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2020-01-18 15:09:06 UTC
2020-01-19 13:41:22 UTC
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Budget Android smartphones offered through a US government initiative for low-income Americans come with preinstalled, unremovable Chinese malware, researchers report.
These low-cost smartphones are sold by Assurance Wireless, a federal Lifeline Assistance program under Virgin Mobile. Lifeline, supported by the federal Universal Service Fund, is a government program launched in 1985 to provide discounted phone service to low-income households. The Unimax (UMX) U686CL ($35) is the most inexpensive smartphone it sells.
In October 2019, Malwarebytes began to receive complaints in its support system from users of the UMX U686CL who reported some pre-installed apps on their government-funded phones were malicious. Researchers purchased one of these smartphones to verify customers' claims.
Researchers from ETH[*] Zurich and the National University of Singapore have developed a new kind of bandage that helps blood to clot and doesn't stick to the wound. This marks the first time that scientists have combined both properties in one material.
"We did not actually plan this, but that is just how science works sometimes: you start researching one thing and end up somewhere else," says ETH Professor Dimos Poulikakos. Together with scientists from his group and from the National University of Singapore, they developed and tested various superhydrophobic materials—which are, like Teflon, extremely good at repelling liquids such as water and blood. The goal was to find coatings for devices that come into contact with blood, for example heart-lung machines or artificial heart devices.
One of the materials tested demonstrated some unexpected properties: not only did it repel blood, but it also aided the clotting process. Although this made the material unsuitable for use as a coating for blood pumps and related devices, the researchers quickly realized that it would work ideally as a bandage.
[*] ETH Zurich - Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zurich.
A researcher has earned over $15,000 from PayPal for reporting a critical vulnerability that could have been exploited by hackers to obtain user email addresses and passwords.
An obfuscator was used to randomize variable names on each request, but one could still predict where interesting tokens are located, and then retrieve them, security researcher Alex Birsan explains.
And while the CSRF tokens and session ID could not be used to launch direct attacks, the researcher discovered a way to leverage them in an assault targeting the security challenge used by PayPal as a protection mechanism against brute force attacks.
I [Nash Reilly] haven't done a Circuit Notes post in a long time. Years, in fact! And I'm considering picking up a function generator as a very late Christmas gift to myself. So, naturally, I started poking around online for function generators.
There are some truly cheap options available - you can get kit versions on Amazon for less than $15, but these are pretty limited in bandwidth, scope, and specs. They're basically just bistable multivibrators with some integrator stages for sawtooth and sine wave generation. One of these days, I'll take a little time to look into those - there are lots of foibles that you can run into with these designs due to the analog imperfections in the capacitors and opamps.
Today, however, I'm gonna take a look at the technology that rules the roost in function generation these days: direct digital synthesis. DDS relies on a packaged integration of a phase accumulator (fancy words for "an adding counter"), a lookup table of phase-to-amplitude conversions, and a digital-to-analog converter. DDS is another proof that digital technology makes certain subsets of electronics substantially easier: instead of a bunch of square wave oscillators and integration stages with the associated analog imperfections, you're instead limited by the linearity of your DAC, the resolution of your lookup table, and the linearity of the output stage. Certainly not as high performance as a big, highly tuned analog function generator - but it does fit on a single chip!
In the last few months, schools all over the country have closed because of outbreaks of norovirus. Also known as stomach flu, norovirus infections cause watery diarrhea, low-grade fever and, most alarming of all, projectile vomiting, which is an extremely effective way of spreading the virus.
Norovirus is very infectious and spreads rapidly through a confined population, such as at a school or on a cruise ship. Although most sufferers recover in 24 to 48 hours, norovirus is a leading cause of childhood illness and, in developing countries, results in about 50,000 child deaths each year.
[...] The naked capsid coat is one factor that makes norovirus so difficult to control. Viruses with membrane coatings are susceptible to alcohol and detergents, but not so norovirus. Norovirus can survive temperatures from freezing to 145 degrees Fahrenheit (about the maximum water temperature in a home dishwasher), soap and mild solutions of bleach. Norovirus can persist on human hands for hours and on solid surfaces and food for days and is also resistant to alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
To make things worse, only a tiny dose of the virus – as few as 10 viral particles – is needed to cause disease. Given that an infected person can excrete many billions of viral particles, it's very difficult to prevent the virus from spreading.
