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Popular VPN Service NordVPN Says it Was Hacked

NordVPN, a virtual private network provider that promises to "protect your privacy online," has confirmed it was hacked. From a report: The admission comes following rumors that the company had been breached. It first emerged that NordVPN had an expired internal private keys exposed, potentially allowing anyone to spin out their own servers imitating NordVPN. For its part, NordVPN has claimed a "zero logs" policy. "We don't track, collect, or share your private data," the company says. But the breach is likely to cause alarm that hackers may have been in a position to access some user data. NordVPN told TechCrunch that one of its datacenters was accessed in March 2018. "One of the datacenters in Finland we are renting our servers from was accessed with no authorization," said NordVPN spokesperson Laura Tyrell. The attacker gained access to the server -- which had been active for about a month -- by exploiting an insecure remote management system left by the datacenter provider, which NordVPN said it was unaware that such a system existed.

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Venezuela's Water System is Collapsing

In Venezuela, a crumbling economy and the collapse of even basic state infrastructure means water comes irregularly -- and drinking it is an increasingly risky gamble. Venezuela's current rate of infant mortality from diarrhea, which is closely related to water quality, is six times higher than 15 years ago, according to the World Health Organization. From a report: But the government stopped releasing official public health data years ago. So The New York Times commissioned researchers from the Universidad Central de Venezuela to recreate the water quality study they had conducted regularly for the water utility in Caracas from 1992 until 1999. The scientists found that about a million residents were exposed to contaminated supplies. This puts them at risk of contracting waterborne viruses that could sicken them and threatens the lives of children and the most vulnerable. "This is a potential epidemic," said Jose MarÃa De Viana, who headed Caracas's water utility, Hidrocapital, until 1999. "It's very serious. It's unacceptable." In the latest study, 40 samples were taken from the capital's main water systems and tested for bacteria and for chlorine, which keeps water safe. The study also tested alternative water sources used by city residents during supply outages. One third of the samples did not meet national norms. This should have required Hidrocapital to issue a sanitation alert, according to the utility's own internal regulations. But Venezuela's government has not issued any alerts at least since President Nicolas Maduro's Socialist Party took power 20 years ago. "The biggest health risk that we see there right now is water -- water and sanitation," the head of the International Federation of the Red Cross, Francesco Rocca, told foreign reporters this week, referring to Venezuela.

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Researchers Tricked Google Home and Alexa Into Eavesdropping and Password Phishing

What if Google and Amazon employees weren't the only ones who'd listened through your voice assistant? Ars Technica reports: The threat isn't just theoretical. Whitehat hackers at Germany's Security Research Labs developed eight apps -- four Alexa "skills" and four Google Home "actions" -- that all passed Amazon or Google security-vetting processes. The skills or actions posed as simple apps for checking horoscopes, with the exception of one, which masqueraded as a random-number generator. Behind the scenes, these "smart spies," as the researchers call them, surreptitiously eavesdropped on users and phished for their passwords... The apps gave the impression they were no longer running when they, in fact, silently waited for the next phase of the attack.... The apps quietly logged all conversations within earshot of the device and sent a copy to a developer-designated server. The phishing apps follow a slightly different path by responding with an error message that claims the skill or action isn't available in that user's country. They then go silent to give the impression the app is no longer running. After about a minute, the apps use a voice that mimics the ones used by Alexa and Google home to falsely claim a device update is available and prompts the user for a password for it to be installed.... In response, both companies removed the apps and said they are changing their approval processes to prevent skills and actions from having similar capabilities in the future.

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Teenagers Are Easily Bypassing Apple's Parental Controls

"Kids are outsmarting an army of engineers from Cupertino, California," reports the Washington Post: And Apple, which introduced "Screen Time" a year ago in response to pressure to address phone overuse by kids, has been slow to make fixes to its software that would close these loopholes. It's causing some parents to raise questions about Apple's commitment to safeguarding children from harmful content and smartphone addiction. When Screen Time blocks an app from working, it becomes grayed out, and clicking on it does nothing unless parents approve a request for more time. Or, at least, it's supposed to work that way. On Reddit and YouTube, kids are sharing tips and tricks that allow them to circumvent Screen Time. They download special software that can exploit Apple security flaws, disabling Screen Time or cracking their parents' passwords. They search for bugs that make it easy to keep using their phones, unbeknown to parents, such as changing the time to trick the system or using iMessage to watch YouTube videos. "These are not rocket science, backdoor, dark Web sort of hacks," said Chris McKenna, founder of the Internet safety group Protect Young Eyes. "It blows me away that Apple hasn't thought through the fact that a persistent middle school boy or girl can bang around and find them."

