The Courts

Yelp Files New EU Complaint Against Google Over Search Dominance (ft.com) 4

Yelp has filed a complaint with the EU's antitrust watchdog against Google, arguing that the search company has abused its dominance in local search and pressuring Brussels to launch new charges against the tech giant, Financial Times reported Tuesday. From the report: European antitrust authorities fined Google $2.8B in June 2017 for favouring its own shopping service over rival offerings in its search results. Google denied wrongdoing and has appealed that decision. Now Yelp, which provides user ratings, reviews and other information about local businesses, wants Margrethe Vestager, the EU Competition Commissioner, to take action against Google for similar alleged abuse in the local search market, according to a copy of the complaint seen by the Financial Times. The move comes days after Yelp founder Jeremy Stopplelman appeared on 60 Minutes to talk about Google's search monopoly. Here's the exchange he had with reporter Steve Kroft: Jeremy Stoppelman: If I were starting out today, I would have no shot of building Yelp. That opportunity has been closed off by Google and their approach.
Steve Kroft: In what way?
Jeremy Stoppelman: Because if you provide great content in one of these categories that is lucrative to Google, and seen as potentially threatening, they will snuff you out.
Steve Kroft: What do you mean snuff you out?
Jeremy Stoppelman: They will make you disappear. They will bury you.

Communications

Senators Demand FCC Answer For Fake Comments After Realizing Their Identities Were Stolen (gizmodo.com) 40

Two US senators -- one Republican, one Democrat who both had their identities stolen and then used to post fake public comments on net neutrality -- are calling on FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to address how as many as two million fake comments were filed under stolen names. From a report: Senators Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, and Pat Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, are among the estimated "two million Americans" whose identities were used to file comments to the FCC without their consent. "The federal rulemaking process is an essential part of our democracy and allows Americans the opportunity to express their opinions on how government agencies decide important regulatory issues," the pair of lawmakers wrote [PDF].

"As such, we are concerned about the aforementioned fraudulent activity. We need to prevent the deliberate misuse of Americans' personal information and ensure that the FCC is working to protect against current and future vulnerabilities in its system. We encourage the FCC to determine who facilitated these fake comments," the letter continues. "While we understand and agree with the need to protect individuals' privacy, we request that the FCC share with the public the total number of fake comments that were filed."

The Internet

The Wayback Machine is Deleting Evidence of Malware Sold To Stalkers (vice.com) 30

The Internet Archive's Wayback Machine is a service that preserves web pages. But the site has been deleting evidence of companies selling malware to illegally spy on spouses, Motherboard reported Tuesday. From the report: The company in question is FlexiSpy, a Thailand-based firm which offers desktop and mobile malware. The spyware can intercept phone calls, remotely turn on a device's microphone and camera, steal emails and social media messages, as well as track a target's GPS location. Previously, pages from FlexiSpy's website saved to the Wayback Machine showed a customer survey, with over 50 percent of respondents saying they were interested in a spy phone product because they believe their partner may be cheating. That particular graphic was mentioned in a recent New York Times piece on the consumer spyware market.

In another example, a Wayback Machine archive of FlexiSpy's homepage showed one of the company's catchphrases: "Many spouses cheat. They all use cell phones. Their cell phone will tell you what they won't." Now, those pages are no longer on the Wayback Machine. Instead, when trying to view seemingly any page from FlexiSpy's domain on the archiving service, the page reads "This URL has been excluded from the Wayback Machine."

Microsoft

The Whole World is Now a Computer, Says Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (zdnet.com) 88

Thanks to cloud computing, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence, we should start to think of the planet as one giant computer, according to Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella. From a report: "Digital technology, pervasively, is getting embedded in every place: every thing, every person, every walk of life is being fundamentally shaped by digital technology -- it is happening in our homes, our work, our places of entertainment," said Nadella speaking in London. "It's amazing to think of a world as a computer. I think that's the right metaphor for us as we go forward."

[...] AI is core to Microsoft's strategy, Nadella said: "AI is the run time which is going to shape all of what we do going forward in terms of applications as well as the platform." Microsoft is rethinking its core products by using AI to connect them together, he said, giving an example of a meeting using translation, transcription, Microsoft's HoloLens and other devices to improve decision-making. "The idea that you can now use all of the computing power that is around you -- this notion of the world as a computer -- completely changes how you conduct a meeting and fundamentally what presence means for a meeting," he said.

