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AI

Tiny Changes Can Cause An AI To Fail (bbc.com) 237

Luthair writes: According to the BBC there is growing concern in the machine learning community that as their algorithms are deployed in the real world they can be easily confused by knowledgeable attackers. These algorithms don't process information in the same way humans do, a small sticker placed strategically on a sign could render it invisible to a self driving car.
The article points out that a sticker on a stop sign "is enough for the car to 'see' the stop sign as something completely different from a stop sign," while researchers have created an online collection of images which currently fool AI systems. "In one project, published in October, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University built a pair of glasses that can subtly mislead a facial recognition system -- making the computer confuse actress Reese Witherspoon for Russell Crowe."

One computer academic says that unlike a spam-blocker, "if you're relying on the vision system in a self-driving car to know where to go and not crash into anything, then the stakes are much higher," adding ominously that "The only way to completely avoid this is to have a perfect model that is right all the time." Although on the plus side, "If you're some political dissident inside a repressive regime and you want to be able to conduct activities without being targeted, being able to avoid automated surveillance techniques based on machine learning would be a positive use."
Facebook

Facebook Targets 30,000 Fake France Accounts Before Election (go.com) 112

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ABC News: Facebook says it has targeted 30,000 fake accounts linked to France ahead of the country's presidential election, as part of a worldwide effort against misinformation. The company said Thursday it's trying to "reduce the spread of material generated through inauthentic activity, including spam, misinformation, or other deceptive content that is often shared by creators of fake accounts." It said its efforts "enabled us to take action" against the French accounts and that it is removing sites with the highest traffic. Facebook and French media are also running fact-checking programs in France to combat misleading information, especially around the campaign for the two-round April 23-May 7 presidential election. European authorities have also pressured Facebook and Twitter to remove extremist propaganda or other postings that violate European hate speech or other laws.
Spam

Airline Fined For Sending 3.3 Million Unwanted Emails (bbc.com) 18

The airline Flybe has been fined 70,000 pound ($87,000) for sending more than 3.3 million marketing emails to people who had opted out of receiving them. From a report on BBC: The emails, sent in August 2016, advised people to amend out-of-date personal information and update their marketing preferences. They also gave people the chance to enter a prize draw. But the regulator said Flybe should have obtained people's consent before sending the emails. "Sending emails to determine whether people want to receive marketing, without the right consent, is still marketing, and it is against the law," said Steve Eckersley, head of enforcement at the Information Commissioner's Office. "In Flybe's case, the company deliberately contacted people who had already opted out of emails from them."
Communications

T-Mobile Kicks Off Industry Robocall War With Network-Level Blocking and ID Tools (venturebeat.com) 76

T-Mobile is among the first U.S. telecom companies to announce plans to thwart pesky robocallers. From a report on VentureBeat: The move represents part of an industry-wide Robocall Strike Force set up by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last year to combat the 2 billion-plus automated calls U.S. consumers deal with each month. Other key members of the group include Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Verizon. T-Mobile's announcement comes 24 hours after the FCC voted to approve a new rule that would allow telecom companies to block robocallers who use fake caller ID numbers to conceal their true location and identity. From a report on WashingtonPost: The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday proposed new rules (PDF) that would allow phone companies to target and block robo-calls coming from what appear to be illegitimate or unassigned phone numbers. The rules could help cut down on the roughly 2.4 billion automated calls that go out each month -- many of them fraudulent, according to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. "Robo-calls are the No. 1 consumer complaint to the FCC from members of the American public," he said, vowing to halt people who, in some cases, pretend to be tax officials demanding payments from consumers, or, in other cases, ask leading questions that prompt consumers to give up personal information as part of an identity theft scam.
Communications

Could We Eliminate Spam With DMARC? (zdnet.com) 124

An anonymous reader writes: "The spam problem would not only be significantly reduced, it'd probably almost go away," argues Paul Edmunds, the head of technology from the cybercrimes division of the U.K.'s National Crime Agency -- suggesting that more businesses should be using DMARC, an email validation system that uses both the Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM). "Edmunds argued, if DMARC was rolled out everywhere in order to verify if messages come from legitimate domains, it would be a major blow to spam distributors and take a big step towards protecting organizations from this type of crime..." reports ZDNet. "However, according to a recent survey by the Global Cyber Alliance, DMARC isn't widely used and only 15% of cybersecurity vendors themselves are using DMARC to prevent email spoofing.
Earlier this month America's FTC also reported that 86% of major online businesses used SPF to help ISPs authenticate their emails -- but fewer than 10% have implemented DMARC.
Google

