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  1. The US Army has reduced its Future Attack and Reconnaissance (FARA) competition to two contenders. Bell Helicopter Textron's 360 Invictus and Sikorsky Aircraft's Raider X have been given the green light to proceed to the prototype phase in search of a new "knife fighter" small assault helicopter to replace the Army's Bell OH-58 Kiowa scout helicopter. Today's announcement is the culmination of the first phase of the FARA competition that began in April 2019 with five contenders, AVX Aircraft with L3Harris, Bell Helicopter, Boeing, Karem Aircraft and Sikorsky Aircraft. Each of the five contenders was asked to submit an initial design and risk review assessment for a small combat helicopter for armed reconnaissance, light attack, and security missions using improved standoff and lethal and non-lethal capabilities. The aircraft is supposed to be able to hide in radar clutter near the ground as well as operate in the cramped city streets between skyscrapers in large cities. The two successful companies will now go on to phase two under an Other Transaction Authority for Prototype agreement to build prototypes of the competing designs for future assessment and government flight tests in late 2023. "The Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft is the Army's number one aviation modernization priority and is integral to effectively penetrate and dis-integrate adversaries' Integrated Air Defense Systems," says Bruce D. Jette, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology. "It will enable combatant commanders with greater tactical, operational and strategic capabilities through significantly increased speed, range, endurance, survivability, and lethality." Source: US Army
  2. Many of the landmines and bombs dropped in Cambodia during the Vietnam War remain unexploded, which is a huge problem that us not easily solved for those tasked with clearing them away. Scientists have developed a new AI-powered tool that could make things a lot easier, with an ability to detect bomb craters through satellite imagery with great accuracy and therefore help reveal where the undetonated devices might remain. The research was conducted by scientists at Ohio State University, who began with a satellite image of a 100-sq-km (38-sq-mi) area that was the target of carpet bombing by the US in 1973. The team started with computer algorithms originally developed to detect meteor craters on moons and planets, and then trained them to detect the subtle differences between these types of craters and those created by bombs. This meant taking into account the different shapes, colors, textures and sizes of bomb craters. This was vital, as things like grass, shrubs and erosion have all changed the face of the bomb craters over the decades since they were created. Initially, the machine learning algorithm was able to detect 157 out of 177 true bomb craters, an accuracy of 89 percent, although at the same time it identified 1,142 false positives – crater-like features that weren't made by bombs. With further work, the team was able to eliminate 96 percent of these false positives with only a slight compromise on accuracy, with the algorithm still detecting 152 out of 177 craters, an accuracy of 86 percent. The team says its machine learning algorithm offers an increase in true bomb detection of more than 160 percent. And this could prove a powerful tool in helping to find and clear away those that remain unexploded. Through declassified military data, the researchers calculated that a total of 3,205 carpet bombs were dropped in the area that they studied. Knowing how many exploded and where, they can then begin to work out how many did not detonate and where they might be. They say that the research revealed there are between roughly 1,400 and 1,600 carpet bombs in the area that remain unexploded. A lot of the land the team focused on in its research is used for farming, which means there is serious danger for those working in the area. According to the researchers, one person is injured every week from unexploded devices in Cambodia, with more than 64,000 injured or killed since the area was bombed in 1973. “The process of de-mining is expensive and time-intensive, but our model can help identify the most vulnerable areas that should be de-mined first,” says Erin Lin, assistant professor of political science at Ohio State University. The research was published in the journal PLOS One. Source: Ohio State University
  3. Civil defence used to involve air raid wardens, ambulance drivers and rescue teams. That was at the height of the Cold War, and the hot wars of the 20th century that preceded it. These days, it means taking the fight online — against hackers and cyber criminals looking to take down or ransom critical infrastructure, such as hospitals. The COVID-19 crisis has prompted Canadian IT professionals to form an all-volunteer cyber defence team to protect Canada's hospitals, health-care providers, municipalities and critical infrastructure from online attacks during the COVID-19 crisis. The SecDev Group, which has pioneered advanced analytics and cyber safety, has been spearheading the recruitment effort and has asked information technology professionals to step up and provide preventative measures and remedial services. 