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Security

Hacker Lawyer Jay Leiderman Is Dead at 50 (gizmodo.com) 78

Jay Leiderman, a California defense attorney known for his whistleblower advocacy and defense of political dissidents and hackers, was confirmed dead in Ventura County on Thursday. He was 50 years old. From a report: Dubbed the "Hacktivist's Advocate" by The Atlantic in 2012, Leiderman gained national attention for his pro-bono work for clients accused of crashing corporate and government websites, including members of the group Anonymous. They were rarely good cases.

Leiderman's hacking clients had a nagging habit of openly admitting to the things they were accused of doing. One spent a decade fleeing authorities in several countries, giving interviews, all the while on the lam. (The client was just captured in June.) Still, their causes struck a chord with the Queens-born attorney, who'd long held to a rebellious legal philosophy. After a city in California passed a law criminalizing homelessness, the same client knocked one of its websites offline for half an hour. Where the FBI saw a felony computer crime worth up to 15 years in prison, Leiderman saw a peaceful protest against an unjust law -- a protest, he noted, that caused no perceptible harm.

Science

Groundbreaking Technique Yields Important New Details on Silicon, Subatomic Particles and Possible 'Fifth Force' (nist.gov) 81

NIST: Using a groundbreaking new technique at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), an international collaboration led by NIST researchers has revealed previously unrecognized properties of technologically crucial silicon crystals and uncovered new information about an important subatomic particle and a long-theorized fifth force of nature. By aiming subatomic particles known as neutrons at silicon crystals and monitoring the outcome with exquisite sensitivity, the NIST scientists were able to obtain three extraordinary results: the first measurement of a key neutron property in 20 years using a unique method; the highest-precision measurements of the effects of heat-related vibrations in a silicon crystal; and limits on the strength of a possible "fifth force" beyond standard physics theories.

In a regular crystal such as silicon, there are many parallel sheets of atoms, each of which forms a plane. Probing different planes with neutrons reveals different aspects of the crystal. The researchers report their findings in the journal Science. To obtain information about crystalline materials at the atomic scale, scientists typically aim a beam of particles (such as X-rays, electrons or neutrons) at the crystal and detect the beam's angles, intensities and patterns as it passes through or ricochets off planes in the crystal's lattice-like atomic geometry. That information is critically important for characterizing the electronic, mechanical and magnetic properties of microchip components and various novel nanomaterials for next-generation applications including quantum computing. A great deal is known already, but continued progress requires increasingly detailed knowledge.

Education

Code.org, Tech Giants Enlist Teachers To Sell Kids and Parents On 'CS Journeys' 89

theodp writes: On Monday, tech-bankrolled Code.org announced the CS Journeys program, which the nonprofit explains is designed to help teachers "excite, encourage, and empower your students to continue their CS journeys in and beyond your class." Besides live, virtual field trips to Amazon's Fulfillment Centers, kids aged 5-and-up will also participate in live, weekly classroom conversations with professionals from the likes of Google and Amazon, where they "will learn about a number of ways they can use computer science to have a positive impact, as well as different journeys that people have taken to get to meaningful careers and achieve their goals." A Googler will speak to kindergartners and other younger students about Developing responsible artificial intelligence on Sep. 22nd. Teachers are also being asked to show students inspiring Careers in Tech videos featuring employees from Facebook/Instagram, Microsoft, and Google.

Explaining that "students who hear from parents that they would be good at computer science are 2-3 times more likely to be interested in learning it," Code.org urges teachers to also "connect with parents and recruit their help in encouraging students to learn and continue on their computer science journey." Code.org even provides teachers with talking points to include in emails and letters home. A sample: "Computer science teaches students critical thinking and problem solving. In fact, studies show that students who learn computer science do better in other subjects, excel at problem solving, and are more likely to go to college. [...] Parent/guardian encouragement is critical to student success and interest in learning and success. So ask your student to see something they created in class."

