Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
New submitter ddtmm writes The Syrian Electronic Army is claiming responsibility for the hacking of multiple news websites, including CBC News. Some users trying to access the CBC website reported seeing a pop-up message reading: "You've been hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA)." It appears the hack targeted a network used by many news organizations and businesses. A tweet from an account appearing to belong to the Syrian Electronic Army suggested the attacks were meant to coincide with the U.S. Thanksgiving on Thursday. The group claimed to have used the domain Gigya.com, a company that offers businesses a customer identity management platform, to hack into other sites via GoDaddy, its domain registrar. Gigya is "trusted by more than 700 leading brands," according to its website. The hacker or hackers redirected sites to the Syrian Electronic Army image that users saw. Gigya's operations team released a statement Thursday morning saying that it identified an issue with its domai registrar at 6:45 a.m. ET. The breach "resulted in the redirect of the Gigya.com domain for a subset of users," the company said. Among the websites known to be hacked so far are New York Times, Chicago Tribune, CNBC, PC World, Forbes, The Telegraph, Walmart and Facebook.
jones_supa writes Windows Media Player is going to become a more useful media player for those who want to play geeky file formats. Microsoft has earlier confirmed that Windows 10 will come with native support for Matroska Video, but the company now talks about also adding FLAC support. Microsoft's Gabriel Aul posted a teaser screenshot in Twitter showing support for this particular format. It can be expected to arrive in a future update for people running the Windows 10 Technical Preview. Not many GUI changes seem to be happening around Media Player, but work is done under the hood.
An anonymous reader writes Debian developer Tollef Fog Heen submitted his resignation to the Debian Systemd package maintainers team mailing list today (Sun. Nov. 16th, 2014). In his brief post, he praises the team, but claims that he cannot continue to contribute due to the "load of continued attacks...becoming just too much." Presumably, he is referring to the heated and, at times, even vitriolic criticism of Debian's adoption of Systemd as the default init system for its upcoming Jessie release from commenters inside and outside of the Debian community. Currently, it is not known if Tollef will cease contributing to Debian altogether. A message from his twitter feed indicates that he may blog about his departure in the near future.
ErnieKey writes with a Reuters story that says Google's Glass, not yet out for general purchase, has been wearing on the patience of both developers and would-be customers: "After an initial burst of enthusiasm, signs that consumers are giving up on Glass have been building.' Is it true that Google Goggles are simply not attractive to wear? Or perhaps it's the invasion of privacy that is deterring people from wearing them. Regardless, Google needs to change something quickly before they lose all their potential customers. From the article: Of 16 Glass app makers contacted, nine said that they had stopped work on their projects or abandoned them, mostly because of the lack of customers or limitations of the device. Three more have switched to developing for business, leaving behind consumer projects. Plenty of larger developers remain with Glass. The nearly 100 apps on the official website include Facebook and OpenTable, although one major player recently defected: Twitter. "If there was 200 million Google Glasses sold, it would be a different perspective. There's no market at this point," said Tom Frencel, the chief executive of Little Guy Games, which put development of a Glass game on hold this year and is looking at other platforms, including the Facebook-owned virtual-reality goggles Oculus Rift. Several key Google employees instrumental to developing Glass have left the company in the last six months, including lead developer Babak Parviz, electrical engineering chief Adrian Wong, and Ossama Alami, director of developer relations.
theodp writes Writing in Vanity Fair, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan marvels that his kids can learn to code online at their own pace thanks to "free" lessons from Khan Academy, which Duncan credits for "changing the way my kids learn" (Duncan calls out his kids' grade school for not offering coding). The 50-year-old Duncan, who complained last December that he "didn't have the opportunity to learn computer skills" while growing up attending the Univ. of Chicago Lab Schools and Yale, may be surprised to learn that the University of Illinois was teaching kids how to program online in the '70s with its PLATO system, and it didn't look all that different from what Khan Academy came up with for his kids 40 years later (Roger Ebert remarked in his 2011 TED Talk that seeing Khan Academy gave him a flashback to the PLATO system he reported on in the '60s). So, does it matter if the nation's education chief — who presides over a budget that includes $69 billion in discretionary spending — is clueless about The Hidden History of Ed-Tech? Some think so. "We can't move forward," Hack Education's Audrey Watters writes, "til we reconcile where we've been before." So, if Duncan doesn't want to shell out $200 to read a 40-year-old academic paper on the subject (that's a different problem!) to bring himself up to speed, he presumably can check out the free offerings at Ed.gov. A 1975 paper on Interactive Systems for Education, for instance, notes that 650 students were learning programming on PLATO during the Spring '75 semester, not bad considering that Khan Academy is boasting that it "helped over 2000 girls learn to code" in 2014 (after luring their teachers with funding from a $1,000,000 Google Award). Even young techies might be impressed by the extent of PLATO's circa-1975 online CS offerings, from lessons on data structures and numerical analysis to compilers, including BASIC, PL/I, SNOBOL, APL, and even good-old COBOL.
