News & Updates

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Eolas Technologies, which has been called a “patent troll,” has continued to file against big companies, even after losing a landmark 2012 trial. But following an appeals court order (PDF) last week, Eolas will have to pursue its lawsuits in California—not its preferred patent hotspot of East Texas.

As of Friday, Eolas’ lawsuits against Google, Amazon, and Wal-Mart have been transferred to the Northern District of California. The move could reduce Eolas’ chances of winning a settlement or verdict since East Texas courts have been viewed by some as favoring patent holders.

To understand the context, let’s briefly sum up the history of Eolas. The company was formed out of a patent filed by Michael Doyle, who was the head of IT at the University of California, San Francisco, campus in the 1990s. Doyle says that, while at UCSF, he created the first program that allowed users to interact with images inside of a Web browser. He claimed that patent entitled him to royalties on a vast swath of features related to the “interactive Web,” including online video, user-manipulated images on shopping websites, and suggestions that pop up in search bars.

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A maker of Internet-connected stuffed animal toys has exposed more than 2 million voice recordings of children and parents, as well as e-mail addresses and password data for more than 800,000 accounts.

The account data was left in a publicly available database that wasn’t protected by a password or placed behind a firewall, according to a blog post published Monday by Troy Hunt, maintainter of the Have I Been Pwned?, breach-notification website. He said searches using the Shodan computer search engine and other evidence indicated that, since December 25 and January 8, the customer data was accessed multiple times by multiple parties, including criminals who ultimately held the data for ransom. The recordings were available on an Amazon-hosted service that required no authorization to access.

The data was exposed by Spiral Toys, maker of the CloudPets line of stuffed animals. The toys record and play voice messages that can be sent over the Internet by parents and children. The MongoDB database of 821,296 account records was stored by a Romanian company called mReady, which Spiral Toys appears to have contracted with. Hunt said that, on at least four occasions, people attempted to notify the toy maker of the breach. In any event, evidence left behind by the ransom demanders made it almost certain company officials knew of the intrusions.

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(credit: Andrew Turner)

The operator of a drone that knocked a woman unconscious was sentenced Friday to 30 days in jail, Seattle prosecutors said. The woman was attending a local parade when the drone crashed and struck her.


Skinner (credit: KomoNews)

Paul Skinner, a 38-year-old man from Washington state, was charged with reckless endangerment in connection to the 2015 incident, in which an 18-inch-by-18-inch drone collided into a building before falling into a crowd. The authorities said the 2-pound drone struck the 25-year-old in the head and gave her a concussion. Her boyfriend caught her before she fell to the ground. Another man suffered a minor bruise. The accident took place during during the city’s Pride Parade.

Skinner, who had turned himself in, plans to appeal the sentence. His attorney, Jeffrey Kradel, said the punishment was “too severe.” His client remains free pending the appeal’s outcome. A misdemeanor reckless endangerment charge—one that poses “substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to another person”—carries a penalty of up to a year in jail.

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One of the joys of good space opera, aside from the action, is the discovery of worlds that are meaningfully alien. In award-winning science fiction author Kameron Hurley’s latest novel, The Stars Are Legion, we get to slither into the fascinating, saliva-covered scenery of the biotech world-ships that make up the mysterious Legion. As civil war rips the Legion apart, Hurley draws us into an intense, Bourne Identity-style mystery about who our heroes are and why they’re fighting.

Zan awakens in a medical bay. She can speak, but she doesn’t know who or where she is. A doctor explains that Zan’s been recycled and reconstructed, hinting that she’s been in this situation many times before. But that’s all Zan knows—well, that and the fact that she has the kind of warrior instincts that let her fight like an MMA master. Plus, she knows an awful lot about how to ride the sentient space motorcycles beasts that the Legion flies from one ship to the other, trailing plumes of yellow exhaust like something out of a 1960s comic book.

Biotech worlds

A myserious woman named Jayd eventually visits Zan and tells her that she’s currently on a planet ship called Katazyrna. Jayd tells Zan that it’s time to get back to her mission, penetrating the defenses of another world called Mokshi. And it would be nice if she could do it without getting all her troops killed this time around. Apparently, whenever Zan goes to Mokshi, she’s completely destroyed and loses her memory. But Jayd and her mother, Lord Katazyrna, keep sending Zan back because she’s the only person able to breach Mokshi’s outer perimeter.

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According to internal documents seen by The New York Times, Uber’s self-driving cars ran six red lights in the short span of time that the company was shuttling customers around in autonomous vehicles in San Francisco, California.

The autonomous vehicle pilot program was announced suddenly in December and quickly drew controversy as the media noted that Uber wasn’t registered on the California DMV’s list of companies approved to test self-driving cars.

Documents obtained by The Verge through a public records request also showed that the California DMV had warned Uber for months prior to the launch of its pilot program that it would need an autonomous testing permit to drive on California’s roads.

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Enlarge / Artist’s conception of a Falcon Heavy launch. (credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX announced Monday that it plans to send two private individuals around the Moon by the end of 2018. This highly ambitious flight would mark the first human return to deep space in nearly 50 years. During a teleconference with reporters, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said the two people would fly an approximately week-long mission in a “long loop” around the Moon, to about 400,000 miles from Earth, before returning home.

Musk said the company would launch its Dragon 2 spacecraft on top of a Falcon Heavy rocket and that the two passengers would be flying solo, without the assistance of professional astronauts. Dragon 2, he said, is designed as an autonomous vehicle. The paying customers would not be blind to the risks, he added. “I think they are entering this with their eyes open, knowing there is some risk here,” Musk said. “They’re not naive. We’re going to do everything we can do to minimize our risk, but the risk is not zero.”

