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Senators Introduce Bill That Would Require State and Local Governments To Use Paper Ballots in an Effort To Secure Elections - From a report: On Tuesday, nine Senators introduced a bill that would require state and local governments to use paper ballots in an effort to secure elections from hackers. The bill would also require rigorous audits for all federal elections to ensure that results match the votes. "Leaving the fate of America's democracy up to hackable election machines is like leaving your front door open, unlocked and putting up a sign that says 'out of town,'" Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, said in a release. "Any failure to secure our elections amounts to disenfranchising American voters." The Protecting American Votes and Elections Act of 2018 was drafted amid intense scrutiny of voting systems ahead of the mid-term elections in November. Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election has elevated concern over the security of the country's voting systems. The senators said rigorous audits will ensure votes are legitimate. Currently, 22 states don't require post-election audits, according to the release.

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(2018-08-21T22:40:00+00:00)

Intel Details Cascade Lake, Hardware Mitigations for Meltdown, Spectre - An anonymous reader shares a report: Ever since Meltdown and Spectre were disclosed, Intel's various customers have been asking how long it would take for hardware fixes to these problems to ship. The fixes will deploy with Cascade Lake, Intel's next server platform due later this year, but the company is finally lifting the lid on some of those improvements and security enhancements at Hot Chips this week. One major concern? Putting back the performance that previous solutions have lost as a result of Meltdown and Spectre. It's hard to quantify exactly what this looks like, because the impact tends to be extremely workload-dependent. But Intel's guidance has been in the 5-10 percent range, depending on workload and platform, and with the understanding that older CPUs were sometimes hit harder than newer ones. Intel wasn't willing to speak to exactly what kind of uplift users should expect, but Lisa Spelman, VP of Intel's Data Center Group, told AnandTech that the new hardware solutions would have an "impact" on the performance hit from mitigation, and that overall performance would improve at the platform level regardless. Variant 1 will still require software-level protections, while Variant 2 (that's the "classic" Spectre attack) will require a mixture of hardware and software protection. Variant 3 (Meltdown) will be blocked in hardware, 3a (discovered by ARM) patched via firmware, with Variant 5 (Foreshadow) also patched in hardware.

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(2018-08-21T22:00:00+00:00)

Java and JavaScript Remain the Top Enterprise Developer Languages For the Cloud, Survey Finds - Programmers may love hot newer languages like Kotlin and Rust, but according to a Cloud Foundry Foundation (CFF) recent survey of global enterprise developers and IT decision makers, Java and Javascript are the top enterprise languages. ZDNet: That said, the CFF also found [PDF] that, "More and more, businesses are employing a polyglot and a multi-platform strategy to meet their exact needs." The CFF discovered 77 percent of enterprises are using or evaluating Platforms-as-a-Service (PaaS); 72 percent are using or considering containers; and 46 percent are using or thinking about serverless computing. Simultaneously, more than a third (39 percent) are using all three technologies together. For companies this "flexibility of cloud-native practices enables [companies to move] away from a monolithic approach and towards a world of computing that is flexible, portable and interoperable." That means, while Java and JavaScript are only growing ever more popular, the larger the company, the more languages are used. After the Java twins, C++, C#, Python, and PHP are the most popular languages.

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(2018-08-21T21:15:00+00:00)

Verizon Throttled Fire Department's 'Unlimited' Data During Calif. Wildfire - Verizon Wireless's throttling of a fire department that uses its data services has been submitted as evidence in a lawsuit that seeks to reinstate federal net neutrality rules. From a report: "County Fire has experienced throttling by its ISP, Verizon," Santa Clara County Fire Chief Anthony Bowden wrote in a declaration. "This throttling has had a significant impact on our ability to provide emergency services. Verizon imposed these limitations despite being informed that throttling was actively impeding County Fire's ability to provide crisis-response and essential emergency services." Bowden's declaration was submitted in an addendum to a brief filed by 22 state attorneys general, the District of Columbia, Santa Clara County, Santa Clara County Central Fire Protection District, and the California Public Utilities Commission. The government agencies are seeking to overturn the recent repeal of net neutrality rules in a lawsuit they filed against the Federal Communications Commission in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. "The Internet has become an essential tool in providing fire and emergency response, particularly for events like large fires which require the rapid deployment and organization of thousands of personnel and hundreds of fire engines, aircraft, and bulldozers," Bowden wrote. Santa Clara Fire paid Verizon for "unlimited" data but suffered from heavy throttling until the department paid Verizon more, according to Bowden's declaration and emails between the fire department and Verizon that were submitted as evidence.