'Preying on fear' "Hackers are targeting hospitals and health care providers, preying on their distraction, fear and anxiety and their hope for a cure," said Rafal Rohozinski, principal and CEO of the SecDev Group "Posing as public health officials from the World Health Organization, [the] Centers for Disease Control and UNICEF, cyber criminals are flooding hospitals, medical laboratories, vaccine testing facilities, municipalities and critical service providers with phishing emails, forcing some to shut down." Trudeau leaves door open to using smartphone data to track Canadians' compliance with pandemic rules Twelve companies and associations have signed on to the initiative. Together, they plan to set up a secure online exchange to match high-tech professionals — who will volunteer their services free of charge — with agencies and institutions that need help to shore up their cyber protection, or to deal with an intrusion. "It's both a patriotic and public service reflex," said Rohozinski. "If the internet goes down, and in particular if critical institutions that we count on — like hospitals, like cities, like utilities — start to be ransomed or start to go down because of cyber malfeasance, we're all in a lot of trouble." The exchange website is still in the process of being built, but Rohozinski said it will launch within days. Online attacks exploded since pandemic began Across the globe, the number of coronavirus-related attacks on health-care institutions has increased by 475 per cent in just the past month, according to a SecDev Group assessment. At the moment, no Canadian hospitals or institutions have reported being attacked. Rohozinski said there have been signs of trolling by both cyber criminals and so-called "state actors" — including some of the Russian groups identified by U.S. intelligence as being behind the tampering in the 2016 presidential election. The Communications Security Establishment (CSE), Canada's electronic intelligence service, has said it has taken down some fake websites that were posing as government departments and institutions and trying to scam people. The U.S. Health and Human Services Department was recently targeted and the FBI has warned that hospitals in the states with the highest rates of infection — California, New York and Washington — should be on the alert for attacks from foreign actors. Hammersmith Medicines Research, a British company that is on standby to perform medical trials on any potential COVID-19 vaccine, was hit with an online attack last week, according to published reports. Over the last few days, according to a Bloomberg news report, hackers targeted hospitals in Paris with a major cyberattack. A hospital in the Czech Republic was also hit last week in what is thought to have been a ransomware attack, which forced administrators to take the network offline. Forbes Magazine reported late last week that the cybercrime groups behind the DoppelPaymer and Maze ransomware threats had promised not to target health care organizations during the COVID-19 crisis — but at least one of the groups was reportedly linked to a recent attack. Remote work networks are vulnerable An executive at one of the companies now volunteering for the cyber civil defence initiative said one area where institutions likely need help is in protecting the virtual private networks (VPNs) of employees who've been forced to work from home because of the crisis. Robert Mazzolin, the chief cyber security strategist at the RHEA Group, said the VPN systems used by most hospitals, power plants and other utilities were never designed to support so many secure connections outside the workplace. "The world is fundamentally different than it was a week ago and I don't think any large corporation or institution realistically would have been prepared to see virtually its entire workforce be working from home via remote connections," said Mazzolin, a former brigadier-general who was responsible for cyber operations in the Canadian military. "That places a large stress on an institution's communications workforce. The threats out there, including ransomware — it's important to be able to defend VPNs that are stretched well beyond their normal capacity and limits." He said his company and staff, who regularly work for the European Space Agency, will be able to provide insight and capability that will complement existing networks. The mandate of CSE is to protect the federal government's electronic network and — through its cyber security centre — to provide advice and guidance to people and businesses looking for cyber security information. Rohozinski said there's a difference between providing advice and actively helping in the defence and the initiative has CSE's support.
  4. FireEye, a US cybersecurity firm, says that it has seen a concerning spike in activity from what appears to be a Chinese hacking group called APT41. The attacks are being deployed against companies in the US, Canada, the UK and several other counties, which is atypical of Chinese hackers' typical strategy of focusing on a few particular targets. According to FireEye's report, the group is exploiting software flaws in applications and hardware developed by Cisco, Citrix and others to gain access to target companies' networks and download files via FTP, among other strategies. According to the firm, the attacks began on January 20th, dipped during the Chinese New Year celebrations and COVID-19 quarantine measures and are now back at full scale, affecting 75 of FireEye's customers. Cisco and Citrix both said that they have patched the vulnerabilities that were being exploited by APT41. Citrix is also coordinating with FireEye to find "potential compromises." Reuters reached out to Dell Technologies' cybersecurity arm, Secureworks, which stated that the company has also seen increased activity from Chinese hackers "over the last few weeks." Chinese government contractors carrying out cyber attacks is nothing new, but the scope of these current initiatives is concerning. Companies in about 20 countries are being targeted, and APT41 is carrying out subsequent attacks frequently: "This activity is one of the most widespread campaigns we have seen from China-nexus espionage actors in recent years," says FireEye. "This new activity from this group shows how resourceful and how quickly they can leverage newly disclosed vulnerabilities to their advantage." Whether the attackers are purposely taking advantage of a reduced cybersecurity workforce during the coronavirus pandemic or the timing is just a coincidence remains to be determined.
