.

The Almighty Buck

Is Cryptocurrency Threatening Earnings at Bank of America? (thenextweb.com) 45

An anonymous reader quotes The Next Web: One of the world's largest financial institutions admitted in its annual report that cryptocurrency is a looming threat to its business model. According to a report filed with the SEC by Bank of America, "Clients may choose to conduct business with other market participants who engage in business or offer products in areas we deem speculative or risky, such as cryptocurrencies. Increased competition may negatively affect our earnings by creating pressure to lower prices or credit standards on our products and services requiring additional investment to improve the quality and delivery of our technology and/or reducing our market share, or affecting the willingness of clients to do business with us."
Communications

Signal, WhatsApp Co-Founder Launch 'Open Source Privacy Technology' Nonprofit (thenextweb.com) 43

An anonymous reader quotes The Next Web:One of the first messaging services to offer end-to-end encryption for truly private conversations, Signal has largely been developed by a team that's never grown larger than three full-time developers over the years it's been around. Now, it's getting a shot in the arm from the co-founder of a rival app. Brian Acton, who built WhatsApp with Jan Koum into a $19 billion business and sold it to Facebook, is pouring $50 million into an initiative to support the ongoing development of Signal. Having left WhatsApp last fall, he's now free to explore projects whose ideals he agrees with, and that includes creating truly private online services.
"Starting with an initial $50,000,000 in funding, we can now increase the size of our team, our capacity, and our ambitions," wrote Signal founder Moxie Marlinspike (a former Twitter executive).

Acton will now also serve as the executive chairman of the newly-formed Signal Foundation, which according to its web site will "develop open source privacy technology that protects free expression and enables secure global communication."
The Courts

BuzzFeed Unmasks Mastermind Who Urged Peter Thiel To Destroy Gawker (buzzfeed.com) 150

One day in 2011 a 26-year-old approached Peter Thiel and said "Look, I think if we datamined Gawker's history, we could find weak points that we could exploit in the court of law," according to the author of a new book. An anonymous reader quotes BuzzFeed News: Peter Thiel's campaign to ruin Gawker Media was conceived and orchestrated by a previously unknown associate who served as a middleman, allowing the billionaire to conceal his involvement in the bankrolling of lawsuits that eventually drove the New York media outlet into bankruptcy. BuzzFeed News has confirmed the identity of that mystery conspirator, known in Thiel's inner circle as "Mr. A," with multiple sources who said that he provided the venture capitalist and Facebook board member with a blueprint to covertly attack Gawker in court. That man, an Oxford-educated Australian citizen named Aron D'Souza, has few known connections to Thiel, but approached him in 2011 with an elaborate proposal to use a legal strategy to wipe out the media organization. That plot ultimately succeeded... D'Souza was aware of Thiel's public comments likening Valleywag to al-Qaeda, and presented a brazen idea: Pay someone or create a company to hire lawyers to go after Gawker.
TechCrunch reported earlier this month that Gawker's old posts "will be captured and saved by the non-profit Freedom of the Press Foundation," which was co-founded in 2012 by the late John Perry Barlow. But in addition, the Gawker estate "continues to threaten possible legal action against Thiel, and hopes to begin discovery to examine the billionaire's motivations for secretly funding his legal war," the article concludes. If a New York bankruptcy court approves, and if the process "unearths anything of meaning, the estate may have grounds to sue Thiel on the grounds of tortious interference, the use of legal means to purposely disrupt a business.

"To head that off, Thiel bid for the remaining Gawker assets -- including the flapship domain Gawker.com, its archive, and outstanding legal claims, like those against himself -- though Holden has made it known that he may block any sale to Thiel, no matter how much the venture capitalist is willing to bid."
Businesses

Dropbox Files To Go Public 40

Ten years after its launch, Dropbox has filed to go public. The cloud storage company has been around since 2007 and has raised more than $600 million in funding. TechCrunch reports: We knew that it had already filed confidentially, but the company has now unveiled its filing, meaning the actual IPO is likely very soon, probably late March. The company says it will be targeting a $500 million fundraise, but this number is usually just a placeholder. The filing shows that Dropbox had $1.1 billion in revenue last year. This compares to $845 million in revenue the year before and $604 million for 2015. The company is not yet profitable, having lost nearly $112 million last year. This shows significantly improved margins when compared to losses of $210 million for 2016 and $326 million for 2015. Dropbox has been cash flow positive since 2016.
Power

