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Australia

Australia Discontinues Its National Biometric ID Project (gizmodo.com.au) 15

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission's (ACIC) biometrics project, which adds facial recognition to a national crime database, is being discontinued following reports of delays and budget blowouts. From a report: This announcement comes after the project was suspended earlier this month and NEC Australia staff were escorted out of the building by security on Monday June 4. [...] ACIC contracted the NEC for the $52 million Biometric Identification Services project with the view of replacing the fingerprint identification system that is currently in place. The aim of the project, which was supposed to run until 2021, was to include palm print, foot prints and facial recognition to aid in police investigations. The Australian government stated that it wanted to provide Australians with a single digital identity by 2025.
Security

US Government Finds New Malware From North Korea (engadget.com) 84

Days after the historic North Korea-United States summit, the Department of Homeland Security issued a report on Thursday warning of a new variant of North Korean malware to look out for. Called Typeframe, the malware is able to download and install additional malware, proxies and trojans; modify firewalls; and connect to servers for additional instructions. Engadget reports: Since last May, the DHS has issued a slew of alerts and reports about North Korea's malicious cyber activity. The department also pointed out that North Korea has been hacking countries around the world since 2009. And of course, don't forget that the U.S. also labeled that country as the source of Wannacry cyberattack, which notably held data from the UK's National Health Service hostage, and wreaked havoc across Russia and Ukraine. CNN was first to report the news.
Power

America's Nuclear Reactors Can't Survive Without Government Handouts (fivethirtyeight.com) 399

Slashdot reader Socguy shares an article from FiveThirtyEight: There are 99 nuclear reactors producing electricity in the United States today. Collectively, they're responsible for producing about 20% of the electricity we use each year. But those reactors are, to put it delicately, of a certain age. The average age of a nuclear power plant in this country is 38 years old (compared with 24 years old for a natural gas power plant). Some are shutting down. New ones aren't being built. And the ones still operational can't compete with other sources of power on price... without some type of public assistance, the nuclear industry is likely headed toward oblivion....

[I]t's the cost of upkeep that's prohibitive. Things do fall apart -- especially things exposed to radiation on a daily basis. Maintenance and repair, upgrades and rejuvenation all take a lot of capital investment. And right now, that means spending lots of money on power plants that aren't especially profitable... Combine age and economic misfortune, and you get shuttered power plants. Twelve nuclear reactors have closed in the past 22 years. Another dozen have formally announced plans to close by 2025.

A professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University points out that nuclear power is America's single largest source of carbon emissions-free electricity -- though since 1996, only one new plant has opened in America, and at least 10 other new reactor projects have been canceled in the past decade.

The article also describes two more Illinois reactors that avoided closure only after the state legislature offered new subsidies. "But as long as natural gas is cheap, the industry can't do without the handouts."
Crime

After a Decade, 77-Year-Old Gets Back $110,000 Lost In 'Nigerian Prince' Scam (kansascity.com) 117

Slashdot reader grep -v '.*' * shares a surprising story. The Kansas City Star profiles the victim of a three-year con that started with an email to a Yahoo inbox back in 2005. A decade ago, Fred Haines was wandering the Wichita airport looking for a Nigerian man hauling two chests full of cash. After an hour of waiting and asking around, he finally came to the realization that the $65 million Nigerian fortune he thought he was inheriting was not coming after all. What is now coming, though, is the $110,000 he had been scammed out of, thanks to the work of the Kansas Attorney General's Office.

From 2005 to 2008, swindlers hoodwinked Haines, a self-employed handyman in Wichita, into spending thousands in pursuit of an imaginary inheritance from a Nigerian government official -- a con known as the Nigerian Prince Scam. Haines re-mortgaged his house three times in the process. Last year, in a settlement with the Department of Justice, Western Union admitted it knew some of its employees had conspired with scam artists to bilk people out of money and had failed to fix the problem. The company set aside $586 million to create a fund to refund victims across the U.S. and Canada... All victims who'd sent money to hucksters using the service were able to request refunds, but only those who had complained to law enforcement or Western Union were notified directly of the settlement.

"It got to the point where they were showing me that the president of Nigeria had sent me a letter. It had his picture on it and everything," Haines said. "I looked it up on the computer to see what the Nigerian president looked like, and it was him." Once, he received an email claiming to be from Robert Mueller, who was then the FBI director. The email was addressed to Haines, code-name "B-DOG," and it was signed with the FBI's address and official seal. "I wish you can remove doubt and suspicious and go ahead I assured you that you will never regret this fund release," the email said in part.

