Australia

Roadside Cameras Infected with WannaCry Virus Invalidate 8,000 Traffic Tickets (yahoo.com) 170

Long-time Slashdot reader nri tipped us off to a developing story in Victoria, Australia. Yahoo News reports: Victoria Police officials announced on Saturday, June 24, they were withdrawing all speed camera infringement notices issued statewide from June 6 after a virus in the cameras turned out to be more widespread than first thought. "That does not mean they [the infringement notices] won't not be re-issued," Assistant Commissioner Doug Fryer told reporters, explaining that he wants to be sure the red light and speed cameras were working correctly. Acting Deputy Commissioner Ross Guenther told reporters on Friday that 55 cameras had been exposed to the ransomware virus, but they've now determined 280 cameras had been exposed. The cameras are not connected to the internet, but a maintenance worker unwittingly connected a USB stick with the virus on it to the camera system on June 6.

Fryer said that about 1643 tickets would be withdrawn -- up from the 590 that police had announced on Friday -- and another five and a half thousand tickets pending in the system would be embargoed. Fryer said he was optimistic the 7500 to 8000 tickets affected could be re-issued, but for now police would not issue new tickets until police had reviewed the cameras to ensure they were functioning properly... The "WannaCry" malware caused the cameras to continually reboot, Fryer said. Fryer said there was no indication the malware had caused inaccurate radar readings, but police were being "over cautious" to maintain public faith in the system.

Last week Victoria's Police Minister was "openly furious" with the private camera operator, saying the group hadn't notified the relevant authorities about the infection.
Australia

Australian Officials Want Encryption Laws To Fight 'Terrorist Messaging' (arstechnica.com) 184

An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: Two top Australian government officials said Sunday that they will push for "thwarting the encryption of terrorist messaging" during an upcoming meeting next week of the so-called "Five Eyes" group of English-speaking nations that routinely share intelligence... According to a statement released by Attorney General George Brandis, and Peter Dutton, the country's top immigration official, Australia will press for new laws, pressure private companies, and urge for a new international data sharing agreement amongst the quintet of countries... "Within a short number of years, effectively, 100 per cent of communications are going to use encryption," Brandis told Australian newspaper The Age recently. "This problem is going to degrade if not destroy our capacity to gather and act upon intelligence unless it's addressed"... Many experts say, however, that any method that would allow the government access even during certain situations would weaken overall security for everyone.
America's former American director of national intelligence recently urged Silicon Valley to "apply that same creativity, innovation to figuring out a way that both the interests of privacy as well as security can be guaranteed." Though he also added, "I don't know what the answer is. I'm not an IT geek, but I just don't think we're in a very good place right now."
Earth

Scientists Declare End to Global Coral Reef Bleaching Event (phys.org) 155

Scientists in the U.S. have announced Monday that a mass bleaching of coral reefs worldwide has finally ended after three years. "About three-quarters of the world's delicate coral reefs were damaged or killed by hot water in what scientists say was the largest coral catastrophe," reports Phys.Org. From the report: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced a global bleaching event in May 2014. It was worse than previous global bleaching events in 1998 and 2010. The forecast damage doesn't look widespread in the Indian Ocean, so the event loses its global scope. Bleaching will still be bad in the Caribbean and Pacific, but it'll be less severe than recent years, said NOAA coral reef watch coordinator C. Mark Eakin. Places like Australia's Great Barrier Reef, northwest Hawaii, Guam and parts of the Caribbean have been hit with back-to-back-to-back destruction, Eakin said. University of Victoria, British Columbia, coral reef scientist Julia Baum plans to travel to Christmas Island in the Pacific where the coral reefs have looked like ghost towns in recent years. While conditions are improving, it's too early to celebrate, said Eakin, adding that the world may be at a new normal where reefs are barely able to survive during good conditions.
Australia

Movie Piracy Cost Australian Network 'Hundreds of Millions of Dollars' (theaustralian.com.au) 119

