Earth

Mind-Altering Cat Parasite Linked To a Whole Lot of Neurological Disorders (sciencealert.com) 209

schwit1 shares a report from ScienceAlert: The brain-dwelling parasite Toxoplasma gondii is estimated to be hosted by at least 2 billion people around the world, and new evidence suggests the lodger could be more dangerous than we think. While the protozoan invader poses the greatest risk to developing fetuses infected in the womb, new research suggests the parasite could alter and amplify a range of neurological disorders, including epilepsy, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's, and also cancer. "This study is a paradigm shifter," says one of the team, neuroscientist Dennis Steindler from Tufts University. "We now have to insert infectious disease into the equation of neurodegenerative diseases, epilepsy, and neural cancers." The findings are part of an emerging field of research looking into how T. gondii, which is usually transmitted to humans via contact with cat faeces (or by eating uncooked meat), produces proteins that alter and manipulate the brain chemistry of their infected hosts.
Earth

Climate Change Could Wipe Out a Third of Parasite Species, Study Finds (nytimes.com) 240

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled, alternative source): Recently, scientists carried out the first large-scale study of what climate change may do to the world's much-loathed parasites. The team came to a startling conclusion: as many as one in three parasite species may face extinction in the next century. As global warming raises the planet's temperature, the researchers found, many species will lose territory in which to survive. Some of their hosts will be lost, too. Researchers have begun carefully studying the roles that parasites play. They make up the majority of the biomass in some ecosystems, outweighing predators sharing their environments by a factor of 20 to 1. For decades, scientists who studied food webs drew lines between species -- between wildebeest and the grass they grazed on, for example, and between the wildebeest and the lions that ate them. In a major oversight, they didn't factor in the extent to which parasites feed on hosts. As it turns out, as much as 80 percent of the lines in a given food web are links to parasites. They are big players in the food supply.

Some researchers had already investigated the fate of a few parasite species, but Colin J. Carlson, lead author of the study and a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, and his colleagues wanted to get a global view of the impact of climate change. Some kinds won't lose much in a warming world, the study found. For instance, thorny-headed worms are likely to be protected because their hosts, fish and birds, are common and widespread. But other types, such as fleas and tapeworms, may not be able to tolerate much change in temperature; many others infect only hosts that are facing extinction, as well. In all, roughly 30 percent of parasitic species could disappear, Mr. Carlson concluded. The impact of climate change will be as great or greater for these species as for any others studied so far.
The study has been published in Science Advances.
Communications

The Only Safe Email is Text-Only Email (theconversation.com) 174

Sergey Bratus, Research Associate Professor of Computer Science, Dartmouth College, and Anna Shubina, Post-doctoral Associate in Computer Science, Dartmouth College write: The real issue is that today's web-based email systems are electronic minefields filled with demands and enticements to click and engage in an increasingly responsive and interactive online experience. It's not just Gmail, Yahoo mail and similar services: Desktop-computer-based email programs like Outlook display messages in the same unsafe way. Simply put, safe email is plain-text email -- showing only the plain words of the message exactly as they arrived, without embedded links or images. Webmail is convenient for advertisers (and lets you write good-looking emails with images and nice fonts), but carries with it unnecessary -- and serious -- danger, because a webpage (or an email) can easily show one thing but do another. Returning email to its origins in plain text may seem radical, but it provides radically better security. Even the federal government's top cybersecurity experts have come to the startling, but important, conclusion that any person, organization or government serious about web security should return to plain-text email (PDF).
Businesses