[...] If a group of people is exposed to a strain of norovirus, who gets sick will depend on each person's blood type. But, if the same group of people is exposed to a different strain of norovirus, different people may be resistant or susceptible. In general, those who do not make the H1-antigen and people with B blood type will tend to be resistant, whereas people with A, AB, or O blood types will tend [to] get sick, but the pattern will depend on the specific strain of norovirus.
This difference in susceptibility has an interesting consequence. When an outbreak occurs, for example, on a cruise ship, roughly a third of the people may escape infection. Because they do not know the underlying reason for their resistance, I think spared people engage in magical thinking – for example, "I didn't get sick because I drank a lot of grape juice." Of course, these mythical evasive techniques will not work if the next outbreak is a strain to which the individual is susceptible.
A norovirus infection provokes a robust immune response that eliminates the virus in a few days. However, the response appears to be short-lived. Most studies have found that immunity guarding against reinfection with the same norovirus strain lasts less than six months. Also, infection with one strain of norovirus offers little protection against infection from another. Thus, you can have repeated bouts with norovirus.
The diversity of norovirus strains and the impermanence of the immune response complicates development of an effective vaccine. Currently, clinical trials are testing the effects of vaccines made from the capsid proteins of the two most prevalent norovirus strains.
In general, these experimental vaccines produce good immune responses; the longevity of the immune response is now under study. The next phase of clinical trials will test if the vaccines actually prevent or reduce the symptoms of norovirus infection.
The Milky Way's spiral arm that's home to our Solar System has been found to cradle the largest gaseous structure in the galaxy – a long, thin strip of jumbled star-forming matter measuring 9,000 light-years long and 400 light-years wide.
A team of researchers published details of their discovery in Nature this week. Named the Radcliffe Wave, after the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, where the study was led, the structure had never been observed before and overturns 150 years of cosmological theory.
"No astronomer expected that we live next to a giant, wave-like collection of gas - or that it forms the local arm of the Milky Way," said Alyssa Goodman, co-author of the paper and professor of applied astronomy at America's Harvard University.
Although the structure is giant - taking up nearly all of the space in what is known as the Orion Arm, or Local Arm, of the Milky Way - it was difficult to find. Scientists only spotted the giant thread of gas after mapping the smattering of young stars being born within that area when they analysed the data recorded by the European Space Agency's Gaia spacecraft, which launched in 2013.
"Only within the last year or two have we obtained super accurate distance to these stellar nurseries, enabled by novel statistical analyses of Gaia data. It is not possible to see this structure on the sky," Catherine Zucker, co-author of the paper and a graduate student at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told The Register.
[...] "It appears that the Sun, on its galactic orbit, crossed the Radcliffe Wave 13 million years ago, and may cross it again in the future. So in a way we are 'surfing' the wave," said Zucker.
Rare salt formations have been documented for the first time on the shores of the Great Salt Lake, and they could yield insights about salt structures found on Mars before they disappear for good.
They're showing up now in part because water levels at the largest natural lake west of the Mississippi have been lowered by drought and water diversion, exposing more shoreline. It's a story that's playing out throughout the American West as a growing population puts more demand on scarce water resources.
Along the high-salinity waters [of] Great Salt Lake, the expanded shoreline means there are more places where water can bubble up to the surface from warm, sulfate-rich springs. When it hits the cold air, a mineral called Glauber's salt, or mirabilite, separates out.
"It has to be exposed to just the right conditions," said park ranger Allison Thompson, who first saw them in October.
[...] There are now four mounds at the Great Salt Lake beach, growing up to 3 feet (1 meter) tall and several yards wide.
Mirabilite mounds are seen more often in places such as the Arctic, bolstered by the constantly cold temperatures. There are also indications of similar structures on Mars, so study of the mounds in Utah could offer clues on how to examine salts found there.
Salt deposits on Mars could hold clues about whether groundwater or even life was ever supported on the red planet, said Robert Zubrin, president of the Mars Society, a nonprofit group that runs a station simulating the planet in the Utah desert that isn't involved with studying the Great Salt Lake mounds.
"What would that look like? What would be the right detection instrument or technique?" he said.
-- submitted from IRC
This new round of recalls, announced Wednesday, affects US-market vehicles from BMW, Fiat Chrysler, Honda and Subaru, among others. The problem with these already-repaired vehicles is that during the early stages of the recall, Takata replaced dangerous old inflators with new ones of the exact same design and chemistry.
FCA representatives are stating that, while a total of around 50,000 vehicles were affected since the first rounds of this particular recall went out in 2015, there are no new VIN numbers being added to the list. Meanwhile, Honda's representatives say the company's been working on this particular recall since June of 2019, six months before the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration decision.
