School Pays To Get an Algorithm Scan Students' Social Media For Threats and Suicide Risks Posts ( 7

When someone visits the buildings of Shawsheen Valley Technical High School in Billerica, as they walk through the secure foyer, they have to get their driver's license or another state-issued ID scanned. But the secure foyer does kind of a high-level national background check, too, explains Superintendent Tim Broadrick. From a report: The "LobbyGuard" scanner is the size of a computer tablet. It scans a driver's license, takes a picture of the school visitor and if all is OK with the person's background check, almost instantly clears the person to enter the school. An employee behind a window then pushes a button and unlocks the door to the school hallway. Amid nationwide concern about school shootings, there's talk at Shawsheen Tech of covering the wall of glass in the lobby with a special film to make it harder for a bullet to pierce. There's also a police officer -- known as a school resource officer -- stationed at the school. He has an office in the lobby. And the school has adopted another security measure to try to protect students from attacks -- one you can't see. It's a computer program designed to detect threats against the school in social media posts. And it runs 24/7.

"It's receiving and filtering and then gives us alerts when certain kinds of public communication are detected," Broadrick explains. Shawsheen Tech buys the social media scanning service from a Vermont-based company called Social Sentinel. It's one of many technology firms doing some form of social media scanning or monitoring. Social Sentinel claims it's the only one with expertise in protecting schools. Shawsheen Tech has about 1,300 students. It pays Social Sentinel approximately $10,000 per year, according to Broadrick.


Firefox In 2018: We'll Tackle Bad Ads, Breach Alerts, Autoplay Video, Says Mozilla ( 26

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: Firefox maker Mozilla has outlined its 2018 roadmap to make the web less intrusive and safer for users. First up, Mozilla says it will proceed and implement last year's experiment with a breach alerts service, which will warn users when their credentials have been leaked or stolen in a data breach. Mozilla aims to roll out the service around October. Breach Alerts is based on security consultant Troy Hunt's data breach site Have I Been Pwned. Firefox will also implement a similar block on autoplay video to the one Chrome 66 will introduce next month, and that Safari already has. However, Dotzler says Firefox's implementation will "provide users with a way to block video auto-play that doesn't break websites". This feature is set to arrive in Firefox 62, which is scheduled for release in May.

After Firefox 62 the browser will gain an optional Chrome-like ad filter and several privacy-enhancing features similar to those that Apple's WebKit developers have been working on for Safari's Intelligent Tracking Prevention. By the third quarter of 2018, Firefox should also be blocking ad-retargeting through cross-domain tracking. It's also going to move all key privacy controls into a single location in the browser, and offer more "fine-grained" tracking protection. Dotzler says Mozilla is in the "early stages" of determining what types of ads Firefox should block by default. Also on the roadmap is a feature that arrived in Firefox 59, released earlier this month. A new Global Permissions feature will help users avoid having to deny every site that requests permission for location, camera, microphone and notifications. Beyond security and privacy, Mozilla plans to build on speed-focused Quantum improvements that came in Firefox 57 with smoother page rendering.


EA Created An AI That Taught Itself To Play Battlefield ( 29

Electronic Arts' Search for Extraordinary Experiences (SEED) Division has created a "self-learning AI-agent" that has managed to teach itself how to play Battlefield 1 multiplayer. From a report: In this blog post, Magnus Nordin from SEED details how his team, inspired by Google's work with old Atari games, wondered "how much effort it would take to have a self-learning agent learn to play a modern and more complex first person AAA game like Battlefield." So they tried to find out. The results are an "agent" that, while inferior to human players, "is pretty proficient at the basic Battlefield gameplay." The agent changes behaviour if it's low on health or ammo, and while more complex behaviours like knowing the details of each map are beyond it (at the moment), EA has found that "while the human players outperformed the agents, it wasn't a complete blowout by any stretch."

Ask Slashdot: Is Beaming Down In Star Trek a Death Sentence? 200

Artem Tashkinov writes: Some time ago, Ars Technica ran a monumental article on beaming of consciousness in Star Trek and its implications, and more importantly, whether it's plausible to achieve that without killing a person in the process.

It seems possible in the Star Trek universe. However, currently physicists find the idea absurd and unreal because there's no way you can transport matter and its quantum state without first destroying it and then recreating it perfectly, due to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. The biggest conundrum of all is the fact that pretty much everyone understands that consciousness is a physical state of the brain, which features continuity as its primary principle; yet it surely seems like copying the said state produces a new person altogether, which brings up the problem of consciousness becoming local to one's skull and inseparable from gray matter. This idea sounds a bit unscientific because it introduces the notion that there's something about our brain which cannot be described in terms of physics, almost like soul.

