Geeky Stuff

Ransomware Struck Another Pipeline Firm -- and 70GB of Data Leaked

Slashdot - Tue, 08/06/2021 - 22:41
When ransomware hackers hit Colonial Pipeline last month and shut off the distribution of gas along much of the East Coast of the United States, the world woke up to the danger of digital disruption of the petrochemical pipeline industry. Now it appears another pipeline-focused business was also hit by a ransomware crew around the same time, but kept its breach quiet -- even as 70 gigabytes of its internal files were stolen and dumped onto the dark web. From a report: A group identifying itself as Xing Team last month posted to its dark web site a collection of files stolen from LineStar Integrity Services, a Houston-based company that sells auditing, compliance, maintenance, and technology services to pipeline customers. The data, first spotted online by the WikiLeaks-style transparency group Distributed Denial of Secrets, or DDoSecrets, includes 73,500 emails, accounting files, contracts, and other business documents, around 19 GB of software code and data, and 10 GB of human resources files that includes scans of employee driver's licenses and Social Security cards. And while the breach doesn't appear to have caused any disruption to infrastructure like the Colonial Pipeline incident, security researchers warn the spilled data could provide hackers a roadmap to more pipeline targeting. LineStar did not respond to requests for comment.

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US PC Shipments Soar 73% In the First Quarter As Apple Falls From Top Spot

Slashdot - Tue, 08/06/2021 - 22:02
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: With increased demand from the pandemic, Canalys reports that U.S. PC shipments were up 73% over the same period last year. That added up to a total of 34 million units sold. While Apple had a good quarter with sales up 36%, it was surpassed by HP, which sold 11 million units in total with annual growth up an astonishing 122.6%. As Canalys pointed out, the first quarter tends to be a weaker one for Apple hardware following the holiday season, but it's a big move for HP nonetheless. Other companies boasting big growth numbers include Samsung at 116% and Lenovo at 92.8%. Dell was up 29.2%, fairly modest compared with the rest of the group. Overall though it was a stunning quarter as units flew off the shelves. Canalys Research Analyst Brian Lynch says some of this can be attributed to the increased demand from 2020 as people moved to work and school from home and needed new machines to get their work done, but regardless the growth was unrivaled historically. " Q1 2021 still rates as one of the best first quarters the industry has ever seen. Vendors have prioritized fulfilling U.S. backlogs before supply issues are addressed in other parts of the world," Lynch said in a statement. Perhaps not surprisingly, low-cost Chromebooks were the most popular item as people looking to refresh their devices, especially for education purposes, turned to the lower end of the PC market, which likely had a negative impact on higher-priced Apple products, as well contributing to its drop from the top spot. According to Canalys, Chromebook sales were up a whopping 548% with Samsung leading that growth with an astonishing 1,963% growth rate. "Asus, HP and Lenovo all reported Chromebook sales rates up over 900%," adds TechCrunch.

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A 'Bubble Barrier' is Trapping Plastic Waste Before It Can Get Into the Sea

Slashdot - Tue, 08/06/2021 - 21:23
larryjoe writes: A curtain of bubbles in Amsterdam's Westerdok canal filters 86% of trash floating down the canal. The bubbles come from a pipe at the bottom of the canal connected to an air compressor. Holes in the pipe allow the bubbles to float to the water surface, forming a water curtain that pushes trash to the water surface. The curtain is positioned in a skewed orientation to allow the downstream water flow to channel the trash to a catchment system. This novel system catches many types of trash without a physical barrier that impedes vehicles or wildlife. The catchment system only keeps trash that is at least 10mm in size to allow small wildlife to escape. This filtering system is being trialed by a small startup.

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FBI and Australian Police Ran an Encrypted Chat Platform To Catch Criminal Gangs

Slashdot - Tue, 08/06/2021 - 20:45
The FBI and Australian Federal Police ran an encrypted chat platform and intercepted secret messages between criminal gang members from all over the world for more than three years. From a report: Named Operation Ironside (AFP) / Trojan Shield (FBI, Interpol) on Monday, law enforcement agencies from Australia, Europe, and the US conducted house searches and arrested thousands of suspects across a wide spectrum of criminal groups, from biker gangs in Australia to drug cartels across Asia and South America, and weapons and human traffickers in Europe. In a press conference on Monday, Australian police said the sting operation got underway in 2018 after the FBI successfully seized encrypted chat platform Phantom Secure. Knowing that the criminal underworld would move to a new platform, US and Australian officials decided to run their own service on top of Anom (also stylized as AN0M), an encrypted chat platform that the FBI had secretly gained access to through an insider. Just like Phantom Secure, the new service consisted of secure smartphones that were configured to run only the An0m app and nothing else.

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Europe's AI Rules Open Door To Mass Use of Facial Recognition, Critics Warn

Slashdot - Tue, 08/06/2021 - 20:03
The EU is facing a backlash over new AI rules that allow for limited use of facial recognition by authorities -- with opponents warning the carveouts could usher in a new age of biometric surveillance. From a report: A coalition of digital rights and consumer protection groups across the globe, including Latin America, Africa and Asia are calling for a global ban on biometric recognition technologies that enable mass and discriminatory surveillance by both governments and corporations. In an open letter, 170 signatories in 55 countries argue that the use of technologies like facial recognition in public places goes against human rights and civil liberties. "It shows that organizations, groups, people, activists, technologists around the world who are concerned with human rights, agree to this call," said Daniel Leufer of U.S. digital rights group Access Now, which co-authored the letter. The use of facial recognition technology is becoming widespread. But along with everyday applications like unlocking phones, it's increasingly being used by governments and companies to surveil people, whether by law enforcement to scan public places for criminals or by grocery stores claiming to use it to catch thieves. The letter is in part a response to the EU's AI bill that restricts the practice, but does not prohibit it outright.

