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Industry & Technology

'If you pay, you're fuelling global organised crime'

BBC Technology News - 1 hour 14 min ago
When malicious hackers disable a business and demand a ransom, why do many firms pay up?

AT&T sued over hidden fee that raises mobile prices above advertised rate

Ars Technica - June 24, 2019 - 9:22pm

Enlarge / An AT&T retail store in Chicago in 2018. (credit: Getty Images | jetcityimage)

AT&T is facing a class-action complaint over its practice of charging a $1.99-per-month "Administrative Fee" that isn't disclosed in its advertised rates.

As the complaint notes, "AT&T prominently advertises particular flat monthly rates for its post-paid wireless service plans." But after customers sign up, the telco "covertly increases the actual price" by tacking on the "bogus so-called 'Administrative Fee,'" according to the lawsuit filed Thursday in US District Court for the Northern District of California.

AT&T "hides" the fee in an easy-to-miss spot in customer bills, the complaint says, and it "misleadingly suggests that the Administrative Fee is akin to a tax or another standard government pass-through fee, when in fact it is simply a way for AT&T to advertise and promise lower rates than it actually charges."

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Bill Gates calls failure to fight Android his “greatest mistake”

Ars Technica - June 24, 2019 - 8:06pm

Enlarge / Bill Gates speaks to Village Global. (credit: Village Global)

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates recently gave a wide-ranging interview to VC firm Village Global, and at one point, the topic of mobile came up. Gates revealed his biggest regret while at Microsoft was a failure to lead Microsoft into a solid position in the smartphone wars.

In the software world—particularly for platforms—these are winner-take-all markets. So, you know, the greatest mistake ever is whatever mismanagement I engaged in that caused Microsoft not to be what Android is. That is, Android is the standard non-Apple phone platform. That was a natural thing for Microsoft to win, and you know it really is winner-take-all. If you're there with half as many apps or 90 percent as many apps, you're on your way to complete doom. There's room for exactly one non-Apple operating system. And what's that worth? Four hundred billion? That would be transferred from Company G to Company M. And it's amazing to me having made one of the greatest mistakes of all time—and there was this antitrust lawsuit and various things—our other assets—Windows, Office—are still very strong. So we are a leading company. If we'd got that one right, we would be the leading company. But oh well.

In the interview, Gates takes full responsibility for not reacting to the new era of smartphones. But by that time, he already had a foot out the door at Microsoft to focus on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The original iPhone came out in 2007, and the first Android device was released in 2008. Gates had already announced his transition plan in June 2006.

The CEO of Microsoft at the time was Steve Ballmer, who famously laughed at the iPhone and called the $500 device "The most expensive phone in the world" while deriding its lack of a hardware keyboard. "There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share," Ballmer once told USA Today. "No chance."

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The 2019 Audi A7 might be all the car anyone ever needs

Ars Technica - June 24, 2019 - 7:12pm

High expectations can be a killer. We see this all the time—the let-down sequel to a great movie or the indulgent sophomore follow-up to a brilliant debut album. It also applies to cars; ask any fan of the Mk2 VW Golf for their opinion of the Mk3 as proof. As humans we fall in love, too easily perhaps, with inanimate objects. When a replacement shows up, and our expectations exceed its ability, the result is disappointment. Which is a long-winded way of saying I was actually a little scared when I fired up the 2019 Audi A7 for the first time.

The previous A7 was a delightful car, particularly if you had a long way to go and wanted to do it in comfort and style. Here was an Audi that looked as good on the outside as it did on the inside thanks to its fastback body style. Back in the days before we knew they were belching NOXious gases, the TDI version would happily deliver 40mpg all day long. If you wanted something less economical but a lot faster, the RS7 and its snarling twin-turbo V8 offered close to the last word in all-weather, cross-country ability.

