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posted by Fnord666 on Sunday December 01, @11:59PM   Printer-friendly
from the ryuk-strikes-again dept.

A ransomware outbreak has besieged a Wisconsin based IT company that provides cloud data hosting, security and access management to more than 100 nursing homes across the United States. The ongoing attack is preventing these care centers from accessing crucial patient medical records, and the IT company’s owner says she fears this incident could soon lead not only to the closure of her business, but also to the untimely demise of some patients.

Milwaukee, Wisc. based Virtual Care Provider Inc. (VCPI) provides IT consulting, Internet access, data storage and security services to some 110 nursing homes and acute-care facilities in 45 states. All told, VCPI is responsible for maintaining approximately 80,000 computers and servers that assist those facilities.

At around 1:30 a.m. CT on Nov. 17, unknown attackers launched a ransomware strain known as Ryuk inside VCPI’s networks, encrypting all data the company hosts for its clients and demanding a whopping $14 million ransom in exchange for a digital key needed to unlock access to the files. Ryuk has made a name for itself targeting businesses that supply services to other companies — particularly cloud-data firms — with the ransom demands set according to the victim’s perceived ability to pay.

In an interview with KrebsOnSecurity today, VCPI chief executive and owner Karen Christianson said the attack had affected virtually all of their core offerings, including Internet service and email, access to patient records, client billing and phone systems, and even VCPI’s own payroll operations that serve nearly 150 company employees.

The care facilities that VCPI serves access their records and other systems outsourced to VCPI by using a Citrix-based virtual private networking (VPN) platform, and Christianson said restoring customer access to this functionality is the company’s top priority right now.

“We have employees asking when we’re going to make payroll,” Christianson said. “But right now all we’re dealing with is getting electronic medical records back up and life-threatening situations handled first.”

[...] VCPI’s CEO said her organization plans to publicly document everything that has happened so far when (and if) this attack is brought under control, but for now the company is fully focused on rebuilding systems and restoring operations, and on keeping clients informed at every step of the way.

“We’re going to make it part of our strategy to share everything we’re going through,” Christianson said, adding that when the company initially tried several efforts to sidestep the intruders their phone systems came under concerted assault. “But we’re still under attack, and as soon as we can open, we’re going to document everything.”


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday December 01, @09:39PM   Printer-friendly
from the the-spice-must-flow dept.

Submitted via IRC for Runaway1956

How Spices Have Made, and Unmade, Empires

IN THE HILLY Boaco region of central Nicaragua, the turmeric plants on Celia Dávila and Gonzalo González's farm stand over four feet tall — thriving giants, although as natives of South and Southeast Asia, they're actually newcomers to this land. Coffee once ruled these fields, but as its price has grown unstable, smallholder farmers like Dávila and González, 52 and 65, respectively, have had to turn to alternative crops, among them this strange arrival that yields knobby rhizomes of shocking orange flesh, rarely eaten unadulterated; instead, the underground stems are dried and pulverized into a musky powder with a throb of bitterness, which is most widely recognized worldwide as the earthy base note and color in many Indian dishes. Nicaraguans have no particular use for the spice, which has yet to make inroads in the local diet. But Americans do, having suddenly and belatedly awakened to turmeric's health benefits, some 3,000 years after they were first set down in the Atharva Veda, one of Hinduism's foundational sacred texts.

It's a story at once old and new, a latter-day spice route making unexpected connections between the grandmother in India, stirring turmeric into warm milk for a sniffily child; the Goop acolyte in California, sipping an après-yoga prepackaged turmeric "elixir," whose makers extol the "body harmonizing" powers of the spice's key chemical compound, curcumin; and Dávila wielding a pickax in rural Nicaragua. She is not alone in her embrace of this new harvest: Farmers in Costa Rica, Hawaii and even Minnesota are planting turmeric with an eye on an expanding market. Nor is turmeric the only spice to flourish far from home. The food writer Max Falkowitz has documented the work of small-scale farmers in Guatemala, mostly poor and of indigenous descent, who now grow more than half the world's cardamom, a crop that belonged for millenniums to India and was brought to the Central American cloud forests by a German immigrant in the early 20th century. Cardamom is one of the most expensive spices — so valuable that all of it departs Guatemala for sale elsewhere. As with turmeric in Nicaragua, its absence is hardly registered by local cooks, to whom the spice is an interloper.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday December 01, @07:16PM   Printer-friendly
from the tell-it-to-the-bumblebee dept.

