El Reg reports:
The National Security Agency (NSA) has, since 2004, sent spies into private companies in a bid to compromise networks from within, according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden.
Agents sent in by the NSA targeted global communications firms under a highly classified 'core secrets' program dubbed Sentry Eagle, previously known only to a handful of officials.
The documents published by Snowden mouthpiece The Intercept indicate operatives in the core secrets program worked in concert with companies to weaken encryption and spent hundreds of millions of dollars to break security mechanisms.
Draft documents published online detailing Sentry Eagle explain that the program used the "full capabilities" of signals intelligence (SIGINT), computer exploitation, defence and network warfare to ensure the protection of US cyberspace.
The document listed facts ranging from unclassified to top secret necessitating "extraordinary protection", and demonstrated the chasm between unclassified information the NSA saw fit for public consumption and that appearing at times too sensitive for the eyes of allies.
 All content is behind scripts.
Christopher Ingraham writes in the Washington Post that many countries are taking a close look at what's happening in Colorado and Washington state to learn lessons that can be applied to their own situations and so far, the news coming out of Colorado and Washington is overwhelmingly positive. Dire consequences predicted by reform opponents have failed to materialize. If anything, societal and economic indicators are moving in a positive direction post-legalization. Colorado marijuana tax revenues for fiscal year 2014-2015 are on track to surpass projections.
Lisa Sanchez, a program manager at México Unido Contra la Delincuencia, a Mexican non-profit devoted to promoting "security, legality and justice", underscored how legalization efforts in the U.S. are having powerful ripple effects across the globe: events in Colorado and Washington have "created political space for Latin American countries to have a real debate [about drug policy]". She noted that motivations for reform in Latin America are somewhat different than U.S. motivations - one main driver is a need to address the epidemic of violence on those countries that is fuelled directly by prohibitionist drug war policies. Mexico's president has given signs he's open to changes in that country's marijuana laws to help combat cartel violence. Sandeep Chawla, former deputy director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, notes that one of the main obstacles to meaningful reform is layers of entrenched drug control bureaucracies at the international and national levels - just in the U.S., think of the DEA, ONDCP and NIDA, among others - for whom a relaxation of drug control laws represents an undermining of their reason for existence: "if you create a bureaucracy to solve a particular problem, when the problem is solved that bureaucracy is out of a job".
The Borowitz Report reveals:
In interviews conducted across the nation, leading anti-science activists expressed their concern that the American people, wracked with anxiety over the possible spread of the virus, might desperately look to science to save the day.
Additionally, he worries about a "slippery slope" situation, "in which a belief in science leads to a belief in math, which in turn fosters a dangerous dependence on facts."
Working on PCs since the days of The Shat selling VIC 20s with his TJ Hooker hair you learn that its the little things that can make your day sooo much easier. From WSUS Offline allowing you to update any version of Windows via DVD or flashstick (as well as having your own Windows Update on a network drive) to Ninite allowing you to install most of the "must have" third party software without any toolbars and fully unattended by simply checking the boxes, its the little tools that really take out the drudgery. Tools like Driver Booster to get rid of the always "fun" driver hunt for old or weird hardware drivers or Comodo Cleaning Essentials to get rid of bugs take out the work for the Fixit guy or those that end up stuck doing the job for their family.
With this in mind allow me to introduce a tool many here may not have heard of which can be extremely nice to have, WinSetupFromUSB or as I like to call it "Every OS in my pocket". Do not let the name fool you, this tool works with not only Windows but also Linux ISOs and even preinstall environments like BartPE or the Linux based recovery environments used by many disc imagers like Paragon B&R Free. So with this one tool you can install OSes, run different Live CDs, restore backups using recovery CDs, all from a single flashstick, VERY handy.
So I hope these little tools help somebody out there stuck doing the "family IT GUY" role and I hope to learn in return what tools do YOU use to make your life easier? What tricks and little pieces of software do you use to make your day run smoother? I'm sure with as many different walks of life represented here we can make this a most enlightening and informative post!
In UK a 39-year-old man has been convicted of possessing illegal cartoon drawings of young girls exposing themselves in school uniforms and engaging in sex acts. The case is believed to be the UK's first prosecution of illegal manga and anime images. Local media said that Robul Hoque was sentenced last week to 9-months' imprisonment, though the sentence is suspended so long as the defendant does not break the law again. Police seized Hoque's computer in 2012 and said they found nearly 400 such images on it, none of which depicted real people but were illegal nonetheless because of their similarity to child pornography. Hoque was initially charged with 20 counts of illegal possession but eventually pled guilty to just 10 counts.
