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Staples: Breach May Have Affected 1.16 Million Customers' Cards

Sat, 20/12/2014 - 02:20
mpicpp writes with this excerpt from Fortune: Staples said Friday afternoon that nearly 1.16 million customer payment cards may have been affected in a data breach under investigation since October. The office-supply retailer said two months ago that it was working with law enforcement officials to look into a possible hacking of its customers' credit card data. Staples said in October that it had learned of a potential data theft at several of its U.S. stores after multiple banks noticed a pattern of payment card fraud suggesting the company computer systems had been breached. Now, Staples believes that point-of-sale systems at 115 Staples locations were infected with malware that thieves may have used to steal customers' names, payment card numbers, expiration dates and card verification codes, Staples said on Friday. At all but two of those stores, the malware would have had access to customer data for purchases made between August 10 and September 16 of this year. At the remaining two stores, the malware was active from July 20 through September 16, the company said.

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Calculus Textbook Author James Stewart Has Died

Sat, 20/12/2014 - 00:49
Onnimikki writes James Stewart, author of the calculus textbooks many of us either loved or loved to hate, has died. In case you ever wondered what the textbook was funding, this story has the answer: a $32 million dollar home over-looking a ravine in Toronto, Canada.

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T-Mobile To Pay $90M For Unauthorized Charges On Customers' Bills

Fri, 19/12/2014 - 23:52
itwbennett writes T-Mobile US will pay at least $90 million to settle a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) suit that alleged it looked the other way while third parties charged T-Mobile subscribers for services they didn't want. The settlement is the second largest ever for so-called 'cramming,' following one that the FCC reached with AT&T in October. It came just two days after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sued Sprint for the same practice.

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NASA Video Shows What It's Like To Reenter the Earth's Atmosphere

Fri, 19/12/2014 - 23:04
astroengine writes: In a mesmerizing new video released by NASA, the Dec. 5 reentry of the Orion test space vehicle is chronicled — and it's a phenomenal 10-minute ride from fiery reentry to sudden splashdown into the Pacific Ocean. (YouTube Link.)

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Ask Slashdot: Resources For Kids Who Want To Make Games?

Fri, 19/12/2014 - 22:22
Mr. Jones writes: My 11-year-old son is fascinated by games — game mechanics in particular. He has been playing everything from Magic to WarFrame since he was 5 years old. He seems mostly interested in creating the lore and associated mechanics of the games (i.e. how a game works). If it was only programming I could help him, but I am lost when it comes to helping him learn more formal ways of developing and defining gameplay. I really see a talent for this in him and I want to support it any way I can. Can you suggest any conferences, programs, books, websites, etc. that would help him learn?

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Tesla About To Start Battery-Swap Pilot Program

Fri, 19/12/2014 - 21:39
cartechboy writes: Remember 18 months ago when Tesla promised it was going to launch battery-swap stations? Well, it's finally happening, sort of. It seems Tesla's about to announce a battery-swap pilot program that will launch next week. The swap site will be located across the street from a Tesla Supercharger site in Harris Ranch, California — 184 miles south of San Francisco and about 200 miles north of Los Angeles. The pilot program will involve an unspecified number of Model S electric-car owners, who will be invited to take part in the test. For now, the battery-swap service will be offered by appointment only, at a cost of roughly a tank of gas in a premium sedan. Tesla's using words to describe this pilot program like "exploratory work" and "intended to test technology and assess demand" for a swapping service. While originally pitched that the battery swap would take less time than it would to take to refill the gas tank of a comparable luxury sedan, the company says now that "for this specific iteration" the swap process will take "approximately 3 minutes" — though it adds Tesla has "the ability to improve that time with future iterations." Is this test going to show that battery swapping is or isn't a realistic initiative?

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Geoengineered Climate Cooling With Microbubbles

Fri, 19/12/2014 - 20:56
Rambo Tribble writes: Scientists from the University of Leeds have proposed that brighter ships' wakes, created by reducing their component bubbles' sizes, could moderately increase the reflectivity of our oceans, which would have a cooling effect on the climate. The technology is touted as being available and simple, but there could be side effects, like wetter conditions in some regions. Still, compared to many speculative geoengineering projects, "The one advantage about this technology — of trying to generate these tiny 'micro-bubbles' — is that the technology does already exist," according to Leeds' Prof Piers Forster.