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40% Of America's Schools Have Now Dropped Their SAT/ACT Testing Requirement

"A record number" of U.S. schools are now accepting nearly all of their students without requiring an SAT or ACT test score, reports the Washington Post: Robert A. Schaeffer, public education director of FairTest, which opposes the misuse of standardized tests, said the past year has seen the "fastest growth spurt ever" of schools ending the SAT/ACT test score as an admission requirement. Over the summer, more than one school a week announced the change. Nearly 50 accredited colleges and universities that award bachelor's degrees announced from September 2018 to September 2019 that they were dropping the admissions requirement for an SAT or ACT score, FairTest said. That brings the number of accredited schools to have done so to 1,050 -- about 40 percent of the total, the nonprofit said. While the test-optional list has some schools with specific missions -- there are religious colleges, music and art conservatories, nursing schools -- it also includes more than half of the top 100 liberal arts colleges on the U.S. News & World Report list, FairTest said. Also on the list are the majority of colleges and universities in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, the District of Columbia and the six New England states... Research has consistently shown that ACT and SAT scores are strongly linked to family income, mother's education level and race... The University of Chicago, which abandoned the requirement last year, reported in July that its decision, along with an increase in financial aid and outreach, led to a 20 percent increase in first-generation, low-income and rural students and veterans to commit to the school.

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Is AT&T Hiding A Widespread Voicemail Outage?

Though people can still leave voicemail messages, "Some AT&T customers say they have not had access to their voicemail since the beginning of October," one local news site reported this week: An AT&T spokesperson sent the following statement to ABC11 about the issue: "We're aware that some customers may be having difficulty retrieving their voicemail due to a vendor server problem. We're in contact with the vendor as they work to fix it and apologize for any inconvenience this may cause." ABC11 received several messages from frustrated AT&T customers. "I have been told multiple times that it would be fixed the same day. Today I was told there is no estimated repair date. I don't know what to do. I am a psychologist and people who have mental health issues call me," one said. "They get my message and leave me a voicemail. There is no indication that I won't be able to access it." "Voicemail is a crucial function on most people's devices. Having it down for weeks is unacceptable," another said. "If they don't fix this issue they will be losing lot of customers. I am been calling daily, but no result." Slashdot reader amxcoder writes today that AT&T eventually cited their vendor's server issue back on October 9th in their help forum, and that in the 11 days since, "the problem appear to be spreading." After contacting Tech Support on October 20th, it appears that Level One tech support is not aware of the problem, and Level Two reports the problem is affecting Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Maryland, Florida, Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina and Tennessee. However California and possibly other states seem to be affected as well. Because AT&T is being tight-lipped about this outage, even to it's own customers that it is affecting, it's difficult to know how many customers this is impacting. No official statement is being sent to customers, nor are customers being updated on progress or given an ETA on resolving the problem. Some online chatter is wondering if AT&T is trying to keep this "under the radar" as long as they can because of something more nefarious, such as a data breach, hacked servers, or even ransomware. Anyone's guess is a good as another without official public statement from AT&T.

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CNBC: Amazon Is Shipping Expired Food

Counterfeits aren't the only problem when shopping on Amazon, reports CNBC. The grocery section is "littered" with expired foods. From baby formula and coffee creamer to beef jerky and granola bars, items are arriving spoiled and well past their sell-by date, Amazon customers say. Interviews with brands, consumers, third-party sellers and consultants all point to loopholes in Amazon's technology and logistics system that allow for expired items to proliferate with little to no accountability. Consumer safety advocates worry that as the marketplace grows, the problem will only get worse... CNBC scanned the site's Grocery & Gourmet category, finding customer complaints about expired hot sauce, beef jerky, granola bars, baby formula and baby food, as well as six-month-old Goldfish crackers and a 360-pack of coffee creamer that arrived with a "rancid smell." A data analytics firm that specializes in the Amazon Marketplace recently analyzed the site's 100 best-selling food products for CNBC and found that at least 40% of sellers had more than five customer complaints about expired goods.... Amazon's spokesperson said the company uses a combination of humans and artificial intelligence to monitor the 22 million-plus pieces of customer feedback received weekly for product quality and safety concerns... Sarah Sorscher of the Center for Science in the Public Interest says Amazon's technology is clearly coming up short. "Expiration dates are a red flag for what else is harder to see," she said. "If you can't do something as basic as check an expiration date, then what else are you missing...? They've chosen to set up a business model where they don't take responsibility for the food that they sell," said Sorscher. "Traditional grocery stores have a lot of products, but they don't put it on the shelf if it's not safe."