15,000 light years from earth, astronomers have discovered a black hole, designated LB-1, that is 70 times the mass of the Sun — over twice the mass scientists thought was possible to exist in the Milky Way.

Scientists generally believe black holes come in two broad categories.

The more common stellar black holes -- up to 20 times more massive than the Sun -- form when the centre of a very big star collapses in on itself.

Supermassive black holes are at least a million times bigger than the Sun and their origins are uncertain.

It is estimated our galaxy contains 100 million stellar black holes, but they aren't believed to get this large.

LB-1 is twice as massive as anything scientists thought possible, said Liu Jifeng, a National Astronomical Observatory of China professor who led the research.

"Black holes of such mass should not even exist in our galaxy, according to most of the current models of stellar evolution," he added.

The mass of LB-1 falls into a black hole mass-gap caused by what are referred to as pair-instability supernovae where the star's explosion does not leave behind a stellar remnant.

researchers believed that typical stars in the Milky Way shed most of their gas through stellar winds, preventing the emergence of a black hole the size of LB-1, Liu said.

"Now theorists will have to take up the challenge of explaining its formation," he said in a statement.

LB-1 still has its binary companion and the star is in a highly circular orbit. The most obvious formation possibility, capture of a second black hole similar to GW150914 where two black holes merged, would have caused a highly elliptical orbit that would not have had a chance to settle down due to the star's age.

One possibility, however, could be a fallback supernova, in which material ejected from the dying star falls immediately back into it, resulting in the direct formation of a black hole. This is theoretically possible under certain conditions, but no direct evidence for it currently exists.

Perhaps LB-1, the researchers noted in their paper, could be this direct evidence.

However it formed, LB-1 has suddenly become one of the most interesting objects in the Milky Way, and a flurry of follow-up observations are likely to ensue.

Additional Coverage here

Journal Reference:
Liu, J., Zhang, H., Howard, A.W. et al. A wide star–black-hole binary system from radial-velocity measurements$. Nature 575, 618–621 (2019) doi:10.1038/s41586-019-1766-2


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday December 01, @04:55PM   Printer-friendly
from the pwned?-what-me-worry-eh? dept.

CBC News has found Huawei's financial ties to Canadian universities total more than $56 million. But there are no federal guidelines around how these investments should be managed and disclosed, and that raises questions about who will own the findings of the research and the resulting patents.

[...] "Frankly, the government of Canada has fallen down catastrophically," says Christopher Parsons, a senior research associate at the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab, which studies the way information is used, and misused, across technologies. "No one knows exactly what they should be doing."

Parsons, who is also the managing director of the Telecom Transparency Project, says the government's failure to set out policy guidelines for private sector funding has made it difficult for universities, which rely on that funding to stay at the forefront of wireless research and, in turn, attract top students.

Huawei says it is one of the biggest funders of academic research in Canada. Google, Microsoft, Rogers and Bell are among the others but declined to provide CBC News with any figures. Like Huawei, they are not required to disclose funding details.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/huawei-academic-funding-in-canada-1.5372310

Canadian universities pwned by big corp: does anyone else remember when universities and governments did research without the financial 'help' of corporations?


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday December 01, @02:32PM   Printer-friendly
from the spot-remover dept.

Jupiter's Great Red Spot isn't going anywhere anytime soon, according to researchers at the University of California at Berkeley.

The megastorm has been raging on the gas giant planet for the past few centuries that humans have been able to get a decent look at it, but in recent years it has appeared to be shrinking.

