How Genealogy Websites Make It Easier To Catch Killers

6 days 23 hours ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from IEEE Spectrum: Over the past six months a small, publicly available genealogy database has become the go-to source for solving cold case crimes. The free online tool, called GEDmatch, is an ancestry service that allows people to submit their DNA data and search for relatives -- an open access version of AncestryDNA or 23andMe. Since April, investigators have used GEDmatch to identify victims, killers, and missing persons all over the U.S. in at least 19 cases, many of them decades old, according to authors of a report published today in Science. The authors predict that in the near future, as genetic genealogy reports gain in popularity, such tools could be used to find nearly any individual in the U.S. of European descent. GEDmatch holds the genetic data of only about a million people. But cold case investigators have been exploiting the database using a genomic analysis technique called long-range familial search. The technique allows researchers to match an individual's DNA to distant relatives, such as third cousins. Chances are, one of those relatives will have used a genetic genealogy service. More than 17 million people have participated in these services -- a number that has grown rapidly over the last two years. AncestryDNA and 23andMe hold most of those customers. A genetic match to a distant relative can fairly quickly lead investigators to the person of interest. In a highly publicized case, GEDmatch was used earlier this year to identify the "Golden State Killer," a serial rapist and murderer who terrorized California in the 1970s and 1980s, but was never caught. In April, investigators were able to use a genealogy database to narrow down DNA data from crime scenes and identify the "Golden State Killer," a serial rapist and murderer who terrorized California in the 1970s and 1980s.

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EU Ruling: Self-Driving Car Data Will Be Copyrighted By the Manufacturer

6 days 23 hours ago
Yesterday, at a routine vote on regulations for self-driving cars, members of the European Peoples' Party voted down a clause that would protect a vehicle's telemetry so that it couldn't become someone's property. The clause affirmed that "data generated by autonomous transport are automatically generated and are by nature not creative, thus making copyright protection or the right on data-bases inapplicable." Boing Boing reports: This is data that we will need to evaluate the safety of autonomous vehicles, to fine-tune their performance, to ensure that they are working as the manufacturer claims -- data that will not be public domain (as copyright law dictates), but will instead be someone's exclusive purview, to release or withhold as they see fit. Who will own this data? It's unlikely that it will be the owners of the vehicles. It's already the case that most auto manufacturers use license agreements and DRM to lock up your car so that you can't fix it yourself or take it to an independent service center. The aggregated data from millions of self-driving cars across the EU aren't just useful to public safety analysts, consumer rights advocates, security researchers and reviewers (who would benefit from this data living in the public domain) -- it is also a potential gold-mine for car manufacturers who could sell it to insurers, market researchers and other deep-pocketed corporate interests who can profit by hiding that data from the public who generate it and who must share their cities and streets with high-speed killer robots.

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Moons Can Have Their Own Moons and They Could Be Called Moonmoons

1 week ago
Two astronomers have asked a question for the ages: Can moons have moons? The delightful, if theoretical, answer is: Yes -- yes, they can. Sarah Laskow, writing for Atlas Obscura: As Gizmodo reports, this particular scientific inquiry began with a question from Juna Kollmeier's son. Kollemeier, who works at the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, recruited Sean Raymond, of the University of Bordeaux, to help her answer the question. In a paper posted on arXiv [PDF], they lay out their case that moons can have moons. The conditions have to be right -- the primary moon has to be big enough and far away enough from the planet it's orbiting for the smaller, secondary moon to survive. But, even given these caveats, they found that moons in our very own solar system could theoretically have their own smaller moons. Two of Saturn's moons and one of Jupiter's are candidates. So is our favorite moon -- the Earth's moon. [...] One of the great challenges of talking about recursive places is deciding what call them. The prefix "sub-" can do a lot of work here: We can islands within islands "subislands," and in the arXiv paper, Kollmeier and Raymond call a moon's moon a "submoon." But there are other options. New Scientist notes that "moonmoon" has been put forth as a name for a moon's moon. For those of us who are less than fluent in meme culture: This is a reference to Moon Moon, sometimes described as the internet's derpiest wolf. Moon Moon was born in 2013, from a werewolf name generator, and soon started frolicking across Tumblr and all other places memes can be found.

