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Google Has Already Discontinued the Pixel 4 and 4 XL

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 11:01
Google has already discontinued the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, its flagship phones that were released in October of last year. Both devices are out of stock in Google's store in the US, though some variants are still available in other regions for the time being. A Google spokesperson told The Verge that the company will honor its three-year commitment on timely OS and security updates.

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US Steps Up Campaign To Purge Chinese Apps

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 10:25
The Trump administration said late Wednesday it was stepping up efforts to purge "untrusted" Chinese apps from US digital networks and called the Chinese-owned short-video app TikTok and messenger app WeChat "significant threats." From a report: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said expanded US efforts on a program it calls "Clean Network" would focus on five areas and include steps to prevent various Chinese apps, as well as Chinese telecoms companies, from accessing sensitive information on American citizens and businesses. Mr Pompeo's announcement comes after US President Donald Trump threatened to ban TikTok. The hugely popular video-sharing app has come under fire from US lawmakers and the administration over national security concerns, amid intensified tensions between Washington and Beijing. "With parent companies based in China, apps like TikTok, WeChat and others are significant threats to personal data of American citizens, not to mention tools for CCP [Chinese Communist Party] content censorship," Mr Pompeo said. In an interview with state news agency Xinhua on Wednesday, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said the United States "has no right" to set up the "Clean Network" and calls the actions by Washington as "a textbook case of bullying." "Anyone can see through clearly that the intention of the US is to protect it's monopoly position in technology and to rob other countries of their proper right to development," said Mr Wang.

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OnePlus is Bogging Its Phones Down With Unremovable Facebook Bloatware

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 09:44
An anonymous reader shares a report: Remember back in the early days of the smartphone when carriers would install all kinds of bloatware on devices sold through their channels? For the most part, this practice has kind of stopped, or at least it isn't as bad as it once was, but unfortunately it looks like OnePlus users have to grapple with another kind of bloatware -- Facebook. This is according to a tweet by XDA's Max Weinbach who discovered that the Instagram app on his OnePlus phone was updating through a Facebook App Manager instead of the Play Store, where one would normally expect to see app updates. Android Police dug further and discovered that this Facebook App Manager tool is present on the company's more recent handsets that are shipped with OxygenOS. According to OnePlus, they claim that by using the Facebook App Manager, it will apparently offer "better battery efficiency," although we can't really see why that would be the case. They also allege that this would allow for enhanced HDR playback on Netflix. The bad news is that you can't even uninstall them.

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Scientists Rename Human Genes To Stop Microsoft Excel From Misreading Them as Dates

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 09:07
There are tens of thousands of genes in the human genome: minuscule twists of DNA and RNA that combine to express all of the traits and characteristics that make each of us unique. Each gene is given a name and alphanumeric code, known as a symbol, which scientists use to coordinate research. But over the past year or so, some 27 human genes have been renamed, all because Microsoft Excel kept misreading their symbols as dates. From a report: The problem isn't as unexpected as it first sounds. Excel is a behemoth in the spreadsheet world and is regularly used by scientists to track their work and even conduct clinical trials. But its default settings were designed with more mundane applications in mind, so when a user inputs a gene's alphanumeric symbol into a spreadsheet, like MARCH1 -- short for "Membrane Associated Ring-CH-Type Finger 1" -- Excel converts that into a date: 1-Mar. This is extremely frustrating, even dangerous, corrupting data that scientists have to sort through by hand to restore. It's also surprisingly widespread and affects even peer-reviewed scientific work. One study from 2016 examined genetic data shared alongside 3,597 published papers and found that roughly one-fifth had been affected by Excel errors.

