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  • Google Play Malware Used Phones' Motion Sensors To Conceal Itself
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Malicious apps hosted in the Google Play market are trying a clever trick to avoid detection -- they monitor the motion-sensor input of an infected device before installing a powerful banking trojan to make sure it doesn't load on emulators researchers use to detect attacks. The thinking behind the monitoring is that sensors in real end-user devices will record motion as people use them. By contrast, emulators used by security researchers -- and possibly Google employees screening apps submitted to Play -- are less likely to use sensors. Two Google Play apps recently caught dropping the Anubis banking malware on infected devices would activate the payload only when motion was detected first. Otherwise, the trojan would remain dormant. Security firm Trend Micro found the motion-activated dropper in two apps -- BatterySaverMobi, which had about 5,000 downloads, and Currency Converter, which had an unknown number of downloads. Google removed them once it learned they were malicious. The motion detection wasn't the only clever feature of the malicious apps. Once one of the apps installed Anubis on a device, the dropper used requests and responses over Twitter and Telegram to locate the required command and control server. Once Anubis was installed, it used a built-in keylogger that can steal users' account credentials. The malware can also obtain credentials by taking screenshots of the infected users' screen.

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  • Motorola's RAZR Is Returning As a $1,500 Folding Smartphone
    A new report from The Wall Street Journal says the Motorola RAZR might be making a comeback as a $1,500 foldable screen smartphone, and it could launch as early as February. The Verge reports: The original RAZR was one of the most iconic cellphones ever made, and it seems that Motorola's parent company Lenovo is looking to cash in on that branding with an updated foldable phone (similar to the one that Samsung has teased for later this year). Per the WSJ, the new RAZR will be exclusive to Verizon in the U.S. with a planned February launch, although the device is still in testing and details have yet to be finalized. Also unknown is nearly any concrete information about the phone. There's no word yet on things like screen size, specifications, or even form factor. Will the revived RAZR just borrow the name but use a more traditional landscape folding display? Will Lenovo follow the original RAZR design and have some sort of super long vertically folding screen? According to the WSJ report, Lenovo is hoping to manufacture over 200,000 of the new RAZRs, which may seem optimistic for a $1,500 luxury smartphone. But considering that the (admittedly much cheaper) RAZR V3 model sold 130 million units over its lifespan, if lightning does manage to strike twice, that goal might not be so hard to hit.

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  • Netflix Says It Has 10 Percent of All TV Time In the US
    In its fourth-quarter 2018 earnings report, Netflix disclosed some of its viewership numbers for hits such as "Bird Box." "Overall, Netflix said it serves about 100 million hours of video per day, earning an estimated 10 percent of all time spent in front of the TV in the U.S.," reports CNBC. The company also said "Bird Box" reached 80 million member households in its first four weeks on the streaming service. Unfortunately, it still didn't show exactly how many people have viewed the content. From the report: By way of comparison, during the week of Jan. 7, the top TV show was an NFL playoff game between the New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Jan. 13, which drew 33 million viewers, according to Nielsen. The top scripted show, "The Big Bang Theory," drew over 13 million. But Netflix does not view TV as its only competition. In its earnings note, it also said games such as Fortnite compete for attention. Fortnite reportedly draws 200 million players per week. The company also highlighted several of its international projects. Netflix said its original from Spain, "Elite," was watched by over 20 million member households worldwide in the first four weeks. "Bodyguard," co-produced with BBC One; "Baby," an original series from Italy, and "Protector," an original series from Turkey, all reached more than 10 million member households in their first four weeks, the company said. There was still one notable hit that Netflix didn't disclose numbers for: "Black Mirror: Bandersnatch." Instead, the company discussed in its earnings letter that the technology used to create the movie, its first interactive choose-your-own-adventure-style flick, will be used for interactive projects in the future.