I first saw the second-generation A7 at last year's Detroit auto show. It follows the same script as before: lighter and less loaded down the A8 flagship, sleeker and more driver -ocused than the mainstream A6, but it's still built from the same toolbox and parts bin that Audi (and the rest of Volkswagen Group) call MLB Evo. It looks a lot like the car it replaces, but with sharper creases in the panels and some funky LED matrix headlights and LED tail lights that are meant to make it easier for you to see in the dark (as well as making you easier to see). That car is even available with a US-legal version of Audi's clever laser high beam headlights.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

DHS cyber director warns of surge in Iranian “wiper” hack attacks

Ars Technica - June 24, 2019 - 6:58pm

Enlarge / An effective wiper of sorts. (credit: Getty Images)

With tensions between the US and Iran on the rise following the downing of a US military drone last week, the director of the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is warning that Iran is elevating its efforts to do damage to US interests through destructive malware attacks on industrial and government networks.

In a statement issued on Saturday, June 22, CISA Director Christopher C. Krebs said:

CISA is aware of a recent rise in malicious cyber activity directed at United States industries and government agencies by Iranian regime actors and proxies. Iranian regime actors and proxies are increasingly using destructive "wiper" attacks, looking to do much more than just steal data and money. These efforts are often enabled through common tactics like spear phishing, password spraying, and credential stuffing. What might start as an account compromise, where you think you might just lose data, can quickly become a situation where you’ve lost your whole network.

Krebs urged businesses and agencies to take steps to improve their security hygiene, including implementing multi-factor authentication for user credentials to prevent brute-force attempts to connect to exposed network and cloud applications.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Capuchin monkeys have a 3,000-year archaeological record

Ars Technica - June 24, 2019 - 6:52pm

Enlarge (credit: By Tiago Falótico - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60386655)

The archaeological record of human tools use dates back about 2.5 million years, and archaeologists use changes in stone tool technology to trace changes in human evolution, culture, and lifestyles. Now a team of archaeologists in Brazil has excavated capuchin monkey stone tools dating back to 3,000 years ago, and they reveal changes in behavior and diet over thousands of years—just like the early human archaeological record but on a compressed time scale.

Archaeology: Not just for humans

Bearded capuchin monkeys are more versatile tool-users than chimpanzees. They select rocks of the right sizes and shapes for a variety of tasks, from digging to cracking open a range of nuts and seeds (each has its own size and weight specifications for the perfect cracking tool). Female capuchins even flirt with potential mates by throwing rocks at them.

At Brazil’s Serra de Capivara National Park, a group of capuchins crack open cashews with round quartzite cobbles, which they choose and carry to the cashew grove from a dry streambed about 25m (82 feet) away. Capuchins have been processing their food at the same spot for at least 3,000 years—and leaving behind their distinctively banged-up tools. That’s about 450 monkey generations, and during that time, archaeologists noticed some major changes in the stone hammers and how they were used.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Ex-chair of FCC broadband committee gets five years in prison for fraud

Ars Technica - June 24, 2019 - 5:59pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | RapidEye)

The former head of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) was sentenced to five years in prison for defrauding investors.

Elizabeth Ann Pierce was CEO of Quintillion, an Alaskan telecom company, when she lied to two investment firms in New York in order to raise $270 million to build a fiber network. She also defrauded two individual investors out of $365,000 and used a large chunk of that money for personal expenses.

Pierce, 55, pleaded guilty and last week was given the five-year prison sentence in US District Court for the Southern District of New York, US Attorney Geoffrey Berman announced. Pierce was also "ordered to forfeit $896,698.00 and all of her interests in Quintillion and a property in Texas." She will also be subject to a restitution order to compensate her victims "at a later date."

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

League of Legends: Iran players say US sanctions have blocked the game

BBC Technology News - June 24, 2019 - 5:55pm
Iran gamers have reportedly received messages saying they can't play the game because of the US government.

SCOTUS: Ban on “FUCT” trademark registration violates First Amendment

Ars Technica - June 24, 2019 - 5:31pm

Enlarge (credit: Fuct)

Federal law prohibits the registration of trademarks that are "immoral or scandalous." At least it did until today, when the Supreme Court held that the requirement violated the First Amendment.

