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Microsoft, Accenture Team Up On Blockchain-based Digital ID Network

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 18:00
Accenture and Microsoft are teaming up to build a digital ID network using blockchain technology, as part of a United Nations-supported project to provide legal identification to 1.1 billion people worldwide with no official documents. From a report: The companies unveiled a prototype of the network on Monday at the UN headquarters in New York during the second summit of ID2020, a public-private consortium promoting the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goal of providing legal identity for everyone on the planet. The project aims to help individuals such as refugees prove who they are in order to gain access to basic services such as education and healthcare. Blockchain, first developed as a public ledger of all transactions in the digital currency bitcoin, is increasingly being used to securely track data in other fields.

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198 Million Americans Hit By 'Largest Ever' Voter Records Leak

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 17:21
Political data gathered on more than 198 million US citizens was exposed this month after a marketing firm contracted by the Republican National Committee stored internal documents on a publicly accessible Amazon server, reports say. From a ZDNet article: It's believed to be the largest ever known exposure of voter information to date. The various databases containing 198 million records on American voters from all political parties were found stored on an open Amazon S3 storage server owned by a Republican data analytics firm, Deep Root Analytics. UpGuard cyber risk analyst Chris Vickery, who found the exposed server, verified the data. Through his responsible disclosure, the server was secured late last week, and prior to publication. This leak shines a spotlight on the Republicans' multi-million dollar effort to better target potential voters by utilizing big data. The move largely a response to the successes of the Barack Obama campaign in 2008, thought to have been the first data-driven campaign. Further reading: Republican Data-Mining Firm Exposed Personal Information for Virtually Every American Voter - The Intercept; The RNC Files: Inside the Largest US Voter Data Leak - Upguard; Data on 198M voters exposed by GOP contractor Data On 198M Voters Exposed By GOP Contractor - The Hill.

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Amazon Plans Cuts to Shed Whole Foods' Pricey Image

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 16:40
When Amazon completes its acquisition of Whole Foods Market, Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos will try to keep the grocer's reputation for premium fresh foods while cutting prices to shed its "Whole Paycheck" image. From a report: Amazon expects to reduce headcount and change inventory to lower prices and make Whole Foods competitive with Wal-Mart Stores and other big-box retailers, according to a person with knowledge of the company's grocery plans. That included potentially using technology to eliminate cashiers. Amazon, known for its competitive prices, is trying to attract more low- and middle-income shoppers with its grocery push. The Seattle-based company already offers discounted Amazon Prime memberships for people receiving government assistance and is part of a pilot program to deliver groceries to food-stamp recipients.

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As AI Explodes, Investors Pour Big Bucks Into Startups

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 16:00
Investment in AI startups is on a tear as venture capitalists and corporate investors scramble to stake out a leadership position in what could be the driving trend in technology for decades to come. From a report: The financial interest in AI, machine learning and related technologies is hardly new. CB Insights has tracked some $18.4 billion invested in 2,541 AI-related startups since 2012. But the trend is only accelerating. In the latest MoneyTree report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and CB Insights, which showed otherwise mostly stagnant startup funding, AI and machine learning companies shined, reaching an eight-quarter high of $820 million invested in 90 companies. A flurry of significant investments in a number of AI-related companies this past week underscored the point. On Wednesday alone, for instance, AI-powered analytics software provider CognitiveScale raised a $15 million round, voice AI startup Snips raised $13 million and, to top it off, machine learning consultancy Element AI got an unusually large $102 million early-stage investment just eight months after the company was launched. Then on Thursday and Friday, two other AI-powered companies, Conviva and Codota, announced fundings too.

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E-Commerce's Biggest Obstacle May Be Slow Postal Services

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 13:34
Long-time Slashdot reader rudy_wayne writes: J.C. Penney CEO Marvin Ellison recently said that e-commerce companies' biggest challenge is that they are all expanding their businesses and pushing for faster delivery, but UPS, Fedex and especially the United States Postal Service aren't able to keep up, at least not at same cost that exists today, because they're not increasing their delivery capacity at the same rate e-commerce is growing, He said this will cause a supply and demand issue "that's going to be apparent here pretty soon."

