Education

A Well-Known Expert On Student Loans Is Not Real (chronicle.com) 142

mi shares a report from The Chronicle of Higher Education: Drew Cloud is everywhere. The self-described journalist who specializes in student-loan debt has been quoted in major news outlets, including The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and CNBC, and is a fixture in the smaller, specialized blogosphere of student debt. But he's a fiction, and "his" site -- an invention of a student-loan refinancing company.

"Drew Cloud is a pseudonym that a diverse group of authors at Student Loan Report, LLC use to share experiences and information related to the challenges college students face with funding their education," wrote Nate Matherson, CEO of LendEDU (the company that owns Cloud's website, The Student Loan Report). Before that admission, however, Cloud had corresponded at length with many journalists, pitching them stories and offering email interviews, many of which were published. When The Chronicle attempted to contact him through the address last week, Cloud said he was traveling and had limited access to his account. He didn't respond to additional inquiries. And on Monday, as The Chronicle continued to seek comment, Cloud suddenly evaporated. His once-prominent placement on The Student Loan Report had been removed. His bylines were replaced with "SLR Editor." Matherson confirmed on Tuesday that Cloud was an invention. Pressed on whether he regretted deceiving news organizations with a fake source, Matherson said Cloud "was created as a way to connect with our readers (ex. people struggling to repay student debt) and give us the technical ability to post content to the Wordpress website."

Space

ESA Releases Largest Star Map Ever Online (gizmodo.com) 23

S810 writes: The European Space Agency (ESA) has released a treasure trove of data from its Gaia Spacecraft; totaling around 1.7 billion stars. This star map is the largest of its kind to date. In addition to the star map, the data also contains motion and color data of 1.3 billion stars relative to the Sun. Furthermore, it includes "radial velocities, amount of dust, and surface temperatures of lots of stars, and a catalogue of over 14,000 Solar System objects, including asteroids," reports Gizmodo. You can view the data here, and view a guide for what the data contains and how to use it here.
Medicine

Medicare To Require Hospitals To Post Prices Online (pbs.org) 142

An anonymous reader quotes a report from PBS: Medicare will require hospitals to post their standard prices online and make electronic medical records more readily available to patients, officials said Tuesday. The program is also starting a comprehensive review of how it will pay for costly new forms of immunotherapy to battle cancer. Hospitals are required to disclose prices publicly, but the latest change would put that information online in machine-readable format that can be easily processed by computers. It may still prove to be confusing to consumers, since standard rates are like list prices and don't reflect what insurers and government programs pay.

Likewise, many health care providers already make computerized records available to patients, but starting in 2021 Medicare would base part of a hospital's payments on how good a job they do. Using electronic medical records remains a cumbersome task, and the Trump administration has invited technology companies to design secure apps that would let patients access their records from all their providers instead of having to go to different portals.
Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, also announced Medicare is starting a comprehensive review of how it will pay for a costly new form of immunotherapy called CAR-T. It's an expensive gene therapy that turbocharges a patient's own immune system cells to attack cancer. The cost for such a procedure can exceed $370,000 per patient.
Censorship

North Korea Linked To Global Hacking Operation Against Critical Infrastructure, Telecoms (thehill.com) 51

A suspected North Korean hacking campaign has expanded to targets in 17 different countries, including the U.S., pilfering information on critical infrastructure, telecommunications and entertainment organizations, researchers say. From a report: Cybersecurity firm McAfee released new research on the hacking campaign this week, calling it Operation GhostSecret and describing the attackers as having "significant capabilities" to develop and use multiple cyber tools and rapidly expand operations across the globe. The findings demonstrate the growing sophistication of North Korea's army of hackers, which has been blamed for high-profile hacking operations such as the WannaCry malware outbreak last year.
Television