Apple Suffers 'Major iPhone X Leak' 114

Details of new iPhones and other forthcoming Apple devices have been revealed via an apparent leak. From a report: Two news sites were given access to an as-yet-unreleased version of the iOS operating system. The code refers to an iPhone X in addition to two new iPhone 8 handsets. It also details facial recognition tech that acts both as an ID system and maps users' expressions onto emojis. One tech writer said it was the biggest leak of its kind to hit the firm. [...] "As best I've been able to ascertain, these builds were available to download by anyone, but they were obscured by long, unguessable URLs [web addresses]," wrote John Gruber, a blogger known for his coverage of Apple. "Someone within Apple leaked the list of URLs to 9to5Mac and MacRumors. I'm nearly certain this wasn't a mistake, but rather a deliberate malicious act by a rogue Apple employee." Neither Mr Gruber nor the two Apple-related news sites have disclosed their sources. However, the BBC has independently confirmed that an anonymous source provided the publications with links to iOS 11's golden master (GM) code that downloaded the software from Apple's own computer servers. It's a big blow to Apple, which uses surprise as a key element at its events. The leak could take some wind out of its sails as it looks to wow consumers. In 2012, Tim Cook had said the company was planning to "double down on secrecy." At the quarterly earnings call, he blamed the leaks about the upcoming iPhone models as one of the reasons that slowed down the sales of current generation iPhone models. However, an analysis published over the weekend found that Apple itself has been the source of several of these leaks in the years since. Earlier this year, the company held a meeting to boast about its internal progress to curb leaks. The hour-long recording of the meeting ironically got leaked. Nearly all details, except the final press renders of the new iPhone models, have leaked. In a subsequent post, Gruber wrote: The BBC doesn't say definitively that the leak was sent by an Apple employee, but I can state with nearly 100 percent certainty that it was. I also think there's a good chance Apple is going to figure out who it was. [...] That person should be ashamed of themselves, and should be very worried when their phone next rings. Moments ago, 9to5Mac reported about a new tvOS firmware leak, which appeared "to be out in the wild today" that details the upcoming features of the next generation Apple TV streaming device.
Facebook

Why RSS Still Beats Facebook and Twitter for Tracking News (gizmodo.com) 108

An anonymous reader shares a report: One of the main reasons RSS is so beloved of news gatherers is that it catches everything a site publishes -- not just the articles that have proved popular with other users, not just the articles from today, not just the articles that happened to be tweeted out while you were actually staring at Twitter. Everything. In our age of information overload that might seem like a bad idea, but RSS also cuts out everything you don't want to hear about. You're in full control of what's in your feed and what isn't, so you don't get friends and colleagues throwing links into your feeds that you've got no interest in reading. Perhaps most importantly, you don't need to be constantly online and constantly refreshing your feeds to make sure you don't miss anything. It's like putting a recording schedule in place for the shows you know you definitely want to catch rather than flicking through the channels hoping you land on something interesting. There's no rush with RSS -- you don't miss out on a day's worth of news, or TV recaps, or game reviews if you're offline for 24 hours. It's all waiting for you when you get back. And if you're on holiday and the unread article count starts to get scarily high, just hit the mark all as read button and you're back to a clean slate.
Security

Best Buy Stops Selling Kaspersky Security Software (startribune.com) 132

swschrad writes: Call it a stampede, call it a business decision, but Best Buy has pulled Kaspersky internet security software from its shelves and website. Some in the U.S. government suspect Russian ties make it a suspicious product. Since all major security companies have links with each other and with government security agencies, sharing threat evidence to find counters, Kaspersky's defense seems valid. But if you want it, be prepared to buy it off their own website. Best Buy will give Kaspersky software purchasers 45 days to exchange it for free for another product if they want. Additionally, customers can also uninstall it themselves or have a Geek Squad agent do it for free within that time window.
Twitter

Twitter is Just Randomly Deleting People's Lists -- and No One Knows Why (theregister.co.uk) 115

Twitter has silently, and without warning, deleted reams of lists users have spent months curating. These lists are used by journalists, activists, and loads of other people, to organize and manage twits they follow and aggregate their tweets, links, photos, and videos, reports The Register. From the article: They are, in a way, personalized RSS feeds of information from the Twitter firehose. For the past several days, though, lists have been disappearing from folks' profiles with no notification, and no explanation from Twitter thus far. Some private, or locked, lists have been made public. Among those impacted by the cockup is Australian freelance journalist and Cryptoparty founder Asher Wolf, who said the issue appears to be tied those who use the mobile Twitter App. Switching to different platforms doesn't help, however.
Piracy

Amid Crackdown On Torrent Websites, Some Users Move To Google Drive To Distribute Movies and Shows (ndtv.com) 84