Film television piracy and illegal downloads are partly to blame for Australian broadcaster Ten Network's woes, according to Village Roadshow co-chief executive Graham Burke. From a report: He said piracy had cost Ten "hundreds of millions of dollars" in potential advertising revenue because of lower ratings resulting from pirated versions of films supplied by 21st Century Fox under an onerous output deal with the Hollywood studio. He said copies of Fox's Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Revenant and The Peanuts Movie were stolen last year and shared illegally via a piracy website. "Piracy is a much bigger channel and an illicit economy than the three main commercial networks combined. It is ripping off viewers from legitimate, taxpaying enterprises," Mr Burke said. "The product that Ten is buying from 21st Century Fox and is now arriving have been pirated out of sight."
Communications

Apple 'Error 53' Sting Operation Caught Staff Misleading Customers, Court Documents Allege (theguardian.com) 191

AmiMoJo writes: "Australia's consumer watchdog carried out a sting operation against Apple which it says caught staff repeatedly misleading iPhone customers about their legal rights to a free repair or replacement after a so-called 'error 53' malfunction, court documents reveal," reports The Guardian. Error 53 refers to an error message that renders iPhones useless if third-party repairs are made. From the report: "The case, set to go to trial in mid-December, accuses Apple of wrongly telling customers they were not entitled to free replacements or repair if they had taken their devices to an unauthorized third-party repairer. That advice was allegedly given even where the repair -- a screen replacement, for example -- was not related to the fault. Apple has so far chosen to remain silent about the case brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). But court documents obtained by Guardian Australia show the company has denied the ACCC's allegations, saying it did not mislead or cause any harm to its Australian customers. The documents also show how the ACCC used undercover methods to investigate Apple. Investigators, posing as iPhone customers, called all 13 Apple retailers across Australia in June last year. They told Apple staff their iPhone speakers had stopped working after screens were replaced by a third party. Apple's response was the same in each of the 13 calls, the ACCC alleges."
Music

Apple Announces Its 'Next Breakthrough' Product: the HomePod (techcrunch.com) 198

Apple unveiled its home speaker during WWDC 2017 on Monday. The device, called HomePod, will go toe-to-toe with existing competitors such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home. Apple said it wanted to combine good speakers with smart speakers you can talk to, referencing Sonos and Amazon Alexa. It said the speaker "needs to rock the house" free from distortion. It also needs to have "spatial awareness" to make the music sound good no matter the room size. It also needs to be fun to use, Apple said, adding that the HomePod does all of this with a customer's privacy in mind. From a report: The device is a pill-shaped circular speaker. It has 7 beam-forming tweeter array. It has a custom-made woofer and an Apple A8 chip. It has multi-channel echo cancellation, real-time acoustic modeling and more. The HomePod can scan the space around it to optimize audio accordingly. Schiller spent a lot of time talking about how good it sounds. Of course the speaker works well with Apple Music. You can talk to the speaker to play anything in your Apple Music library and more. You can say "play more songs like that," or "I like this song." [...] It's going to cost $349. It comes in white and space grey. It starts shipping in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia. Other countries will get HomePods next year.
It's funny.  Laugh.

Seven Science Journals Have A Dog On Their Editorial Board (atlasobscura.com) 106

An anonymous reader writes: A professor of health policy at Australia's Curtin University got seven different science journals to put his dog on their editorial board. The dog is now associate editor for the Global Journal of Addiction & Rehabilitation Medicine, and sits on the editorial board of Psychiatry and Mental Disorders. The professor says he feels sorry for one researcher who recently submitted a paper about how to treat sheath tumors, because "the journal has sent it to a dog to review." The official profile of the dog lists its research interests as "the benefits of abdominal massage for medium-sized canines" and "avian propinquity to canines in metropolitan suburbs."
An Australian news site points out that career-minded researchers pay up to $3,000 to get their work published in predatory journals so they can list more publications on their resumes. "While this started as something lighthearted," says the dog-owning professor, "I think it is important to expose shams of this kind which prey on the gullible, especially young or naive academics and those from developing countries."
Earth