Google Tells Army of 'Quality Raters' To Flag Holocaust Denial (theguardian.com) 429

Google is using a 10,000-strong army of independent contractors to flag "offensive or upsetting" content, in order to ensure that queries like "did the Holocaust happen" don't push users to misinformation, propaganda and hate speech. From a report on The Guardian: The review of search terms is being done by the company's "quality raters", a little-known corps of worldwide contractors that Google uses to assess the quality of its systems. The raters are given searches based on real queries to conduct, and are asked to score the results on whether they meet the needs of users. These contractors, introduced to the company's review process in 2013, work from a huge manual describing every potential problem they could find with a given search query: whether or not it meets the user's expectations, whether the result offered is low or high quality, and whether it's spam, porn or illegal. In a new update to the rating system, rolled out on Tuesday, Google introduced another flag raters could use: the "upsetting-offensive" mark.
Security

Huge Database Leak Reveals 1.37 Billion Email Addresses and Exposes Illegal Spam Operation (betanews.com) 141

One of the largest spam operations in the world has exposed its entire operation to the public, leaking its database of 1.37bn email addresses thanks to a faulty backup. From a report: A faulty backup has inadvertently exposed the entire working database of notorious spam operator River City Media (RCM). In all, the database contains more than 1.37 billion email addresses, and for some records there are additional details such as names, real-world addresses, and IP addresses. It's a situation that's described as "a tangible threat to online privacy and security." Details about the leak come courtesy of Chris Vickery from macOS security firm MacKeeper who -- with a team of helpers -- has been investigating since January. River City Media's database ended up online thanks to incorrectly-configured Rsync backups. In the words of Vickery: "Chances are you, or at least someone you know, is affected." The leaked, and unprotected, database is what's behind the sending of over a billion spam emails every day -- helped, as Vickery points out, by "a lot of automation, years of research, and fair bit of illegal hacking techniques." But it's more than a database that has leaked -- it's River City Media's entire operation.
Spam

Exploit that Caused iPhones To Repeatedly Dial 911 Reveals Grave Cybersecurity Threat, Say Experts (9to5mac.com) 71

Ben Lovejoy, writing for 9to5Mac: We reported back in October on an iOS exploit that caused iPhones to repeatedly dial 911 without user intervention. It was said then that the volume of calls meant one 911 center was in 'immediate danger' of losing service, while two other centers had been at risk -- but a full investigation has now concluded that the incident was much more serious than it appeared at the time. It was initially thought that a few hundred calls were generated in a short time, but investigators now believe that one tweeted link that activated the exploit was clicked on 117,502 times, each click triggering a 911 call. The WSJ reports that law-enforcement officials and 911 experts fear that a targeted attack using the same technique could prove devastating. Of the 6,500 911 call centers nationwide, just 420 are believed to have implemented a cybersecurity program designed to protect them from this kind of attack.
Google

Is Google's Comment Filtering Tool 'Vanishing' Legitimate Comments? (vortex.com) 101

Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein writes: Google has announced (with considerable fanfare) public access to their new "Perspective" comment filtering system API, which uses Google's machine learning/AI system to determine which comments on a site shouldn't be displayed due to perceived high spam/toxicity scores. It's a fascinating effort. And if you run a website that supports comments, I urge you not to put this Google service into production, at least for now.

The bottom line is that I view Google's spam detection systems as currently too prone to false positives -- thereby enabling a form of algorithm-driven "censorship" (for lack of a better word in this specific context) -- especially by "lazy" sites that might accept Google's determinations of comment scoring as gospel... as someone who deals with significant numbers of comments filtered by Google every day -- I have nearly 400K followers on Google Plus -- I can tell you with considerable confidence that the problem isn't "spam" comments that are being missed, it's completely legitimate non-spam, non-toxic comments that are inappropriately marked as spam and hidden by Google.

