Communications

A Bot That Drives Robocallers Insane 190

Trailrunner7 writes: Robocalls are among the more annoying modern inventions, and consumers and businesses have tried just about every strategy for defeating them over the years, with little success. But one man has come up with a bot of his own that sends robocallers into a maddening hall of mirrors designed to frustrate them into surrender. The bot is called the Jolly Roger Telephone Company, and it's the work of Roger Anderson, a veteran of the phone industry himself who had grown tired of the repeated harassment from telemarketers and robocallers. Anderson started out by building a system that sat in front of his home landlines and would tell human callers to press a key to ring through to his actual phone line; robocallers were routed directly to an answering system. He would then white-list the numbers of humans who got through. Sometimes the Jolly Roger bot will press buttons to be transferred to a human agent and other times it will just talk back if a human is on the other end of the line to begin with.
Government

UK Wants Authority To Serve Warrants In U.S. (usatoday.com) 112

schwit1 writes with this news, as reported by USA Today: British and U.S. officials have been negotiating a plan that could allow British authorities to directly serve wiretap orders on U.S. communications companies in criminal and national security inquiries, U.S. officials confirmed Thursday. The talks are aimed at allowing British authorities access to a range of data, from interceptions of live communications to archived emails involving British suspects, according to the officials, who are not authorized to comment publicly. ... Under the proposed plan, British authorities would not have access to records of U.S. citizens if they emerged in the British investigations. Congressional approval would be required of any deal negotiated by the two countries.
DRM

In Japan, a Battle Brewing Over the Right To Record 4k and 8k Broadcasts (itmedia.co.jp) 93

AmiMoJo writes: Japanese broadcasters have indicated that 4k and 8k broadcasts may have recording disabled via a 'do not copy' flag [via Google Translate], which receivers would be expected to obey. Now the Internet Users Association (MIAU) and Shufuren (Housewives Federation) have submitted documentation opposing the ban. The document points out that the ban will only inconvenience the majority of the general audience, while inevitably failing to prevent unauthorized copying by anyone determined to circumvent the protection.
Security

Anti-Malware Maker Files Lawsuit Over Bad Review (csoonline.com) 143

itwbennett writes: In a lawsuit filed January 8, 2016, Enigma Software, maker of anti-malware software SpyHunter, accuses self-help portal Bleeping Computer of making 'false, disparaging, and defamatory statements.' At issue: a bad review posted by a user in September, 2014. The lawsuit also accuses Bleeping Computer of profiting from driving traffic to competitor Malwarebytes via affiliate links: 'Bleeping has a direct financial interest in driving traffic and sales to Malwarebytes and driving traffic and sales away from ESG.' Perhaps not helping matters, one of the first donations to a fund set up by Bleeping Computer to help with legal costs came from Malwarebytes.
Government

Free State Project Reaches Goal of 20,000 Signups (freestateproject.org) 386

Okian Warrior writes: As a followup to our recent story, at 11AM Tuesday, Free State Project president Carla Gericke announced the FSP had reached its goal of recruiting 20,000 participants. The 20,000 mark is significant, because it 'triggers the move' – the mass migration of the Free State Project participants who have all agreed to move to New Hampshire within the next five years. So far, almost 2,000 have already relocated to the state.
Government

Everything You Need To Know About the Big New Data-Privacy Bill In Congress 28

erier2003 writes with this excerpt from The Daily Dot: The United States and the European Union have agreed to a transatlantic data-sharing arrangement to protect U.S. companies' overseas activities and European citizens' privacy, but another initiative—one that's still working its way through Congress—could be just important to U.S.–E.U. relations and transnational privacy rights. The Judicial Redress Act is considered essential to a broader agreement between the U.S. and Europe over the sharing of data in criminal and terrorism investigations. The negotiations over the newly announced E.U.–U.S. Privacy Shield may have received more attention, but the concerns at the heart of this bill are no less important.
Mozilla

Firefox 44 Deletes Fine-Grained Cookie Management (mozilla.org) 350

ewhac writes: Among its other desirable features, Firefox included a feature allowing very fine-grained cookie management. When enabled, every time a Web site asked to set a cookie, Firefox would raise a dialog containing information about the cookie requested, which you could then approve or deny. An "exception" list also allowed you to mark selected domains as "Always allow" or "Always deny", so that the dialog would not appear for frequently-visited sites. It was an excellent way to maintain close, custom control over which sites could set cookies, and which specific cookies they could set. It also helped easily identify poorly-coded sites that unnecessarily requested cookies for every single asset, or which would hit the browser with a "cookie storm" — hundreds of concurrent cookie requests.

