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Amazon Delays Next Video Game Half a Year After Latest One Flops

Slashdot.org - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 17:04
Following scathing reviews of a computer game it released in May, Amazon.com is delaying its next big-budget game by at least six months. From a report: The decision represents another setback for the technology giant's ambitions to break into the gaming industry. The next game, New World, was supposed to debut in late August but is now scheduled for spring 2021, Rich Lawrence, director of Amazon's game studio, wrote in a blog post Friday. The company wants extra time to implement changes suggested by players who have been testing the game, he wrote. Delays are fairly common in the video game industry, but this was an important opportunity for Amazon to redeem itself after a recent flop. Amazon is trying to make a name for itself as a maker of big-budget video games that can compete with those from the likes of Activision Blizzard and Electronic Arts. But Amazon's Crucible, a free-to-play PC game introduced in May, was panned by critics, prompting Amazon to take the highly unusual step of pulling the game from wide circulation.

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Signal's New PIN Feature Worries Cybersecurity Experts

Slashdot.org - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 16:24
Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, writing for Vice: Ever since NSA leaker Edward Snowden said "use Signal, use Tor," the end-to-end encrypted chat app has been a favorite of people who care about privacy and need a chat and calling app that is hard to spy on. One of the reasons security experts recommended Signal is because the app's developers collected -- and thus retained -- almost no information about its users. This means that, if subpoenaed by law enforcement, Signal would have essentially nothing to turn over. Signal demonstrated this in 2016, when it was subpoenaed by a court in Virginia. But a newly added feature that allows users to recover certain data, such as contacts, profile information, settings, and blocked users, has led some high-profile security experts to criticize the app's developers and threaten to stop using it. Signal will store that data on servers the company owns, protected by a PIN that the app has initially been asking users to add, and then forced them to. The purpose of using a PIN is, in the near future, to allow Signal users to be identified by a username, as opposed to their phone number, as Signal founder Moxie Marlinspike explained on Twitter (as we've written before, this is a laudable goal; tying Signal to a phone number has its own privacy and security implications). But this also means that unlike in the past, Signal now retains certain user data, something that many cybersecurity and cryptography experts see as too dangerous. Matthew Green, a cryptographer and computer science professor at Johns Hopkins University, said that this was "the wrong decision," and that forcing users to create a PIN and use this feature would force him to stop using the app.

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Apple Advises Against MacBook Camera Covers Due To Display Cracking

Slashdot.org - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 15:45
Apple, in a new support document, is warning users against closing their MacBook lids with a cover over the camera. From a report: Placing a cover, sticker or tape over a laptop camera is a practice adopted by some privacy- and security-conscious individuals to protect against webcam hijacking. Now, however, Apple is explicitly advising against the tactic. In a support document published earlier in July, Apple urges users not to close their MacBook Pro or MacBook Air lids if there's a camera cover installed on it. "If you close your Mac notebook with a camera cover installed, you might damage your display because the clearance between the display and keyboard is designed to very tight tolerances," Apple notes. The support document also outlines some of the privacy and security functions of the camera, including the green indicator light that lets users know when the camera is active and the camera permission settings introduced in macOS Mojave.

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France To Introduce Controversial Age Verification System For Adult Websites

Slashdot.org - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 15:05
The French Parliament unanimously agreed this week to introduce a nationwide age verification system for pornography websites, months after President Emmanuel Macron pledged to protect children against such content. From a report: Macron made the protection of children against adult content online a high-profile issue well before the coronavirus crisis hit. In January, tech companies, internet services providers and the adult movies industry signed a voluntary charter, pledging to roll out tools to help ensure minors don't have access to pornographic content. Within a broader law on domestic violence, the Senate decided in June to introduce an amendment requiring pornography websites to implement an age verification mechanism. In order to enforce the law, the French audiovisual regulator CSA will be granted new powers to audit and sanction companies that do not comply -- sanctions could go as far as blocking access to the websites in France with a court order. The choice of verification mechanisms will be left up to the platforms. But lawmakers have suggested using credit card verification -- a system first adopted by the U.K., which mulled similar plans to control access to pornography but had to drop them in late 2019 because of technical difficulties and privacy concerns. Italy also approved a similar bill in late June, which raised the same concerns over its feasibility and compliance with the EU laws.

