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Spotify in Talks To Acquire SoundCloud

Wed, 09/28/2016 - 4:30pm
Janko Roettgers, writing for Variety: Spotify is in advanced talks to acquire rival music service SoundCloud, according to a report by the Financial Times. An announcement of the acquisition could be made soon, according to the Times. The acquisition would come just months after SoundCloud launched its own paid streaming service. A Spotify spokesperson declined to comment on the report when contacted by Variety; SoundCloud didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Spotify is the market leader in the growing paid streaming business, disclosing earlier this month that it now has more than 40 million paying subscribers. Its biggest competitor is Apple Music with 17 million paying subscribers.

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Banks Adopting Blockchain 'Dramatically Faster' Than Expected

Wed, 09/28/2016 - 4:10pm
Banks and other financial institutions are adopting blockchain technology "dramatically faster" than initially expected, with 15 percent of top global banks intending to roll out full-scale, commercial blockchain products in 2017, IBM said on Wednesday. Reuters reports: The technology company said 65 percent of banks expected to have blockchain projects in production in three years' time, with larger banks -- those with more than 100,000 employees -- leading the charge. IBM, whose findings were based on a survey of 200 banks, said the areas most commonly identified by lenders as ripe for blockchain-based innovation were clearing and settlement, wholesale payments, equity and debt issuance and reference data. Blockchain, which originates from digital currency bitcoin, works as an electronic transaction-processing and record-keeping system that allows all parties to track information through a secure network, with no need for third-party verification.

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Amazon Looking To Abandon UPS, FedEx In Favor of Its Own Delivery Service

Wed, 09/28/2016 - 3:30pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A report by The Wall Street Journal claims that Amazon is building its own shipping service to replace FedEx and UPS, giving it more control over its packages and possibly allowing it to ship packages from other retailers. Amazon has said its own delivery services would be meant to increase its capacity during busier times of the year, like the upcoming holiday season. However, "current and former Amazon managers and business partners" claim that the company's plans are bigger than that. The initiative dubbed "Consume the City" will eventually let Amazon "haul and deliver" its own packages and those of other retailers and consumers. That delivery network would also directly compete with the likes of UPS and FedEx. It makes sense that Amazon would want to sell, ship, and deliver orders on its own. The report estimates that the company spent $11.5 billion on shipping just last year, amounting to 10.8 percent of sales. The shipping process is currently a bit convoluted: packages from Amazon warehouses get sent to one of two shipping routes, either FedEx or UPS, or to a sorting facility that lumps all packages with similar zip codes together. FedEx and UPS handle its shipments and deliver them to customers, while the packages at the sorting facilities either get delivered via USPS or by Amazon employees themselves. If Amazon were to have control over its shipments over longer distances, it's estimated that the company could save about $3 per package -- about $1.1 billion annually.

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D-Wave's 2,000-Qubit Quantum Annealing Computer Now 1,000x Faster Than Previous Generation

Wed, 09/28/2016 - 2:50pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Tom's Hardware: D-Wave, a Canadian company developing the first commercial "quantum computer," announced its next-generation quantum annealing computer with 2,000 qubits, which is twice as many as its previous generation had. One highly exciting aspect of quantum computers of all types is that beyond the seemingly Moore's Law-like increase in number of qubits every two years, their performance increases much more than just 2x, unlike with regular microprocessors. This is because qubits can hold a value of 0, 1, or a superposition of the two, making quantum systems able to deal with much more complex information. If D-Wave's 2,000-qubit computer is now 1,000 faster than the previous 1,000-qubit generation (D-Wave 2X), that would mean that, for the things Google tested last year, it should now be 100 billion times faster than a single-core CPU. The new generation also comes with control features, which allows users to modify how D-Wave's quantum system works to better optimize their solutions. These control features include the following capabilities: The ability to tune the rate of annealing of individual qubits to enhance application performance; The ability to sample the state of the quantum computer during the quantum annealing process to power hybrid quantum-classical machine learning algorithms that were not previously possible; The ability to combine quantum processing with classical processing to improve the quality of both optimization and sampling results returned from the system. D-Wave's CEO, Vern Brownell, also said that D-Wave's quantum computers could also be used for machine learning task in ways that wouldn't be possible on classical computers. The company is also training the first generation of programmers to develop applications for D-Wave quantum systems. Last year, Google said that D-Wave's 1,000 qubit computer proved to be 100 million times faster than a classical computer with a single core: "We found that for problem instances involving nearly 1,000 binary variables, quantum annealing significantly outperforms its classical counterpart, simulated annealing. It is more than 10^8 times faster than simulated annealing running on a single core," said Hartmut Neven, Google's Director of Engineering.

