Compare cell phone plans using Wirefly's innovative plan comparison tool ×
Microsoft

Microsoft Lost a City Because They Used Wikipedia Data (theregister.co.uk) 106

"Microsoft can't tell North from South on Bing Maps," joked The Register, reporting that Microsoft's site had "misplaced Melbourne, the four-million-inhabitant capital of the Australian State of Victoria." Long-time Slashdot reader RockDoctor writes: Though they're trying to minimise it, the recent relocation of Melbourne Australia to the ocean east of Japan in Microsoft's flagship mapping application is blamed on someone having flipped a sign in the latitude given for the city's Wikipedia page. Which may or may not be true. But the simple stupidity of using a globally-editable data source for feeding a mapping and navigation system is ... "awesome" is (for once) an appropriate word.

Well, it's Bing, so at least no-one was actually using it.

"Bing's not alone in finding Australia hard to navigate," reports The Register. "In 2012 police warned not to use Apple Maps as it directed those seeking the rural Victorian town of Mildura into the middle of a desert."
Social Networks

'Social Media ID, Please?' Proposed US Law Greeted With Anger (computerworld.com) 218

The U.S. government announced plans to require some foreign travelers to provide their social media account names when entering the country -- and in June requested comments. Now the plan is being called "ludicrous," an "all-around bad idea," "blatant overreach," "desperate, paranoid heavy-handedness," "preposterous," "appalling," and "un-American," reports Slashdot reader dcblogs: That's just a sampling of the outrage. Some 800 responded to the U.S. request for comments about a proposed rule affecting people traveling from "visa waiver" countries to the U.S., where a visa is not required. This includes most of Europe, Singapore, Chile, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand... In a little twist of irony, some critics said U.S. President Obama's proposal for foreign travelers is so bad, it must have been hatched by Donald Trump.
"Travelers will be asked to provide their Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+, and whatever other social ID you can imagine to U.S. authorities," reports Computer World. "It's technically an 'optional' request, but since it's the government asking, critics believe travelers will fear consequences if they ignore it..."
Democrats

US Patients Battle EpiPen Prices And Regulations By Shopping Online (cnn.com) 380

"The incredible increase in the cost of EpiPens, auto-injectors that can stop life-threatening emergencies caused by allergic reactions, has hit home on Capitol Hill," reports CNN. Slashdot reader Applehu Akbar reports that the argument "has now turned into civil war in the US Senate": One senator's daughter relies on Epi-Pen, while another senator's daughter is CEO of Mylan, the single company that is licensed to sell these injectors in the US. On the worldwide market there is no monopoly on these devices... Is it finally time to allow Americans to go online and fill their prescriptions on the world market?
Time reports some patients are ordering cheaper EpiPens from Canada and other countries online, "an act that the FDA says is technically illegal and potentially dangerous." But the FDA also has "a backlog of about 4,000 generic drugs" awaiting FDA approval, reports PRI, noting that in the meantime prices have also increased for drugs treating cancer, hepatitis C, and high cholesterol. In Australia, where the drug costs just $38, one news outlet reports that the U.S. "is the only developed nation on Earth which allows pharmaceutical companies to set their own prices."
Australia

Robot Babies Not Effective Birth Control, Australian Study Finds (sky.com) 317

An anonymous reader writes: Girls given imitation babies to look after in an effort to deter teenage pregnancy could actually be more likely to get pregnant, according to a study. Researchers in Australia found 8% of girls who used the dolls were expecting by the age of 20, compared with 4% of those who did not. The number of girls having at least one abortion was also higher among girls given the dolls: 9% compared to 6%. 'Baby Think It Over' dolls were used in a Virtual Infant Parenting (VIP) programme which began in 57 schools in Western Australia in 2003. During the three-year study, published in The Lancet, 1267 girls aged 13 to 15 used the simulators -- which need to be fed and changed, while 1567 learned the normal health curriculum. The idea originated in the United States and is used in 89 countries. Researchers from the Telethon Kids Institute in Western Australia are now warning that such programmes may be a waste of public money.
Communications