8K TVs Are Coming, But Don't Buy the Hype (engadget.com) 282

If the 8,294,400 pixels of resolution on an Ultra High Definition television just don't seem to convey enough detail, fear not: The electronics industry has heard your cry. From a report: Even as UHD TVs, often called 4K TVs for their nearly 4,000 pixels of horizontal resolution, approach half of display shipments in the U.S., set manufacturers have been stepping up their demos of 8K sets that, with their 7680-by-4320 resolution, pack in a full 33,177,600 pixels. And Sharp is now expanding its distribution of one such set, the 70-inch LV-70X500E. Following its October debut in China and subsequent arrivals in Japan and Taiwan, this 8K display will go on sale across Europe at the end of April for about $13,800 at current exchange rates. That, apparently, is supposed to be a reasonable price for a set that supports a video format that offers next to nothing to watch, that can't be streamed on most broadband connections or fit onto Blu-ray discs and which can't even be properly appreciated unless you get a set too big to fit in many living rooms.

[...] The highlights reel playing on a demo unit of Sharp's 8K set required 300 megabits per second of bandwidth to stream, said Adrian Wysocki, group product manager at UMC, the Sharp-owned firm that builds TVs in Poland for the company. He suggested in a conversation Friday that more efficient formats could cut that to 100 Mbps. Only 23.2% of U.S. fixed-broadband connections hit that speed at the end of 2016, according to to the Federal Communications Commission's latest report on internet access services.

Security

Europol Shuts Down World's Largest DDoS-for-Hire Service (bleepingcomputer.com) 44

In what is being seen as a major hit against cybercriminals, Europol, an international police operation, has taken down the world's biggest provider of potentially crippling Distributed Denial of Service attacks. From a report: Europol officials have shut down WebStresser, a website where users could register and launch DDoS attacks after paying for a monthly plan, with prices starting as low as $18.25. The website, considered the largest DDoS-for-hire service online, had over 136,000 users at the time it was shut down. Europol said it had been responsible for over 4 million DDoS attacks in recent years. Visitors to the web site will now see a notice stating that the site has been seized in conjunction with "Operation Power Off," which is the name of the multi-country operation that took down the site.
Microsoft

Microsoft Plans Version of Windows 10 For Devices With Limited Storage (engadget.com) 135

An anonymous reader shares a report: A smaller, more pared down version of Windows 10 was spotted in the latest Redstone 5 preview build. Microsoft is calling it Windows 10 Lean and it's 2GB smaller in size than standard editions of Windows 10 once installed. Missing from this version are the Registry Editor, Internet Explorer, wallpaper, Microsoft Management Console and drivers for CD and DVD drives, and Windows Central notes that the lighter Windows 10 might be designed to ensure tablets and laptops with little internal storage can install Windows 10 feature updates. Additionally, the Redstone 5 preview also features phone-related APIs that support functions like dialing, blocking withheld numbers, video calling, Bluetooth headset support and speakerphone mode, stoking those persistent Andromeda rumors.
Communications

WhatsApp Raises Minimum Age In Europe To 16 Ahead of Data Law Change (reuters.com) 39

WhatsApp is raising its minimum age from 13 to 16 in Europe to help it comply with new data privacy rules coming into force next month. The app will ask European users to confirm they are at least 16 years old when they are prompted to agree to new terms of service and a privacy policy provided by a new WhatsApp Ireland entity in the next few weeks. Reuters reports: Facebook, which has a separate data policy, is taking a different approach to teens aged between 13 and 15 in order to comply with the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) law. It is asking them to nominate a parent or guardian to give permission for them to share information on the platform, otherwise they will not see a fully personalized version of the social media platform. But WhatsApp, which had more than 1.5 billion users in January according to Facebook, said in a blog post it was not asking for any new rights to collect personal information in the agreement it has created for the European Union. WhatsApp's minimum age of use will remain 13 years in the rest of the world, in line with its parent.
Social Networks