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Verizon Technician Is Accused of Selling Customers' Call Records and Location Data To Private Investigator

Wed, 09/28/2016 - 2:10pm
A former Verizon technician who worked in Alabama is being accused of selling customers' private call records and location data to an unnamed private investigator. Authorities said the data was sold for more than four years, from 2009 to 2014. The Associated Press reports: [Daniel Eugene Traeger] logged into one Verizon computer system to gain access to customers' call records, authorities said. He used another company system known as Real Time Tool to "ping" cellphones on Verizon's network to get locations of the devices, according to the plea agreement. He then compiled the data in spreadsheets, which he sent to the private investigator for years, the court records show. "Between April 2009 and January 2014, the defendant was paid more than $10,000 in exchange for his provision of confidential customer information and cellular location data to the PL, an unauthorized third party," court records state. Though Traeger was based in the Birmingham area, the court records do not indicate whether the information that was sold involved Verizon Wireless customers in Alabama or elsewhere. He faces up to five years in prison, but prosecutors are recommending a lesser sentence since he accepted responsibility, according to terms of the plea agreement.

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HP To Issue 'Optional Firmware Update' Allowing 3rd-Party Ink

Wed, 09/28/2016 - 1:30pm
Soon after the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) issued a letter to HP, calling for them to apologize to customers for releasing firmware that prevents the use of non-HP ink cartridges and refilled HP cartridges, the company has responded with a temporary solution. HP "will issue an optional firmware update that will remove the dynamic security feature" for certain OfficeJet printers. Ars Technica reports: HP made its announcement in a blog post titled "Dedicated to the best printing experience." "We updated a cartridge authentication procedure in select models of HP office inkjet printers to ensure the best consumer experience and protect them from counterfeit and third-party ink cartridges that do not contain an original HP security chip and that infringe on our IP," the company said. The recent firmware update for HP OfficeJet Pro, and OfficeJet Pro X printers "included a dynamic security feature that prevented some untested third-party cartridges that use cloned security chips from working, even if they had previously functioned," HP said. For customers who don't wish to be protected from the ability to buy less expensive ink cartridges, HP said it "will issue an optional firmware update that will remove the dynamic security feature. We expect the update to be ready within two weeks and will provide details here." This customer-friendly move may just be a one-time thing. HP said it will continue to use security features that "protect our IP including authentication methods that may prevent some third-party supplies from working." Without the optional firmware update, printers will only be able to use third-party ink cartridges that have an "original HP security chip," the company said.

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Cloudflare: We Can't Shut Down Pirate Sites

Wed, 09/28/2016 - 12:45pm
CloudFlare has said it cannot shut down piracy websites. The CloudFlare's response comes two months after adult entertainment outfit ALS Scan filed a complaint at a California federal court two months ago in which the company accused the CDN service of various counts of copyright and trademark infringement. From a TorrentFreak report:"CloudFlare is not the operator of the allegedly infringing sites but is merely one of the many intermediaries across the internet that provide automated CDN services, which result in the websites in question loading a bit faster than they would if they did not utilize CDN services." If Cloudflare terminated the accounts of allegedly infringing websites, the sites themselves would still continue to exist. It would just require a simple DNS reconfiguration to continue their operation. "Indeed, there are no measures of any kind that CloudFlare could take to prevent this alleged infringement, because the termination of CloudFlare's CDN services would have no impact on the existence and ability of these allegedly infringing websites to continue to operate," Cloudflare writes. As such, the company argues that it's not "materially contributing" to any of the alleged copyright infringements.

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The United Nations Will Launch Its First Space Mission In 2021

Wed, 09/28/2016 - 12:06pm
The United Nations will send its first ever mission to space in 2021. It said it intends to send Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser spacecraft into a two-week, low-Earth orbit flight in 2021. Sierra Nevada had signed the UN as a partner in June. Motherboard adds:As detailed for a small crowd at the International Astronautical Congress yesterday, the goal of the 2021 UN mission is to make space accessible to developing member states that lack the resources to develop a standalone, national space program. "One of UNOOSA's core responsibilities is to promote cooperation and the peaceful uses of outer space, but our work is about more than that," said Simonetta Di Pippo, the director of UNOOSA. "We have the vision of bringing the benefits of space to humankind, and that means helping developing countries access space technologies and their benefits."

