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Facebook Will Let Employees Work From Home Until July 2021

Fri, 08/07/2020 - 08:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN: Facebook is extending its work from home policy until July of next year, becoming the latest tech giant to commit to letting staff work remotely in response to the coronavirus pandemic. "Based on guidance from health and government experts, as well as decisions drawn from our internal discussions about these matters, we are allowing employees to continue voluntarily working from home until July 2021," said Nneka Norville, a Facebook spokesperson, on Thursday. Norville also said Facebook is giving employees $1,000 for "home office needs." Zuckerberg pitched the idea to Facebook staff as both a matter of satisfying employee desires and also as an effort to create "more broad-based economic prosperity." "When you limit hiring to people who live in a small number of big cities, or who are willing to move there, that cuts out a lot of people who live in different communities, have different backgrounds, have different perspectives," Zuckerberg said on a livestream posted to his Facebook page in May. Google also recently extended its work from home policy until July 2021. And some companies, including Twitter, said their staff may work remotely indefinitely.

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Frances E. Allen, the First Woman To Win the Turing Award, Dies At 88

Fri, 08/07/2020 - 05:00
Frances "Fran" Allen, a pioneer in the world of computing, the first female IBM Fellow and the first woman to win the Turing Award, died on August 4, 2020, the day of her 88th birthday. IBM writes in a blog post remembering Allen: As a pioneer in compiler organization and optimization algorithms, Fran made seminal contributions to the world of computing. Her work on inter-procedural analysis and automatic parallelization continues to be on the leading edge of compiler research. She successfully reduced this science to practice through the transfer of this technology to products such as the STRETCH HARVEST Compiler, the COBOL Compiler, and the Parallel FORTRAN Product. As much as Fran will be remembered for her technical vision and her foundational work in computing, she will equally be remembered for her passion to inspire and mentor others, fostering an environment of perseverance and hard work throughout the IBM community. Starting as a programmer, Fran's first assignment at IBM was to teach the research community FORTRAN, a new complex language IBM had announced just three months before. This was the start of Fran's career-long focus on compilers for high-performance computing. Following FORTRAN, Fran became one of three designers for IBM's Stretch-Harvest project in the late 1950's and early 1960's. As the language liaison with IBM's client, the National Security Agency (NSA), Fran helped design and build Alpha, a very high-level code breaking language which featured the ability to create new alphabets beyond the system defined alphabets. An Experimental Compiler for IBM's Advanced Computing System (ACS) became her next project. Fran designed and built the machine-independent, language-independent optimizing component of the compiler. The result was a tool to help drive the hardware design and a new way to analyze and transform programs. This work led to Fran's seminal paper on Program Optimization, first published in 1966, describing a robust new framework for implementing program analysis and optimization as well as a powerful set of new algorithms. Fran's 1970 paper on Control Flow analysis introduced the notion of "intervals" and node dominance relations, important improvements over the control flow abstractions given in her earlier paper. Her 1972 paper, "A Catalog of Optimizing Transformations," identified and discussed many of the transformations commonly used today.

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Scientists Spot Space Junk With Lasers In Broad Daylight

Fri, 08/07/2020 - 02:00
Researchers from the Institute for Space Research at the Austrian Academy of Sciences have developed a technique in which lasers can measure the position of space debris during daylight conditions. Details of this unprecedented achievement were published in Nature Communications. Gizmodo reports: Prior to this, lasers could only detect space junk during twilight, as ground stations enter into darkness and objects near the horizon remain illuminated by the Sun's rays. This small window of opportunity severely minimizes the amount of time available to search for and characterize these orbiting objects, which can threaten crucial satellites. "We are used to the idea that you can only see stars at night, and this has similarly been true for observing debris with telescopes, except with a much smaller time window to observe low-orbit objects," explained Tim Flohrer, Head of ESA's Space Debris Office, in an ESA press release. "Using this new technique, it will become possible to track previously 'invisible' objects that had been lurking in the blue skies, which means we can work all day with laser ranging to support collision avoidance." The new technique differs from conventional methods in that it can track objects during daylight hours, which it does using a combination of telescopes, light deflectors, and filters that track light at specific wavelengths. So even when the sky is bright and blue, scientists can increase a target's contrast, making previously invisible objects visible. Keys to this method include additional telescopes and the ability to visualize space debris against the blue sky background in real-time. In daylight tests, the distances to 40 different objects were measured with the new technique, which had never been done before.

