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Security

Russia Says Foreign Spies Plan Cyber Attack On Banking System (reuters.com) 21

Russia said on Friday it had uncovered a plot by foreign spy agencies to sow chaos in Russia's banking system via a coordinated wave of cyber attacks and fake social media reports about banks going bust. From a report on Reuters: Russia's domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB), said that the servers to be used in the alleged cyber attack were located in the Netherlands and registered to a Ukrainian web hosting company called BlazingFast. The attack, which was to target major national and provincial banks in several Russian cities, was meant to start on Dec. 5, the FSB said in a statement. "It was planned that the cyber attack would be accompanied by a mass send-out of SMS messages and publications in social media of a provocative nature regarding a crisis in the Russian banking system, bankruptcies and license withdrawals," it said. "The FSB is carrying out the necessary measures to neutralize threats to Russia's economic and information security."
Facebook

Facebook Knows What You're Streaming (bloomberg.com) 54

Facebook is gathering information about the shows Roku and Apple TV owners are streaming. The company then uses the Facebook profile linked to the same IP addresses to tailor the commercials that are shown to individual users. From a report on Bloomberg: For the past few weeks, the social network says, it's been targeting ads to people streaming certain shows on their Roku or Apple TV set-top boxes. It customizes commercials based on the Facebook profiles tied to the IP addresses doing the streaming, according to a company spokesman. He says Facebook is trying out this approach with the A&E network (The Killing, Duck Dynasty) and streaming startup Tubi TV, selecting free test ads for nonprofits or its own products along with a handful of name brands. This push is part of a broader effort by social media companies to build their revenue with ads on video. Twitter is placing much of its ad-sales hopes on streaming partnerships with sports leagues and other content providers. In October, CFO Anthony Noto told analysts on an earnings call that the ads played during Twitter's NFL Thursday Night Football streaming exclusives had been especially successful, with many people watching them in their entirety with the sound turned on. The participants in these partnerships don't yet have a default answer to questions such as who should be responsible for selling the ads or who should get which slice of revenue.
Social Networks

Facebook Developing AI To Flag Offensive Live Videos (reuters.com) 99

Facebook is working on automatically flagging offensive material in live video streams, building on a growing effort to use artificial intelligence to monitor content, said Joaquin Candela, the company's director of applied machine learning. Reuters added: The social media company has been embroiled in a number of content moderation controversies this year, from facing international outcry after removing an iconic Vietnam War photo due to nudity, to allowing the spread of fake news on its site. Facebook has historically relied mostly on users to report offensive posts, which are then checked by Facebook employees against company "community standards." Decisions on especially thorny content issues that might require policy changes are made by top executives at the company. Candela told reporters that Facebook increasingly was using artificial intelligence to find offensive material. It is "an algorithm that detects nudity, violence, or any of the things that are not according to our policies," he said.
Republicans

Twitters Says It Will Ban Trump If He Breaks Hate-Speech Rules (qz.com) 977

Twitter has made a serious effort as of late to limit hate speech on its social media site, especially after Election Day where "biased graffiti, assaults and other incidents have been reported in the news." The company now faces President-elect Donald Trump, who has used Twitter for the past 18 months as a megaphone for his views and rants, which many would consider as "hate speech." According to the American Bar Association, hate speech is "speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or other traits." Quartz reports: While Trump's deceptive tweets may not violate Twitter's rules against harassment, threats and "hateful conduct," Twitter is still keeping an eye on his account for more egregious offenses. This week, the company told Slate it would consider banning key government officials, even the president, if its rules against hate speech or other language were violated. "The Twitter Rules prohibit violent threats, harassment, hateful conduct, and multiple account abuse, and we will take action on accounts violating those policies," a spokesperson wrote. Twitter confirmed with Quartz that everyone, including government officials, were subject to the policy: "The Twitter Rules apply to all accounts," a spokesman wrote. Trump may not have crossed that line yet, but he hasn't exactly refrained from making incendiary claims. Most recently, he claimed that Abdul Razak Ali Artan, who allegedly carried out an attack injuring 11 students at Ohio State University, "should not have been in our country." Artan was a legal permanent U.S. resident, whose family had fled Somalia for Pakistan in 2007. He arrived in the States in 2014.
Communications