Haines is one of 344 victims who recovered a total of $1,758,988 through the Kansas Attorney General's office -- though when the office sent out 25,000 letters to possible scam victims, many of them were now skeptical of the promise of unclaimed money, and "Some were even angry when employees called to follow up on those who hadn't responded."
China

Chinese Cyber-Espionage Group Hacked Government Data Center (bleepingcomputer.com) 36

Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: A Chinese-linked cyber-espionage unit has hacked a data center belonging to a Central Asian country and has embedded malicious code on government sites. The hack of the data center happened sometime in mid-November 2017, according to a report published by Kaspersky Lab earlier this week. Experts assigned the codename of LuckyMouse to the group behind this hack, but they later realized the attackers were an older Chinese threat actor known under various names in the reports of other cyber-security firms, such as Emissary Panda, APT27, Threat Group 3390, Bronze Union, ZipToken, and Iron Tiger.
EU

Kaspersky Halts Europol Partnership After Controversial EU Parliament Vote (bleepingcomputer.com) 104

An anonymous reader writes: Kaspersky Lab announced it was temporarily halting its cooperation with Europol following the voting of a controversial motion in the European Parliament. The Russian antivirus vendor will also stop working on the NoMoreRansom project that provided free ransomware decrypters for ransomware victims.

The company's decision comes after the EU Parliament voted a controversial motion that specifically mentions Kaspersky as a "confirmed as malicious" software and urges EU states to ban it as part of a joint EU cyber defense strategy. The EU did not present any evidence for its assessment that Kaspersky is malicious, but even answered user questions claiming it has no evidence. The motion is just a EU policy and has no legislative power, put it is still an official document. Kaspersky software has been previously banned from Government systems in the US, UK, Netherlands, and Lithuania.

Government

Cops Are Confident iPhone Hackers Have Found a Workaround to Apple's New Security Feature (vice.com) 126

Joseph Cox, and Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, reporting for Motherboard: Apple confirmed to The New York Times Wednesday it was going to introduce a new security feature, first reported by Motherboard. USB Restricted Mode, as the new feature is called, essentially turns the iPhone's lightning cable port into a charge-only interface if someone hasn't unlocked the device with its passcode within the last hour, meaning phone forensic tools shouldn't be able to unlock phones. Naturally, this feature has sent waves throughout the mobile phone forensics and law enforcement communities, as accessing iPhones may now be substantially harder, with investigators having to rush a seized phone to an unlocking device as quickly as possible.

That includes GrayKey, a relatively new and increasingly popular iPhone cracking tool. But forensics experts suggest that Grayshift, the company behind the tech, is not giving up yet. "Grayshift has gone to great lengths to future proof their technology and stated that they have already defeated this security feature in the beta build. Additionally, the GrayKey has built in future capabilities that will begin to be leveraged as time goes on,' a June email from a forensic expert who planned to meet with Grayshift, and seen by Motherboard, reads, although it is unclear from the email itself how much of this may be marketing bluff. "They seem very confident in their staying power for the future right now," the email adds. A second person, responding to the first email, said that Grayshift addressed USB Restricted Mode in a webinar several weeks ago.

Businesses

Cybercrime is Costing Africa's Businesses Billions (qz.com) 47

An anonymous reader shares a report: Sophisticated malware, software security breaches, mobile scams -- the list of cybercrime threats is growing. Yet African nations continue to fall short of protecting themselves and must constantly grapple with the impact. A new study from IT services firm Serianu shows the pervasive nature of cybercrime across the continent, affecting businesses, individuals, families, financial institutions, and government agencies. The study shows how weak security architectures, the scarcity of skilled personnel and a lack of awareness and strict regulations have increased vulnerability.

Cybercrime cost the continent an estimated $3.5 billion in 2017. The report found more than 90% of African businesses were operating below the cybersecurity "poverty line" -- meaning they couldn't adequately protect themselves against losses. At least 96% of online-related security incidents went unreported and 60% of organizations didn't keep up to date with cybersecurity trends and program updates. (In addition, at least 90% of parents didn't understand what measures to take to protect their children from cyber-bullying.)