8 In 10 People Now See Climate Change As a 'Catastrophic Risk,' Says Survey (trust.org) 384

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the Thomas Reuters Foundation: Nearly nine in 10 people say they are ready to make changes to their standard of living if it would prevent future climate catastrophe, a survey on global threats found Wednesday. The survey of more than 8,000 people in eight countries -- the United States, China, India, Britain, Australia, Brazil, South Africa and Germany -- found that 84 percent of people now consider climate change a "global catastrophic risk." That puts worry about climate change only slightly behind fears about large-scale environmental damage and the threat of politically motivated violence escalating into war, according to the Global Challenges Foundation, which commissioned the Global Catastrophic Risks 2017 report. The survey, released in advance of this week's G7 summit of advanced economies in Italy, also found that 85 percent of people think the United Nations needs reforms to be better equipped to address global threats. About 70 percent of those surveyed said they think it may be time to create a new global organization -- with power to enforce its decisions -- specifically designed to deal with a wide range of global risks. Nearly 60 percent said they would be prepared to have their country give up some level of sovereignty to make that happen.
Google

Google Home Gets Notifications, Hands-Free Calling, a TV Interface and More (theverge.com) 37

Google has announced several news features for Google Home to help it better compete against the Amazon Echo. The six new features coming to Google Home include: notifications, free calling to phones in the U.S. and Canada, calendar and reminders, more streaming services, a TV interface, and new locations. The Verge details each feature in its report: Notifications: Google calls this feature "proactive assistance." Essentially, Google Home will do its best to alert owners to things they need to know, like reminders, traffic alerts, or flight delays.
Free Calling To Phones In U.S. and Canada: Google is one-upping Amazon by letting the Home dial out to actual landline and mobile phones. Whenever this feature rolls out, you'll be able to ask the Home to call anyone on your contacts list, and it'll dial out to them on a private number.
Calendar and Reminders: You can finally set reminders and calendar entries. Finally.
More Streaming Services: Google Home has already been able to control a handful of music and video services, but it's about to get a bunch of major missing names. For music, that includes Spotify's free tier, Deezer, and SoundCloud. For video, it includes HBO Now and Hulu. On top of that, Home is also getting the ability to stream anything over Bluetooth.
A TV Interface: Sometimes you actually want to see what's going on, so Google's making a TV interface for the Google Home. You'll soon be able to ask the Home to send information to your TV, from basics like the weather and your calendar, to information it's looking up like nearby restaurants or YouTube videos you might want to watch.
New Locations: The Home is going to expand to five new countries this summer: Canada, Australia, France, Germany, and Japan.

Medicine

38,000 People a Year Die Early Because of Diesel Emissions Testing Failures (theverge.com) 194

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Diesel cars, trucks, and other vehicles in more than 10 countries around the world produce 50 percent more nitrogen oxide emissions than lab tests show, according to a new study. The extra pollution is thought to have contributed to about 38,000 premature deaths in 2015 globally. In the study, published today in Nature, researchers compared emissions from diesel tailpipes on the road with the results of lab tests for nitrogen oxides (NOx). The countries where diesel vehicles were tested are Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, and the U.S., where more than 80 percent of new diesel vehicle sales occurred in 2015. The researchers found that 5 million more tons of NOx were emitted than the lab-based 9.4 million tons, according to the Associated Press. Nitrogen oxides are released into the air from motor vehicle exhaust or the burning of coal and fossil fuels, producing tiny soot particles and smog. Breathing in all this is linked to heart and lung diseases, including lung cancer, according to the International Council on Clean Transportation, which took part in the research. Governments routinely test new diesel vehicles to check whether they meet pollution limits. The problem is that these tests fail to mimic real-life driving situations, and so they underestimate actual pollution levels. The researchers estimate that the extra pollution is linked to about 38,000 premature deaths worldwide in 2015 -- mostly in the European Union, China, and India. (The U.S. saw an estimated 1,100 deaths from excess NOx.)
Australia