Facebook Is Testing Autoplaying Video With Sound (thenextweb.com) 152

An anonymous reader writes: Facebook is testing a "feature" that autoplays video clips on your feed with sound. It's not a very big test, but there's a possibility the company could roll it out to a larger group of users. The Next Web reports: "The company is currently trying two methods of getting people to watch video with sound in Australia: the aforementioned autoplaying, and an unmute button on the lower right corner of videos, like Vine videos on a desktop. The latter certainly sounds more reasonable; the last thing you want is to be checking Facebook quickly during a meeting or class, and suddenly have your phone blaring out an advert because you happened to stop on a video. Thankfully, you can disable the 'feature' from your settings, but the point is there's nothing wrong with the current opt-in approach, especially considering how many companies are embracing video captioning, and that Facebook even has its own auto-caption tool for advertisers." "We're running a small test in News Feed where people can choose whether they want to watch videos with sound on from the start," a Facebook spokesperson told Mashable Australia. "For people in this test who do not want sound to play, they can switch it off in Settings or directly on the video itself. This is one of several tests we're running as we work to improve the video experience for people on Facebook."
Canada

Ashley Madison Security Protocols Violated Canada, Austrialia Privacy Laws (www.cbc.ca) 29

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada said Tuesday that the Canada-based online dating and social networking service Ashely Madison used inadequate privacy and security technology while marketing itself as a discreet and secure way for consenting adults to have affairs. CBC.ca reports: "In a report Tuesday, the privacy watchdog says the Toronto-based company violated numerous privacy laws in Canada and abroad in the era before a massive data breach exposed confidential information from their clients to hackers. The hack stole correspondence, identifying details and even credit card information from millions of the site's users. The resulting scandal cost the company about a quarter of its annual revenues from irate customers who demanded refunds and cancelled their accounts. Working with a similar agency in Australia, the privacy group says the company knew that its security protocols were lacking but didn't do enough to guard against being hacked. The company even adorned its website with the logo of a 'trusted security award' -- a claim the company admits it fabricated." The report found that "poor habits such as inadequate authentication processes and sub-par key and password management practices were rampant at the company" and that "much of the company's efforts to monitor its own security were 'focused on detecting system performance issues and unusual employee requests for decryption of sensitive user data.'" What's more is that Ashley Madison continued to store personal information of its users even after some of which had deleted or deactivated their account(s). These people then had their information included in databases published online after the hack.
Encryption

How SSL/TLS Encryption Hides Malware (cso.com.au) 87

Around 65% of the internet's one zettabyte of global traffic uses SSL/TLS encryption -- but Slashdot reader River Tam shares an article recalling last August when 910 million web browsers were potentially exposed to malware hidden in a Yahoo ad that was hidden from firewalls by SSL/TLS encryption: When victims don't have the right protection measures in place, attackers can cipher command and control communications and malicious code to evade intrusion prevention systems and anti-malware inspection systems. In effect, the SSL/TLS encryption serves as a tunnel to hide malware as it can pass through firewalls and into organizations' networks undetected if the right safeguards aren't in place. As SSL/TLS usage grows, the appeal of this threat vector for hackers too increases.

Companies can stop SSL/TLS attacks, however most don't have their existing security features properly enabled to do so. Legacy network security solutions typically don't have the features needed to inspect SSL/TLS-encrypted traffic. The ones that do, often suffer from such extreme performance issues when inspecting traffic, that most companies with legacy solutions abandon SSL/TLS inspection.

Australia

Australian Authorities Hacked Computers in the US (vice.com) 75

Motherboard is reporting that Australian authorities hacked Tor users in the United States as part of a child pornography investigation. The revelation comes through recently-filed US court documents. The incident underscores a trend where law enforcement around the world are increasingly pursuing targets overseas using hacking tools, raising legal questions around agencies' reach. From the report: In one case, Australian authorities remotely hacked a computer in Michigan to obtain the suspect's IP address. "The Love Zone" was a prolific dark web child abuse site, where users were instructed to upload material at least once a month to maintain access to the forum. By July 2014, the site had over 29,000 members, according to US court documents, constituting what the US Department of Justice described as a "technologically sophisticated conspiracy." In 2014, Queensland Police Service's Task Force Argos, a small, specialised unit focused on combating child exploitation crimes, identified the site's Australian administrator in part because of a localized greeting he signed messages with. The unit quietly took over his account, and for months ran the site in an undercover capacity, posing as its owner. Task Force Argos' logo includes a scorpion, and the tagline "Leave No Stone Unturned." Because The Love Zone was based on the dark web, users typically connected via the Tor network, masking their IP addresses even from the law enforcement agents who were secretly in control of the site. Task Force Argos could see what the users were viewing, and what pages they were visiting, but not where they were really connecting from.
Australia