An anonymous reader writes with an update to the successful landing of the ESA's comet probe Philae, which (as mentioned yesterday) had problems attaching to the surface of the comet's Rosetta: "BBC now reports that Philae is stable on the surface. Although no source claims so, we can all imagine a faint humming of 'Still Alive' coming from the probe." Not just stable, but sending pictures while it can. From the article: The probe left Rosetta with 60-plus hours of battery life, and will need at some point to charge up with its solar panels. But early reports indicate that in its present position, the robot is receiving only one-and-a-half hours of sunlight during every 12-hour rotation of the comet. This will not be enough to sustain operations. As a consequence, controllers here are discussing using one of Philae's deployable instruments to try to launch the probe upwards and away to a better location. But this would be a last-resort option. New submitter Thanshin notes that the persistent Philae bounced a few times, and actually performed 3 landings, at 15:33, 17:26 & 17:33 UTC.Thanshin adds links to a handful of relevant Twitter feeds, if you want to follow in something close to real time: Philae2014; esa_rosetta; and Philae_MUPUS (MUlti PUrpose Sensor One).
The European Space Agency has confirmed that the Philae probe has successfully landed on the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko and established contact with headquarters. The harpoons have deployed and reeled in the slack, and the landing gear has retracted. (Edit: They're now saying the harpoons didn't fire after all.) There are no photos from the surface yet, but the Rosetta probe snapped this picture of Philae after initial separation, and Philae took this picture of Rosetta. Emily Lakdawalla has a timeline of the operation (cached). She notes that there was a problem with the gas thruster mounted on top of the lander. The purpose of the thruster was to keep the lander on the comet after landing, since there was a very real possibility that it could bounce off. (The comet's local gravity is only about 10^-3 m/s^2.) The pins that were supposed to puncture the wax seal on the jet were unable to do so for reasons unknown. Still, the jet did not seem to be necessary. The official ESA Rosetta site will be continually updating as more data comes back.
An anonymous reader writes: Drafts are drafts for a reason. Not only do they tend to contain unpolished writing and unfinished thoughts, they're often filled with little notes we leave ourselves to fill in later. Slate reports on a paper recently published in the journal Ethology that contained an unfortunate self-note that made it into the final, published article, despite layers upon layers of editing, peer review, and proofreading. In the middle of a sentence about shoaling preferences, the note asks, "should we cite the crappy Gabor paper here?" When notified of the mistake, the publisher quickly took it down and said they would "investigate" how the line wasn't caught. One of the authors said it wasn't intentional and apologized for the impolite error.
An anonymous reader writes: After more than 10 years travelling, the Rosetta mission will take its next, momentous step by landing the Philae probe on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko tomorrow. How f!@#$%ing cool is that?! Follow the landing live using the webcast, blog, or Twitter feed. (Keep in mind there's a 28-minute delay due to the time it takes the radio signals to reach Earth). Here's the scheduling info: "For the primary landing scenario, targeting Site J, Rosetta will release Philae at 08:35 GMT/09:35 CET at a distance of 22.5 km from the center of the comet, landing about seven hours later. The one-way signal travel time between Rosetta and Earth on 12 November is 28 minutes 20 seconds, meaning that confirmation of the landing will arrive at Earth ground stations at around 16:00 GMT/17:00 CET. If a decision is made to use the backup Site C, separation will occur at 13:04 GMT/14:04 CET, 12.5 km from the center of the comet. Landing will occur about four hours later, with confirmation on Earth at around 17:30 GMT/18:30 CET. The timings are subject to uncertainties of several minutes."
itwbennett writes: Germany's foreign intelligence agency reportedly wants to spend €300 million (about $375 million) in the next five years on technology that would let it spy in real time on social networks outside of Germany, and decrypt and monitor encrypted Internet traffic. The agency, which already spent €6.22 million in preparation for this online surveillance push, also wants to use the money to set up an early warning system for cyber attacks, the report said (Google translation of German original). A prototype is expected to be launched next June with the aim of monitoring publicly available data on Twitter and blogs.
jones_supa writes Former Pirate Bay spokesperson Peter Sunde was released from prison this morning. Peter is expected to take some time off to spend with family and loved ones before returning to the normal grind. He was arrested in late May this year. Despite being accused of non-violent crimes, Peter was transferred to a high-security unit. His time in prison is described as being tough. There was no concern for high values such as a vegan diet or even proper treatment of depression. Peter also lost 15 kg of weight. After the experience he tweeted, "My body just got re-united with my soul and mind, the parts of me that matters and that never can be held hostage."
squiggleslash writes Brianna Wu, a game studio owner in Boston, found herself the target of numerous anonymous death threats last month, apparently the escalation of a campaign that started when she spoke up for women in gaming, and that intensified during the GamerGate train wreck. Rather than hide, she's offering an $11,000+ cash reward for anyone who helps put her attacker in jail, and she's reporting — albeit at a time many see GamerGate being in its death throes — that it's already having an effect. Wu is also setting up a legal fund to go after those promoting more extreme libels against her and others, with screenshots of a forged tweet purporting to be written by her still circulating around the Internet.