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  • World's Oldest Periodic Table Chart Found At University of St Andrews In Scotland
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: A periodic table chart discovered at the University of St Andrews is thought to be the oldest in the world. The chart of elements, dating from 1885, was discovered in the University's School of Chemistry in 2014 by Dr. Alan Aitken during a clear out. The storage area was full of chemicals, equipment and laboratory paraphernalia that had accumulated since the opening of the chemistry department at its current location in 1968. Following months of clearing and sorting the various materials a stash of rolled up teaching charts was discovered. Within the collection was a large, extremely fragile periodic table that flaked upon handling. Suggestions that the discovery may be the earliest surviving example of a classroom periodic table in the world meant the document required urgent attention to be authenticated, repaired and restored. Mendeleev made his famous disclosure on periodicity in 1869, the newly unearthed table was rather similar, but not identical to Mendeleev's second table of 1871. However, the St Andrews table was clearly an early specimen. The table is annotated in German, and an inscription at the bottom left -- "Verlag v. Lenoir & Forster, Wien" -- identifies a scientific printer who operated in Vienna between 1875 and 1888. Another inscription -- "Lith. von Ant. Hartinger & Sohn, Wien" -- identifies the chart's lithographer, who died in 1890. Working with the University's Special Collections team, the University sought advice from a series of international experts. Following further investigations, no earlier lecture chart of the table appears to exist. Professor Eric Scerri, an expert on the history of the periodic table based at the University of California, Los Angeles, dated the table to between 1879 and 1886 based on the represented elements. For example, both gallium and scandium, discovered in 1875 and 1879 respectively, are present, while germanium, discovered in 1886, is not.

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  • Bioacoustic Devices Could Help Save Rainforests
    "Researchers writing in Science argue that networked audio recording devices mounted in trees could be used to monitor wildlife populations and better evaluate whether conservation projects are working or not," writes Slashdot reader Damien1972. From the report: Compared to ground surveys and camera traps, the technology provides cheap continuous, real-time biodiversity monitoring at the landscape scale. Thousands of hours of recordings can now be collected with long-lasting batteries and stored digitally. In sites with solar power and cellular signal, multi-year recordings have now been transmitted and saved to scientists' databases. That's possible thanks to the steep drop in the price of equipment that enables researchers to collect more than short, isolated sound snapshots. The key, says co-authors Eddie Game of The Nature Conservancy and Zuzana Burivalova at Princeton University, is to build out enough data to understand how changing soundscapes reflect biodiversity on the ground. Game says he has found plenty of "high-conservation value" tropical forests that are devoid of key species. This is common in reserves set aside by owners of plantation crops such as palm oil. Algorithms can use these recording to learn the sound of healthy forests, and infer the composition of their species. In Papua New Guinea, for example, the researchers found soundscapes in fragmented forests were far quieter during the dawn and evening choruses, the short cacophonous periods during the changing of day and night. Once enough data has been collected [...] the technology can be applied to the zero deforestation commitments set by corporations.

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  • Court Rejects FCC Request To Delay Net Neutrality Case
    A federal appeals court denied the FCC's request to postpone oral arguments in a court battle over the agency's decision to repeal its net neutrality rules. The FCC had asked for the hearing to be postponed since the commission's workforce has largely been furloughed due to the partial government shutdown. The hearing remains set for February 1. The Hill reports: After the FCC repealed the rules requiring internet service providers to treat all web traffic equally in December of 2017, a coalition of consumer groups and state attorneys general sued to reverse the move, arguing that the agency failed to justify it. The FCC asked the three-judge panel from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to delay oral arguments out of "an abundance of caution" due to its lapse of funding. Net neutrality groups opposed the motion, arguing that there is an urgent need to settle the legal questions surrounding the FCC's order.

