United States

US Government Warns Of 'Ongoing' Hacks Targeting Nuclear and Power Industries (reuters.com) 44

An anonymous reader quotes Reuters: The U.S government issued a rare public warning that sophisticated hackers are targeting energy and industrial firms, the latest sign that cyber attacks present an increasing threat to the power industry and other public infrastructure. The Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation warned in a report distributed by email late on Friday that the nuclear, energy, aviation, water and critical manufacturing industries have been targeted along with government entities in attacks dating back to at least May. The agencies warned that hackers had succeeded in compromising some targeted networks, but did not identify specific victims or describe any cases of sabotage. The objective of the attackers is to compromise organizational networks with malicious emails and tainted websites to obtain credentials for accessing computer networks of their targets, the report said.
According to the report, the Department of Homeland Security "has confidence that this campaign is still ongoing and threat actors are actively pursuing their objectives over a long-term campaign."
Businesses

NYT Op-Ed Argues Amazon 'Took Seattle's Soul' (bendbulletin.com) 130

New York Times columnist Timothy Egan was part of the paper's Pulitzer Prize-winning team in 2001. Now he's written an op-ed arguing Amazon "took Seattle's soul." An anonymous reader writes: Since Amazon arrived "we've been overwhelmed by a future we never had any say over," Egan writes, with a message for cities competing to be the site of Amazon's next headquarters. Amazon now owns as much office space as Seattle's next 40 biggest employers combined, according to an analysis by the Seattle Times, "a mind-boggling 19 percent of all prime office space in the city, the most for any employer in a major U.S. city...more than twice as large as any other company in any other big U.S. city."

Egan notes Amazon is offering 50,000 high-paying jobs and $5 billion worth of investments, "a once-in-a-century, destiny-shaping event," but "You think you can shape Amazon? Not a chance. It will shape you... What comes with the title of being the fastest growing big city in the country, with having the nation's hottest real estate market, is that the city no longer works for some people. For many others, the pace of change, not to mention the traffic, has been disorienting... [M]edian home prices have doubled in five years, to $700,000. This is not a good thing in a place where teachers and cops used to be able to afford a house with a water view... As a Seattle native, I miss the old city, the lack of pretense, and dinner parties that didn't turn into discussions of real estate porn.

Wages have risen faster in Amazon's Seattle than anywhere else in America, and while Amazon changed the city's character, it also poured $38 billion into the city's economy. (Besides Amazon's own 40,000 employees, it also attracted another 50,000 new jobs.) "To the next Amazon lottery winner I would say, enjoy the boom," Egan concludes, "but be careful what you wish for."
Education

Code Bootcamp Fined $375K Over Employment Claims and Licensing Issues (arstechnica.com) 44

An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: [O]ne of the most prominent institutions, New York's Flatiron School, will be shelling out $375,000 to settle charges brought by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office. The AG said the school operated for a period without the proper educational license, and it improperly marketed both its job placement rates and the salaries of its graduates. New York regulators didn't find any inaccuracies in Flatiron's "outcomes report," a document the company is proud of. However, the Attorney General's office found that certain statements made on Flatiron's website didn't constitute "clear and conspicuous" disclosure.

For instance, Flatiron claimed that 98.5 percent of graduates were employed within 180 days of graduation. However, only by carefully reading the outcomes report would one find that the rate included not just full-time employees, but apprentices, contract workers, and freelancers. Some of the freelancers worked for less than 12 weeks. The school also reported an average salary of $74,447 but didn't mention on its website that the average salary claim only applied to graduates who achieved full-time employment. That group comprised only 58 percent of classroom graduates and 39 percent of those who took online courses.

The school's courses last 12 to 16 weeks, and cost between $12,000 and $15,000, according to a statement from the attorney general's office [PDF]. (Or $1,500 a month for an onine coding class). Eligible graduate can claim their share of the $375,000 by filing a complaint within the next thee months.
Businesses

Tech Companies To Lobby For Immigrant 'Dreamers' To Remain In US (reuters.com) 237