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(2018-08-21T20:34:00+00:00)

Google's Data Collection is Hard To Escape, Study Claims - Citing a report [PDF] published on Tuesday by Digital Content Next and Vanderbilt University, CNN writes that "short of chucking your phone into the river, shunning the internet, and learning to read paper maps again, there's not much you can do to keep Google from collecting data about you." From the report: So says a Vanderbilt University computer scientist who led an analysis of Google's data collection practices. His report, released Tuesday, outlines a myriad ways the company amasses information about the billions of people who use the world's leading search engine, web browser, and mobile operating system, not to mention products like Gmail, platforms like YouTube, and products like Nest. Although the report doesn't contain any bombshells, it presents an overview of Google's efforts to learn as much as possible about people. [...] Google collects far more data than Facebook, according to the report, and it is the world's largest digital advertising company. Its vast portfolio of services, from Android to Google Search to Chrome to Google Pay, create a firehose of data. Professor Douglas Schmidt and his team intercepted data as it was transmitted from Android smartphones to Google servers. They also examined the information Google provides users in its My Activity and Google Takeout tools, as well as the company's privacy polices and previous research on the topic. The researchers claims that almost every move you make online is collected and collated, from your morning routine (such as music tastes, route to work, and news preferences) to errands (including calendar appointments, webpages visited, and purchases made). "At the end of the day, Google identified user interests with remarkable accuracy," the report states. In a statement, Google said, "This report is commissioned by a professional DC lobbyist group, and written by a witness for Oracle in their ongoing copyright litigation with Google. So, it's no surprise that it contains wildly misleading information."

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(2018-08-21T19:50:00+00:00)

Mozilla to Remove Legacy Firefox Add-Ons From Add-On Portal in Early October - Mozilla announced today plans to remove all Firefox legacy add-ons from the official Mozilla add-ons portal in early October. From a report: The move comes after Mozilla updated the Firefox core to use a new add-ons system based on the Chrome-compatible WebExtensions API. This new add-ons API replaced Firefox's old XUL-based add-ons API in November 2017, with the release of Firefox 57. All Firefox legacy add-ons stopped working in Firefox 57, but Mozilla continued to support them in the Firefox Extended Support Release (ESR) 52 branch. Support for Firefox ESR 52 will end on September 5, in two weeks, meaning there won't be any official Firefox version that supports legacy add-ons anymore.

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(2018-08-21T19:07:00+00:00)

'Calculators Killed the Standard Statistical Table' - theodp writes: In an obituary of sorts for the standard probability tables that were once ubiquitous in introductory statistics textbooks, Rick Wicklin writes: "In my first probability and statistics course, I constantly referenced the 23 statistical tables (which occupied 44 pages!) in the appendix of my undergraduate textbook. Any time I needed to compute a probability or test a hypothesis, I would flip to a table of probabilities for the normal, t, chi-square, or F distribution and use it to compute a probability (area) or quantile (critical value). If the value I needed wasn't tabulated, I had to manually perform linear interpolation from two tabulated values. I had no choice: my calculator did not have support for these advanced functions. In contrast, kids today have it easy! When my son took AP statistics in high school, his handheld calculator (a TI-84, which costs about $100) could compute the PDF, CDF, and quantiles of all the important probability distributions. Consequently, his textbook did not include an appendix of statistical tables."

