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  • Social Security Administration Joins Other Agencies With $300M "IT Boondoggle"

    alphadogg (971356) writes with news that the SSA has joined the long list of federal agencies with giant failed IT projects. From the article: "Six years ago the Social Security Administration embarked on an aggressive plan to replace outdated computer systems overwhelmed by a growing flood of disability claims. Nearly $300 million later, the new system is nowhere near ready and agency officials are struggling to salvage a project racked by delays and mismanagement, according to an internal report commissioned by the agency. In 2008, Social Security said the project was about two to three years from completion. Five years later, it was still two to three years from being done, according to the report by McKinsey and Co., a management consulting firm. Today, with the project still in the testing phase, the agency can't say when it will be completed or how much it will cost.

    130 comments | yesterday

  • Empathy For Virtual Characters Studied With FMRI Brain Imaging

    vrml (3027321) writes "A novel brain imaging study published by the prestigious Neuroimage journal sheds light on different reactions that players' brains display when they meet a virtual character in a game world. While their head was inside a fMRI machine, participants played an interactive virtual experience in which they had to survive a serious fire emergency in a building by reaching an exit as soon as possible. However, when they finally arrived at the exit, they also found a virtual character trapped under an heavy cabinet, begging them for help. Some participants chose not to help the character and took the exit, while others stopped to help although the fire became more and more serious and moving away the cabinet required considerable time. Functional brain imaging showed activation of very different brain areas in players when they met the character. When there was an increased functional connectivity of the brain salience network, which suggests an enhanced sensitivity to the threatening situation and potential danger, players ignored the character screams and went for the exit. In those players who helped the character, there was an engagement of the medial prefrontal and temporo-parietal cortices, which in the neuroscience literature are associated with the human ability of taking the perspective of other individuals and making altruistic choices. The paper concludes by emphasizing how virtual worlds can be a salient and ecologically valid stimulus for modern social neuroscience."

    50 comments | yesterday

  • A New Form of Online Tracking: Canvas Fingerprinting

    New submitter bnortman (922608) was the first to write in with word of "a new research paper discussing a new form of user fingerprinting and tracking for the web using the HTML 5 <canvas> ." globaljustin adds more from an article at Pro Publica: Canvas fingerprinting works by instructing the visitor's Web browser to draw a hidden image. Because each computer draws the image slightly differently, the images can be used to assign each user's device a number that uniquely identifies it. ... The researchers found canvas fingerprinting computer code ... on 5 percent of the top 100,000 websites. Most of the code was on websites that use the AddThis social media sharing tools. Other fingerprinters include the German digital marketer Ligatus and the Canadian dating site Plentyoffish. ... Rich Harris, chief executive of AddThis, said that the company began testing canvas fingerprinting earlier this year as a possible way to replace cookies ...

    184 comments | 2 days ago

  • The Loophole Obscuring Facebook and Google's Transparency Reports

    Jason Koebler writes The number of law enforcement requests coming from Canada for information from companies like Facebook and Google are often inaccurate thanks to a little-known loophole that lumps them in with U.S. numbers. For example, law enforcement and government agencies in Canada made 366 requests for Facebook user data in 2013, according to the social network's transparency reports. But that's not the total number. An additional 16 requests are missing, counted instead with U.S. requests thanks to a law that lets Canadian agencies make requests with the U.S. Department of Justice.

    18 comments | 3 days ago

  • New Digital Currency Bases Value On Reputation

    An anonymous reader writes: If digital currencies are fundamentally different than physical ones, why do they work in the same way? That's a question being asked by Couchbase co-founder J. Chris Anderson, who's building a currency and transaction system where reputation is the fundamental unit of value. "Unlike with bitcoin—which keeps its currency scarce by rewarding it only to those who participate in what amounts to a race to solve complex cryptographic puzzles—anyone will be able to create a new Document Coin anytime they want. The value of each coin will be completely subjective, depending on who creates the coin and why. 'For example, the coin my disco singer friend created and gave me at my barbeque might be what gets me past the rope at the club,' Anderson says. A coin minted by tech pundit Tim O'Reilly might be highly prized in Silicon Valley circles, but of little interest to musicians. 'It's a bit like a combination of a social network with baseball trading.'" Anderson isn't aiming to supplant Bitcoin, or even challenge the money-exchange model that drives society. But he's hoping it will change the way people think about currency, and open up new possibilities for how we interact with each other.

