Apr 17, 2014 fbook icon twitter icon rss icon


11Survey Finds Americans Think Future Technology Will Make The World A Better Place

According to a new Pew Research survey, Americans are cautiously optimistic about what the future of technology holds. The survey found that 59 percent of Americans think future technologies will make the world a better place, while just 30 percent think new developments will leave the world worse off.

Most people living today are acutely aware of the breakneck speed at which technology is evolving, and this awareness was reflected in the survey's results. Here's how people answered when asked what new developments they think will take place in the next 50 years.

81 percent of surveyed participants think replacement organs will be custom grown in laboratories by the year 2064. 51 percent of people think computers will be able to create paintings, novels, and music that is indecipherable from creative works made by humans. 39 percent think scientists will have solved teleportation, and 33 percent believe humans will have established long-term space colonies. 20 percent of people think humans will control the weather by 2064.

In addition to questions about future technologies, participants were asked for their opinions on whether certain tech developments would make the world a better or worse place. This is where the majority of people displayed a healthy skepticism about the future.

65 percent of people think robot caretakers for the elderly and disabled would make the world a worse place (side note: Japan already uses robots for this exact purpose). 66 percent of respondents think the world would be worse off if parents could alter the DNA of their prospective children. 63 percent think the world would suffer if airspace was opened up to personal drones. Finally, 53 percent of people think the use of digital devices to constantly display information to people in real time would make the world a worse place.

Some more interesting finds from the survey: 48 percent of people said they would be open to traveling in a driverless car. 72 percent of people would oppose using brain implants to improve mental capacity and performance. 78 percent of people say they would not eat genetically engineered meat grown in a laboratory.

As you’d expect, young people (ages 18-29) were the most excited about the future of technology. Meanwhile, 41 percent of people ages 65+ could not even think of one possible future technology they would enjoy using. 

Source: Pew Research Internet Project

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11Police End Search For French Boy Who Never Existed

The search for a missing boy in Moulins, France, ended with the woman who started it in custody after investigators found that the child only existed in the virtual world.

Authorities are still unsure if the woman claiming to be 2-year-old Chayson Basinio’s great aunt has a psychological problem or if she invented the crime for other reasons, like revenge. What they do know is that “Chayson” is only real on Facebook.

The woman came to police with the claim that the child has disappeared from a supermarket parking lot, the Guardian reports. Local police began an all-out search, dredging a lake after a judge opened an inquiry for kidnapping and sequestration.

But inconsistencies in the woman’s story made detectives suspicious. That’s when they discovered that Facebook accounts had been hashed together and that the boy did not actually exist. Fabricated photographs of the boy with his “father,” 20-year-old Rayane Basinio, also appeared on the social media site.

The woman’s teenage daughter and a cousin, both minors, are the ones who set up the fake accounts and pirated the photos, police believe. They are also being questioned, while the woman faces six months in prison and a fine of €7,500, or about $10,000, if found guilty of inventing a crime.

"The inquiry for kidnapping and sequestration has obviously been redirected into one of reporting an imaginary crime or offence," said Eric Mazaud, the public prosecutor. "It [the inquiry] was long and complicated, but we can now say that the young Chayson has never existed and nor have his father or mother."

“Sadly, this is a very modern-day story. Someone decided to create false Facebook accounts and took pictures from real accounts to feed the false accounts and make these people seem real," Mazaud added.

Sources: Guardian, Connexion

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11General Mills' New Policy Broadly Prevents Consumers from Suing

General Mills has introduced language to its new privacy policy claiming that anyone who has received anything from the company that can be considered a benefit withdraws rights to sue for any reason. 

According to the New York Times, General Mills has a broad definition of what a “benefit” means. The company responsible for cereals like Cheerios and brands like Betty Crocker claims that individuals withdraw the right to sue if they download coupons, “like” the company on Facebook, enter General Mills sweepstakes, or otherwise interact with the company. Rather than entering a legal dispute, General Mills claims that problems should be solved through informal negotiation with the company, carried out via email or arbitration. 

General Mills insists that it has been as transparent as possible regarding its new policy. 