The case focused on artist and entrepreneur Erik Brunetti, who sells clothing under the trademark FUCT. Brunetti claims the mark is "pronounced as four letters, one after the other: F-U-C-T." But a lot of people have interpreted it as (in the words of the government's lawyer in the case) "the profane past participle form of a well-known word of profanity."

Beyond that, the US Patent and Trademark Office looked at the products being sold under the FUCT mark. "Brunetti’s website and products contained imagery, near the mark, of 'extreme nihilism' and 'antisocial' behavior," the Supreme court noted in its Monday opinion. The trademark office concluded that the FUCT mark "communicated misogyny, depravity, and violence," and rejected the registration.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

German regulator says it discovered new illegal software on Daimler diesels

Ars Technica - June 24, 2019 - 5:18pm

Enlarge / (Photo by TF-Images/TF-Images via Getty Images) (credit: getty images)

Over the weekend, Germany's auto regulator told Daimler that it would have to recall 42,000 Mercedes-Benz diesel vehicles after the group discovered illegal software on the cars that would reduce the effectiveness of the emissions-control system.

Daimler said Sunday night that it would take a one-time charge of hundreds of millions of euros against the upcoming quarter's earnings to deal with the new accusations, but it disputed the government regulator's determination that the software in question was illegal. According to the Wall Street Journal, Daimler plans to formally object to the claims.

The accusation against the German automaker is similar to accusations lobbed against Volkswagen Group starting in 2015. The US Environmental Protection Agency accused VW Group of including illegal software on its diesel vehicles to ensure that the diesels would pass emissions limits imposed by the US. Ultimately, VW Group ended up spending tens of billions of dollars on regulatory fines and vehicle buybacks in the US and the EU.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The Raspberry Pi 4 launch site runs on a Pi 4 cluster

Ars Technica - June 24, 2019 - 5:12pm

The Raspberry Pi 4 Model B has launched. It's a pretty big upgrade from the Raspberry Pi 3, with the company claiming that the device can provide "desktop performance comparable to entry-level x86 PC systems."

OK... but how does it perform as a server? Individually, the answer is just about what you'd expect. While the Pi 4B is an enormous all-around upgrade from the 3B+, it's still a Raspberry Pi at its heart. The former model's DDR2 RAM has been upgraded to DDR4, the new Cortex A72 CPU is anywhere from double to quadruple the speed of the older A53, and the gigabit Ethernet adapter isn't hamstrung by a USB 2.0 bus anymore, so it can actually push a gigabit worth of traffic. This is fantastic for a starting-at-$35, passively-cooled bittybox... but it's still very anemic compared to, for example, a humble i3-8100T.

Sysbench CPU is a decent metric for estimating real-world performance. Data drawn from Tom's Hardware for the Rpi 4B and from OpenBenchmarking.org for the Intel i3-8100T. (credit: Jim Salter)

But where you can't scale up, you can scale out—and that's precisely what www.raspberrypi.org has done. The launch site for the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B is mostly running on a cluster of 18 of the little devices themselves. Fourteen handle PHP code execution, two serve static files, and two run memcached. Cloudflare is still handling the brunt of the raw network traffic, though, and the database—by far the heaviest storage load on a WordPress site—isn't running on the little Pi cluster, either.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Review: Jessica Jones S3 is flawed but packs a powerful payoff in the end

Ars Technica - June 24, 2019 - 4:45pm

Enlarge / Last Defender standing: Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) ponders what it means to be a hero in the final season. (credit: YouTube/Netflix)

Jessica Jones makes its final bow with an imperfect but ultimately powerful and thought-provoking third season. The series finale—canceled before it even started streaming, along with the rest of the Marvel/Netflix Defenders series—expertly explored conflicting notions of justice, the possibility of forgiveness and redemption, and what it really means to be a hero through the lens of Jessica's fractured relationship with her adoptive sister, Trish Walker.

(Spoilers for all three seasons below.)