This also brings another very difficult question: how do we know if we are the same person when we wake up in the morning or after we were put under during general anesthesia? What are your thoughts on the topic?

Some Galaxy S9/S9+ Units Have Large Dead Zones On the Touchscreen ( 24

hyperclocker shares a report from Android Police: The touchscreen on your phone is the primary way you interact with it, so it absolutely needs to work. That makes problems like so-called "dead zones" or ignored/unregistered inputs among the most annoying out there. Based on reports, many are running into those types of touchscreen input problems with Samsung's Galaxy S9+. It's tough to tell precisely how common the problem might be. Few users are as apt to report issues as Pixel-purchasers, so we can't quite compare things against our coverage for Google's hardware. But from what we have seen in places like Reddit, it's reasonably widespread. The problem manifests as you'd expect: a chunk of the touchscreen's digitizer just doesn't seem to work. Interestingly, not all users are reporting issues with the same physical areas of the display. For some, it's the top of the screen that isn't accepting input -- resulting in an inability to pull down the notification tray -- but for others, it's the bottom of the screen that's wonking out in the traditional keyboard input area. A few people have been able to diminish the effect by cranking up the touchscreen sensitivity, and there's at least one report of a factory reset fixing things. But for many, the problem persists between wipes. Worse, some people with the problem have experienced further issues seeking help via Samsung's support process if a trade-in was involved. Samsung has released a statement concerning these reports: "At Samsung, customer satisfaction is core to our business and we aim to deliver the best possible experience. We are looking into a limited number of reports of Galaxy S9/S9+ touchscreen responsiveness issues. We are working with affected customers and investigating. We encourage any customer with questions to contact us directly at 1-800-SAMSUNG."

FCC Chief Cites Concerns on Spy Threats From Chinese Telecoms Firms ( 34

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, in a letter sent to lawmakers earlier this week (but released just now), said he shares the concerns of U.S. lawmakers about espionage threats from Chinese smartphone maker Huawei and plans to take "proactive steps" to ensure the integrity of the U.S. communications supply chain. From a report: Pai said he shares concerns over the "security threat that Huawei and other Chinese technology companies pose to our communications networks." Pai said he intends to take action in the "near future," but offered no specifics. Pai's letter follows the introduction of legislation by Republican Senators Tom Cotton and Marco Rubio in February that would block the U.S. government from buying or leasing telecoms equipment from Huawei, the world's third largest smartphone maker, or Chinese telecommunications equipment maker ZTE Corp, citing concerns the companies would use their access to spy on U.S. officials.
The Internet

Craigslist Personals, Some Subreddits Disappear After FOSTA Passage ( 103

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In the wake of this week's passage of the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) bill in both houses of Congress on Wednesday, Craigslist has removed its "Personals" section entirely, and Reddit has removed some related subreddits, likely out of fear of future lawsuits. FOSTA, which awaits the signature of President Donald Trump before becoming law, removes some portions of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The landmark 1996 law shields website operators that host third-party content (such as commenters, for example) from civil liability. The new bill is aimed squarely at Backpage, a notorious website that continues to allow prostitution advertisements and has been under federal scrutiny for years. In a bizarre turn of events, the Department of Justice also warned the House in February 2018 that the bill "raises a serious constitutional concern," as it would apply retroactively -- a seeming violation of the Constitution's ex post facto clause. Congress passed it anyway. The Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote in a blog post: "It's easy to see the impact that this ramp-up in liability will have on online speech: facing the risk of ruinous litigation, online platforms will have little choice but to become much more restrictive in what sorts of discussion -- and what sorts of users -- they allow, censoring innocent people in the process."

MoviePass' Low Subscription Price Just Got Lower ( 74

In a move to lure new subscribers, MoviePass has dropped the price of its monthly subscription service from about $10 per month to just under $7. From a report: The company said for $6.95 per month, new subscribers will get one movie ticket per day, a minor catch being that users must pay for a year up-front. There is also a one-time $6.55 processing fee. It's the umpteenth time that MoviePass has changed its price since launching six years ago at $40 per month (before raising it to $50), most significantly eight months ago when it was cut to just $9.95. The change had the desired effect, as subscribers swelled from 20,000 then to nearly 3 million today. Still, MoviePass is not without its critics, as some theater chains -- most notably AMC -- have criticized the service for allegedly cheapening the moviegoing experience. Also, industry executives worry that MoviePass cannot survive (it pays mostly full price for the movie tickets its subscribers use) and wonder if users that are left in the lurch when it folds will ever want to pay $9 (the average price in the U.S.) per ticket again.