Businesses

Twitter Is Killing Several of Its TV Apps, Too (techcrunch.com) 26

Twitter is shutting down its TV apps on Roku, Android TV and Xbox starting on May 24, the company announced this morning. From a report: The news of the apps' closure comes at a time when Twitter is now trying to steer its users to its first-party mobile apps and its desktop website by killing off apps used by a minority of its user base -- like the Twitter for Mac app it shut down earlier this year. And more recently, it has attempted to kill off popular third-party Mac apps with a series of unfriendly API changes.

It's unclear why this has become Twitter's agenda. While it can be a burden for a company to support a broader ecosystem of apps where some only have a niche audience, in some cases those "niche" users are also the most influential and heavy users. And arguably, anyone launching Twitter's app on their TV must be a die-hard user -- because who is really watching that much Twitter on their TV?

Technology

Faster Audio Decoding and Encoding Coming To Ogg and FLAC (phoronix.com) 60

FLAC and Ogg now have faster audio encoding and decoding capabilities thanks to recent code improvements. An anonymous reader writes: Robert Kausch of the fre:ac audio converter project informed news outlet Phoronix about recent changes he has made to FLAC and Ogg for bolstering faster performance. Kausch says he updated the CRC checks within FLAC and Ogg to a faster algorithm and those patches have now been accepted upstream. The Ogg and FLAC updates were merged this week for using the optimized CRC algorithm. As a result of this, encoding and decoding FLAC is now 5 percent faster, while encoding and decoding Ogg FLAC is 10 percent and 15 percent faster, respectively. Opus sees about one percent faster decoding, while Vorbis does decoding at two percent faster pace.
Security

90% of Financial Institutions Targeted By Ransomware in the Last Year (betanews.com) 19

An anonymous reader shares a report: A new report from cloud security specialist Carbon Black, based on responses from CISOs at 40 major financial institutions -- including six of the top 10 global banks -- seeks to better understand the attack landscape. Among the findings are that 90 percent of financial institutions report being the subject of a ransomware attack in 2017. In addition one in 10 respondents report encountering destructive attacks unrelated to ransomware, such as application attacks and fileless malware. These potentially enable cybercriminals to move freely and laterally within an organization's network and often go completely overlooked until it's too late.
Businesses

Amazon Pushes Facial Recognition to Police, Prompting Outcry Over Surveillance (nytimes.com) 112

Nick Wingfield, reporting for The New York Times: In late 2016, Amazon introduced a new online service that could help identify faces and other objects in images, offering it to anyone at a low cost through its giant cloud computing division, Amazon Web Services. Not long after, it began pitching the technology to law enforcement agencies, saying the program could aid criminal investigations by recognizing suspects in photos and videos. It used a couple of early customers, like the Orlando Police Department in Florida and the Washington County Sheriff's Office in Oregon, to encourage other officials to sign up.

But now that aggressive push is putting the giant tech company at the center of an increasingly heated debate around the role of facial recognition in law enforcement. Fans of the technology see a powerful new tool for catching criminals, but detractors see an instrument of mass surveillance. On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union led a group of more than two dozen civil rights organizations that asked Amazon to stop selling its image recognition system, called Rekognition, to law enforcement. The group says that the police could use it to track protesters or others whom authorities deem suspicious, rather than limiting it to people committing crimes.

Microsoft

Microsoft To Block Flash In Office 365 Starting January 2019 (bleepingcomputer.com) 35

An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft plans to soon block Flash, Shockwave, and Silverlight content from activating in Office 365, it said. The block, however, will only be applicable in Office 365 subscription clients -- and not in Office 2016, Office 2013, or Office 2010 distributions, the company added. The change is set to come into effect starting January 2019. This is a full-on block, and not just Microsoft disabling problematic controls with the option to click on a button and view its content, BleepingComputer reports. The block means that Office 365 will prevent Flash, Shockwave, or Silverlight content from playing inside Office documents altogether.

Microsoft cited various reasons for taking this decision. It said that malware authors have abused this mechanism for exploit campaigns, but also that Office users rarely used these features. In addition, Microsoft said it was also taking this decision after Adobe announced Flash's end-of-life for 2020.