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The US Military Wants To Teach AI Some Basic Common Sense

1 week ago
DARPA, the research arm of the U.S. military, has a new Machine Common Sense (MCS) program that will run a competition that asks AI algorithms to make sense of questions with common sense answers. For example, here's one of the questions: "A student puts two identical plants in the same type and amount of soil. She gives them the same amount of water. She puts one of these plants near a window and the other in a dark room. The plant near the window will produce more (A) oxygen (B) carbon dioxide (C) water." MIT Technology Review reports: A computer program needs some understanding of the way photosynthesis works in order to tackle the question. Simply feeding a machine lots of previous questions won't solve the problem reliably. These benchmarks will focus on language because it can so easily trip machines up, and because it makes testing relatively straightforward. Etzioni says the questions offer a way to measure progress toward common-sense understanding, which will be crucial. [...] Previous attempts to help machines understand the world have focused on building large knowledge databases by hand. This is an unwieldy and essentially never-ending task. The most famous such effort is Cyc, a project that has been in the works for decades. "The absence of common sense prevents an intelligent system from understanding its world, communicating naturally with people, behaving reasonably in unforeseen situations, and learning from new experiences,"https://www.darpa.mil/ Dave Gunning, a program manager at DARPA, said in a statement issued this morning. "This absence is perhaps the most significant barrier between the narrowly focused AI applications we have today and the more general AI applications we would like to create in the future."

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CoinMiners Use New Tricks To Impersonate Adobe Flash Installers

1 week ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: Cryptocurrency miners are now being distributed by a new campaign pretending to be Adobe Flash Player installers. While this is not new, this particular campaign is going the extra mile to appear legitimate by not only installing a miner, but also updating Flash Player as well. In a new malware campaign discovered by Palo Alto Unit 42 researcher Brad Duncan, it was found that a fake Flash Player Trojan not only installed a XMRig miner, but it also automatically updated his installed Flash Player. This real Flash installer was downloaded by the Trojan from Adobe's site. By actually performing an upgrade of the desired program, it makes the user less suspicious and adds further legitimacy that the Trojan was a real Adobe installer for Adobe Flash Player. While Flash Player is now updated, what the victim does not know is that a coinminer was silently installed on the computer and started. Once started, this sample would connect to a mining pool at xmr-eu1.nanopool.org and begin to use almost 100% of the computer's CPU in order mine the Monero digital cryptocurrency.

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Boston Dynamics' Robot Went From a Drunk Baby To a Nimble Ninja in a Matter of Years

1 week ago
In a new video from robotics company Boston Dynamics, which Alphabet sold to SoftBank last year, a robot is shown hopping over a log and then up a series of blocks, an activity called parkour. From a report: In previous videos, the robot did a backflip -- now it's leaping over obstacles and climbing up large, uneven stairs with fleet-footed ease. But Atlas wasn't always so graceful. In some of the first videos where Boston Dynamics' robots could walk upright, way back in 2015, Atlas lumbered through the woods, looking like it was narrowly avoiding falling with each step, rather than moving with any kind of purpose.

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Over Nine Million Cameras and DVRs Open To APTs, Botnet Herders, and Voyeurs

1 week ago
Millions of security cameras, DVRs, and NVRs contain vulnerabilities that can allow a remote attacker to take over devices with little effort, security researchers have revealed today. From a report: All vulnerable devices have been manufactured by Hangzhou Xiongmai Technology Co., Ltd. (Xiongmai hereinafter), a Chinese company based in the city of Hangzhou. But end users won't be able to tell that they're using a hackable device because the company doesn't sell any products with its name on them, but ships all equipment as white label products on which other companies put their logo on top. Security researchers from EU-based SEC Consult say they've identified over 100 companies that buy and re-brand Xiongmai devices as their own. All of these devices are vulnerable to easy hacks, researchers say. The source of all vulnerabilities is a feature found in all devices named the "XMEye P2P Cloud." The XMEye P2P Cloud works by creating a tunnel between a customer's device and an XMEye cloud account. Device owners can access this account via their browser or via a mobile app to view device video feeds in real time. SEC Consult researchers say that these XMEye cloud accounts have not been sufficiently protected. For starters, an attacker can guess account IDs because they've been based on devices' sequential physical addresses (MACs). Second, all new XMEye accounts use a default admin username of "admin" with no password.