The launch of CS Journeys comes less than a year after Google VP Maggie Johnson -- a long-time Code.org Board member -- reported that a Google-commissioned Gallup report showed that "students are generally unconvinced that computer science is important for them to learn," adding that "Interventions from parents, educators, community leaders, policymakers, nonprofits and the technology industry are needed to encourage girls, Black students and Hispanic students to take computer science courses. These students also need to be shown how CS knowledge can help them meet their goals in a variety of fields including the humanities, medicine and the arts." According to the report, only 22% of boys and 9% of girls "believe it is very important to learn CS."
Security

Russia's Yandex Says It Repelled Biggest DDoS Attack in History (yahoo.com) 39

head_dunce writes: A cyber attack on Russian tech giant Yandex's servers in August and September was the largest known distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack in the history of the internet, the company said on Thursday. The DDoS attack, in which hackers try to flood a network with unusually high volumes of data traffic in order to paralyse it when it can no longer cope with the scale of data requested, began in August and reached a record level on Sept. 5. "Our experts did manage to repel a record attack of nearly 22 million requests per second (RPS). This is the biggest known attack in the history of the internet," Yandex said in a statement. The previous record was held by Cloudflare, which said last month that it had mitigated a 17.2 RPS DDoS attack.
Encryption

Web Creator Tim Berners-Lee Joins ProtonMail's Advisory Board (zdnet.com) 30

The inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, has joined the advisory board of hosted email service provider ProtonMail. From a report: In a statement, ProtonMail CEO and founder Andy Yen said the addition of Berners-Lee to the company's advisory board was aligned with its goal to "create an internet where people are in control of their information at all times. Our vision is to build an internet where privacy is the default by creating an ecosystem of services accessible to everyone, everywhere, every day," Yen said. Yen said the company already had a past relationship with Berners-Lee, explaining that the idea of ProtonMail was initially conceived at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, where the World Wide Web was created.

The addition of Berners-Lee comes almost immediately after ProtonMail received flak for giving a climate activist's IP address to French authorities to comply with a Swiss court order. Addressing the logging of the IP address in a blog post earlier this week, Yen said all companies have to comply with laws, such as court orders, if they operate within 15 miles of land. "No matter what service you use, unless it is based 15 miles offshore in international waters, the company will have to comply with the law," Yen said.

Technology

A Bunch of Ape NFTs Just Sold For $24.4 Million (theverge.com) 85

If you thought NFT mania was about to die off, think again: a bundle of 101 NFTs from Bored Ape Yacht Club just sold at Sotheby's for $24.4 million. A second bundle of 101 Bored Ape Kennel Club NFTs sold for $1.8 million. From a report: That puts the ape sale among the biggest in the NFT space. A bundle of nine CryptoPunks -- one of the earliest NFT projects -- sold for $16.9 million in May. And Beeple sold a collage of his works as an NFT for $69 million in March. While it's hard to directly compare all of these sales (there are 101 items in today's auctions versus one in Beeple's), the purchases show that the appetite for NFT art isn't dying down, and they suggest that buyers think there'll be high resale value as the market continues to grow.
Microsoft

Microsoft Gives Up Predicting When Its US Offices Will Fully Reopen (theverge.com) 79

Microsoft is shelving its plans to fully reopen its US offices next month. From a report: The software giant had planned to reopen its headquarters on October 4th, but the ongoing uncertainty of COVID-19 and the spike in cases has forced the company to delay its back to the office push. Microsoft isn't providing a new date to employees, though.
Education

Amazon To Cover 100% of College Tuition for US Hourly Employees (cnbc.com) 200

Amazon said Thursday it will offer to pay 100% of college tuition for its 750,000 U.S. hourly employees. From a report: The e-commerce giant is following the lead of other large U.S. companies who are dangling perks like education benefits or more pay to woo workers in a tight job market. Starting in January 2022, Amazon said it will cover the cost of college tuition, fees and textbooks for hourly employees in its operations network after 90 days of employment. It will also begin covering high school diploma programs, GEDs and English as a second language certifications for employees. Operations workers include employees in Amazon's sprawling network of warehouses and distribution centers.

The benefit will apply to hundreds of education institutions across the country, Amazon said. Amazon previously offered to pay for 95% of tuition, fees and textbooks for hourly associates through its career choice program. Rival retailers, including Walmart and Target, have also beefed up their education benefits in recent months. Target in August rolled out a program that covers the cost of associate and undergraduate degrees at select schools. Walmart in July said it would pay 100% of college tuition and books costs for associates of Walmart and Sam's Club.