Instagram Launches 'Data Download' Tool To Let You Leave (techcrunch.com) 15

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Two weeks ago TechCrunch called on Instagram to build an equivalent to Facebook's "Download Your Information" feature so if you wanted to leave for another photo sharing network, you could. The next day it announced this tool would be coming and now TechCrunch has spotted it rolling out to users. Instagram's "Data Download" feature can be accessed here or through the app's privacy settings. It lets users export their photos, videos, archived Stories, profile, info, comments, and non-ephemeral messages, though it can take a few hours to days for your download to be ready. An Instagram spokesperson now confirms to TechCrunch that "the Data Download tool is currently accessible to everyone on the web, but access via iOS and Android is still rolling out." We'll have more details on exactly what's inside once my download is ready.
Privacy

More Than 1 Million Kids Had Their Identities Stolen in 2017 (nypost.com) 68

More than 1 million children were victims of identity fraud in 2017, a new study from Javelin Strategy & Research found, costing a total of $2.6 billion. From a report: With limited financial history or existing account activity, children are the most likely to become victims of new-account fraud, the research showed. These attacks can occur before children even become active internet users, with some two-thirds of victims being under the age of eight. The overall numbers are likely even higher, said Al Pascual, research director at Javelin said, since their study relied on parents and guardians reporting cases of identity theft. In many cases, the parent or another relative may be the one using a child's identity to start a new account.
Security

Suspicious Event Hijacks Amazon Traffic For 2 hours, Steals Cryptocurrency (arstechnica.com) 67

Amazon lost control of some of its widely used cloud services for two hours on Tuesday morning when hackers exploited a known Internet-protocol weakness that allowed them to redirect traffic to rogue destinations, according to media reports. ArsTechnica: The attackers appeared to use one server masquerading as cryptocurrency website MyEtherWallet.com to steal digital coins from unwitting end users. They may have targeted other customers of Amazon's Route 53 service as well. The incident, which started around 6am California time, hijacked roughly 1,300 IP addresses, Oracle-owned Internet Intelligence said on Twitter. The malicious redirection was caused by fraudulent routes that were announced by Columbus, Ohio-based eNet, a large Internet service provider that is referred to as autonomous system 10297. Once in place, the eNet announcement caused some of its peers to send traffic over the same unauthorized routes. [...] Tuesday's event may also have ties to Russia, because MyEtherWallet traffic was redirected to a server in that country, security researcher Kevin Beaumont said in a blog post. The redirection came by rerouting domain name system traffic and using a server hosted by Chicago-based Equinix to perform a man-in-the-middle attack. MyEtherWallet officials said the hijacking was used to send end users to a phishing site. Participants in this cryptocurrency forum appear to discuss the scam site. Further reading: Hacker Hijacks DNS Server of MyEtherWallet to Steal $160,000 (BleepingComputer).
Facebook

Facebook Has Hosted Stolen Identities and Social Security Numbers for Years (vice.com) 36

Cybercriminals have posted sensitive personal information, such as credit card and social security numbers, of dozens of people on Facebook and have advertised entire databases of private information on the social platform, Motherboard reports. Some of these posts have been left up on Facebook for years, and the internet giant only acted on these posts after the publication told it about them. From the report: As of Monday, there were several public posts on Facebook that advertised dozens of people's Social Security Numbers and other personal data. These weren't very hard to find. It was as easy as a simple Google search. Most of the posts appeared to be ads made by criminals who were trying to sell personal information. Some of the ads are several years old, and were posted as "public" on Facebook, meaning anyone can see them, not just the author's friends. Independent security researcher Justin Shafer alerted Motherboard to these posts Monday.
Businesses

Chinese Tech Companies Post Men-Only Job Listings, Report Finds (theverge.com) 435

Major Chinese tech companies like Huawei, Alibaba, and Tencent discriminate against women in their online job listings, a new report from Human Rights Watch found today. Some job postings directly state they are for men only, while others specify that women must have attractive appearances and even be a certain height. The Verge reports: The Human Rights Watch report reveals gender discrimination amongst major tech companies, as in the rest of Chinese society, is common and widespread. Search engine Baidu listed a job for content reviewers in March 2017 stating that applicants had to be men with the "strong ability to work under pressure, able to work on weekends, holidays and night shifts." The conglomerate Tencent, which owns WeChat, the massive game Honor of Kings, and a majority stake in League of Legends, was found to have posted an ad for a sports content editor in March 2017, stating it was looking for "strong men who are able to work nightshifts."

