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2019-07-09 12:34:49 UTC
2019-07-09 13:42:34 UTC
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Several sites are reporting that Windows 10 telemetry and the invasiveness of Office 365's monitoring mean that schools in the German state of Hesse have been banned from using it. The decision was handed down by the Hesse Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (HBDI — Hessische Beauftragte für Datenschutz und die Informationsfreiheit.) The ban also applies to many other "cloud" services for the same reasons, so Google Docs and Apple's hosted services are banned as well in the same move.
The issue is not solely with hosted services in and of themselves but with the data collection carried out by the services and the question of consent for that with minors. The issue of coerced consent is not raised yet in that context. For the time being, standalone solutions like LibreOffice or Calligra would solve the problem and, many would say, be significantly better all around.
[There used to be a datacenter in Germany — the Deutschland-Cloud — on which the German student data was stored, but that was closed in August 2018. That data was migrated, and new data is now stored, on a European data center that can be accessed by US officials upon request. --Ed.]
9to5Mac: Office 365 banned from German schools, Google Docs and iWork also ruled out
CNet: Microsoft Office 365 banned in some schools over privacy concerns
The Verge: German state bans Office 365 in schools, citing privacy concerns
The Next Web: German schools ban Microsoft Office 365 amid privacy concerns
Original Decision: Stellungnahme des Hessischen Beauftragten für Datenschutz und Informationsfreiheit zum Einsatz von Microsoft Office 365 in hessischen Schulen
Submitted via IRC for AnonymousLuser
How do neurons process information? Neurons are known to break down an incoming electrical signal into sub-units. Now, researchers at Blue Brain have discovered that dendrites, the neuron's tree-like receptors, work together—dynamically and depending on the workload—for learning. The findings further our understanding of how we think and may inspire new algorithms for artificial intelligence.
In a paper published in the journal Cell Reports, researchers at EPFL's Blue Brain Project, a Swiss Brain Research Initiative, have developed a new framework to work out how a single neuron in the brain operates.
The analysis was performed using cells from the Blue Brain's virtual rodent cortex. The researchers expect other types of neurons—non-cortical or human—to operate in the same way.
Their results show that when a neuron receives input, the branches of the elaborate tree-like receptors extending from the neuron, known as dendrites, functionally work together in a way that is adjusted to the complexity of the input.
The strength of a synapse determines how strongly a neuron feels an electric signal coming from other neurons, and the act of learning changes this strength. By analyzing the "connectivity matrix" that determines how these synapses communicate with each other, the algorithm establishes when and where synapses group into independent learning units from the structural and electrical properties of dendrites. In other words, the new algorithm determines how the dendrites of neurons functionally break up into separate computing units and finds that they work together dynamically, depending on the workload, to process information.
[...] To date traditional learning algorithms (such as those currently used in A.I. applications) assume that neurons are static units that merely integrate and re-scale incoming signals. By contrast, the results show that the number and size of the independent subunits can be controlled by balanced input or shunting inhibition. The researchers propose that this temporary control of the compartmentalization constitutes a powerful mechanism for the branch-specific learning of input features.
"The method finds that in many brain states, neurons have far fewer parallel processors than expected from dendritic branch patterns. Thus, many synapses appear to be in 'grey zones' where they do not belong to any processing unit," explains lead scientist and first author Willem Wybo. "However, in the brain, neurons receive varying levels of background input and our results show that the number of parallel processors varies with the level of background input, indicating that the same neuron might have different computational roles in different brain states."
"We are particularly excited about this observation since it sheds a new light on the role of up/down states in the brain and it also provides a reason as to why cortical inhibition is so location-specific. With the new insights, we can start looking for algorithms that exploit the rapid changes in pairing between processing units, offering us more insight into the fundamental question of how the brain computes," concludes Gewaltig.
About 300 demonstrators are trying to halt construction on the controversial Thirty Meter Telescope, developers of which are supposed to break ground on Hawaii's Big Island this week. Before the sun came up on the summit of Mauna Kea, the island's tallest mountain, a group of about half a dozen protesters chained themselves to a grate in the road at the base of the dormant volcano in an attempt to block workers from accessing the only paved road onto the what they say is a sacred site.