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US Warns Samsung Washing Machine Owners After Explosion Reports

Wed, 09/28/2016 - 11:25am
Samsung may have a new problem on its hands, and it feels too familiar. The U.S. regulators on Wednesday warned users of certain top-loading Samsung washing machines of safety issues following reports that "some have exploded." CNN reports: The warning, from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, covered machines made between March 2011 and April 2016. It did not specify a model. The commission suggested people use only the delicate cycle to wash bedding and water-resistant and bulky items because the lower spin speed "lessens the risk of impact injuries or property damage due to the washing machine becoming dislodged." The agency said it is working with Samsung on a remedy.

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No Man's Sky Under Investigation For False Advertising

Wed, 09/28/2016 - 10:48am
No Man's Sky is one of the most talked about games this year. The game sees the protagonist explore the space and experience uncertain places. But its controversial promotional material may also have played an instrumental role in making the title a sleeper-hit success. Polygon reports: No Man's Sky's promotional material has come under fire since launch, and it's now the subject of an ongoing investigation. The U.K.-based Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) confirmed to Polygon that it's received "several complaints about No Man's Sky's advertising," which angry customers have criticized as misleading. "I can confirm we have received several complaints about No Man's Sky advertising and we have launched an investigation," the ASA told Polygon. A representative for the ASA declined to comment on the particulars of the investigation, but a thread on the No Man Sky's subreddit details some of the most prominent issues Steam users have with the game's store page, which they passed on to the organization. Screens and video on Steam suggest a different type of combat, unique buildings, "ship flying behaviour" and creature sizes than what's found in the actual game itself. The store page overall has also been criticized for showing No Man's Sky with higher quality graphics than can be attained in-game.

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Yahoo Repeatedly Didn't Invest In Security, Rejected Bare Minimum Measure To Reset All User Passwords: NYTimes

Wed, 09/28/2016 - 10:05am
If it wasn't already enough that the mega breach at Yahoo affects over 500 million users, a new investigative report on The New York Times states the extent to which Yahoo didn't care about its users' security (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source). The report says Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer refused to fund security initiatives at the company, and instead invested money in features and new products. Despite Edward Snowden warning Yahoo that it was too easy of a target for hackers, the company took one year to hire a new chief information officer. The company hired Alex Stamos, who is widely respected in the industry. But Stamos soon left partly due to clashes with Mayer, The Times adds. And it gets worse. From the report:But when it came time to commit meaningful dollars to improve Yahoo's security infrastructure, Ms. Mayer repeatedly clashed with Mr. Stamos, according to the current and former employees. She denied Yahoo's security team financial resources and put off proactive security defenses, including intrusion-detection mechanisms for Yahoo's production systems. [...] But during his tenure, Ms. Mayer also rejected the most basic security measure of all: an automatic reset of all user passwords, a step security experts consider standard after a breach. Employees say the move was rejected by Ms. Mayer's team for fear that even something as simple as a password change would drive Yahoo's shrinking email users to other services.

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'Safe' Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Explodes in China

Wed, 09/28/2016 - 9:25am
Rahil Bhagat, writing for CNET: The tendency of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 to catch fire has led to the company's global recall of around 2.5 million of the phones, to be replaced with new, safe units. Samsung could have another problem on its hands, though, as a Chinese man says a brand new Note 7 exploded on him, Bloomberg reported. Samsung had previously said Chinese models of the phone were safe as they use a different battery than Note 7 devices sold in the rest of the world. Hu Renjie, 25, claimed his brand new Note 7, bought over the weekend from JD.com, exploded while charging, burning two of his fingers and damaging a MacBook Pro. Hu said that a representative from Samsung paid him a visit concerning this incident and asked for the smouldering corpse of his phone to perform an autopsy, but he refused.

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FBI Investigating Possible Hack of Democratic Party Staffer Cell Phones

Tue, 09/27/2016 - 5:15pm
In what may be part of the original Democratic National Committee hack, the FBI is currently investigating a possible hack involving the cell phones of a small number of Democratic Party staffers. CNN reports: The development comes on the same day Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told lawmakers that 18 states have asked for help in warding off cyberattacks on their electronic voting systems. Law enforcement officials have reached out to the staffers individually about "imaging" their phones to search for evidence of hacking, such as malware. Investigators are still probing whether this attempted hack is part of the original breach of Democratic National Committee emails -- which is widely thought to be the work of the Russian government -- or a new hacking attempt. "Our struggle with the Russian hackers that we announced in June is ongoing -- as we knew it would be -- and we are choosing not to provide general updates unless personal data or other sensitive information has been accessed or stolen," interim DNC Chairwoman Donna Brazile told CNN. Cybersecurity was a major theme at the debate last night between Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. While Clinton blamed the Russians for the "election-related cyberintrusions," Trump said "It could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It could also be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds." We will update this story as it develops.