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Germany Plans To Dim Lights At Night To Save Insects

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 22:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from MSN: In a draft law seen by AFP, the country's environment ministry has drawn up a number of new measures to protect insects, ranging from partially outlawing spotlights to increased protection of natural habitats. "Insects play an important role in the ecosystem...but in Germany, their numbers and their diversity has severely declined in recent years," reads the draft law, for which the ministry hopes to get cabinet approval by October. The changes put forward in the law include stricter controls on both lighting and the use of insecticides. Light traps for insects are to be banned outdoors, while searchlights and sky spotlights would be outlawed from dusk to dawn for ten months of the year. The draft also demands that any new streetlights and other outdoor lights be installed in such a way as to minimize the effect on plants, insects and other animals. The use of weed-killers and insecticides would also be banned in national parks and within five to ten meters of major bodies of water, while orchards and dry-stone walls are to be protected as natural habitats for insects. The proposed reforms are part of the German government's more general "insect protection action plan," which was announced last September under growing pressure from environmental and conservation activists.

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TikTok Ban: Trump Will Prohibit Transactions With ByteDance Beginning September 20

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 20:57
According to The Verge, "President Trump has signed a new executive order which will block all transactions with Bytedance, TikTok's parent corporation, in an effort to 'address the national emergency with respect to the information and communication technology supply chain.'" From the report: The move comes after months of escalating tensions, which saw Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others at the White House warn that TikTok presented a national security threat because of its Chinese ownership. Microsoft is currently in talks to acquire portions of the app, aimed to be complete by September 15th. Trump's new order is set to take effect in 45 days, just after the September 15th deadline set for negotiations in the Microsoft sale. Another order banned transactions with WeChat, a popular texting app in China that has maintained a limited U.S. user base focused on recent Chinese immigrants. In both orders, the president names the International Emergency Economic Powers Act as authority for the move, as well as the National Emergencies Act -- effectively naming TikTok's continued operation within the United States as a national emergency. Such a move is highly unusual, and will likely be subject to a legal challenge.

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Lawmakers Ask California DMV How It Makes $50 Million a Year Selling Drivers' Data

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 20:25
Following a report revealing the California DMV was making $50 million annually from selling drivers' information, a group of nearly a dozen lawmakers on Wednesday wrote a letter looking for answers. Motherboard reports: "What information is being sold, to whom it is sold, and what guardrails are associated with the sale remain unclear," the letter, signed by congress members including Ted Lieu, Barbara Lee, and Mike Thompson, as well as California Assembly members Kevin Mullin and Mark Stone, reads. Specifically, the letter asks what types of organizations has the DMV disclosed drivers' data to in the past three years. Motherboard has previously reported on how other DMVs around the country sold such information to private investigators, including those hired to spy on suspected cheating spouses. In an earlier email to Motherboard, the California DMV said data requesters may include insurance companies, vehicle manufacturers, and prospective employers. The information sold in general by DMVs includes names, physical addresses, and car registration information. Multiple other DMVs previously confirmed they have cut-off access to some clients after they abused the data. On Wednesday, the California DMV said in an emailed statement, "The DMV does not sell driver information for marketing purposes or to generate revenue outside of the cost of administering its requester program -- which only provides certain driver and vehicle related information as statutorily required." "The DMV takes its obligation to protect personal information very seriously. Information is only released according to California law, and the DMV continues to review its release practices to ensure information is only released to authorized persons/entities and only for authorized purposes. For example, if a car manufacturer is required to send a recall notice to thousands of owners of a particular model of car, the DMV may provide the car manufacturer with information on California owners of this particular model through this program," the statement added.