  5. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hasn't ruled out using smartphone data to track whether people are complying with public health officials' pleas for them to stay inside to curb the COVID-19 pandemic — a notion that raises some thorny ethical dilemmas regarding public health and privacy rights. Tracking where the coronavirus will strike next, and convincing people to self-isolate and avoid gatherings, have proven challenging for public health officials around the world. That's prompted some governments to lean on mobile data to keep tabs on infections — even to predict where the virus is heading. During his daily media briefing today, Trudeau was asked whether Canada would follow the example of those governments and use telecom data to track Canadians' compliance with pandemic measures. "I think we recognize that in an emergency situation we need to take certain steps that wouldn't be taken in non-emergency situations, but as far as I know that is not a situation we're looking at right now," he said. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau answers a question about why the government was seeking new spending powers during the COVID-19 pandemic. 1:16 "But as I've said, all options are on the table to do what is necessary to keep Canadians safe in these exceptional times." Telecommunication companies are now sharing aggregate smartphone data with health authorities in Italy, Germany and Austria to monitor whether people are complying with self-isolation demands to slow the spread of COVID-19. China, Taiwan and South Korea have taken more invasive measures by using smartphone location pings to trace individuals who have tested positive, or to enforce quarantine orders. In Israel, the government is being challenged after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the domestic spy agency to sift through cellphone data that was covertly gathered to fight terrorism to retrace the steps of people who have contracted the novel coronavirus. The issue was thrust into the Canadian spotlight this morning after Toronto Mayor John Tory mused about obtaining cellphone data from wireless companies to locate large gatherings. As first reported by The Logic, Tory told an online video-conferencing event Monday night, hosted by TechTO, that data collection is "something we're doing now." "I asked for it, and I'm getting it," he's quoted as telling the local meetup organization. "Because the biggest enemy of fighting this thing is people congregating close together." A spokesperson later clarified that the mayor was answering a question about ways technology could possibly help fight COVID-19. "The mayor cited the example of an inquiry he had casually made after someone suggested it not knowing it wasn't proceeding," said Don Peat. "The City of Toronto is not collecting cellphone location data, nor has it received any such data. The City of Toronto will not be using cellphone location data." Bell Canada open to sharing information Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said the option shouldn't be ruled out of efforts to flatten the caseload curve — the best way to keep the nation's hospitals from being overwhelmed. "I think there's lots of innovative approaches and they should all be examined, obviously with due respect to privacy, ethics and all of those considerations," she said when asked about data collection. On Monday, Quebec Premier François Legault publicly floated the idea of tracking the past movements of people who tested positive for COVID-19 through their phones. Bell Canada has said it's willing to share personal information with governments if called upon. Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam says some provinces have come up with innovative ways to tackle the spread of COVID-19, but the best approach is still for everyone to respect social distancing. "We haven't been asked by any governments for this kind of support, but would consider if it helps in the fight against COVID-19 while respecting privacy laws," spokesperson Nathan Gibson said. Telus said it had not been contacted by the city of Toronto. Rogers did not respond to CBC's requests for comment. Finding an ethical balance David Leslie, ethics fellow at the Alan Turing Institute in the U.K., said surveillance in a pandemic climate pits competing values against each other: individual civil liberties and public welfare. But a balance can be struck between the two, he said. "When I think about the capacity for us to actually do surveillance for the social good, it kind