Crime

UK Teen Who Hacked CIA Director Sentenced To 2 Years In Prison (gizmodo.com) 150

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: A British teenager who gained notoriety for hacking a number of high profile United States government employees including former CIA director John Brennan and former director of intelligence James Clapper was sentenced Friday to two years in prison. Eighteen-year-old Kane Gamble pleaded guilty to 10 separate charges, including eight counts of "performing a function with intent to secure unauthorized access" and two counts of "unauthorized modification of computer material," the Guardian reported.

Gamble, otherwise known by his online alias Cracka, was 15 at the time that he started his hacking campaigns. The alleged leader of a hacking group known as Crackas With Attitude (CWA), Gamble made it a point to target members of the U.S. government. The young hacker's group managed to successfully gain access to ex-CIA director John Brennan's AOL email account. The group hacked a number of accounts belonging to former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, including his personal email, his wife's email, and his phone and internet provider account. The hackers allegedly made it so every call to Clapper's home phone would get forwarded to the Free Palestine Movement.

Businesses

SmugMug Buys Flickr, Vows To Revitalize the Photo Service (usatoday.com) 61

On Friday, Silicon Valley photo-sharing and storage company SmugMug announced it had acquired Flickr, the photo-sharing site created in 2004 by Ludicorp and acquired in 2005 by Yahoo. SmugMug CEO Don MacAskill told USA TODAY he's committed to revitalizing the faded social networking site, which hosted photos and videos long before it became trendy. Flickr will reportedly continue to operate separately, and SmugMug and Flickr accounts will "remain separate and independent for the foreseeable future." From the report: He declined to disclose the terms of the deal, which closed this week. "Flickr is an amazing community, full of some of the world's most passionate photographers. It's a fantastic product and a beloved brand, supplying tens of billions of photos to hundreds of millions of people around the world," MacAskill said. "Flickr has survived through thick-and-thin and is core to the entire fabric of the Internet." The surprise deal ends months of uncertainty for Flickr, whose fate had been up in the air since last year when Yahoo was bought by Verizon for $4.5 billion and joined with AOL in Verizon's Oath subsidiary.
Facebook

Silicon Valley Investors Wants to Fund a 'Good For Society' Facebook Replacement (calacanis.com) 216

Silicon Valley angel investor Jason Calacanis just announced the "Openbook Challenge," a competition to create a replacement for Facebook.

"Over the next three months, 20 finalists will compete for seven $100,000 incubator grants," explains long-time Slashdot reader reifman. "Their goal is to find startups with a sustainable business model e.g. subscriptions, reasonable advertising, cryptocurrency. etc. And they want it to be 'good for society.'"

Jason Calacanis writes: All community and social products on the internet have had their era, from AOL to MySpace, and typically they're not shut down by the government -- they're slowly replaced by better products. So, let's start the process of replacing Facebook... We already have two dozen quality teams cranking on projects and we hope to get to 100...

This is not an idea or business plan competition. We're looking for teams that can actually build a better social network, and we'll be judging teams primarily based upon their ability to execute... Keep in mind, that while ideas really matter, Zuckerberg has shown us, execution matters more.

Calacanis has even created a discussion group for the competition...on Facebook. And his announcement includes a famous quote from Mark Zuckerberg.

"Don't be too proud to copy."
Yahoo!

Yahoo's New Privacy Policy Allows Data-Sharing With Verizon (cnet.com) 38

"Yahoo is now part of Oath and there is a new Privacy and Terms contract..." warns long-time Slashdot reader DigitalLogic. CNET reports: Oath notes that it has the right to read your emails, instant messages, posts, photos and even look at your message attachments. And it might share that data with parent company Verizon, too... When you dig further into Oath's policy about what it might do with your words, photos, and attachments, the company clarifies that it's utilizing automated systems that help the company with security, research and providing targeted ads -- and that those automated systems should strip out personally identifying information before letting any humans look at your data. But there are no explicit guarantees on that.
The update also warns that Oath is now "linking your activity on other sites and apps with information we have about you, and providing anonymized and/or aggregated reports to other parties regarding user trends." For example, Oath "may analyze user content around certain interactions with financial institutions," and "leverages information financial institutions are allowed to send over email."

Oath does offer a "Privacy Controls" page which includes a "legacy" AOL link letting you opt-out of internet-based advertising that's been targeted "based on your online activities" -- but it appears to be functioning sporadically.