“While it rarely happens, arbitration is an efficient way to resolve disputes — and many companies take a similar approach. We even cover the cost of arbitration in most cases. So this is just a policy update, and we’ve tried to communicate it in a clear and visible way,” the company said in a statement. 

RT reports that the company’s updated policy stems from the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the 2011 case AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, which ruled businesses could prevent multiple consumers from coming together to make fraudulent claims in a single arbitration. 

It is difficult to determine exactly how General Mills’ new policy will be interpreted by the courts, and hopefully there’s no need for the legal action that would test those boundaries in the near future. 


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11Fired Yahoo Exec Receives $58 Million Severance After 15 Months of Work

Henrique de Castro, the former Yahoo chief operating officer who was fired from his executive position after only 15 months on the job, has been granted a severance package totaling $58 million. 

De Castro joined Yahoo in October 2012 after serving as vice president Global Media and Platforms at Google. He was the first significant hire by fellow former Google executive Marissa Mayer, who became CEO in July 2012. De Castro was charged with the task of revamping Yahoo’s ad sales, and he served as Mayer’s second-in-command until he was let go for poor performance in January 2014. 

According to USA Today, all but $1 million of De Castro’s large severance was based on the value of the equity award he was granted to lure him from Google. Yahoo’s market value greatly increased in De Castro’s relatively short time at the company, taking his holdings from $17 million to $57 million. The majority of this success stems from Yahoo’s 24% stake in China’s widely popular Alibaba Group. 

The Economic Times reports that Mayer will not pick another chief operating officer as a result of her failed hire with de Castro. 


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11Federal Government Was Among Last To Know About 'Heartbleed' Bug

Google and other companies knew about the “Heartbleed” bug, a serious flaw in Internet security, but failed to tell anyone in the federal government.

A story from the National Journal reports that Google engineer, Neel Mehta, discovered Heartbleed some time in March. The company then took time to patch its own services, like email and YouTube, before going public with the information on April 7 and without notifying any government agency. Other companies performed similar patches without informing government officials.

Heartbleed is a flaw in the encryption technology, known as OpenSSL, that provides security to over 60 percent of all servers on the public Internet according to a Los Angeles Times story.

A story from Bloomberg News reported that the National Security Agency (NSA) had known about Heartbleed for two years and failed to tell companies about it, choosing instead to exploit it for its own purposes. 

That story forced the White House to issue a statement admitting that the federal government had no idea about the severe security flaw until April, long after Google had discovered it. 

"Reports that NSA or any other part of the government were aware of the so-called Heartbleed vulnerability before April 2014 are wrong. The Federal government was not aware of the recently identified vulnerability in OpenSSL until it was made public in a private sector cyber security report," said White House spokeswoman, Caitlin Hayden, in the statement.

While the federal government encourages companies to report critical Internet security flaws to the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team, it is not unusual for those companies to wait until their own systems have been patched before doing so.

In the case of Heartbleed though, most companies patched their servers and then went public with the information. The decision not to notify the government could have left federal systems open to hackers. 

Christopher Soghoian, a technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union, said he was not surprised that the government was among the last to know about Heartbleed. According to Soghoian, federal officials only have themselves to blame for Google and other companies not trusting them to handle sensitive information. He suggested that the government has maintained an adversarial relationship with technology companies where cyber security is concerned.

"I suspect that over the past eight months, many companies have taken a real hard look at their existing policies about tipping off the U.S. government," he said. "That's the price you pay when you're acting like an out-of-control offensive adversary.”

Sources: National Journal, Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg News

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11Wide-Area Surveillance Technology Lets Police Monitor Crime in Real Time (Video)

An Ohio-based surveillance technology company is pioneering a “live Google Earth” that would allow cops to monitor crimes in real time.

The wide-area surveillance system was first used in Compton, C.A. last year when a spate of necklace-snatchings led sheriff’s deputies to Persistent Surveillance Systems, a company owned by retired Air Force veteran Ross McNutt.

The Center For Investigative Reporting describes it as Google Earth with rewind—a city captured down to its last detail, and available for zooming and tracking.