    100 comments | 5 days ago

  • Tesla Model S Hacking Prize Claimed

    savuporo sends word that a $10,000 bounty placed on hacking a Tesla Model S has been claimed by a team from Zhejiang University in China. The bounty itself was not issued by Tesla, but by Qihoo 360, a Chinese security company. "[The researchers] were able to gain remote control of the car's door locks, headlights, wipers, sunroof, and horn, Qihoo 360 said on its social networking Sina Weibo account. The security firm declined to reveal details at this point about how the hack was accomplished, although one report indicated that the hackers cracked the six-digit code for the Model S's mobile app.

    59 comments | about a week ago

  • Point-of-Sale System Bought On eBay Yields Treasure Trove of Private Data

    jfruh writes: Point-of-sale systems aren't cheap, so it's not unusual for smaller merchants to buy used terminals second-hand. An HP security researcher bought one such unit on eBay to see what a used POS system will get you, and what he found was disturbing: default passwords, a security flaw, and names, addresses, and social security numbers of employees of the terminal's previous owner.

    68 comments | about a week ago

  • Breaches Exposed 22.8 Million Personal Records of New Yorkers

    An anonymous reader writes Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued a new report examining the growing number, complexity, and costs of data breaches in the New York State. The report reveals that the number of reported data security breaches in New York more than tripled between 2006 and 2013. In that same period, 22.8 million personal records of New Yorkers have been exposed in nearly 5,000 data breaches, which have cost the public and private sectors in New York upward of $1.37 billion in 2013. The demand on secondary markets for stolen information remains robust. Freshly acquired stolen credit card numbers can fetch up to $45 per record, while other types of personal information, such as Social Security numbers and online account information, can command even higher prices.

    41 comments | about a week ago

  • Rand Paul and Silicon Valley's Shifting Political Climate

    SonicSpike sends this story from NY Magazine: Rand Paul appears to be making a full-court press for the affections of Silicon Valley, and there are some signs that his efforts are paying off. At last week's Sun Valley conference, Paul had one-on-one meetings with Thiel and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. ... Next weekend, Paul will get to make his case yet again as the keynote speaker at Reboot, a San Francisco conference put on by a group called Lincoln Labs, which self-defines as "techies and politicos who believe in promoting liberty with technology." He'll likely say a version of what he's said before: that Silicon Valley's innovative potential can be best unlocked in an environment with minimal government intrusion in the forms of surveillance, corporate taxes, and regulation. “I see almost unlimited potential for us in Silicon Valley,” Paul has said, with "us" meaning libertarians.

    Today's Silicon Valley is still exceedingly liberal on social issues. But it seems more skeptical about taxes and business regulation than at any point in its recent history. Part of this is due to the rise of companies like Uber and Tesla Motors, blazing-hot start-ups that have been opposed at every turn by protectionist regulators and trade unions, in confrontations that are being used by small-government conservatives as case studies in government control run amok.

    533 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Pseudonyms Now Allowed On Google+

    An anonymous reader writes When Google+ launched, it received criticism across the internet for requiring that users register with their real names. Now, Google has finally relented and removed all restrictions on what usernames people are allowed to use. The company said, "We know you've been calling for this change for a while. We know that our names policy has been unclear, and this has led to some unnecessarily difficult experiences for some of our users. For this we apologize, and we hope that today's change is a step toward making Google+ the welcoming and inclusive place that we want it to be."

