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A New Senate Bill Would Hit Robocallers With Up To a $10,000 Fine For Every Call

Fri, 11/16/2018 - 21:05
Massachusetts Democratic Senator Ed Markey and South Dakota Republican Senator John Thune have introduced a bill on Friday that aims to ramp up the penalties on illegal robocalls and stop scammers from sending them. Gizmodo reports: The Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, raises the penalty for robocalls from $1,500 per call to up to $10,000 per call, and allows the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take action on illegal robocalls up to three years after the calls are placed, instead of a year. The Act also aims to push the FCC to work along with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and other agencies to provide information to Congress about advancements in hindering robocall and prosecuting scammers. Perhaps most importantly for us highly annoyed Americans, the bill would also force phone service providers to use call authentication that filters out illegitimate calls before they go through to consumers.

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Mid-Range Google 'Pixel 3 Lite' Leaks With Snapdragon 670, Headphone Jack

Fri, 11/16/2018 - 20:25
The first alleged images of the rumored "budget" Pixel 3 have been leaked. The Pixel 3 Lite, as it is being called, looks very similar to the Pixel 3, although it features a plastic build construction, slower processor, and a headphone jack. 9to5Google reports: Just like the standard Pixel 3, there's a display that's roughly 5.56-inches in size, but this time it's an IPS LCD panel at 2220x1080 rather than an OLED panel. Obviously, there's also no notch to be seen on this alleged Pixel 3 Lite. There's a single front-facing camera as well as one speaker above that display, relatively thick bezels on the top and bottom, and a speaker along the bottom of the device as well. Perhaps most interesting when it comes to the hardware, though, is that there's a headphone jack on the top of the phone. That's certainly unexpected since the Pixel 2 dropped the jack and Google hasn't looked back since. Tests from Rozetked reveal some of the specifications running this device as well. That includes a Snapdragon 670 chipset, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage. Previous reports have pointed to a Snapdragon 710. Battery capacity on this device is also reported at 2915 mAh and there's a USB-C port along the bottom. It is rumored to include the same 12MP and 8MP cameras found in the standard Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, which will be a huge selling point for the affordable phone market. The price is expected to be around $400-500.

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Cheaper, Disc-Free Xbox One Coming Next Year, Report Says

Fri, 11/16/2018 - 19:45
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Microsoft is planning to release a disc-free version of the Xbox One as early as next spring, according to an unsourced report from author Brad Sams of Thurrott.com (who has been reliable with early Xbox-related information in the past). The report suggests the disc-free version of the system would not replace the existing Xbox One hardware, and it would instead represent "the lowest possible price for the Xbox One S console." Sams says that price could come in at $199 "or lower," a significant reduction from the system's current $299 starting price (but not as compelling compared to $199 deals for the Xbox One and PS4 planned for Black Friday this year). Buyers will also be able to add a subscription to the Xbox Games Pass program for as little as $1, according to Sams. For players who already have games on disc, Sams says Microsoft will offer a "disc to digital" program in association with participating publishers. Players will be able to take their discs into participating retailers (including Microsoft Stores) and trade them in for a "digital entitlement" that can be applied to their Xbox Live account.

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MiSafes' Child-Tracking Smartwatches Are 'Easy To Hack'

Fri, 11/16/2018 - 19:03
The location-tracking "MiSafe" smartwatch may not be as safe as the name proclaims. According to security researchers from Pen Test Partners, the watches are easy to hack as they do not encrypt the data they use or secure each child's account. The researchers found that they could track children's movements, surreptitiously listen in to their activities and make spoof calls to the watches that appeared to be from parents. The BBC reports: The MiSafes watch was first released in 2015. It uses a global positioning system (GPS) sensor and a 2G mobile data connection to let parents see where their child is, via a smartphone app. In addition, parents can create a "safe zone" and receive an alert if the child leaves the area. The adult can also listen in to what their offspring is doing at any time and trigger two-way calls. Pen Test Partner's Ken Munro and Alan Monie learned of the product's existence when a friend bought one for his son earlier this year. Out of curiosity, they probed its security measures and found that easy-to-find PC software could be used to mimic the app's communications. This software could be used to change the assigned ID number, which was all it took to get access to others' accounts. This made it possible to see personal information used to register the product, including: a photo of the child; their name, gender and date of birth; their height and weight; the parents' phone numbers; and the phone number assigned to the watch's Sim card.

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Google Cloud Executive Who Sought Pentagon Contract Steps Down

Fri, 11/16/2018 - 18:20
Diane Greene, whose pursuit of Pentagon contracts for artificial intelligence technology sparked a worker uprising at Google, is stepping down as chief executive of the company's cloud computing business (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). "Ms. Greene said she would stay on as chief executive until January. She will be replaced by Thomas Kurian, who oversaw product development at Oracle until his resignation in October. Ms. Greene will remain a board director at Google's parent company, Alphabet," reports The New York Times. From the report: The change in leadership caps a turbulent three years for Ms. Greene, who was brought on to expand Google's cloud computing business. Google Cloud has struggled to make major inroads in persuading corporate customers to use its computing infrastructure over alternatives like Amazon's A.W.S. and Microsoft's Azure. In a blog post published by the company, Ms. Greene said she had initially told friends and family that she was planning to run Google Cloud for only two years but stayed for three. Ms. Greene, a widely respected technologist and entrepreneur, said that after leaving Google Cloud, she planned to help female founders of companies by investing in and mentoring them. Ms. Greene joined Google in 2015 when it acquired Bebop, a start-up she had founded, for $380 million. Ms. Greene defended Google's pursuit of a Defense Department contract for the Maven program, which uses AI to interpret video images and could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes. In March, she said it was a small contract worth "only" $9 million and that the technology would be used for nonlethal purposes.

