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Government

US Ordered 'Mandatory Social Media Check' For Visa Applicants Who Visited ISIS Territory (theverge.com) 140

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has ordered a "mandatory social media check" on all visa applicants who have ever visited ISIS-controlled territory, according to diplomatic cables obtained by Reuters. The four memos were sent to American diplomatic missions over the past two weeks, with the most recent issued on March 17th. According to Reuters, they provide details into a revised screening process that President Donald Trump has described as "extreme vetting." A memo sent on March 16th rescinds some of the instructions that Tillerson outlined in the previous cables, including an order that would have required visa applicants to hand over all phone numbers, email addresses, and social media accounts that they have used in the past. The secretary of state issued the memo after a Hawaii judge blocked the Trump administration's revised travel ban on citizens from six predominantly Muslim countries. In addition to the social media check, the most recent memo calls for consular officials to identify "populations warranting increased scrutiny." Two former government officials tell Reuters that the social media order could lead to delays in processing visa applications, with one saying that such checks were previously carried out on rare occasions.
Twitter

Twitter Considers Premium Version After 11 Years As a Free Service (reuters.com) 68

Twitter is considering whether or not to build a premium version of its site for select users. It's unclear what the cost would be at this time, but it's very possible it could be in the form of a subscription. Reuters reports: Like most other social media companies, Twitter since its founding 11 years ago has focused on building a huge user base for a free service supported by advertising. Last month it reported it had 319 million users worldwide. Twitter is conducting a survey "to assess the interest in a new, more enhanced version of Tweetdeck," which is an existing tool that helps users navigate the network, spokeswoman Brielle Villablanca said in a statement on Thursday. She went on: "We regularly conduct user research to gather feedback about people's Twitter experience and to better inform our product investment decisions, and we're exploring several ways to make Tweetdeck even more valuable for professionals." There was no indication that Twitter was considering charging fees from all its users. Word of the survey had earlier leaked on Twitter, where a journalist affiliated with the New York Times posted screenshots of what a premium version of Tweetdeck could look like. That version could include "more powerful tools to help marketers, journalists, professionals, and others in our community find out what is happening in the world quicker," according to one of the screenshots posted on the account @andrewtavani.
Social Networks

Reddit To Transform Into a Social Network With New Profile Pages (digitaljournal.com) 130

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Journal: Reddit has announced it has begun trialling a radical new profile page design that's reminiscent of Facebook and Twitter. It will evolve the discussion board site towards being a social network by enabling users to post directly to their new profile page. At present, posts on Reddit have to be directed into a specific sub-Reddit community. You can't simply write a post and have it appear across the network which can make it difficult to get your voice heard. Unless you've got some reputation in a relevant sub-Reddit, your posts may end up going unnoticed. That could soon change. Last night, Reddit announced it's working on a drastic revision of its user profile page experience. The site has commenced testing of an early version of the design. According to a report from Reuters, just three "high-profile" users currently have access to the feature. When the new pages are eventually opened up to all, they'll showcase the user's profile picture and description. Below the header, posts from the user will be publicly displayed. The user will be able to add new posts to their page, without submitting to a sub-Reddit. Users will be able to follow each other to stay informed of new posts, effectively creating a social network atmosphere above the discussion boards.
Microsoft

Microsoft Outlook, Skype, OneDrive Hit By Another Authentication Issue (zdnet.com) 48

Two weeks after a widespread authentication issue hit Outlook, Skype, OneDrive, Xbox and other Microsoft services, it's happening again. From a report: On March 21, users across the world began reporting via Twitter that they couldn't sign into Outlook.com, OneDrive and Skype, (and possibly more). I, myself, am unable to sign into Outlook.com, OneDrive or Skype at 2:30 pm ET today, but my Office 365 Mail account is working fine. (Knock wood.) I believe the issue started about an hour ago, or 1:30 p.m. ET or so. MSA is Microsoft's single sign-on service which authenticates users so they can log into their various Microsoft services. As happened two weeks ago, Skype Heartbeat site, has posted a message noting that users may be experiencing problems sending messages and signing in.
Twitter

Twitter Suspended Hundreds of Thousands of Accounts Amid 'Violent Extremism' (fortune.com) 199

Twitter said on Tuesday it had suspended more than half a million accounts since the middle of 2015 as the company steps up efforts to tackle "violent extremism" on its microblogging platform. From a report: The company shut down a total of 376,890 accounts in the last six months of 2016, Twitter said in its latest transparency report.
Power