Concern for the imminent fate of what might be the most iconic infinite cyclone in the solar system has ramped up this year. NASA research scientist Glenn Orton told reporters earlier this year that the Great Red Spot is in "very uncharted territory," leading to a number of reports declaring the potential "death" of the spot. 

But Berkeley professor of mechanical engineering Philip Marcus says the spot is in no danger of disappearing.


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday December 01, @12:08PM   Printer-friendly
from the what-goes-up-must-come-down-oops dept.

It seems that China has done it again, they have a history of dropping rocket parts on their own people. This time no one was hurt, but Tech Review mentions some previous events that didn't have a happy ending.

It's the latest incident in China's long history with falling rocket parts causing destruction below. The most infamous crash occurred in 1996, when the first Long March 3B launch saw the rocket veer off course and crash into a village, killing an unknown number of people (possibly hundreds, by some Western estimates).

"Any time you have stuff going up, there's a possibility it's going to come down where you don't plan for it," says Victoria Samson at the Secure World Foundation. "So there's a reason why you don't fire over populated land." That's why most countries launch over water.

So why doesn't China? "This entire issue is down to geography," says Thomas Roberts, a former aerospace security fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. All three of China's main spaceports are located in the mainland, including the Xichang site. They all save money by flying missions east (which requires less fuel to get into space), but that route takes them over vulnerable populations.

China issues evacuation notices to communities downrange, but even if people aren't harmed or killed by the physical impact of a crash or by direct exposure to rocket fuel (which can lead to severe organ failure or cancer), the wreckage could pollute nearby rivers and streams used for irrigation and drinking water. Launches from the Soviet Union's old Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, built in 1955, have caused more than 2,500 tons of debris to rain down on the surrounding region, leading to health problems for thousands.

[...] China could also just change its flight paths. For example, Israel's Palmachim Airbase can't launch to the east because of obvious geopolitical conflicts. So it sends rockets over the Mediterranean Sea and through the Strait of Gibraltar. This requires putting a satellite in a retrograde orbit—one that moves in the opposite direction of Earth's rotation. This requires much more fuel, but it entirely avoids populated areas.


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday December 01, @09:43AM   Printer-friendly
from the comrade-Lysenko-would-be-proud dept.

There have been many rumblings about scientific fraud in China, and now there are rumbles that the problem is systemic, and goes all the way to the top. Cao Xuetao (曹雪涛), one of China's top immunologists, former president of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, president of Nankai University, and most importantly Chairman of research integrity for all Chinese research, has himself been implicated in scientific fraud and misconduct. A careful examination of Chairman Cao's published scientific papers seems to show how some of his data was fabricated or falsified. This was noticed since much of his papers have pictures, either of western blots, gels, flow cyclometry images, and microscopy images. Some of the fabrication appears to have been done by sending the same sample multiple times through analysis, producing images that are similar but not completely identical, while others are clear Photoshop cut and paste jobs. From the For Better Science article:

And now it comes out, Cao's research works contain elaborately falsified research data. The discovery was made by data integrity sleuth Elisabeth Bik, assisted by Smut Clyde and others. It all started with a fraudulent paper, Wang et al Clin Cancer Research 2005 from Cao's lab, which Bik reported to the publisher AACR in 2014. Despite 4 falsified figures, only an embarrassing correction was issued in March 2015. So now Bik had another look at Chairman Cao's collected works.

[...] Also on 17 November, Chairman Cao publicly replied to his critic Bik, on PubPeer:

[...] Nevertheless, there is no excuse for any lapse in supervision or laboratory leadership and the concerns you raised serve as a fresh reminder to me just how important my role and responsibility are as mentor, supervisor, and lab leader; and how I might have fallen short.

[...] There was even English language coverage, as the dams broke. China's top scientist Cao can now brace himself for retractions, especially since he unwisely published a number of problematic papers in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Where he already had to retract one in 2015, for massive data fakery.

There is a further follow-up, investigator Elisabeth Bik's own blog post, and commentary by Dr. Steven Novella.


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday December 01, @07:19AM   Printer-friendly
from the challenging dept.