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US Finalizing Federal Contract Ban For Companies That Use Huawei, Others

Slashdot.org - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 14:25
The Trump administration plans to finalize regulations this week that will bar the U.S. government from buying goods or services from any company that uses products from five Chinese companies including Huawei, Hikvision and Dahua, Reuters reported Friday, citing a U.S. official said. From the report: The rule, which was prompted by a 2019 law, could have far-ranging implications for companies that sell goods and services to the U.S. government since they will now need to certify they do not use products from Dahua or Hikvision, even though both are among the top sellers of surveillance equipment and cameras worldwide. The same goes for two-way radios from Hytera and telecommunications equipment or mobile devices like smartphones from Huawei or ZTE. Any company that uses equipment or services in their day-to-day operations from these five companies will no longer be able to sell to the U.S. government without obtaining a U.S. government waiver. Further reading: 'UK Faces Mobile Blackouts if Huawei 5G Ban Imposed By 2023.'

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Nearly 70,000 Tech Startup Employees Have Lost Their Jobs Since March

Slashdot.org - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 13:45
Technology startups have been laying off tens of thousands of workers to cope with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, potentially blunting a key innovation pipeline for the enterprise information-technology market, according to industry analysts. From a report: "Startups are a great source of innovation in the IT industry, but are now especially cash constrained," said Max Azaham, a senior research director at research and consulting firm Gartner. Mr. Azaham said the coronavirus has made startup investors far more risk averse, resulting in a sharp downturn in investment capital for IT companies looking to raise less than $100 million. As of last week, nearly 70,000 tech-startup employees world-wide had lost jobs since March, led by ventures in the transportation, financial and travel sectors, according to a report by U.K.-based brokerage BuyShares.co.uk. Startups in the San Francisco region, including Silicon Valley, have shed more than 25,500 jobs, including layoffs at high-profile companies such as Uber, Groupon and Airbnb, the report said. Uber in May announced more than 6,500 layoffs, cutting roughly a quarter of its workforce. A month earlier, Lyft said it would cut about 17% of its workforce, furlough workers and slash pay in cost-cutting efforts to cope with lost sales during the coronavirus pandemic. Startups developing artificial intelligence and other emerging digital tools fall under the category of tech-sector employers, which have cut jobs for four consecutive months, said Tim Herbert, executive vice president for research and market intelligence at IT industry trade group CompTIA. The cuts included a record 112,000 layoffs in April, as tech companies scrambled to slash costs, according to CompTIA's analysis of federal employment data.

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Scientists Make Precise Gene Edits To Mitochondrial DNA For First Time

Slashdot.org - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 13:04
A peculiar bacterial enzyme has allowed researchers to achieve what even the popular CRISPR-Cas9 genome-editing system couldn't manage: targeted changes to the genomes of mitochondria, cells' crucial energy-producing structures. From a report: The technique -- which builds on a super-precise version of gene editing called base editing -- could allow researchers to develop new ways to study, and perhaps even treat, diseases caused by mutations in the mitochondrial genome. Such disorders are most often passed down maternally, and impair the cell's ability to generate energy. Although there are only a small number of genes in the mitochondrial genome compared with the nuclear genome, these mutations can particularly harm the nervous system and muscles, including the heart, and can be fatal to people who inherit them. But it has been difficult to study such disorders, because scientists lacked a way to make animal models with the same changes to the mitochondrial genome. The latest technique marks the first time that researchers have made such targeted changes, and could allow researchers to do this. "It's a very exciting development," says Carlos Moraes, a mitochondrial geneticist at the University of Miami in Florida. "The ability to modify mitochondrial DNA would allow us to ask questions that, before, we could not." The work was published on 8 July in Nature.

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Amazon Makes Employees Delete TikTok From Phones, Citing Security Risk [Update]

Slashdot.org - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 12:22
Amazon has asked its employees to delete the Chinese-owned video app TikTok from their cellphones, citing "security risks," according to a company email sent on Friday. From a report: In the email, which was obtained by The New York Times, Amazon officials said that employees must delete the app from any devices that "access Amazon email." Employees had to remove the app by Friday to remain able to obtain mobile access to their Amazon email, the note said. Amazon workers are still allowed to view TikTok from their laptop browser, the company added. Amazon and TikTok did not immediately respond to requests for comment. TikTok, which has been popular with young audiences in the United States, is owned by the Chinese tech company ByteDance. It has been under scrutiny in Washington for security reasons because of its ownership. Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, said on Monday that the Trump administration was considering blocking some Chinese apps, which he has called a threat to national security. Updated at 21:01GMT: In a statement, Amazon said the email was sent by accident. "This morning's email to some of our employees was sent in error. There is no change to our policies right now with regard to TikTok."

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