The Military

Britain's Plan To Build a 2,000 Foot Aircraft Carrier Almost Entirely From Ice ( 33

dryriver writes from a report via the BBC: In World War 2, Britain was losing the Battle of the Atlantic, with German U-boats sinking ship after ship. Enter Project Habakkuk, the incredible plan to build an aircraft carrier from ice. The British government wanted a better way of battling German U-boats and needed an aircraft carrier invulnerable to torpedoes and bombs. Inventor Geoffrey Pyke came up with the idea of using solid blocks of ice, strengthened with sawdust, creating the material Pykrete, to build a ship big enough for bombers to land on. Winston Churchill became interested in the plan after Pyke pitched it to him. The proposed ship was to be 610 meters (2,013 feet) long and weigh 1.8 Million tons, considerably larger and heavier than today's biggest ships. It would have hull armor 12 meters (40 feet) thick. Work on building a proof-of-concept prototype started at Patricia Lake, Canada. But when it became clear that the finished aircraft carrier would take until 1945 to build, and cost 10 million pounds, the British government cancelled the project in 1943, and the prototype in Canada was scuppered.

New York Councilman Proposes Bill That Would Grant NYC Workers 'Right To Disconnect' ( 47

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: New York City councilman Rafael Espinal released a "Right to Disconnect" bill on Thursday, advocating for the rights of employees to stop answering work-related emails and other digital messages, like texts, after official work hours. "Our work lives have spilled into our personal lives because of technology," he told me. "It's time we unblur and strike a clear line." Brooklyn-based Espinal said he got the idea from France, where a bill passed early last year by the Ministry of Labor requires companies of over 50 employees to define out-of-office email rules. He wanted to create a similar guideline so that workers would not be penalized for disconnecting after work hours. But that's France -- known for joie de vivre -- and this is New York, known for not sleeping.

Answering work emails after work hours, or during weekends, or on vacation, has become par for the course here, and across the US. Statistics rarely account for the extra hours spent managing post-office work -- by most official counts, Americans work the same number of hours -- around 39 to 47 per week -- just as we did in the 1950s. But those of us living it know this isn't true: technology has completely changed the way we work, and burnout is rampant among American workers. If Espinal were able to implement the bill, it would face similar challenges to its European counterparts. Critics say the legislation in France has no teeth, and companies are still allowed to define their own guidelines, leaving room for exploitation. And the New York version of the "Right to Disconnect" bill includes exemptions for jobs that require 24-hour on-call periods.


FCC Chief Cites Concerns on Spy Threats From Chinese Telecoms Firms ( 41

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, in a letter sent to lawmakers earlier this week (but released just now), said he shares the concerns of U.S. lawmakers about espionage threats from Chinese smartphone maker Huawei and plans to take "proactive steps" to ensure the integrity of the U.S. communications supply chain. From a report: Pai said he shares concerns over the "security threat that Huawei and other Chinese technology companies pose to our communications networks." Pai said he intends to take action in the "near future," but offered no specifics. Pai's letter follows the introduction of legislation by Republican Senators Tom Cotton and Marco Rubio in February that would block the U.S. government from buying or leasing telecoms equipment from Huawei, the world's third largest smartphone maker, or Chinese telecommunications equipment maker ZTE Corp, citing concerns the companies would use their access to spy on U.S. officials.

US Charges Iranians For Global Cyber Attacks on Behalf of Tehran ( 34

The United States on Friday charged nine Iranians and an Iranian company with attempting to hack into hundreds of U.S. and international universities, dozens of companies and parts of the U.S. government on behalf of the Tehran government. From a report: The cyber attack pilfered more than 31 terabytes of academic data and intellectual property from 144 U.S. universities and 176 universities in 21 foreign countries, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement. The U.S. Treasury Department said on its website that it was placing sanctions on those accused and the Mabna Institute, a company described by U.S. prosecutors as designed to help Iranian research organizations steal information.