Challenge yourself with short coding puzzles and design topics from now until Christmas. Which other Advent calendars are missing from the list below?

[*] Expected link for 2019 based on the link for Qemu's 2018 Advent Calendar.


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday December 01, @04:57AM   Printer-friendly
from the oops dept.

Fedora developer and Program manager, Ben Cotton, opens up about what happened when he fat-fingered a script to automatically close bugs as Fedora 29 reached End-Of-Life the other day. When version 29 reached EOL, he accidentally also closed several thousand other bugs which should have remained open. He writes about how that happened.

Simply put: I messed up. When I created the CSV file, I neglected to specify the version in the Bugzilla search. As a result, I had a CSV file with 20,000 bugs. I started the script and it processed approximately 150 bugs before the community noticed that bugs were being closed inappropriately.

Earlier on SN:
Fedora 30 Brings Immense Quality of Life Improvements to Linux on the Desktop (2019)
Fedora 26 Released (2017)
Fedora 25 Released (2016)


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday December 01, @02:33AM   Printer-friendly
from the scratching-an-itch dept.

Technologist Daniel Aleksandersen writes about a newsletter syndication system he has written. One of the itches he chose to scratch was the matter of being able to cull fake subscriptions which are problematic when commercial service charge per subscriber. Another was that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) made it more advantageous to self-host. Several other interesting capabilities stand out.

The email newsletter is managed and delivered by a purpose-built software I developed in October 2018. I wrote it because I wasn't happy with commercial offerings like MailChimp. I'd also reviewed self-hosted open-source options like phpList and found them lacking.

[...] I don't know what people want to read about. Some articles get really popular and other people just don't care about it. I'm always surprised by which articles get popular and which don't. I don't know what any individual reader might be interested in. I don't know what the majority of subscribers are interested in either.

To hedge my bets, and so that I don't have to worry about it, the article order in the newsletter is randomized for every recipient. This system allows me the freedom to just write what I want without thinking about how something might perform in the newsletter.


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Saturday November 30, @11:59PM   Printer-friendly
from the dead-but-still-looking-good dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

When trying to better the odds for survival, a major dilemma that many animals face is dispersal—being able to pick up and leave to occupy new lands, find fresh resources and mates, and avoid intraspecies competition in times of overpopulation. For birds, butterflies and other winged creatures, covering long distances may be as easy as the breeze they travel on. But for soil-dwellers of the crawling variety, the hurdle remains: How do they reach new, far-off habitats?

For one group of tiny arthropods called springtails (Collembola), a recent fossil discovery now suggests their answer to this question has been to piggyback on the dispersal abilities of others, literally.

In findings published in BMC Evolutionary Biology, researchers at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and Museum national d'Histoire naturelle have detailed the discovery of an ancient interaction preserved in 16-million-year-old amber from the Dominican Republic: 25 springtails attached to, and nearby, a large winged termite and ant from the days of the early Miocene.

The fossil exhibits a number of springtails still attached to the wings and legs of their hosts, while others are preserved as if gradually floating away from their hosts within the amber. Researchers say the discovery highlights the existence of a new type of hitchhiking behavior among wingless soil-dwelling arthropods, and could be key to explaining how symphypleonan springtails successfully achieved dispersal worldwide.

"The existence of this hitchhiking behavior is especially exciting given the fact that modern springtails are rarely described as having any interspecfic association with surrounding animals," said Ninon Robin, the paper's first author whose postdoctoral research at NJIT's Department of Biological Sciences was funded by the Fulbright Program of the French-American Commission. "This finding underscores how important fossils are for telling us about unsuspected ancient ecologies as well as still ongoing behaviors that were so far simply overlooked."

Today, springtails are among the most common arthropods found in moist habitats around the world. Most springtails possess a specialized appendage under their abdomen they use to "spring" away in flee-like fashion to avoid predation. However this organ is not sufficient for traversing long distances, especially since most springtails are unable to survive long in dry areas.