Tesla Will Supply Free Charging Stations To Office Parking Lots 36

Tesla has unveiled a new "workplace charging" program today, which offers businesses free Tesla wall connectors and will also cover installation, provided they meet certain qualifications set forth by the California carmaker. "Tesla won't cover the cost of operating the charging stations, and the company says there could be other permitting, construction, zoning, or labor costs," reports The Verge. From the report: The workplace charging stations will be compatible with all Tesla cars, but not with other EVs, and they won't show up on publicly available Tesla charging maps. The wall chargers are 240 volts, or "Level 2," which is capable of topping off a battery pack in a handful of hours, though the company says the charge rate will vary by location depending on the infrastructure available.
Bug

'Critical' T-Mobile Bug Allowed Hackers To Hijack Users' Accounts (vice.com) 16

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: The vulnerability was found and reported by a security researcher on December 19 of last year, but it hasn't been revealed until now. Within a day, T-Mobile classified it as "critical," patched the bug, and gave the researcher a $5,000 reward. That's good news, but it's unclear how long the site was vulnerable and whether any malicious hackers found and exploited the bug before it was fixed. The newly disclosed bug allowed hackers to log into T-Mobile's account website as any customer. "It's literally like logging into your account and then stepping away from the keyboard and letting the attacker sit down," Scott Helme, a security researcher who reviewed the bug report, told Motherboard in an online chat. Shortly after we published this story, a T-Mobile spokesperson sent us a statement: "This bug was confidentially reported through our Bug Bounty program in December and fixed within a matter of hours," the emailed statement read. "We found no evidence of customer information being compromised."
The Courts

Manafort Left an Incriminating Paper Trail Because He Couldn't Figure Out How to Convert PDFs to Word Files (slate.com) 186

There are two types of people in this world: those who know how to convert PDFs into Word documents and those who are indicted for money laundering. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is the second kind of person , Slate reports. From the report: Back in October, a grand jury indictment charged Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates with a variety of crimes, including conspiring "to defraud the United States." On Thursday, special counsel Robert Mueller filed a new indictment against the pair, substantially expanding the charges. As one former federal prosecutor told the Washington Post, Manafort and Gates' methods appear to have been "extensive and bold and greedy with a capital 'G,' but ... not all that sophisticated." One new detail from the indictment, however, points to just how unsophisticated Manafort seems to have been. Here's the relevant passage from the indictment. I've bolded the most important bits:

Manafort and Gates made numerous false and fraudulent representations to secure the loans. For example, Manafort provided the bank with doctored [profit and loss statements] for [Davis Manafort Inc.] for both 2015 and 2016, overstating its income by millions of dollars. The doctored 2015 DMI P&L submitted to Lender D was the same false statement previously submitted to Lender C, which overstated DMI's income by more than $4 million. The doctored 2016 DMI P&L was inflated by Manafort by more than $3.5 million. To create the false 2016 P&L, on or about October 21, 2016, Manafort emailed Gates a .pdf version of the real 2016 DMI P&L, which showed a loss of more than $600,000. Gates converted that .pdf into a "Word" document so that it could be edited, which Gates sent back to Manafort. Manafort altered that "Word" document by adding more than $3.5 million in income. He then sent this falsified P&L to Gates and asked that the "Word" document be converted back to a .pdf, which Gates did and returned to Manafort. Manafort then sent the falsified 2016 DMI P&L .pdf to Lender D.
So here's the essence of what went wrong for Manafort and Gates, according to Mueller's investigation: Manafort allegedly wanted to falsify his company's income, but he couldn't figure out how to edit the PDF.
United States

From 1999 To 2016, America Lost 11.4 Million People From the Workforce (washingtonpost.com) 148

Andrew Van Dam, writing for the Washington Post: Where did all the jobs go? Well, we're finally starting to find some satisfactory answers to the granddaddy of all economic questions. The share of Americans with jobs dropped 4.5 percentage points from 1999 to 2016 -- amounting to about 11.4 million fewer workers in 2016. At least half of that decline probably was due to an aging population. Explaining the remainder has been the inspiration for much of the economic research published after the Great Recession.
Transportation