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YouTube Bans Thousands of Chinese Accounts To Combat 'Coordinated Influence Operations'

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 08:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: YouTube has banned a large number of Chinese accounts it said were engaging in "coordinated influence operations" on political issues, the company announced today; 2,596 accounts from China alone were taken down from April to June, compared with 277 in the first three months of 2020. "These channels mostly uploaded spammy, non-political content, but a small subset posted political content primarily in Chinese similar to the findings in a recent Graphika report (PDF), including content related to the U.S. response to COVID-19," Google posted in its Threat Analysis Group bulletin for Q2. The Graphika report, entitled "Return of the (Spamouflage) Dragon: Pro Chinese Spam Network Tries Again," [...] details a large set of accounts on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other social media that began to be activated early this year that appeared to be part of a global propaganda push: "The network made heavy use of video footage taken from pro-Chinese government channels, together with memes and lengthy texts in both Chinese and English. It interspersed its political content with spam posts, typically of scenery, basketball, models, and TikTok videos. These appeared designed to camouflage the operation's political content, hence the name." It's the "return" of this particular spam dragon because it showed up last fall in a similar form, and whoever is pulling the strings appears undeterred by detection. New, sleeper and stolen accounts were amassed again and deployed for similar purposes, though now -- as Google notes -- with a COVID-19 twist. When June rolled around, content was also being pushed related to the ongoing protests regarding the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and other racial justice matters.

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NASA Researchers Demonstrate the Ability To Fuse Atoms Inside Room-Temperature Metals

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 05:00
Researchers at NASA's Glenn Research Center have now demonstrated a method of inducing nuclear fusion without building a massive stellarator or tokamak. In fact, all they needed was a bit of metal, some hydrogen, and an electron accelerator. IEEE Spectrum reports: The team believes that their method, called lattice confinement fusion, could be a potential new power source for deep space missions. They have published their results in two papers in Physical Review C. "Lattice confinement" refers to the lattice structure formed by the atoms making up a piece of solid metal. The NASA group used samples of erbium and titanium for their experiments. Under high pressure, a sample was "loaded" with deuterium gas, an isotope of hydrogen with one proton and one neutron. The metal confines the deuterium nuclei, called deuterons, until it's time for fusion. "During the loading process, the metal lattice starts breaking apart in order to hold the deuterium gas," says Theresa Benyo, an analytical physicist and nuclear diagnostics lead on the project. "The result is more like a powder." At that point, the metal is ready for the next step: overcoming the mutual electrostatic repulsion between the positively-charged deuteron nuclei, the so-called Coulomb barrier. To overcome that barrier requires a sequence of particle collisions. First, an electron accelerator speeds up and slams electrons into a nearby target made of tungsten. The collision between beam and target creates high-energy photons, just like in a conventional X-ray machine. The photons are focused and directed into the deuteron-loaded erbium or titanium sample. When a photon hits a deuteron within the metal, it splits it apart into an energetic proton and neutron. Then the neutron collides with another deuteron, accelerating it. At the end of this process of collisions and interactions, you're left with a deuteron that's moving with enough energy to overcome the Coulomb barrier and fuse with another deuteron in the lattice. Key to this process is an effect called electron screening, or the shielding effect. Even with very energetic deuterons hurtling around, the Coulomb barrier can still be enough to prevent fusion. But the lattice helps again. "The electrons in the metal lattice form a screen around the stationary deuteron," says Benyo. The electrons' negative charge shields the energetic deuteron from the repulsive effects of the target deuteron's positive charge until the nuclei are very close, maximizing the amount of energy that can be used to fuse. Aside from deuteron-deuteron fusion, the NASA group found evidence of what are known as Oppenheimer-Phillips stripping reactions. Sometimes, rather than fusing with another deuteron, the energetic deuteron would collide with one of lattice's metal atoms, either creating an isotope or converting the atom to a new element. The team found that both fusion and stripping reactions produced useable energy.