John Goodenough's Colleagues Are Skeptical of His New Battery Technology (qz.com) 246

Earlier this month, a research team led by John Goodenough announced that they had created a new fast charging solid-state battery that can operate in extreme temperatures and store five to ten times as much energy as current standard lithium-ion batteries. The announcement was big enough to have Google's Eric Schmidt tweeting about it. However, there are some skeptics, including other leading battery researchers. "For his invention to work as described, they say, it would probably have to abandon the laws of thermodynamics, which say perpetual motion is not possible," reports Quartz. "The law has been a fundamental of batteries for more than a century and a half." Quartz reports: Goodenough's long career has defined the modern battery industry. Researchers assume that his measurements are exact. But no one outside of Goodenough's own group appears to understand his new concept. The battery community is loath to openly challenge the paper, but some come close. "If anyone but Goodenough published this, I would be, well, it's hard to find a polite word," Daniel Steingart, a professor at Princeton, told Quartz. Goodenough did not respond to emails. But in a statement released by the University of Texas, where he holds an engineering chair, he said, "We believe our discovery solves many of the problems that are inherent in today's batteries. Cost, safety, energy density, rates of charge and discharge and cycle life are critical for battery-driven cars to be more widely adopted." In addition, Helena Braga, the paper's lead author, in an exchange of emails, insisted that the team's claims are valid. For almost four decades, Goodenough has dominated the world of advanced batteries. If anyone could finally make the breakthrough that allows for cheap, stored electricity in cars and on the grid, it would figure to be him. Goodenough invented the heart of the battery that is all but certainly powering the device on which you are reading this. It's the lithium-cobalt-oxide cathode, invented in 1980 and introduced for sale by Sony in 1991. Again and again, Goodenough's lab has emerged with dramatic discoveries confirming his genius. It's what is not stated in the paper that has some of the battery community stumped. How is Goodenough's new invention storing any energy at all? The known rules of physics state that, to derive energy, differing material must produce differing eletro-chemical reactions in the two opposing electrodes. That difference produces voltage, allowing energy to be stored. But Goodenough's battery has pure metallic lithium or sodium on both sides. Therefore, the voltage should be zero, with no energy produced, battery researchers told Quartz. Goodenough reports energy densities multiple times that of current lithium-ion batteries. Where does the energy come from, if not the electrode reactions? That goes unexplained in the paper.
Security

Royal Jordanian Airlines Bans Use of Electronics After US Voices Security 'Concerns' (theverge.com) 109

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Royal Jordanian airlines banned the use of electronics on flights servicing the U.S. after government officials here expressed concerns. Details are scant, but CNN is reporting that other carriers based on the Middle East and Africa may be affected as well. The news broke when Royal Jordanian, a state-owned airline that operates around 500 flights a week, posted this cryptic notice on its Twitter feed. The ban, which includes laptops, tablets, and video games, but does not include smartphones or medical devices, is effective for Royal Jordanian flights servicing New York, Chicago, Detroit, and Montreal. A spokesperson for Royal Jordanian was not immediately available for clarification. Meanwhile, CNN is reporting that Royal Jordanian may not be the only carrier affected by these new security provisions. Jon Ostrower, the network's aviation editor, just tweeted that as many as 12 airlines based in the Middle East and Africa could be impacted. A Saudi executive also tweeted that "directives by U.S. authorities" could affect passengers traveling from 13 countries, with the new measure set to go into effect over the next 96 hours.
Microsoft

WikiLeaks Won't Tell Tech Companies How To Patch CIA Zero-Days Until Demands Are Met (fortune.com) 227

"WikiLeaks has made initial contact with us via secure@microsoft.com," a Microsoft spokesperson told Motherboard -- but then things apparently stalled. An anonymous reader quotes Fortune: Wikileaks this week contacted major tech companies including Apple and Google, and required them to assent to a set of conditions before receiving leaked information about security "zero days" and other surveillance methods in the possession of the Central Intelligence Agency... Wikileaks' demands remain largely unknown, but may include a 90-day deadline for fixing any disclosed security vulnerabilities. According to Motherboard's sources, at least some of the involved companies are still in the process of evaluating the legal ramifications of the conditions.
Julian Assange announced Friday that Mozilla had already received information after agreeing to their "industry standard responsible disclosure plan," then added that "most of these lagging companies have conflicts of interest due to their classified work for U.S. government agencies... such associations limit industry staff with U.S. security clearances from fixing security holes based on leaked information from the CIA." Assange suggested users "may prefer organizations such as Mozilla or European companies that prioritize their users over government contracts. Should these companies continue to drag their feet we will create a league table comparing company responsiveness and government entanglements so users can decided for themselves."
Crime