Pablo Escobar's Brother Says He Met an FBI Agent Posing As Satoshi Nakamoto ( 37

Jordan Pearson, writing for Motherboard: Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar's brother, Roberto Escobar, is launching a new cryptocurrency called "Dietbitcoin." It's a clone of Bitcoin of the kind that can take mere minutes to create, with no changes or improvements whatsoever. But Escobar is nonetheless hawking virtual coins for $2 USD each now, and $1,000 in later rounds of the crowd sale. Now here's the good shit. Along with Dietbitcoin's launch came a 280-page book, part memoir and part manifesto, titled "Pablo Escobar's Dietbitcoin: The True Story by Roberto Escobar." Roberto allegedly authored the book -- when I reached Escobar for an interview the company said he was not available, but CEO Olof Gustafsson told me over the phone that Roberto wrote it. In it, Roberto claims that he had a close encounter with a US government agent posing as the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto. This encounter led Roberto to conclude that the US government created Bitcoin and will one day crash the market by selling all of Nakamoto's stashed bitcoins. The veracity of this tale is highly suspect; Roberto Escobar is a well-known eccentric who once claimed to have cured HIV with his knowledge of horses.

More Evidence Ties Alleged DNC Hacker Guccifer 2.0 To Russian Intelligence ( 181

An anonymous reader shares a report: It may be a while since you've heard the handle "Guccifer 2.0," the hacker who took responsibility for the infamous DNC hack of 2016. Reports from the intelligence community at the time, as well as common sense, pegged Guccifer 2.0 not as the Romanian activist he claimed to be, but a Russian operative. Evidence has been scarce, but one slip-up may have given the game away. An anonymous source close to the U.S. government investigation of the hacker told the Daily Beast that on one single occasion, Guccifer 2.0 failed to log into the usual VPN that disguised their traffic. As a result, they left one honest IP trace at an unnamed social media site.

That IP address, "identified Guccifer 2.0 as a particular GRU officer working out of the agency's headquarters on Grizodubovoy Street in Moscow," the Daily Beast reported. (The GRU is one of the Russia's security and intelligence organs.) Previous work by security researchers had suggested this, but it's the first I've heard of evidence this direct. Assuming it's genuine, it's a sobering reminder of how fragile anonymity is on the internet -- one click and the whole thing comes crashing down.

The Internet

FCC's New 5G Rules Favor Fast Setup Over Federal Reviews ( 53

In a 3-2, party-line vote Thursday, FCC commissioners passed a measure that exempts small cell radio deployments from federal environmental and historical preservation reviews originally meant for large cell phone towers. The vote didn't affect reviews from towns and cities, but the agency may consider exemptions for those reviews later this year. CNET reports: Republican FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr has been leading the agency's charge in promoting 5G. He said the exemptions are sorely needed because reviews have been costing wireless operators too much and have slowed deployments. In 2017, these federal reviews cost providers $36 million. He anticipates that as 5G deployments increase in the coming year they could cost providers as much as $241 million. Meanwhile, he said FCC records show that less than 1 percent of cases reviewed resulted in any changes to planned deployments.

"The disproportionate fees are the product of a broken and outdated system," Carr said. "This threatens to hold us back in the race to 5G or limit the business case to densely populated or affluent areas." He added that with Thursday's rule change, the FCC "can flip the business case for thousands of communities." Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, however, said that though the current reviews process does involve red tape, Thursday's change "misses the mark" and also runs afoul of key environmental and historic preservation values.


South Korea To Shut Off Computers Past 19:00 Hours To Stop People Working Late ( 102

dryriver shares a report from the BBC: The government in South Korea's capital is introducing a new initiative to force its employees to leave work on time -- by powering down all their computers at 20:00 on Fridays. It says it is trying to stop a "culture of working overtime." South Korea has some of the longest working hours in the world. Government employees there work an average of 2,739 hours a year -- about 1,000 hours more than workers in other developed countries. The shutdown initiative in the Seoul Metropolitan Government is set to roll out across three phases over the next three months. The program will begin on March 30, with all computers switched off by 20:00. The second phase starts in April, with employees having their computers turned off by 19:30 on the second and fourth Friday that month. From May on, the program will be in full-swing, with computers shut off by 19:00 every Friday. According to a SMG statement, all employees will be subjected to the shutdown, though exemptions may be provided in special circumstances. However, not every government worker seems to be on-board -- according to the SMG, 67.1% of government workers have asked to be exempt from the forced lights-out. Earlier this month, South Korea's national assembly passed a law to cut down the maximum weekly working hours to 52, down from 68.'