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Nearly two dozen major companies in technology and other industries are planning to launch a coalition to demand legislation that would allow young, illegal immigrants a path to permanent residency, according to documents seen by Reuters. The Coalition for the American Dream intends to ask Congress to pass bipartisan legislation this year that would allow these immigrants, often referred to as "Dreamers," to continue working in the United States, the documents said. Alphabet Inc's Google, Microsoft Corp, Amazon.com Inc, Facebook Inc, Intel Corp, Uber Technologies Inc, IBM Corp, Marriott International Inc and other top U.S. companies are listed as members, one of the documents shows. The push for this legislation comes after President Donald Trump's September decision to allow the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to expire in March. That program, established by former President Barack Obama in 2012, allows approximately 900,000 illegal immigrants to obtain work permits. Some 800 companies signed a letter to Congressional leaders after Trump's decision, calling for legislation protecting Dreamers. That effort was spearheaded by a pro-immigration reform group Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg co-founded in 2013 called FWD.us.
Government

The US Government Keeps Spectacularly Underestimating Solar Energy Installation (qz.com) 127

Michael J. Coren reports via Quartz: Every two years, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), America's official source for energy statistics, issues 10-year projections about how much solar, wind and conventional energy the future holds for the U.S. Every two years, since the mid-1990s, the EIA's projections turn out to be wrong. Last year, they proved spectacularly wrong. The Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group, and Statista recently teamed up to analyze the EIA's predictions for energy usage and production. They found that the EIA's 10-year estimates between 2006 to 2016 systematically understated the share of wind, solar and gas. Solar capacity, in particular, was a whopping 4,813% more in 2016 than the EIA had predicted in 2006 it would be. To be fair, there is a caveat here: The prediction in 2006 was that 10 years hence the U.S. would be generating just 0.8 gigawatts (GW) of solar energy. With such a low baseline figure, any increase will look huge in percentage terms. Nonetheless, there is an unmistakable trend in the data: The EIA regularly underestimates the growth in renewables but overestimates U.S. fossil-fuel consumption, which some critics see as an attempt to boost the oil and gas industry.
Businesses

Amazon Battles Google for Renewable Energy Crown (bloomberg.com) 50

Readers share a report: Even in the age of coal enthusiast President Donald Trump, clean-energy developers are finding plenty of interest in wind and solar power from businesses with sustainability targets, especially technology companies. That was on display in a video tweeted Thursday by Amazon.com Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos, as he christened the 253-megawatt Amazon Wind Farm Texas in Scurry County. Amazon has bought more than 1.22 gigawatts of output to date from U.S. clean-energy projects, second only to Alphabet's Google, with 1.85 gigawatts. Corporations have agreed to buy 1.9 gigawatts of clean power in the U.S. this year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and are on pace to match the 2.6 gigawatts signed last year.
Government

CNN Gets a First-Of-Its-Kind Waiver To Fly Drones Over Crowds (techcrunch.com) 60

The FAA has granted CNN a waiver that allows it to fly its Vantage Robotics Snap drone over open-air crowds of people at altitudes of up to 150 feet. "This is a new precedent in this kind of waiver: Previous exemptions allowed flight of drones over people in closed set operations (like for filmmaking purposes) and only when tethered, with a max height of 21 feet," reports TechCrunch. From the report: The new waiver granted to CNN, as secured through its legal counsel Hogan Lovells, allows for flight of the Vantage UAV (which is quite small and light) above crowds regardless of population density. It was a big win for the firm and the company because it represents a change in perspective on the issue for the FAA, which previously viewed all requests for exceptions from a "worst-case scenario" point of view. Now, however, the FAA has accepted CNN's "reasonableness Approach," which takes into account not just the potential results of a crashed drone, but also the safe operating history of the company doing the flying, their built-in safety procedures, and the features included on the drone model itself that are designed to mitigate the results of any negative issues.
Patents

Tribal 'Sovereign Immunity' Patent Protection Could Be Outlawed (arstechnica.com) 92

AnalogDiehard writes: The recent -- and questionable -- practice of technological and pharmaceutical companies selling their patents to U.S. native Indian tribes (where they enjoy "sovereign immunity" from the inter partes review (IPR) process of the PTO) and then the tribes licensing them back to the companies is drawing scrutiny from a federal court and has inspired a new U.S. bill outlawing the practice. The IPR process is a "fast track" (read: much less expensive) process through the PTO to review the validity of challenged patents -- it is loved by defendants and hated by patent holders. Not only has U.S. Circuit Judge William Bryson invalidated Allergan's pharmaceutical patents due to "obviousness," he is questioning the legitimacy of the sovereign immunity tactic. The judge was well aware that the tactic could endanger the IPR process, which was a central component of the America Invents Act of 2011, and writes that sovereign immunity "should not be treated as a monetizable commodity that can be purchased by private entities as part of a scheme to evade their legal responsibility." U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) -- no stranger to abuses of the patent system -- has introduced a bill that would outlaw the practice she describes as "one of the most brazen and absurd loopholes I've ever seen and it should be illegal." Sovereign immunity is not absolute and has been limited by Congress and the courts in the past. The bill would apply only to the IPR proceedings and not to patent disputes in federal courts.
United States