Mozilla quietly deleted this feature from Firefox 44, with no functional equivalent put in its place. Further, users who had enabled the "Ask before accept" feature have had that preference silently changed to, "Accept normally." The proffered excuse for the removal was that the feature was unmaintained, and that its users were, "probably crashing multiple times a day as a result" (although no evidence was presented to support this assertion). Mozilla's apparent position is that users wishing fine-grained cookie control should be using a third-party add-on instead, and that an "Ask before accept" option was, "not really nice to use on today's Web."

Government

Marco Rubio Wants To Permanently Extend NSA Mass Surveillance (nationaljournal.com) 320

SonicSpike writes: Marco Rubio wants Congress to permanently extend the authorities governing several of the National Security Agency's controversial spying programs, including its mass surveillance of domestic phone records. The Florida Republican and 2016 presidential hopeful penned an op-ed on Tuesday condemning President Obama's counterterrorism policies and warning that the U.S. has not learned the "fundamental lessons of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001." Rubio called on Congress to permanently reauthorize core provisions of the post-9/11 USA Patriot Act, which are due to sunset on June 1 of this year and provide the intelligence community with much of its surveillance power. "This year, a new Republican majority in both houses of Congress will have to extend current authorities under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and I urge my colleagues to consider a permanent extension of the counterterrorism tools our intelligence community relies on to keep the American people safe," Rubio wrote in a Fox News op-ed.
Piracy

All 12 Member Countries Sign Off On the TPP (freezenet.ca) 171

Dangerous_Minds writes: News is surfacing that the TPP has officially been signed by all 12 member countries. This marks the beginning of the final step towards ratification. Freezenet has a quick rundown of what copyright provisions are contained in the agreement, including traffic shaping, site blocking, enforcement of copyright when infringement is "imminent," and a government mandate for ISPs to install backdoors for the purpose of tracking copyright infringement on the Internet.
Google

Google Targets Fake "Download" and "Play" Buttons (torrentfreak.com) 116

AmiMoJo writes: Google says it will go to war against the fake 'download' and 'play' buttons that attempt to deceive users on file-sharing and other popular sites. According to a new announcement from the company titled 'No More Deceptive Download Buttons', Google says it will expand its eight-year-old Safe Browsing initiative to target some of the problems highlighted above. 'You may have encountered social engineering in a deceptive download button, or an image ad that falsely claims your system is out of date. Today, we're expanding Safe Browsing protection to protect you from such deceptive embedded content, like social engineering ads,' the company says.
Crime

Survey: Average Successful Hack Nets Less Than $15,000 (csoonline.com) 80

itwbennett writes: According to a Ponemon Institute survey, hackers make less than $15,000 per successful attack and net, on average, less than $29,000 a year. The average attacker conducts eight attacks per year, of which less than half are successful. Among the findings that will be of particular interest to defenders: Hackers prefer easy targets and will call off an attack if it is taking too long. According to the survey, 13 percent quit after a delay of five hours. A delay of 10 hours causes 24 percent to quit, a delay of 20 hours causes 36 to quit, and a majority of 60 percent will give up if an attack takes 40 additional hours. 'If you can delay them by two days, you can deter 60 percent of attacks,' said Scott Simkin, senior threat intelligence manager at Palo Alto Networks, which sponsored the study.
Bug

IRS Computer Problems Shut Down Tax Return E-file System (foxnews.com) 161

Mr.Intel writes: The IRS stopped accepting electronically filed tax returns Wednesday because of problems with some of its computer systems. The outage could affect refunds, but the agency said it doesn't anticipate "major disruptions." A "hardware failure" forced the shutdown of several tax processing systems, including the e-file system, the IRS said in a statement. The IRS.gov website remains available, but "where's my refund" and other services are not working. Some systems will be out of service at least until Thursday, the agency said. "The IRS is currently in the process of making repairs and working to restore normal operations as soon as possible," the IRS said.
Mars

Congressional Testimony Says NASA Has No Plan For the Journey To Mars (blastingnews.com) 299

MarkWhittington writes: Testimony at a hearing before the House Science Committee's Subcommittee on Space suggested that NASA's Journey to Mars lacks a plan to achieve the first human landing on the Red Planet, almost six years after President Obama announced the goal on April 15, 2010. Moreover, two of the three witnesses argued that a more realistic near term goal for the space agency would be a return to the moon. The moon is not only a scientifically interesting and potentially commercially profitable place to go but access to lunar water, which can be refined into rocket fuel, would make the Journey to Mars easier and cheaper.
Businesses

Senators Blast Comcast, Other Cable Firms For "Unfair Billing Practices" (arstechnica.com) 149