Atlanta City Government Systems Down Due To Ransomware Attack ( 63

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The city of Atlanta government has apparently become the victim of a ransomware attack. The city's official Twitter account announced that the city government "is currently experiencing outages on various customer facing applications, including some that customers may use to pay bills or access court-related information." According to a report from Atlanta NBC affiliate WXIA, a city employee sent the station a screen shot of a ransomware message demanding a payment of $6,800 to unlock each computer or $51,000 to provide all the keys for affected systems. Employees received emails from the city's information technology department instructing them to unplug their computers if they noticed anything suspicious. An internal email shared with WXIA said that the internal systems affected include the city's payroll application. "At this time, our Atlanta Information Management team is working diligently with support from Microsoft to resolve the issue," a city spokesperson told Ars. "We are confident that our team of technology professionals will be able to restore applications soon." The city's primary website remains online, and the city government will continue to post updates there, the spokesperson added.
United States

Trump Announces $60 Billion Tariff on Chinese High-Tech and Other Goods ( 514

Following months of investigations by the U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, the Trump administration announced on Thursday at a White House briefing that the administration intends to place about $60 billion of tariffs on Chinese goods, with the bulk of them likely to be focused on the high-tech industry. The White House will announce a final list of goods subject to the tariffs in the next few weeks. From a report: "We've lost over a fairly short period of time, 60,000 factories in our country. Closed, shuttered, gone. Six million jobs at least, gone. And now they are starting to come back," President Trump said during the briefing. "The word that I want to use is reciprocal -- when they charge 25 percent for a car to go in, and we charge 2 percent for their car to come into the United States, that's not good. That's how China rebuilt itself."

UK Launches Task Force To Scrutinize Cryptocurrency Risks and Benefits ( 27

U.K. Finance Minister Philip Hammond unveiled a task force that examines the risks and benefits of cryptocurrencies on Thursday. From a report: Hammond announced Thursday that the task force includes Britain's central bank, the Bank of England (BOE), and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) watchdog. He said that the BOE and FCA would also take the "first steps" toward automating financial compliance in Britain. The cryptocurrency task force is part of a wider fintech, or financial technology, strategy laid out by Westminster. As part of its initiative, the U.K. signed an agreement dubbed a "fintech bridge" with Australia on Thursday that will enable British fintech firms to sell products and services in Australia. The deal will also look to build cooperation on policies and regulation surrounding the sector, Hammond said. Hammond said he wanted to make the U.K. the "most attractive home" for global fintech firms.

YouTube To Follow Amazon By Screening Its Movies Inside Theaters ( 36

An anonymous reader shares a report: Following YouTube's announcement last month that it intends to spend "hundreds of millions" on original content for Red, it's just unveiled plans for a YouTube-made movie that'll also be released in theaters. And unlike its previous effort, 2016's widely-regarded flop Lazer Team, this project has a serious name attached to it: Susan Sarandon. The film, Vulture Club, is already in post-production. It stars Oscar-winning Susan Sarandon as an emergency room nurse whose son has been kidnapped by terrorists, and after being abandoned by the government, finds help in the unlikeliest of places. The thriller also stars Edie Falco of The Sopranos and Matt Bomer of Magic Mike, and is directed by Iranian-American Maryam Keshavarz, of Circumstance fame. Despite being slated for theatrical release, details on YouTube's plans to actually get the movie into theaters are scarce.
United States

US Spending Bill Contains CLOUD Act, a Win For Tech and Law Enforcement ( 116

The 2,232 page spending bill released Wednesday by House and Senate leaders includes the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data [CLOUD] Act, which provides a legal framework for law enforcement to request data from overseas servers. The CLOUD Act currently sits high atop the wish list of tech firms, law enforcement and even foreign nations. Axios reports: The Supreme Court is currently mulling a case determining whether the Department of Justice had the right to force Microsoft to produce client emails stored on a server in Ireland without permission from Ireland's government. Microsoft fears the DOJ will force it to violate the laws of Ireland. The DOJ hopes to avoid the often years long process of abiding by treaties dealing with evidence. But both have publicly urged lawmakers to render the pending decision moot by passing the CLOUD act, a way to streamline the treaty process for requesting digital data.