How Australia Bungled Its $36 Billion High-Speed Internet Rollout (nytimes.com) 149

Not very pleased with your internet speeds? Think about the people Down Under. Australia's "bungled" National Broadband Network (NBN) has been used as a "cautionary tale" for other countries to take note of. Despite the massive amount of money being pumped into the NBN, the New York Times reports, the internet speeds still lagged behind the US, most of western Europe, Japan and South Korea -- even Kenya. The article highlights that Australia was the first country where a national plan to cover every house or business was considered and this ambitious plan was hampered by changes in government and a slow rollout (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source), partly because of negotiations with Telstra about the fibre installation. From the report: Australia, a wealthy nation with a widely envied quality of life, lags in one essential area of modern life: its internet speed. Eight years after the country began an unprecedented broadband modernization effort that will cost at least 49 billion Australian dollars, or $36 billion, its average internet speed lags that of the United States, most of Western Europe, Japan and South Korea. In the most recent ranking of internet speeds by Akamai, a networking company, Australia came in at an embarrassing No. 51, trailing developing economies like Thailand and Kenya. For many here, slow broadband connections are a source of frustration and an inspiration for gallows humor. One parody video ponders what would happen if an American with a passion for Instagram and streaming "Scandal" were to switch places with an Australian resigned to taking bathroom breaks as her shows buffer. The article shares this anecdote: "Hundreds of thousands of people from around the world have downloaded Hand of Fate, an action video game made by a studio in Brisbane, Defiant Development. But when Defiant worked with an audio designer in Melbourne, more than 1,000 miles away, Mr. Jaffit knew it would be quicker to send a hard drive by road than to upload the files, which could take several days."
The Internet

A New Use For Browser Fingerprints: Defeating Spoofing (browserprint.info) 64

AnonymousCube writes: Researchers at the University of Adelaide have found a new use for browser fingerprints: uncovering and defeating spoofing by web browsers. By using machine learning on browser fingerprints they were able to correctly guess the OS or browser family of a browser 90% of the time, and defeat operating system and browser family spoofing 76% of the time. This was done with small training sets of less than 1000 fingerprints, so accuracy with a much larger training set, like the size of the EFF's Panopticlick database should give even better results; you can help prove this, and see what their site thinks your browser family and OS is, by submitting your fingerprint to their site.
Australia

IT Contractors In Australia Are Not Being Paid Due To Dispute With Payroll Service (theregister.co.uk) 49

New submitter evolutionary writes: Plutus Payroll, an Australian payroll company, is refusing to pay contractors due to a dispute with companies using their services. Around 1,000 IT workers are unable to receive payment for services rendered. One may ask, "Where are the companies who actually hired the IT workers?" The Register reports: "This story starts with Australia's employment laws, which see lots of contractors officially employed by recruitment companies or payroll companies. The company at which the contractor works likes this arrangement as it means they don't have to put such people on their books. Recruitment companies and payroll companies charge for the service. Contractors generally like the convenience of having one employer even though they hop from gig to gig. The system requires fluid payments. Companies who hire contractors pay the recruiter, which either pays contractors direct or pays the payroll company contractors prefer. If the cash stops flowing, contractors get crunched. That's what's happened to around 1,000 contractors who elected to use Plutus as their paymasters: the company says it is in the midst of a completely unexplained 'dispute' that leaves it unable to pay contractors, or receive money from recruitment companies, but is still solvent. The Register has checked with the bank that Plutus clients say sends them their money -- the bank says it is aware of no dispute. One possible reason for the mess is that Plutus did not charge for its services. How it made money is therefore a mystery. Another scenario concerns the company's recent acquisition: perhaps its new owners are being denied access to some service Plutus could access as a standalone company. Plutus is saying nothing of substance about the situation. A spokesperson tells us the company deeply regrets the situation but won't divulge anything about the dispute and has offered no details about when contractors can expect resolution."
Privacy