Businesses

Volkswagen Fined One Billion Euros By German Prosecutors Over Emissions Cheating (reuters.com) 116

Volkswagen was fined one billion euros ($1.18 billion) over diesel emissions cheating in what amounts to one of the highest ever fines imposed by German authorities against a company, public prosecutors said on Wednesday. From a report: The German fine follows a U.S. plea agreement from January 2017 when VW agreed to pay $4.3 billion to resolve criminal and civil penalties for installing illegal software in diesel engines to cheat strict U.S. anti-pollution tests. "Following thorough examination, Volkswagen AG accepted the fine and it will not lodge an appeal against it. Volkswagen AG, by doing so, admits its responsibility for the diesel crisis and considers this as a further major step toward the latter being overcome," it said in a statement. The fine is the latest blow to Germany's auto industry which cannot seem to catch a break from the diesel emissions crisis. Germany's government on Monday ordered Daimler to recall nearly 240,000 cars fitted with illicit emissions-control devices, part of a total of 774,000 models affected in Europe as a whole.
China

Senate Will Try To Reverse ZTE Deal Via a Must-Pass Defense Bill (politico.com) 139

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Senate leaders agreed Monday to include language in the annual defense spending bill that would reverse the Trump administration's decision to save Chinese telecommunications company ZTE after it was caught violating the terms of a 2017 penalty agreement by making illegal sales to Iran and North Korea. The language will be part of an amendment in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, a $716 billion defense policy bill, H.R. 5515 (115).

If the Senate amendment becomes law, it would automatically reinstate the seven-year prohibition until Trump has certified to Congress that ZTE has met certain conditions. It also would ban all U.S. government agencies from purchasing or leasing telecommunications equipment and/or services from ZTE, a second Chinese telecommunications firm, Huawei, or any subsidiaries or affiliates of those two companies. The amendment language "prohibits the federal government from doing business with ZTE or Huawei or other Chinese telecom companies" and puts the company back on the sanctions list and "holds ZTE accountable for violating their previous commitment," Cotton said.
The senators supporting the amendment include Democratic minority leader Chuck Schumer and two Republican Senators -- Sen Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). "I and obviously every other senator believes the death penalty is the appropriate punishment for their behavior," Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) told reporters after Ross briefed senators on the department's latest ZTE action. "They're a repeat bad actor that should be put out of business. For eight years, ZTE was able to run wild and be able to become the fourth-largest telecom company in the world." If the Senate amendment becomes law, "I would expect there wouldn't be a ZTE," Cotton added.
Digital

Sweden Tries To Halt Its March To Total Cashlessness (bloomberg.com) 329

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: A key committee of Swedish lawmakers wants to force the country's biggest banks to handle cash in an effort to halt the nation's march toward complete cashlessness. Parliament's Riksbank committee, which is in the process of reviewing the central bank law, proposed making it mandatory for banks to offer cash withdrawals and handle daily receipts. The requirement would apply to banks that provide checking accounts and have more than 70 billion kronor ($8 billion) in deposits from the Swedish public, according to a report.

The lawmakers said there needs to be "reasonable access to those services in all of Sweden," and that 99 percent of Swedes should have a maximum distance of 25 kilometers (16 miles) to the nearest cash withdrawal. The requirement doesn't state how banks should offer those services, and lenders can choose whether to use a third party, machines or over-the-counter services. The move is a response to Sweden's rapid transformation as it becomes one of the most cashless societies in the world. That's led to concerns that some people are finding it increasingly difficult to cope without access to mobile phones or bank cards. There are also fears around what would happen if the digital payments systems suddenly crashed.

Censorship

Tanzania Orders All Unregistered Bloggers To Take Down Their Sites (reuters.com) 52

The state-run Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) ordered all unregistered bloggers and online forums on Monday to suspend their websites immediately or face criminal prosecution. Several sites, including popular online discussion platform Jamiiforums, have reportedly shut down to avoid prosecution. Reuters reports: Regulations passed in March made it compulsory for bloggers and owners of other online forums such as YouTube channels to register with the government and pay up to $900 for a license. Per capita income in Tanzania is slightly below $900 a year. Digital activists say the law is part of a crackdown on dissent and free speech by the government of President John Magufuli, who was elected in 2015. Government officials argue the new rules are aimed at tackling hate speech and other online crimes, including cyberbullying and pornography.

"All unregistered online content providers must be licensed before June 15. Starting from today June 11 until June 15, they are prohibited from posting any new content on their blogs, forums or online radios and televisions," the regulator said in a statement on Monday. The statement said legal action would be taken against any unregistered websites posting new content. Anyone convicted of defying the new regulations faces a fine of at least 5 million shillings ($2,200), imprisonment for a minimum 12 months, or both.

