Earth

Cow Could Soon Be Largest Land Mammal Left Due To Human Activity, Says Study (theguardian.com) 29

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The cow could be left as the biggest land mammal on Earth in a few centuries, according to a new study that examines the extinction of large mammals as humans spread around the world. The spread of hominims -- early humans and related species such as Neanderthals -- from Africa thousands of years ago coincided with the extinction of megafauna such as the mammoth, the sabre-toothed tiger and the glyptodon, an armadillo-like creature the size of a car. "There is a very clear pattern of size-biased extinction that follows the migration of hominims out of Africa," the study's lead author, Felisa Smith, of the University of New Mexico, said of the study published in the journal Science on Thursday. Humans apparently targeted big species for meat, while smaller creatures such as rodents escaped, according the report, which examined trends over 125,000 years. In North America, for instance, the mean body mass of land-based mammals has shrunk to 7.6kg (17lb) from 98kg after humans arrived. If the trend continues "the largest mammal on Earth in a few hundred years may well be a domestic cow at about 900kg", the researchers wrote. That would mean the loss of elephants, giraffes and hippos. In March, the world's last male northern white rhino died in Kenya.
Youtube

YouTube Says Computers Helped It Pull Down Millions of Objectionable Videos Last Quarter (recode.net) 35

YouTube says it has successfully trained computers to flag objectionable videos. In the last quarter of 2017, the company reportedly pulled down more than six million of these videos before any users saw them. The news comes from a brief aside in Google CEO Sundar Pichai's scripted remarks during parent company Alphabet's earnings call today. "He said YouTube had pulled down more than six million videos in the last quarter of 2017 after first being flagged by its 'machine systems,' and that 75 percent of those videos 'were removed before receiving a single view,'" reports Recode.
Software

Algorithm Automatically Spots 'Face Swaps' In Videos (technologyreview.com) 19

yagoda shares a report from MIT Technology Review: Andreas Rossler at the Technical University of Munich in Germany and colleagues have developed a deep-learning system that can automatically spot face-swap videos. The new technique could help identify forged videos as they are posted to the web. But the work also has sting in the tail. The same deep-learning technique that can spot face-swap videos can also be used to improve the quality of face swaps in the first place -- and that could make them harder to detect. The new technique relies on a deep-learning algorithm that Rossler and co have trained to spot face swaps. These algorithms can only learn from huge annotated data sets of good examples, which simply have not existed until now. In semi-related news, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) says it's "fighting back" against the dangers posed by new face-swapping technologies that have been used to digitally superimpose the faces of its members onto the bodies of porn stars.

"SAG-AFTRA has undertaken an exhaustive review of our collective bargaining options and legislative options to combat any and all uses of digital re-creations, not limited to deepfakes, that defame our members and inhibit their ability to protect their images, voices and performances from misappropriation. We are talking with our members' representatives, union allies, and with state and federal legislators about this issue right now and have legislation pending in New York and Louisiana that would address this directly in certain circumstances. We also are analyzing state laws in other jurisdictions, including California, to make sure protections are in place. To the degree that there are not sufficient protections in place, we will work to fix that..."
Cellphones

Surface Phone Speculation Spurred By New Phone APIs In Windows (arstechnica.com) 28

Microsoft has been rumored to be working on a "Surface Phone" for years now, with little concrete evidence that such a device actually exists. "But the latest Windows 10 Insider Preview has given new fuel for the speculative fire, it has a set of new APIs for cellular phones," reports Ars Technica. From the report: Windows has had integrated support for cell modems since Windows 8, but this has been restricted to supporting data connections. Telephony -- dialing numbers, placing calls -- has always required either Windows Phone or Windows 10 Mobile. This has made the full Windows 10 unsuitable for a phone. That may be changing. Windows 10 build 17650 -- a preview of Redstone 5, the next Windows update after the delayed April update -- includes some telephony APIs. The new APIs cover support for a range of typical phone features: dialing numbers and contacts, blocking withheld numbers, support for Bluetooth headsets and spearphone mode, and so on and so forth. There also looks to be some kind of video-calling support, suggesting support for 3G or LTE video calling.
Government

US Government Weighing Sanctions Against Kaspersky Lab (cyberscoop.com) 37

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CyberScoop: The U.S. government is considering sanctions against Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab as part of a wider round of action carried out against the Russian government, according to U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the matter. The sanctions would be a considerable expansion and escalation of the U.S. government's actions against the company. Kaspersky, which has two ongoing lawsuits against the U.S. government, has been called "an unacceptable threat to national security" by numerous U.S. officials and lawmakers.