Linux Mint Ditches AMD For Intel With New Mintbox Mini 2 ( 42

An anonymous reader writes: Makers of Mint Box, a diminutive desktop which runs Linux Mint -- an Ubuntu-based OS, on Friday announced the Mintbox Mini 2. While the new model has several new aspects, the most significant is that the Linux Mint Team has switched from AMD to Intel (the original Mini used an A4-Micro 6400T). For $299, the Mintbox Mini 2 comes with a quad-core Intel Celeron J3455 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 60GB SSD. For $50 more you can opt for the "Pro" model which doubles the RAM to 8GB and increases the SSD capacity to 120GB. Graphics are fairly anemic, as it uses integrated Intel HD 500, but come on -- you shouldn't expect to game with this thing. For video connectivity, you get both HDMI and Mini DisplayPort. Both can push 4K, and while the mini DP port can do 60Hz, the HDMI is limited to 30.
Social Networks

My Cow Game Extracted Your Facebook Data ( 45

Ian Bogost, writing for The Atlantic: Already in 2010, it felt like a malicious attention market where people treated friends as latent resources to be optimized. Compulsion rather than choice devoured people's time. Apps like FarmVille sold relief for the artificial inconveniences they themselves had imposed. In response, I made a satirical social game called Cow Clicker. Players clicked a cute cow, which mooed and scored a "click." Six hours later, they could do so again. They could also invite friends' cows to their pasture, buy virtual cows with real money, compete for status, click to send a real cow to the developing world from Oxfam, outsource clicks to their toddlers with a mobile app, and much more. It became strangely popular, until eventually, I shut the whole thing down in a bovine rapture -- the "cowpocalypse." It's kind of a complicated story.

But one worth revisiting today, in the context of the scandal over Facebook's sanctioning of user-data exfiltration via its application platform. It's not just that abusing the Facebook platform for deliberately nefarious ends was easy to do (it was). But worse, in those days, it was hard to avoid extracting private data, for years even, without even trying. I did it with a silly cow game. Cow Clicker is not an impressive work of software. After all, it was a game whose sole activity was clicking on cows. I wrote the principal code in three days, much of it hunched on a friend's couch in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I had no idea anyone would play it, although over 180,000 people did, eventually. And yet, if you played Cow Clicker, even just once, I got enough of your personal data that, for years, I could have assembled a reasonably sophisticated profile of your interests and behavior. I might still be able to; all the data is still there, stored on my private server, where Cow Clicker is still running, allowing players to keep clicking where a cow once stood, before my caprice raptured them into the digital void.


'What's Facebook?', Elon Musk Asks, As He Deletes SpaceX and Tesla Facebook Pages 191

It is unlikely that Facebook will see a significant drop in its mammoth userbase following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. But on Friday, the #DeleteFacebook campaign, which is seeing an increasingly growing number of people call it quits on the world's largest social network, found its biggest backer: Elon Musk. Responding to WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton's "#DeleteFacebook" tweet, Musk asked "What's Facebook?" That was the beginning of a tweetstorm, which saw journalists asking Musk why his companies -- SpaceX and Tesla -- maintained their Facebook pages. Shouldn't Musk, they asked, delete them? Musk agreed. As of this writing, the official Facebook pages of SpaceX and Tesla, both of which had more than two million followers, are nowhere to be found. The Facebook page of SolarCity is gone too, if you were wondering.

The move comes months after Musk said Zuckerberg's understanding of AI was limited.

CDs, Vinyl Are Outselling Digital Downloads For the First Time Since 2011 ( 88

Digital downloads had a short run as the top-selling format in the music industry. It took until 2011, a decade after the original iPod came out, for their sales surpass those of CDs and vinyl records, and they were overtaken by music streaming services just a few years later. Now, digital downloads are once again being outsold by CDs and vinyl, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. From a report: The RIAA released its 2017 year-end revenue report on Thursday, showing that revenue from digital downloads plummeted 25 percent to $1.3 billion over the previous year. Revenue from physical products, by contrast, fell just 4 percent to $1.5 billion. Overall, the music industry grew for a second year straight. And with $8.7 billion in total revenue, it's healthier than it has been since 2008, according to the report. Nearly all of the growth was the result of the continued surge in paid music subscription services like Spotify and Apple Music. Those services grew by more than 50 percent to $5.7 billion last year and accounted for nearly two-thirds of the industry's revenue. Physical media accounted for 17 percent, while digital downloads made up just 15 percent.