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Apple Confirms Cloud Gaming Services Like xCloud and Stadia Violate App Store Guidelines

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 19:45
Apple won't allow Microsoft xCloud or Google Stadia on iOS because of strict App Store guidelines that make cloud services effectively impossible to operate on the iPhone. In a statement to Business Insider, Apple finally came out and explained why these cloud services cannot exist on its platform. The Verge reports: The primary reason: they offer access to apps Apple can't individually review. Here's the official Apple statement: "The App Store was created to be a safe and trusted place for customers to discover and download apps, and a great business opportunity for all developers. Before they go on our store, all apps are reviewed against the same set of guidelines that are intended to protect customers and provide a fair and level playing field to developers. Our customers enjoy great apps and games from millions of developers, and gaming services can absolutely launch on the App Store as long as they follow the same set of guidelines applicable to all developers, including submitting games individually for review, and appearing in charts and search. In addition to the App Store, developers can choose to reach all iPhone and iPad users over the web through Safari and other browsers on the App Store." In other words, unless it's a full remote desktop app, a cloud gaming service is not allowed as these guidelines are written today -- even though very narrowly tailored LAN services like Steam Link and Sony's PS4 Remote Play are. Google and Microsoft probably don't want to offer signup options within the apps themselves because that would mean giving Apple a 30 percent cut of subscription revenue, but apps without "account creation" options violate section (c). Abiding by section (a) is also impossible considering these cloud servers on which the games are running are not owned by and located in the homes of consumers, but placed in data centers far away. And section (e) just flat out says this type of thing -- a "thin client for cloud-based app" -- can't exist in the App Store at all; it's not "appropriate," Apple says. [...] What does all this mean? Well, for now, iOS users are going to be missing out on the mobile-centric cloud gaming wave that's set to arrive with xCloud's launch. There is conceivably a way Google, Microsoft, and Nvidia could find ways around this by changing the core functionality of their respective apps.

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FCC Lowers Some Prison Phone Rates After Blaming States For High Prices

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 19:02
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Federal Communications Commission today voted unanimously to lower the prices inmates pay for phone calls from prisons and jails, but the organization reiterated its position that state governments must take action to lower prices on the majority of inmate calls. Today's action is a proposal to "substantially reduce [the FCC's] interstate rate caps -- currently $0.21 per minute for debit and prepaid calls and $0.25 per minute for collect calls -- to $0.14 per minute for debit, prepaid, and collect calls from prisons, and $0.16 per minute for debit, prepaid, and collect calls from jails." This is part of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which means the commission will take public comment before finalizing the new caps and could change the plan before making it final. Since the proposed rate cap limits prices on interstate calls only, it won't affect the approximately 80 percent of prison calls that don't cross state lines. Last month, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai urged state governments to cap intrastate calling prices, saying the FCC lacks authority to do so. Pai said that "33 states allow rates that are at least double the current federal cap, and 27 states allow excessive 'first-minute' charges up to 26 times that of the first minute of an interstate call." Prison phone companies Global Tel*Link and Securus Technologies have repeatedly challenged FCC-imposed rate limits in court. But while the Obama-era FCC fought in court to lower intrastate rates, Pai in January 2017 instructed FCC lawyers to drop the commission's court defense of the FCC cap on intrastate calling rates. The FCC might have lost that case anyway, as previous court rulings went against the commission. But Pai's decision to drop the court defense helped ensure that the FCC wouldn't be able to cap intrastate rates. The report notes that the FCC also took action to lower some of the "ancillary" fees prison phone companies apply to both interstate and intrastate calls.

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Facebook Removes Trump Post For the First Time

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 18:20
AmiMoJo shares a report from The Guardian: Facebook has removed a post from Donald Trump's page for spreading false information about the coronavirus, a first for the social media company that has been harshly criticized for repeatedly allowing the president to break its content rules. The post included video of Trump falsely asserting that children were "almost immune from Covid-19" during an appearance on Fox News. There is evidence to suggest that children who contract Covid-19 generally experience milder symptoms than adults do. However, they are not immune, and some children have become severely ill or died from the disease. The Twitter account for Trump's re-election campaign, @TeamTrump, also posted the video, which Twitter said violated its rules. "The account owner will be required to remove the Tweet before they can Tweet again," a company spokesperson said of @TeamTrump. During a press briefing on Wednesday afternoon, Trump repeated his false claims about children and the disease.