“We literally watched all of Compton during the time that we were flying, so we could zoom in anywhere within the city of Compton and follow cars and see people,” McNutt said. “Our goal was to basically jump to where reported crimes occurred and see what information we could generate that would help investigators solve the crimes.”

McNutt first developed the surveillance technology to search out bombing suspects in Iraq and Afghanistan. The wide-area surveillance relies on high-powered surveillance cameras attached in clusters to small civilian aircrafts.

“Our whole system costs less than the price of a single police helicopter and costs less for an hour to operate than a police helicopter,” McNutt said. “But at the same time, it watches 10,000 times the area that a police helicopter could watch.”

The CIR reports that McNutt’s technology is one of many digital innovations that give law enforcement Hollywood-like capabilities, like mobile facial-recognition technology.

With that comes a host of ethical and constitutional dilemmas. For example, the FBI has been compiling a data complex of over 147 million mug shots and fingerprints—many of which belong to people who have never committed crimes. Soon that database will become searchable.

In the case of the necklace-snatchers, Los Angeles law enforcement realized that its monitoring might not go over well on the public.

“The system was kind of kept confidential from everybody in the public,” said L.A. County sheriff’s Sgt. Doug Iketani. “A lot of people do have a problem with the eye in the sky, the Big Brother, so in order to mitigate any of those kinds of complaints, we basically kept it pretty hush-hush.”

And in fact, the suspects ended up fleeing from the camera’s view before they were identified. Iketani said the technology led to useful leads, but that the pictures weren’t detailed enough to land a suspect.

Sources: Gizmodo, Center For Investigative Reporting

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11Federal Court Drops Case Against AT&T Hacker Andrew 'Weev' Auernheimer

A New Jersey federal appeals court overturned the conviction of Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer on Friday. Auernheimer was previously sentenced to three and a half years in prison under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act after he hacked into and exposed a security flaw in AT&T’s website.

Auernheimer’s conviction gained national attention after many in the tech community said it set a precedent that compromised the role of hackers in the online security community. Hackers often attempt to break into websites with the intent of discovering security weaknesses; they then report these weaknesses to the involved companies and the media so that they can be fixed before hackers with bad intentions discover the flaws.

Auernheimer’s conviction wasn’t overturned on these grounds, though. Perhaps, not wanting to deal with the time involved in ruling in a precedent-setting case, the court dropped Auernheimer’s charges because the state he was being charged in – New Jersey – was not directly targeted by his hacks. Auernheimer was in Arkansas at the time of the hacks, and the servers he broke into were located in Atlanta, Ga., and Dallas, Texas.

“Venue in criminal cases is more than a technicality; it involves ‘matters that touch closely the fair administration of criminal justice and public confidence in it,’” the judges wrote in their opinion. “This is especially true of computer crimes in the era of mass interconnectivity. Because we conclude that venue did not lie in New Jersey, we will reverse the District Court’s venue determination and vacate Auernheimer’s conviction.

“The founders were so concerned with the location of a criminal trial that they placed the venue requirement … in the Constitution in two places,” the judges continued. “They did so for good reason. A defendant who has been convicted ‘in a distant, remote, or unfriendly forum solely at the prosecutor’s whim,’… has had his substantial rights compromised.”

“The court determined that the Department of Justice brought this case in the wrong district," Matthew Reilly, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in New Jersey, said. "We’re reviewing our options.”

It is not clear if prosecutors will try to bring Auernheimer on trial again in a more appropriate district. 

Sources: Wired, Washington Post

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11Make Sure To Change Your Password For Sites Affected By The Heartbleed Bug

In case you aren’t already familiar, a serious internet security bug was discovered recently. The bug, called Heartbleed, is a flaw in the encryption software OpenSSL.

The bug lets anyone on the internet read the memory of systems protected by OpenSSL. According to Heartbleed.com, the bug “allows attackers to eavesdrop on communications, steal data directly from the services and users and to impersonate services and users.”

The websites affected, which include internet giants like Google, Yahoo, and Amazon, have for the most part updated their servers with a patch for the bug. Once a website updates their server, though, it’s on you to change your password for the site.