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Is Coinbase Closing Accounts For Paying Ransoms With Bitcoins?

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 09:34
Even as some comparnies are stockpiling bitcoins so they can quickly pay ransom demands, security firms that try paying those ransoms may face losing their accounts on Coinbase. Slashdot reader Mosquito Bites quotes a report from CoinDesk: Less than a year ago, Vinny Troia, CEO and principal security consultant of Night Lion Security and a certified white hat hacker, was sent a compliance form by US bitcoin exchange Coinbase, where he had an account. Coinbase wanted to know how Troia was using bitcoin and his account. "I told them I run a security firm. I pay for ransoms and buy documents on the dark web when clients request it," Troia told CoinDesk. The ransoms Troia helps his clients pay are those stemming from ransomware attacks, which have surged in number over the past few years. Many, like the well-publicized WannaCry attack, are asking for bitcoin. And the documents? Troia said, "We do breach investigations a lot of times. If a fraudster is saying they're selling my client's stolen documents, the only way to make sure they have what they say they have is to buy those documents." According to Troia, Coinbase "did not like that at all." Coinbase then asked the IT expert whether he had a letter from the Department of Justice giving him permission to do those things. No, Troia said. Upon further research, Troia has not found that any such permission exists. But, "I have my clients authorizing me to do this," he said. Coinbase sent Troia back an email explaining that those actions were against the exchange's rules and shut down his account... "My entire family is blocked from Coinbase," he said.

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Ia Coinbase Closing Accounts For Paying Ransoms With Bitcoins?

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 09:34
Even as some comparnies are stockpiling bitcoins so they can quickly pay ransom demands, security firms that try paying those ransoms may face losing their accounts on Coinbase. Slashdot reader Mosquito Bites quotes a report from CoinDesk: Less than a year ago, Vinny Troia, CEO and principal security consultant of Night Lion Security and a certified white hat hacker, was sent a compliance form by US bitcoin exchange Coinbase, where he had an account. Coinbase wanted to know how Troia was using bitcoin and his account. "I told them I run a security firm. I pay for ransoms and buy documents on the dark web when clients request it," Troia told CoinDesk. The ransoms Troia helps his clients pay are those stemming from ransomware attacks, which have surged in number over the past few years. Many, like the well-publicized WannaCry attack, are asking for bitcoin. And the documents? Troia said, "We do breach investigations a lot of times. If a fraudster is saying they're selling my client's stolen documents, the only way to make sure they have what they say they have is to buy those documents." According to Troia, Coinbase "did not like that at all." Coinbase then asked the IT expert whether he had a letter from the Department of Justice giving him permission to do those things. No, Troia said. Upon further research, Troia has not found that any such permission exists. But, "I have my clients authorizing me to do this," he said. Coinbase sent Troia back an email explaining that those actions were against the exchange's rules and shut down his account... "My entire family is blocked from Coinbase," he said.

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A Colorado Group Wants To Ban Smartphones For Kids

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 06:34
An anonymous reader quotes the AP: Colorado officials have cleared the language of a proposed ballot measure that would establish the nation's first legal limits on buying smartphones for children. Backers of the move to forbid the sale of smartphones to children younger than 13 would now need about 300,000 voter signatures for the proposal to make the 2018 ballot. The ban would require cellphone retailers to ask customers about the age of the primary user of a smartphone and submit monthly reports to the Colorado Department of Revenue on adhering to the requirement. Retailers who sell a phone for use by a youngster could be fined $500, after a warning. A Denver-area dad is leading the campaign -- a board certified anesthesiologist who says children change when they get a cellphone. "They go from being outgoing, energetic, interested in the world and happy, to reclusive. They want to spend all their time in their room. They lose interest in outside activities."