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LinuxFest Northwest 2015 Will be Held April 25 and 26 (Video)

Fri, 19/12/2014 - 20:14
Their website says, 'Come for the code, stay for the people! We have awesome attendees and electrifying parties. Check out the robotics club, the automated home brewing system running on Linux, or the game room for extra conference fun.' This is an all-volunteer conference, and for a change the volunteers who run it are getting things together far in advance instead of having sessions that don't get scheduled until a few days before the conference, which has happened more than once with LFNW. So if you have an idea for a session, this is the time to start thinking about it. Sponsors are also welcome -- and since LFNW sponsorships regularly sell out, it's not to soon to start thinking about becoming a sponsor -- and if you are part of a non-profit group or FOSS project, LFNW offers free exhibit space because this is a conference that exists for the community, not to make money for a corporate owner. But don't delay. As you can imagine, those free exhibit spots tend to fill up early. (Alternate Video Link)

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Schneier Explains How To Protect Yourself From Sony-Style Attacks (You Can't)

Fri, 19/12/2014 - 19:31
phantomfive writes: Bruce Schneier has an opinion piece discussing the Sony attack. He says, "Your reaction to the massive hacking of such a prominent company will depend on whether you're fluent in information-technology security. If you're not, you're probably wondering how in the world this could happen. If you are, you're aware that this could happen to any company." He continues, "The worst invasion of privacy from the Sony hack didn’t happen to the executives or the stars; it happened to the blameless random employees who were just using their company’s email system. Because of that, they’ve had their most personal conversations—gossip, medical conditions, love lives—exposed. The press may not have divulged this information, but their friends and relatives peeked at it. Hundreds of personal tragedies must be unfolding right now. This could be any of us." Related: the FBI has officially concluded that the North Korean government is behind the attack.

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Machine Learning Reveals Genetic Controls

Fri, 19/12/2014 - 18:50
An anonymous reader writes with this quote from Quanta Magazine: Most genetic research to date has focused on just 1 percent of the genome — the areas that code for proteins. But new research, published today in Science, provides an initial map for the sections of the genome that orchestrate this protein-building process. "It's one thing to have the book — the big question is how you read the book," said Brendan Frey, a computational biologist at the University of Toronto who led the new research (abstract). For example, researchers can use the model to predict what will happen to a protein when there’s a mistake in part of the regulatory code. Mutations in splicing instructions have already been linked to diseases such as spinal muscular atrophy, a leading cause of infant death, and some forms of colorectal cancer. In the new study, researchers used the trained model to analyze genetic data from people afflicted with some of those diseases. The scientists identified some known mutations linked to these maladies, verifying that the model works. They picked out some new candidate mutations as well, most notably for autism. One of the benefits of the model, Frey said, is that it wasn’t trained using disease data, so it should work on any disease or trait of interest. The researchers plan to make the system publicly available, which means that scientists will be able to apply it to many more diseases.

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The Dominant Life Form In the Cosmos Is Probably Superintelligent Robots

Fri, 19/12/2014 - 18:08
Jason Koebler writes: If and when we finally encounter aliens, they probably won't look like little green men, or spiny insectoids. It's likely they won't be biological creatures at all, but rather, advanced robots that outstrip our intelligence in every conceivable way. Susan Schneider, a professor of philosophy at the University of Connecticut, joins a handful of astronomers, including Seth Shostak, director of NASA's Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, NASA Astrobiologist Paul Davies, and Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology Stephen Dick in espousing the view that the dominant intelligence in the cosmos is probably artificial. In her paper "Alien Minds," written for a forthcoming NASA publication, Schneider describes why alien life forms are likely to be synthetic, and how such creatures might think.