    238 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Chimpanzee Intelligence Largely Determined By Genetics

    As reported by National Geographic, intelligence in chimpanzees appears to be strongly heritable, according to research led by William Hopkins, a primatologist at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta, Georgia, who examined both genetic and environmental factors for a group of related chimpanzees with varying measured intelligence: To find out how much of that variability is due to genetics, Hopkins and his team assessed the cognitive abilities of 99 captive chimpanzees. They used a battery of 13 tests measuring various manifestations of intelligence, such as how the animals dealt with the physical world, reacted to sound, and used tools. The group of chimps tested had an expansive family tree, ranging from full siblings to fourth and fifth cousins. This allowed the researchers to calculate how well scores on cognitive traits aligned with genetic relatedness. Two categories of tasks were significantly heritable: those related to spatial cognition, such as learning physical locations, and those that required social cognition, such as grabbing a person's attention. Some chimps are quite clever, making kissing sounds or clapping their hands to draw an experimenter's attention, Hopkins said. "This one is a real measure of intelligence and innovative behavior."

    157 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Google's Experimental Newsroom Avoids Negative Headlines

    theodp writes: After Brazil's dramatic World Cup defeat by Germany, writes NPR's Aarti Shahani, Google's experimental newsroom focused on search trends that didn't rub salt in Brazil's wounds, choosing to not publish a single trend on Brazilian search terms. Copywriter Tessa Hewson said they were just too negative. "We might try and wait until we can do a slightly more upbeat trend." It's a decision that puzzles Shahani, but producer Sam Clohesy explained, "a negative story about Brazil won't necessarily get a lot of traction in social." In old-school newsrooms, if it bleeds, it leads. But because this new newsroom is focused on getting content onto everyone's smartphone, marketing expert Rakesh Agrawal says, editors may have another bias: to comb through the big data in search of happy thoughts.

    109 comments | about two weeks ago

  • India's National Informatics Centre Forged Google SSL Certificates

    NotInHere (3654617) writes As Google writes on its Online Security Blog, the National Informatics Centre of India (NIC) used its intermediate CA certificate, issued by Indian CCA, to issue several unauthorized certificates for Google domains, allowing it to do Man in the middle attacks. Possible impact however is limited, as, according to Google, the root certificates for the CA were only installed on Windows, which Firefox doesn't use — and for the Chrom{e,ium} browser, the CA for important Google domains is pinned to the Google CA. According to its website, the NIC CA has suspended certificate issuance, and according to Google, its root certificates were revoked by Indian CCA.

    107 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Buzz Aldrin Pressures Obama For New Space Exploration Initiative

    MarkWhittington writes: While he has initiated the social media campaign, #Apollo45, to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the first moon landing, Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin is also using the occasion to campaign for an expansion of American space exploration. According to a Tuesday story in the Washington Post, Aldrin has expressed the wish that President Obama make some sort of announcement along those lines this July 20. The idea has a certain aspect of deja vu. Aldrin believes that the American civil space program is adrift and that some new space exploration, he prefers to Mars, would be just the thing to set it back on course. There is only one problem, however. President Obama has already made the big space exploration announcement. Aldrin knows this because he was there. President Obama flew to the Kennedy Space Center on April 15, 2010, with Aldrin accompanying as a photo op prop, and made the announcement that America would no longer be headed back to the moon, as was the plan under his predecessor George W. Bush. Instead American astronauts would visit an Earth approaching asteroid and then, decades hence, would land on Mars.

    78 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Blue Shield Leaks 18,000 Doctors' Social Security Numbers

    itwbennett (1594911) writes "The Social Security numbers of roughly 18,000 California physicians and health-care providers were inadvertently made public after a slip-up at health insurance provider Blue Shield of California, the organization said Monday. The numbers were included in monthly filings on medical providers that Blue Shield is required to make to the state's Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC). The provider rosters for February, March and April 2013 included the SSNs and other sensitive information and were available under the state's public records law." Ten copies were requested under the public records law.

    74 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Gov't Censorship Pushing Users To More Private Messaging In China

    An anonymous reader writes What happens when the Chinese government drastically restricts the type of speech that can be used in their country's most popular public forum? Users start migrating to more private options, naturally. Microblogging service Sina Weibo is bleeding users, while the semiprivate WeChat is growing expansively. It's growing so quickly that the government is stepping up its efforts to monitor and delete conversations that don't meet its exacting standards. The site's posting rules have developed in an interesting way, given the lack of free speech: "WeChat allows the creation of public accounts that anyone can follow, but limits posts to one a day. In addition, access to public accounts is not possible on cellphones, making it more difficult, for instance, to launch an incriminating photo of a public official into the blogosphere. Comments are also deleted after a few days, making long-term discussions challenging and erasing a historical record." Is this the natural result of government meddling in online conversations? What will chat services in China (and other speech-stifling nations) look like in another five or ten years?