China Regulator Bans TV Parodies Amid Content Crackdown ( 53

China's media regulator is cracking down on video spoofs, the official Xinhua new agency reported, amid an intensified crackdown on any content that is deemed to be in violation of socialist core values under President Xi Jinping. From a report: The decision comes after Xi cemented his power at a recent meeting of parliament by having presidential term limits scrapped, and the ruling Communist Party tightened its grip on the media by handing control over film, news and publishing to its powerful publicity department. Xinhua said video sites must ban videos that "distort, mock or defame classical literary and art works," citing a directive from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television on Thursday.

US Charges Iranians For Global Cyber Attacks on Behalf of Tehran ( 31

The United States on Friday charged nine Iranians and an Iranian company with attempting to hack into hundreds of U.S. and international universities, dozens of companies and parts of the U.S. government on behalf of the Tehran government. From a report: The cyber attack pilfered more than 31 terabytes of academic data and intellectual property from 144 U.S. universities and 176 universities in 21 foreign countries, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement. The U.S. Treasury Department said on its website that it was placing sanctions on those accused and the Mabna Institute, a company described by U.S. prosecutors as designed to help Iranian research organizations steal information.

Pablo Escobar's Brother Says He Met an FBI Agent Posing As Satoshi Nakamoto ( 37

Jordan Pearson, writing for Motherboard: Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar's brother, Roberto Escobar, is launching a new cryptocurrency called "Dietbitcoin." It's a clone of Bitcoin of the kind that can take mere minutes to create, with no changes or improvements whatsoever. But Escobar is nonetheless hawking virtual coins for $2 USD each now, and $1,000 in later rounds of the crowd sale. Now here's the good shit. Along with Dietbitcoin's launch came a 280-page book, part memoir and part manifesto, titled "Pablo Escobar's Dietbitcoin: The True Story by Roberto Escobar." Roberto allegedly authored the book -- when I reached Escobar for an interview the company said he was not available, but CEO Olof Gustafsson told me over the phone that Roberto wrote it. In it, Roberto claims that he had a close encounter with a US government agent posing as the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto. This encounter led Roberto to conclude that the US government created Bitcoin and will one day crash the market by selling all of Nakamoto's stashed bitcoins. The veracity of this tale is highly suspect; Roberto Escobar is a well-known eccentric who once claimed to have cured HIV with his knowledge of horses.

More Evidence Ties Alleged DNC Hacker Guccifer 2.0 To Russian Intelligence ( 168

An anonymous reader shares a report: It may be a while since you've heard the handle "Guccifer 2.0," the hacker who took responsibility for the infamous DNC hack of 2016. Reports from the intelligence community at the time, as well as common sense, pegged Guccifer 2.0 not as the Romanian activist he claimed to be, but a Russian operative. Evidence has been scarce, but one slip-up may have given the game away. An anonymous source close to the U.S. government investigation of the hacker told the Daily Beast that on one single occasion, Guccifer 2.0 failed to log into the usual VPN that disguised their traffic. As a result, they left one honest IP trace at an unnamed social media site.

That IP address, "identified Guccifer 2.0 as a particular GRU officer working out of the agency's headquarters on Grizodubovoy Street in Moscow," the Daily Beast reported. (The GRU is one of the Russia's security and intelligence organs.) Previous work by security researchers had suggested this, but it's the first I've heard of evidence this direct. Assuming it's genuine, it's a sobering reminder of how fragile anonymity is on the internet -- one click and the whole thing comes crashing down.


Man Starts 'Gunbook' Social Media Site After His Gun-Loving Friends Were Kicked Off Facebook ( 464

CaptainDork shares a report from BuzzFeed: A British gun enthusiast whose friends were banned from Facebook for posting pictures of firearms has started his own version of the site for gun lovers. Called Gunbook, it was set up by David Scott, a 57-year-old shooting instructor who lives in Kilsyth, 20 miles from Dunblane. It went live three weeks ago and he says it already has more than 1,000 members, around 60 of whom are from the U.S. Scott admitted that part of the attraction of the site for members was that they could post about their love of deadly weapons without being judged by family and friends. "Quite a lot want to talk about guns and shooting and target shooting and their families can see and often people comment. Gunbook is the place where people can talk about guns without their families seeing because a lot of people have got anti-shooting and anti-hunting friends on these sites."