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All the Evidence the Government Will Present In the Silk Road Trial Is Online

Fri, 19/12/2014 - 17:25
apexcp writes: In less than a month, one of the biggest trials of 2015 will begin in New York City. The full list of government evidence and defense objections found its way online recently, shedding light on both the prosecutor's courtroom strategy and the defense team's attempted rebuttals. Also important is what's not presented as evidence. There's not a single piece of forensic documentation about how the FBI originally found Silk Road servers, an act the defense as called "blatantly criminal."

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Anyone Can Now Launch Their Own Version of the Pirate Bay

Fri, 19/12/2014 - 16:43
An anonymous reader writes: Not satisfied with merely launching The Old Pirate Bay, torrent site isoHunt today debuted The Open Bay, which lets anyone deploy their own version of The Pirate Bay online. This is achieved via a new six-step wizard, which the group says requires you to be somewhat tech-savvy and have "minimal knowledge of how the Internet and websites work." The Pirate Bay, the most popular file sharing website on the planet, went down last week following police raids on its data center in Sweden. As we've noted before, The Old Pirate Bay appears to be the best alternative at the moment, but since The Pirate Bay team doesn't know if it's coming back yet, there is still a huge hole left to be filled.

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Quantum Physics Just Got Less Complicated

Fri, 19/12/2014 - 15:59
wabrandsma sends this news from Phys.org: Here's a nice surprise: quantum physics is less complicated than we thought. An international team of researchers has proved that two peculiar features of the quantum world previously considered distinct are different manifestations of the same thing. The result is published 19 December in Nature Communications. Patrick Coles, Jedrzej Kaniewski, and Stephanie Wehner made the breakthrough while at the Center for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore. They found that wave-particle duality is simply the quantum uncertainty principle in disguise, reducing two mysteries to one.

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Hackers' Shutdown of 'The Interview' Confirms Coding Is a Superpower

Fri, 19/12/2014 - 15:16
theodp writes: The idea of programming as a superpower was touched upon by CS teacher Alfred Thompson back in 2010, but it became a rallying call of sorts for the Hour of Code after Dropbox CEO Drew Houston described coding as "the closest thing we have to a superpower" in a Code.org video that went viral. And if the kids who learned to code with the President last week were dubious about the power of coding, this week's decision by Sony to scrap the release of the satirical film The Interview after a massive hack attack should put aside any doubts, especially after new revelations that Sony had reached out to the White House for help and screened the film for administration officials back in June. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday that the Obama Administration is viewing the Sony attack as a "serious national security matter" and is considering a range of possible options as a response, which could turn things into a contest of U.S. Superpower vs. Coding Superpower. In case it wasn't mentioned last week, remember to always use your coding superpower for good, kids!

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Researchers Discover SS7 Flaw, Allowing Total Access To Any Cell Phone, Anywhere

Fri, 19/12/2014 - 14:32
krakman writes: Researchers discovered security flaws in SS7 that allow listening to private phone calls and intercepting text messages on a potentially massive scale – even when cellular networks are using the most advanced encryption now available. The flaws, to be reported at a hacker conference in Hamburg this month, are actually functions built into SS7 for other purposes – such as keeping calls connected as users speed down highways, switching from cell tower to cell tower – that hackers can repurpose for surveillance because of the lax security on the network. It is thought that these flaws were used for bugging German Chancellor Angela's Merkel's phone. Those skilled at the housekeeping functions built into SS7 can locate callers anywhere in the world, listen to calls as they happen or record hundreds of encrypted calls and texts at a time for later decryption (Google translation of German original). There is also potential to defraud users and cellular carriers by using SS7 functions, the researchers say. This is another result of security being considered only after the fact, as opposed to being part of the initial design.

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Skeptics Would Like Media To Stop Calling Science Deniers 'Skeptics'

Fri, 19/12/2014 - 13:50
Layzej writes: Prominent scientists, science communicators, and skeptic activists, are calling on the news media to stop using the word "skeptic" when referring to those who refuse to accept the reality of climate change, and instead refer to them by what they really are: science deniers. "Not all individuals who call themselves climate change skeptics are deniers. But virtually all deniers have falsely branded themselves as skeptics. By perpetrating this misnomer, journalists have granted undeserved credibility to those who reject science and scientific inquiry."