Lauren is also collecting noteworthy experiences for a white paper about "the perceived overall state of Google (and its parent corporation Alphabet, Inc.)" to better understand how internet companies are now impacting our lives in unanticipated ways. He's inviting people to share their recent experiences with "specific Google services (including everything from Search to Gmail to YouTube and beyond), accounts, privacy, security, interactions, legal or copyright issues -- essentially anything positive, negative, or neutral that you are free to impart to me, that you believe might be of interest."
Botnet

World's Largest Spam Botnet Adds DDoS Feature (bleepingcomputer.com) 26

An anonymous reader writes from a report via BleepingComputer: Necurs, the world's largest spam botnet with nearly five million infected bots, of which one million are active each day, has added a new module that can be used for launching DDoS attacks. The sheer size of the Necurs botnet, even in its worst days, dwarfs all of today's IoT botnets. The largest IoT botnet ever observed was Mirai Botnet #14 that managed to rack up around 400,000 bots towards the end of 2016 (albeit the owner of that botnet has now been arrested). If this new feature were to ever be used, a Necurs DDoS attack would easily break every DDoS record there is. Fortunately, no such attack has been seen until now. Until now, the Necurs botnet has been seen spreading the Dridex banking trojan and the Locky ransomware. According to industry experts, there's a low chance we'd see the Necurs botnet engage in DDoS attacks because the criminal group behind the botnet is already making too much money to risk exposing their full infrastructure in DDoS attacks.
Spam

Spammer Faces Decades In Prison For Sending More Than 1 Million Spam Emails (suntimes.com) 146

mi quotes a report from Chicago Sun-Times: A man has been indicted on federal fraud charges for allegedly sending more than a million spam emails. The indictment charges 36-year-old Michael Persaud of Scottsdale, Arizona, with 10 counts of wire fraud and seeks the forfeiture of four computers, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney's office. The indictment was returned Dec. 9, 2016, and was unsealed after Persaud was arrested last month in Arizona. Between 2012 and 2015, Persaud used multiple IP addresses and domains to send spam emails over at least nine networks, including several servers in Chicago, according to the indictment. He sent more than a million spam emails to people in the U.S. and abroad, using false names to register domains and creating fraudulent "from address" fields to conceal the fact that he was the one sending the emails. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
mi leaves us with some rather unpleasant imagery, writing: "Personally, I wish [the sentence] carried removal of 1 square millimeter of skin for each message instead."
Botnet

Programmer Develops Phone Bot To Target Windows Support Scammers (onthewire.io) 97

Trailrunner7 quotes a report from On the Wire: The man who developed a bot that frustrates and annoys robocallers is planning to take on the infamous Windows support scam callers head-on. Roger Anderson last year debuted his Jolly Roger bot, a system that intercepts robocalls and puts the caller into a never-ending loop of pre-recorded phrases designed to waste their time. Anderson built the system as a way to protect his own landlines from annoying telemarketers and it worked so well that he later expanded it into a service for both consumers and businesses. Users can send telemarketing calls to the Jolly Roger bot and listen in while it chats inanely with the caller. Now, Anderson is targeting the huge business that is the Windows fake support scam. This one takes a variety of forms, often with a pre-recorded message informing the victim that technicians have detected that his computer has a virus and that he will be connected to a Windows support specialist to help fix it. The callers have no affiliation with Microsoft and no way of detecting any malware on a target's machine. It's just a scare tactic to intimidate victims into paying a fee to remove the nonexistent malware, and sometimes the scammers get victims to install other unwanted apps on their PCs, as well. Anderson plans to turn the tables on these scammers and unleash his bots on their call centers. "I'm getting ready for a major initiative to shut down Windows Support. It's like wack-a-mole, but I'm getting close to going nuclear on them. As fast as you can report fake 'you have a virus call this number now' messages to me, I will be able to hit them with thousands of calls from bots," Andrew said in a post Tuesday.
DRM

DRM Company Denuvo Forgets To Secure Its Server, Leaks Two Years Of Emails (torrentfreak.com) 77

Denuvo "left several private directories on its website open to the public," TorrentFreak wrote Sunday, calling it "an embarrassing blunder" for the digital rights management company. "Members of the cracking community are downloading and scrutinizing the contents," the site reports, with one of the finds being an 11-megabyte text file which apparently contains every message sent through Denuvo's web site since 2014. An anonymous reader writes: There's a message from Google's security team, one from Capcom Japan, and "dozens of emails from angry pirates, each looking to vent their anger," according to TorrentFreak. Ars Technica reports that there's also a 2015 message from Microsoft about "an upcoming initiative," as well as messages several game studios, and even one from the producers of Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. "Combing the log file brings up countless spam messages, along with complaints, confused 'why won't this game work' queries from apparent pirates, and even threats (an example: 'for what you did to arkham knight I will find you and I will kill you and all of your loved ones, this I promise you CEO of this SHIT drm')."