Businesses

3D Headphone Startup 'Ossic' Closes Abruptly, Leaving Crowdfunders Hanging (npr.org) 131

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: Ossic raised more than $3.2 million in crowdfunding for its Ossic X, which it touted as the "first 3D audio headphones calibrated to you." But after delivering devices to only about 80 investors who'd paid at least $999 to for the "Developer/Innovator" rewards level on Kickstarter, Ossic announced Saturday it had run out of money -- leaving the more than 10,000 other backers with nothing but lighter wallets.

Ossic, which The San Diego Union-Tribune notes was founded by former Logitech engineers Jason Riggs and Joy Lyons, had excited gamers, audiophiles and other sound consumers by creating headphones that used advanced 3D audio algorithms, head-tracking technology and individual anatomy calibration to "deliver incredibly accurate 3D sound to your ears," according to its funding campaign on Kickstarter. In less than two months in 2016, it was able to raise $2.7 million from more than 10,000 backers on Kickstarter. It raised another $515,970 on Indiegogo.
"This was obviously not our desired outcome," the company said in a statement. "To fail at the five-yard line is a tragedy. We are extremely sorry that we cannot deliver your product and want you to know that the team has done everything possible including investing our own savings and working without salary to exhaust all possibilities."
Earth

Asteroid From Another Star System Found Orbiting Wrong Way Near Jupiter (theguardian.com) 73

Astronomers have spotted an asteroid orbiting our sun in the opposite (retrograde) direction to the planets. The 2-mile-wide asteroid, known as 2015 BZ509, is the first "interstellar immigrant" from beyond our solar system to remain, according to the study published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The Guardian reports: Further work on the asteroid revealed it takes the same length of time to orbit the sun as the planet Jupiter at a similar average distance, although in the opposite direction and with a different shaped path, suggesting the two have gravitational interactions. But unpicking quite where the asteroid came from was challenging. Asteroids that orbit the sun on paths that take them between the giant planets -- Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune -- are known as centaurs, and it is thought that many might come from distant bands of material within the solar system such as the scattered disk or the Oort cloud. Several, like BZ509, are known to have retrograde paths, although how they ended up on such orbits is unclear.

But there was a clue there was something unusual about BZ509: while previous studies suggested retrograde centaurs stay gravitationally "tied" to planets for 10,000 years at most, recent work had suggested this asteroid's orbit had been linked to Jupiter for far longer, probably as a result of the planet's mass and the way both take the same time to orbit the sun. The discovery provides vital clues as to the asteroid's origins. [Dr Fathi Namouni from the Observatory de la Cote d'Azur said] that the model suggests the most likely explanation is that the asteroid was captured by Jupiter as it hurtled through the solar system from interstellar space. "It means it is an alien to the solar system," he said.

United States

Trump Ignores 'Inconvenient' Security Rules To Keep Tweeting On His iPhone, Says Report (politico.com) 398

According to Politico, "President Donald Trump uses a White House cellphone that isn't equipped with sophisticated security features designed to shield his communications." The decision is "a departure from the practice of his predecessors that potentially exposes him to hacking or surveillance." From the report: The president uses at least two iPhones, according to one of the officials. The phones -- one capable only of making calls, the other equipped only with the Twitter app and preloaded with a handful of news sites -- are issued by White House Information Technology and the White House Communications Agency, an office staffed by military personnel that oversees White House telecommunications. While aides have urged the president to swap out the Twitter phone on a monthly basis, Trump has resisted their entreaties, telling them it was "too inconvenient," the same administration official said. The president has gone as long as five months without having the phone checked by security experts. It is unclear how often Trump's call-capable phones, which are essentially used as burner phones, are swapped out.
Space

German Test Reveals That Magnetic Fields Are Pushing the EM Drive (arstechnica.com) 227

"Researchers in Germany have performed an independent, controlled test of the infamous EM Drive with an unprecedented level of precision," writes PvtVoid. "The result? The thrust is coming from interactions with the Earth's magnetic field." From the report: Instead of getting ahold of someone else's EM drive, or Mach-effect device, the researchers created their own, along with the driving electronics. The researchers used precision machining and polishing to obtain a microwave cavity that was much better than those previously published. If anything was going to work, this would be the one. The researchers built up a very nice driving circuit that was capable of supplying 50W of power to the cavity. However, the amplifier mountings still needed to be worked on. So, to keep thermal management problems under control, they limited themselves to a couple of Watts in the current tests. The researchers also inserted an enormous attenuator. This meant that they could, without physically changing the setup, switch on all the electronics and have the amplifiers working at full noise, and all the power would either go to the EM drive or be absorbed in the attenuator. That gives them much more freedom to determine if the thrust was coming from the drive or not.