According to a report Wednesday by Automotive News, Takata believed that since the problem with the inflators was exacerbated by time, temperature and humidity, replacing the inflators with new ones was the best way forward. It wasn't.
Eventually, Takata reformulated the inflator's explosive propellant, adding a drying compound that helps to preserve the unit for much longer. That's what's now being installed in many cars, even though Takata went out of business and was purchased by a Chinese company in 2018. Some companies have opted to go a different way entirely, sourcing airbag inflators from different companies that had nothing to do with Takata.
According to the NHTSA, more than 38 million vehicles have been repaired in the seven years since the recalls started. It also estimates that there were nearly 13 million still-defective parts installed in vehicles as of November 2019.
Drinking tea at least three times a week is linked with a longer and healthier life, according to a study published today in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).
"Habitual tea consumption is associated with lower risks of cardiovascular disease and all-cause death," said first author Dr. Xinyan Wang, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Beijing, China. "The favourable health effects are the most robust for green tea and for long-term habitual tea drinkers."
The analysis included 100,902 participants of the China-PAR project with no history of heart attack, stroke, or cancer. Participants were classified into two groups: habitual tea drinkers (three or more times a week) and never or non-habitual tea drinkers (less than three times a week) and followed-up for a median of 7.3 years.
Habitual tea consumption was associated with more healthy years of life and longer life expectancy.
For example, the analyses estimated that 50-year-old habitual tea drinkers would develop coronary heart disease and stroke 1.41 years later and live 1.26 years longer than those who never or seldom drank tea.
Compared with never or non-habitual tea drinkers, habitual tea consumers had a 20% lower risk of incident heart disease and stroke, 22% lower risk of fatal heart disease and stroke, and 15% decreased risk of all-cause death.
The potential influence of changes in tea drinking behaviour were analysed in a subset of 14,081 participants with assessments at two time points. The average duration between the two surveys was 8.2 years, and the median follow-up after the second survey was 5.3 years.
Habitual tea drinkers who maintained their habit in both surveys had a 39% lower risk of incident heart disease and stroke, 56% lower risk of fatal heart disease and stroke, and 29% decreased risk of all-cause death compared to consistent never or non-habitual tea drinkers.
Senior author Dr. Dongfeng Gu, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, said: "The protective effects of tea were most pronounced among the consistent habitual tea drinking group. Mechanism studies have suggested that the main bioactive compounds in tea, namely polyphenols, are not stored in the body long-term. Thus, frequent tea intake over an extended period may be necessary for the cardioprotective effect."
In a subanalysis by type of tea, drinking green tea was linked with approximately 25% lower risks for incident heart disease and stroke, fatal heart disease and stroke, and all-cause death. However, no significant associations were observed for black tea.
Xinyan Wang, Fangchao Liu, Jianxin Li, Xueli Yang, Jichun Chen, Jie Cao, Xigui Wu, Xiangfeng Lu, Jianfeng Huang, Ying Li, Liancheng Zhao, Chong Shen, Dongsheng Hu, Ling Yu, Xiaoqing Liu, Xianping Wu, Shouling Wu, Dongfeng Gu. Tea consumption and the risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality: The China-PAR project. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, 2020; 204748731989468 DOI: 10.1177/2047487319894685
Job done, prolific Galapagos giant tortoise Diego is being released back into the wild after being credited by authorities with almost single-handedly saving his species from extinction.
The 100-year-old tortoise, who was recruited along with 14 other adults for a captive breeding program, will be returned to his native island of Espanola in March, the Galapagos National Parks service (PNG) said Friday.
[...] Diego's contribution to the program on Santa Cruz Island was particularly noteworthy, with park rangers believing him responsible for being the patriarch of at least 40 percent of the 2,000-tortoise population.
Around 50 years ago, there were only two males and 12 females of Diego's species alive on Espanola, and they were too spread out to reproduce.
Diego was brought in from California's San Diego Zoo to join the breeding program which was set up in the mid-1960s to save his species, Chelonoidis hoodensis.
The PNG believes he was taken from the Galapagos in the first half of the 20th century by a scientific expedition.
Now, Diego is returning to his original home "almost eight decades after being extracted," the park service said, adding that he had lived at the San Diego Zoo for several decades.
This is prompting some of the world's most influential enterprise firms to offer that choice to their employees.