An anonymous reader writes: Six Democratic US senators [Wednesday] criticized Comcast and other TV and broadband providers for charging erroneous fees, such as cable modem rental fees billed to customers who bought their own modems. The senators have written a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler asking the commission to 'stop unfair billing practices.'.....Last year, more than 30 percent of complaints to the FCC about Internet service and 38 percent of complaints about TV service were about billing...
Patents

Patent Troll VirnetX Awarded $626M In Damages From Apple (arstechnica.com) 124

Tackhead writes: Having won a $200M judgement against Microsoft in 2010, lost a $258M appeal against Cisco in 2013, and having beaten Apple for $368M in 2012, only to see the verdict overturned in 2014, patent troll VirnetX is back in the news, having been awarded $626M in damages arising from the 2012 Facetime patent infringement case against Apple.
Censorship

Julian Assange May Surrender To British Police On Friday (twitter.com) 320

bestweasel writes: As reported by The Guardian and others, Julian Assange has announced via Wikileaks that: "Should the UN announce tomorrow that I have lost my case against the United Kingdom and Sweden, I shall exit the embassy at noon on Friday to accept arrest by British police as there is no meaningful prospect of further appeal. ... However, should I prevail and the state parties be found to have acted unlawfully, I expect the immediate return of my passport and the termination of further attempts to arrest me."
Censorship

Beyond the Liberator: A 3D-Printed Plastic 9mm Semi-Auto Pistol 278

Profiled at Ars Technica is the (mostly) 3D-printed semi-auto pistol design from a West Virginia maker known as Derwood. The PLA-based design, which Derwood calls the Shuty MP-1, isn't quite all-plastic; like others that are roughly similar, it utilizes metal for a few parts that aren't practical in plastic. (Ars says just the barrel and springs, but it looks like metal is used for the guide rod and an internal plate, as well as for the screws that hold the whole thing together.) The core of the gun is a lower that bears a strong resemblance to an AR-15's, but the assembled gun looks to me more like a Skorpion submachine gun. Unlike Cody Wilson's single-shot Liberator pistol (mentioned here a few times before), the design files are not available for download -- at least not yet: "Not long," Derwood writes in a comment on a YouTube video of the pistol's assembly.
United States

Former DoE Employee Ensnared By Secret-Selling Sting Pleads Guilty (washingtonpost.com) 40

mdsolar writes: A former Energy Department employee accused of attempting to infiltrate the agency's computer system to steal nuclear secrets and sell them to a foreign government pleaded guilty Tuesday to a reduced charge of attempting to damage protected government computers in an email "spear-phishing attack." Charles Harvey Eccleston, a former employee at the department and at the independent Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), was arrested March 27 by Philippine authorities after an undercover FBI sting operation. Eccleston, 62, a U.S. citizen who had been living in the Philippines since 2011, was "terminated" from his job at the NRC in 2010, according to the Justice Department. In January 2015, the department said, he targeted more than 80 Energy Department employees in Washington at four national nuclear labs with emails containing what he thought were links to malicious websites that, if activated, could infect and damage computers.
Piracy

Torrents Time Lets Anyone Launch Their Own Web Version of Popcorn Time 130

An anonymous reader writes: Popcorn Time, an app for streaming video torrents, just got its own web version: Popcorn Time Online. Unlike other attempts to bring Popcorn Time into the browser, this one is powered by a tool called Torrents Time, which delivers the movies and TV shows via an embedded torrent client. Oh, and the developers have released the code so that anyone can create their own version. If Popcorn Time is Hollywood's worst nightmare, Torrents Time is trying to make sure Hollywood can't wake up.
Government

MIT Inches Closer To ARC Reactor Despite Losing Federal Funding (computerworld.com) 177

Lucas123 writes: Experimenting with a fusion device over the past 20 years has edged MIT researchers to their final goal, creating a small and relatively inexpensive ARC reactor, three of which would produce enough energy to power a city the size of Boston. The lessons already learned from MIT's even current Alcator C-Mod fusion device — with a plasma radius of just 0.68 meters — have enabled researchers to publish a paper on a prototype ARC that would be the world's smallest fusion reactor but with the greatest magnetic force and energy output for its size. The ARC would require 50MW to run while putting out about 200MW of electricity to the grid. Key to MIT's ARC reactor would be the use of a "high-temperature" rare-earth barium copper oxide (REBCO) superconducting tape for its magnetic coils, which only need to be cooled to 100 Kelvin, which enables the use of abundant liquid nitrogen as a cooling agent. Other fusion reactors' superconducting coils must be cooled to 4 degrees Kelvin. While there remain hurdles to overcome, such as sustaining the fusion reaction long enough to achieve a net power return, building the ARC would only take 4 to 5 years and cost about $5 billion, compared to the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), the world's largest tokamak fusion reactor due to go online and begin producing energy in 2027.

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