of brings this sort of tension to the forefront for me, which is this tension between autonomy, privacy, civil liberty and the potential to use our data, use our information for the public welfare," Leslie said from London. Trudeau says most premiers don't think Emergencies Act needed yet to cope with COVID-19 The 'measure of last resort': What is the Emergencies Act and what does it do? "There's a right and perhaps a wrong way to go about using this, which is to say from a practical ethics standpoint it's very important to think about issues like consent, issues like transparency, in the way that the innovation is developed and then deployed." David Fraser, a privacy lawyer with McInnes Cooper, said there are significant differences in the accuracy of data passed on by cellphone companies to governments, depending on whether they're sharing identifying information or anonymous aggregate data. For example, data generated by transit apps can offer a big-picture view of rider trends — but they don't identify passengers. "Which is different from anything that could tell you Bob is on the bus — or even maybe more troubling from a privacy perspective, but maybe completely justifiable, is Bob was in Mexico last week. Bob is supposed to be in his house. Bob is actually down at the Home Depot. Send the cops to go get Bob," he said. Legal changes during a crisis The federal privacy commissioner has said that, during a public health crisis, privacy laws still apply but they shouldn't be a barrier to appropriate information sharing. "We fully understand the need to use all lawful and proportionate means to address the current health crisis. Legal authorities in this regard are quite broad," said spokesperson Vito Pilieci. "Still, organizations must ensure there is lawful authority for the sharing of personal information." Brian Beamish, the information and privacy commissioner of Ontario, said that — where possible — municipal governments should make efforts to use non-identifying information. However, he said in situations where identifying information is required, public health should be the priority. Pilieci said aggregate data collection is allowed, but warned that telecommunication companies and public authorities should be aware of accidentally re-identifying individuals. But he added that any steps that would have a "dramatic impact on personal privacy" should come with clear rules on how and why the information is collected, how it will be used and how long it will be retained. Concerns about a 'new normal' Privacy lawyer David Fraser said that, historically, public health officials have had access to Canadians' private health information without any major trust breaches. I wouldn't want to see this as the thin edge of the wedge or creating a new normal that will continue to be in place once this whole thing blows over. "Personally, I have a fair amount of confidence in public health officials having access to information that otherwise normal people and the cops don't get access to, for the purposes of doing their jobs related to public health," he said. "I don't think that they have many ulterior motives." Still, he said, any sort of emergency legislative changes affecting privacy should be monitored closely for sunset clauses. "I wouldn't want to see this as the thin edge of the wedge, or creating a new normal that will continue to be in place once this whole thing blows over, whether it's in weeks, months or years," he said. "I wouldn't want to see some sort of new normal where telcos are required to, in real time, dump tower location information into some central government database with a kind of 'trust us' attitude." While the Canadian government won't commit either way to cellphone data collection, it's already investing in artificial intelligence tracking linked to COVID-19. As part of a $192 million investment package, the government announced support for BlueDot, a Toronto-based digital company focused on early warning technology for infectious diseases. It's been billed as one of the first companies in the world to identify the outbreak in Wuhan in late December 2019. The Public Health Agency of Canada will use its disease analytics platform to monitor the spread of COVID 19, according to a media release. A spokesperson for Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains said privacy remains a top government priority. BlueDot wasn't available for an interview, but a spokesperson said their technology tracks the spread of cases of the disease and looks at where the hotspots are.