Officials told CyberScoop any additional action against Kaspersky would occur at the lawsuits' conclusion, which Kaspersky filed in response to a stipulation in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that bans its products from federal government networks. If the sanctions came to fruition, the company would be barred from operating in the U.S. and potentially even in U.S. allied countries.

Advertising

Facebook Sued Over Fake Ads (theguardian.com) 26

shilly writes: British finance expert Martin Lewis is suing Facebook for defamation, after a year of trying to persuade the company to stop accepting scam ads featuring his name and image. Facebook insists that he report to them every time he spots a scam; he wants them to check with him before they take money for an ad featuring his name or picture, so he can tell them if it's legit or not. "Lewis said he would not profit from any damages won, which he would donate to charities combating fraud, but that he hoped the action would prompt the site to stamp out scam adverts," reports The Guardian.
Operating Systems

Microsoft Readies Windows 10 April Update With New Features and Enhancements (hothardware.com) 56

MojoKid writes: Microsoft has been preparing a Spring Creators Update for Windows 10 for a while now, which was recently pushed out as an RTM (Release To Manufacturing) build to all rings of the Windows Insider program. Now dubbed the "Windows 10 April Update," Redmond is billing that "lots of new features" are rolling out with this release, including the ability to resume past activities in timeline and a file sharing feature with nearby devices. Also, based on what has been tested in pre-release builds, there will be other features coming as well, including a rebuilt Game Bar with a new Fluent design UI, a diagnostic data viewing tool in the Security and Privacy section, and Cortana is reportedly easier to use with a new Organizer interface and My Skills tab. It is expected Microsoft will be pushing out this update for Windows 10 this week sometime.
Nintendo

The 'Unpatchable' Exploit That Makes Every Current Nintendo Switch Hackable (arstechnica.com) 48

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A newly published "exploit chain" for Nvidia Tegra X1-based systems seems to describe an apparently unpatchable method for running arbitrary code on all currently available Nintendo Switch consoles. Hardware hacker Katherine Temkin and the hacking team at ReSwitched released an extensive outline of what they're calling the Fusee Gelee coldboot vulnerability earlier today, alongside a proof-of-concept payload that can be used on the Switch. "Fusee Gelee isn't a perfect, 'holy grail' exploit -- though in some cases it can be pretty damned close," Temkin writes in an accompanying FAQ. The exploit, as outlined, makes use of a vulnerability inherent in the Tegra X1's USB recovery mode, circumventing the lock-out operations that would usually protect the chip's crucial bootROM. By sending a bad "length" argument to an improperly coded USB control procedure at the right point, the user can force the system to "request up to 65,535 bytes per control request." That data easily overflows a crucial direct memory access (DMA) buffer in the bootROM, in turn allowing data to be copied into the protected application stack and giving the attacker the ability to run arbitrary code. The exploit can't be fixed via a downloadable patch because the flawed bootROM can't be modified once the Tegra chip leaves the factory. As Temkin writes, "unfortunately, access to the fuses needed to configure the device's ipatches was blocked when the ODM_PRODUCTION fuse was burned, so no bootROM update is possible. It is suggested that consumers be made aware of the situation so they can move to other devices, where possible." Ars notes that Nintendo may however be able to detect "hacked" systems when they sign on to Nintendo's servers. "The company could then ban those systems from using the Switch's online functions."
Google

Google Accused of Showing 'Total Contempt' for Android Users' Privacy (bleepingcomputer.com) 59

On the heels of a terse privacy debate, Google may have found another thing to worry about: its attempt to rethink the traditional texting system. From a report: Joe Westby is Amnesty International's Technology and Human Rights researcher. Recently, in response to Google's launch of a new messaging service called "Chat", Westby argued that Google, "shows total contempt for Android users' privacy."

"With its baffling decision to launch a messaging service without end-to-end encryption, Google has shown utter contempt for the privacy of Android users and handed a precious gift to cybercriminals and government spies alike, allowing them easy access to the content of Android users' communications. Following the revelations by CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden, end-to-end encryption has become recognized as an essential safeguard for protecting people's privacy when using messaging apps. With this new Chat service, Google shows a staggering failure to respect the human rights of its customers," Westby contended. Westby continued, saying: "In the wake of the recent Facebook data scandal, Google's decision is not only dangerous but also out of step with current attitudes to data privacy."

AI

AI Trained on Images from Cosmological Simulations Surprisingly Successful at Classifying Real Galaxies in Hubble Images (ucsc.edu) 16

A machine learning method which has been widely used in face recognition and other image- and speech-recognition applications, has shown promise in helping astronomers analyze images of galaxies and understand how they form and evolve. From a report: In a new study, accepted for publication in Astrophysical Journal and available online [PDF], researchers used computer simulations of galaxy formation to train a deep learning algorithm, which then proved surprisingly good at analyzing images of galaxies from the Hubble Space Telescope. The researchers used output from the simulations to generate mock images of simulated galaxies as they would look in observations by the Hubble Space Telescope. The mock images were used to train the deep learning system to recognize three key phases of galaxy evolution previously identified in the simulations. The researchers then gave the system a large set of actual Hubble images to classify.