Airlines Won't Dare Use the Fastest Way to Board Planes (wired.com) 294

An anonymous reader writes: You've arrived at the airport early. You have already selected the perfect seat. You've employed all possible tricks for making the check-in and security processes zoom by. But there's still some blood-pressure-raising chaos you can't avoid: boarding. From impatient fellow travelers who are determined to beat you onto the plane to passengers who insist on jamming their too-big carry-ons into overhead bins, making your way to your seat can be straight-up hellish -- and Wired's Alex Davies offers up a cheery explanation of why the situation is unlikely to improve any time soon. It's not that airlines aren't trying. In fact, United is in the middle of a months-long test at LAX that involves splitting its five groups of passengers into two lines, instead of five, to see whether that will make boarding less painful. But there are some basic measures that airlines could be taking to speed things up -- offering free baggage check, for instance, or cutting down on early boarding perks -- if they weren't so worried about their bottom lines. "The question for the airlines, then, is not how to get everyone onto a plane as quickly as possible," Davies writes. "It's how to get everyone onto a plane as quickly as possible while still charging them extra for bags, doting on the regular customers, and maintaining the system that, like all class structures, serves whoever built it."
Government

Supreme Court Declines To Broaden Whistleblower Protections (reuters.com) 61

The U.S. Supreme Court this week refused to broaden protections for corporate insiders who call out misconduct, ruling they must take claims of wrongdoing to the Securities and Exchange Commission in order to be shielded against retaliation. From a report: The justices ruled 9-0 in favor of Digital Realty Trust, throwing out a lawsuit brought against the California-based real estate trust by a fired former employee who had reported alleged wrongdoing only internally and not to the SEC. The 2010 Wall Street reform law known as the Dodd-Frank Act is unambiguous in offering no protection from retaliation such as firing or demotion to employees who report claims of securities law violations only in-house, the court ruled.
Robotics

'Automating Jobs Is How Society Makes Progress' (qz.com) 231

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz, written by Per Bylund, assistant professor at Oklahoma State University: Analysts discuss the automation of jobs as if robots are rising from the sea like Godzilla, rampaging through the Tokyo of stable employment, and leaving only chaos in their wake. According to data from PWC, 38% of jobs in the U.S. could become automated by the early 2030s. Meanwhile, a report from Ball State University's Center for Business and Economic Research warned that half of all American jobs could be replaced by automation. These prophecies of doom fail to recognize that automation and increased productivity are nothing new. From the cotton gin to the computer, automation has been happening for centuries. Consider the way automation has improved the mining industry over the past 100 years. Without machines, humans were forced to crawl into unstable passageways and chip away at rocks with primitive tools while avoiding the ever-present dangers of gas poisoning and cave-ins. Not only was this approach terrible for health, but it was also a highly inefficient use of skilled human laborers. With machines doing the heavy lifting, society was able to dedicate resources to building, servicing, and running the machinery.

Fewer people now do the traditional physical labor, but this advancement is celebrated rather than mourned. By letting machines handle the more tedious -- and, in some cases, dangerous -- tasks, people were liberated to use their labor in more efficient, effective, and fulfilling ways. Critics of automation miss the point. Nobody works for the sake of work -- people strive to create value, which helps pay our salaries and feed our families. Automation effectively opens the door for more new endeavors that will elevate our species to greater heights. Just as past generations turned away the mines for better careers, modern workers whose jobs are altered by automation will see their roles in society evolve rather than disappear.