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  • Adding New DNA Letters Make Novel Proteins Possible
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Economist: The fuzzy specks growing on discs of jelly in Floyd Romesberg's lab at Scripps Research in La Jolla look much like any other culture of E. coli. But appearances deceive -- for the dna of these bacteria is written in an alphabet that has six chemical letters instead of the usual four. Every other organism on Earth relies on a quartet of genetic bases: a (adenine), c (cytosine), t (thymine) and g (guanine). These fit together in pairs inside a double-stranded dna molecule, a matching t and c, g. But in 2014 Dr Romesberg announced that he had synthesised a new, unnatural, base pair, dubbed x and y, and slipped them into the genome of E. coli as well. Kept supplied with sufficient quantities of X and Y, the new cells faithfully replicated the enhanced DNA -- and, crucially, their descendants continued to do so, too. Since then, Dr Romesberg and his colleagues have been encouraging their new, "semisynthetic" cells to use the expanded alphabet to make proteins that could not previously have existed, and which might have properties that are both novel and useful. Now they think they have found one. In collaboration with a spin-off firm called Synthorx, they hope to create a less toxic and more effective version of a cancer drug called interleukin-2. Interleukin-2 works by binding to, and stimulating the activity of, immune-system cells called lymphocytes. The receptor it attaches itself to on a lymphocyte's surface is made of three units: alpha, beta and gamma. Immune cells with all three form a strong bond to interleukin-2, and it is this which triggers the toxic effect. If interleukin-2 can be induced to bind only to the beta and gamma units, however, the toxicity goes away. And that, experiments have shown, can be done by attaching polyethylene glycol (PEG) molecules to it. The trick is to make the PEGs stick. This is where the extended genetic alphabet comes in. Using it, Synthorx has created versions of interleukin-2 to which PEGs attach themselves spontaneously in just the right place to stop them linking to the alpha unit. Tested on mice, the modified molecule has exactly the desired anti-tumor effects. Synthorx plans to ask permission for human trials later this year.

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  • Jack Bogle, the Man Who Revolutionized Investing, Dies At 89
    Thelasko shares a report from MarketWatch: You can thank Thomas Edison for the light bulb casting light in your home, Henry Ford for your affordable, mass-produced car, and Apple's Steve Jobs for the astonishing computer in your pocket. And Jack Bogle, who died Wednesday [at the age of 89]. The low-cost mutual funds he helped pioneer at Vanguard aren't as sexy or dramatic as other inventions. And you can't really touch or see them. But their effect on everyday lives has been enormous. Bogle's low-cost index funds, and the imitators they have inspired, may have saved ordinary Main Street Americans a staggering $250 billion, or more, in mutual fund fees over the last forty years. According to the Investment Company Institute (ICI), there are now about 450 index mutual funds with around $3.4 trillion in assets. There are also 1,800 exchange-traded funds, also with around $3.4 trillion in assets.

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  • Twitter Bug Exposed Some Android Users' Protected Tweets For Years
    Twitter disclosed on its Help Center page today that some Android users had their private tweets revealed for years due to a security flaw. "The issue caused the Twitter for Android app to disable the 'Protect your Tweets' setting for some Android users who made changes to their account settings, such as changing the email address associated with their account, between November 3rd, 2014 and January 14th, 2019," reports The Verge. From the report: Though the company says the issue was fixed earlier this week and that iOS or web users weren't affected, it doesn't yet know how many Android accounts were affected. Twitter says it's reached out to affected users and turned the setting back on for them, but it still recommends that users review their privacy settings to make sure it reflects their desired preferences.

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  • Verizon Blames School Text Provider In Dispute Over 'Spam' Fee
    Last week, Ars Technica reported that Verizon's new "spam" fee for texts sent from teachers to students might stop working on the network because of a dispute over texting fees that Verizon demanded from Remind, the company that operates the service. Now, it appears that Verizon "has backed down from its original position slightly, and ongoing negotiations could allow the free texting service to continue," reports Ars. From the report: As we reported Monday, the dispute involves Verizon and Remind, which makes a communication service used by teachers and youth sports coaches. Verizon is charging an additional fee, saying the money will be used to fund spam-blocking services. The fee would increase Remind's costs for sending texts to Verizon users from a few hundred thousand dollars to several million dollars per year, Remind said. Remind said it would absorb the cost in order to continue providing the paid version of its service. But most of Remind's 30 million users rely on the free version of the service, and Remind said it could no longer provide free text message notifications over Verizon's network unless the fee is reversed. Verizon issued an announcement today, titled "App provider Remind threatens to eliminate a free texting service for K-12 education organizations (which will cost it nothing)." The title reflects a new offer Verizon said it made on Tuesday, which would reverse the fee for K-12 users of the free Remind service. "Verizon will not charge Remind fees as long as they don't begin charging K-12 schools, educators, parents and students using its free text message service," Verizon said. "Despite this offer, made Tuesday, Remind has not changed its position that it will stop sending free texts to Verizon customers who use the service regarding school closures, classroom activities and other critical information." The report goes on to note that simply limiting the offer to K-12 users means the fee "would still be charged for preschools, day-care centers, and youth sports coaches who use the free Remind service."