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(2018-08-21T18:20:00+00:00)

Gig Economy Pressures Make Drivers 'More Likely To Crash' - Drivers and couriers who get their work from apps face a "heightened risk" of crashes, a study suggests. From a report: Research from University College London (UCL) indicated 42% of "gig-economy" couriers and taxi drivers reported vehicle damage because of a collision. Close to half admitted time pressure could make them break the speed limit. Distraction by smartphones and tiredness from overwork were also flagged as risks for those delivering food and parcels. The report draws on 200 responses to an online survey from drivers and couriers, as well as 48 in-depth interviews. The study does not focus on any one particular company, although Uber and Deliveroo are both named as examples of companies that enable gig-economy work -- where employees are not paid a salary but instead get money for each job completed. Of those surveyed, 63% said they had not been provided with safety training on managing risks on the road, while one in 10 reported someone had been injured in a crash while they had been working.

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(2018-08-21T17:40:00+00:00)

How AI Can Spot Exam Cheats and Raise Standards - AI is being deployed by those who set and mark exams to reduce fraud -- which remains overall a small problem -- and to create far greater efficiencies in preparation and marking, and to help improve teaching and studying. From a report, which may be paywalled: From traditional paper-based exam and textbook producers such as Pearson, to digital-native companies such as Coursera, online tools and artificial intelligence are being developed to reduce costs and enhance learning. For years, multiple-choice tests have allowed scanners to score results without human intervention. Now technology is coming directly into the exam hall. Coursera has patented a system to take images of students and verify their identity against scanned documents. There are plagiarism detectors that can scan essay answers and search the web -- or the work of other students -- to identify copying. Webcams can monitor exam locations to spot malpractice. Even when students are working, they provide clues that can be used to clamp down on cheats. They leave electronic "fingerprints" such as keyboard pressure, speed and even writing style. Emily Glassberg Sands, Cousera's head of data science, says: "We can validate their keystroke signatures. It's difficult to prepare for someone hell-bent on cheating, but we are trying every way possible."

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(2018-08-21T17:00:00+00:00)

Facebook is Rating Users Based On Their 'Trustworthiness' - Facebook has begun to assign its users a reputation score, predicting their trustworthiness on a scale from zero to 1. From a report: Facebook hasn't been shy about rating the trustworthiness of news outlets, but it's now applying that thinking to users as well. The company's Tessa Lyons has revealed to the Washington Post that it's starting to assign users reputation scores on a zero-to-one scale. The system is meant to help Facebook's fight against fake news by flagging people who routinely make false claims against news outlets, whether it's due to an ideological disagreement or a personal grudge. This isn't the only way Facebook gauges credibility, according to Lyons -- it's just one of thousands of behavior markers Facebook is using. The problem: much of how this works is a mystery. Facebook wouldn't say exactly how it calculates scores, who gets these scores and how other factors contributed to a person's trustworthiness.

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(2018-08-21T16:30:00+00:00)

Engineering Experts Knew Italian Bridge Had Corrosion Problems Before It Collapsed, Report Says - McGruber shares a report: Engineering experts determined in February that corrosion of the metal cables supporting the Genoa highway bridge had reduced the bridge's strength by 20 percent -- a finding that came months before it collapsed last week, Italian media reported Monday. Despite the findings, newsmagazine Espresso wrote that "neither the ministry, nor the highway company, ever considered it necessary to limit traffic, divert heavy trucks, reduce the roadway from two to one lanes or reduce the speed" of vehicles on the key artery for the northern port city. A large section of the Morandi Bridge collapsed Aug. 14 during a heavy downpour, killing 43 people and forcing the evacuation of more than 600 people living in apartment buildings beneath another section of the bridge.

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(2018-08-21T15:50:00+00:00)

Chinese Internet Users Cross 800 Million Mark - There are now as many internet users in China as there are people in the United States, Indonesia and Brazil combined. From a report: While two in five Chinese are still offline, the country's internet population has grown big enough to open huge market opportunities for hi-tech companies, and provide the government with better access to keep watch over its citizens, according to an analyst. China surpassed the 800-million mark for the number of internet users for the first time, further cementing its position as home to the world's biggest online community, as the country kept up its investment in infrastructure and pushed to lower access fees. The number of internet users in China rose by 30 million in the first half of this year to 802 million, representing a penetration rate of 57.7 per cent, according to a report by state agency China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC) released this week. All but 1.7 per cent of the users access the internet through mobile devices, according to the report.