Internal 'Set Of Blunders' Crashed Australia's Census Site (cso.com.au) 92

Slashdot reader River Tam explains the crash of Australia's online census site, citing the account of a security researcher who says IBM and the Australian Bureau of Statistics "were offered DDoS prevention services from their upstream provider...and said they didn't need it." From an article on CSO: The ABS and IBM gambled on a plan to ask its upstream network provider to block traffic from outside Australia in the event that a denial-of-service attack was detected... Offshore traffic to the site was blocked in line with the plan, however, another attack, for which the ABS had no contingency to repel, was directed at it from within Australia. The attack crippled the firewall and the census site's operators opted to restart it and fall back to a secondary firewall. However, they forgot to check that it had the same configuration as the primary firewall. That crippled the census site.

In an unfortunate confluence of events, IBM's security warning systems started flagging some unusual activity, which indicated that information on the ABS servers was heading offshore. The site's operators, thinking the DDoS activity was a distraction, interpreted the alarms as a successful hack...these were little more than benign system logs and the technical staff monitoring the situation poorly understood it. Amid the confusion they naturally erred on the side of caution, [and] decided to pull the plug on the site...

Communications

This Is What the World's Spies Used Instead of MSN Messenger (vice.com) 65

An anonymous reader writes: What do spies use to chat online? A terribly ugly Windows programme. At least, that's what the Five Eyes intelligence alliance (made up of the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada) was using back in 2003, according to a newly released Snowden document. "The Five-Eyes SIGINT [signals intelligence] Directors will soon be using a new tool to enhance their collaboration on subjects ranging from current intelligence objectives to future collection planning," reads an issue of SID Today, the NSA's internal newsletter, dating from September 2003. InfoWorkSpace (IWS), as the tool is called, allowed text chat, audio conferencing, shared screen views, and virtual whiteboards, the newsletter explains. It adds that, at the time, some 4,000 NSA and Five Eyes employees were already using IWS to work on a number of topics, such as international terrorism, real-time collection coordination, and Operation Enduring Freedom, the term given to operations in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014. The newsletter announcement refers to SIGINT Directors gaining access to the tool. Another Snowden document published by The Intercept notes that senior officials held their first virtual meeting with IWS around December 2003, but that "GCHQ was unable to attend due to a computer failure."
Communications

Online Drug Sales Triple After Silk Road Closure, Says Report (nbcnews.com) 95

The closure of Silk Road -- a marketplace where internet users could purchase drugs and other illegal goods -- in 2013 has had little to no effect on drug sales. According to a new report from RAND, online drug sales have tripled since the site was shut down. NBC News reports: "Since then, an estimated 50 'cryptomarkets and vendor shops where vendors and buyers find each other anonymously to trade illegal drugs, new psychoactive substances, prescription drugs and other goods and services,' have emerged to fill the void, according to the report. The research, which was commissioned by the Netherlands Ministry of Security and Justice, examined data from January and found dealers in the United States had the largest market share with 35.9 percent, followed by the United Kingdom at 16.1 percent and Australia at 10.6 percent. Marijuana was the top seller in January, accounting for 33 percent of illicit drug sales online, followed by prescription medication at 19 percent and stimulants at 18 percent."
Australia

Australian Census Website Shut Down On Census Night After 4 DDoS Attacks (smh.com.au) 129

Heart44 writes: News sites are reporting that the Australian census website has been shut down until further notice. This happened on census night, Tuesday (Australian time), August 9th, 2016. This is the first attempt at an online census where [the internet] is the default data collection method. You had to call an often busy number to get a paper form. This is on top of a long running controversy that the Australian Bureau of Statistics will keep the names and addresses of everyone for five years. I presume more useful links will appear over time. "The site was targeted by four denial of service (DoS) attacks," chief statistician David Kalisch told ABC radio. The Sydney Morning Herald reports: "The first three caused minor disruptions and did not stop more than two million census forms from being 'successfully submitted and safely stored,' he said. But the site was shut down after a 'gap' in the system's security measures was found during a fourth attack (AEST), Mr Kalisch said. 'After the fourth attack, which took place just after 7:30pm [on Tuesday AEST], the ABS took the precaution of closing down the system to ensure the integrity of the data,' Mr Kalisch said. 'I can certainly reassure Australians the data they provided is safe,' he said."