CNET also reports that now Yahoo users are agreeing to a class-action waiver and mutual arbitration. "What it means is if you don't like what the company does with your data, you'll have a hard time suing."
Businesses

Silicon Valley Is Over, Says Silicon Valley (nytimes.com) 304

An anonymous reader shares a New York Times report: In recent months, a growing number of tech leaders have been flirting with the idea of leaving Silicon Valley. Some cite the exorbitant cost of living in San Francisco and its suburbs, where even a million-dollar salary can feel middle class. Others complain about local criticism of the tech industry and a left-wing echo chamber that stifles opposing views. And yet others feel that better innovation is happening elsewhere. "I'm a little over San Francisco," said Patrick McKenna, the founder of High Ridge Venture Partners who was also on the bus tour. "It's so expensive, it's so congested, and frankly, you also see opportunities in other places." Mr. McKenna, who owns a house in Miami in addition to his home in San Francisco, told me that his travels outside the Bay Area had opened his eyes to a world beyond the tech bubble. "Every single person in San Francisco is talking about the same things, whether it's 'I hate Trump' or 'I'm going to do blockchain and Bitcoin,'" he said. "It's the worst part of the social network."

[...] Complaints about Silicon Valley insularity are as old as the Valley itself. Jim Clark, the co-founder of Netscape, famously decamped for Florida during the first dot-com era, complaining about high taxes and expensive real estate. Steve Case, the founder of AOL, has pledged to invest mostly in start-ups outside the Bay Area, saying that "we've probably hit peak Silicon Valley." But even among those who enjoy living in the Bay Area, and can afford to do so comfortably, there's a feeling that success has gone to the tech industry's head. "Some of the engineers in the Valley have the biggest egos known to humankind," Mr. Khanna, the Silicon Valley congressman, said during a round-table discussion with officials in Youngstown.

United States

A 15-Year-Old Convinced Verizon He Was the Head of the CIA (newsweek.com) 143

schwit1 shares an interesting story. Newsweek reports: A British teenager managed to obtain access to sensitive U.S. plans about intelligence operations in different Middle East countries by acting as former CIA Director John Brennan, a court heard on Friday. Kane Gamble, 18, researched Brennan and used the information he gathered to speak to an internet company and persuade call handlers to give him access to the spy chief's email inbox in 2015. He pretended to be both a Verizon employee and Brennan to access Brennan's internet account.

Astonishingly, Gamble managed to gain access to Brennan's emails and his addressbook, as well as his iCloud storage. He even managed to remotely access the iPad of Brennan's wife... Gamble, aged 15 at the time, also persuaded a helpdesk at the FBI that he was the then deputy director Mark Giuliano... In October 2017, Gamble pleaded guilty to 10 charges, including eight charges of "performing a function with intent to secure unauthorized access" to the computers and two of "unauthorized modification of computer material."

Businesses

Ars Technica Puts Twitter, Uber On '2018 Deathwatch' (arstechnica.com) 152

The editors of Ars Technica have compiled their annual list of "Companies, tech, and trends least likely to succeed in 2018... Let's grab a Juicero and take a moment to reflect on the utter dumpster fires that we've witnessed over the past 12 months." Some of its highlights: Uber. "The company is losing billions of dollars a year, with no clear strategy for getting to profitability. Uber lost $2.8 billion in 2016 and will lose even more than that in 2017. Uber had $6.6 billion cash on hand in mid-2017 -- money that might not last much beyond the end of 2018... The company needs to find a way to stem its losses and get on the path to profitability before investors get frustrated and close their checkbooks..."

Twitter. "Still a money-losing concern. In 2016, it lost a mere $456.9 million, and its losses have continued in 2017 (though at a slightly less hemorrhagic pace). Still, on paper, the company is burning through the equivalent of a third of its cash on hand per year. And profitability (or an acquisition) is nowhere in sight..."

Net Neutrality. "It's not a company, but it's on deathwatch anyway..."

They also advise readers to "Pour out one for Radio Shack, which died even faster the second time around after what looked like a brave reboot" (though it's now getting another reboot). And they're bragging about their successful picks last year for the companies least likely to succeed in 2017.