  6. With billions of people now self-isolating in their homes worldwide, the world's internet infrastructure is being pushed to its limits. In order to ease the strain, major streaming services are finding ways to reduce bandwidth. YouTube began five days ago by making all videos default to "standard definition" or 480p. The program started in Europe but is now being rolled out globally. You can still choose to watch high-resolution versions by going into the settings and manually changing them, but for many video types and mobile users, the difference might not even be noticeable. Netflix is in a different position, having priced some of its subscriptions based on streaming qualities of UltraHD, HD and standard definition. But each of these resolutions have multiple streams, sometimes dozens, which use different compression settings to balance quality with network loads. By shutting down the top quality, highest bandwidth streams for each resolution, the company says it's managed to reduce total Netflix traffic by 25 percent, while still delivering the resolutions people have paid for. "If you are particularly tuned into video quality," says a Netflix press release, "you may notice a very slight decrease in quality within each resolution. But you will still get the video quality you paid for." Disney+, for its part, has pledged to reduce its streaming bandwidth by 25 percent as well, but it's in an awkward position, having just launched its service in the UK and EU yesterday. So it's not using as much bandwidth as it would've in the pre-COVID-19 world, but it's adding another hugely popular streaming service to the pile. Other major services like Amazon Prime, Facebook, Instagram and AppleTV have also made similar moves to reduce bandwidth usage by throttling streaming quality. Considering the massive influx of videoconferencing that's flooded networks as huge numbers of people switch to working from home offices, measures like these are an important contribution to keeping everything moving as smoothly as possible. Source: Youtube, Netflix, Disney+
  7. Because everyone, including IT people and Microsoft developers, already has enough to worry about right now, Microsoft is pausing all optional non-security releases for supported versions of Windows and server products. This will allow Microsoft to focus on security updates. Specifically, Microsoft will suspend C and D updates, which are usually released during the third and fourth week of each month, respectively. These include non-security improvements and fixes. But the changes don't go into effect until May, so we can still expect a few last optional non-security releases next month. Microsoft will release its monthly security (B) updates as planned on the second Tuesday of each month, aka Patch Tuesday. We are already waiting for updates to fix two critical zero-day vulnerabilities, which Microsoft disclosed yesterday and that hackers are actively exploiting. With so many of its users and employees working from home, the last thing Microsoft needs is to introduce a bug or flaw. Google is taking a similar approach. Last week, it said it would pause Chrome updates to limit issues while its teams work remotely and to prioritize security. Later, it said that its Chrome release schedule will skip version 82 entirely. Microsoft is also delaying the scheduled end of service date for the Enterprise, Education and IoT Enterprise editions of Windows 10 from April 14th to October 13th. Those devices will receive security updates for the next few months. "We have been evaluating the public health situation, and we understand this is impacting our customers," Microsoft said. "In response to these challenges we are prioritizing our focus on security updates."
  8. Apple's latest flurry of software updates included an important step forward for web privacy. The latest version of Safari for iOS, iPadOS and macOS now blocks all third-party cookies by default -- it's the first mainstream browser to do so, the WebKit team's John Wilander said. The Tor Browser is the only known browser to do so before Safari, while Brave's browser still has a few (if minor) exceptions. The move should make life more difficult for aggressive advertisers and attackers alike. It should prevent sites from using login fingerprinting or even the state of your anti-tracking prevention to watch your behavior. It should also thwart cross-site request forgery attacks, and prevents the use of auxiliary third-party domains to identify users. The updated Safari also limits storage for a website's scripts to one week, and includes counters to sites that try to avoid tracking detection by delaying their redirects. Apple won't be alone in the future. Google aims to achieve the same for Chrome by 2022, as an example. The WebKit team also plans to report the results of this change to the World Wide Web Consortium to give other browser developers some assistance. And yes, you can frequently enable this kind of tracking after the fact. It's still a milestone, though, and could easily force ad creators and site operators to rethink attempts to collect tracking data.
  9. USP has announced a new partnership with Wingcopter, a German aircraft manufacturer, to develop new types of delivery drones. The two companies will work together to certify Wingcopter's existing aircraft for use in commercial delivery flights in the US. They say certification is the first step toward developing drones that can complete a variety of delivery jobs. According to UPS, a couple of factors attracted it to Wingcopter's drones. The first one was technological. Wingcopter's drones feature a tilt-rotor mechanism that allows them to switch between multi-copter and fixed-wing flight modes. Thanks to this capability, they're able to vertically take off and land in tight spaces and then fly quickly and quietly to their next destination. The latter ability also makes them better suited to flying over populated areas like cities than traditional multi-copter drones. The second factor was that the company's drones have already completed deliveries under challenging circumstances. As one example, one of Wingcopter's aircraft was able to deliver insulin to a remote Irish village in the North Sea that is frequently inaccessible thanks to bad weather. At the moment, UPS has mostly trialed drones to transport medical samples and prescriptions. The company's ultimate goal here is to develop aircraft that would allow it to shuttle items to companies in a variety of different industries. It may be a while yet before we see Wingcopter's aircraft delivering parcels to consumers in US and other parts of the world, but this is still a significant milestone for both companies.