UPDATE 8/09/16: Many reports are contradicting Kalisch's claim that the website was shut down from DDoS attacks. User @mhackling on Twitter tweeted a screenshot of Digital Attack Map showing "nothing unusual DDoS wise for Australia and yesterday."
Education

Positive Link Between Video Games and Academic Performance, Study Suggests (theguardian.com) 100

Here's another report reaffirming that playing online video games doesn't necessarily hinder one with their grades. According to an analysis of data from over 12,000 high school students in Australia, children who play online video games tend to do better in academic science, maths and reading tests. The study says kids who played online games almost every day scored 15 points above average in maths and reading tests and 17 points above average in science. "The analysis shows that those students who play online video games obtain higher scores on Pisa (Program for International Student Assessment -- internationally recognized tests that are administered by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)) tests, all other things being equal," said Alberto Posso, from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology whp analyzed the data. "When you play online games you're solving puzzles to move to the next level and that involves using some of the general knowledge and skills in maths, reading and science that you've been taught during the day." The Guardian reports: The cause of the association between game playing and academic success is not clear from the research. It is possible that children who are gifted at maths, science and reading are more likely to play online games. Alternatively, it could be that more proficient students work more efficiently, and therefore have more free time, making online gaming a marker of possible academic ability rather than something that actively boosts performance. Posso also looked at the correlation between social media use and Pisa scores. He concluded that users of sites such as Facebook and Twitter were more likely to score 4% lower on average, and the more frequent the social networking usage, the bigger the difference. 78% of the teenagers said they used social networks every day. Other studies have found a link between heavy users of social networking and a low attention span, which is also linked to poorer academic performance, but the evidence is less than conclusive.
Earth

Florida District Considers Releasing GMO Mosquitos After Cayman Islands Experiment (accuweather.com) 144

It's already underway just 364 miles south of Florida, according to the Associated Press. "The first wave of genetically modified mosquitoes were released Wednesday in the Cayman Islands as part of a new effort to control the insect that spreads Zika and other viruses," according to an article shared by Slashdot reader Okian Warrior: Genetically altered male mosquitoes, which don't bite but are expected to mate with females to produce offspring that die before reaching adulthood, were released in the West Bay area of Grand Cayman Island, according to a joint statement from the Cayman Islands Mosquito Research and Control Unit and British biotech firm Oxitec.
"What could possibly go wrong?" asks The Atlantic, citing history's great pest-control fails in Hawaii and Australia. But a similar release is already being considered in the Florida Keys, though Accuweather reports it apparently depends on the results of a November referendum which could also "affect the likelihood of Oxitec trials taking place in other parts of the United States."
Earth

X-Rays Reveal Hidden Portrait Under Painting By Edgar Degas (npr.org) 25

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: Using specialized X-ray imaging, a team of researchers in Australia has revealed a striking painting of a woman's face hidden under French Impressionist Edgar Degas' Portrait of a Woman. The researchers believe the auburn-haired woman in the hidden work -- which they also attribute to Degas -- is Emma Dobigny, who was reportedly one of Degas' favorite subjects and modeled for him in 1869 and 1870. "Degas painted directly on the underlying portrait with no intermediate ground paint layer using exceptionally thin paint layers, thus little pigment is present to provide hiding power," the researchers explained in the journal Nature. "The hiding power of paint layers often decreases as oil paintings age." Even as the traces of a ghostly form emerged over the course of decades, conventional imaging technology could only provide hints of what the hidden portrait looked like. Now, an enhanced process known as X-ray fluorescence elemental mapping gives a far better picture. The technique allowed the researchers to scan for the individual elements -- such as iron, zinc and copper -- found in different colors of paint. The team said the maps "can be used to deduce pigment use based on the elements observed within the context of the painting." For example, "Fe and Mn are co-located in the hidden sitter's hair [...] strongly suggesting the use of the brown pigment umber." The researchers detected cobalt in the face, and deduced that it is "probably present as a blue pigment, which is useful in defining flesh tones." This chart shows maps of elements the researchers tested in an effort to create a representation of the hidden work.
Australia