The results showed a remarkable level of consistency in the neural network's classifications of simulated and real galaxies. "We were not expecting it to be all that successful. I'm amazed at how powerful this is," said coauthor Joel Primack, professor emeritus of physics and a member of the Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics (SCIPP) at UC Santa Cruz. "We know the simulations have limitations, so we don't want to make too strong a claim. But we don't think this is just a lucky fluke."

Security

New Attack Group Orangeworm Targets Healthcare Sector in US, Asia, and Europe: Symantec (symantec.com) 27

Security researchers at Symantec say a group of hackers has been targeting firms related to health care in order to steal intellectual property. The security firm observed a hacking team, called Orangeworm, compromise the systems of pharmaceutical firms, medical-device manufacturers, health-care providers, and even IT companies working with medical organizations in the US, Europe, and Asia markets. Victims don't appear to have been chosen at random but "carefully and deliberately." You can read the full report here.
Chrome

Google Is Testing a New Chrome UI (bleepingcomputer.com) 57

Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: Google engineers have rolled out a new Chrome user interface (UI). Work on the new Refresh UI has been underway since last year, Bleeping Computer has learned. The new UI is in early testing stages, and only available via the Google Chrome Canary distribution, a version of the Chrome browser used as a testing playground. Users who are interested in giving the new UI a spin must install Chrome Canary, and then access chrome://flags, a section that contains various experimental options not included in Chrome's default settings section.
Earth

Was There a Civilization On Earth Before Humans? (theatlantic.com) 287

Adam Frank, writing for The Atlantic: We're used to imagining extinct civilizations in terms of the sunken statues and subterranean ruins. These kinds of artifacts of previous societies are fine if you're only interested in timescales of a few thousands of years. But once you roll the clock back to tens of millions or hundreds of millions of years, things get more complicated.

When it comes to direct evidence of an industrial civilization -- things like cities, factories, and roads -- the geologic record doesn't go back past what's called the Quaternary period 2.6 million years ago. For example, the oldest large-scale stretch of ancient surface lies in the Negev Desert. It's "just" 1.8 million years old -- older surfaces are mostly visible in cross section via something like a cliff face or rock cuts. Go back much farther than the Quaternary and everything has been turned over and crushed to dust.

And, if we're going back this far, we're not talking about human civilizations anymore. Homo sapiens didn't make their appearance on the planet until just 300,000 years or so ago. [...] Given that all direct evidence would be long gone after many millions of years, what kinds of evidence might then still exist? The best way to answer this question is to figure out what evidence we'd leave behind if human civilization collapsed at its current stage of development.
Mr. Frank, along with Gavin Schmidt, Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, have published their research on the subject [PDF].
EU

EU Opens Competition Probe Into Apple's Bid For Music App Shazam (reuters.com) 15

EU antitrust regulators opened an investigation on Monday into Apple's bid for British music discovery app Shazam, concerned the deal might give the iPhone maker an unfair advantage in poaching users from its rivals. From a report: Apple announced the deal in December to help it better compete with industry leader Spotify. Shazam lets users identify songs by pointing a smartphone at the audio source. The European Commission said it was concerned about Apple's access to data on Shazam's users who use competing music streaming services in Europe.
Security

Hacking a Satellite is Surprisingly Easy (theoutline.com) 159

Caroline Haskins, writing for The Outline: Hundreds of multi-ton liabilities -- soaring faster than the speed of sound, miles above the surface of the earth -- are operating on Windows-95. They're satellites, responsible for everything from GPS positioning, to taking weather measurements, to carrying cell signals, to providing television and internet. For the countries that own these satellites, they're invaluable resources. Even though they're old, it's more expensive to take satellites down than it is to just leave them up. So they stay up. Unfortunately, these outdated systems makes old satellites prime targets for cyber attacks. [...]

A malicious actor could fake their IP address, which gives information about a user's computer and its location. This person could then get access to the satellite's computer system, and manipulate where the satellite goes or what it does. Alternatively, an actor could jam the satellite's radio transmissions with earth, essentially disabling it. The cost of such an attack could be huge. If a satellite doesn't work, life-saving GPS or online information could be withheld to people on earth when they need it most. What's worse, if part of a satellite -- or an entire satellite -- is knocked out of its orbit from an attack, the debris could create a domino effect and cause extreme damage to other satellites.

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