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Plex for Linux Now Available as a Snap

1 week ago
An anonymous reader shares a report: Today, a very popular app, Plex Media Server, gets the Snap treatment. In other words, you can install the media server program without any headaches -- right from the Snap store. "In adopting the universal Linux app packaging format, Plex will make its multimedia platform available to an ever-growing community of Linux users, including those on KDE Neon, Debian, Fedora, Manjaro, OpenSUSE, Zorin and Ubuntu. Automatic updates and rollback capabilities are staples of Snap software, meaning Plex users will always have the best and latest version running," says Canonical.

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The Cryptocurrency Industry is 'On the Brink of an Implosion', Research Says

1 week ago
Echoing sentiments of mainstream economists, Juniper Research is warning that many of the metrics in the cryptocurrency world are pointing to a market implosion. From a report: Industry bellwether Bitcoin had seen its daily transaction volumes fall from an average of around 360,000 a day in late 2017 to just 230,000 in September 2018. Meanwhile, daily transaction values were down from more than $3.7 billion to less than $670 million in the same period, Juniper said in the study, The Future of Cryptocurrency: Bitcoin & Altcoin Trends & Challenges 2018-2023. The market as a whole has contracted quickly as well. In the first quarter, cryptocurrency transactions totaled just over $1.4 trillion, compared with less than $1.7 trillion for 2017 as a whole, Juniper said. However, by the second quarter, transaction values had plummeted by 75 percent, with total market capitalization falling to just under $355 billion. "Based on activity during the first half of Q3, Juniper estimates a further 47 percent quarter-on-quarter drop in transaction values in that quarter," the researcher said in an accompanying white paper.

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President Trump Signs Music Modernization Act Into Law

1 week ago
President Donald Trump signed the Music Modernization Act (MMA) into law Thursday, officially passing what is arguably the most sweeping reform to copyright law in decades. From a report: The bill revamps Section 115 of the U.S. Copyright Act and aims to bring copyright law up to speed for the streaming era. These are the act's three main pieces of legislation: 1. The Music Modernization Act, which streamlines the music-licensing process to make it easier for rights holders to get paid when their music is streamed online. 2. The Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, & Important Contributions to Society (CLASSICS) Act for pre-1972 recordings. 3. The Allocation for Music Producers (AMP) Act, which improves royalty payouts for producers and engineers from SoundExchange when their recordings are used on satellite and online radio (Notably, this is the first time producers have ever been mentioned in copyright law.). What does all this mean? First, songwriters and artists will receive royalties on songs recorded before 1972. Second, the MMA will improve how songwriters are paid by streaming services with a single mechanical licensing database overseen by music publishers and songwriters. The cost of creating and maintaining this database will be paid for by digital streaming services. Third, the act will take unclaimed royalties due to music professionals and provide a consistent legal process to receive them. Further reading: Billboard.

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Apache OpenOffice, the Schrodinger's Application: No One Knows If It's Dead or Alive, No One Really Wants To Look Inside

1 week ago
British IT news outlet The Register looks at the myriad of challenges Apache OpenOffice faces today. From the report: Last year Brett Porter, then chairman of the Apache Software Foundation, contemplated whether a proposed official blog post on the state of Apache OpenOffice (AOO) might discourage people from downloading the software due to lack of activity in the project. No such post from the software's developers surfaced. The languid pace of development at AOO, though, has been an issue since 2011 after Oracle (then patron of the project) got into a fork-fight with The Document Foundation, which created LibreOffice from the OpenOffice codebase, and asked developers backing the split to resign. Back in 2015, Red Hat developer Christian Schaller called OpenOffice "all but dead." Assertions to that effect have continued since, alongside claims to the contrary. Almost a year ago, Jim Jagielski, a member of the Apache OpenOffice Project Management Committee, insisted things were going well and claimed there was renewed interest in the project. For all the concern about AOO, no issues have been raised recently before the Apache Foundation board to suggest ongoing difficulties. The project is due to provide an update this month, according to a spokesperson for the foundation.