An anonymous reader shares a report: As crackdown on torrent sites continues around the world, people who are pirating TV shows and movies are having to get a little more creative. Cloud storage services such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and Kim Dotcom's Mega are some of the popular ones that are being used to distribute copyrighted content, according to DMCA takedown requests reviewed by Gadgets 360. Google Drive seems most popular among such users, with nearly five thousand DMCA takedown requests filed by Hollywood studios and other copyright holders just last month. Each DMCA requests had listed a few hundred Google Drive links that the content owners wanted pulled. What's interesting though is that while at times pirates upload full movies to Google Drive or other cloud services, in other cases, these Google Drive links are empty and just have a YouTube video embedded.
Operating Systems

ReactOS 0.4.6 Released (osnews.com) 97

OS News reports that the latest version of ReactOS has been released: 0.4.6 is a major step towards real hardware support. Several dual boot issues have been fixed and now partitions are managed in a safer way avoiding corruption of the partition list structures. ReactOS Loader can now load custom kernels and HALs. Printing Subsystem is still greenish in 0.4.6, however Colin Finck has implemented a huge number of new APIs and fixed some of the bugs reported and detected by the ReactOS automated tests. Regarding drivers, Pierre Schweitzer has added an NFS driver and started implementing RDBSS and RXCE, needed to enable SMB support in the future, Sylvain Petreolle has imported a Digital TV tuning device driver and the UDFS driver has been re-enabled in 0.4.6 after fixing several deadlocks and issues which was making it previously unusable. Critical bugs and leakages in CDFS, SCSI and HDAUDBUS have been also fixed. General notes, tests, and changelog for the release can be found at their respective links. A less technical community changelog for ReactOS 0.4.6 is also available. ISO images are ready at the ReactOS Download page.
Facebook

Fake Messages Rigged With Malware Are Spreading Via Facebook Messenger (bleepingcomputer.com) 44

According to recent warnings issued by Avira, CSIS Security Group, and Kaspersky Lab, a virulent spam campaign has hit Facebook Messenger during the past few days. "The Facebook spam messages contain a link to what appears to be a video," reports Bleeping Computer. "The messages arrive from one of the user's friends, suggesting that person's account was also compromised." From the report: The format of the spam message is the user's first name, the word video, and a bit.ly or t.cn short-link. Users that click on the links are redirected to different pages based on their geographical location and the type of browser and operating system they use. It's been reported that Firefox users on Windows and Mac are being redirected to a page offering a fake Flash Player installer. Kaspersky says this file installs adware on users' PCs. On Chrome, the spam campaign redirects users to a fake YouTube page pushing a malicious extension. It is believed that crooks use this Chrome extension to push adware and collect credentials for new Facebook accounts, which they later use to push the spam messages to new users.
Yahoo!

Alleged Yahoo Hacker Will Be Extradited To The US (tucson.com) 45

An anonymous reader quotes the AP: A Canadian man accused in a massive hack of Yahoo emails agreed Friday to forgo his extradition hearing and go face the charges in the United States. Karim Baratov was arrested in Hamilton, Ontario, in March under the Extradition Act after U.S. authorities indicted him and three others, including two alleged officers of Russia's Federal Security Service. They are accused of computer hacking, economic espionage and other crimes.

An extradition hearing for the 22-year-old Baratov had been scheduled for early September, but he signed documents before a Canadian judge Friday agreeing to waive it. His lawyer, Amedeo DiCarlo, said that does not amount to an admission of guilt... U.S. law enforcement officials call Baratov a "hacker-for-hire" paid by members of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, considered the successor to the KGB of the former Soviet Union.

Yahoo also believes that attack -- which breached at least 500 million Yahoo accounts in 2014 -- was perpetrated by "a state-sponsored actor." The CBC reports that Baratov lives alone in a large, new house in an expensive subdivision. "His parents either bought him the house," one neighbor told the CBC, "or he's getting money somewhere else, because he doesn't seem to work all day; he just drives up and down the street."

