News & Updates

(credit: Megan Geuss)

On Wednesday, lawmakers in Utah voted to approve a bill that would make it legal for firefighters or law enforcement to shoot down, spoof, or otherwise disable drones found flying over airspace that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) puts under temporary restriction due to wildfire.

The bill was passed after a small drone flying over a fire 300 miles south of Salt Lake City forced firefighters to ground aircraft. Utah’s governor, Gary Herbert, has said that the fire expanded and became more expensive to control after the drone incident. Herbert is expected to sign the bill in the coming days.

Evan Vickers, the Utah senator that co-sponsored the bill, said that firefighters and police would be allowed to shoot a drone down, but he added that they’d probably use technology to jam signals sent to a drone and bring it down that way. (You can see a video of that kind of solution here.) “The redneck in me [says] to shoot the damn thing,” the Republican senator said to the Salt Lake Tribune. “But there are much more humane ways to do that,” he added.

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Chex Quest HD is a real thing. Get ready to shoot lasers at booger-shaped aliens in crisp 1080p before long. (credit: Charles Jacobi)

Even if you’re not an avid video gamer, you’ve probably noticed a significant uptick in “HD remakes” of older, popular video games. Everyone’s doing them, and the remaster pool includes everything from redrawn, cartoony games like Capcom’s DuckTales to gritty war simulations like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.

You might argue that some of these aren’t necessary, whether because they’re “remasters” of games that are only a few years old or because the source material isn’t a cultural cornerstone. And you may be tempted to lump Chex Quest, a 1996 CD-ROM game packed into boxes of cereal in which players must save a race of square-shaped “Chex people” from booger-shaped monsters, into the latter category.

But even that game’s coming in HD—and apparently, some people really want it. Chex Quest has enjoyed quite the cult following since its unique mid-’90s launch, perhaps because it was a free, kid-friendly re-skin of Doom and was therefore many kids’ first taste of the first-person shooter phenomenon. As such, gaming site Zam reached out to one of the game’s co-creators, lead artist Charles Jacobi, to talk about the weird game’s genesis and development in light of its 20th anniversary this year—and in the interview, the artist let slip that he’s currently working on an HD remaster of the original.

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(credit: Stanley Sagov)

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco) formally introduced a new bill in Congress on Thursday that would seek to make involuntary, or “revenge” pornography, a federal crime, punishable with a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

The bill, which is known as the Intimate Privacy Protection Act of 2016, states:

Whoever knowingly uses the mail, any interactive computer service or electronic communication service or electronic communication system of interstate commerce, or any other facility of interstate or foreign commerce to distribute a visual depiction of a person who is identifiable from the image itself or information displayed in connection with the image and who is engaging in sexually explicit conduct, or of the naked genitals or post-pubescent female nipple of a person, with reckless disregard for the person’s lack of consent to the distribution, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.

Until now, there has been no such federal bill introduced—but 34 states, including California, have already created similar legislation.

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(credit: Eduardo Woo)

We’ve read about all kinds of weird things happening to people playing Pokémon Go on their mobile phones—including players being the victims of muggings, participants being accused of trespassing or getting lost, and even app-related divorce.

The story of an Indiana man, however, takes the cake. The case of 42-year-old Randy Zuick comes in as our top vote for Dumbest Criminal of the Month, and it also gets our top vote for the Strangest Pokémon Go Story we’ve heard following the mobile app’s debut last week.

Zuick is a registered child sex offender. In April he pleaded guilty to a felony charge of fondling a child under 14 and was placed on sex-offender probation for four years. The terms include him not interacting with children, local media reported.

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This is the only controller you’ll need for PlayStation VR.

Update: Sony has now amended the statement included in this story, clarifying that “nearly all PlayStation VR titles will support DualShock 4 controllers, and several games will deliver an enhanced experience that further immerses gamers with the use of peripherals such as Move or the recently announced Aim controller. There will be a limited number of titles that require Move controllers [emphasis added].” Well that settles that.

Original Story

If you’re thinking about buying Sony’s PlayStation VR when it launches this October, you should know that you don’t absolutely need a pair of hand-tracking PlayStation Move controllers to go with the headset. Sony recently confirmed to Eurogamer that “all PlayStation VR titles will support DualShock 4 controllers. However, some game experiences will be enhanced with the use of peripherals such as Move or the recently announced Aim controller.”