"Yahoo has now been officially digested by Oath, a Verizon Company, its bits commingling with AOL's in a new, bizarrely named beast that for now bears the same logos... Yik Yak, the anonymous gossiping-messaging app that got banned by various universities for hate speech, is dead -- selling its intellectual property to Square, of all companies... Theranos is busy sending out thousands of refunds to Arizona residents, and the company has rented out its Palo Alto headquarters in an attempt to stay solvent until it can legally test blood again... BlackBerry doesn't make phones any more, having licensed its trademark and some of its tech to TCL. It is now a 'cybersecurity software and services company dedicated to securing the Enterprise of Things.'"
Businesses

Established Players in Tech Industry Are Displaced By New Technologies and Companies Often When They Are Operating At Their Peak (learningbyshipping.com) 57

In a column, Steven Sinofsky, former President of the Windows Division at Microsoft, cites various examples from the past to suggest that it is often when incumbents in technology space have established market dominance that new startups rise and displace them: While the tech incumbents are clearly generating massive revenue and profits, nearly all of this comes from products developed long ago. In fact, as we now know in hindsight, it is exactly when conventional wisdom conflates today's economic success with forward-looking product innovation that seeds are being planted for the next massive wave of innovation. Google was formed at time when the incumbents of AOL and even Yahoo were stronger than ever. Facebook came just after the dot com bubble burst. Even the reincarnation of Apple took place after the bubble burst with products being developed as the bubble peaked. And for what it is worth, the PC ecosystem, particularly Windows, was relatively "flat" mired in Windows Vista while Firefox dominated and Google Chrome was appeared (Windows 7 wouldn't come out for a year after Chrome). In the infrastructure space, the seeds were planted for both AWS and VMWare in the shadow of the dot com bubble. In an historical context it is highly likely that the next wave of innovation in new technologies and new companies will happen right under the noses of big companies operating at what the public markets think of as peak (earnings) potential.
America Online

PSA: AIM Will Be Discontinued Tomorrow (fortune.com) 105

Cutting_Crew writes: Along with Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger and ICQ, I used AIM extensively (without an AOL subscription of course). AIM will finally come to a halt on December 15th, 2017, as reported a few months ago and explained in AOL fashion over on their website. I remember using AIM to keep in touch with friends, co-workers and yes, even tried dating back in the day using the "looking for love" feature not only available to AOL subscribers but also extended to AIM users as well. Any memories you want to share? Speak now, or forever hold your peace.
IT

Tech Support Scammers Invade Spotify Forums To Rank in Search Engines (bleepingcomputer.com) 33

Tech support scammers have been aggressively posting on Spotify forums to inject their phone numbers in a bid to vastly improve their odds of showing up on Google and Bing search results, a new report claims. And that bet seems to be working. From the report: They do this by submitting a constant stream of spam posts to the Spotify forums, whose pages tend to rank well in Google. While this behavior causes the Spotify forums to become harder to use for those who have valid questions, the bigger problem is that it allows tech support scammers to rank extremely well and trick unknowing callers into purchasing unnecessary services and software. BleepingComputer was alerted to this problem by security researcher Cody Johnston who started to see an alarming amount of tech support scam phone numbers being listed in Google search results through indexed Spotify forum posts. The tech support scams being posted to Spotify include Tinder, Linksys, AOL, Turbotax, Coinbase, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Norton, McAfee and more.
The Internet

CompuServe's Forums Are Closing On December 15 (fastcompany.com) 142

harrymcc writes: In the era before the web, the forums on CompuServe were indispensable for everything from getting tech questions answered to chatting about movies. They still exist, albeit in diminished form. But Oath, which owns AOL, which owns what's left of CompuServe, is about to finally shut them down. I wrote about the sad news for Fast Company.
Businesses

Does Online Crowdfunding Actually Reward Innovation? (strategy-business.com) 93

Slashdot reader Anirban Mukherjee is an assistant marketing professor at Singapore Management University who led a team analyzing every Kickstarter project ever launched in nine product-oriented categories. An anonymous reader summarizes their results: One 2013 report predicted $96 billion a year in crowdfunding by 2038 -- nearly twice as much as what's currently funded by venture capitalists. (In a foreword, AOL co-founder Steve Case touts the potential of crowdfunding for "the rise of the rest.") "Many have predicted that online crowdfunding will democratize product development," writes business journalist Matt Palmquist, "allowing small entrepreneurs who lack the contacts, resources, and experience of larger companies to overcome economic, geographic, and social barriers on their way to market." But a large-scale analysis discovered that the biggest barrier may be consumers themselves. "The study's authors found that the amount of money pledged increased when the product description emphasized either originality or utility -- but dropped when both attributes were mentioned. The findings suggest that the crowd does not yet prize true innovation."