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Anti-Defamation League Declares Pepe the Frog a Hate Symbol

Tue, 09/27/2016 - 4:45pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TIME: The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has declared a popular internet meme depicting a cartoon frog to be a hate symbol. Pepe the Frog's beginnings were unoffensive: he is the creation of comic book creator Matt Furie, who featured the frog as a character in the series Boy's Club beginning in 2005. The character subsequently became a beloved meme, often called the "sad frog meme" and shared with a speech bubble reading "Feels good man" or "Feels bad man." But recently, as the Daily Beast reported in May, the character has been co-opted by a faction of Internet denizens who decided to reclaim it from the mainstream, and began sharing it in anti-Semitic contexts. "Images of the frog, variously portrayed with a Hitler-like mustache, wearing a yarmulke or a Klan hood, have proliferated in recent weeks in hateful messages aimed at Jewish and other users on Twitter," the ADL wrote in a statement. "Once again, racists and haters have taken a popular Internet meme and twisted it for their own purposes of spreading bigotry and harassing users," wrote ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt.

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Aetna To Provide Apple Watch To 50,000 Employees, Subsidize Cost For Customers

Tue, 09/27/2016 - 4:15pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Mac Rumors: Insurance company Aetna today announced a major health initiative centered on the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch, which will see Aetna subsidizing the cost of the Apple Watch for both large employers and individual customers. Starting this fall during open enrollment season, Aetna will subsidize "a significant portion" of the Apple Watch cost and will offer monthly payroll deductions to cover the remaining cost. Aetna also plans to provide Apple Watches at no cost to all of its nearly 50,000 employees as part of a wellness reimbursement program to encourage them to live healthier lives. Aetna plans to develop several iOS health initiatives with "support" from Apple, debuting "deeply integrated" health apps for the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch that will be available to all Aetna customers. According to Aetna, these apps will "simplify the healthcare process" with features like care management to guide customers through a new diagnosis or a medication, medication reminders and tools for easy refills, quick contact with doctors, integration with Apple Wallet for paying bills and checking deductibles, and tools to help Aetna members get the most out of their insurance benefits. Aetna's health-related apps will be available starting in early 2017, but the Apple Watch initiative will begin in 2016. Aetna has not detailed how much of the cost will be subsidized or which Apple Watch models will be available to subscribers.

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Revealed: How One Amazon Kindle Scam Made Millions of Dollars

Tue, 09/27/2016 - 3:30pm
An anonymous Slashdot reader shares an excerpt with us from a report via ZDNet that summarizes a catfishing scheme designed to deceive Amazon users into buy low-quality ebooks: Emma Moore is just one of hundreds of pseudonyms employed in a sophisticated "catfishing" scheme run by Valeriy Shershnyov, whose Vancouver-based business hoodwinks Amazon customers into buying low-quality ebooks, which have been boosted on the online marketplace by an unscrupulous system of bots, scripts, and virtual servers. Catfishing isn't new -- it's been well documented. Some scammers buy fake reviews, while others will try other ways to game the system. Until now, nobody has been able to look inside at how one of these scams work -- especially one that's been so prolific, generating millions of dollars in royalties by cashing in on unwitting buyers who are tricked into thinking these ebooks have some substance. Shershnyov was able to stay in Amazon's shadows for two years by using his scam server conservatively so as to not raise any red flags. What eventually gave him away weren't customer complaints or even getting caught. It was good old-fashioned carelessness. He forgot to put a password on his server.

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FCC Official Asks Agency To Investigate Ban On Journalists' Wi-Fi Personal Hotspots At Debate