[...] "Because it appears that springtails reflexively detach from their hosts when in danger, evidenced by the detached individuals in the amber, ethanol would effectively erase the link between hitchhiker and host," said Barden. "Amber derives from fossilized sticky tree resin and is viscous enough that it would retain the interaction. ... Meaning, sometimes you have to turn to 16-million-year-old amber fossils to find out what might be happening in your backyard."

More information: Ninon Robin et al, Fossil amber reveals springtails' longstanding dispersal by social insects, BMC Evolutionary Biology (2019). DOI: 10.1186/s12862-019-1529-6


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Saturday November 30, @09:46PM   Printer-friendly
from the this-case-still-has-legs dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Apple has won the latest round in its nine-year patent mega-battle with VirnetX – with a US appeals court rejecting a $600m jury decision and sending it back down to the district court to redecide.

The victory saw Apple’s share price go up by more than one per cent but, in an indication of their comparative sizes, VirnetX’s share price collapsed by 50 per cent on news of the decision [PDF] on Friday. As everyone has had time to digest the decision, however, VirnetX’s share price has partially recovered – in large part because Apple is still on the hook for most of the $600m award.

The lower court will now have to decide whether to hold another trial and revisit the whole issue or revise its patent award in light of the successful appeal.

At the heart of the fight are four patents that VirnetX holds that it says Apple infringes with its iPhones and iPads. All of them cover VPNs but the most recent court decision split the four in two groups, with one covering external domain names and the other covering internal network addressing.

The court decided that the first two (6,502,135 and 7,490,151) are infringed by Apple in its VPN on Demand service but that the second two (7,418,504 and 7,921,211) which are used in its popular FaceTime service are not.

That’s important for several reasons. For one, rather than pay VirnetX royalties, Apple decided to redesign how it did FaceTime on a technical level as a way to bypass the patents (in essence, it stopped using an IP address as final authorization when creating a VPN between two devices and instead uses a push token, certificate and session token). That redesign sparked its own lawsuit when Apple cut users off from FaceTime if they didn’t update their phones to use the new approach.

By negating infringement of two of the four patents, it also means that Apple will not have to pay as high an infringement fine – but it’s not at all clear what that reduction will be. Despite FaceTime being much better known, it is significantly less valuable in terms of infringement than VPN on Demand.

Currently the $596m judgement against Apple comprises a $503m award and $93m in interest and costs – tacked on because Apple has been dragging the case out; VirnetX first sued back in 2010. That award was reached by putting a $1.20 royalty for the company on the estimated 384 million units impacted.

But, the judgment notes, Apple’s own expert “asserted that VPN on Demand was vastly more valuable than FaceTime, (testifying that VPN on Demand was worth about 6 cents per unit, FaceTime about 1 cent per unit).”

That means that – if the district court accepts the decision and tries to recalculate the fine itself using Apple’s own testimony – the $596m judgment will be reduced to approximately $515m. Which, even for Apple, is a lot of money.


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Saturday November 30, @07:20PM   Printer-friendly
from the think-it-through dept.

Twitter Delays Inactive Account Purge (It Forgot About Dead People)

Twitter has delayed its planned purge of inactive accounts.

When Twitter announced plans to close down accounts that have not been used for a period of six months or more, reaction was mixed. While many people recognized the value in getting rid of the millions of accounts that artificially inflate follower numbers and take up usernames that could be assigned to other people, there were concerns too.

In particular, friends and relatives of deceased Twitter users expressed concern that they would no longer be able to access the old tweets of their loved ones. Now Twitter has said that it will put its plans on hold... at least until it is able to devise an account memorialization feature.

Original Announcement here.

You Can Take My Dad's Tweets Over My Dead Body

Submitted via IRC for Runaway1956

You can take my Dad's tweets over my dead body – TechCrunch

There are a few ways that people use Twitter, but for the most part the ones who have pushed the social platform into the national lexicon are regular users who like to communicate with each other using the thing. They’re the ones who use it a lot. They’re the ones who make Twitter go.