"Since Denuvo's contact page does not contain a link to a private e-mail address -- only a contact form and a phone number to the company's Austrian headquarters -- the form appears to also have been used by many game developers and publishers." And in addition, "much of Denuvo's web database content appears to be entirely unsecured, with root directories for 'fileadmin' and 'logs' sitting in the open right now."

In addition, there's also a slideshow -- which has since been uploaded to Imgur -- bragging that "With over 300 man years of development experience among us, we clearly know what we're doing."
Communications

Facebook Changes Feed To Promote Posts That Aren't Fake, Sensational, Or Spam (techcrunch.com) 194

TechCrunch is reporting that Facebook is prioritizing "authentic" content in News Feed with a ranking algorithm change that detects and promotes content "that people consider genuine, and not misleading, sensational, or spammy." The algorithm will also boost stories that are going viral in real-time. From the report: To build the update, Facebook categorized Pages that frequently share inauthentic posts like fake news and clickbaity headlines, or get their posts hidden often. It then used these posts to train an algorithm that detects similar content as its shared in the News Feed. Facebook will now give extra feed visibility to posts that don't show signs of similarity to inauthentic content. Meanwhile, Facebook wants to more quickly surface big stories going viral either because the topic is being posted about by lots of people, or a Page post about the topic is seeing tons of engagement. Facebook will then take that as a signal that you might temporarily care more about the topic, and therefore show it in your News Feed while it's still hot. Facebook says it doesn't anticipate significant changes to most Pages' News Feed distribution, but some might see a small increase or decrease in referral traffic or outbound clicks depending on if they share authentic, timely content vs inauthentic and outdated stories.
Crime

Police Department Loses Years Worth of Evidence In Ransomware Incident (bleepingcomputer.com) 131

"Police in Cockrell Hill, Texas admitted Wednesday in a press release that they lost years worth of evidence after the department's server was infected with ransomware," reports BleepingComputer. "Lost evidence includes all body camera video, some in-car video, some in-house surveillance video, some photographs, and all Microsoft Office documents." An anonymous reader writes: Most of the data was from solved cases, but some of the evidence was from active investigations. The infection appears to be from the Locky ransomware family, one of the most active today, and took root last December, after an employee opened a document he received via via a spam email. The police department backup system apparently kicked in right after the infection took root, and created copies of the already encrypted data. The department did not pay the $4,000 ransom demand and decided to wipe all its systems.
Facebook

Facebook Has a Team That Handles Mark Zuckerberg's Page (cnet.com) 55

theodp writes: Q. How many Facebook employees does it take to produce Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook page? A. More than a dozen! CNET's Ian Sherr offers his take on the news that Facebook has a team that handles Mark Zuckerberg's page: "Ever notice the photos, videos and posts on the profile page for Facebook's CEO are a lot nicer looking or better written than yours? Don't feel bad. Mark Zuckerberg has a team of people who are increasingly managing his public persona, according to a Wednesday report from Bloomberg Businessweek. Not only do they help write speeches and posts, but they also take photographs of his family and his travels, interspersing them with infographics about the company's user growth and sales. There're even people who delete harassing comments and spam for him. A Facebook spokeswoman said the company's service is an easy way for executives to connect with people." Wonder how many people it took to help craft the latest post, in which Zuck fired back at "some misleading stories going around" about "some land" he purchased in Hawaii (which another Zuck post noted also serves as a petting zoo of sorts for his daughter).
Google