"The authors posit that the high degree of ambiguity surrounding crowdfunding might scare consumers away from supporting groundbreaking projects. In the typical shopping context, they point out, consumer regulations protect the buyer. But in crowdfunding, consumers may never receive the product... Another study found that more than 75 percent of successfully funded Kickstarter projects are significantly delayed... 'We speculate that the higher level of uncertainty in the crowdfunding context drives backers to choose modest innovations and shy away from more extreme innovations, i.e., innovations that are high on both novelty and usefulness,' the authors write."

After reviewing 50,310 projects, the team concluded that crowdfunding "may not be the panacea for innovation."
America Online

Regulate Facebook Like AIM (vice.com) 105

New submitter gooddogsgotoheaven shares a report from Motherboard arguing why the U.S. government should regulate Facebook like AIM: Sixteen years ago, the FCC approved a merger between American Online and Time Warner, but with several conditions. As part of the deal, AOL was required to make its web portal compatible with other chat apps. The government stopped AOL from building a closed system where everyone had to use AIM, meaning it had to adopt interoperability -- the ability to be compatible with other computer systems. The FCC required AOL to be compatible with at least one instant messaging rival immediately after the merger went through. Within six months, the FCC required AOL to make its portal compatible with at least two other rivals, or face penalties. The FCC's decision changed how we communicate with each other on the internet. By forcing AIM to make room for competition, a range of messaging apps and services, as well as social networks emerged. Instead of being limited to AIM, people who used AOL's portal could choose other platforms.

If Facebook were forced to make room for other services on its platform in the same way AOL made room for other chat apps, new services could emerge. "Facebook has to allow people to access their relationships however they want through other businesses or tools that are not controlled by Facebook," Matt Stoller, a fellow at the Open Markets Institute, said. "Having them control and mediate the structure of those relationships -- that's not right." Of course, people can opt out of Facebook and choose to use other, smaller social networks. But those businesses are essentially unable to thrive because of the hold Facebook has on how we communicate online. All our friends and family are already on Facebook, and because the platform is not regulated to allow competition, it's incredibly difficult for other, newer ones to emerge.

America Online

RIP AIM: AOL Instant Messenger Dies in December (usatoday.com) 117

It's the end of an era: as of December 15, AOL's Instant Messenger will no longer exist. From a report: In a statement from Oath, the new entity formed under Verizon combining AOL with the recently-acquired Yahoo, the service will be discontinued. "AIM tapped into new digital technologies and ignited a cultural shift, but the way in which we communicate with each other has profoundly changed," said Michael Albers, VP of Communications Product at Oath. AIM was a staple of personal computers since first launching in 1997, serving as a precursor to popular apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. However, AIM couldn't make the seamless transition to mobile, where most users rely on instant messaging services. Users will be able to manually download any images or files on AIM before the service shuts down. However, users won't be able to export or save their Buddy List, the group of contacts available on AIM.
Yahoo!

Yahoo Triples Estimate of Breached Accounts To 3 Billion (engadget.com) 41

An anonymous reader shares a report from The Wall Street Journal (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): A massive data breach at Yahoo in 2013 was far more extensive than previously disclosed, affecting all of its 3 billion user accounts, new parent company Verizon Communications Inc. said on Tuesday. The figure, which Verizon said was based on new information, is three times the 1 billion accounts Yahoo said were affected when it first disclosed the breach in December 2016. The new disclosure, four months after Verizon completed its acquisition of Yahoo, shows that executives are still coming to grips with the extent of the security problem in what was already the largest hacking incident in history by number of users.

A spokesman for Oath, the new name of Verizon's Yahoo unit, said the company determined last week that the break-in was much worse than thought, after it received new information from outside the company. He declined to elaborate on the source of that information. Compromised customer information included usernames, passwords, and in some cases telephone numbers and dates of birth, the spokesman said.