And Alibaba, despite Jack Ma touting the company's inclusiveness, merited an entire case study from the Human Rights Watch report. The report noted the e-commerce giant came under fire in 2015 for posting a job ad on its site for a "computer programmer's motivator" seeking women applicants with physical characteristics like Japanese adult film star Sola Aoi. Alibaba removed the reference to Sola Aoi after media reported on it, but kept the ad on the site. As recently as January this year, Alibaba still mentioned "men preferred" in job listings for "restaurant operations support specialist" positions. Tech companies also often tout the attractive women they've hired as incentives for more men to come on board, according to the HRW report. Both Tencent and Baidu were noted to have posted to their social media accounts interviews with male employees who cited having beautiful women around them as an incentive for working there.

The Internet

Mosaic, the First HTML Browser That Could Display Images Alongside Text, Turns 25 (wired.com) 132

NCSA Mosaic 1.0, the first web browser to achieve popularity among the general public, was released on April 22, 1993. It was developed by a team of students at the University of Illinois' National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), and had the ability to display text and images inline, meaning you could put pictures and text on the same page together, in the same window. Wired reports: It was a radical step forward for the web, which was at that point, a rather dull experience. It took the boring "document" layout of your standard web page and transformed it into something much more visually exciting, like a magazine. And, wow, it was easy. If you wanted to go somewhere, you just clicked. Links were blue and underlined, easy to pick out. You could follow your own virtual trail of breadcrumbs backwards by clicking the big button up there in the corner. At the time of its release, NCSA Mosaic was free software, but it was available only on Unix. That made it common at universities and institutions, but not on Windows desktops in people's homes.

The NCSA team put out Windows and Mac versions in late 1993. They were also released under a noncommercial software license, meaning people at home could download it for free. The installer was very simple, making it easy for just about anyone to get up and running on the web. It was then that the excitement really began to spread. Mosaic made the web come to life with color and images, something that, for many people, finally provided the online experience they were missing. It made the web a pleasure to use.

Youtube

YouTube Says Computers Helped It Pull Down Millions of Objectionable Videos Last Quarter (recode.net) 149

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.
Advertising

Facebook Sued Over Fake Ads (theguardian.com) 62

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.
Security

Hacking a Satellite is Surprisingly Easy (theoutline.com) 198

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.

Displays

Are Widescreen Laptops Dumb? (theverge.com) 410

"After years of phones, laptops, tablets, and TV screens converging on 16:9 as the 'right' display shape -- allowing video playback without distracting black bars -- smartphones have disturbed the universality recently by moving to even more elongated formats like 18:9, 19:9, or even 19.5:9 in the iPhone X's case," writes Amelia Holowaty Krales via The Verge. "That's prompted me to consider where else the default widescreen proportions might be a poor fit, and I've realized that laptops are the worst offenders." Krales makes the case for why a 16:9 screen of 13 to 15 inches in size is a poor fit: Practically every interface in Apple's macOS, Microsoft's Windows, and on the web is designed by stacking user controls in a vertical hierarchy. At the top of every MacBook, there's a menu bar. At the bottom, by default, is the Dock for launching your most-used apps. On Windows, you have the taskbar serving a similar purpose -- and though it may be moved around the screen like Apple's Dock, it's most commonly kept as a sliver traversing the bottom of the display. Every window in these operating systems has chrome -- the extra buttons and indicator bars that allow you to close, reshape, or move a window around -- and the components of that chrome are usually attached at the top and bottom. Look at your favorite website (hopefully this one) on the internet, and you'll again see a vertical structure.