The CBC also reports that Baratov's Facebook page links to a Russian-language site "which claims to offer a number of services, including servers for rent in Russia, protection from distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, and domain names in China."
Music

What Happened To Winamp? (arstechnica.com) 332

Winamp was released more than 20 years ago, and last week marked the 15th anniversary of the release of Winamp3. An anonymous Slashdot reader tries to explain what finally happened to Winamp: AOL planned to discontinue Winamp in November of 2013, but instead sold it to the Belgian online radio service Radionomy. The last update on Winamp's Twitter account was September of 2015, though it announced that they were looking for a new senior C++ developer. Then in December of 2015 Vivendi Group became that company's majority shareholder, stirring hopes that the company might one day launch a revamped version of the classic mp3 player from 1997.

So did they? Radionomy's Winamp page is still showing download links -- though they now lead instead to a forum post which says "code licensed to the previous owner" is being removed or replaced. But that post has been updated five times -- as recently as last October -- with "info about the next Winamp release," each linking to a thread on Winamp's forums which offer tantalizing glimpses into a still-ongoing development process. And last October a Winamp dev posted on Twitter that "a Winamp 5.8 public beta release could be imminent," while the web page at Winamp.com still says "There's more coming soon," with a background image of a llama.

"There's no reason that Winamp couldn't be in the position that iTunes is in today if not for a few layers of mismanagement by AOL that started immediately upon acquisition," their first general manager told Ars Technica in 2012. (Winamp's developers had been earning $100,000 a month just from $10 shareware checks before AOL acquired the company in 1999 for $100 million.) In May TechRadar wrote that Winamp "is still a great media player...but it now relies on third-party extensions to add features found as standard in more modern players."

I still remember all the visualizations and custom skins -- but does this bring back any memories for anyone else? Leave your thoughts in the comments. And what mp3-playing software are you using today?
Facebook

Facebook Downranks Video Clickbait and Fake Play Buttons (techcrunch.com) 25

In a blog post, Facebook announced that it has started downranking the News Feed presence of links that display a fake play button in the preview image, as well as videos that are actually just a static image uploaded as a video file. While Facebook won't completely delete these posts unless they violate its other policies, it will be decreasing the distribution of these stories. TechCrunch reports: Facebook has prohibited the use of fake play buttons in advertisements under its policy against depicting non-existent functionality for a few years, News Feed Product Manager Greg Marra tells me. But the scourage has remained in the News Feed. Facebook says that if publishers want to denote there's a video behind a link, they should indicate that through Open Graph meta tags. They could also use words like "Watch" or "Video" in the headline or description. Meanwhile, Facebook's emphasis on video in News Feed has inspired the new menace of publishers uploading a static image as a video to get more eyeballs. These static image videos will be downranked too. Facebook is using a "motion scoring" system that detects movement inside a video to classify and demote these clips.
Piracy

Roku Gets Tough On Pirate Channels, Warns Users (torrentfreak.com) 79

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: Earlier this year Roku was harshly confronted with this new piracy crackdown when a Mexican court ordered local retailers to take its media player off the shelves. While this legal battle isn't over yet, it was clear to Roku that misuse of its platform wasn't without consequences. While Roku never permitted any infringing content, it appears that the company has recently made some adjustments to better deal with the problem, or at least clarify its stance. Pirate content generally doesn't show up in the official Roku Channel Store but is directly loaded onto the device through third-party "private" channels. A few weeks ago, Roku renamed these "private" channels to "non-certified" channels, while making it very clear that copyright infringement is not allowed. A "WARNING!" message that pops up during the installation of these third-party channels stresses that Roku has no control over the content. In addition, the company notes that these channels may be removed if it links to copyright infringing content.

"By continuing, you acknowledge you are accessing a non-certified channel that may include content that is offensive or inappropriate for some audiences," Roku's warning reads. "Moreover, if Roku determines that this channel violates copyright, contains illegal content, or otherwise violates Roku's terms and conditions, then ROKU MAY REMOVE THIS CHANNEL WITHOUT PRIOR NOTICE."