Verizon

Verizon Up Offers Rewards in Exchange For Customers' Personal Information (wsj.com) 74

An anonymous reader shares a report: A new Verizon rewards program, Verizon Up, provides credits that wireless subscribers can use for concert tickets, movie premieres and phone upgrades. But it comes with a catch: Customers must give the carrier access to their web-browsing history, app usage and location data, which Verizon says it uses to personalize the rewards and deliver targeted advertising as its customers browse the web. The trade-off is part of Verizon's effort to build a digital advertising business to compete with web giants Facebook and Google, which often already possess much of the same customer information. Even though Congress earlier this year dismantled tough privacy regulations on telecommunications providers, Verizon still wants customers to opt-in to its most comprehensive advertising program, called Verizon Selects. Data collected under the program is shared with Oath, the digital-media unit Verizon created when it bought AOL and Yahoo. Since access to data from customers could make it easier to tailor ads to their liking, Verizon hopes the information will help it gain advertising revenue to offset sluggish growth in its cellular business.See a current list of Verizon plans here.
Music

What Happened To Winamp? (arstechnica.com) 332

Winamp was released more than 20 years ago, and last week marked the 15th anniversary of the release of Winamp3. An anonymous Slashdot reader tries to explain what finally happened to Winamp: AOL planned to discontinue Winamp in November of 2013, but instead sold it to the Belgian online radio service Radionomy. The last update on Winamp's Twitter account was September of 2015, though it announced that they were looking for a new senior C++ developer. Then in December of 2015 Vivendi Group became that company's majority shareholder, stirring hopes that the company might one day launch a revamped version of the classic mp3 player from 1997.

So did they? Radionomy's Winamp page is still showing download links -- though they now lead instead to a forum post which says "code licensed to the previous owner" is being removed or replaced. But that post has been updated five times -- as recently as last October -- with "info about the next Winamp release," each linking to a thread on Winamp's forums which offer tantalizing glimpses into a still-ongoing development process. And last October a Winamp dev posted on Twitter that "a Winamp 5.8 public beta release could be imminent," while the web page at Winamp.com still says "There's more coming soon," with a background image of a llama.

"There's no reason that Winamp couldn't be in the position that iTunes is in today if not for a few layers of mismanagement by AOL that started immediately upon acquisition," their first general manager told Ars Technica in 2012. (Winamp's developers had been earning $100,000 a month just from $10 shareware checks before AOL acquired the company in 1999 for $100 million.) In May TechRadar wrote that Winamp "is still a great media player...but it now relies on third-party extensions to add features found as standard in more modern players."

I still remember all the visualizations and custom skins -- but does this bring back any memories for anyone else? Leave your thoughts in the comments. And what mp3-playing software are you using today?
Google

Bing is 'Bigger Than You Think', Says Microsoft (onmsft.com) 220

Microsoft said this week that Bing is "bigger than you think" and provided some numbers that could be a surprise to many. The company claims that fully one-third of searches in the US are powered by Bing, either directly or through Yahoo or AOL (both of which provide results generated by Microsoft). From a report: With 9% market share worldwide and 12 billion monthly searches, almost half of that (5 billion) comes from the United States where Bing has 33% market share.
Google

Brits Look at Google and Facebook Every 210 Seconds, Says Survey (theregister.co.uk) 26

Ad companies Facebook and Google slurp one in every three and a half minutes that Britons spend online, according to a survey. From a report: This, says audience metrics company Verto Analytics, accounts for 17 per cent of British adults' time online, the equivalent of 42.7 million days a month across Google, YouTube and Gmail. Similarly, Facebook-owned sites, including the ad-driven data-mining website itself, Instagram and WhatsApp, account for 11 per cent of time online, or a relatively paltry 28.4 million days. "Google and Facebook's share of internet time and ad revenue is staggering considering the hundreds of thousands of websites that exist," said Hannu Verkasalo, CEO of Verto Analytics, in a canned statement. The Verto survey also found that of the top 10 websites used in the UK, the sole British one was the BBC. Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, "Oath" (the new name for the merged Yahoo-AOL beastie), eBay and Twitter were the others, along with Activision Blizzard.
Verizon

Verizon's New Rewards Program Lets It Track Your Browsing History (theverge.com) 84

The new "Verizon Up" rewards program released this week by Big Red awards users a credit for every $300 they spend on their Verizon bill that can be redeemed toward various rewards. The only catch is that Verizon requires you to enroll in Verizon Selects, a program that allows the company to track a huge chunk of your personal data. The Verge reports: That includes web browsing, app usage, device location, service usage, demographic info, postal or email address, and your interests. Furthermore, that data gets shared with Verizon's newly formed Oath combination (aka AOL and Yahoo), plus with "vendors and partners" who work with Verizon. Which is kind of a long list of people who have access to what feels like a fairly significant amount of your data. It's worth noting that Verizon has been operating under these terms and conditions for a while with an earlier rewards program called "Smart Rewards," which also required users to opt in to the Verizon Selects tracking program. But that doesn't make it any better that this is the trade-off you're forced to make to take advantage of the rewards.

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