Alastair Philip Wiper writes that at at 194 feet wide and 1,312 feet long, the Matz Maersk Triple E is the largest ship ever built capable of carrying 18,000 20-foot containers. Its propellers weigh 70 tons apiece and it is too big for the Panama Canal, though it can shimmy through the Suez. A U-shaped hull design allows more room below deck, providing capacity for 18,000 shipping containers arranged in 23 rows – enough space to transport 864 million bananas. The Triple-E is constructed from 425 pre-fabricated segments, making up 21 giant “megablock” cross sections. Most of the 955,250 litres of paint used on each ship is in the form of an anti- corrosive epoxy, pre-applied to each block. Finally, a polyurethane topcoat of the proprietary Maersk brand colour, “Hardtop AS-Blue 504”, is sprayed on.
Twenty Triple-E class container ships have been commissioned by Danish shipping company Maersk Lines for delivery by 2015. The ships are being built at the Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering factory in the South Korean port of Opko. The shipyard, about an hour from Busan in the south of the country, employs about 46,000 people, and "could reasonably be described as the worlds biggest Legoland," writes Wiper. "Smiling workers cycle around the huge shipyard as massive, abstractly over proportioned chunks of ships are craned around and set into place." The Triple E is just one small part of the output of the shipyard, as around 100 other vessels including oil rigs are in various stages of completion at the any time.” The vessels will serve ports along the northern-Europe-to-Asia route, many of which have had to expand to cope with the ships’ size. “You don’t feel like you’re inside a boat, it’s more like a cathedral,” Wiper says. “Imagine this space being full of consumer goods, and think about how many there are on just one ship. Then think about how many are sailing round the world every day. It’s like trying to think about infinity.”
Over at Centauri Dreams is a piece by Andrew LePage on the questions over exoplanets around Centauri B, on the second anniversary of a (possible) detection.
Alpha Centauri (or α Centauri, if you prefer) is a binary star system, 4.37 light years from the Sun, and the closest star system to the Solar System. "Alpha Centauri A" is the primary star, "Alpha Centauri B" is the (slightly smaller) companion, and a planet, known as Alpha Centauri Bb was detected in October 2012 using data from the HARPS spectrograph.
However there is still some scepticism about about the the data and techniques used to establish the existence of Alpha Centauri Bb, and the Centauri Dreams article goes into detail about the background of the search, the findings to date and the current efforts.
While this planet, designated α Centauri Bb, was hardly the Earth-like planet for which interstellar travel enthusiasts had been waiting so long, its presence demonstrated that the closest star system to us harbored at least one planet and held the promise of more to be discovered. But two years after this momentous announcement, many questions still remain and this important discovery has yet to be independently confirmed.
Apple and Facebook are adding a new perk for female employees: Free egg freezing that would let them delay parenting for a few years.
Facebook started offering the service on Jan. 1. Apple plans to begin in January 2015, according to NBC News.
As women age, their likelihood of successful pregnancies begins to dip, though most women will remain fertile well into their thirties. Oocyte cryopreservation, a.k.a. egg freezing, is seen as a method of maintaining fertility over a longer period since younger eggs tend to be healthier.
Like IVF, egg freezing is typically not covered by an employer's health insurance. Egg freezing currently costs about $10,000 plus up to $1,000 a year for maintenance. (Facebook and Apple are both covering costs of egg freezing up to $20,000.) McCarthy says the success rates from a frozen egg match those of a fresh egg.
In other words, if you freeze your eggs at age 27 and then wait until age 35 to try in vitro fertilization, the egg will behave like a 27-year-old's. However, the results of an analysis published in August 2013 in the journal Fertility and Sterility indicate that the chances of a live birth after egg freezing for women 30 and older are less than 25%.
Is it me or does this actually say the 2 corporations would rather see their fairer-sex employees devote the years of their biological prime to the company?
El Reg reports
Russian aerospace firm's kit fails on 46th mission
The embarrassing incident that two of Europe's Galileo satnav craft [landed] in the wrong orbit has been attributed to "a shortcoming in the system thermal analysis performed during stage design" for the launch [vehicle] Fregat's fourth stage, built by Russian aerospace outfit NPO Lavochkin.
As we reported back in August, two [failures] meant two Gallileo sats landed in the wrong orbit, causing much hand-wringing at the European Space Agency. The mess was later blamed on a software bug.
But Arianspace, the commercial launch operator that sent the birds aloft, now says that wasn't the case and that the mission's fourth stage was built to fail.
An internal investigation found that the three stages of the Soyuz launcher all performed as expected. But Fregat struck problems "at the beginning of the ballistic phase preceding the second ignition of this stage".
[...]failure was due to a temporary interruption of the joint hydrazine propellant supply to these [two attitude control] thrusters.
The interruption in the flow was caused by freezing of the hydrazine.
The freezing resulted from the proximity of hydrazine and cold helium feed lines, these lines being connected by the same support structure, which acted as a thermal bridge.
[...]sounds a bit like someone didn't properly account for how cold the launch vehicle would get, which froze its fuel, which in turn meant the rockets didn't fire enough or soon enough to get the satellites into the desired orbit.