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Scientists Discover That Exercise Changes Your DNA

Fri, 19/12/2014 - 13:07
HughPickens.com writes The human genome is astonishingly complex and dynamic, with genes constantly turning on or off, depending on what biochemical signals they receive from the body. Scientists have known that certain genes become active or quieter as a result of exercise but they hadn't understood how those genes knew how to respond to exercise. Now the NYT reports that scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm have completed a study where they recruited 23 young and healthy men and women, brought them to the lab for a series of physical performance and medical tests, including a muscle biopsy, and then asked them to exercise half of their lower bodies for three months. The volunteers pedaled one-legged at a moderate pace for 45 minutes, four times per week for three months. Then the scientists repeated the muscle biopsies and other tests with each volunteer. Not surprisingly, the volunteers' exercised leg was more powerful now than the other, showing that the exercise had resulted in physical improvements. But there were also changes within the exercised muscle cells' DNA. Using technology that analyses 480,000 positions throughout the genome, they could see that new methylation patterns had taken place in 7,000 genes (an individual has 20–25,000 genes). In a process known as DNA methylation, clusters of atoms, called methyl groups, attach to the outside of a gene like microscopic mollusks and make the gene more or less able to receive and respond to biochemical signals from the body. In the exercised portions of the bodies, many of the methylation changes were on portions of the genome known as enhancers that can amplify the expression of proteins by genes. And gene expression was noticeably increased or changed in thousands of the muscle-cell genes that the researchers studied. Most of the genes in question are known to play a role in energy metabolism, insulin response and inflammation within muscles. In other words, they affect how healthy and fit our muscles — and bodies — become. Many mysteries still remain but the message of the study is unambiguous. "Through endurance training — a lifestyle change that is easily available for most people and doesn't cost much money," says Sara Lindholm, "we can induce changes that affect how we use our genes and, through that, get healthier and more functional muscles that ultimately improve our quality of life."

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Colorado Sued By Neighboring States Over Legal Pot

Fri, 19/12/2014 - 11:26
SternisheFan notes that Nebraska and Oklahoma are suing Colorado over marijuana legalization. The attorneys general of Nebraska and Oklahoma sued Colorado in the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday, arguing state-legalized marijuana from Colorado is improperly spilling across state lines. The suit invokes the federal government's right to regulate both drugs and interstate commerce, and says Colorado's decision to legalize marijuana has been "particularly burdensome" to police agencies on the other side of the state line. In June, USA TODAY highlighted the flow of marijuana from Colorado into small towns across Nebraska: felony drug arrests in Chappell, Neb., just 7 miles north of the Colorado border have skyrocketed 400% in three years. "In passing and enforcing Amendment 64, the state of Colorado has created a dangerous gap in the federal drug control system enacted by the United States Congress. Marijuana flows from this gap into neighboring states, undermining plaintiff states' own marijuana bans, draining their treasuries, and placing stress on their criminal justice systems," says the lawsuit. "The Constitution and the federal anti-drug laws do not permit the development of a patchwork of state and local pro-drug policies and licensed distribution schemes throughout the country which conflict with federal laws."

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Kepler Makes First Exoplanet Discovery After Mission Reboot

Fri, 19/12/2014 - 10:31
astroengine writes NASA's Kepler space telescope has detected its first new extrasolar planet after mission engineers were able to save the mission from a premature death after two of the exoplanet hunter's four stabilizing reaction wheels failed last year. Called "K2," the extended mission arose from an "innovative idea" that appears to have given the prolific telescope a new lease on life. "Last summer, the possibility of a scientifically productive mission for Kepler after its reaction wheel failure in its extended mission was not part of the conversation," said Paul Hertz, NASA's astrophysics division director at the agency's headquarters in Washington D.C. "Today, thanks to an innovative idea and lots of hard work by the NASA and Ball Aerospace team, Kepler may well deliver the first candidates for follow-up study by the James Webb Space Telescope to characterize the atmospheres of distant worlds and search for signatures of life."

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