Reddit To Crack Down On Abuse By Punishing Hundreds of 'Toxic Users' (reuters.com) 226

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Social media website Reddit, known for its commitment to free speech, will crack down on online harassment by banning or suspending users who target others, starting with those who have directed abuse at Chief Executive Steve Huffman. Huffman said in an interview with Reuters that Reddit's content policy prohibits harassment, but that it had not been adequately enforced. "Personal message harassment is the most cut and dry," he said. "Right now we are in an interesting position where my inbox is full of them, it's easy to start with me." As well as combing through Huffman's inbox, Reddit will monitor user reports, add greater filtering capacity, and take a more proactive role in policing its platform rather than relying on community moderators. Reddit said it had identified hundreds of the "most toxic users" and will warn, ban or suspend them. It also plans to increase staff on its "trust and safety" team. On Reddit, a channel supporting the U.S. Republican party's presidential candidate Donald Trump, called r/The_Donald, featured racist and misogynistic comments, fake news and conspiracy theories about his Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton, along with more mainstream expressions of support for Trump. Many of those supporting Trump were very active, voting up the r/The_Donald conversations so that they became prominent across Reddit, which is the 7th-most-visited U.S. internet site, according to web data firm Alexa. Last week, Reddit banned Pizzagate, a community devoted to a conspiracy theory, with no evidence to back it up, that links Clinton to a pedophile ring at a Washington, D.C. pizza parlor, after it posted personal information in violation of Reddit policy. Huffman then used his administrative privileges to redirect abuse he was receiving on a thread on r/The_Donald to the community's moderators -- making it look as if it was intended for them. Huffman said it was a prank, and that many Reddit users, including some Trump supporters, told him they thought it was funny, but it inflamed the situation.
Facebook

Social Media Is Killing Discourse Because It's Too Much Like TV (technologyreview.com) 219

Reader Joe_NoOne writes: Like TV, social media now increasingly entertains us, and even more so than television it amplifies our existing beliefs and habits. It makes us feel more than think, and it comforts more than challenges. The result is a deeply fragmented society, driven by emotions, and radicalized by lack of contact and challenge from outside. This is why Oxford Dictionaries designated "post-truth" as the word of 2016: an adjective "relating to circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than emotional appeals." Traditional television still entails some degree of surprise. What you see on television news is still picked by human curators, and even though it must be entertaining to qualify as worthy of expensive production, it is still likely to challenge some of our opinions (emotions, that is). Social media, in contrast, uses algorithms to encourage comfort and complaisance, since its entire business model is built upon maximizing the time users spend inside of it. Who would like to hang around in a place where everyone seems to be negative, mean, and disapproving? The outcome is a proliferation of emotions, a radicalization of those emotions, and a fragmented society. This is way more dangerous for the idea of democracy founded on the notion of informed participation. Now what can be done? Certainly the explanation for Trump's rise cannot be reduced to a technology- or media-centered argument. The phenomenon is rooted in more than that; media or technology cannot create; they can merely twist, divert, or disrupt. Without the growing inequality, shrinking middle class, jobs threatened by globalization, etc. there would be no Trump or Berlusconi or Brexit. But we need to stop thinking that any evolution of technology is natural and inevitable and therefore good. For one thing, we need more text than videos in order to remain rational animals. Typography, as Postman describes, is in essence much more capable of communicating complex messages that provoke thinking. This means we should write and read more, link more often, and watch less television and fewer videos -- and spend less time on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
Privacy

China Pilots a System That Rates Citizens on 'Social Credit Score' To Determine Eligibility For Jobs, Travel (technologyreview.com) 203

Speculations have turned out be true. The Chinese government is now testing systems that will be used to create digital records of citizens' social and financial behavior. In turn, these will be used to create a so-called social credit score, which will determine whether individuals have access to services, from travel and education to loans and insurance cover. Some citizens -- such as lawyers and journalists -- will be more closely monitored. From a report on MIT Technology Review: Planning documents apparently describe the system as being created to "allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step." The Journal claims that the system will at first log "infractions such as fare cheating, jaywalking and violating family-planning rules" but will be expanded in the future -- potentially even to Internet activity. Some aspects of the system are already in testing, but there are some challenges to implementing such a far-reaching apparatus. It's difficult to centralize all that data, check it for accuracy, and process it, for example -- let alone feed it back into the system to control everyday life. And China has data from 1.4 billion people to handle.
Medicine