Facebook Lets Advertisers Target Insecure Teens, Says Report (cnet.com) 118

An anonymous reader shares a report: Leaked documents from Facebook's team in Australia allegedly show the social giant's ability to help advertisers target teens who feel "worthless." The documents, first revealed by The Australian, say Facebook can spot when teens "need a confidence boost." The documents reportedly get even more specific, saying Facebook's algorithm can pinpoint when teens feel "useless," "stressed," "failure," "silly," "stupid," "worthless" and "defeated." Using Facebook's tools as well as image recognition, advertisers would be able to find teens in some of their lowest moments -- and then target ads to them. The leaked documents also detailed how advertisers could use Facebook's algorithms to find teens who were interested in "working out and losing weight" and promote health products, according to The Australian. Facebook's team in Australia was reportedly looking to capitalize on 6.4 million teens who use the social network in their region.
Businesses

'There's No Good Way To Kill a Bad Idea' (qz.com) 281

The world is filled with bad, baseless, factually inaccurate ideas that refuse to die. From an article: Philosopher Russell Blackford, a lecturer at the University of Newcastle in Australia, tweeted about this phenomenon earlier this month: "The momentum behind bad ideas can be enormous -- they can plunge on, gathering force, long after receiving devastating criticism." If you've ever found yourself unable to halt someone else's idiotic plans once they were already in motion, you're not alone. Whether you're a politician trying to make congress see sense or simply a manager trying to halt an atrocious team-building plan, there's simply no foolproof way to kill a terrible idea. Blackford blames the momentum behind bad ideas on cascade effects. Yes, individuals are prone to making poor decisions for emotional or biased reasons (known as "cognitive heuristics") and this irrationality is part of the problem. But there's also a broader sociological issue, in that others' opinions carry a huge amount of weight in influencing our views. A cultural consensus -- even without proper evidence -- can form pretty quickly. If one person convinces a second, says Blackford, then a third person will be far more likely to agree with the majority view. This effect exponentially increases with each person who agrees with the others. "We soon have a sociological effect whereby everyone knows that, say, a certain movie is very good or very bad, even though everyone might have 'known' the exact opposite if only a few early voices had been different," says Blackford.
Australia

Australia Wants ISPs To Protect Customers From Viruses (sophos.com) 104

An anonymous reader quotes Sopho's Naked Security blog: In a column in The West Australian, Dan Tehan, Australia's cybersecurity minister, wrote: "Just as we trust banks to hold our money, just as we trust doctors with our health, in a digital age we need to be able to trust telecommunications companies to protect our information from threats." A companion news article in the same newspaper cited Tehan as arguing that "the onus is on telecommunications companies to develop products to stop their customers being infected with viruses"...

Tehan's government roles include assisting the prime minister on cybersecurity, so folks throughout Australia perked up when he said all this. However, it's not clear if there's an actual plan behind Tehan's observations -- or if there is, whether it will be backed by legal mandates... Back home in Australia, some early reactions to the possibility of any new government interference weren't kind. In iTWire, Sam Varghese said, "Dan Tehan has just provided the country with adequate reasons as to why he should not be allowed anywhere near any post that has anything to do with online security."

The West Australian also reports Australia's prime minister met telecommunications companies this week, "where he delivered the message the Government expected them to do more to shut dodgy sites and scams," saying the government will review current legislation to "remove any roadblocks that may be preventing the private sector and government from delivering such services."
Businesses

IT Leaders Will Struggle To Meet Future Demands, Study Says (betanews.com) 113

When it comes to meeting future demands, IT leaders in the UK are lagging behind those in Germany and the US. From a report: This is according to a new report by Brocade, entitled Global Digital Transformation Skills Study. The report is based on a survey of 630 IT leaders in the US, UK, France, Germany, Australia and Singapore. It says that organizations are "at a tipping point" -- a point in time when technology demands are just about to outstrip the skills supply. Consequently, those that train their staff now and prepare for the future in that respect are the ones that are setting themselves up for a successful future. Almost three quarters (74 percent) of IT leaders in the UK see IT departments as either "very important" or "critical" to both innovation and the growth of their business. But the same woes reman, as almost two thirds (63 percent) think they'll struggle to find the right people in the next year.
Security