FBI Arrests Alleged Attacker Who Tweeted Seizure-Inducing Strobe at a Writer (theverge.com) 151

From a report on The Verge: An arrest has been made three months after someone tweeted a seizure-inducing strobe at writer and Vanity Fair contributing editor Kurt Eichenwald. The Dallas FBI confirmed the arrest to The Verge today, and noted that a press release with more details is coming. Eichenwald, who has epilepsy, tweeted details of the arrest and said that more than 40 other people also sent him strobes after he publicized the first attack. Their information is now with the FBI, he says. It isn't clear whether these "different charges" relate to similar online harassment incidents or something else entirely.
Cellphones

Class-Action Lawsuit Targets LG Over Legendary G4, V10 Bootloop Issues (arstechnica.com) 31

For those affected by LG's infamous bootloop issue with the G4 and V10, you might find some joy in this: several (upset) owners of these devices have lodged a proposed class-action lawsuit in a California federal court. They claim that a repeating bootloop issue "renders the phones inoperable and unfit for any use." In other words: bricked. Ars Technica reports: Thousands of complaints about the G4 have been highlighted on Twitter, Reddit, and YouTube. There was even an online petition to "launch a replacement program for defective LG G4s." Not to be outdone, the V10 has been the subject of many online complaints as well. One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit (PDF) filed Wednesday said that LG replaced his G4 two times and that his third G4 constantly freezes. The new phone, says the suit, is "manifesting signs of the bootloop defect and is unmerchantable." A year ago, LG acknowledged the problem with the G4 and said it was the result of "loose contact between components." The company began offering replacement devices and fixes. The suit said that even after the January 2016 announcement, "LG continued to manufacture LG Phones with the bootloop defect." The suit claims that both models' processors were inadequately soldered to the motherboard, rendering them "unable to withstand the heat." Initially, the phones begin to freeze, suffer slowdowns, overheat, and reboot at random. Eventually, the suit says, they fail "entirely."
Security

Hundreds of Verified Twitter Accounts Compromised, Post Swastikas, Pro-Erdogan Content (bloomberg.com) 289

From a report on Bloomberg: At least 25 verified international Twitter accounts (Editor's note: other outlets are saying the number is in hundreds) have posted content supporting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his feud with Germany and the Netherlands, with hashtags reading, in Turkish, "NaziGermany" and "NaziHolland." The accounts that were hacked include international news organizations such as the German newspaper Die Welt, Forbes Magazine, BBC North America, and Reuters Japan. It also targeted the Twitter accounts of the European Parliament, French politicians like Alain Juppe, Sprint Corp's CEO and President Marcelo Claure, among others. Gizmodo adds:It was an incredibly bad week for Dutch-Turkish relations. Turkish voters go to the polls next month on April 16th to decide whether President Erdogan should be given more powers. In the lead up to this vote, Turkish diplomats in the Netherlands had been speaking at Dutch rallies to Turkish ex-pats in support of the referendum. But Dutch officials prevented the Turkish ministers from speaking, causing a dust-up between the two countries. [...] Even where some of the tweets have been deleted, the banner image of the Turkish flag sometimes remains, like on the account for Starbucks Argentina.Twitter said in a statement, "We are aware of an issue affecting a number of account holders this morning. Our teams are working at pace and taking direct action on this issue. We quickly located the source which was limited to a third party app. We removed its permissions immediately."
Social Networks

Facebook Admits Flaw in Image Moderation After BBC Report (bbc.com) 57

From a report on BBC: A Facebook executive has admitted to MPs its moderating process "was not working" following a BBC investigation. BBC News reported 100 posts featuring sexualised images and comments about children, but 82 were deemed not to "breach community standards." Facebook UK director Simon Milner told MPs the problem was now fixed. He was speaking to the Commons Home Affairs committee alongside bosses from Twitter and Google as part of an investigation into online hate crime. The BBC investigation reported dozens of posts through the website tool, including images from groups where users were discussing swapping what appeared to be child abuse material. When journalists went back to Facebook with the images that had not been taken down, the company reported them to the police and cancelled an interview, saying in a statement: "It is against the law for anyone to distribute images of child exploitation."
Nintendo

Nintendo Switch Ships With Unpatched 6-Month-Old WebKit Vulnerabilities (arstechnica.com) 89