    47 comments | about three weeks ago

  • New Russian Law To Forbid Storing Russians' Data Outside the Country

    TechWeek Europe reports that on Friday Russia's parliament passed a law "which bans online businesses from storing personal data of Russian citizens on servers located abroad[.] ... According to ITAR-TAAS, the changes to existing legislation will come into effect in September 2016, and apply to email services, social networks and search engines, including the likes of Facebook and Google. Domain names or net addresses not complying with regulations will be put on a blacklist maintained by Roskomnadzor (the Federal Supervision Agency for Information Technologies and Communications), the organisation which already has the powers to take down websites suspected of copyright infringement without a court order. In the case of non-compliance, Roskomnadzor will be able to impose 'sanctions,' and even instruct local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to cut off access to the offending resource." According to the article, the "measure is widely seen as a response to reports about the intrusive surveillance practices of the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK’s GCHQ. Edward Snowden, who revealed sensitive data about the operations of both, is currently residing in Russia, with his asylum application up for a review in a couple of months." The writer points out that this would mean many web sites would be legally unavailable altogether to Russian users.

    206 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Employees Staying Away From Internal Corporate Social Networks

    jfruh (300774) writes As social networks proliferated in the early '10s, so did the idea of a corporate social network — a Facebook-like community on an intranet where employees could interact. Unfortunately, corporate users are staying away in droves, perceiving the systems as one more in-box they'd have to take care of and getting their social-networking fix from Facebook and the like. From what I've seen of these internal networks, another good reason is that they're not as good as the full-time social networks are, and offer access only to a small universe of particpants anyhow. They're like a central-casting "rock band" in '80s movies — they come off as conspicuously aping the real thing.

    131 comments | about three weeks ago

  • 30% of Americans Aren't Ready For the Next Generation of Technology

    sciencehabit writes: "Thanks to a decade of programs geared toward giving people access to the necessary technology, by 2013 some 85% of Americans were surfing the World Wide Web. But how effectively are they using it? A new survey suggests that the digital divide has been replaced by a gap in digital readiness. It found that nearly 30% of Americans either aren't digitally literate or don't trust the Internet. That subgroup tended to be less educated, poorer, and older than the average American."

    191 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Baton Bob Strikes Back Against Police That Coerced Facebook Post From Him

    McGruber (1417641) writes "In June 2013, Atlanta police arrested costumed street performer "Baton Bob" during the middle of a street performance after Baton Bob was allegedly involved in a verbal altercation with mall security guards. Now, a year later, Baton Bob has filed a federal lawsuit accusing Atlanta police of violating his constitutional rights, assault, discrimination, privacy violations and identify theft. Atlanta Police allegedly forced Baton Bob to make a pro-police statement on his Facebook page before officers would allow Bob to be released on bond. According to the lawsuit: "At approximately 3:40 p.m., while Plaintiff sat handcuffed and without an attorney, he was told to dictate a public statement to Officer Davis, who then typed and posted the message to the Baton Bob Facebook account. The message read: 'First of all, the atl police officer that responded to the incident thru security has been very respectful and gracious to me even in handcuffs. So, the situation escalated from a complaint from a security officer in the area and for some reason she rolled up on me like she didn't know who I was and like I had not been there before. For them to call police to come to intervene was not necessary. So, out of it, because of my fury, the Atlanta police officer did not understand the elements of the situation, so he was trying to do his job, respectfully and arrested my ass!!!!!!!!! I'll be out tomorrow so look out for my show at 14th and Peachtree. So now I'm waiting to be transported so I can sign my own bond and get the hell out of here. I want to verify, that the Atlanta police was respectful to me considering the circumstances. See you when I see you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!' As promised, Plaintiff was then given a signature bond and released from jail."

    203 comments | about three weeks ago

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