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Google Fights Bay Area Housing Prices With Pre-Fab Housing

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 03:34
An anonymous reader quotes the Bay Area Newsgroup: With rental costs skyrocketing and homes out of reach for many, Google has hit on a solution that may help it attract workers to the crushingly expensive Bay Area. The tech giant plans to buy 300 units of modular housing to serve as temporary employee accommodations on its planned "Bay View" campus at NASA's Moffett Field, according to a source familiar with the plan. Experts heralded the move as not only good for Google, but as a potential template for others to follow as the high cost of construction combined with expensive real estate make affordable housing hard to come by... Modular housing has the potential to be "a real game changer" for the Bay Area housing crunch, said Matt Regan, senior vice-president of public policy at the Bay Area Council, a business group of which Google is a member... The Bay Area boasts many sites suitable for modular rental housing, undeveloped so far largely because the cost of traditional building is too high for the rent the facilities could generate, Regan said. With prefab housing costing up to 50 percent less, "all of a sudden sites like that become economically feasible to develop," Regan said.

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How Can Businesses Close 'The Cybersecurity Gap'?

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 01:34
Companies can't find enough qualified security personnel, and fixing it requires "a fundamental shift in how businesses recruit, hire, and keep security talent," according to a VentureBeat article by an Intermedia security executive: The trickle of security students emerging from post-secondary schools may not be fully prepared to tackle complicated security issues -- what we need are people who can protect businesses environments from everything from spam and BYOD vulnerabilities to complex threats like APTs and spear phishing. Second, certain companies may not know what to look for in a professional. Third, when skilled professionals are hired, they can often be overworked to the point where they don't have the time to keep up with the latest developments in the field -- and even in their own security tools... The fundamental problem facing the skills gap, however, is that there aren't enough people coming into the field to begin with. Here, companies need to do two things: step-up their advocacy when it comes to promoting cybersecurity careers, and look internally for employees who have the skills and desire to take on a security position but need the training and support to succeed... Finally, businesses need to recognize that security threats today go well beyond just one department. Every employee should be responsible for knowing what to look for in an attack, how to report a suspected threat, and how they can simply disengage from content and files they deem suspicious. Basic security training needs to become a part of the onboarding process for any employee -- especially for those in the C-Suite, where a greater number of spear-phishing attacks occur. The article also cites a study which found "about a quarter of all cybersecurity positions are left unfilled for about six months."

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Physicists Discover A Possible Break In the Standard Model of Physics

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 00:34
Slashdot reader freddienumber13 write: A series of experiments has shown that tau particles have decayed faster than predicted by the standard model. This has been observed at both CERN and SLAC. This suggests that the standard model for particle physics is incomplete and further research is required to understand this new area of physics. Nature adds: One of the key assumptions of the standard model of particle physics is that the interactions of the charged leptons, namely electrons, muons and taus, differ only because of their different masses... recent studies of B-meson decays involving the higher-mass tau lepton have resulted in observations that challenge lepton universality at the level of four standard deviations. A confirmation of these results would point to new particles or interactions, and could have profound implications for our understanding of particle physics.

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Community Ports 'Visual Studio Code' To Chromebooks, Raspberry Pi

Sun, 06/18/2017 - 23:34
An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld: A community build project led by developer Jay Rodgers is making Visual Studio Code, Microsoft's lightweight source code editor, available for Chromebooks, Raspberry Pi boards, and other devices based on 32-bit or 64-bit ARM processors. Supporting Linux and Chrome OS as well as the DEB (Debian) and RPM package formats, the automated builds of Visual Studio Code are intended for less-common platforms that might not otherwise receive them. Obvious beneficiaries will be IoT developers focused on ARM devices -- and the Raspberry Pi in particular -- who will find it helpful to have the editor directly on the device they're programming against... Rodgers said the lure of Visual Studio Code for him was its user-friendly interface, making it approachable for new users.