Beyond HR considerations, IBM CIO Fletcher Previn points out multiple advantages Cupertino's computers offer, not least in terms of net promoter score, user experience and the actual costs of management, upgrade and support.
[...] The positive upswell in support for Apple's systems comes as around 417,000,000 Windows 7 devices (a big chunk of all Windows PCs currently in use worldwide) are about to experience Microsoft terminating support on January 14, 2020.
It's a relatively safe assumption to think that at least some tens of thousands of these PCs could now be replaced by an iPad, or even a Mac.
Why wouldn't some of these migrate to Apple's platforms, when Microsoft's fee-based extended support package costs up to $200 per device?
Updates released by Mozilla on Wednesday for its Firefox browser address a zero-day vulnerability that has been exploited in targeted attacks.
"Incorrect alias information in IonMonkey JIT compiler for setting array elements could lead to a type confusion," Mozilla explained in its advisory.
Mozilla says it's aware of targeted attacks exploiting this zero-day, but no other information has been made available.
A Current Activity bulletin released by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) says the vulnerability could allow an attacker to take control of an affected system.
The flaw has been patched with the release of Firefox 72.0.1 and Firefox ESR 68.4.1, and users have been advised to update their installations.
Also at Ars Technica
A pair of House lawmakers introduced a bipartisan bill Thursday to update a decades-old law designed to protect children's online privacy. The bill comes amid growing concern that children are encountering increasingly sophisticated threats online.
The Preventing Real Online Threats Endangering Children Today Act (PDF), introduced by Republican Rep. Tim Walberg of Michigan and Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois, aims to strengthen the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA) to address the ever-evolving digital landscape, the lawmakers said.
"Children today are more connected online and face dangers that we could not have imagined years ago," Walberg said in a statement. "While advancements in technology allows for many benefits, it also poses a risk for our kids."
The legislation would allow parents to force companies to delete any private information they've collected about their children. It would also raise the raise the age of parental consent protections from the current 13 years of age to 16.
This is down from 35 per cent in December 2018 but still substantial. Windows has a share among desktop users of around 77 per cent, so that is around 20 per cent of active desktop PCs.
"End of support" means no technical support, software updates or security fixes from Microsoft. Of these, the significant piece is the security fixes. Without regular patches, flaws that are discovered in the operating system will put users at greater risk from things like ransomware attacks, perhaps triggered by an email attachment or malicious web link.
Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2 also go out of support on the same day. Although it is less likely that users will be browsing the web or clicking attachments on Server 2008, it is still risky if these servers are exposed to the internet – as appears to be the case with Travelex, currently suffering a ransomware attack – or if they are used for remote desktop services.
Another curious feature of this "end of support" is that Microsoft will still be providing security updates for both operating systems, for three further years. So the real end of support date is in 2023. That said, you can only get these "extended security updates", or ESU, in certain ways:
- Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) users get free ESU until January, 2023
- You can purchase Windows 7 ESU by subscription from Microsoft Cloud Solution Providers, which means most IT support companies signed up as authorised Microsoft suppliers.
- Windows 7 ESU is free for a year to customers who subscribe to Windows E5 or Microsoft 365 E5. Details are here
- Only Windows 7 Professional and Enterprise are covered by ESU.
- Windows 7 embedded can be supported through an "Ecosystem Partner Offering" support contract.
- The scenario for Windows Server 2008 ESU is similar to that for Windows 7.
[...] There is a degree of artificiality about this key "end of support" date and ways to keep old stuff patched, but the security risks are real.
A bill has been introduced in Vermont's legislature that would prohibit anyone under 21 years old from using or possessing a cell phone. However, the bill appears to be more about gun rights than cell phones.
The bill, introduced Tuesday by Democratic Sen. John Rodgers, says those under the age of 21 "are not developmentally mature enough" to posses and use cell phones safely. The bill cites fatal car crash and bullying among teens as reasons for the proposed legislation.
"The use of cell phones while driving is one of the leading killers of teenagers in the United States," according to the bill (PDF). "Young people frequently use cell phones to bully and threaten other young people, activities that have been linked to many suicides."
The bill would make possession or use of a cell phone by anyone under 21 punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The bill says that if those under 21 "aren't mature enough" to possess guns, smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol, then the same rule should apply to cell phone use. In recent years, the state has passed laws raising the minimum smoking age to 21 and prohibiting the sale of firearms to anyone under 21.
[...] "I have no delusions that it's going to pass. I wouldn't probably vote for it myself," he told the newspaper.