Many of the profile pictures on the site show people standing in striking poses with guns -- or are simply a picture of their arsenal. And just like any other social media platform, much of the content that has quickly populated the Facebook clone ends up being videos and memes. In contrast, his site is loosely controlled and encourages a community around gun ownership. It has two admins but reassures users in a Q&A on the site that "they will generally just leave you all to get on with things." It adds later that "they will never interfere [in a group] unless a post gets reported and even then only racist and really dodgy ones will get looked at if reported. Please do NOT upload porn videos to our servers though ;0."


A Star Grazed Our Solar System 70,000 Years Ago, Early Humans Likely Saw It ( 149

schwit1 shares a report from Some distant objects in our solar system bear the gravitational imprint of a small star's close flyby 70,000 years ago, when modern humans were already walking the Earth, a new study suggests. In 2015, a team of researchers announced that a red dwarf called Scholzs star apparently grazed the solar system 70,000 years ago, coming closer than 1 light-year to the sun. For perspective, the suns nearest stellar neighbor these days, Proxima Centauri, lies about 4.2 light-years away. The astronomers came to this conclusion by measuring the motion and velocity of Scholzs star -- which zooms through space with a smaller companion, a brown dwarf or "failed star" -- and extrapolating backward in time. Scholz's star passed by the solar system at a time when early humans and Neanderthals shared the Earth. The star likely appeared as a faint reddish light to anyone looking up at the time, researchers with the new study said. The study has been published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters.

SpaceX Launch Last Year Punched Huge, Temporary Hole In the Ionosphere ( 76

The Falcon 9 rocket that launched last August reportedly ripped a temporary hole in the ionosphere due to its vertical launch, which Ars Technica notes as being rather unusual: Contrary to popular belief, most of the time when a rocket launches, it does not go straight up into outer space. Rather, shortly after launch, most rockets will begin to pitch over into the downrange direction, limiting gravity drag and stress on the vehicle. Often, by 80 or 100km, a rocket is traveling nearly parallel to the Earth's surface before releasing its payload into orbit. However, in August of last year, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch from California did not make such a pitch over maneuver. Rather, the Formosat-5 mission launched vertically and stayed that way for most of its ascent into space. The rocket could do this because the Taiwanese payload was light for the Falcon 9 rocket, weighing only 475kg and bound for an orbit 720km above the Earth's surface. As a result of this launch profile, the rocket maintained a nearly vertical trajectory all the way through much of the Earth's ionosphere, which ranges from about 60km above the planet to 1,000km up. In doing so, the Falcon 9 booster and its second stage created unique, circular shockwaves. The rocket launch also punched a temporary, 900-km-wide hole into the plasma of the ionosphere.

World's Largest Animal Study On Cell Tower Radiation Confirms Cancer Link ( 216

capedgirardeau shares a report from Digital Journal: Researchers with the renowned Ramazzini Institute (RI) in Italy announce that a large-scale, lifetime study (PDF) of lab animals exposed to environmental levels of cell tower radiation developed cancer. The RI study also found increases in malignant brain (glial) tumors in female rats and precancerous conditions including Schwann cells hyperplasia in both male and female rats. A study of much higher levels of cell phone radiofrequency (RF) radiation, from the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP), has also reported finding the same unusual cancer called Schwannoma of the heart in male rats treated at the highest dose.

The Ramazzini study exposed 2448 Sprague-Dawley rats from prenatal life until their natural death to "environmental" cell tower radiation for 19 hours per day (1.8 GHz GSM radiofrequency radiation (RFR) of 5, 25 and 50 V/m). RI exposures mimicked base station emissions like those from cell tower antennas, and exposure levels were far less than those used in the NTP studies of cell phone radiation. "All of the exposures used in the Ramazzini study were below the U.S. FCC limits. These are permissible exposures according the FCC. In other words, a person can legally be exposed to this level of radiation. Yet cancers occurred in these animals at these legally permitted levels. The Ramazzini findings are consistent with the NTP study demonstrating these effects are a reproducible finding," explained Ronald Melnick PhD, formerly the Senior NIH toxicologist who led the design of the NTP study on cell phone radiation now a Senior Science Advisor to Environmental Health Trust (EHT). "Governments need to strengthen regulations to protect the public from these harmful non-thermal exposures."

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