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Nintendo's Switch has been out for almost two weeks, which of course means that efforts to hack it are well underway. One developer, who goes by qwertyoruiop on Twitter, has demonstrated that the console ships with months-old bugs in its WebKit browser engine. These bugs allow for arbitrary code execution within the browser. A proof-of-concept explainer video was posted here. The potential impact of these vulnerabilities for Switch users is low. A Switch isn't going to have the same amount of sensitive data on it that an iPhone or iPad can, and there are way fewer Switches out there than iDevices. Right now, the Switch also doesn't include a standalone Internet browser, though WebKit is present on the system for logging into public Wi-Fi hotspots, and, with some cajoling, you can use it to browse your Facebook feed. The exploit could potentially open the door for jailbreaking and running homebrew software on the Switch, but, as of this writing, the exploit doesn't look like it provides kernel access. The developer who discovered the exploit himself says that the vulnerability is just a "starting point."
Facebook

Facebook and Instagram Ban Developers From Using Data For Surveillance (theguardian.com) 63

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Facebook and Instagram have banned developers from using their data for surveillance with a new privacy policy that civil rights activists have long sought to curb spying by law enforcement. Following revelations last year that police departments had gained special access to the social networks to track protesters, Facebook, which owns Instagram, announced on Monday that it had updated its rules to state that developers could not "use data obtained from us to provide tools that are used for surveillance." The American Civil Liberties Union obtained government records last year revealing that Facebook, Instagram and Twitter had provided users' data to a software company that aids police surveillance programs and had helped law enforcement monitor Black Lives Matter demonstrations. The ACLU found that the social networking sites had given "special access" to Geofeedia, a controversial startup that has partnered with law enforcement to track streams of user content. "Our goal is to make our policy explicit," Facebook said in its announcement on Monday. "Over the past several months we have taken enforcement action against developers who created and marketed tools meant for surveillance, in violation of our existing policies; we want to be sure everyone understands the underlying policy and how to comply."
The Media

Nick Denton Predicts 'The Good Internet' Will Rise Again (pcworld.com) 135

Gawker founder Nick Denton argued today that the future will be rooted in sites like Reddit which involve their reader community -- even if there's only a handful of subtopics each user is interested in. "There's a vitality to it and there's a model for what [media] could be," he told an audience at the South by Southwest festival.

But when it comes to other social media sites, "Facebook makes me despise many of my friends and Twitter makes me hate the rest of the world," Denton said. And he attempted to address America's politically-charged atmosphere where professional news organizations struggled to pay their bills while still producing quality journalism. An anonymous reader quotes PCWorld: The internet played a huge role in this crisis, but despite it all, Denton thinks the web can be the solution to the problems it created. "On Google Hangouts chats or iMessage you can exchange quotes, links, stories, media," he said. "That's a delightful, engaging media experience. The next phase of media is going to come out of the idea of authentic, chill conversation about things that matter. Even if we're full of despair over what the internet has become, it's good to remind yourself when you're falling down some Wikipedia hole or having a great conversation with somebody online -- it's an amazing thing. In the habits that we enjoy, there are the seeds for the future. That's where the good internet will rise up again."
To show his support for news institutions, Denton has also purchased a paid subscription to the New York Times' site.
Social Networks

Report: Up To 15% Of Twitter Accounts Are Bots (cbsnews.com) 50

A team of researchers claim they can identify Twitter account activity that's posted by bots through their new web portal -- "Bot or Not?" -- leveraging "more than a thousand features extracted from public data and meta-data." And it turns out there are a lot of bots. An anonymous reader writes: "A study released by the University of Southern California reports that roughly nine to 15 percent of Twitter accounts...are so-called bots controlled by software instead of humans," according to CBS News. "Twitter boasts 319 monthly active users meaning that this recent revelation equates to nearly 48 million bot accounts, according the university's high-end figure." CNBC adds that "The research could be troubling news for Twitter, which has struggled to grow its user base in the face of growing competition from Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and others." In a 2014 SEC filing Twitter admitted that between 5 and 8% of their users were bots.
Twitter's response to this new report? "Many bot accounts are extremely beneficial, like those that automatically alert people of natural disasters ... or from customer service points of view."
AMD