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SpaceX's Starship SN5 Testbed Successfully Makes 150m Controlled Flight

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 02:00
Zitchas writes: On Tuesday evening, SpaceX launched a testbed system which flew 150m into the air, hovered, and made a controlled landing. This testbed is noteworthy for being made out of stainless steel, as well as for being powered by a single off-center raptor engine. It demonstrates that the propulsion system can successfully compensate for the off-balanced propulsion via vectored thrust, as well as handle the stresses involved with landing and take-off. You can watch the testbed system launch here. Important note: The vehicle that was launched was not the entirety of Starship, the large spacecraft that will be launched into orbit atop a Super Heavy rocket. "This prototype lacked key structural elements, including a large nose cone, flaps, an interstage, and more. But critically, this vehicle contained Starship's propulsion system," reports Ars Technica. "Among the key aspects of Tuesday's test was demonstrating that Starship's stainless-steel structure could withstand the harsh environment of a launch and landing."

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Cluster of 295 Chrome Extensions Caught Hijacking Google and Bing Search Results

Wed, 08/05/2020 - 22:30
An anonymous reader writes: More than 80 million Chrome users have installed one of 295 Chrome extensions that have been identified to hijack and insert ads inside Google and Bing search results. The malicious extensions were discovered by AdGuard, a company that provides ad-blocking solutions, while the company's staff was looking into a series of fake ad-blocking extensions that were available on the official Chrome Web Store. AdGuard says that most of the extensions (245 out of the 295 extensions) were simplistic utilities that had no other function than to apply a custom background for Chrome's "new tab" page. In addition to the 295 cluster, AdGuard also found a large number of copycat extensions that cloned popular add-ons to capitalize on their brands, and then load malicious code that performed ad fraud or cookie stuffing. ZDNet has the full list of 295 Chrome extensions embedded in their article.

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Microsoft Isn't Renaming Xbox Live and Has 'No Plans' To Discontinue Xbox Live Gold

Wed, 08/05/2020 - 21:03
Last month, Microsoft removed the option to purchase 12 months of Xbox Live Gold from the Microsoft Store, leading many to believe the company could be planning to phase out the service altogether with the launch of the Xbox Series X. When asked about the plans by The Verge, Microsoft said: "We have no plans to discontinue Xbox Live Gold at this time. It is an important part of gaming on Xbox today, and will continue to be in the future." The Verge's report also notes the company isn't planning to rename Xbox Live: Rumors of an Xbox Live rename appeared this week, after Microsoft announced changes to its services agreement. The software giant started referring to Xbox Live as the "Xbox online service," prompting some to assume Xbox Live was going away. "The update to 'Xbox online service' in the Microsoft Services Agreement refers to the underlying Xbox service that includes features like cross-saves and friend requests," says a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement to The Verge. "This language update is intended to distinguish that underlying service, and the paid Xbox Live Gold subscription. There are no changes being made to the experience of the service or Xbox Live Gold." While it's clear Xbox Live Gold isn't going away, Microsoft's statement doesn't mean the service won't be made free at some point in the future. Microsoft still requires Xbox One owners, and potentially Xbox Series X owners, to purchase an Xbox Live Gold subscription to play multiplayer games online. Windows 10 players of Xbox Live-enabled games do not require the same subscription, however. This split gets especially tricky for games like Halo Infinite, which Microsoft has promised will have a free-to-play multiplayer mode. If Microsoft does continue Xbox Live Gold as a paid service on Xbox consoles, then PC players will get totally free access to Halo Infinite and Xbox players will not.

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Ryzen 4000 Notebooks Delayed By At Least Two Months Due To Shortage of Processors

Wed, 08/05/2020 - 20:25
New submitter spth writes: Demand for notebooks with AMD Ryzen processors is far higher than supply. Following a reddit post by a Schenker (German computer manufacturer) employee about Ryzen 4800H shortages, Heinz Heise (Heinz Heise is the publisher of some leading German computer magazines, such as c't and iX) journalists investigated and found that the shortage apparently affects all Ryzen 4000 mobile APUs, and according to AMD is an industry-wide phenomena. Apparently, a large part of TSMC production capacity is needed for production of the APUs of future PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X consoles, and cannot be used to compensate for increased Ryzen 4000 demand.