Smartphones Are Killing Americans, But Nobody's Counting (bloomberg.com) 412

An anonymous reader shares a Bloomberg report: Over the past two years, after decades of declining deaths on the road, U.S. traffic fatalities surged by 14.4 percent. In 2016 alone, more than 100 people died every day in or near vehicles in America, the first time the country has passed that grim toll in a decade. Regulators, meanwhile, still have no good idea why crash-related deaths are spiking: People are driving longer distances but not tremendously so; total miles were up just 2.2 percent last year. Collectively, we seemed to be speeding and drinking a little more, but not much more than usual. Together, experts say these upticks don't explain the surge in road deaths. There are however three big clues, and they don't rest along the highway. One, as you may have guessed, is the substantial increase in smartphone use by U.S. drivers as they drive. From 2014 to 2016, the share of Americans who owned an iPhone, Android phone, or something comparable rose from 75 percent to 81 percent. The second is the changing way in which Americans use their phones while they drive. These days, we're pretty much done talking. Texting, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are the order of the day -- all activities that require far more attention than simply holding a gadget to your ear or responding to a disembodied voice. By 2015, almost 70 percent of Americans were using their phones to share photos and follow news events via social media. In just two additional years, that figure has jumped to 80 percent.
United States

EPA Says Higher Radiation Levels Pose 'No Harmful Health Effect' (bloomberg.com) 295

Readers share a report: In the event of a dirty bomb or a nuclear meltdown, emergency responders can safely tolerate radiation levels equivalent to thousands of chest X-rays, the Environmental Protection Agency said in new guidelines that ease off on established safety levels. The EPA's determination sets a level ten times the drinking water standard for radiation recommended under President Barack Obama. It could lead to the administration of President Donald Trump weakening radiation safety levels, watchdog groups critical of the move say. "It's really a huge amount of radiation they are saying is safe," said Daniel Hirsch, the retired director of the University of California, Santa Cruz's program on environmental and nuclear policy. "The position taken could readily unravel all radiation protection rules." The change was included as part of EPA "guidance" on messaging and communications in the event of a nuclear power plant meltdown or dirty bomb attack. The FAQ document, dated September 2017, is part of a broader planning document for nuclear emergencies, and does not carry the weight of federal standards or law.
United States

Leave It To the Heat to Dull Autumn's Glory (wsj.com) 140

It's autumn. Somebody tell the trees. From a report: Ordinarily, two signals alert deciduous trees that it's time to relinquish the green hues of summer in favor of autumn's yellows, oranges and reds. First, the days begin to grow shorter. Second, the temperature begins to drop. But this year, unseasonably warm weather across most of the U.S. has tricked trees into delaying the onset of fall's color extravaganza. Temperatures in the eastern half of the country have been as much as 15 degrees above normal since mid-September, and the warmth is expected to persist through the end of October. The unfortunate result for leaf peepers is a lackluster fall. Two kinds of pigments produce the season's liveliest foliage. Carotenoid, responsible for yellows and oranges, is always present in leaves but is usually masked by chlorophyll. The initial trigger for its appearance is shorter days. Anthocyanin, responsible for reds and deep purples, is different. Not all deciduous trees have this pigment, and those that do manufacture it from scratch in the fall. The primary trigger for its appearance is lower temperatures. Without that cooling cue, the colors of maple and other species that generally ignite New England with brilliant reds this time of year are likely to fizzle.
Microsoft

US Supreme Court To Decide Microsoft Email Privacy Dispute (reuters.com) 69

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to resolve a major privacy dispute between the Justice Department and Microsoft Corp over whether prosecutors should get access to emails stored on company servers overseas. From a report: The justices will hear the Trump administration's appeal of a lower court's ruling last year preventing federal prosecutors from obtaining emails stored in Microsoft computer servers in Dublin, Ireland in a drug trafficking investigation. That decision by the New York-based 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals marked a victory for privacy advocates and technology companies that increasingly offer cloud computing services in which data is stored remotely. Microsoft, which has 100 data centers in 40 countries, was the first U.S. company to challenge a domestic search warrant seeking data held outside the country. There have been several similar challenges, most brought by Google.
The Military