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  • Oklahoma Government Data Leak Exposes FBI Investigation Records, Millions of Department Files
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: Researchers have disclosed the existence of a server exposed to the public which not only contained terabytes of confidential government data but information relating to FBI investigations. According to UpGuard cybersecurity researchers Greg Pollock and Chris Vickery, the open storage server belonged to the Oklahoma Department of Securities (ODS), a U.S. government department which deals with securities cases and complaints. The database was found through the Shodan search engine which registered the system as publicly accessible on November 30, 2018. The UpGuard team stumbled across the database on December 7th and notified the department a day later after verifying what they were working with. To ODS' credit, the department removed public access to the server on the same day. In order to examine the security breach, the team was able to download the server's contents. The oldest records dated back to 1986 and the most recent was timestamped in 2016. In total, three terabytes of information representing millions of files. Contents ranged from personal data to system credentials and internal communication records. ODS said in a statement to ZDNet: "All state IP addresses, and many city and county addresses, are registered to OMES, but the agency has no visibility into the computer systems at the Oklahoma Department of Securities. For the past eight years the state has been working to consolidate all IT infrastructure under OMES and ODS had the option to consolidate its systems voluntarily and they did not."

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  • Google Just Spent $40 Million For Fossil's Secret Smartwatch Tech
    Google and watchmaker Fossil Group today announced an agreement for the search giant to acquire some of Fossil's smartwatch technology and members of the research and development division responsible for creating it. From a report: The deal is worth roughly $40 million, and under the current terms Fossil will transfer a "portion" of its R&D team, the portion directly responsible for the intellectual property being sold, over to Google. As a result, Google will now have a dedicated team with hardware experience working internally on its WearOS software platform and potentially on new smartwatch designs as well.

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  • Saturn Put A Ring On It Relatively Recently, Study Says
    Saturn is famous for its lovely rings, but a new study suggests the planet has spent most of its 4.5 billion years without them. From a report: That's because the rings are likely only 10 million to 100 million years old, according to a newly published report in the journal Science that's based on findings from NASA's Cassini probe. Cassini spent some 13 years orbiting Saturn before plunging down and slamming into its atmosphere. During its final orbits, the spacecraft dove between the planet and its rings. That let scientists measure the gravitational effect of the rings and get a good estimate of the ring material's mass. What they found is that it's only about 40 percent of the mass of Saturn's moon Mimas, which is way smaller than Earth's moon. This small mass suggests that the rings are relatively young. That's because the rings seem to be made of extremely pure water ice, suggesting that the bright white rings have not existed long enough to be contaminated by the bombardment of messy, dirty comets that would be expected to occur over billions of years. Some scientists thought it was possible that darker debris from comets might lie beneath the bright ice, undetectable to their instruments, but this new study shows that isn't the case.

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  • Some Android GPS Apps Are Just Showing Ads on Top of Google Maps
    A security researcher with antivirus maker ESET has discovered a collection of 19 Android apps that pose as GPS applications but which don't do anything but show ads on top of the legitimate Google Maps service. From a report: "They attract potential users with fake screenshots stolen from legitimate Navigation apps," said Lukas Stefanko, the ESET researcher who found them, who pointed out the 19 apps have been downloaded more than 50 million times. The apps "pretend to be full featured navigation apps, but all they can do is to create useless layer between User and Google Maps app," the researcher said. Stefanko says that the apps don't have any actual "navigation technology" and they only "misuse Google Maps."

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  • Michael Cohen Says He Tried To Rig Online Polls 'at the Direction' of Donald Trump
    Dan Mangan, writing for CNBC: President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer and longtime fixer Michael Cohen on Thursday said he tried to rig online polls -- including one conducted by CNBC -- "at the direction and for the sole benefit of" Trump when he was thinking about making a run for the White House. "I truly regret my blind loyalty to a man who doesn't deserve it," Cohen said in a tweet copping to the electronic chicanery to have Trump's name rank higher in online polls than it otherwise would have. Cohen's admission came shortly after The Wall Street Journal published a story detailing how he retained an information technology company to manipulate a 2014 CNBC online poll identifying the nation's top 100 business leaders to bolster Trump's chances of making that list. That effort failed. And Trump himself fumed in 2014 on Twitter about his absence from CNBC's poll results.

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