Imai Winchester, a teacher from Oahu who was among the protesters chained to the road, said he arrived at about 3 a.m. local time. "A handful of us committed ourselves to this action to bring light to the situation here," Winchester told KHON. The goal of the civil disobedience, he said, is to inform people about the "desecration of our lands, the failure of the state and its agencies to properly manage something that is important." He added that he expected to be arrested for the nonviolent protest but that it is the group's "burden as well as our privilege to show our children and the rest of the world how much we love our land."
Daniel Meisenzahl, a spokesman for the University of Hawaii, a member of the international partnership of scientists behind the telescope, said it is unclear if the protest has delayed construction convoys.
The first case of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo city of Goma has been discovered.
Goma, a lakeside city with a population of two million people, is close to the Rwanda border – more than 354 km (220 miles) south of where the second-largest Ebola outbreak was first detected a year ago.
The haemorrhagic fever has gradually spread south, infecting almost 2,500 people and killing more than 1,600.
The Ministry of Health said the person with the confirmed case was a pastor who became infected during a visit to the city of Butembo, where he interacted with Ebola patients.
He first developed symptoms last week before taking a bus to Goma on Friday.
When he arrived in Goma on Sunday he went to a clinic where he tested positive for Ebola.
Officials have now located the bus driver and 18 other passengers, who will all be vaccinated on Monday.
[...] Ronald Klain, who served as Barack Obama's Ebola czar, said: "Just one case might be just one case. But, if this is multiple cases in Goma, that is a turning point."
Goma has been preparing for the arrival of Ebola for a year, setting up hand-washing stations and making sure mototaxi drivers do not share helmets.
But in more rural areas, where containment efforts have been hindered by mistrust of health officials and militia violence, the virus has been hard to contain and the number of new cases has spiked.
SpaceX held a press conference on Monday to discuss the results of a months-long investigation conducted by itself and NASA into an anomaly that took place during a static fire test in April. The investigation found that the "anomaly" that occurred during the test was the result of oxidizer mixing with the helium component of the SuperDraco rocket engine propellant system at very high pressure.
On April 20, SpaceX held an abort engine test for a prototype of its Crew Dragon vehicle (which had been flown previously for the uncrewed ISS mission). Crew Dragon is designed to be the first crew-carrying SpaceX spacecraft, and is undergoing a number of tests to prove to NASA its flight-readiness. After the first few tests proved successful, the test encountered a failure that was instantly visible, with an unexpected explosion that produced a plume of fire visible for miles around the testing site at its Landing Zone 1 facility in Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Previously: Reuters: Boeing Starliner Flights to the ISS Delayed by at Least Another 3 Months
SpaceX Crew Dragon Suffers "Anomaly" During Static Fire Test
Investigation Into Crew Dragon Incident Continues
[Ed Note - The article at Teslarati has a good description of the suspected failure.]
Got a player for 2-inch Quadruplex videotapes sitting around? You could view original NASA recordings of the Apollo 11 moon landing in your living room.
Sotheby's is auctioning off three first-generation tapes of the historic touchdown as part of its July 20 auction of space exploration artifacts set to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing.
The tapes run a total of 2 hours and 24 minutes and capture moments including Neil Armstrong declaring, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." Also on the tapes are the "long-distance phone call" with President Richard Nixon and the planting of the American flag on the lunar surface.
[...] Gary George, an engineering student and NASA intern, purchased the tapes for $217.77 at a government surplus auction in 1976. It's estimated they'll sell for at least a $1 million at the Sotheby's event.
I was under the impression that the original tapes had been lost or recorded over. Does anyone else remember hearing that? Either way, this is a irreplaceable national treasure and I am astonished at seeing these up for auction. I am hopeful some philanthropist steps up, buys them, perhaps makes a personal copy, and then donates them to the Library of Congress.
Pennsylvania's message was clear: The state was taking a big step to keep its elections from being hacked in 2020. Last April, its top election official told counties they had to update their systems. So far, nearly 60% have taken action, with $14.15 million of mostly federal funds helping counties buy brand-new electoral systems.
But there's a problem: Many of these new systems still run on old software that will soon be outdated and more vulnerable to hackers.