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US Senate Votes To Ban TikTok App On Government Devices

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 18:00
The U.S. Senate on Thursday unanimously voted to ban federal employees from using TikTok on government-issued devices. Reuters reports: The app has come under fire from U.S. lawmakers and the Trump administration over national security concerns because China's ByteDance owns the technology. The company currently faces a deadline of Sept. 15 to either sell its U.S. operations to Microsoft Corp or face an outright ban. "I'm encouraged by the bipartisan support we have seen in this body to hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable and that includes ... holding accountable those corporations who would just do China's bidding," [said Senator Josh Hawley who wrote the bill]. "And, if I have anything to say about it, we won't be stopping here," the Republican senator added. Last month, the House of Representatives voted to bar federal employees from downloading the app on government-issued devices as part of a proposal offered by Representative Ken Buck. With passage in the House and approval by the Senate, the prohibition is expected to soon become law in the United States.

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Twitter Says Security Flaw May Have Exposed Android Users' Direct Messages

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 17:40
Twitter on Wednesday disclosed a new security vulnerability that may have exposed the direct messages of users who access the service using Android devices. CNBC reports: Specifically, the vulnerability could have exposed the private data of Twitter users running devices with Android OS versions 8 and 9, the company said. "This vulnerability could allow an attacker, through a malicious app installed on your device, to access private Twitter data on your device (like Direct Messages) by working around Android system permissions that protect against this," the company said in a blog post. The company said there is no evidence that the Android vulnerability has been exploited by attackers. Regardless, Twitter said it has begun informing users who could have been vulnerable. The company has also updated its Android app to remove the vulnerability, and it is requiring anyone who may have been impacted to update their Twitter for Android app. Twitter said it is also identifying changes to its processes to better guard against issues like this. "Your privacy and trust is important to us and we will continue working to keep your data secure on Twitter," the company said in its blog.

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T-Mobile Passes AT&T To Become Second Biggest US Carrier

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 17:03
In T-Mobile's Q2 2020 earnings call today, the company says that it has surpassed AT&T in total branded customer count to become the second biggest carrier in the U.S., trailing only Verizon. PhoneDog reports: In Q2 2020, [which is the first quarter that includes Sprint following the merger of the two carriers] T-Mobile added 1.245 million customers, giving it a total subscriber count of 98.3 million. To compare, AT&T finished Q2 2020 with 93 million postpaid and prepaid customers. T-Mo also shared some good news regarding its 5G network today. The magenta carrier's 2.5GHz mid-band 5G is now live in Atlanta, Dallas, and Washington DC. That 2.5GHz 5G coverage is also live in parts of Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, and Philadelphia. T-Mo touts that its average download speeds on 2.5GHz 5G is around 300Mbps with peak speeds of 1Gbps.

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Social Movements Are Pushing Google Sheets To the Breaking Point

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 16:25
In the past decade, Google's suite of collaborative tools has steadily gained prominence in social movements and other forms of widespread collaboration. From a report: It was used to organize Occupy Wall Street movements in 2011, disseminate resources for protesting after the U.S. election in 2016, and assemble response to the California wildfires in 2017. During 2020, these tools have earned a reputation as "the social media of the resistance;" they have played a key role in the formation of pandemic mutual aid groups, the organization of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the aggregation of allegations in the gaming industry's #MeToo reckoning. But when these resources go viral, they often encounter limitations of G Suite. "Whenever you loaded the page, it would just fail half the time," says Edward Saperia, who initially used Google Docs to build Coronavirus Tech Handbook, a crowdsourced directory of tools, services, and resources for Covid-19 response. The proliferation of viral Google Sheets and Google Docs that break is a sign that collaboration has outgrown the collaboration tools at our immediate disposal. As the demographic of organizers and contributors has broadened and the scale of these projects has exploded, tools everyday citizens can use to spearhead these efforts have yet to catch up. Google Docs and Google Sheets were first built more than a decade ago to allow individuals to "get feedback and contributions from others [â¦] without having to email around copies of files." They were designed to facilitate the kind of collaboration we might reasonably attempt via email -- not widespread resources and movements. A Google support page states that "up to 100 people with view, edit, or comment permissions can work on a Google Docs, Sheets, or Slides file at the same time" and has a section devoted to troubleshooting files that become unresponsive after being shared with many people, recognizing the common pitfall.