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Japan Is Running Diagnostic Tests On Its First Real Gundam

Wed, 08/05/2020 - 19:45
New submitter nightflameauto writes: Japan has a working prototype of a real Gundam that is currently undergoing testing at the Gundam Factory. No, that's not the plot of some silly sci-fi movie, it's actually happening. There's a somewhat sensationally-titled video available of the 18-meter (60-foot) robot assembly running some small movement tests where it twists its torso and lifts a leg, then places it back down. Small steps, but the initial plan is to have this beast debut this October in free-standing/walking form. Welcome to 2020. We may have calamity upon calamity, but at least we've got a Gundam.

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US Reaches $1 Billion Deal For Doses of Potential Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

Wed, 08/05/2020 - 19:02
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hill: The Trump administration on Wednesday announced a deal worth approximately $1 billion for the manufacturing of 100 million doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine from Johnson & Johnson that the federal government would then own. The move is the latest in a series of agreements the Trump administration has made with several companies making potential coronavirus vaccines. The goal, through the Operation Warp Speed program, is to make bets on a wide array of vaccine candidates with the hope that at least one and maybe more will end up proving safe and effective through clinical trials. The companies will begin manufacturing the doses even before the results are in to accelerate the process. Johnson & Johnson said its goal is to have 1 billion doses made available throughout 2021, if the vaccine proves to be safe and effective.

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Here's Exactly How Inefficient Wireless Charging Is

Wed, 08/05/2020 - 18:25
News outlet OneZero crunched the numbers on just how inefficient wireless charging is -- and the results are pretty revealing. From the report: On paper, wireless charging sounds appealing. Just drop a phone down on a charger and it will start charging. There's no wear and tear on charging ports, and chargers can even be built into furniture. Not all of the energy that comes out of a wall outlet, however, ends up in a phone's battery. Some of it gets lost in the process as heat. While this is true of all forms of charging to a certain extent, wireless chargers lose a lot of energy compared to cables. They get even less efficient when the coils in the phone aren't aligned properly with the coils in the charging pad, a surprisingly common problem. [...] To get a sense of how much extra power is lost when using wireless charging versus wired charging in the real world, I tested a Pixel 4 using multiple wireless chargers, as well as the standard charging cable that comes with the phone. I used a high-precision power meter that sits between the charging block and the power outlet to measure power consumption. In my tests, I found that wireless charging used, on average, around 47% more power than a cable. Charging the phone from completely dead to 100% using a cable took an average of 14.26 watt-hours (Wh). Using a wireless charger took, on average, 21.01 Wh. That comes out to slightly more than 47% more energy for the convenience of not plugging in a cable. In other words, the phone had to work harder, generate more heat, and suck up more energy when wirelessly charging to fill the same size battery. [...] The first test with the Yootech pad -- before I figured out how to align the coils properly -- took a whopping 25.62 Wh to charge, or 80% more energy than an average cable charge. Hearing about the hypothetical inefficiencies online was one thing, but here I could see how I'd nearly doubled the amount of power it took to charge my phone by setting it down slightly wrong instead of just plugging in a cable.

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LastPass Will Warn You If Your Passwords Show Up On the Dark Web

Wed, 08/05/2020 - 17:45
LastPass is updating its Security Dashboard with a feature that provides an overview of all your accounts, highlighting any passwords that could pose a security risk. The password manager is also introducing dark web monitoring, although it will require you to be a paid LastPass subscriber. Engadget reports: If you already use LastPass and the Security Dashboard sounds familiar, it's because it builds on the Security Challenge functionality LastPass developer LogMeIn added in 2010. As before, grading is a major aspect of the interface. When you first navigate to the Security Dashboard, you'll see a score of all your logins, followed by a breakdown of passwords that are either old, inactive, weak or reused. You can click or tap on a problematic password to change it, and LastPass will automatically take you to the webpage where you can update your login information. LogMeIn hasn't changed how the app calculates the overall score it gives to each user. But one significant improvement the Security Dashboard brings over the Security Challenge is that you don't need to manually run it each time you want to see the security of your online accounts. The score and steps you can take to improve your online security are there each time you visit that part of the software's interface. With today's update, LogMeIn is also introducing dark web monitoring. When you enable the feature, LastPass will proactively check your online accounts against Enzoic's compromised credentials database. If it detects an issue, it will notify you through both email and the app. Dark web monitoring is available to LastPass Premium, Family and Business subscribers. The dashboard, by contrast, is available to all LastPass users.