An Associated Press analysis has found that like many counties in Pennsylvania, the vast majority of 10,000 election jurisdictions nationwide use Windows 7 or an older operating system to create ballots, program voting machines, tally votes and report counts.
That's significant because Windows 7 reaches its "end of life" on Jan. 14, meaning Microsoft stops providing technical support and producing "patches" to fix software vulnerabilities, which hackers can exploit. In a statement to the AP, Microsoft said Friday it would offer continued Windows 7 security updates for a fee through 2023.
Critics say the situation is an example of what happens when private companies ultimately determine the security level of election systems with a lack of federal requirements or oversight. Vendors say they have been making consistent improvements in election systems. And many state officials say they are wary of federal involvement in state and local elections.
It's unclear whether the often hefty expense of security updates would be paid by vendors operating on razor-thin profit margins or cash-strapped jurisdictions. It's also uncertain if a version running on Windows 10, which has more security features, can be certified and rolled out in time for primaries.
"That's a very serious concern," said J. Alex Halderman, a University of Michigan professor and renowned election security expert. He said the country risks repeating "mistakes that we made over the last decade or decade-and-a-half when states bought voting machines but didn't keep the software up-to-date and didn't have any serious provisions" for doing so.
The AP surveyed all 50 states, the District of Columbia and territories, and found multiple battleground states affected by the end of Windows 7 support, including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Iowa, Indiana, Arizona and North Carolina. Also affected are Michigan, which recently acquired a new system, and Georgia, which will announce its new system soon.
"Is this a bad joke?" said Marilyn Marks, executive director of the Coalition for Good Governance, an election integrity advocacy organization, upon learning about the Windows 7 issue. Her group sued Georgia to get it to ditch its paperless voting machines and adopt a more secure system. Georgia recently piloted a system running on Windows 7 that was praised by state officials.
If Georgia selects a system that runs on Windows 7, Marks said, her group will go to court to block the purchase. State elections spokeswoman Tess Hammock declined to comment because Georgia hasn't officially selected a vendor.
The election technology industry is dominated by three titans: Omaha, Nebraska-based Election Systems and Software LLC; Denver, Colorado-based Dominion Voting Systems Inc.; and Austin, Texas-based Hart InterCivic Inc. They make up about 92% of election systems used nationwide, according to a 2017 study . All three have worked to win over states newly infused with federal funds and eager for an update.
[...] Of the three companies, only Dominion's newer systems aren't touched by upcoming Windows software issues — though it has election systems acquired from no-longer-existing companies that may run on even older operating systems.
[...] After the AP began making inquiries, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., wrote McCormick asking what EAC, which has no regulatory power, is doing to address a "looming election cybersecurity crisis" that essentially lays the "red carpet" out to hackers.
"Congress must pass legislation giving the federal government the authority to mandate basic cybersecurity for election infrastructure," Wyden told the AP in a statement.
Visa believes the payment industry can move away from passwords in the next five years thanks to advancements in authentication and anti-fraud technologies that are already making "static" cardholder verification (CVM) methods such as signature and PINs optional.
With the ability of financial institutions and merchants to share 10 times more data with each other than ever before, and the growing sophistication of artificial intelligence (AI) that is making fraud detection faster and more accurate, Visa head of product Axel Boye-Moller believes that as this ecosystem evolves to be more secure, and AI and biometrics capabilities further mature, there is a future where legacy verification methods are eventually eliminated.
"Over the last few years as mobile technology has evolved, we're seeing increasingly biometrics included in mobile hardware -- that's really starting to take off as more and more banks and other providers start rolling out mobile payment solutions," Boye-Moller told ZDNet.
"But there's still a lot of ground to cover. Passwords can be incredibly frustrating. You forget them and they can be stolen."
[...] Additionally, Boye-Moller said as more payments are conducted via a mobile device, it becomes "very fiddly" to enter a password on smaller devices.
Increasingly, he added, there has been an explosion in the amount of connected devices that are accompanied by more online accounts and subscription-based payment requirements.
"We think biometrics is absolutely a critical part of that solution -- both convenient and secure," he said.
"The way they rolled out [mobile payments] standards is that every single transaction that is done or adopted is biometrically authenticated with a fingerprint or facial recognition."
While he said biometrics is part of the solution of moving to a password-free world, he believes it requires many other layers on top of that to drive more secure and convenient solutions.