This reminds me of the Space Shuttle that had been launched successfully many times, then in 1986 some suit at NASA decided that manufacturer's thermal specs for components didn't really matter.
Remember Feynman's glass of ice water?
3ders.org has an article on the conclusion of a trial in Japan of a man for making a 3D printed gun.
Earlier today, a verdict was reached in the infamous 3D printed gun trial that was being held in the Yokohama District Court in Tokyo, Japan. Presiding Judge Koji Inaba found the 28-year-old Yoshitomo Imura, a former teacher at a local college, guilty of violating laws controlling firearms and swords. For printing at least two workable guns using a 3D printer, Imura was sentenced to two years in prison.
Since Imura's arrest in May, a number of Japanese distributors of 3D printing technology have organized a '3D printer Promotion Council' to both educate people about the possibilities of this technology, but also to warn consumers of its dangers. They are currently looking into possibilities to avoid such events in the future, including better cooperation between the industry and the government and a blacklist of design data.
A project on github claims that regardless how Apples OS X version 10.10 Yosemite is configured. Apple will collect your search requests when using Safari, tag requests in the file indexer Spotlight, phone home, tags requests in the Help application, collects any email address setup and so on. Leaving a long tail of identifying bread crumbs.
Commenters over at hackernews dispute this interpretation:
This is inaccurate alarmism. It shouldn't be surprising that the search bar makes autocomplete requests to Apple as you type.
However, it seemed suspicious to me that Apple would make it impossible, as the author claims, to type in the Safari address bar without sending queries to Apple. So, I fired up Charles proxy to confirm my suspicions.
I turned off "Include search engine suggestions" and "Include Spotlight Suggestions" in Safari search preferences. (Safari -> Preferences -> Search)
As I initially believed, no requests were sent whatsoever when typing in the address bar after those settings were disabled. Can we put out our pitchforks yet, or am I missing something?
Various other sites are reporting this as Apple collecting data irrespective of how settings are configured. Is this reaction a sign of how much distrust there is over security in the technology industry?
The Facebook Security team has always kept a close eye on data breach announcements from other organizations. Theft of personal data like email addresses and passwords can have larger consequences because people often use the same password on multiple websites. Unfortunately, it's common for attackers to publicly post the email addresses and passwords they steal on public 'paste' sites. Lots of household company names have experienced the unpleasant phenomenon of seeing account data for their sites show up in these public lists, and responding to these situations is time-consuming and challenging.
Our team wanted to do something to improve this situation, so we built a system dedicated to further securing people's Facebook accounts by actively looking for these public postings, analyzing them, and then notifying people when we discover that their credentials have shown up elsewhere on the Internet. To do this, we monitor a selection of different 'paste' sites for stolen credentials and watch for reports of large scale data breaches. We collect the stolen credentials that have been publicly posted and check them to see if the stolen email and password combination matches the same email and password being used on Facebook. This is a completely automated process that doesn't require us to know or store your actual Facebook password in an unhashed form. In other words, no one here has your plain text password. To check for matches, we take the email address and password and run them through the same code that we use to check your password at login time. If we find a match, we'll notify you the next time you log in and guide you through a process to change your password.
This is also covered by The Register.
In the UK, Internet trolls could face up to two years in jail under new laws, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has said. He told the Mail on Sunday quadrupling the current maximum six-month term showed his determination to "take a stand against a baying cyber-mob". Mr Grayling was speaking days after TV presenter Chloe Madeley suffered online abuse, which Mr Grayling described as "crude and degrading". She has welcomed the proposed laws but said social media should be regulated.
Over at the The Free Internet Project is a short article on users leaving the South Korean instant messaging service Kakao Talk.
Kakao Talk is South Korea's leading smartphone messaging application, used by 35 Million people (70% of the population). However a government crackdown over "false and malicious online posts", and the issuing of warrants for over 2,000 user accounts, appears to have sparked a migration with application usage tracker Rankey.com reporting that 400,000 used have left the service.
A competing application, Telegram, based in Germany which uses end to end encryption and has no servers in S. Korea, stated (in the BBC article) that it received over 1.5 Million sign ups from South Korean users in 7 days.
Kakao talk are very sorry:
Kakao CEO publicly apologized for Kakao's cooperation with law enforcement in the crackdown. "We regret that Daum Kakao failed to understand the anxiety of Kakao Talk users. In order to prevent ourselves from making the same mistake, we will make privacy our top priority when there is clash between privacy and law.”
In a recent engadget article, Jon Fingas points out the following:
If you're planning to snag the new Mac mini and load it up with aftermarket memory, you may want to reconsider your strategy. Macminicolo owner Brian Stucki (among others) has discovered that the RAM in Apple's latest tiny desktop isn't upgradable, much as you'd expect with the company's laptops and the 21-inch iMac.