The Internet

I Bought a Book About the Internet From 1994 and None of the Links Worked (vice.com) 180

An anonymous reader shares a report (condensed for space and clarity): For crate-diggers of all stripes, the internet is awesome for one reason: The crate never ends. There's always something new to find online, because people keep creating new things to throw into that crate. But that crate has a hole at the bottom. Stuff is falling out just as quickly, and pieces of history that would stick around in meatspace disappear in an instant online. So as a result, there aren't a lot of websites from 1995 that made it through to the present day. Gopher sites? Odds are low. Text files? Perhaps. The endless pace of linkrot has left books about the internet in a curious limbo -- they're dead trees about the dead-tree killer, after all. [...] Recently, I bought a book -- a reference book, the kind that you can still pick up at Barnes and Noble today. The book, titled Free $tuff From the Internet (Coriolis Group Books, 1994), promises to help you find free content online. And, crucially, it focuses less on the web, which was still quite young, than on many of the alternative protocols of the era. This book links to FTP sites, telnet servers, and Gopher destinations, and I've tried many of them in an effort to figure out whether something, anything in this book works in the present day. These FTP servers were often based at universities which have a vested interest in keeping information online for a long-term period -- think the University of North Carolina, or Kansas State University. But despite this, I could not get most of these servers to load -- they were long ago murdered by the World Wide Web.
Google

Google Engineer's Leaked 'Gender Diversity' Essay Draws Massive Response (medium.com) 1122

An anonymous reader writes: An engineer at Google's Mountain View headquarters circulated a 3,400-word essay internally that argued a "moral bias" exists at Google that's "shaming dissenters" and silencing their voices against "encroaching extremist and authoritarian policies." It attributes the gender gap in technology to biology-based differences in abilities (such as "speaking up" and "leading") and different personality traits (including "neuroticism"). Its suggested remedies include "Stop alienating conservatives" (calling it "non-inclusive" and "bad business because conservatives tend to be higher in conscientiousness"), and it also suggests as a solution to "de-emphasize empathy" (which "causes us to focus on anecdotes, favor individuals similar to us, and harbor other irrational and dangerous biases").

As the essay leaked over the weekend, former Google engineer Yonatan Zunger identified its anonymous author as "not someone senior," saying the author didn't seem to understand gender -- or engineering -- or what's going to happen next. "Essentially, engineering is all about cooperation, collaboration, and empathy for both your colleagues and your customers. If someone told you that engineering was a field where you could get away with not dealing with people or feelings, then I'm very sorry to tell you that you have been lied to... It's true that women are socialized to be better at paying attention to people's emotional needs and so on -- this is something that makes them better engineers, not worse ones... You need to learn the difference between 'I think we should adopt Go as our primary language' and 'I think one-third of my colleagues are either biologically unsuited to do their jobs, or if not are exceptions and should be suspected of such until they can prove otherwise to each and every person's satisfaction.'"

The leaked internal essay is now being discussed in literally dozens of news outlets. Click through for some official responses, including leaked reactions from Google's VP of Engineering, from Google's new VP of Diversity, Integrity & Governance -- and from Slashdot's readers.
Facebook

Facebook Fights Fake News With Links To Other Angles (techcrunch.com) 157

Facebook is rolling out "Related Articles" that appear below news links to stories lots of people are posting about on Facebook, or that are suspected to be false news and have been externally fact checked by Facebook's partners. "Appearing before someone reads, Related Articles will surface links to additional reporting on the same topic to provide different view points, and to truthiness reports from the fact checkers," reports TechCrunch. From the report: If users see drastically different angles when they compare a story to its Related Articles, they might deem it suspicious and skip it, be less likely to believe or share it, or could click through the Related Articles and make up their own mind. That could reduce the spread and impact of false news without Facebook itself having to be the honesty police. Related Articles could also balance out some of the radical invective that can subtly polarize the populace. Pre-click Related Articles are rolling out in the U.S., Germany, France, and Nederlands today. These countries were chosen to get the roll out first because Facebook has established fact checking partnerships there. "We don't want to be and are not the arbiters of the truth. The fact checkers can give the signal of whether a story is true or false" says Facebook News Feed integrity product manager Tessa Lyons. Meanwhile, Facebook's machine learning algorithm has improved its accuracy and speed, so the social network will now have it send more potential hoaxes to fact checkers.
Privacy