"We believe that if we continue to collaborate strongly across industry we can we can reduce the current fraud rates by half by 2025," Boye-Moller added.
Lawmakers are zeroing in on the potential for foreign cyber attacks to take down the U.S. electric grid, with members in both chambers pushing hearings and a flurry of bills to address the issue.
Congressional interest in the issue is growing following reports that Iran has stepped up its cyber attacks against U.S. critical infrastructure, and as Trump administration officials cite threats from Russia and China against the electric grid.
A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee focused on threats to the grid during a hearing on Friday, as lawmakers look to get ahead of the issue.
[...] [Assistant secretary of the Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER). Karen] Evans highlighted the 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) earlier this year on the threat.
The assessment found that Russia not only has the ability to execute cyber attacks against the U.S. electric grid, but is also "mapping our critical infrastructure with the long-term goal of being able to cause substantial damage."
On China, the ODNI warned that the country "has the ability to launch cyber attacks that cause localized, temporary disruptive effects on critical infrastructure."
Recent analysis has also shown that Iran is stepping up cyber attacks against the U.S., drawing the attention of Trump officials. Christopher Krebs, the director of the Department of Homeland Security's cybersecurity agency, said in a statement that officials "will continue to work with our intelligence community and cybersecurity partners to monitor Iranian cyber activity, share information and take steps to keep America and our allies safe."
The array of threats has Congress taking notice, and lawmakers from both parties have introduced a number of bills to combat cyber threats to the energy sector.
[...] Richard Mroz, senior advisor on state and government relations at Protect Our Power, said out a serious roadblock to legislation to secure the grid are concerns over costs.
"One challenge industry and regulators have is what is this all going to cost, and it isn't quite clear what those costs are yet," Mroz told The Hill. "Consumers need to understand that to protect these systems, it's going to cost something."
But Mroz underlined the overall threats to the grid and the urgency facing lawmakers. He warned that despite industry's efforts, in a worst-case scenario a cyber attacker could hack into a control system and endanger civilians.
"That is the issue, that an adversary could remotely turn off the power plant, turn off the wastewater treatment system, turn off the pumps or the switches for our cell tower," Mroz said.
Franky Zapata flew his invention, a turbine engine powered flyboard, above the Champs-Elysees showing off to President Emmanual Macon, Angela Merkel and other EU leaders to steal the show at the Bastille Day military parade in central Paris.
Zapata, who first developed his device flying above water, says that the flyboard has the power to take off and reach speeds up to 190 kilometres an hour (118 mph) and run for 10 minutes.
The flyboard is closer to the 'Goblin Glider' from Spider Man than Marty McFly's hoverboard in both appearance and performance.
Zapata who was awarded €1.3 million in 2018 to develop an 'aeronautical micro-jet engine' that could be used by the military pointedly held a rifle during the flight, highlighting the potential military uses of the technology.
He is currently eyeing making a crossing of the English channel, although this will require refuelling in flight. The target date is July 25, 110 years to the day after Louis Bleriot historically made the same flight for the first time in an airplane.
From New Atlas
Although it makes up about 85 percent of all matter in the universe, dark matter is frustratingly hard to pin down. In order to figure out what it is, much of the search is about ruling out what dark matter isn't, and now physicists at Stanford and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have narrowed it down further. Using observations of galaxies orbiting the Milky Way, the team found that dark matter is likely lighter than previously thought – and interacts even less with normal matter.
For everything to fit together neatly, dark matter must have a lighter mass and must be "warmer" (i.e. moves a bit faster) than previously assumed. It also seems to interact even less often with regular matter – about a thousand times more weakly than the previous limit. That might explain why none of the many experiments designed to detect those interactions have registered any signals yet.
A new virus is ripping through Android devices searching for new opportunities to infect more devices. Nicknamed "Agent Smith" after the Matrix character, the malware is thought to be spreading at an alarming rate.
It infects devices when the user installs an app that contains the malicious code, typically games installed from third-party sites.
From there, Agent Smith scours the device for other apps it can 'feed on' replacing them with a cloned, weaponised version without the user's permission.
Some apps Agent Smith is capable of replicating include WhatsApp, web browser Opera and SwiftKey. It's estimated infected devices contain on average 112 cloned apps.