Did Google.org Steal the Christmas Spirit? (theregister.co.uk) 103

Google.org gives nonprofits roughly $100 million each year. But now the Register argues that festive giving "has become a 'Googlicious' sales push." Among other things, The Register criticizes the $30 million in grant funding that Google.org gave this Christmas "to nonprofits to bring phones, tablets, hardware and training to communities that can benefit from them most," some of which utilized the crowdfunding site DonorsChoose (which tacks a fee of at least $30 fee onto every donation). "The most critical learning resources that teachers need are often exercise books, pen and paper, but incentives built into the process steer educators to request and receive Google hardware, rather than humble classroom staples," claims the Register. theodp writes: [O]ne can't help but wonder if Google.org's decision to award $18,130 to teachers at Timberland Charter Academy for Chromebooks to help make students "become 'Google'licious" while leaving another humbler $399 request from a teacher at the same school for basic school supplies -- pencils, paper, erasers, etc. -- unfunded is more aligned with Google's interests than the Christmas spirit. Google, The Register reminds readers, lowered its 2015 tax bill by $3.6 billion using the old Dutch Sandwich loophole trick, according to new regulatory filings in the Netherlands.
The article even criticizes the "Santa's Village" site at Google.org, which includes games like Code Boogie, plus a game about airport security at the North Pole. Their complaint is its "Season of Giving" game, which invites children to print out and color ornaments that represent charities -- including DonorsChoose.org. The article ends by quoting Slashdot reader theodp ("who documents the influence of Big Tech in education") as saying "Nothing says Christmas fun more than making ornaments to celebrate Google's pet causes..."
Crime

Hotbed of Cybercrime Activity Tracked Down To ISP In Region Where Russia Is Invading Ukraine (bleepingcomputer.com) 70

An anonymous reader writes: Last week, WordPress security firm WordFence revealed it detected over 1.65 million brute-force attacks originating from an ISP in Ukraine that generated more malicious traffic than GoDaddy, OVH, and Rostelecom, put together. A week later, after news of WordFence's findings came to light, Ukrainian users have tracked down the ISP to a company called SKS-Lugan in the city of Alchevs'k, in an area controlled by pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine. All clues point to the fact that the ISP's owners are using the chaos created by the Russian military intervention in Ukraine to host cyber-crime operations on their servers. Some of the criminal activities the ISP hosts, besides servers for launching brute-force attacks, include command-and-control servers for the Locky ransomware, [email, comment, and forum] spam botnets, illegal streaming sites, DDoS stressers, carding sites, several banking trojans (Vawtrack, Tinba), and infostealers (Pony, Neurevt). UPDATE 12/22/16: The headline and summary have been updated to reflect the fact that Ukraine is fighting a Russian invasion, and is not in a "civil war," as mentioned in the source.
AT&T

AT&T Is Adding a Spam Filter For Phone Calls (theverge.com) 66

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Today, ATT introduced a new service for automated blocking of fraud or spam calls. Dubbed ATT Call Protect, the system identifies specific numbers believed to be sources of fraud, and will either deliver those calls with a warning or block them outright. Users can whitelist specific numbers, although temporary blocks require downloading a separate Call Protect app. The feature is only available on postpaid iOS and Android devices, and can be activated through the MyATT system. Phone companies have allowed for manual number blocking for years, and third-party apps like Whitepages and Privacystar use larger databases of untrustworthy numbers to preemptively block calls from the outside. But ATT's new system would build in those warnings at the network level, and give operators more comprehensive data when assembling suspected numbers. More broadly, marketing calls are subject to the national Do Not Call registry. Specific instances of fraud can still be reported through carriers or directly to police.
Security

Nigerian Man Charged in Hacking of Los Angeles County Emails (theguardian.com) 44

A 'mere' 10.8% phishing success rate has forced Los Angeles County to notify approximately 756,000 individuals that their personal information may have been compromised. The attack occurred on May 13, 2016 when 1,000 County employees received phishing emails. 108 employees were successfully phished. A Nigerian national has been charged in connection with the hack. From a report on The Guardian: Many large organizations would welcome a 10% success rate in their internal anti-phishing training sessions, with 30% and above being common. The 2016 Verizon DBIR suggests that 30% of all phishing emails are opened. The high number of individuals affected from a relatively low number of successes in LA County demonstrates how dangerous phishing attacks can be. The nature of the potentially compromised information is also concerning. "That information may have included first and last names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, driver's license or state identification numbers, payment card information, bank account information, home addresses, phone numbers, and/or medical information, such as Medi-Cal or insurance carrier identification numbers, diagnosis, treatment history, or medical record numbers," said the County of Los Angeles Chief Executive Office in a statement.

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