Pentagon Turns To High-Speed Traders To Fortify Markets Against Cyberattack (wsj.com) 78

Slashdot reader Templer421 quotes the Wall Street Journal's report [non-paywalled version here] on DARPA's "Financial Markets Vulnerabilities Project": Dozens of high-speed traders and others from Wall Street are helping the Pentagon study how hackers could unleash chaos in the U.S. financial system. The Department of Defense's research arm over the past year and a half has consulted executives at high-frequency trading firms and quantitative hedge funds, and people from exchanges and other financial companies, participants in the discussions said. Officials described the effort as an early-stage pilot project aimed at identifying market vulnerabilities... Participants described meetings as informal sessions in which attendees brainstorm about how hackers might try to bring down U.S. markets, then rank the ideas by feasibility.

Among the potential scenarios: Hackers could cripple a widely used payroll system; they could inject false information into stock-data feeds, sending trading algorithms out of whack; or they could flood the stock market with fake sell orders and trigger a market crash... "We started thinking a couple years ago what it would be like if a malicious actor wanted to cause havoc on our financial markets," said Wade Shen, who researched artificial intelligence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before joining Darpa as a program manager in 2014.

Crime

Pizza Hut Leaks Credit Card Info On 60,000 Customers (kentucky.com) 76

An anonymous reader quotes McClatchy: Pizza Hut told customers by email on Saturday that some of their personal information may have been compromised. Some of those customers are angry that it took almost two weeks for the fast food chain to notify them. According to a customer notice emailed from the pizza chain, those who placed an order on its website or mobile app between the morning of Oct. 1 and midday Oct. 2 might have had their information exposed. The "temporary security intrusion" lasted for about 28 hours, the notice said, and it's believed that names, billing ZIP codes, delivery addresses, email addresses and payment card information -- meaning account number, expiration date and CVV number -- were compromised... A call center operator told McClatchy that about 60,000 people across the U.S. were affected.
"[W]e estimate that less than one percent of the visits to our website over the course of the relevant week were affected," read a customer notice sent only to those affected, offering them a free year of credit monitoring. But that hasn't stopped sarcastic tweets like this from the breach's angry victims.

"Hey @pizzahut, thanks for telling me you got hacked 2 weeks after you lost my cc number. And a week after someone started using it."
The Almighty Buck

In a Cashless World, You'd Better Pray the Power Never Goes Out (mises.org) 452

schwit1 quotes the Mises Institue: When Hurricane Maria knocked out power in Puerto Rico, residents there realized they were going to need physical cash — and a lot of it. Bloomberg reported that the Fed was forced to fly a planeload of cash to the Island to help avert disaster. "William Dudley, the New York Fed president, put the word out within minutes, and ultimately a jet loaded with an undisclosed amount of cash landed on the stricken island. [Business executives in Puerto Rico] described corporate clients' urgent requests for hundreds of thousands in cash to meet payrolls, and the challenge of finding enough armored cars to satisfy endless demand at ATMs... As early as the day after the storm, the Fed began working to get money onto the island."

For a time, unless one had a hoard of cash stored up in ones home, it was impossible to get cash at all. 85 percent of Puerto Rico is still without power... Bloomberg continues: "When some generator-powered ATMs finally opened, lines stretched hours long, with people camping out in beach chairs and holding umbrellas against the sun." In an earlier article from September 25, Bloomberg noted how, without cash, necessities were simply unavailable:

"Cash only," said Abraham Lebron, the store manager standing guard at Supermax, a supermarket in San Juan's Plaza de las Armas. He was in a well-policed area, but admitted feeling like a sitting duck with so many bills on hand. "The system is down, so we can't process the cards. It's tough, but one finds a way to make it work."


Open Source

How Open Source Software Helps The Federal Reserve Bank of New York (hpe.com) 24

Long-time Slashdot reader Esther Schindler quotes Hewlett Packard Enterprise: When you handle trillions of dollars a year in transactions and manage the largest known vault of gold in the world, security and efficiency are top priorities. Open source reusable software components are key to the New York Fed's successful operation, explains Colin Wynd, vice president and head of the bank's Common Service Organization... The nearly 2,000 developers across the Federal Reserve System used to have a disparate set of developer tools. Now, they benefit from a standard toolset and architecture, which also places limits on which applications the bank will consider using. "We don't want a third-party application that isn't compatible with our common architecture," said Wynd.