The dodgy apps work fine and are difficult to detected as the malware is hidden from the device user.
"Armed with all the permissions users had granted to the real apps, Agent Smith was able to hijack other apps on the phone to display unwanted ads to users. That might not seem like a significant problem, but the same security flaws could be used to hijack banking, shopping and other sensitive apps," Check Point's Aviran Hazum said.
Five years after its $2 billion purchase of Oculus, Facebook is still pushing forward in its efforts to bring virtual reality to a mainstream audience. But one of the company's six co-founders now doubts Oculus will ever break through.
Jack McCauley told CNBC he doesn't think there's a real market for VR gaming. With Facebook positioning its Oculus devices primarily as gaming machines, McCauley doesn't believe there's much of a market for the device. "If we were gonna sell, we would've sold," McCauley said in a phone interview on Wednesday.
[...] The $199 Oculus Go has sold a little more than 2 million units since its release in May 2018, according to estimates provided by market research firm SuperData, a Nielsen company. The Oculus Quest, which was released this May, has sold nearly 1.1 million units while the Oculus Rift has sold 547,000 units since the start of 2018, according to SuperData.
[...] Since leaving in November 2015, McCauley has enjoyed a semi-retired life. He's an innovator in residence at Berkeley's Jacobs Institute of Design Innovation and he continues to build all sorts of devices, such as a gun capable of shooting down drones, at his own research and development facility.
The cheaper, standalone headsets are selling more units. Add foveated rendering and other enhancements at the lower price points (rather than $1,599 like the Vive Pro Eye), and the experience could become much better.
Related: Oculus Rift: Dead in the Water?
HTC: Death of VR Greatly Exaggerated
As Sales Slide, Virtual Reality Fans Look to a Bright, Untethered Future
Virtual Reality Feels Like a Dream Gathering Dust
VR Gets Reality Check with Significant Decline in Investment
Creepy Messages Will be Found in Facebook's Oculus Touch VR Controllers
Submitted via IRC for AnonymousLuser
Scientists have detected a signal around an exoplanet that might be the signature of a circumplanetary disk—a disk of debris that could one day form into exomoons.
Astronomers theorize that in Jupiter and Saturn's early days, the massive planets would trap debris into these orbiting circumplanetary disks. The mass from the disks could then do one of two things: fall onto the planet or clump up into moons. New results from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile show off what might be evidence for one of these disks around a young exoplanet that's 370 light-years away from Earth.
The exoplanet at hand is called PDS 70c, the second-closest known exoplanet to the parent star PDS 70. It orbits far from its young (approximately 5 million-year-old) parent star, further than the distance between the Sun and Neptune and orbiting slightly closer than a vast ring of dust. Scientists first spotted evidence of PDS 70c earlier this year using the Very Large Telescope (VLT). The researchers interpreted their results not only to be the mark of an exoplanet but one that was gobbling up some of the gas and dust in its vicinity.
[...] The scientists claim that they have located a cloud of dust surrounding the large young planet, and inferred that the cloud was a circumplanetary disk. They estimated the disk's mass at between .002 to .0042 times the mass of the Earth, or somewhere around a quarter the mass of our own Moon.
Europe's satellite-navigation system, Galileo, has suffered a major outage. The network has been offline since Friday due to what has been described as a "technical incident related to its ground infrastructure". The problem means all receivers, such as the latest smartphone models, will not be picking up any useable timing or positional information.
These devices will be relying instead on the data coming from the American Global Positioning System (GPS). Depending on the sat-nav chip they have installed, cell phones and other devices might also be making connections with the Russian (Glonass) and Chinese (Beidou) networks.
[...] The specialist sat-nav publication Inside GNSS said sources were telling it that the problem lay with a fault at a Precise Timing Facility (PTF) in Italy. A PTF generates and curates the reference time against which all clocks in the Galileo system are checked and calibrated.
The function on Galileo satellites that picks up distress beacon messages for search and rescue is said to be unaffected by the outage.
[...] Europe's alternative to GPS went "live" with initial services in December 2016 after 17 years of development. The European Commission promotes Galileo as more than just a back-up service; it is touted also as being more accurate and more robust.