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Google Announces New Measures To Fight Extremist YouTube Videos

Sun, 06/18/2017 - 22:34
An anonymous reader quotes CNET: YouTube will take new steps to combat extremist- and terrorist-related videos, parent company Google said Sunday. "While we and others have worked for years to identify and remove content that violates our policies, the uncomfortable truth is that we, as an industry, must acknowledge that more needs to be done. Now," Kent Walker, Google's general counsel, said in an op-ed column in the London-based Financial Times. Here's CNET's summary of the four new measure Google is implementing: Use "more engineering resources to apply our most advanced machine learning research to train new 'content classifiers' to help us more quickly identify and remove such content."Expand YouTube's Trusted Flagger program by adding 50 independent, "expert" non-governmental organizations to the 63 groups already part of it. Google will offer grants to fund the groups.Take a "tougher stance on videos that do not clearly violate our policies -- for example, videos that contain inflammatory religious or supremacist content." Such videos will "appear behind a warning" and will not be "monetized, recommended or eligible for comments or user endorsements."Expand YouTube's efforts in counter-radicalization. "We are working with Jigsaw to implement the 'redirect method' more broadly. ... This promising approach harnesses the power of targeted online advertising to reach potential Isis recruits, and redirects them towards anti-terrorist videos that can change their minds about joining."

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Auto Makers Threatened By Both Tech Company Autos And Ridesharing

Sun, 06/18/2017 - 21:34
An anonymous reader quotes Car and Driver: For automakers, the first bit of bad news is that people seem quite receptive to buying a vehicle from a tech brand such as Apple or Google, according to Capgemini's 17th Cars Online report, which surveyed some 8000 consumers in eight countries... Consumer interest in buying cars from tech brands has grown from 49 percent in its 2015 study to 57 percent in the latest report... There is also the growing popularity of ride-sharing services offered by the likes of Uber and Lyft. Fewer people will feel the need to have their own car if it's easy and inexpensive to order up a cab on their smartphones. Capgemini's survey found that 34 percent of car buyers see ride sharing and related services as a genuine alternative to owning a vehicle.

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Louisville's Fiber Internet Expansion Opposed By Koch Brothers Group

Sun, 06/18/2017 - 20:34
Slashdot reader simkel shared an article from the Courier-Journal: A group affiliated with the Koch brothers' powerful political network is leading an online campaign against Mayor Greg Fischer's $5.4 million proposal to expand Louisville's ultra-fast internet access... Critics argue that building roughly 96 miles of fiber optic cabling is an unnecessary taxpayer giveaway to internet service providers, such as Google Fiber, which recently announced plans to begin building its high-speed network in the city. "Fundamentally, we don't believe that taxpayers should be funding broadband or internet systems," said David Williams, president of the taxpayers alliance, which is part of industrialists Charles and David Koch's political donor network... The group says $5.4 million is a misuse of taxpayer funds when the city has other needs, such as infrastructure and public safety. To shore up public support, the mayor has begun arguing that high-speed connectivity would make it cheaper to install crime-monitoring cameras in violent neighborhoods.

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Garry Kasparov: The World Should Embrace Artificial Intelligence

Sun, 06/18/2017 - 19:34
"Chess champion Garry Kasparov was beaten at his game by a chess-playing AI," writes dryriver. "But he does not think that AI is a bad thing." From Kasparov's interview with the BBC: "We have to start recognizing the inevitability of machines taking over more and more tasks that we used to do in the past. It's called progress. Machines replaced farm animals and all forms of manual labor, and now machines are about to take over more menial parts of cognition. Big deal. It's happening. And we should not be alarmed about it. We should just take it as a fact and look into the future, trying to understand how can we adjust." Kasparov has given the issue a lot of thought -- last month he released a new book called Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins. But he also says that the IBM machine that beat him "was anything but intelligent. It was as intelligent as your alarm clock. A very expensive one, a $10 million alarm clock, but still an alarm clock. Very poweful -- brute force, with little chess knowledge. But chess proved to be vulnerable to the brute force. it could be crunched once hardware got fast enough and databases got big enough and algorithms got smart enough."