One less obvious advantage to open source adoption is in career satisfaction and advancement. It gives developers opportunities to work on more interesting applications, said Wynd. Developers can now take on projects or switch jobs more easily across Federal Reserve banks because the New York Fed uses a lot of common open source components and a standard tool set, meaning retraining is minimal if needed at all."

Providing training in-house also creates a more consistent use of best practices. "Our biggest headache is to prove to groups that an application is secure, because we have to defend against nation state attacks."
China

Why China is Winning the Clean Energy Race (axios.com) 212

An anonymous reader shares a report: U.S. politicians have been warning for years that America couldn't let China win the clean energy race. That's exactly what has happened, with the trends most stark in electric cars, solar and nuclear energy. Why it matters: Building for the last decade, these trends have accelerated in the last couple of years. Politicians and business leaders said America's dominance in this space would bring jobs to the U.S. and security to our clean-energy resources, and now both of those goals are at risk. Why China is doing this: It needs to literally energize its 1.4 billion people, both how they travel and how they power their homes. Its leadership feels compelled to do it in a cleaner way than the U.S. did. Air pollution is at dangerously high levels across many of China's cities. People are seeing and feeling health repercussions of China's dependence on fossil fuel-fired cars and power plants in an acute way. Traditional air pollution, not climate change, is a big driver.
Communications

Recordings of the Sounds Heard In the Cuban US Embassy Attacks Released (apnews.com) 299

New submitter chrissfoot shares a report from The Associated Press: The Associated Press has obtained a recording of what some U.S. Embassy workers heard in Havana in a series of unnerving incidents later deemed to be deliberate attacks. The recording, released Thursday by the AP, is the first disseminated publicly of the many taken in Cuba of mysterious sounds that led investigators initially to suspect a sonic weapon. The recordings themselves are not believed to be dangerous to those who listen. Sound experts and physicians say they know of no sound that can cause physical damage when played for short durations at normal levels through standard equipment like a cellphone or computer. What device produced the original sound remains unknown. Americans affected in Havana reported the sounds hit them at extreme volumes. You can listen to the "Dangerous Sound" here via YouTube.
Security

US Weapons Data Stolen During Raid of Australian Defense Contractor's Computers (wsj.com) 78

phalse phace writes: Another day, another report of a major breach of sensitive U.S. military and intelligence data. According to a report by The Wall Street Journal (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source), "A cyberattacker nicknamed 'Alf' gained access to an Australian defense contractor's computers and began a four-month raid that snared data on sophisticated U.S. weapons systems. Using the simple combinations of login names and passwords 'admin; admin' and 'guest; guest' and exploiting a vulnerability in the company's help-desk portal, the attacker roved the firm's network for four months. The identity and affiliation of the hackers in the Australian attack weren't disclosed, but officials with knowledge of the intrusion said the attack was thought to have originated in China."

The article goes on to state that "Alf obtained around 30 gigabytes of data on Australia's planned purchase of up to 100 F-35 fighters made by Lockheed Martin, as well as information on new warships and Boeing-built P-8 Poseidon maritime-surveillance aircraft, in the July 2016 breach." The stolen data also included details of the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft and guided bombs used by the U.S. and Australian militaries as well as design information "down to the captain's chair" on new warships for Australia's navy.

Space

SpaceX Successfully Landed the 12th Falcon 9 Rocket of 2017 (theverge.com) 118

Shortly after launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket successfully landed on one of the company's drone ships in the ocean. "It marks the 12th time SpaceX has successfully landed the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket this year, the 18th overall, and the second this week," reports The Verge. "It was also the third time that the company has successfully launched and landed a rocket that had already flown." From the report: The vehicle for this mission has flown before: once back in February, when it lofted cargo to the International Space Station and then landed at SpaceX's ground-based Landing Zone 1. Going up on this flight is a hybrid satellite that will be used by two companies, SES and EchoStar. Called EchoStar 105/SES-11, the satellite will sit in a high orbit 22,000 miles above Earth, providing high-definition broadcasts to the U.S. and other parts of North America. While this is the first time EchoStar is flying a payload on a used Falcon 9, this is familiar territory for SES. The company's SES-10 satellite went up on the first "re-flight" in March. And SES has made it very clear that it is eager to fly its satellites on previously flown boosters.

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