Is this realistic?

SpaceX has a history of making grand pronouncements without always following through on them. Just last autumn, Elon Musk was talking about the company’s Mars ambitions, and now, a few months later, he’s talking about the Moon? Yet there seems to be a method to the madness, and such an audacious plan to fly two people around the Moon is theoretically feasible.

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Don’t cross the streams! Two streams run through the facility in parallel, created simply by dropping the stream onto a prism-shaped divider. (credit: John Timmer)

Plastics do not readily break down naturally, so there has been no great way to dispose these materials in an environmentally friendly manner. Advances such as the development of recycling streams have improved plastic waste management, but it’s not always easy to find uses for the recycled material.

One weakness of the current recycling infrastructure is the reliance on separate recycling streams for different materials. This careful sorting of materials is necessary due to differences in chemical structures of polymers that make them poorly compatible. For example, if we were to combine two of the most ubiquitous plastics in the world, they wouldn’t even mix when in a liquid phase. Recently, however, an interdisciplinary team of researchers has developed an additive that enables these two polymers to be recycled together.

The plastics in question are polyethylene (PE) and isotactic polypropylene (iPP). Materials produced from a mix of these polymers exhibit two distinct phases; at the interface of the phases, the polymers adhere poorly to one another, resulting in materials that are mechanically weak compared to the individual components. General municipal waste typically has a 70/30 ratio of PE to iPP, so there’s a significant amount of material to separate out.

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The new UK Prisons and Courts Bill will let mobile networks to deploy IMSI catchers outside of prisons to snoop on mobile phone users.

The Prisons and Courts Bill, introduced to Parliament last week, will let mobile networks to deploy IMSI catchers outside of prisons to snoop on mobile phone users.

The IMSI catchers are surveillance equipment used for intercepting mobile phone traffic, calls, tracking movements of mobile phone users block phones from operating.

An IMSI catcher runs a Man in the Middle (MITM) attack acting as a bogus mobile cell tower that sits between the target mobile phone and the service provider’s real towers.

The deployment of IMSI catchers aims to prevent, detect or investigate the use of mobile phones in prisons.

Imsi catchers

The measure is a novelty because in the past the use of IMSI catchers under the legal provisions in the Prisons (Interference with Wireless Telegraphy) Act 2012 was restricted within prison walls.

The decision represents a threat to the privacy of citizens, privacy advocates pointed out the IMSI catchers allow a dragnet surveillance.

The Clause 21 of the bill, along with its schedule 2, will amend the Prisons (Interference with Wireless Telegraphy) Act 2012 to allow the Justice Secretary to authorize “interference with wireless telegraphy”.

The Secretary of State may authorise a public communications provider to
interfere with wireless telegraphy.

An interference with wireless telegraphy authorised under subsection may be carried out only for the purpose

  • of preventing the use within a relevant institution in England and Wales of an item specified in subsection,
  • or detecting or investigating the use within a relevant institution in England and Wales of such an item.” reads the Clause 21.

The measure will allow detecting illegal use of mobile devices by prisoners illicitly communicating with people outside.

In October 2016, it was publicly disclosed the news that UK police has purchased police this mobile phone snooping technology to track suspects’ devices and intercept their communications as part of their investigations.

According to the Bristol Cable the UK police is using the Stingray equipment for its operations. The law enforcement has reportedly purchased “covert communications data capture” equipment (CCDC) from a UK firm, the Cellxion.

The Metropolitan Police has been operating IMSI catchers since a long time, it also used a surveillance aircraft equipped with the surveillance equipment.

“The Metropolitan Police in particular has been operating IMSI catchers, along with a covert air wing run through a front company registered to an anonymous mailbox in South London, since at least 2011.” states the ElReg. “The Met’s surveillance aircraft, a twin-engined Cessna Caravan F406 with the registration G-BVJT, is a familiar sight to Londoners. It is thought the aircraft’s surveillance fit includes IMSI catchers and live mobile phone tracking and eavesdropping capability.”

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Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – surveillance, IMSI catchers)

The post Prisons and Courts Bill allows mobile networks to deploy IMSI catchers outside of prisons appeared first on Security Affairs.

Source: Security affairs

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A member of Google’s Project Zero security research team has disclosed a high-severity vulnerability in Microsoft’s Edge and Internet Explorer browsers that reportedly allows attackers to execute malicious code in some instances.

The vulnerability stems from what’s known as a type-confusion bug in Internet Explorer 11 and Microsoft Edge, Project Zero researcher Ivan Fratric said in a report that he sent to Microsoft on November 25 and publicly disclosed on Monday. The disclosure is in line with Google’s policy of publishing vulnerability details 90 days after being privately reported. A proof-of-concept exploit Fratric developed points to data stored in memory that he said “can be controlled by an attacker (with some limitations).” Asked by a commenter how easy it would be to bypass security measures designed to prevent code execution, Fratric wrote: “I will not make any further comments on exploitability, at least not until the bug is fixed. The report has too much info on that as it is (I really didn’t expect this one to miss the deadline).”

Meanwhile, the National Vulnerability Database entry for the bug, which is indexed as CVE-2017-0037, warned that it “allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code via vectors involving a crafted Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) token sequence and crafted JavaScript code that operates on a [table-header] element.”

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Greetings, Arsians! Courtesy of our partners at TechBargains, we’re back with a new batch of deals. Today, we have a number of laptops on sale for less than $550 each. Among them is an Asus notebook with a Kaby Lake Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD. We also have a Dell Inspiron 15 5000 with a Core i7 processor, a 4GB AMD Radeon R5 GPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 1TB HDD. Those sales won’t last, so grab them while you can!

Be sure to check out the rest of the deals below, too.


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