United States

US Sanctions Russians Over Military, Intelligence Hacking (reuters.com) 159

The U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on three Russian individuals and five companies on Monday, saying they had worked with Moscow's military and intelligence services on ways to conduct cyber attacks against the United States and its allies. From a report: "The United States is engaged in an ongoing effort to counter malicious actors working at the behest of the Russian Federation and its military and intelligence units to increase Russiaâ(TM)s offensive cyber capabilities," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. "The entities designated today have directly contributed to improving Russia's cyber and underwater capabilities through their work with the FSB and therefore jeopardize the safety and security of the United States and our allies," Mnuchin said, using an acronym for Russia's Federal Security Service.
Businesses

Amazon Slammed for Destroying As-New and Returned Goods (fortune.com) 209

Amazon is destroying "massive amounts" of as-new and returned items, raising the ire of the German government and environmental campaigners, local media reported. Fortune: The types of items being destroyed here go way beyond the "health and personal care" products that Amazon has long been destroying when people return them, for sanitary reasons. We're talking things like washing machines, smartphones and furniture. The revelation drew an angry response from the German government and environmental campaigners. "This is a huge scandal," Jochen Flasbarth from the German environment ministry told WirtschaftsWoche. "We are consuming these resources despite all the problems in the world. This approach is not in step with our times." Greenpeace's Kirsten Brodde said there was a need for a new "law on banning the waste and destruction of first-hand and usable goods."
Government

In the Trump Administration, Science Is Unwelcome. So Is Advice. (nytimes.com) 708

Anonymous readers share a report: As President Trump prepares to meet Kim Jong-un of North Korea to negotiate denuclearization, a challenge that has bedeviled the world for years, he is doing so without the help of a White House science adviser or senior counselor trained in nuclear physics. Mr. Trump is the first president since 1941 not to name a science adviser, a position created during World War II to guide the Oval Office on technical matters ranging from nuclear warfare to global pandemics. As a businessman and president, Mr. Trump has proudly been guided by his instincts. Nevertheless, people who have participated in past nuclear negotiations say the absence of such high-level expertise could put him at a tactical disadvantage in one of the weightiest diplomatic matters of his presidency.

"You need to have an empowered senior science adviser at the table," said R. Nicholas Burns, who led negotiations with India over a civilian nuclear deal during the George W. Bush administration. "You can be sure the other side will have that." The lack of traditional scientific advisory leadership in the White House is one example of a significant change in the Trump administration: the marginalization of science in shaping United States policy. There is no chief scientist at the State Department, where science is central to foreign policy matters such as cybersecurity and global warming. Nor is there a chief scientist at the Department of Agriculture: Mr. Trump last year nominated Sam Clovis, a former talk-show host with no scientific background, to the position, but he withdrew his name and no new nomination has been made.

AI

Secret Pentagon AI Program Hunts Hidden Nuclear Missiles (reuters.com) 40

Slashdot reader drdread66 shares this article from Reuters: The U.S. military is increasing spending on a secret research effort to use artificial intelligence to help anticipate the launch of a nuclear-capable missile, as well as track and target mobile launchers in North Korea and elsewhere. The effort has gone largely unreported, and the few publicly available details about it are buried under a layer of near impenetrable jargon in the latest Pentagon budget. But U.S. officials familiar with the research told Reuters there are multiple classified programs now under way to explore how to develop AI-driven systems to better protect the United States against a potential nuclear missile strike.

If the research is successful, such computer systems would be able to think for themselves, scouring huge amounts of data, including satellite imagery, with a speed and accuracy beyond the capability of humans, to look for signs of preparations for a missile launch, according to more than half a dozen sources. The sources included U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the research is classified. Forewarned, the U.S. government would be able to pursue diplomatic options or, in the case of an imminent attack, the military would have more time to try to destroy the missiles before they were launched, or try to intercept them.

Reuters calls it "one indicator of the growing importance of the research on AI-powered anti-missile systems," adding "The Pentagon is in a race against China and Russia to infuse more AI into its war machine, to create more sophisticated autonomous systems that are able to learn by themselves to carry out specific tasks."

One official told Reuters that an AI prototype for tracking missile launchers is already being tested.
Government

Unresolved Login Issue Prevented Florida 'Concealed Weapon' Background Checks For Over a Year (tampabay.com) 193

An anonymous reader quotes the Tampa Bay Times For more than a year, the state of Florida failed to conduct national background checks on tens of thousands of applications for concealed weapons permits, potentially allowing drug addicts or people with a mental illness to carry firearms in public... The employee in charge of the background checks could not log into the system, the investigator learned. The problem went unresolved until discovered by another worker in March 2017 -- meaning that for more than a year applications got approved without the required background check.

During that time, which coincided with the June 12, 2016 shooting at Pulse nightclub that left 50 dead, the state saw an unprecedented spike in applications for concealed weapons permits. There were 134,000 requests for permits in the fiscal year ending in June 2015. The next 12 months broke a record, 245,000 applications, which was topped again in 2017 when the department received 275,000 applications... There are now 1.8 million concealed weapon permit holders in Florida.