Religious Experiences Have Similar Effect On Brain As Taking Drugs, Study Finds (cnn.com) 225

A new study published in the journal Social Neuroscience finds through functional MRI scans that religious and spiritual experiences can trigger reward systems like love and drugs. "These are areas of the brain that seem like they should be involved in religious and spiritual experience. But yet, religious neuroscience is such a young field -- and there are very few studies -- and ours was the first study that showed activation of the nucleus accumbens, an area of the brain that processes reward," said Dr. Jeffrey Anderson, a neuroradiologist at the University of Utah and lead author of the study. CNN reports: For the study, 19 devout young adult Mormons had their brains scanned in fMRI machines while they completed various tasks. The tasks included resting for six minutes, watching a six-minute church announcement about membership and financial reports, reading quotations from religious leaders for eight minutes, engaging in prayer for six minutes, reading scripture for eight minutes, and watching videos of religious speeches, renderings of biblical scenes and church member testimonials. During the tasks, participants were asked to indicate when they were experiencing spiritual feelings. As the researchers analyzed the fMRI scans taken of the participants, they took a close look at the degree of spiritual feelings each person reported and then which brain regions were simultaneously activated. The researchers found that certain brain regions consistently lit up when the participants reported spiritual feelings. The brain regions included the nucleus accumbens, which is associated with reward; frontal attentional, which is associated with focused attention; and ventromedial prefrontal cortical loci, associated with moral reasoning, Anderson said. Since the study results were seen only in Mormons, Anderson said, more research is needed to determine whether similar findings could be replicated in people of other faiths, such as Catholics or Muslims.
Businesses

CNN Acquires Social-Video Startup Beme, Co-Founded By YouTube Star Casey Neistat (variety.com) 61

CNN announced Monday that it has purchased video-sharing app Beme, and will work with its founder, Casey Neistat, to build a new media brand next year focused on storytelling for a younger audience. Casey Neistat is a YouTube celebrity and tech entrepreneur who launched Beme last year. Variety reports: CNN said the new venture that it's forming out of the acquisition -- aimed at reaching millennial viewers with the street cred of Neistat's reporting and commentary -- will launch in the summer of 2017. All 11 of Beme's employees will join CNN; the cable news network will be shutting down Beme, which had garnered more than 1 million downloads. New York-based filmmaker Neistat, who has more than 5.8 million subscribers on YouTube, announced earlier this month on his channel that he would be suspending his personal vlog to focus on new projects, one of which turns out is the pact with CNN. His daily vlog dispatches cover current political and news events as well as action sequences like his viral "Snowboarding With the NYPD" video last winter. Led by Hackett, formerly VP of engineering at Yahoo's Tumblr, Beme's development team will "build technology to enable the new company and also develop mobile video capabilities for CNN's portfolio of digital properties," according to the Turner-owned cable news network. Neistat, 35, will lead the new venture's "editorial vision" as executive producer. CNN said it will employ its global resources to launch the new media brand, and plans to hire dozens of producers, builders, developers, designers and content creators for the new company. CNN said the new Beme-based company will operate as a standalone business under the CNN Digital umbrella.
EU

EU's Law Enforcement Agency Closes 4,500 Websites Peddling Fake Brands (phys.org) 72

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: In a massive crackdown, police and law enforcement agencies across Europe have seized more than 4,500 website domains trading in counterfeit goods, often via social networks, officials said on Monday. The operation came as Europol, Europe's police agency, unveiled its newest campaign dubbed "Don't F***(AKE) Up" to stop scam websites selling fake brand names online. In the crackdown, agencies from 27 countries mostly in Europe but including from the U.S. and Canada, joined forces to shut down over 4,500 websites. They were selling everything from "luxury goods, sportswear, spare parts, electronics, pharmaceuticals, toiletries and other fake products," Europol said in a statement, without saying how long the crackdown took. An annual operation run in collaboration with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Homeland Security, there was "a significant increase in the number of seized domain names compared to last year," said Europol director Rob Wainwright. As part of the crackdown, Dutch anti-fraud police arrested 12 people across The Netherlands over the past two weeks as they searched homes and warehouses. Most of the raids were prompted by online sales of counterfeit goods on social networking sites such as Facebook and Instagram. More than 3,500 items of clothing and fake luxury goods were seized in Holland, including shoes, bags and perfumes purporting to be such brands as Nike, Adidas, and Kenzo, with a market value of tens of thousands euros. Publishing a guide on how to spot fake websites and social media scams, Europol warned consumers had to be on their guard.
Microsoft