As if all that wasn't enough, there's also the matter of tabs. Tabs are a couple of decades old now, and, like much of the rest of the desktop and web environment, they were initially thought up in an age where the predominant computer displays were close to square with a 4:3 aspect ratio. That's to say, most computer screens were the shape of an iPad when many of today's most common interface and design elements were being developed. As much of a chrome minimalist as I try to be, I still can't extricate myself from needing a menu bar in my OS and tab and address bars inside my browser. I'm still learning to live without a bookmarks bar. With all of these horizontal bars invading our vertical space, a 16:9 screen quickly starts to feel cramped, especially at the typical laptop size. You wind up spending more time scrolling through content than engaging with it.
What is your preferred aspect ratio for a laptop? Do you prefer Microsoft and Google's machines that have a squarer 3:2 aspect ratio, or Apple's MacBook Pro that has a 16:10 display?
The Internet

Net Neutrality Is Over Monday, But Experts Say ISPs Will Wait To Screw Us (inverse.com) 239

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Inverse: Parts of the Federal Communication Commission's repeal of net neutrality is slated to take effect on April 23, causing worry among internet users who fear the worst from their internet service providers. However, many experts believe there won't be immediate changes come Monday, but that ISPs will wait until users aren't paying attention to make their move. "Don't expect any changes right out of the gate," Dary Merckens, CTO of Gunner Technology, tells Inverse. Merckens specializes in JavaScript development for government and business, and sees why ISPs would want to lay low for a while before enacting real changes. "It would be a PR nightmare for ISPs if they introduced sweeping changes immediately after the repeal of net neutrality," he says.

While parts of the FCC's new plan will go into effect on Monday, the majority of the order still doesn't have a date for when it will be official. Specific rules that modify data collection requirements still have to be approved by the Office of Management and Budget, and the earliest that can happen is on April 27. Tech experts and consumer policy advocates don't expect changes to happen right away, as ISPs will likely avoid any large-scale changes in order to convince policymakers that the net neutrality repeal was no big deal after all.

Google

Who Has More of Your Personal Data Than Facebook? Try Google (wsj.com) 149

Facebook may be in the hot seat right now for its collection of personal data without our knowledge or explicit consent, but as The Wall Street Journal points out, "Google is a far bigger threat by many measures: the volume of information it gathers, the reach of its tracking and the time people spend on its sites and apps." From the report (alternative source): It's likely that Google has shadow profiles (data the company gathers on people without accounts) on as at least as many people as Facebook does, says Chandler Givens, CEO of TrackOff, which develops software to fight identity theft. Google allows everyone, whether they have a Google account or not, to opt out of its ad targeting, though, like Facebook, it continues to gather your data. Google Analytics is far and away the web's most dominant analytics platform. Used on the sites of about half of the biggest companies in the U.S., it has a total reach of 30 million to 50 million sites. Google Analytics tracks you whether or not you are logged in. Meanwhile, the billion-plus people who have Google accounts are tracked in even more ways. In 2016, Google changed its terms of service, allowing it to merge its massive trove of tracking and advertising data with the personally identifiable information from our Google accounts.

Google uses, among other things, our browsing and search history, apps we've installed, demographics like age and gender and, from its own analytics and other sources, where we've shopped in the real world. Google says it doesn't use information from "sensitive categories" such as race, religion, sexual orientation or health. Because it relies on cross-device tracking, it can spot logged-in users no matter which device they're on. Google fuels even more data harvesting through its dominant ad marketplaces. There are up to 4,000 data brokers in the U.S., and collectively they know everything about us we might otherwise prefer they didn't -- whether we're pregnant, divorced or trying to lose weight. Google works with some of these brokers directly but the company says it vets them to prevent targeting based on sensitive information. Google also is the biggest enabler of data harvesting, through the world's two billion active Android mobile devices.

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