The CLOUD Act provides a framework for reciprocal treaties for nations to request data from computers located within each other's borders. It also provides a mechanism for a Microsoft to take a law enforcement demand to court if it would force them to violate another country's rules. But when neither apply, law enforcement will be able to demand files in accordance with U.S. law.


Best Buy Stops Selling Huawei Smartphones ( 86

Best Buy, the nation's largest electronics big box retailer, has ceased ordering new smartphones from Huawei and will stop selling its products over the next few weeks. Best Buy didn't provide any details as to why it has severed ties with Huawei, but it may have to do with security concerns involving the Chinese government. CNET reports: The move is a critical blow to Huawei, which is the world's third-largest smartphone vendor behind Apple and Samsung but has struggled to establish any presence in the U.S. Best Buy was one of Huawei's biggest retail partners, and one of the rare places where you could physically see its phones. Huawei phones aren't sold by any U.S. carriers, where a majority of Americans typically buy their phones. Security concerns have long dogged Huawei in the U.S. In 2012, the House Intelligence Committee released a report accusing Huawei and fellow Chinese vendor ZTE of making telecommunications equipment that posed national security threats, and banned U.S. companies from buying the gear. At the time, the committee stressed that the report didn't refer to its smartphones. But that's changed over the last several months. The directors of the FBI, CIA and NSA all expressed their concerns about the risks posed by Huawei and ZTE.

Russia Secretly Helped Venezuela Launch a Cryptocurrency To Evade US Sanctions ( 105

According to an exclusive report by Time, Russia helped Venezuelan officials create the world's first state-backed cryptocurrency to skirt U.S. sanctions. The cryptocurrency was launched in late February and was banned by the Trump administration earlier this week. From the report: The new cryptocurrency, a form of digital cash that is supposedly linked to the value of Venezuela's oil reserves, was launched on Feb. 20 during a ceremony in the presidential palace in Caracas. Nicolas Maduro, the socialist leader of Venezuela, declared that it would serve as a kind of "kryptonite" against the power of the U.S government, which he sarcastically referred to as "Superman." Sitting in the front row at that ceremony were two of Maduro's Russian advisers, Denis Druzhkov and Fyodor Bogorodsky, whom the President thanked for aiding his fight against American "imperialism." Both men have ties to major Russian banks and billionaires close to the Kremlin. But they were not the most senior Russians involved. According to an executive at a Russian state bank who deals with cryptocurrencies, senior advisers to the Kremlin have overseen the effort in Venezuela, and President Vladimir Putin signed off on it last year. "People close to Putin, they told him this is how to avoid the sanctions," says the executive, who spoke to TIME on condition of anonymity. "This is how the whole thing started."

Senate Passes Controversial Online Sex Trafficking Bill ( 162

The Senate today gave final approval to a bill aimed at cracking down on online sex trafficking, sending the measure to the White House where President Trump is expected to sign it into law. From a report: The legislation, called the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), but also referred to as SESTA, would cut into the broad protections websites have from legal liability for content posted by their users. Those protections are codified in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act from 1996, a law that many internet companies see as vital to protecting their platforms and that SESTA would amend to create an exception for sex trafficking.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the most outspoken critic of SESTA and one of the authors of the 1996 law, said that making exceptions to Section 230 will lead to small internet companies having to face an onslaught of frivolous lawsuits.
EFF expressed its disappointment, saying, "Today is a dark day for the Internet. Congress just passed the Internet censorship bill SESTA/FOSTA. SESTA/FOSTA will silence online speech by forcing Internet platforms to censor their users. As lobbyists and members of Congress applaud themselves for enacting a law ostensibly tackling the problem of trafficking, let's be clear: Congress just made trafficking victims less safe, not more. Sex trafficking experts have tried again and again to explain to Congress how SESTA/FOSTA will put trafficking victims in danger. Sex workers have spoken out too, explaining how online platforms have literally saved their lives. Why didn't Congress consult with the people their bill would most directly affect? [...] When platforms choose to err on the side of censorship, marginalized voices are censored disproportionately. SESTA/FOSTA will make the Internet a less inclusive place, something that hurts all of us. This might just be the beginning. Some of these groups behind SESTA / FOSTA seem to see the bill as a mere stepping stone to banning pornography from the Internet."