Tue, 09/27/2016 - 2:50pm
Yesterday, it was reported that journalists attending the presidential debate at Hofstra University were banned from using personal hotspots and were told they had to pay $200 to access the event's Wi-Fi. The journalists were reportedly offered the option to either turn off their personal hotspots or leave the debate. Cyrus Farivar via Ars Technica is now reporting that "one of the members of the Federal Communications Commission, Jessica Rosenworcel, has asked the agency to investigate the Monday evening ban." Ars Technica reports: Earlier, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel tweeted, saying that something was "not right" with what Hofstra did. She cited an August 2015 order from the FCC, forcing a company called SmartCity to no longer engage in Wi-Fi blocking and to pay $750,000. Ars has since updated their report with a statement from Karla Schuster, a spokeswoman for Hofstra University: The Commission on Presidential Debates sets the criteria for services and requires that a completely separate network from the University's network be built to support the media and journalists. This is necessary due to the volume of Wi-Fi activity and the need to avoid interference. The Rate Card fee of $200 for Wi-Fi access is to help defray the costs and the charge for the service does not cover the cost of the buildout. For Wi-Fi to perform optimally the system must be tuned with each access point and antenna. When other Wi-Fi access points are placed within the environment the result is poorer service for all. To avoid unauthorized access points that could interfere, anyone who has a device that emits RF frequency must register the device. Whenever a RF-emitting device was located, the technician notified the individual to visit the RF desk located in the Hall. The CPD RF engineer would determine if the device could broadcast without interference.

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OVH Hosting Suffers From Record 1Tbps DDoS Attack Driven By 150K Devices

Tue, 09/27/2016 - 2:10pm
MojoKid writes: If you thought that the massive DDoS attack earlier this month on Brian Krebs' security blog was record-breaking, take a look at what just happened to France-based hosting provider OVH. OVH was the victim of a wide-scale DDoS attack that was carried via a network of over 152,000 IoT devices. According to OVH founder and CTO Octave Klaba, the DDoS attack reached nearly 1 Tbps at its peak. Of those IoT devices participating in the DDoS attack, they were primarily comprised of CCTV cameras and DVRs. Many of these devices have improperly configured network settings, which leaves them ripe for the picking for hackers that would love to use them to carry out destructive attacks.The DDoS peaked at 990 Gbps on September 20th thanks to two concurrent attacks, and according to Klaba, the original botnet was capable of a 1.5 Tbps DDoS attack if each IP topped out at 30 Mbps. This massive DDoS campaign was directed at Minecraft servers that OHV was hosting. Octave Klaba / Oles tweeted: "Last days, we got lot of huge DDoS. Here, the list of 'bigger that 100Gbps' only. You can the simultaneous DDoS are close to 1Tbps!"

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Google's New Translation Software Powered By Brainlike Artificial Intelligence

Tue, 09/27/2016 - 1:30pm
sciencehabit quotes a report from Science Magazine: Today, Google rolled out a new translation system that uses massive amounts of data and increased processing power to build more accurate translations. The new system, a deep learning model known as neural machine translation, effectively trains itself -- and reduces translation errors by up to 87%. When compared with Google's previous system, the neural machine translation system scores well with human reviewers. It was 58% more accurate at translating English into Chinese, and 87% more accurate at translating English into Spanish. As a result, the company is planning to slowly replace the system underlying all of its translation work -- one language at a time. The report adds: "The new method, reported today on the preprint server arXiv, uses a total of 16 processors to first transform words into a value known as a vector. What is a vector? 'We don't know exactly,' [Quoc Le, a Google research scientist in Mountain View, California, says.] But it represents how related one word is to every other word in the vast dictionary of training materials (2.5 billion sentence pairs for English and French; 500 million for English and Chinese). For example, 'dog' is more closely related to 'cat' than 'car,' and the name 'Barack Obama' is more closely related to 'Hillary Clinton' than the name for the country 'Vietnam.' The system uses vectors from the input language to come up with a list of possible translations that are ranked based on their probability of occurrence. Other features include a system of cross-checks that further increases accuracy and a special set of computations that speeds up processing time."

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Microsoft Partners With Bank of America On Blockchain Trade Finance

Tue, 09/27/2016 - 12:50pm
wiredmikey quotes a report from SecurityWeek: Microsoft and Bank of America Merrill Lynch said they are working together to make financial transactions more efficient with blockchain technology -- the foundation of bitcoin digital currency. Blockchains are considered tamper-proof registers in which entries are time-stamped and linked to previous "blocks" in a data chain. As expected, the technology that drives the shadowy bitcoin cryptocurrency is drawing interest from the established banking industry, which sees a potential to revolutionize the sector. The companies said they will build and test frameworks for blockchain-powered exchanges between businesses and their customers and banks. Microsoft plans to use its Azure cloud service platform to enable blockchain transactions between a major corporate treasury and a financial institution. "Blockchains serve as public ledgers considered easy to audit and verify. They are also automated, speeding up transactions and limiting potential for error or revision," the report adds. The companies said that by using blockchain technology, they can digitalize and automate trade finance processes, which are traditionally highly manual, time-consuming and costly.

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