AI

Elon Musk Steps Down From AI Safety Group To Avoid Conflict of Interest With Tesla 32

New submitter the gmr writes: According to an announcement on the OpenAI blog, Elon Musk has stepped down from the board of directors of the nonprofit AI safety group, which he co-founded in 2015, due potential conflict of interest with his company Tesla. As explained in a post on Futurism, the move away from OpenAI may indicate that Tesla may be moving forward with more AI projects than most people may realize. Musk's departure may mean that Tesla is closer to delivering vehicles capable of Level 5 autonomy, "fully self-driving" vehicles that more than 35,000 Tesla customers paid for even though the technology does not yet exist. "Elon Musk will depart the OpenAI Board but will continue to donate and advise the organization," the announcement reads. "As Tesla continues to become more focused on AI, this will eliminate a potential future conflict for Elon." The OpenAI board of directors now consists of Greg Brockman, Ilya Sutskever, Holden Karnofsky, and Sam Altman, with whom Musk co-founded the venture. The company reportedly plans to not only fill Musk's seat but expand their team as well.

"Open AI has also been a prominent voice in the conversation concerning the limitations, challenges, and potential dangers of artificial intelligence," reports Futurism. "Just this week, the company co-released a report with a number of other global AI experts that outlines the potential 'malicious' uses of the technology and how to prevent them."
Businesses

Venezuela Says Its Cryptocurrency Raised $735 Million -- But It's a Farce (arstechnica.com) 89

Earlier this week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro claimed that a new state-sponsored cryptocurrency called the petro raised $735 million on the first day of its sale. ArsTechnica dives deep on the matter to suggest that it's all a farce. From the report: The government hasn't provided any way to independently verify that $735 million figure. And there's reason to doubt almost everything the Venezuelan government has said about the project. Moreover, there's little reason to believe that the petro will maintain its value over time. The Venezuelan government has portrayed petro tokens as backed by Venezuela's vast oil reserves, but they're not. The government is merely promising to accept tax payments in petros at a government-determined exchange rate linked to oil prices. Given the Venezuelan government's history of manipulating exchange rates, experts say investors should be wary of this arrangement. Moreover, the petro scheme has been opposed by opposition legislators in Venezuela's opposition-controlled legislature. They say that the Maduro government is essentially issuing oil-backed debt, and legally that can't be done without approval from the legislature. If Maduro falls from power in the future, his successor might refuse to honor petro redemptions.
Businesses

Disney Loses in Redbox Copyright Row (bbc.com) 159

Disney has lost a bid to stop movie rental company Redbox from reselling download codes for its films. From a report: Redbox bought Disney movies on DVD to offer for rental in its kiosks. The DVDs were often bundled with a code to download a copy of the film. Disney requested an injunction to stop the practice, saying that Redbox had no business arrangement with it. A California federal judge accused Disney of "copyright misuse." Redbox rents and sells movies via tens of thousands of automated kiosks that dispense DVD and Blu-ray discs.
Businesses

Uber Will 'Invest Aggressively' In India And Southeast Asia, CEO Says (buzzfeed.com) 22

Pranav Dixit, writing for BuzzFeed News: Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber's CEO of six months, said on Thursday that the ride-hailing service would continue to invest aggressively in both Southeast Asia and India, where the company is losing money and faces strong competition from local players like Grab and Ola. Uber has been slow to expand its presence in India and Southeast Asia, allowing competitors to quickly gain ground. Singapore's Grab, for instance, claimed to have 95% of the country's ride-hailing market share last year. And Ola, Uber's Indian rival, currently operates in 110 cities against Uber's 29 cities. Ola does 1 billion rides annually, compared to Uber, which announced in mid-2017 that it completed 500 million total rides in the country in its first four years of operations. "We expect to lose money in Southeast Asia and expect to invest aggressively in terms of marketing, subsidies, etc.," Khosrowshahi told reporters in India, which is Uber's fastest-growing market outside the United States, and where he is currently on his first official tour. While Uber's India operation is not yet profitable, it does account for 10% of Uber's rides globally.
Businesses

Amazon May Open Up To Six More Automated Stores This Year (engadget.com) 82

Amazon may have opened its automated convenience store a year late, but it looks like it's been a pretty big success. From a report: Recode learned that the company plans on opening six more of its Amazon Go stores in 2018. It's not clear where these stores will be located, though Recode reports that more locations are likely in Seattle, and Amazon is in talks with the developer of The Grove in Los Angeles. Amazon Go is billed as the convenience store of the future. There are no checkout lines; you can simply walk in, grab what you want, and leave. You scan in with a smartphone app, and then an AI tracks what you take from the shelves and automatically charges you for them.

Slashdot Top Deals