Even with a power of just a couple of Watts, the EM-drive generates thrust in the expected direction (e.g., the torsion bar twists in the right direction). If you reverse the direction of the thruster, the balance swings back the other way: the thrust is reversed. Unfortunately, the EM drive also generates the thrust when the thruster is directed so that it cannot produce a torque on the balance (e.g., the null test also produces thrust). And likewise, that "thrust" reverses when you reverse the direction of the thruster. The best part is that the results are the same when the attenuator is put into the circuit. In this case, there is basically no radiation in the microwave cavity, yet the WTF-thruster thrusts on. So, where does the force come from? The Earth's magnetic field, most likely. The cables that carry the current to the microwave amplifier run along the arm of the torsion bar. Although the cable is shielded, it is not perfect (because the researchers did not have enough mu metal). The current in the cable experiences a force due to the Earth's magnetic field that is precisely perpendicular to the torsion bar. And, depending on the orientation of the thruster, the direction of the current will reverse and the force will reverse.
The researchers' conclude by saying: "At least, SpaceDrive [the name of the test setup] is an excellent educational project by developing highly demanding test setups, evaluating theoretical models and possible experimental errors. It's a great learning experience with the possibility to find something that can drive space exploration into its next generation."
Bug

Comcast Website Bug Leaks Xfinity Customer Data (zdnet.com) 35

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: A bug in Comcast's website used to activate Xfinity routers can return sensitive information on the company's customers. The website, used by customers to set up their home internet and cable service, can be tricked into displaying the home address where the router is located, as well as the Wi-Fi name and password. Two security researchers, Karan Saini and Ryan Stevenson, discovered the bug. Only a customer account ID and that customer's house or apartment number is needed -- even though the web form asks for a full address.

ZDNet obtained permission from two Xfinity customers to check their information. We were able to obtain their full address and zip code -- which both customers confirmed. The site returned the Wi-Fi name and password -- in plaintext -- used to connect to the network for one of the customers who uses an Xfinity router. The other customer was using his own router -- and the site didn't return the Wi-Fi network name or password.

Cellphones

The Toughest (And Weakest) Phones Currently On the Market (tomsguide.com) 98

New submitter Daneel Olivaw R. shares a report from Tom's Guide: To measure each phone's toughness, [Tom's Guide] dropped it from both 4 and 6 feet onto wood and concrete. After each test, we recorded the damage to the phone. If a phone was rendered unusable -- the screen totally shattered, for instance -- then we stopped dropping it. [More details on the testing process can be found here.] Each drop was worth a maximum of 5 points; if a phone made it through all of the rounds unscathed, it would earn 35 points. The more severe the damage per drop was, the more points were deducted. If a phone was rendered unusable after a given drop, it would earn no points, and would not undergo any subsequent test. In total, there were seven tests. [...] If a phone died in the 6-foot edge drop, it was penalized an extra 10 percent. If it died in the 6-foot face drop, it was penalized 5 percent. And if it died when dropped into the toilet, it lost 2.5 percent. We then divided the total score by 3.5, to put it on a 10-point scale. Here are the scores of each device:

Motorola Moto Z2 Force - Toughness score: 8.5/10
LG X Venture - Toughness score: 6.6/10
Apple iPhone X - Toughness score: 6.2/10
LG V30 - Toughness score: 6/10
Samsung Galaxy S9 - Toughness score: 6/10
Motorola Moto G5 Plus - Toughness score: 5.1/10
Apple iPhone 8 - Toughness score: 4.9/10
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 - Toughness score: 4.3/10
OnePlus 5T - Toughness score: 4.3/10
Huawei Mate 10 Pro - Toughness score: 4.3/10
Google Pixel 2 XL - Toughness score: 4.3/10
iPhone SE - Toughness score: 3.9/10

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