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Playdate, the Console With a Crank, Gets July Preorder for $179, Game Details

Slashdot - Tue, 08/06/2021 - 19:22
On Tuesday, Playdate, the portable, one-bit gaming system with an analog crank as a primary control option, took one more step toward being a bonafide thing you can buy and crank to your heart's content. From a report: The diminutive portable system's creators at Panic (publishers of games like Firewatch and Untitled Goose Game) hosted their first-ever Playdate Update video today, and they confirmed that the hardware will launch to paying customers "later this year," with preorders beginning "in July" starting at $179. That price will include the system's complete "first season" of Playdate-exclusive games, and Panic had originally pledged to include 12 games in all with the purchase price. Today's presentation included a welcome surprise: double the included games. Now, Playdate owners can expect to get two games a week as free downloads over a span of 12 weeks (which, if my calculator is correct, means 24 games in all). Panic remains committed to its plan to "surprise" system owners with free downloads of entirely new games, so today's video didn't include lengthy game reveals. In the meantime, we've been given 21 of the Season One games' titles, along with a list of participating developers (embedded at the article's end). The indie-heavy developer list includes Keita Takahashi (Katamari Damacy), Nels Anderson (Firewatch), Giles Goddard (1080 Snowboarding), Bennett Foddy (Getting Over It), and Zach Gage (Spelltower), along with tons of lesser-known devs whose work has impressed us over the years at various cons and events.

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Ransomware Hits Capitol Hill Contractor

Slashdot - Tue, 08/06/2021 - 18:43
A company that provides a user engagement platform for US politicians has suffered a ransomware attack, leaving many lawmakers unable to email their constituents for days. From a report: The attack, which hit DC-based iConstituent, has affected the offices of nearly 60 House lawmakers across both parties, Punchbowl News reported earlier today, citing House officials, lawmakers, and office aides. Catherine Szpindor, the Chief Administrative Officer of the House, said she was informed of the attack, which appears to have been limited to iConstituent's e-newsletter service and did not impact the company's GovText text messaging system. Szpindor, which is in charge of House cybersecurity, was also quick to distance the US government's network from the attack. "At this time, the CAO is not aware of any impact to House data," Szpindor told Punchbowl News. "The CAO is coordinating with the impacted offices supported by iConstituent and has taken measures to ensure that the attack does not affect the House network and offices' data."

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Russia Puts the Squeeze on Social Media to Police Its Critics

Slashdot - Tue, 08/06/2021 - 18:02
Russia's government was quick to use social media when it tried to steer the course of U.S. elections, American officials say. It isn't quite as eager to see its own opponents at home try the same thing. From a report: Ahead of a parliamentary vote later this year, the Kremlin has been fine-tuning its strategy to pressure platforms such as Twitter, YouTube and TikTok to remove antigovernment content, classifying a growing number of posts as illegal and issuing a flurry of takedown requests. So far it appears to be working. The Western-dominated tech giants have in many instances complied. YouTube temporarily removed links to content laying out the opposition's voting strategy. Russian officials say Twitter is working to comply with requests to remove content that Moscow deems illegal. TikTok, owned by China's ByteDance, also removed or altered a handful of videos that criticized the government and promoted opposition street protests. TikTok, Twitter and Google, the Alphabet subsidiary that owns YouTube, say they decide whether to delete content based on local laws where they operate and on their own internal guidelines. None of the companies commented on specific cases mentioned in this article.

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Apple's New 'Private Relay' Feature Will Not Be Available in China

Slashdot - Tue, 08/06/2021 - 17:23
Apple on Monday said a new "private relay" feature designed to obscure a user's web browsing behavior from internet service providers and advertisers will not be available in China for regulatory reasons. From a report: The feature was one of a number of privacy protections Apple announced at its annual software developer conference on Monday, the latest in a years-long effort by the company to cut down on the tracking of its users by advertisers and other third parties. Apple's decision to withhold the feature in China is the latest in a string of compromises the company has made on privacy in a country that accounts for nearly 15% of its revenue. In 2018, Apple moved the digital keys used to lock Chinese users' iCloud data, allowing authorities to work through domestic courts to gain access to the information. China's ruling Communist Party maintains a vast surveillance system to keep a close eye on how citizens use the country's heavily controlled internet. Under President Xi Jinping, the space for dissent in China has narrowed, while censorship has expanded. Apple's "private relay" feature first sends web traffic to a server maintained by Apple, where it is stripped of a piece of information called an IP address. From there, Apple sends the traffic to a second server maintained by a third-party operator who assigns the user a temporary IP address and sends the traffic onward to its destination website.

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Google Bows To EU, Rivals With Android Choice-Screen Tweaks

Slashdot - Tue, 08/06/2021 - 16:46
Google will scrap a fee and add more mobile search apps for users to choose from on new Android phones, bowing to pressure from the European Union and smaller rivals. From a report: The U.S. tech giant will make the changes from September "following further feedback" from the European Commission, it said in a Tuesday blog post. The EU authority said the tweaks were "positive" and addressed a number of complaints by other search companies. The move may help Google avoid growing criticism over its compliance with the European Commission's 2018 order to offer more choice to rivals. Google had a stable 97% market share for mobile search in Europe last month, a figure that's barely budged despite rolling out a "choice screen" to prompt downloads of search alternatives for new phones. DuckDuckGo and others have complained that the choice screen solution isn't working and an auction model to pick only three apps is "fundamentally flawed." App providers bid against each other for the slot and pay only if users downloaded a search app.

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