Australian Census Stirs Up Storm of Privacy Concerns (buzzfeed.com) 129

An anonymous reader writes: Next week over 20 million Australians will take part in a mandatory government census. While such data-gathering exercises are usually uncontroversial, some significant changes to the process of collecting the 2016 data -- and in particular the way in which personally-identifying information will be retained for long periods (possibly indefinintely) -- have left many privacy advocates and others calling for a mass boycott. The Australian government's response has been to try to calm fears by promising that it will secure the census data, keep personally identifying data separate from statistical data, and only use each in a responsible way. It has, at the same time reminded Australian citizens that the fines for non-participation in the census have recently been radically increased (now $1800 for failure to submit a form; or $180/day for late submissions).Further reading: Australians threaten to take leave of their census.
Privacy

New Site Checks Your Browser's Fingerprint 104

"Does your web browser have a unique fingerprint? If so your web browser could be tracked across websites without techniques such as tracking cookies..." warns a new site created by the University of Adelaide and ACEMS, adding "the anonymization aspects of services such as Tor or VPNs could be negated if sites you visit track you using your browser fingerprint." AnonymousCube contacted Slashdot about their free browser fingerprinting test suite: On the site you can see what data can be used to track you and how unique your fingerprint is. The site includes new tests, such as detecting software such as Privacy Badger, via how social media buttons are disabled, and CSS only (no JavaScript or flash) tests to get screen size and installed fonts.
If you're serious about privacy, you might want to test the uniqueness of your browser's fingerprint.
Australia

Australia Has Moved 1.5 Metres, So It's Updating Its Location For Self-Driving Cars (cnet.com) 134

An anonymous reader shares a CNET report: Australia is changing from "down under" to "down under and across a bit". The country is shifting its longitude and latitude to fix a discrepancy with global satellite navigation systems. Government body Geoscience Australia is updating the Geocentric Datum of Australia, the country's national coordinate system, to bring it in line with international data. The reason Australia is slightly out of whack with global systems is that the country moves about 7 centimetres (2.75 inches) per year due to the shifting of tectonic plates. Since 1994, when the data was last recorded, that's added up to a misalignment of about a metre and a half. While that might not seem like much, various new technology requires location data to be pinpoint accurate. Self-driving cars, for example, must have infinitesimally precise location data to avoid accidents. Drones used for package delivery and driverless farming vehicles also require spot-on information.ABC has more details.
Google

Google Play Rolls Out Family Sharing (usatoday.com) 41

Google on Wednesday announced a new Google Play feature dubbed Family Library that allows up to 6 people to share apps, movies, books purchases. It will roll out to people in the next 48 hours in 12 countries (Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, the U.K., and the United States) and requires people to sign up and add family members (you can add your friends as family member). The announcement is mostly in line with a CNET report from earlier this month. USA Today reports: The feature will allow users to share apps, games, movies, TV shows or books from Google Play on Android devices. Movies, TV shows and books can be shared on iOS platforms and the Web. After a user signs up for the Family Library, the person adds up to five family members and decides on the credit card that will be used for the families purchases. Eunice Kim, head of families for Google Play said a unique feature of Google Play compared to other family sharing initiatives is that family members can also choose to pay with their personal credit card or with gift cards. The same user who organized the family can control who below the age of 18 needs permission to purchase content.The feature is strikingly similar to an option in Apple's App Store that does the same thing.
Businesses

Apple: Pokemon Go Sets Record For Most Downloads In Its First Week (techcrunch.com) 35

An anonymous reader writes: Apple has confirmed to TechCrunch that Pokemon Go has attracted more downloads in the App Store during its first week than any other app in App Store history. What's even more surprisingly is that the app was only available in a few countries at the time -- it initially launched in New Zealand, Australia and the U.S. Apple didn't provide the number of downloads, but one can assume it's well into the millions. Pokemon Go is expected to become even more popular as it becomes available in more countries -- the game just launched in Japan today. With millions of downloads in the first week alone, Pokemon Go is expected to generate large sums of money for Apple. The Guardian is reporting that Apple will "rake in $3 billion in revenue from Pokemon Go in the next one to two years as gamers buy 'PokeCoins' from its app store."

Slashdot Top Deals