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Microsoft Tackles 'Horrifying' Bing Search Results

1 week ago
Microsoft has "taken action" to change its Bing search engine after it was found to give "horrifying" results for some terms. From a report: Journalist Chris Hoffman discovered Bing suggested racist topics when he looked up words such as "Jews", "Muslims" and "black people". Bing also ranked widely debunked conspiracy theories among the top suggestions for other words. Mr Hoffman said Microsoft had to do better at moderating its search system. In his investigation, Mr Hoffman looked up racially-themed terms and found that the majority of suggestions for further searches that accompanied results pointed people to racist sites or images. Racist memes and images were also returned for many of the words he tried. "We all know this garbage exists on the web, but Bing shouldn't be leading people to it with their search suggestions," wrote Mr Hoffman. It is believed that the suggestions for further searches connected to these terms have emerged from a combination of user activity and concerted action by far-right groups to skew responses. [...] Jeff Jones, a senior director at Microsoft, said: "We take matters of offensive content very seriously and continue to enhance our systems to identify and prevent such content from appearing as a suggested search. As soon as we become aware of an issue, we take action to address it."

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Huge Reduction in Meat-Eating 'Essential' To Avoid Climate Breakdown

1 week ago
Huge reductions in meat-eating are essential to avoid dangerous climate change, according to the most comprehensive analysis yet of the food system's impact on the environment. From a report: In western countries, beef consumption needs to fall by 90% and be replaced by five times more beans and pulses. The research [PDF] also finds that enormous changes to farming are needed to avoid destroying the planet's ability to feed the 10 billion people expected to be on the planet in a few decades. Food production already causes great damage to the environment, via greenhouse gases from livestock, deforestation and water shortages from farming, and vast ocean dead zones from agricultural pollution. But without action, its impact will get far worse as the world population rises by 2.3 billion people by 2050 and global income triples, enabling more people to eat meat-rich western diets.

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MindBody-Owned FitMetrix Exposed Millions of User Records -- Thanks To Servers Without Passwords

1 week ago
An anonymous reader writes: FitMetrix, a fitness technology and performance tracking company owned by gym booking giant Mindbody, has exposed millions of user records because it left several of its servers without a password. The company builds fitness tracking software for gyms and group classes -- like CrossFit and SoulCycle -- that displays heart rate and other fitness metric information for interactive workouts. FitMetrix was acquired by gym and wellness scheduling service Mindbody earlier this year for $15.3 million, according to a government filing. Last week, a security researcher found three FitMetrix unprotected servers leaking customer data. It isn't known how long the servers had been exposed, but the servers were indexed by Shodan, a search engine for open ports and databases, in September. The servers included two of the same ElasticSearch instances and a storage server -- all hosted on Amazon Web Service -- yet none were protected by a password, allowing anyone who knew where to look to access the data on millions of users. Bob Diachenko, Hacken.io's director of cyber risk research, found the databases containing 113.5 million records -- though it's not known how many users were directly affected. Each record contained a user's name, gender, email address, phone numbers, profile photos, their primary workout location, emergency contacts and more. Many of the records were not fully complete.