Bitcoin

Mastercard Acquires CipherTrace To Boost Crypto Security and Compliance (theblockcrypto.com) 5

Payment services company Mastercard has acquired blockchain analytics firm CipherTrace to bolster its own cyber security tools and to better comply with crypto regulatory guidelines, according to an announcement on Thursday. The amount offered for the acquisition remains undisclosed. From a report: "With the rapid growth of the digital asset ecosystem comes the need to ensure it is trusted and safe," said Ajay Bhalla, president of Cyber and Intelligence at Mastercard, in the statement. "Our aim is to build upon the complementary capabilities of Mastercard and CipherTrace to do just this." In addition to gathering data in the crypto space, CipherTrace publishes yearly reports about the trends in the crypto ecosystem and has built compliance tools for decentralized exchanges.
Facebook

Facebook Debuts Its Ray-Ban Stories Smart Sunglasses (techcrunch.com) 116

Facebook announced their long-awaited foray into the smart glasses space Thursday morning, launching the Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses in partnership with eyewear giant EssilorLuxottica. From a report: The svelte frames are some of the most low-profile yet available to consumers and will allow users to snap photos and videos with the two onboard 5 MP cameras, listen to music with in-frame speakers and take phone calls. The glasses need to be connected to an iOS or Android device for full functionality, though users can take and store hundreds of photos or dozens of videos on the glasses before transferring media to their phones via Facebook's new View app. The twin cameras will allow users to add 3D effects to their photos and videos once they upload them to the app.

The lightweight glasses weigh less than 50 grams and come with a leather hardshell charging case. The battery lift is advertised as "all-day" which TechCrunch found to be accurate during our review of the frames. Users will be able to control the glasses with a couple physical buttons including a "capture" button to record media and an on-off switch. A touch pad on the right arm of the glasses will allow users to perform functions like swiping to adjust the volume or answering a phone call. An onboard white LED will glow to indicate to the people around the wearer that a video is being recorded.
The glasses will start at $299, with polarized and transition lens options coming in at a higher price point.
United States

California Aims To Ban Recycling Symbols on Things That Aren't Recyclable (nytimes.com) 212

The well-known three-arrows symbol doesn't necessarily mean that a product is actually recyclable. A new bill would limit the products allowed to feature the mark. From a report: The triangular "chasing arrows" recycling symbol is everywhere: On disposable cups. On shower curtains. On children's toys. What a lot of shoppers might not know is that any product can display the sign, even if it isn't recyclable. It's false advertising, critics say, and as a result, countless tons of non-recyclable garbage are thrown in the recycling bin each year, choking the recycling system. Late on Wednesday, California took steps toward becoming the first state to change that. A bill passed by the state's assembly would ban companies from using the arrows symbol unless they can prove the material is in fact recycled in most California communities, and is used to make new products.

"It's a basic truth-in-advertising concept," said California State Senator Ben Allen, a Democrat and the bill's lead sponsor. "We have a lot of people who are dutifully putting materials into the recycling bins that have the recycling symbols on them, thinking that they're going to be recycled, but actually, they're heading straight to the landfill," he said. The measure, which is expected to clear the State Senate later this week and be signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom, is part of a nascent effort across the country to fix a recycling system that has long been broken.

Though materials like paper or metals are widely recycled, less than 10 percent of plastic consumed in the United States is recycled, according to the most recent estimates by the Environmental Protection Agency. Instead, most plastic is incinerated or dumped in landfills, with the exception of some types of resins, like the kind used for bottled water or soda. For years, the United States also shipped much of its plastic waste overseas, choking local rivers and streams. A global convention now bans most trade in plastic waste, though U.S. waste exports have not completely ceased. This summer, Maine and Oregon passed laws overhauling their states' recycling systems by requiring corporations to pay for the cost of recycling their packaging. In Oregon, the law included plans to establish a task force that would evaluate "misleading or confusing claims" related to recycling. Legislation is pending in New York that would, among other things, ban products from displaying misleading claims.

Television

Amazon Launches a TV Line (variety.com) 58

Amazon is officially in the TV set business. From a report: After years of selling Fire TV devices that plug into third-party HDTVs and teaming with TV makers for Fire TV-based products, the ecommerce giant is rolling out the first-ever Amazon-built TVs: the Amazon Fire TV Omni Series ($410 and up), which provides hands-free Alexa voice navigation, and the value-priced 4-Series smart TV line ($370 and up). They're set to ship in October.

In addition, Amazon is baking in new features to the overall Fire TV platform, including bringing TikTok content to the platform in the U.S. and Canada; letting users access Netflix's shuffle-mode feature via Alexa; and being able to ask Alexa for movie or TV show recommendations. The company also is bowing the new Fire TV Stick 4K Max ($55), which it says is more powerful than the prior-generation model and is Amazon's first streaming media player to launch with Energy Star certification and Wi-Fi 6 support.