To check if a site is still vulnerable to the Heartbleed bug, go here and type in the URL of the site you are inquiring about. To see a list of sites that have or have not updated their servers with the Heartbleed patch, check out this Mashable list.

Here is a quick summary of which ones you need to change your passwords for:

Social Networks: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr

Companies: Google, Yahoo

E-mail: Gmail, Yahoo Mail

Stores/Services: Amazon, GoDaddy, DropBox, OKCupid

Those in the internet security industry warn users not to take the bug lightly.

“It's a big deal for Internet users, especially when it comes to protecting financial information," LastPass Ceo Joe Siegrist said

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11NSA's Use Of Heartbleed Bug Still Uncertain

This week, sites like Soundcloud announced that they would be routinely logging users out to protect them from Heartbleed, a bug in OpenSSL software that’s used to encrypt traffic but ends up leaving users vulnerable.

The bug was recently uncovered, and there's now a handy guide explaining how the flaw works, what information can be extracted and how it can be stopped. The bug has enormous implications that could put the majority of the Internet at risk. Essentially, the security vulnerability allows hackers to spy on communications, data and other information of users on websites that otherwise appeared to be safe and encrypted without leaving a trace in the logs. This bug has existed for at least two years, leaving keys usernames, passwords, and other information open and accessible to anyone who knows how to navigate the system. 

According to a report from Wired, the NSA may have been using Heartbleed to conduct spying operations on a mass scale. There is, however, currently no concrete evidence suggesting that the agency has done so. 

“It would not surprise me if the NSA had discovered this long before the rest of us had. It’s certainly something that the NSA would find extremely useful in their arsenal,” University of Pennsylvania professor of cryptography and computer security Matt Blaze told Wired. 

Whether or not the NSA is involved, the security flaw is certainly cause for major concern. A new version of OpenSSL has been created, and it’s up to service providers to integrate the new software to prevent future attacks. 


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11'Heartlbleed' Bug Threatens Web Encryption, Makes Passwords Vulnerable

A programming flaw in widely used Internet security software may have left thousands of websites vulnerable to having users’ passwords stolen. The glitch has been dubbed “Heartbleed,” and security analysts are still struggling to determine the scope of the problems it may have created.

The Yahoo-owned site Tumblr was the largest website to announce on Tuesday that it had been affected by the bug, according to the Los Angeles Times. Officials at Yahoo urged users to change their passwords for Tumblr as well as all other websites.

The technology website CNET reported that testers were able to exploit the glitch and lift passwords from other Yahoo sites as well.

Yahoo issued a statement Tuesday saying it had repaired the main vulnerabilities. 

"As soon as we became aware of the issue, we began working to fix it,” the statement read. “Our team has successfully made the appropriate corrections across the main Yahoo properties (Yahoo Homepage, Yahoo Search, Yahoo Mail, Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Sports, Yahoo Food, Yahoo Tech, Flickr, and Tumblr) and we are working to implement the fix across the rest of our sites right now.”

Heartbleed is a vulnerability in OpenSSL technology. That is the encryption technology used by 66 percent of all servers on the public Internet. Analysts have not gone so far as to tell people to stay off the Internet completely, but they have suggested that people stay away from sensitive things like online banking until the flaw is completely understood.

The scope of this is immense," said Kevin Bocek, a vice president at Venafi, a Salt Lake City cyber security company. "And the consequences are still scary. I've talked about this like a 'Mad Max' moment. It's a bit of anarchy right now. Because we don't know right now who has the keys and certificates on the Internet right now.”

An update to OpenSSL has already been released so that sites can fix the problem. For now, though, it will be up to users to determine if sites they regularly use have updated the software making them safe again. 

"Avoid things like online banking and avoid sensitive sites if you're not sure," said Andrew Storms of CloudPassage. "Some people will see it as overkill. But I think that's the simplest guidance. If you can hold off doing something online for a couple days, then you should."

A Business Insider story offers suggestions to users for protecting themselves. The story indicates that researchers who discovered the bug let programmers know several days in advance of announcing the vulnerability, so most sites should already be in the process of updating their servers' software. Once users have confirmed that has been done, they should change their passwords to the sites.

Sources: The Los Angeles Times, CNET, Business Insider


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