Hackers Exploited Word Flaw For Months While Microsoft Investigated (reuters.com) 46

An anonymous reader writes: To understand why it is so difficult to defend computers from even moderately capable hackers, consider the case of the security flaw officially known as CVE-2017-0199. The bug was unusually dangerous but of a common genre: it was in Microsoft software, could allow a hacker to seize control of a personal computer with little trace, and was fixed April 11 in Microsoft's regular monthly security update. But it had traveled a rocky, nine-month journey from discovery to resolution, which cyber security experts say is an unusually long time. Google's security researchers, for example, give vendors just 90 days' warning before publishing flaws they find. Microsoft declined to say how long it usually takes to patch a flaw. While Microsoft investigated, hackers found the flaw and manipulated the software to spy on unknown Russian speakers, possibly in Ukraine. And a group of thieves used it to bolster their efforts to steal from millions of online bank accounts in Australia and other countries.
Earth

Scientists Consider 'Cloud Brightening' To Preserve Australia's Great Barrier Reef (technologyreview.com) 108

An anonymous reader quotes MIT Technology Review: A group of Australian marine scientists believe that altering clouds might offer one of the best hopes for saving the Great Barrier Reef. For the last six months, researchers at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science and the University of Sydney School of Geosciences have been meeting regularly to explore the possibility of making low-lying clouds off the northeastern coast of Australia more reflective in order to cool the waters surrounding the world's biggest coral reef system...

Last year, as El Nino events cranked up ocean temperatures, at least 20% of the reef died and more than 90% of it was damaged. The Australian researchers took a hard look at a number of potential ways to preserve the reefs. But at this point, making clouds more reflective looks like the most feasible way to protect an ecosystem that stretches across more than 130,000 square miles, says Daniel Harrison, a postdoctoral research associate with the Ocean Technology Group at the University of Sydney. Cloud brightening is the only thing we've identified that's scalable, sensible, and relatively environmentally benign," he says... Next month, he plans to start computer climate modeling to explore whether cloud brightening could make a big enough temperature difference to help.

They're collaborating with Silicon Valley's Marine Cloud Brightening Project, which has spent the last seven years "developing a nozzle that they believe can spray salt particles of just the right size and quantity to alter the clouds. They're attempting to raise several million dollars to build full-scale sprayers." The article describes them as "one of several research groups that have started to explore whether cloud brightening, generally discussed as a potential tool to alter the climate as a whole, could be applied in more targeted ways."
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Troll With 'Stupid Patent' Sues EFF. EFF Sues Them Back (arstechnica.com) 68

"The Electronic Frontier Foundation has sued an Australian company that it previously dubbed as a 'classic patent troll' in a June 2016 blog post entitled: Stupid Patent of the Month: Storage Cabinets on a Computer." An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: Last year, that company, Global Equity Management (SA) Pty. Ltd. (GEMSA), managed to get an Australian court to order EFF to remove its post -- but EFF did not comply. In January 2017, Pasha Mehr, an attorney representing GEMSA, further demanded that the article be removed and that EFF pay $750,000. EFF still did not comply. The new lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco on Wednesday, asks that the American court declare the Australian ruling unenforceable in the U.S.
GEMSA's attorneys reportedly threatened to have the EFF's post de-indexed from search engine listings -- on the basis of the Australian court order -- so now the EFF "seeks a court order declaring the Australian injunction 'repugnant' to the U.S. Constitution and unenforceable in the United States."

The Register reports that GEMSA has already sued 37 companies, "including big-name tech companies Airbnb, Uber, Netflix, Spotify, and eBay. In each case, GEMSA accused the company's website design of somehow trampling on the GUI patent without permission." But things were different after the EFF's article, according to Courthouse News. "GEMSA said the article made it harder to enforce its patents in the United States, citing its legal opponents' 'reduced interest in pursuing pre-trial settlement negotiations.'"

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