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The Long, Long History of Long, Long CVS Receipts

1 week ago
Why is a receipt for cough drops the height of a small child? Rachel Sugar, writing for Vox: CVS is a drugstore much like other drugstores, with one important difference: The receipts are very long. How long are the receipts? For at least a decade, concerned shoppers have dedicated themselves to this question, producing a robust body of phone-picture literature on the subject. You could not major in CVS receipt studies, probably, but you could minor. Not all CVS receipts are created equal. If you, a non-loyal shopper, mosey into CVS and buy some Tylenol and a package of seasonal candy, you will get a receipt that is unspectacular (read: a normal length). To get one of the iconically long CVS receipts, you need to use your ExtraCare card, which means you need to be an ExtraCare member. (You can join as long as you are willing to turn over your name and phone number in exchange for better deals.) People on the internet have documented this phenomenon with a vigor usually reserved for cats climbing in and out of boxes. On Twitter and on Instagram, shoppers stand next to their CVS receipts, which are often as tall as they are, and sometimes taller.

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Crew of 'Soyuz' Spacecraft Establish Contact After Failed Launch

1 week ago
A Russian-American space crew have been forced to make an emergency landing in Kazakhstan after their Soyuz rocket suffered a failure shortly after launching from Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome in one of the most serious space incidents in recent years. From a report: The launch began as a routine affair. Missions bound for the International Space Station (ISS) have been conducted every few months for the past 20 years. But 119 seconds into Thursday's flight, mission controllers on the Nasa broadcast began to speak of a failure. Shaky footage from the capsule's cabin seen during the live broadcast appeared to show objects floating mid-launch. The crew told mission control they felt weightless, an indication of a problem during that stage of the flight. Agitated voices flooding the radio link between mission control and the capsule could be heard on the Nasa broadcast. Details and the exact sequence of events remain unclear, but shortly afterwards the crew initiated an abort and ejected their capsule from the rocket. Judging by the time at which the failure took place, it involved separation of the rocket's second stage -- just before the ship would have ignited the third stage for its final kick to exit the atmosphere. A commentator on Nasa's live broadcast later said that rescue teams had reached the capsule's landing site and the two-person crew were in "good condition."

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Waymo's Driverless Cars Have Logged 10 Million Miles On Public Roads

1 week ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: Alphabet's driverless-car company Waymo announced a new milestone today (Oct. 10): its vehicles have driven a collective 10 million miles on U.S. roads. With cars in six states, Waymo has really been racking up the miles since April 2017, when it launched a program giving rides to passengers around the Phoenix, Arizona area. At that point, Waymo cars had driven not quite 3 million miles since the company's earliest days as a research project within Google in 2009. But in the last 18 months, the company more than tripled its road mileage. Competing with other companies with autonomous-vehicle programs like Uber, Tesla, Apple, and GM's Cruise, Waymo is leading the pack in terms of road miles driven. [...] The company's next 10 million miles, CEO John Krafcik said in today's announcement, will focus on "striking the balance" between its safety-first algorithms and driving assertively in everyday maneuvers, like merging, and navigating bad weather. But it's worth keeping things in perspective: U.S. drivers rack up some 3 trillion miles each year, so Waymo still has some ground to cover.

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The Military Chooses Which Rockets It Wants Built For the Next Decade

1 week ago
The U.S. Air Force on Wednesday awarded funds to three rocket companies to help them complete development of their boosters. The three winners include: United Launch Services: $967,000,000 for the development of the Vulcan Centaur launch system. Northrop Grumman: $791,601,015 for development of the Omega launch system Blue Origin: $500,000,000 for the development of the New Glenn launch system The obvious company missing from the list is SpaceX, which did not win an award. Aerojet Rocketdyne also failed to win an award since it "does not appear to have a customer for its AR1 rocket engine, which the military initially supported," Ars Technica reports. From the report: These are hugely consequential awards for the rocket companies. Essentially the U.S. Air Force, which launches more complex, heavy payloads than any other entity in the world, believes these boosters will have a significant role to play in those missions during the next decade. And when the military has confidence in your vehicle, commercial satellite contracts are more likely to follow as well. After speaking with a couple of aerospace sources, Ars has a few theories as to why SpaceX didn't win an award: For one, SpaceX has already built and flown a rocket that can reach all of the Air Force's reference orbits -- the Falcon Heavy. Moreover, the Falcon Heavy is already certified for the Air Force and has won contracts. Air Force officials may also feel that, through NASA contracts for commercial cargo and crew, the government already facilitated development of the Falcon Heavy -- which uses three Falcon 9 rocket cores. It also depends upon what SpaceX bid for. The government would have been more inclined to fund development of an advanced upper stage for the Falcon Heavy or vertical integration facilities. But it seems like the military would not have been as interested in the Big Falcon Rocket, which is more booster than it deems necessary at this time. So if SpaceX bid the BFR, that is one possible explanation for no award.