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What Travel Will Look Like After Coronavirus

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 15:44
When will we be traveling again in large numbers? And what will travel be like in the future? The first question depends on a medical solution to the coronavirus pandemic. The second is best answered with experience. From a report: I asked eight travel pioneers for predictions on what the future of travel will be -- current and former chairmen and chief executives of travel companies and a former secretary of transportation. All have experience from past crises and recoveries. Most foresee a lasting decline in business travel, but think leisure travel will bounce back robustly. That means airlines and hotels will have to change their business plans, being unable to rely as much on rich revenue from corporate travelers. Expect higher ticket prices and room rates for vacationers to cover the costs with fewer high-dollar customers to subsidize bargain-seekers. "The airline industry is going to have to examine its business plan," says Robert Crandall, former chief executive of American Airlines. "You are never going to see the volume of business travel that you've seen in the past." He estimates one-third to one-half of business travel will go away. More meetings will take place electronically. Trips once thought necessary will be seen as superfluous. "Everybody who depends on business travel is going to have to rethink their game plan," Mr. Crandall says. The pandemic has forced widespread, rapid adoption of videoconferencing technology. The technology is mature, easy to use and available on any device.

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The Next Step In SSD Evolution: NVMe Zoned Namespaces Explained

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 15:02
FallOutBoyTonto writes: In June we saw an update to the NVMe standard. The update defines a software interface to assist in actually reading and writing to the drives in a way to which SSDs and NAND flash actually works. Instead of emulating the traditional block device model that SSDs inherited from hard drives and earlier storage technologies, the new NVMe Zoned Namespaces optional feature allows SSDs to implement a different storage abstraction over flash memory. This is quite similar to the extensions SAS and SATA have added to accommodate Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR) hard drives, with a few extras for SSDs. 'Zoned' SSDs with this new feature can offer better performance than regular SSDs, with less overprovisioning and less DRAM. The downside is that applications and operating systems have to be updated to support zoned storage, but that work is well underway. The NVMe Zoned Namespaces (ZNS) specification has been ratified and published as a Technical Proposal. It builds on top of the current NVMe 1.4a specification, in preparation for NVMe 2.0. The upcoming NVMe 2.0 specification will incorporate all the approved Technical Proposals, but also reorganize that same functionality into multiple smaller component documents: a base specification (one for each command set of block, zoned, key-value, and potentially more in the future), and separate specifications for each transport protocol (PCIe, RDMA, TCP). The standardization of Zoned Namespaces clears the way for broader commercialization and adoption of this technology, which so far has been held back by vendor-specific zoned storage interfaces and very limited hardware choices. [...]

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Massive 20GB Intel IP Data Breach Floods the Internet, Mentions Backdoors

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 14:23
FallOutBoyTonto writes: A leaker today posted on Twitter a link to a file sharing service that contains what an anonymous source claims is a portion of Intel's crown jewels: A 20GB folder of confidential Intel intellectual property. The leaker dubbed the release the "Intel exconfidential Lake Platform Release ;)" The folder has been posted by an anonymous source that claims more is coming soon, and while we don't know the exact specifics of the folder's contents, we have verified that it does exist. In fact, the title of many of the documents do correlate to the list of purported information posted by the leaker: Intel ME Bringup guides + (flash) tooling + samples for various platforms Kabylake (Purley Platform) BIOS Reference Code and Sample Code + Initialization code (some of it as exported git repos with full history) Intel CEFDK (Consumer Electronics Firmware Development Kit (Bootloader stuff)) SOURCES Silicon / FSP source code packages for various platforms Various Intel Development and Debugging Tools Simics Simulation for Rocket Lake S and potentially other platforms Various roadmaps and other documents Binaries for Camera drivers Intel made for SpaceX Schematics, Docs, Tools + Firmware for the unreleased Tiger Lake platform (very horrible) Kabylake FDK training videos Intel Trace Hub + decoder files for various Intel ME versions Elkhart Lake Silicon Reference and Platform Sample Code Some Verilog stuff for various Xeon Platforms, unsure what it is exactly. Debug BIOS/TXE builds for various Platforms Bootguard SDK (encrypted zip) Intel Snowridge / Snowfish Process Simulator ADK Various schematics Intel Marketing Material Templates (InDesign)