Bitcoin

County IT Supervisor Mined Bitcoin At the Office, Prosecutors Say (nytimes.com) 85

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: A Long Island man was charged on Wednesday with using his position as an I.T. supervisor for Suffolk County to mine cryptocurrency from government offices, costing the county thousands of dollars in electricity. Prosecutors said that Christopher Naples, 42, of Mattituck, L.I., had hidden 46 specialized devices used to mine Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in six rooms in the Suffolk County Center in Riverhead, including underneath floorboards and inside an unused electrical panel. Mr. Naples was charged with public corruption, grand larceny, computer trespass and official misconduct. If convicted of the top charge, he could face up to 15 years in prison.

Mr. Naples had admitted that the devices belonged to him and that he had been operating them for at least several months before the district attorney's office was alerted to the scheme. Prosecutors said that at least 10 of Mr. Naples's machines had been running since February, costing Suffolk County more than $6,000. [...] [G]iven that 36 more machines had been discovered, it was likely that Mr. Naples had cost the county thousands more. [...] [O]ne room in which Mr. Naples had placed the devices had critically important computer servers and other equipment for the entire county, and that the temperature in that room in which the devices were placed had dropped 20 degrees shortly after they were disabled.

Businesses

Amazon To Open $21 Million State-of-the-Art Warehouse In Tijuana Slum (vice.com) 145

This month, Amazon will open a $21 million state-of-the-art warehouse in Tijuana, Mexico, that abuts a housing settlement made of cardboard, tarp, and wood scraps along the Tijuana River, less than three miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. Motherboard reports: In recent days, images of the shiny, new warehouse complex emblazoned with a giant blue Amazon logo -- and its impoverished environs with its unpaved roads and cardboard roofs have gone viral on social media, a stark display of globalization. The images have drawn comparisons to dystopian science fiction. Amazon's founder and chairman Jeff Bezos, who recently travelled in a rocket to outer space (and then thanked his workers for making that possible), is the world's wealthiest person. Marisa Vano, a spokesperson for Amazon, said, "Since our arrival in Mexico, Amazon has created more than 15,000 jobs throughout the country, creating employment opportunities with competitive salaries and benefits for all of our employees. Our wages and benefits strengthen local communities, and these investments help these areas to grow and to build better futures."

Amazon, which is steadily spreading its reach across the globe, has been busy scaling up operations in Mexico and throughout Latin America over the past several years. The Mexican outlet Proceso reported that the mayor of Tijuana has said that the new warehouse will speed up delivery times for Amazon goods within the Mexico border city and in nearby cities. Amazon Prime membership allows for unlimited two-day shipping throughout much of Mexico.

Space

Strange, Repeating Radio Signal Near Center of Milky Way Has Scientists Stumped (livescience.com) 120

fahrbot-bot shares a report from Live Science: Astronomers have detected a strange, repeating radio signal near the center of the Milky Way, and it's unlike any other energy signature ever studied. According to a new paper accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal and posted on the preprint server arXiv, the energy source is extremely finicky, appearing bright in the radio spectrum for weeks at a time and then completely vanishing within a day. This behavior doesn't quite fit the profile of any known type of celestial body, the researchers wrote in their study, and thus may represent "a new class of objects being discovered through radio imaging."

The radio source -- known as ASKAP J173608.2321635 -- was detected with the Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope, situated in the remote Australian outback. In an ASKAP survey taken between April 2019 and August 2020, the strange signal appeared 13 times, never lasting in the sky for more than a few weeks, the researchers wrote. This radio source is highly variable, appearing and disappearing with no predictable schedule, and doesn't seem to appear in any other radio telescope data prior to the ASKAP survey.

When the researchers tried to match the energy source with observations from other telescopes -- including the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, as well as the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy in Chile, which can pick up near-infrared wavelengths -- the signal disappeared entirely. With no apparent emissions in any other part of the electromagnetic spectrum, ASKAP J173608.2-321635 is a radio ghost that seems to defy explanation. Prior surveys have detected low-mass stars that periodically flare up with radio energy, but those flaring stars typically have X-ray counterparts, the researchers wrote. That makes a stellar source unlikely here. Dead stars, like pulsars and magnetars (two types of ultradense, collapsed stars), are also unlikely explanations, the team wrote.
The report goes on to say that the closest match is a mysterious class of object known as a galactic center radio transient (GCRT), a rapidly glowing radio source that brightens and decays near the Milky Way's center, usually over the course of a few hours. "So far, only three GCRTs have been confirmed, and all of them appear and disappear much more quickly than this new ASKAP object does," reports Live Science. "However, the few known GCRTs do shine with a similar brightness as the mysterious signal, and their radio flare-ups are never accompanied by X-rays."

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