Along with the first season of Daredevil in 2015, Jessica Jones helped launch the Defenders shared universe on Netflix to broad critical acclaim. The show earned praise for its gritty noir tone (perfectly captured in the main title sequence), complex characters (shout-out to Carrie-Ann Moss's Emmy-worthy turn as Jeri Hogarth), and unapologetically frank depiction of a woman struggling with PTSD in the wake of an abusive relationship. It's hands-down my favorite of the Defenders series, although Daredevil's arch-villain Wilson Fisk will always hold a special place in my esteem.

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Sudan crisis: Internet restored - but only for lawyer

BBC Technology News - June 24, 2019 - 4:39pm
A lawyer, who won his case over a three-week blackout, is to return to court on behalf of other Sudanese.

Ancient Peruvian engineering could help solve modern water shortages

Ars Technica - June 24, 2019 - 4:00pm

Enlarge / Diversion canals channel water into earth-bottomed infiltration canals like this one, where water can begin to soak into the ground on its way to a pond or basin. (credit: Musuq Briceño, CONDESAN, 2012.)

Rain seldom falls on the desert lowlands of coastal Peru, so people in the area have always depended on the water that flows down from the Andes during the rainy season. But streams in this part of the world come and go quickly, so indigenous people built a system of canals and ponds to channel excess rainwater and create groundwater. Now a group of researchers says that a scaled-up version could help improve Peru’s water management.

Ancient engineers (not aliens)

1,400 years ago, Chavin and Wari indigenous communities on the slopes of the Andes Mountains dug systems of stone-lined and earthen canals to channel excess rainwater from streams to areas where the ground could soak up more of the water. From there, the water gradually trickled through sediment and cracks in the rock until it reached springs downslope. “Water is stored in the soils and travels much slower beneath the surface than it would as overland flow,” Boris Ochoa-Tocachi, a civil engineer at Imperial College London, told Ars Technica. Water that would otherwise have been lost to flooding feeds springs that remain active even into the dry season.

Today, most of these once-widespread canals—called amunas in the Quechua language—lie abandoned or clogged. But in a few rural communities, like Huamantanga in the central Andes, people have used and maintained parts of the ancient amunas for centuries. Eleven of the original canals still operate, feeding 65 active springs and 14 small ponds.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Missing YouTuber Etika's belongings found

BBC Technology News - June 24, 2019 - 3:54pm
The gamer, who has a strong following on YouTube, has now not been seen for five days.

Falcon Heavy rocket set to attempt SpaceX’s “most difficult launch ever”

Ars Technica - June 24, 2019 - 1:35pm

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket will attempt its most technically demanding mission yet on Monday night, with a rideshare flight organized by the US Air Force. Company founder Elon Musk has characterized the mission as "[o]ur most difficult launch ever."

During this Space Test Program-2 flight, the world's most powerful operational rocket will attempt to deliver 24 different payloads into three different orbits, resulting in multiple re-lights of the Merlin 1D engine powering the rocket's second stage.

It is a critical mission for SpaceX and its Falcon Heavy rocket for a few reasons. First of all, this is the first time the Air Force has flown payloads on a Falcon Heavy rocket. And while this mission will not be carrying anything critical to national security—such as large satellites valued at $1 billion or more used for observation, communication, or other purposes to advance the national interest—Air Force officials will be watching closely.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Facebook: Nick Clegg says 'no evidence' of Russian interference in Brexit vote

BBC Technology News - June 24, 2019 - 1:05pm
Sir Nick Clegg says Facebook found no "significant attempt" by outside forces to sway the 2016 vote.

Presidential warnings 'easy' to spoof

BBC Technology News - June 24, 2019 - 1:03pm
Fake messages could cause widespread panic, the researchers who uncovered the flaws say.

Raspberry Pi used to steal data from Nasa lab

BBC Technology News - June 24, 2019 - 11:24am
Lax security at a Nasa lab let a hacker lurk on the agency's network for almost a year, says report.

EE fined £100,000 for unlawful texts

BBC Technology News - June 24, 2019 - 11:10am
The mobile network sent 2.5 million messages to customers about its app and handset upgrades.

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