CNET Warns 'Everything Looks Like A Hack' At DEFCON (cnet.com) 45

From a CNET report:The hacker convention, which is in its 25th year in Las Vegas, typically has hotels on alert for its three days of Sin City talk, demos and mischief. Guests are encouraged not to pick up any flash drives lying around, and employees are trained to be wary of social engineering -- that is, bad guys pretending to be someone innocent and in need of just a little help. Small acts of vandalism pop up around town. At Caesars Palace, where Defcon is happening, the casino's UPS store told guests it was not accepting any print requests from USB drives or links, and only printing from email attachments. Hackers who saw this laughed, considering that emails are hardly immune from malware. But the message is clear: During these next few days, hackers are going to have their fun, whether it's through a compromised Wi-Fi network or an open-to-tinkering website.
NOTE: CNET also originally reported that the Wet Republic web site "had two images vandalized" with digital graffiti. But their reporter now writes that "my paranoia finally got the best of me, and it turned out to be an ad campaign."
Programming

How a VC-Funded Company Is Undermining the Open-Source Community (theoutline.com) 84

Adrianne Jeffries, reporting for The Outline: Is a $4 million venture capital-funded startup stealthily taking over popular coding tools and injecting ads and spyware into them? That's what some programmers fear may be happening. It is one of the most troubling scandals to hit the open-source community -- a robust network of programmers who work on shared tools for free -- in recent memory. It started back in April, when a programmer noticed a strange change to an open-source tool called Minimap. Minimap has had more than 3.5 million downloads, but like many open-source tools, it was maintained by a single person who no one knew much about other than their username: @abe33. At some point, @abe33, whose real name is Cedric Nehemie, was hired by Kite. Kite was started by Adam Smith, a successful tech entrepreneur who raised funding from a slew of big names including the CEO of Dropbox and the creator of WordPress. It is unclear what Kite's business model is, but it says it uses machine-learning techniques to make coding tools. Its tools are not open source. After being hired by Kite, @abe33 made an update to Minimap. The update was titled "Implement Kite promotion," and it appeared to look at a user's code and insert links to related pages on Kite's website. Kite called this a useful feature. Programmers said it was not useful and was therefore just an ad for an unrelated service, something many programmers would consider a violation of the open-source spirit. "It's not a feature, it's advertising -- and people don't want it, you want it," wrote user @p-e-w. "The least you can do is own up to that." "I have to wonder if your goal was to upset enough people that you'd generate real attention on various news sites and get Kite a ton of free publicity before your next funding round," @DevOpsJohn wrote. "That's the only sane explanation I can find for suddenly dropping ads into the core of one of the oldest and most useful Atom plugins." [...] Although Kite has no business model yet, it's widely thought in Silicon Valley that having users is the first step toward profitability. Adding users potentially benefits the company in another way, by giving it access to precious data. Kite says it uses machine learning tactics to make the best coding helper tools possible. In order to do that, it needs tons of data to learn from. The more code it can look at, the better its autocomplete suggestions will get, for example.
PlayStation (Games)

Sony Using Copyright Requests To Remove Leaked PS4 SDK From the Web (arstechnica.com) 156

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Sony appears to be using copyright law in an attempt to remove all traces of a leaked PlayStation 4 Software Development Kit (PS4 SDK) from the Web. That effort also seems to have extended in recent days to the forced removal of the mere discussion of the leak and the posting of a separate open source, homebrew SDK designed to be used on jailbroken systems. The story began a few weeks ago, when word first hit that version 4.5 of the PS4 SDK had been leaked online by a hacker going by the handle Kromemods. These SDKs are usually provided only to authorized PS4 developers inside development kits. The SDKs contain significant documentation that, once made public, can aid hackers in figuring out how to jailbreak consoles, create and install homebrew software, and enable other activities usually prohibited by the hardware maker (as we've seen in the wake of previous leaks of PlayStation 3 SDKs). While you can still find reference to the version 4.5 SDK leak on places like Reddit and MaxConsole, threads discussing and linking to those leaked files on sites like GBATemp and PSXhax, for example, appear to have been removed after the fact. Cached versions of those pages show links (now defunct) to download those leaked files, along with a message from KromeMods to "Please spread this as much as possible since links will be taken down... We will get nowhere if everything keeps private; money isn't everything." KromeMods notes on Twitter that his original tweet posting a link to the leaked files was also hit with a copyright notice from Sony.

Slashdot Top Deals