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Project Trident Ditches BSD For Linux

Project Trident is moving from FreeBSD to Void Linux, reports Its FOSS: According to a later post, the move was motivated by long-standing issues with FreeBSD. These issues include "hardware compatibility, communications standards, or package availability continue to limit Project Trident users". According to a conversation on Telegram, FreeBSD has just updated its build of the Telegram client and it was nine releases behind everyone else. The lead dev of Project Trident, Ken Moore, is also the main developer of the Lumina Desktop. The Lumina Desktop has been on hold for a while because the Project Trident team had to do so much work just to keep their packages updated. (Once they complete the transition to Void Linux, Ken will start working on Lumina again.) After much searching and testing, the Project Trident team decided to use Void Linux as their new base. More from the Project Trident site: It's important to reiterate that Project Trident is a distribution of an existing operating system. Project Trident has never been a stand-alone operating system. The goal of Project Trident is enhancing the usability of an operating system as a graphical workstation through all sorts of means: custom installers, automatic setup routines, graphical utilities, and more... The more we've tested Void Linux, the more impressed we have been. We look forward to working with an operating system that helps Project Trident continue to provide a stable, high-quality graphical desktop experience.

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Privacy-Respecting Smart Home System Can Work Offline and Sends Fake Data

A publicly-funded group of designers, artists and privacy experts from Amsterdam have designed a smart home system prototype to "prove it's technically possible to build a privacy respecting smart home while maintaining convenience." Its controller uses an Arduino Nano to disconnect the system from the internet during times when it's not in use. They're building everything on Mozilla's open smart home gateway software. The system's microphone is a separate USB device that can be easily unplugged. For extra security, the devices don't even use wifi to communicate. "The Candle devices offer the advantages of a smart home system -- such as voice control, handy automations and useful insights -- without the downsides of sending your data to the cloud and feeling watched in your own home," explains their blurb for Dutch Design Week, where they're launching their prototypes of trust-worthy smart locks, thermostats, and other Internet of Things devices: Most smart devices promises us an easier life, but they increasingly disappoint; they eavesdrop, share our data with countless third parties, and offer attractive targets to hackers. Candle is different. Your data never leaves your home, all devices work fine without an internet connection, and everything is open source and transparent. One of the group's members is long-time Slashdot reader mrwireless, who shares an interesting observation: Smart homes track everything that happens inside them. For developing teenagers, this makes it more difficult to sneak in a date or break the rules in other subtle ways, which is a normal, healthy part of growing up. Candle is a prototype smart home that tries to mitigate these issue. It has given its sensors the ability to generate fake data for a while. In the future, children could get a monthly fake data allowance. Some of the devices have "skirts", simple fabric covers that can be draped over the devices to hide their screen. If you own a dust sensor, this can be useful if your mother in law comes over and you haven't vacuumed in a while.

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WAV Audio Files Are Now Being Used To Hide Malicious Code

JustAnotherOldGuy quotes ZDNet: Two reports published in the last few months show that malware operators are experimenting with using WAV audio files to hide malicious code. The first of these new malware campaigns abusing WAV files was reported back in June by Symantec security researchers who said they spotted a Russian cyber-espionage group known as Waterbug (or Turla) using WAV files to hide and transfer malicious code from their server to already-infected victims. The second malware campaign was spotted this month by BlackBerry Cylance. In a report published today and shared with ZDNet last week, Cylance said it saw something similar to what Symantec saw a few months before. But while the Symantec report described a nation-state cyber-espionage operation, Cylance said they saw the WAV steganography technique being abused in a run-of-the-mill crypto-mining malware operation.

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Mozilla is Sharing YouTube Horror Stories To Prod Google For More Transparency

CNET reports on a new crowdsourced public awareness campaign: Mozilla is publishing anecdotes of YouTube viewing gone awry -- anonymous stories from people who say they innocently searched for one thing but eventually ended up in a dark rabbit hole of videos. It's a campaign aimed at pressuring Google's massive video site to make itself more accessible to independent researchers trying to study its algorithms. "The big problem is we have no idea what is happening on YouTube," said Guillaume Chaslot, who is a fellow at Mozilla, a nonprofit best known for its unit that makes and operates the Firefox web browser. Chaslot is an ex-Google engineer who has investigated YouTube's recommendations from the outside after he left the company in 2013. (YouTube says he was fired for performance issues.) "We can see that there are problems, but we have no idea if the problem is from people being people or from algorithms," he said.... Mozilla is publishing 28 stories it's terming #YouTubeRegrets; they include, for example, an anecdote from someone who who said a search for German folk songs ended up returning neo-Nazi clips, and a testimonial from a mother who said her 10-year-old daughter searched for tap-dancing videos and ended up watching extreme contortionist clips that affected her body image.