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Razer Phone 2 Launches With Notch-less Display, Wireless Charging, and RGB Lighting

1 week ago
Last November, Razer unveiled a smartphone designed for gamers who value performance and power over bells and whistles like waterproofing and wireless charging. At an event Wednesday night, Razer took the wraps off its successor, aptly named Razer Phone 2, which sports a brighter, notch-less, 5.72-inch IGZO LCD display with a 2560x1440 resolution and HDR, wireless charging, IP67 water- and dust-resistance rating, and RGB lighting behind the Razer logo on the rear. Given the addition of waterproofing and wireless charging, the Razer Phone 2 appears to be much more well-rounded than its predecessor, making the decision all the more difficult when shopping for a premium, high-end smartphone. AnandTech reports: This display is rated at 645 nits peak, up to 50% higher than the previous Razer Phone, and also supports HDR. Razer states that the display also has wide color gamut, which turns out to be 98.4% of DCI-P3. Also on the front, it has two front facing speakers in identical positions to the previous generation, and it has a front facing camera and sensor (albeit with swapped positions). That front camera is an 8MP f/2.0 unit, capable of recording at 1080p60, a user-requested feature for streaming and selfie recording. The front of the device is Corning Gorilla Glass 5, an upgrade from GG3 in the last generation. When we move to the rear, things change much more noticeably. Instead of the aluminum rear, Razer has a full Gorilla Glass 5 back, which helps enable Qi Wireless Charging, a much requested feature. This is alongside QuickCharge 4+ through a Type-C cable. On the rear we have the dual cameras, this time placed in the center just above the logo. This time around Razer has gone with a 20MP Sony IMX363 f/1.75 main camera with OIS, and an 8MP Sony IMX 351 f/2.6 telephoto camera to enable some extra zoom functionality. Below the cameras is the Razer logo, which has a full 16.8million color RGB LED underneath which users can adjust through the onboard Chroma software. The Razer Phone 2 is still very much power-focused, as it features Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 845 CPU with a "vapor chamber cooling" which can allow the phone to draw 20-30% more power than other flagships. There's 8GB of LPDDR4X memory, 64GB of UFS storage with support for a microSD card, and a whopping 4,000mAh. Razer says their new smartphone will be priced at $799 and will start shipping in mid-November.

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Newly Discovered Volcanic 'Lost World' Is a Haven For Marine Life

1 week ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: Australian scientists have discovered a previously unknown chain of volcanic seamounts near Tasmania. The area appears to be brimming with marine life, including a surprising number of whales who may be using the undersea volcanoes as a navigational tool. The volcanic chain was discovered by scientists from the Australian National University and CSIRO, Australia's national science agency, while on a 25-day mission aboard the research vessel Investigator to conduct detailed seafloor maps of the region. The undersea volcanoes are about 250 miles (400 kilometers) east of Tasmania, and they're quite deep. The tallest of the seamounts extends 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) from the seafloor, so they're not tiny. It's hard to believe that something so large has gone undetected for so long, but our oceans are notoriously understudied. A mere 20 percent of Earth's oceans has been explored, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. [T]he seamounts appeared to serve as a kind of mid-ocean oasis for a host of marine organisms. In addition to finding copious amounts of plankton in the area, the researchers observed various seabirds and a surprising number of whales. The volcanic seamounts, the researchers say, are likely important stopping points for migratory animals, particularly whales, who rely on seafloor structures for navigation. The volcanoes are likely serving as important signposts as the whales travel from their winter breeding areas to summer feeding grounds, the researchers say.

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