  10. The promise of a cheap, fun electric motorcycle has been a long time coming. The cheap ones don't look like much fun, and the fun ones don't look like much cheap. But we're getting closer and closer to the kinds of machines that'll tick the right boxes for a daily electric commuter that'll leave a smile on your dial, even if you'll still need to keep your roaring dinosaur burner for the real crazy stuff on the weekends. Cleveland CycleWerks has pulled the blinding hood off its Falcon BLK and released it into this space, going for an angular, neo-retro, bench-seated cafe racer kind of a look and a set of specs that are achievable within a reasonable budget, even if the performance won't set your pants on fire. The motor is a 13-kilowatt (17.5-hp) waterproof mid-drive feeding a chain back to the rear wheel along the right side. It makes 39 Nm (29 lb-ft) of torque at the shaft, but this will translate to a lot more at the wheel when final gearing is considered. The power doesn't sound like a lot, but it'll take you to somewhere north of 85 mph (137 km/h) in short bursts, and happily sustain a 65 mph (105 km/h) highway speed without overheating. The battery is a pair of 2.2-kWh "Angry Pixy Power" packs, using Samsung cells, combining to give you 4.4 kWh and a claimed range of up to 180 miles (290 km). We are prepared to call BS when we see it, and this is a steaming pile if we ever saw one. Even though this bike is lightweight at 79 kg (175 lb), you're putting a rider on that doubles that weight, and we'd estimate you'd need to ride it fairly conservatively in the lowest power mode to get 70 city miles (113 km) out of it. If you can find a 180-mile hill to roll down, then maybe. We'd be delighted to be proven wrong. There are four power modes; Eco, Custom, Ego and Wheelie mode, a mode close to my own heart. The lattermost two enable an "Angry Pixy Boost" that gives you 20 seconds of an unspecified amount of power, presumably until the motor overheats. If Eco mode is really rated to give you 180 miles, we'd be surprised if it outputs enough to boil a saucepan of water. The frame is "robot bent" and hand-welded, a simple design that sits the battery as a big ol' box in the middle, with some weather and shock protection and a squiggly pattern on the sides. Other than that, she's super clean, with a barely-legal tiny headlight, single bar end mirror, blacked-out rims and small 2-piston disc brakes on 200-mm rotors at either end. Suspension is non-adjustable, and for some silly reason Cleveland has decided to fit high-grip Michelin Pilot Power sportbike tires to it instead of a long-life compound. Source: Cleveland CycleWerks
  11. This supercharged, three-wheeled, ice-racing monstrosity once lived a happy, peaceful life as a Ducati Hypermotard, until Vitaliy Selyukov of Balamutti got hold of it and turned it into a mutant Trikenstein perfect for today's apocalyptic mood. Selyukov runs a workshop for Italian bikes out of St. Petersburg, and when he's not doing services and tuning, he's wrenching on the Yondu. Inspired by the Speeder bikes from Return of the Jedi, he took the engine and main trellis frame of a donor Hypermotard and set about making pretty much everything else himself. According to Pipeburn, that hideously brutal front end is effectively a double hub-center steering system on dual Sachs-suspended swingarms, the wheel pivoting on spherical roller bearings, controlled by dual steering dampers and rose-jointed articulating rods. No small amount of thinking has gone into this, and the chief nod to Star Wars is the outside-in reverse handlebar setup, which looks absolutely nuts. The wheel hubs, where they're not required to support swingarms and brake systems, are covered with convex reflective covers – except the rear hub, which is painted up to show some kind of galactic hellfire scene. The subframe is comically tiny, and holds aloft what appears to be a bicycle seat, leaving room for a particularly vicious-looking exhaust to rise up underneath. As for the engine, Selyukov has apparently chopped a Garrett turbo to bits, yanked out the turbine and repurposed it as a crank-driven supercharger, building his own belt and pulley setup in order to blow a bit more life into an engine that makes less than 100 horses stock. We are in the presence of a madman here. Lord knows how it rides on those spiked-out ice tires – it looks like one for the bold – but Selyukov plans to drag-race it on the ice at the Lake Baikal Mile. Source: Balamutti
  12. Today, Microsoft warned billions of Windows users that hackers are actively exploiting two critical zero-day vulnerabilities that could allow bad actors to take complete control of targeted computers. According to a security advisory, the vulnerabilities are being used in "limited targeted attacks," and all supported Windows operating systems could be at risk. The flaws exist in the Windows Adobe Type Manager Library, which allows apps to manage and render fonts available from Adobe Systems. Attackers may exploit the vulnerabilities by getting their targets to open booby-trapped documents or view them in the Windows preview pane. Microsoft is still working to fix the vulnerabilities. The earliest it will issue a patch is likely April 14th. Microsoft typically releases security updates on Update Tuesday, the second Tuesday of each month. In the meantime, there are a few workarounds, including disabling the preview pane and details pane in Windows Explorer. Microsoft has detailed the steps users should take here.[/CODE]