Message For AMD: Open PSP Will Improve Security, Hinder Intel 52

futuristicrabbit writes: AMD has faced calls from Edward Snowden, Libreboot and the Reddit community to release the source code to the AMD Secure Processor (PSP), a network-capable co-processor which some believe has the capacity to act as a backdoor. Opening the PSP would not only have security benefits, but would provide AMD with a competitive advantage against rival chipmaker Intel. Lisa Su, the CEO of AMD, is reportedly seriously considering the change, and the community is working hard to make sure she makes the right decision. In an AMD AMA post via Reddit, user 1n5aN1aC provided several arguments for why the company should release the PSP source code to the Coreboot / Libreboot project (or publicly). The arguments center around security, economic incentives, advertising, brand perception, and mindshare. AMD replied: "Thanks for the inquiry. Currently we do not have plans to release source code but you make a good argument for reasons to do so. We will evaluate and find a way to work with security vendors and the community to everyone's benefit." The product manager for AMD, AMD_james, continued in response to a follow-up comment that claims AMD is "not considering it all but only want to appease the potential buyers." AMD_james replied: "Thanks for the feedback. Please believe me that this has CEO level attention and AMD is investigating the steps and resources necessary to support this. It is not the work of a minute, so please bear with us as we define what we can do." What are your arguments for (or against) the idea of AMD releasing the source code to the AMD Secure Processor?
The Courts

Blogger Wins Libel Damages Over Columnist's Tweets (bbc.co.uk) 115

eionmac shares a report that details a legal battle in which a food blogger won thousands of dollars in libel damages "after a row over two tweets." BBC reports: Food blogger Jack Monroe has won 24,000 British pounds damages, plus legal costs, in a libel action against columnist Katie Hopkins after a row over two tweets. Ms Monroe sued the writer over two war memorial tweets she said caused "serious harm" to her reputation. Ms Hopkins posted tweets in May 2015 asking her if she had "scrawled on any memorials recently." Ms Monroe said that meant she had either vandalized a war memorial or "condoned or approved" of it. Mr Justice Warby also ordered Ms Hopkins -- a columnist for the Mail Online -- to pay an initial 107,000 British pounds towards the campaigner's legal costs within 28 days. He ruled that the tweets had caused "Ms Monroe real and substantial distress" and she was entitled to "fair and reasonable compensation."
Government

How Wiretaps Actually Work (washingtonpost.com) 519

David Kris, assistant attorney general for national security from 2009 to 2011, has responded to the recent accusations made by president Donald Trump. On Saturday, Trump accused former president Obama of orchestrating a "Nixon/Watergate" plot to tap the phones at his Trump Tower headquarters in the run-up to last fall's election. He writes in an opinion piece for The Washington Post: First, the U.S. government needs probable cause, signatures from government officials and advance approval from a federal court before engaging in wiretapping in the United States. There are some narrow exceptions, for things such as short-term emergencies, which are then reviewed by a judge promptly after the fact. This is not something that the president simply orders. Under the law governing foreign intelligence wiretaps, the government has to show probable cause that a "facility" is being used or about to be used by a "foreign power" -- e.g., a foreign government or an international terrorist group -- or by an "agent of a foreign power." A facility is something like a telephone number or an email address. Second, there is no requirement that the facility being wiretapped be owned, leased or listed in the name of the person who is committing the offense or is the agent of a foreign power. [...] Third, government officials, including the president, don't normally speak publicly about wiretaps. Indeed, it is in some cases a federal crime to disclose a wiretap without authorization, including not only the information obtained from the wiretap, but also the mere existence of a wiretap with an intent to obstruct it. With respect to intelligence wiretaps, there is an additional issue: They are always classified, and disclosure of classified information is also generally a crime. The president enjoys authority over classified information, of course, but at a minimum it would be highly irregular to disclose an intelligence wiretap via Twitter.
AT&T

FCC Investigating Coast-To-Coast 911 Outage For AT&T Wireless Users (nbcnews.com) 53

AT&T says it has fixed a nationwide outage that prevented its wireless customers from making 911 emergency calls. "Service has been restored for wireless customers affected by an issue connecting to 911. We apologize to those affected," the company officials said in a statement. The outage was serious enough to gain the attention of the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, said via Twitter that they are investigating what went wrong. NBC News reports: The company didn't say how widespread the outage was, but as reports poured in from across the country, Karima Holmes, director of unified communications for the Washington, D.C., government, said her office had been "advised there is a nationwide outage for AT&T." At 10:20 p.m. ET, about 10 minutes before AT&T gave the all-clear, DownDetector, a site that monitors internet traffic for real-time information on wireless and broadband carriers, indicated that outage reports for AT&T were clustered most prominently around New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Miami, Dallas, Houston, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle. But emergency authorities across the country confirmed 911 outages and publicized direct police, fire and ambulance dispatch telephone numbers that AT&T customers should call in emergencies.

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