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'How I Compiled My Own SPARC CPU In a Cheap FPGA Board'

Long-time Slashdot reader ttsiod works for the European Space Agency as an embedded software engineer. He writes: After reading an interesting article from an NVIDIA engineer about how he used a dirt-cheap field-programmable gate array board to code a real-time ray-tracer, I got my hands on the same board -- and "compiled" a dual-core SPARC-compatible CPU inside it... Basically, the same kind of design we fly in the European Space Agency's satellites. I decided to document the process, since there's not much material of that kind available. I hope it will be an interesting read for my fellow Slashdotters -- showcasing the trials and tribulations faced by those who prefer the Open-Source ways of doing things... Just read it and you'll see what I mean. This is the same Slashdot reader who in 2016 reverse engineered his Android tablet so he could run a Debian chroot inside it. "Please remember that I am a software developer, not a HW one," his new essay warns. "I simply enjoy fooling around with technology like this."

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Mathematician Solves 48-Year-Old Problem, Finds New Way To Multiply

An anonymous reader quotes Popular Mechanics: An assistant professor from the University of New South Wales Sydney in Australia has developed a new method for multiplying giant numbers together that's more efficient than the "long multiplication" so many are taught at an early age. "More technically, we have proved a 1971 conjecture of Schönhage and Strassen about the complexity of integer multiplication," associate professor David Harvey says in this video... Schönhage and Strassen predicted that an algorithm multiplying n-digit numbers using n * log(n) basic operations should exist, Harvey says. His paper is the first known proof that it does... The [original 1971] Schönhage-Strassen method is very fast, Harvey says. If a computer were to use the squared method taught in school on a problem where two numbers had a billion digits each, it would take months. A computer using the Schönhage-Strassen method could do so in 30 seconds. But if the numbers keep rising into the trillions and beyond, the algorithm developed by Harvey and collaborator Joris van der Hoeven at École Polytechnique in France could find solutions faster than the 1971 Schönhage-Strassen algorithm. "It means you can do all sorts of arithmetic more efficiently, for example division and square roots," he says. "You could also calculate digits of pi more efficiently than before. It even has applications to problems involving huge prime numbers. "The question is, how deep does n have to be for this algorithm to actually be faster than the previous algorithms?" the assistant professor says in the video. "The answer is we don't know. "It could be billions of digits. It could be trillions. It could be much bigger than that. We really have no idea at this point."

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Vandal Who Keyed A Tesla Discovers That It Filmed Him

For the third time, someone who vandalized a Tesla discovered that the car's "Sentry Mode" had filmed them -- and after the video went viral online, decided to turn themselves in. An anonymous reader quotes Electrek: The 20-year-old said that he was frustrated after a car cut him off and he thought the Model 3 might have been the same car. The Edmonton man said that he saw the video online and "became overcome with disappointment and embarrassment." He added that he doesn't have anything against Tesla and he regretted doing it right away... Earlier this month, we reported on the case of Alan Tweedie's Tesla Model 3 being keyed badly by a woman for seemingly no reason while he was at his daughter's soccer game. The Tesla Sentry mode video of her keying the car went viral and she ended up turning herself in. There was also another similar incident involving two men who ended up turning themselves in earlier this year and now this new incident in Canada becomes the third example of vandals turning themselves in because of Sentry mode. While Tesla Sentry Mode is useful to capture those incidents and pressure the vandals, the hope is that the feature gets publicized enough that people become less inclined to vandalize Tesla vehicles in the first place.

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Facebook Forges Ahead With Libra Despite Some Major Setbacks

"Facebook is facing a lot of pushback for Libra, its proposed cryptocurrency, but that's not stopping the social media giant from forging ahead," reports the Motley Fool: Earlier this week, it announced the 21 founding members of its digital token project at the signing of the Libra Association charter in Switzerland. The founding members include Uber, Lyft, Spotify, and PayU, among others... Despite all the odds against it, Facebook is forging ahead, pulling out all the stops to convince the world's skeptics that it is capable of controlling a digital currency that can't be regulated. Its latest attempt: warning regulators of the impending danger from China if Libra fails. David Marcus, the Facebook executive heading up the Libra initiative, told Bloomberg that China is moving ahead with its own digital payments system, which could have global appeal. That could be a big threat to the U.S. if regulators drag their heels in approving Facebook's digital coin. He painted a picture of an environment five years hence in which a large portion of the world won't have to worry about sanctions from the U.S. because they will have a digital currency waiting in the wings.

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