Kaspersky Lab Plans Swiss Data Center To Combat Spying Allegations, Report Says ( 47

An anonymous reader shares a report: Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab plans to open a data center in Switzerland to address Western government concerns that Russia exploits its anti-virus software to spy on customers, according to internal documents seen by Reuters. Kaspersky is setting up the center in response to actions in the United States, Britain and Lithuania last year to stop using the company's products, according to the documents, which were confirmed by a person with direct knowledge of the matter. The action is the latest effort by Kaspersky, a global leader in anti-virus software, to parry accusations by the U.S. government and others that the company spies on customers at the behest of Russian intelligence.

Chinese Companies Are Buying Up Cash-Strapped US Colleges ( 205

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Chinese companies are taking advantage of America's financially strapped higher-education system to buy schools, and the latest deal for a classical music conservatory in Princeton, New Jersey, is striking chords of dissonance on campus. Beijing Kaiwen Education Technology Co. agreed in February to pay $40 million for Westminster Choir College, an affiliate of Rider University that trains students for careers as singers, conductors and music teachers. The announcement came just weeks after the government-controlled Chinese company changed its name from Jiangsu Zhongtai Bridge Steel Structure Co. The pending purchase rankles some Westminster faculty and alumni, who question what a longtime maker of steel spans knows about running an elite school whose choirs sang with maestros Leonard Bernstein, Arturo Toscanini and Seiji Ozawa. Alumni are among those suing in New York federal court to block the sale, saying it violates Westminster's 1991 merger agreement with Rider and will trigger the choir college's demise.

The NSA Worked To 'Track Down' Bitcoin Users, Snowden Documents Reveal ( 60

An anonymous reader shares a report: Classified documents provided by the whistleblower Edward Snowden show the National Security Agency worked urgently to target Bitcoin users around the world -- and wielded at least one mysterious source of information to "help track down senders and receivers of Bitcoins," according to a top-secret passage in an internal NSA report dating to March 2013. The data source appears to have leveraged NSA's ability to harvest and analyze raw, global internet traffic while also exploiting an unnamed software program that purported to offer anonymity to users, according to other documents.

Although the agency was interested in surveilling some competing cryptocurrencies, "Bitcoin is #1 priority," a March 15, 2013 internal NSA report stated. The documents indicate that "tracking down" Bitcoin users went well beyond closely examining Bitcoin's public transaction ledger, known as the Blockchain, where users are typically referred to through anonymous identifiers; the tracking may also have involved gathering intimate details of these users' computers. The NSA collected some Bitcoin users' password information, internet activity, and a type of unique device identification number known as a MAC address, a March 29, 2013 NSA memo suggested. In the same document, analysts also discussed tracking internet users' internet addresses, network ports, and timestamps to identify "BITCOIN Targets."


FTC Probing Facebook For Use of Personal Data: Bloomberg ( 78

An anonymous reader shares a report: Facebook is under investigation by a U.S. privacy watchdog over the use of personal data of 50 million users by a data analytics firm to help elect President Donald Trump. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is probing whether Facebook violated terms of a 2011 consent decree of its handing of user data that was transferred to Cambridge Analytica without their knowledge, according to a person familiar with the matter. Under the 2011 settlement, Facebook agreed to get user consent for certain changes to privacy settings as part of a settlement of federal charges that it deceived consumers and forced them to share more personal information than they intended. That complaint arose after the company changed some user settings without notifying its customers, according to an FTC statement at the time. If the FTC finds Facebook violated terms of the consent decree, it has the power to fine the company thousands of dollars a day per violation.

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