Newest Skype For Linux Enables SMS Text Messages From The Desktop (betanews.com) 174

BrianFagioli writes: Microsoft has delivered an incredible feature to Linux-based desktop operating systems by way of the latest Alpha version of its Skype client... The newly-released Skype for Linux 1.13 allows users to send SMS test messages from the operating system! True, web-based solutions such as Google Voice have long allowed the sending of text messages, but needing to use a web browser can be a chore. There is convenience and elegance in using the Skype for Linux client.
United Kingdom

48 Organizations Now Have Access To Every Brit's Browsing Hstory (zerohedge.com) 250

schwit1 quotes a report from Zero Hedge on Great Britain's newly-enacted "snoopers' charter": For those who missed our original reports, here is the new law in a nutshell: it requires telecom companies to keep records of all users' web activity for a year, creating databases of personal information that the firms worry could be vulnerable to leaks and hackers. Civil liberties groups say the law establishes mass surveillance of British citizens, following innocent internet users from the office to the living room and the bedroom. They are right. Which government agencies have access to the internet history of any British citizen? Here is the answer courtesy of blogger Chris Yuo, who has compiled the list
Click through to the comments to read the entire list.
Programming

Ask Slashdot: Has Your Team Ever Succumbed To Hype Driven Development? (daftcode.pl) 332

marekkirejczyk, the VP of Engineering at development shop Daftcode, shares a warning about hype-driven development: Someone reads a blog post, it's trending on Twitter, and we just came back from a conference where there was a great talk about it. Soon after, the team starts using this new shiny technology (or software architecture design paradigm), but instead of going faster (as promised) and building a better product, they get into trouble. They slow down, get demotivated, have problems delivering the next working version to production.
Describing behind-schedule teams that "just need a few more days to sort it all out," he blames all the hype surrounding React.js, microservices, NoSQL, and that "Test-Driven Development Is Dead" blog post by Ruby on Rails creator David Heinemeier Hansson. ("The list goes on and on... The root of all evil seems to be social media.") Does all this sound familiar to any Slashdot readers? Has your team ever succumbed to hype-driven development?
The Media

Crowdsourced Volunteers Search For Solutions To Fake News (wired.co.uk) 270

Upworthy co-founder Eli Pariser is leading a group of online volunteers hunting for ways to respond to the spread of fake news. An anonymous reader quotes Wired UK: Inside a Google Doc, volunteers are gathering ideas and approaches to get a grip on the untruthful news stories. It is part analysis, part brainstorming, with those involved being encouraged to read widely around the topic before contributing. "This is a massive endeavour but well worth it," they say...

At present, the group is coming up with a list of potential solutions and approaches. Possible methods the group is looking at include: more human editors, fingerprinting viral stories then training algorithms on confirmed fakes, domain checking, the blockchain, a reliability algorithm, sentiment analysis, a Wikipedia for news sources, and more.

The article also suggests this effort may one day spawn fake news-fighting tech startups.
The Internet

Delete Yourself From Many Internet Sites By Pressing This Button (thenextweb.com) 46

Two Swedish developers have created a site offering a way to wipe your entire existence off the internet in a few clicks. schwit1 quotes The Next Web: When logging into the website with a Google account it scans for apps and services you've created an account for, and creates a list of them with easy delete links. Every account it finds gets paired with an easy delete link pointing to the unsubscribe page for that service. In a few clicks you're freed from it, and depending on how long you need to work through the entire list, you can be account-less within the hour.
I'm a little uncomfortable giving a stranger's web site access to my personal information - even if it is for the purpose of deleting it altogether. But the original submission ends with an interesting question. "Can we get this for government databases too?"
The Media

False Porn-on-CNN Report Shows How Quickly Fake News Spreads (usatoday.com) 158

Slashdot reader xtsigs writes: "No, despite what you read, CNN did not run porn for 30 minutes Thursday, as was reported by Fox News, the New York Post, Variety and other news organizations, several of which later corrected their stories," reports USA Today. The story goes on to explain how the story started (a single tweet), how it was quickly picked up by media outlets (without verifying if CNN actually did, in truth, broadcast porn), how it was then retracted by some outlets (but not others).