dcblogs (1096431) writes "In a letter to lawmakers Tuesday (PDF), five of the nation's top computing research organizations defended a research grant to study how information goes viral. The groups were responding to claims that the government-funded effort could help create a 1984-type surveillance state. The controversy arises over a nearly $1 million research grant to researchers at Indiana University to investigate "why some ideas cause viral explosions while others are quickly forgotten," particularly on Twitter. "We do not believe this work represents a threat to free speech or a suppression of any type of speech over the internet," the letter said. "The tools developed in the course of this research are capable of making no political judgments, no prognostications, and no editorial comments, nor do they provide any capability for exerting any control over the Twitter stream they analyze," they wrote. The controversy over Truthy may be just another sign of the ongoing deterioration between the science community and lawmakers over basic research funding as well as the science itself.
An anonymous reader sends this report from Sky News: The new head of GCHQ has accused social media websites of helping terror groups and called for closer ties with intelligence agencies. "'However much they [tech companies] may dislike it, they have become the command and control networks of choice for terrorists and criminals, who find their services as transformational as the rest of us." ... Mr. Hannigan said that smartphone and other mobile technologies increased the opportunities for terrorist activity to be concealed in the wake of the exposing of secret cables and documents collected by US and UK authorities by whistleblower Edward Snowden. Mr. Hannigan said that smartphone and other mobile technologies increased the opportunities for terrorist activity to be concealed in the wake of the exposing of secret cables and documents collected by US and UK authorities by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
New submitter RobertJ1729 writes The Rhode Island Comic Con (RICC) is in the middle of a complete meltdown as hundreds are turned away at the door or denied reentry due to the event organizers selling far more tickets than the venue can accomodate. The Providence Journal reports that "According to Providence Fire Chief David Soscia, too many people were being let in at a time and the organizers were not correctly counting them. That led to over-congested areas in the building which has a maximum capacity of 17,000 people." Meanwhile the Rhode Island Comic Con Facebook page is being flooded with comments from angry attendees describing chaos both inside and out of the convention center. RICC initially posted, "Hello RICC fans! WE ARE NOT OVERSOLD!," and promised to honor tomorrow tickets sold for today. That post generated several hundred angry comments before eventually being deleted (though it survives in part on RICC's twitter feed). Commenters are alleging that RICC is deleting negative Facebook comments. Users are tweeting at #ricomicconfail2014 to vent their frustration.
Fallen Kell writes: Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo has crashed. "'During the test. the vehicle suffered a serious anomaly resulting in the loss of the vehicle,' the company said in a statement. "The WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft landed safely. Our first concern is the status of the pilots, which is unknown at this time.'"" ABC says one person is dead, and another injured. This was the craft's fourth powered test flight, and its first since January.
VoiceOfDoom writes Major UK charity The Samaritans have launched an app titled "Samaritans Radar", in an attempt to help Twitter users identify when their friends are in crisis and in need of support. Unfortunately the privacy implications appear not to have been thought through — installing the app allows it to monitor the Twitter feeds of all of your followers, searching for particular phrases or words which might indicate they are in distress. The app then sends you an email suggesting you contact your follower to offer your help. Opportunities for misuse by online harassers are at the forefront of the concerns that have been raised, in addition; there is strong evidence to suggest that this use of personal information is illegal, being in contravention of UK Data Protection law.
An anonymous reader writes Scientists of the Northeastern University, in collaboration with European scientists, developed a modeling approach aimed at assessing the progression of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and its international spread under the assumption that the outbreak continues to evolve at the current pace. They also considered the impact of travel restrictions, and concluded that such restrictions may delay by only a few weeks the risk that the outbreak extends to new countries. Instead, travel bans could hamper the delivery of medical supplies and the deployment of specialized personnel to manage the epidemic. In the group's page, there's also an updated assessment of the probability of Ebola virus disease case importation in countries across the world, which was also invoked during the Congressional Ebola debate. The group also released a map with real-time tracking of conversations about Ebola on Twitter. Policy makers and first responders are the main target audience of the tool, which is able to show a series of potential warnings and events (mostly unconfirmed) related to Ebola spreading and case importation.
reifman writes The Internet's been abuzz the past 48 hours about reports the FBI distributed malware via a fake Seattle Times news website. What the agency actually did is more of an example of smart, precise law enforcement tactics. Is the outrage online an indictment of Twitter's tendency towards uninformed, knee-jerk reactions? In this age of unwarranted, unconstitutional blanket data collection by the NSA, the FBI's tactics from 2007 seem refreshing for their precision.
jones_supa writes: A critical flaw has been found and patched in the open source Wget file retrieval utility that is widely used on UNIX systems. The vulnerability is publicly identified as CVE-2014-4877. "It was found that wget was susceptible to a symlink attack which could create arbitrary files, directories or symbolic links and set their permissions when retrieving a directory recursively through FTP," developer Vasyl Kaigorodov writes in Red Hat Bugzilla. A malicious FTP server can stomp over your entire filesystem, tweets HD Moore, chief research officer at Rapid 7, who is the original reporter of the bug.