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(2018-08-21T15:21:00+00:00)

People Keep Trying To Scam Their Way Into Free Video Games - An anonymous reader shares a report: It's an epidemic that has been affecting indie game developers for years. When a game launches, strange emails start coming in. Sometimes they claim to be reviewers for websites that don't exist. Other times, they pretend to work for major outlets, using misleading email addresses to con developers out of their games. The scams have grown increasingly elaborate over the years, and for small-time developers who don't have a ton of experience dealing with press, it can be tough to sort out which requests are legitimate. (The problem appears to be more common in the indie scene -- one PR rep working in big-budget games told me they don't receive any scam requests like this.) Emily Morganti, who handles PR for adventure games like Thimbleweed Park and West of Loathing, said in an email that these key scammers have become a regular feature of her job, like yanking weeds out of a garden. "I have the benefit of working for a lot of different indie devs, so I notice patterns that a developer who's only putting out their one game wouldn't see," she said. [...] Last fall, someone who went by the name Dmitry Tseptsov sent several emails to Morganti to ask for codes, explaining that he operated a coffee shop in Ukraine where he'd give out video games as prizes for trivia. "Even 1 key will help me a lot, for which I will be grateful," he wrote. "The cafe opened quite recently, but has a demand, and many people go to us. I mean, for my part, I promise to advertise your game." The coffee shop did exist, but Tseptsov had nothing to do with it, and as one developer discovered, the story was full of holes.

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(2018-08-21T14:40:00+00:00)

Russian Hackers Targeted US Conservative Think-Tanks, Says Microsoft - retroworks shares a report: Hackers linked to Russia's government tried to target the websites of two right-wing U.S. think-tanks, suggesting they were broadening their attacks in the build-up to November elections, Microsoft said. The software giant said it thwarted the attempts last week by taking control of sites that hackers had designed to mimic the pages of The International Republican Institute and The Hudson Institute. Users were redirected to fake addresses where they were asked to enter usernames and passwords. There was no immediate comment from Russian authorities, but the Kremlin was expected to address the report later on Tuesday. It has regularly dismissed accusations that it has used hackers to influence U.S. elections and political opinion. Casting such allegations as part of an anti-Russian campaign designed to justify new sanctions on Russia, it says it wants to improve not worsen ties with Washington. Further reading: Microsoft Reveals First Known Midterm Campaign Hacking Attempts, and Microsoft Launches Pilot Program To Provide Cybersecurity Protection To Political Campaigns and Election Authorities.

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(2018-08-21T14:00:00+00:00)

22 States Ask US Appeals Court To Reinstate Net Neutrality Rules - An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: A group of 22 state attorneys general and the District of Columbia late Monday asked a U.S. appeals court to reinstate the Obama administration's 2015 landmark net neutrality rules and reject the Trump administration's efforts to preempt states from imposing their own rules guaranteeing an open internet. The states argue the FCC reversal will harm consumers. The states also suggested the FCC failed to identify any "valid authority" for preempting state and local laws that would protect net neutrality. The FCC failed to offer a "meaningful defense of its decision to uncritically accept industry promises that are untethered to any enforcement mechanism," the states said. The state attorney generals suing represent states with 165 million people -- more than half the United States population -- and include California, Illinois, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The states argue the FCC action could harm public safety, citing electrical grids as an example. They argue "the absence of open internet rules jeopardizes the ability to reduce load in times of extreme energy grid stress. Consequently, the order threatens the reliability of the electric grid." Several internet companies also filed a legal challenge to overturn the FCC ruling, including Mozilla, Vimeo, Etsy, and numerous media and technology advocacy groups, reports Reuters. The group of 22 state attorneys general first filed their lawsuit in January after the Trump administration voted to repeal the net neutrality rules in December.

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(2018-08-21T13:00:00+00:00)