Other outlets jumped on the story of the story while, as of early Saturday morning some sites are still running the original story claiming CNN did, in fact, broadcast 30 minutes of porn.

Government

Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn Had 'Forbidden' Internet Connection At the Pentagon, Says Report (businessinsider.com) 313

According to The New Yorker, President-elect Donald Trump's national security advisor, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, installed a secret internet connection into his office at the Pentagon even though it was "forbidden." Business Insider reports: The network connection was among other rules the former chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency broke because he found them to be "stupid," including sometimes sneaking out of a CIA station in Iraq without authorization and sharing classified information with NATO allies without approval, according to The New Yorker. While Flynn -- who was recently tapped to be President-elect Donald Trump's national security adviser -- apparently had his own private connection, the New Yorker profile doesn't provide a clear picture as to why. It's likely his Pentagon office already had an authorized, unclassified connection to the internet called NIPRNet, which is separate from classified networks such as SIPRNet and JWICS, a former DIA analyst told Business Insider. All of those networks are monitored in some way. A separate, unknown network would not have had the same -- or possibly any -- level of monitoring. If it were implemented in secret, it would also not have the same protections from hackers that a known connection would have. It's also possible that Flynn's Pentagon office was known as a SCIF, or sensitive compartmented information facility -- a secure facility in which intelligence can be discussed without fear of it being compromised. Network connections in SCIFs are closely controlled, and outside electronics such as mobile phones are not allowed inside.
Government

Russian Propaganda Effort Helped Spread 'Fake News' During Election, Experts Say (usatoday.com) 272

According to the Washington Post (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternate source), the "fake news" phenomenon that circulated thousands of phony stories during the election was aided by a sophisticated Russian propaganda effort that aimed to punish Democrat Hillary Clinton, help Republican Donald Trump and undermine faith in American democracy. Slashdot reader xtsigs shares with us an excerpt from the Washington Post's report: The flood of "fake news" this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, say independent researchers who tracked the operation. Russia's increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery -- including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human "trolls," and networks of websites and social-media accounts -- echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers. The effort also sought to heighten the appearance of international tensions and promote fear of looming hostilities with nuclear-armed Russia. Two teams of independent researchers found that the Russians exploited American-made technology platforms to attack U.S. democracy at a particularly vulnerable moment, as an insurgent candidate harnessed a wide range of grievances to claim the White House.
Facebook

Locky Ransomware Uses Decoy Image Files To Ambush Facebook, LinkedIn Accounts (arstechnica.com) 36

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A low-tech but cunning malware program is worrying security researchers after it started spreading rapidly in the past week through a new attack vector: by forcibly exploiting vulnerabilities in Facebook and LinkedIn. According to the Israeli security firm Check Point, security flaws in the two social networks allow a maliciously coded image file to download itself to a user's computer. Users who notice the download, and who then access the file, cause malicious code to install "Locky" ransomware onto their computers. Locky has been around since early this year, and works by encrypting victims' files and demands a payment of around half a bitcoin for the key. Previously, it had relied on a malicious macro in Word documents and spam e-mails, but Check Point says that in the past week there has been a "massive spread of the Locky ransomware via social media, particularly in its Facebook-based campaign." Users are advised not to open any file that has automatically downloaded, especially any image file with an unusual extension such as SVG, JS, or HTA -- though benign-looking images could exploit the way Windows hides file extensions by default.
Microsoft

Microsoft Set To Win EU Approval for LinkedIn Buy (reuters.com) 24

Microsoft is set to gain EU approval for its $26 billion buy of professional social network LinkedIn with tweaks to concessions aimed at addressing competition concerns, three people close to the matter said on Wednesday. From a report on Reuters: Microsoft last week told the European Commission that it would still allow LinkedIn's rivals access to its software such as its Outlook program and give hardware makers the option of installing competing professional social networks on computers after the acquisition. The second plank of the concession is important because of the company's battle with the EU competition authority over the last decade and the policy of tying its products to block rivals, resulting in fines of more than 2.2 billion euros.

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