The employee with the login issue, who has since been fired, "told the Times she had been working in the mailroom when she was given oversight of the database in 2013. 'I didn't understand why I was put in charge of it.'"
Transportation

Tesla Short-Sellers Lose $1 Billion (cnbc.com) 458

An anonymous reader quotes CNBC: A bullish call from a Wall Street analyst capped off a rough week for Tesla short sellers, with Nomura Instinet advising clients that the electric car maker's shares could rally 42 percent over the next year. The stock rose 1.7 percent Friday and is now up 10 percent on the week. One of the most shorted stocks in the United States, Tesla shares cost investors betting against the company more than $1 billion in losses on Wednesday alone after the stock rallied 9.7 percent. Adding to the short woes, the stock is up 13.5 percent in June and up 21 percent since April. More than 30 percent of Tesla's floating stock is currently sold short, according to FactSet.
Last week long-time Open Source advocate Bruce Perens (Slashdot reader #3,872) argued this is fueling Musk's anger at the press: [A] great many investors are desperate to see Tesla's stock reach a much lower price soon, or they'll be forced to buy it at its present price in order to fulfill their short positions, potentially bankrupting many of them and sending some out of the windows of Wall Street skyscrapers. These investors are desperately seeding, feeding, and writing negative stories about Tesla in the hope of depressing the stock price. Musk recently taunted them by buying another 10 million dollars in stock, making it even more likely that there won't be enough stock in the market to cover short positions. If that's the case, short-sellers could end up in debt for thousands of dollars per shorted share -- as the price balloons until enough stockholders are persuaded to sell. Will short-sellers do anything to give Tesla bad press? You bet.... Musk is stuck with a press that feeds negative stories about Tesla seeded by short-sellers, business competitors and the petroleum industry, and even the U.S. Government...

Musk is far from the only one who suffers from this abuse. I was personally involved while the Linux developers were hounded by bad press for years from Forbes and lesser entities, backed by a large software company we all know (and who is, surprisingly, funding more Open Source these days), based on SCO's unfounded lawsuit. Time proves them wrong, but don't expect them to admit it, nor should you hold your breath for an "I'm sorry".

And on Musk's plan to rate the credibility of news sites, Perens writes that "The world would be a better place if this was done honestly, with integrity, and well. Musk is one who has improved the world by going where conventional wisdom said he'd fail..."
Government

Two Quantum Computing Bills Are Coming To Congress (gizmodo.com) 76

Quantum computing has made it to the United States Congress. "Quantum computing is the next technological frontier that will change the world, and we cannot afford to fall behind," said Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) in a statement passed to Gizmodo. "We must act now to address the challenges we face in the development of this technology -- our future depends on it." From the report: The bill introduced by Harris in the Senate focuses on defense, calling for the creation of a consortium of researchers selected by the Chief of Naval Research and the Director of the Army Research Laboratory. The consortium would award grants, assist with research, and facilitate partnerships between the members. Another, yet-to-be-introduced bill, seen in draft form by Gizmodo, calls for a 10-year National Quantum Initiative Program to set goals and priorities for quantum computing in the US; invest in the technology; and partner with academia and industry. An office within the Department of Energy would coordinate the program. Another group would include members from the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Department of Energy, the office of the Director of National Intelligence to coordinate research and education activity between agencies. Furthermore, the draft bill calls for the establishment of up to five Quantum Information Science research centers, as well as two multidisciplinary National Centers for Quantum Research and Education.
Government

Can Washington State Finally Put a Price On Carbon? (wired.com) 146

jwhyche writes: Beth Brunton walks around Seattle with a magenta umbrella. At 75 degrees and there not being a cloud in the sky, it gets peoples attention. What she is attempting to do is get people to sign a petition supporting Initiative 1631, known as the "Protect Washington Act." If this was to pass, Washington state would become the first state to adopt anything like a carbon tax. "The initiative proposes a 'fee on pollution' that would put a $15 charge on each metric ton of carbon dioxide emitted in Washington starting in 2020," reports Wired. "That charge would rise by $2 plus inflation every year until the state meets its climate goals, which include cutting its carbon footprint 36 percent below 2005 levels by 2035. The revenue raised would go toward investing in clean energy; protecting the air, water, and forests; and helping vulnerable communities prepare for wildfires and sea-level rise."

The report mentions Washington's previous attempt at a "carbon tax" initiative, which was ultimately rejected. It would have initially charged businesses $25 per metric ton of emissions before ramping up over time.

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