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(credit: John Palmer)

As if people didn’t already have cause to distrust the security of Juniper products, the networking gear maker just disclosed a vulnerability that allowed attackers to eavesdrop on sensitive communications traveling through customers’ virtual private networks.

In an advisory posted Wednesday, Juniper officials said they just fixed a bug in the company’s Junos operating system that allowed adversaries to masquerade as trusted parties. The impersonation could be carried out by presenting a forged cryptographic certificate that was signed by the attacker rather than by a trusted certificate authority that normally vets the identity of the credential holder.

“When a peer device presents a self-signed certificate as its end entity certificate with its issuer name matching one of the valid CA certificates enrolled in Junos, the peer certificate validation is skipped and the peer certificate is treated as valid,” Wednesday’s advisory stated. “This may allow an attacker to generate a specially crafted self-signed certificate and bypass certificate validation.”

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(credit: Getty Images | Yuri_Arcurs)

Two votes taken by the Federal Communications Commission today could have big implications for the transition to faster mobile networks and the discontinuance of old landline networks.

The two votes aren’t directly related, but they each prepare for a future that could rely more on wireless technologies for voice and Internet service. In one item, the FCC voted to open up high-frequency spectrum to help carriers create 5G networks that would be faster than existing 4G ones.

The second vote will make it easier for carriers to turn off old landline phone networks as long as they replace them with either wired or wireless equivalents. Copper landlines can be replaced with fiber or wireless technology if they offer the same performance, reliability, coverage, access to 911, and compatibility with systems including medical monitoring devices.

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(credit: various brennemans)

Kids who got teased for sucking their thumbs or biting their nails may, after all, get the last laugh.

It turns out that repeatedly sticking grimy digits into your pie-hole as a youngster may help strengthen your immune system and prevent the development of allergies later in life, researchers report in the August issue of Pediatrics. The finding is certainly a score for the underdogs of the schoolyard, but it also lends more support to the “hygiene hypothesis.” This decades-old hypothesis generally suggests that exposure to germs and harmless microbes in childhood can help develop a healthy, tolerant immune system—that is, one not prone to autoimmune diseases and hypersensitive responses such as allergies.

“Although we do not suggest that children should be encouraged to take up these oral habits, the findings suggest that thumb-sucking and nail-biting reduce the risk for developing sensitization to common aeroallergens,” the study authors conclude.

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The site published the birthdays, addresses, phone numbers, and Social Security numbers of dozens of celebrities and public officials, including the heads of the FBI and CIA. (credit:

A 22-year-old hacker has been handed a two-year prison sentence for his role in doxing and swatting politicians, celebrities, prosecutors, the first lady, and security journalist Brian Krebs.

While cooperating with the FBI after his 2012 arrest on unrelated charges, Mir Islam doxed and swatted as many as 50 people, authorities said. Those who were doxed had their information appear on a website Islam ran called “Exposed.” Victims included First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. Those who were swatted include Stephen P. Heymann, the Massachusetts federal prosecutor that handled the Aaron Swartz prosecution; security journalist Brian Krebs; Wayne LaPierre, the CEO of the National Rifle Association; and Mike Rogers, a former GOP representative from Michigan and a key supporter of the Stop Online Piracy Act.

Islam also orchestrated a phony threat of an active shooter at the University of Arizona.

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Enlarge / The new additions enable all kinds of different occupations for emoji women of many colors. (credit: Google)

The Unicode Consortium announced plans (PDF) to support new emoji aimed at promoting gender equality—11 new “professional” emoji will depict both men and women performing different jobs, and there will be both male and female versions of 33 existing emoji that currently depict either a man or a woman but not both. The plan is based largely on a proposal from Google, a prominent member of the Unicode Consortium, back in May (PDF).

The new professions include, in the Unicode Consortium’s words: a farmer, welder, mechanic, health worker, scientist, coder, business worker, chef, student, teacher, and rockstar.

To avoid the normally lengthy wait time associated with new emoji—Unicode 9.0 was just finalized in June, and version 10.0 won’t be finalized until June of 2017—Unicode is using combinations of existing emoji to create the new ones. The process is similar to, though not exactly the same as, the system for changing skin tones. A special character called a “zero-width joiner” (ZWJ) can be placed between two or more emoji, and operating systems that support it know to put out a different composite emoji rather than a series of separate emoji.

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