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Apple Launches Public Beta of macOS Big Sur, Its Biggest Desktop OS Update in Years

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 13:43
The public beta of macOS Big Sur, the next major release of Apple's Mac operating system, is now available. From a report: The new update brings a big visual overhaul to macOS while also adding a number of brand-new enhancements. If you're thinking about installing the macOS Big Sur public beta, be warned that it's still, well, a beta. That means you could experience some unexpected bugs, and software you rely on may not work with the new OS just yet. Before you install Big Sur, make sure all of your important documents are backed up somewhere safe, and if at all possible, you should only install this on a secondary Mac. But if you do roll the dice and install the Big Sur beta, you'll immediately see that it looks much different than previous versions of macOS, as Apple has made significant design changes across the entire operating system. Windows have a whole lot more white, for example (unless you're using dark mode, in which case, there's still a lot of black). Apple's app icons have received a major facelift and are now rounded squares, like iOS's app icons. And the menu bar is now translucent, blending into your wallpaper.

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How To Build a Nuclear Warning For 10,000 Years' Time

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 13:01
Faizdog writes (edited for clarity): The BBC has a fascinating story about the struggle we are facing today as we work on finding ways to warn future generations about nuclear waste dumps. How does language or knowledge survive over 300,000 years? Even today, only about 6% of the world's population recognizes the nuclear danger symbol, and we've forgotten the purpose of Stonehenge. Language, culture, history all change and are forgotten in a relatively short period of time on a nuclear scale. From a report: "This place is not a place of honor," reads the text. "No highly esteemed dead is commemorated here... nothing valued is here. What is here was dangerous and repulsive to us. This message is a warning about danger." It sounds like the kind of curse that you half-expect to find at the entrance to an ancient burial mound. But this message is intended to help mark the site of the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) that has been built over 2,000 feet (610m) down through stable rocks beneath the desert of New Mexico. The huge complex of tunnels and caverns is designed to contain the US military's most dangerous nuclear waste. This waste will remain lethal longer than the 300,000 years Homo sapiens has walked across the surface of the planet. WIPP is currently the only licensed deep geological disposal repository in operation in the world. A similar facility should also open in Finland in the mid-2020s. When the facility is full sometime in the next 10 to 20 years, the caverns will be collapsed and sealed with concrete and soil. The sprawling complex of buildings that currently mark the site will be erased. In its place will be "our society's largest conscious attempt to communicate across the abyss of deep time."

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Capital One To Pay $80 Million Fine After Data Breach

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 12:21
Capital One Financial Corp will pay an $80 million penalty to a U.S. bank regulator after the bank suffered a massive data breach one year ago. From a report: The fine, announced Thursday by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, punishes the bank for failing to adequately identify and manage risk as it moved significant portions of its technological operations to the cloud. "Safeguarding our customers' information is essential to our role as a financial institution," said a bank representative in a statement. "In the year since the incident, we have invested significant additional resources into further strengthening our cyber defenses, and have made substantial progress in addressing the requirements of these orders." In July 2019, the bank disclosed that personal information including names and addresses of about 100 million individuals in the United States and 6 million people in Canada were obtained by a hacker. The suspected hacker was a former employee of Amazon Web Services, a cloud provider where the bank had moved some of its data.

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US Now Offers $10 Million Reward For Election Interference Tips

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 11:41
The US Department of State announced today rewards of up to $10 million for any information leading to the identification of any person who works with or for a foreign government for the purpose of interfering with US elections through "illegal cyber activities." From a report: This includes attacks against US election officials, US election infrastructure, voting machines, but also candidates and their staff. The announcement was made today, less than 100 days until the 2020 US Presidential Election that will have incumbent Donald Trump face off against Democrat candidate Joe Biden. Nevertheless, the Department of State said the reward is valid for any form of election hacking, at any level, such as elections held at the federal, state, or local level as well.

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