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Trump Signs Bill That Creates the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency

Fri, 11/16/2018 - 17:40
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: U.S. President Donald Trump signed today a bill into law, approving the creation of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). The bill, known as the CISA Act, reorganizes and rebrands the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD), a program inside the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), as CISA, a standalone federal agency in charge of overseeing civilian and federal cybersecurity programs. The NPPD, which was first established in 2007, has already been handling almost all of the DHS' cyber-related issues and projects. As part of the DHS, the NPPD was the government entity in charge of physical and cyber-security of federal networks and critical infrastructure, and oversaw the Federal Protective Service (FPS), the Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM), the Office of Cyber and Infrastructure Analysis (OCIA), the Office of Cybersecurity & Communications (OC&C), and the Office of Infrastructure Protection (OIP). As CISA, the agency's prerogatives will remain the same, and nothing is expected to change in day-to-day operations, but as a federal agency, CISA will now benefit from an increased budget and more authority in imposing its directives. "Elevating the cybersecurity mission within the Department of Homeland Security, streamlining our operations, and giving NPPD a name that reflects what it actually does will help better secure the nation's critical infrastructure and cyber platforms," said NPPD Under Secretary Christopher Krebs. "The changes will also improve the Department's ability to engage with industry and government stakeholders and recruit top cybersecurity talent."

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Linux 4.20 is Running Slower Than 4.19 On Intel CPUs

Fri, 11/16/2018 - 17:05
Freshly Exhumed writes: An intentional kernel change in Linux kernel 4.20 for enhanced Spectre mitigation is unfortunately causing Intel Linux performance to be much slower than with 4.19. That change is 'STIBP' (Single Thread Indirect Branch Predictors), which allows for preventing cross-hyperthread control of decisions that are made by indirect branch predictors. It affects Intel systems that have up-to-date microcode and CPU Hyper Threading enabled. Phoronix gives the evidence.

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Air Quality in San Francisco is So Bad that Uber Drivers Are Selling Masks Out of Their Cars

Fri, 11/16/2018 - 16:25
California's devastating wildfires are causing unhealthy air conditions for locals breathing in harmful fumes. From a report: In San Francisco, which currently has the second-worst-rated air quality out of any city in the world, one driver was spotted selling N95 respirator masks for $5 apiece. That's significantly above market rate. Right now you can buy a 10-pack of similar masks for about $13 on Amazon. But considering the masks are sold out at many local stores, riders may be willing to dish out the cash for immediate access to the protective gear. Further reading: California needs to reinvent its fire policies, or the death and destruction will go on.

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Amazon Has Everything it Needs To Make Massively Popular Algorithm-Driven Fiction

Fri, 11/16/2018 - 15:45
Thu-Huong Ha, writing for Quartz: Amazon's power in books extends way beyond its ability to sell them super cheap and super fast. This year, a little over 40% of the print books sold in the US moved through the site, according to estimates from Bookstat, which tracks US online book retail. (NPD, which tracks 85% of US trade print sales, declined to provide data broken out by retailer.) In the US, Amazon dominates ebook sales and hosts hundreds of thousands of self-published ebooks on its platforms, many exclusively. It looms over the audiobook scene, in retail as well as production, and is one of the biggest marketplaces for used books in the US. Amazon also makes its own books -- more than 1,500 last year. All that power comes with great data, which Amazon's publishing arm is well positioned to exploit in the interest of making books tailored exactly to what people want -- down to which page characters should meet on or how many lines of dialogue they should exchange. Though Amazon declined to comment specifically on whether it uses data to shape or determine the content of its own books, the company acknowledged that authors are recruited for their past sales (as is common in traditional publishing). "Amazon Publishing titles are thoughtfully acquired by our team -- made up of publishing-industry veterans and long-time Amazonians -- with many factors taken into consideration," says Amazon Publishing publisher Mikyla Bruder, "including the acquiring editor's enthusiasm, the strength of the story, quality of the writing, editorial fit for our list, and author backlist/comparable titles' sales track." Amazon's Kindle e-reader, first released in 2007, is a data-collection device that doubles as reading material. Kindle knows the minutiae of how people read: what they highlight, the fonts they prefer, where in a book they lose interest, what kind of books they finish quickly, and which books gets skimmed rather than read all the way through. A year after the Kindle came out, Amazon acquired Audible. Audiobooks have been a rare bright spot in the publishing industry, with double-digit growth in total sales for the past few years. Audible now touts itself as the "world's largest seller and producer of downloadable audiobooks and other spoken-word entertainment," and its site has around 450,000 audio programs.

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