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Chrome for Android May Soon Send Notifications Reminding You To Use Chrome

Wed, 08/05/2020 - 17:05
An anonymous reader shares a report: For years now, Google Chrome has been an absolute dominant force in the world of web browsers, but since the relaunch of Microsoft Edge based on Google's Chromium, that position has been challenged. Now, Google is preparing to drive more Android owners back to using Chrome through targeted notifications. Over the admittedly brief history of the Internet, there have been a number of fierce competitions, commonly called "browser wars," between companies, in an effort to get more people to use their particular web browser. Mozilla and Netscape waged war against Internet Explorer, and Chrome fought and won against Firefox. Most recently, Microsoft Edge and Samsung Internet have begun to wage war against Chrome on desktop and Android respectively. Now, we've found that Google is preparing to try and win back some of those who have left Chrome for other browsers, starting on Android. Based on our reading of a series of code changes, we believe Google Chrome for Android will send you a notification if you haven't used Chrome in a while.

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Microsoft Integrates Android Apps Into Windows 10 With New 'Your Phone' Update

Wed, 08/05/2020 - 16:25
Microsoft is now allowing Windows 10 users to run Android apps side by side with Windows applications on a PC. The Verge reports: It's part of a new feature in Your Phone, and it builds upon the mirroring that Microsoft's Your Phone app already provides. You can now access a list of Android apps in Microsoft's Your Phone app and launch these mobile apps accordingly. These will run in a separate window outside of the Your Phone app, mirrored from your phone. This new Android app support also allows Windows 10 users to multitask with other Windows apps with alt+tab support, and you'll even be able to pin these Android apps to the Windows 10 taskbar or Start menu. The ability to launch apps directly from Your Phone means you no longer have to search around on a mirrored experience of your phone, you can simply pin your favorite Android apps to the taskbar and run them as if they're regular Windows apps. Microsoft warns that not all Android apps will work seamlessly with this new Your Phone feature. Currently, only Samsung handsets work with the feature, but more devices should be supported "later this year."

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New York Unveils Landmark Antitrust Bill That Makes It Easier To Sue Tech Giants

Wed, 08/05/2020 - 15:45
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: New York state is introducing a bill that would make it easier to sue big tech companies for alleged abuses of their monopoly powers. Bill S8700A, [The Twenty-First Century Anti-Trust Act] now being discussed by New York's senate consumer protection committee, would update New York's antiquated antitrust laws for the 21st century, said the bill's sponsor, Senator Mike Gianaris. "Their power has grown to dangerous levels and we need to start reining them in," he said. New York's antitrust laws currently require two players to collaborate in a conspiracy to conduct anticompetitive behavior such as price setting. In other cases companies may underprice products to the point where they are even incurring a loss just to drive others out of the market -- anticompetitive behavior that New York's laws would currently struggle to prosecute. "Our laws on antitrust in New York are a century old and they were built for a completely different economy," said Gianaris. "Much of the problem today in the 21st century is unilateral action by some of these behemoth tech companies and this bill would allow, for the first time, New York to engage in antitrust enforcement for unilateral action." The bill will probably be discussed when New York's senate returns to work in August but is unlikely to pass before next year. It has the support of New York's attorney general, Letitia James. "The bill would make criminal offenses by individuals punishable by up to 15 years in prison," adds Engadget, "That's up from four years under the existing law. It's also more time than the current federal maximum sentence of 10 years." "Corporations could be fined up to $100 million, up from the current maximum New York state penalty of $1 million. The proposed changes would also allow class action lawsuits, which could lead to an increase in private antitrust litigation."