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Gaming Group Seeks Volunteers To Create Accessibility Guidelines For Tabletop Games

Sun, 06/18/2017 - 18:30
Meeple Like Us is a group of gaming academics, developers, hobbyists and enthusiasts with a keen interest in board games, tabletop games, video games, and all things in-between, co-founded by long-time Slashdot reader drakkos. Today he reminds us that accessibility "has become an increasingly visible part of video game development." It's even become something of a selling point for many games, with Naughty Dog's focus on the accessibility of Uncharted 4 gaining it pages and pages of enthusiastic support across the industry. Tabletop games, despite being much older an entertainment format, lag behind video games in many respects. Meeple Like Us has for the last year been working hard to identify the accessibility issues in tabletop gaming, and is currently recruiting for volunteers for a working group aimed at developing v1.0 of the Tabletop Accessibility Guidellines.

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New 'Lupin III' Commentary Track Celebrates The Glories Of Ignoring Copyrights

Sun, 06/18/2017 - 17:30
In 2004, film critic Roger Ebert "realized that auteurs weren't the only ones who had things to say about movies, and suggested that experts in other fields or even just fans of the movies could create MP3 commentary tracks to discuss their favorite films, which could then be downloaded and played alongside them." This inspired Slashdot reader #14,247 to produce his own commentary on Hayao Miyazaki's first movie, Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro -- and 13 years later, to release a new commentary track celebrating the film's 35th anniversary. Robotech_Master writes: Among other things, it offers proof that excessive copyright really harms creativity by restricting the uses people are able to make of prior art -- by showing what can happen when people get away with ignoring copyright and creating anyway. Not only were Lupin III and Cagliostro effectively inspired as "fanfic" of characters and works that had come before, many of those characters and works were effectively fanfic themselves -- and Cagliostro in turn inspired parts of a number of other works that came afterward, including a couple by Disney. Anyone else have a favorite example of a movie that bends the rules of copyright law?

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Tableau Software Drops Its 'Twitter Crowd Favorite' Data Viz Contests

Sun, 06/18/2017 - 16:28
theodp writes: As part of its 'Iron Viz' data visualization contests that lead up to its annual conferences, Tableau Software ($4.8B market cap) has awarded $500 gift cards to 'Twitter Crowd Favorites', contestants whose data viz draw the most 'votes' (tagged Tweets) on Twitter. But no more. As it expanded Iron Viz eligibility to China, Tableau said it 'just didn't seem fair' to allow popular voting in its worldwide contests since the Chinese government blocks citizens' Twitter use. "As Chinese authors join the contest," the Tableau Public blog explained, "we have to say goodbye to the Twitter Crowd Favorite. Twitter is blocked in mainland China and it wouldn't be fair for our Chinese contestants." And the latest Iron Viz Contest FAQs confirm the change: "Q. I heard there won't be a Crowd Favorite prize, is that true? A. Absolutely true. China is among the new countries who can take part in the Iron Viz, and Twitter doesn't work in mainland China. The usual Twitter Popular Vote just didn't seem fair." This XKCD comic still has my all-time favorite data visualizations.

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Linux Kernel 4.14 Will Be An LTS Release

Sun, 06/18/2017 - 15:24
prisoninmate writes: Development of the Linux 4.14 kernel series did not even start, as the version that's being developed these days is Linux 4.12, which should be promoted to stable early next month, but Softpedia reports that renowned Linux kernel maintainer Greg Kroah-Hartman announced earlier this morning that the upcoming Linux 4.14 kernel series will be an LTS (Long Term Support) branch. The developer promises to support the Linux 4.14 kernel series for at least two years after its release in November 2017, probably until November 2019.

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