Now, mind you, I'm an extreme case. I share a lot. I've shared my cancer diagnoses, my stem cell treatment, new jobs, my wedding. And the loss of my father Barry.

Today, Twitter announced that it will reclaim dormant accounts. That is, if you haven't logged into yours for a long time, it is considered inactive and will be included in the reclamation process.

At first I thought that was pretty cool. There are a ton of accounts that get squatted on, forcing new users to use crappy AOL-like names, such as Joe583822. No fun at all. And these accounts aren't even in use! As in not active.

But then I saw this:

Here's some more info on the Twitter user cull. As it stands, every person who has had Twitter and died more than six months ago will be deleted from the site – UNLESS someone already has their log-in details. https://t.co/jupCD04m5D

— Dave Lee (@DaveLeeBBC) November 26, 2019

My heart sank. And I cried. You see, I didn't think about this. It is a big deal.

My father's Twitter account isn't active. He passed away over four years ago. My Dad was a casual tweeter at best. He mostly used it because I, well, overused it. And it was charming. Once in a while he'd chime in with a zinger of a tweet and I'd share it humbly with the folks who kindly follow me.

[...] Think about it, Twitter. Do better. Because every time you make me question your humanity, I'm one step closer to not being that whale of a user that helped get you here in the first place.


Original Submission #1Original Submission #2

posted by janrinok on Saturday November 30, @04:54PM   Printer-friendly
from the it'll-cost-that-much-to-buy-an-Apple-drive dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

How much is Steve Jobs' signature worth? More than a top-end 16-inch MacBook Pro and an iPhone 11 Pro Max combined, apparently. Auction house RR Auction has put up a floppy disk signed by the late Apple co-founder for sale -- with an estimated value of $7,500.

The floppy disk in question contains Macintosh System Tools 6.0 software. That dates it to around 1988. The disk is especially valuable, RR Auction claims, because Jobs was not a prolific autograph signer.


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Saturday November 30, @02:31PM   Printer-friendly
from the Curiosity-is-not-having-a-good-time dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Dust storms are common on Mars. But every decade or so, something unpredictable happens: A series of runaway storms breaks out, covering the entire planet in a dusty haze.

Last year, a fleet of NASA spacecraft got a detailed look at the life cycle of the 2018 global dust storm that ended the Opportunity rover's mission. And while scientists are still puzzling over the data, two papers recently shed new light on a phenomenon observed within the storm: dust towers, or concentrated clouds of dust that warm in sunlight and rise high into the air. Scientists think that dust-trapped water vapor may be riding them like an elevator to space, where solar radiation breaks apart their molecules. This might help explain how Mars' water disappeared over billions of years.

Dust towers are massive, churning clouds that are denser and climb much higher than the normal background dust in the thin Martian atmosphere. While they also occur under normal conditions, the towers appear to form in greater numbers during global storms.

A tower starts at the planet's surface as an area of rapidly lifted dust about as wide as the state of Rhode Island. By the time a tower reaches a height of 50 miles (80 kilometers), as seen during the 2018 global dust storm, it may be as wide as Nevada. As the tower decays, it can form a layer of dust 35 miles (56 kilometers) above the surface that can be wider than the continental United States.

The recent findings on dust towers come courtesy of NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which is led by the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Though global dust storms cloak the planet's surface, MRO can use its heat-sensing Mars Climate Sounder instrument to peer through the haze. The instrument is designed specifically for measuring dust levels. Its data, coupled with images from a camera aboard the orbiter called the Mars Context Imager (MARCI), enabled scientists to detect numerous swelling dust towers.

[...] "Global dust storms are really unusual," said Mars Climate Sounder scientist David Kass of JPL. "We really don't have anything like this on the Earth, where the entire planet's weather changes for several months."

With time and more data, the MRO team hopes to better understand the dust towers created within global storms and what role they may play in removing water from the Red Planet's atmosphere.

More information: Nicholas G. Heavens et al. An Observational Overview of Dusty Deep Convection in Martian Dust Storms, Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences (2019). DOI: 10.1175/JAS-D-19-0042.1


Original Submission