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Twitter Hack Zoom Court Hearing Interrupted by Loud Music and Porn

Wed, 08/05/2020 - 15:02
From a report: A judge was forced to suspend the virtual bond hearing of the 17-year-old accused of being the "mastermind" behind the recent massive Twitter hack, after several people got into the Zoom meeting posing as CNN and BBC staffers and played loud music and even a porn video. Multiple reporters who attended the hearing via Zoom on Wednesday confirmed the incident. According to independent security journalist Brian Krebs, the problem was that the judge and his clerks did not set up the meeting in a way that would mute attendees and prevent them from taking over the screen (these are features that can be easily set when one creates a Zoom meeting). "Judges holding hearings over Zoom need to get a clue," Krebs wrote on Twitter.

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Facebook Must Better Police Online Hate, State Attorneys General Say

Wed, 08/05/2020 - 14:24
Twenty state attorneys general on Wednesday called on Facebook to better prevent messages of hate, bias and disinformation from spreading, and said the company needed to provide more help to users facing online abuse. From a report: In a letter [PDF] to the social media giant, the officials said they regularly encountered people facing online intimidation and harassment on Facebook. They outlined seven steps the company should take, including allowing third-party audits of hate content and offering real-time assistance to users. "We hope to work with you to ensure that fewer individuals suffer online harassment and discrimination, and that it is quickly and effectively addressed when they do," said the letter, which was addressed to Facebook's chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, and its chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg. The officials who signed the letter, all of them Democrats, represent states including New York, New Jersey, Illinois and California, as well as the District of Columbia. The letter adds to the rising pressure facing Mr. Zuckerberg and his company to stop disinformation and harassment on Facebook. Civil rights leaders, advertisers and some of the company's own employees have criticized Facebook for failing to curtail the spread of noxious content. Extremists and conspiracists have turned to social media -- most often Facebook, Twitter and YouTube -- to circulate falsehoods about the coronavirus pandemic, the coming presidential election and Black Lives Matter protests. Facebook and other social media companies have made some changes to dismantle misinformation and hate on their services. Last month, Twitter announced that it would remove thousands of accounts associated with the fringe conspiracy movement QAnon, saying their messages could lead to harm and violated Twitter policy. In June, Facebook took down a network of accounts tied to boogaloo, an antigovernment movement in the United States that encourages violence. That same month, YouTube banned six channels for violating its policies, including those of two prominent white supremacists, David Duke and Richard Spencer. But according to the attorneys general, Facebook in particular has not done enough. The officials pointed to Facebook's recent Civil Rights Audit -- which found that advertisers could still run ads that painted a religious group as a threat to the "American way of life" -- as evidence that the social network had fallen short. "Facebook has a hate speech, discrimination, disinformation problem," Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, of New Jersey, who led the letter, said in an interview. "The way I view it, as an attorney general, is that it directly affects public safety in my state, that the groups that are allowed to find community online, on Facebook, allow hate to be normalized."

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Canon Hit by Maze Ransomware Attack, 10TB Data Allegedly Stolen

Wed, 08/05/2020 - 13:46
Canon has suffered a ransomware attack that impacts numerous services, including Canon's email, Microsoft Teams, USA website, and other internal applications. From a report: BleepingComputer has been tracking a suspicious outage on Canon's image.canon cloud photo and video storage service resulting in the loss of data for users of their free 10GB storage feature. The image.canon site suffered an outage on July 30th, 2020, and over six days, the site would show status updates until it went back in service yesterday, August 4th. However, the final status update was strange as it mentions that while data was lost, "there was no leak of image data." This led BleepingComputer to believe there was more to the story and that they suffered a cyberattack. [...] Today, a source contacted BleepingComputer and shared an image of a company-wide notification titled "Message from IT Service Center" that was sent at approximately 6 AM this morning from Canon's IT department.

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