  13. The Alliance For Creativity and Entertainment has been quietly comandeering more pirate site domains, presumably as part of settlement arrangements with their former owners. One domain relates to a previously announced case but three others, all connected to pirate IPTV, are reported today for the first time. The Alliance for Creativity Entertainment (ACE) is the largest anti-piracy coalition in history. It pools the resources of all the major Hollywood studios plus Netflix, Amazon and dozens of other companies to tackle piracy on a global scale. ACE has made many announcements over the past couple of years celebrating successful conclusions to multiple operations. Most relate to closures of file-hosting services, IPTV providers and other platforms involved in the unlicensed streaming of movies and TV shows. However, for reasons best known to the coalition, not all of its investigations are publicized. Many fly under the radar until visitors to once-active websites find themselves being directed to the ACE anti-piracy portal when they expected to find a ‘pirate’ platform. Four new domains have recently begun redirecting to ACE. The first,, comes as no surprise. In early March, ACE revealed that it had secured the closure of the IPTV supplier following a cease-and-desist order. “The closure of Aus Media Streaming is the latest in a series of victories that can protect Australian creators and ensure that legal services can continue to thrive,” said Karyn Temple, Senior Executive Vice President and Global General Counsel of the Motion Picture Association. The second fresh domain under ACE/MPA control is When it was online, the site asked prospective customers whether they wanted to watch “Every single movie, TV show, sporting event, documentary, kids TV and movie ever made, free?” Concluding that the answer must be “Of course you do”, the site then went on to offer Android-based set-top devices named Octo-Ninja and Ninja-Quad. It’s unclear what was in those devices but either a pre-loaded setup and/or a subscription-based IPTV service seems likely. Before it was taken down, the domain offered an Australian telephone number for people to get in touch. is the third domain. According to its now disappeared website and Facebook pages, it claimed to be the “top streaming service in Canada”, offering over 5,000 channels plus on-demand movies, TV shows, PPV and more from $9.99 per month. Various packages were made available by the site, varying in price according to subscription length and levels of content available. The site was previously targeted in a DMCA complaint after supplying German football content without permission. It also had a detailed disclaimer that clearly didn’t cut much ice with ACE. “We have no association with any of the IP channels shown or any of these products. TV channels and video content of the services are being provided without any liability from us regarding copyrights,” it began. “Per our knowledge all channels provided by the server sellers abide by all relevant countries copyright laws and any copyright issues must be taken up directly with the server owners. EMPIRETV.CA does not take any liability as to what is aired on the servers and EMPIRETV.CA have NO control over the servers or streams.” With now redirecting to the ACE portal, the fourth domain to be placed under the anti-piracy group’s control (or more accurately, that of the MPA) is Little is known about this supplier but given that it was previously offered via classified listings in Australia, it may have been focused on that region. Although nothing has been officially confirmed by ACE in respect of ‘seizing’ any of these domains, it seems likely that following pressure from the anti-piracy group, domains were handed over as part of a settlement. ACE has shuttered close to three dozen operations to date but publicized just a few.
  14. Google has removed the official Kodi download page from its search results, following a complaint from a copyright holder. The team behind the perfectly legal open-source software is disappointed that they're being inaccurately lumped together with pirate services. The same takedown notice also targeted the VLC media player, but those requests were rejected. Millions of people use the Kodi media player for their daily entertainment needs. While the open-source software is content-neutral, some third-party addons have given the tool a bad reputation by using it to offer pirated content. This isn’t anything the Kodi development team has control over. Luckily, most copyright holders realize this, but every now and then one appears having apparently missed the boat. And for Kodi, that can result in real damage. For example, this week we noticed that the official Kodi download page is no longer listed in Google’s search results. Looking more closely, we spotted that it was removed by Google following a DMCA takedown request. The takedown notice was sent a few weeks ago on behalf of the Turkish pay-TV service Digiturk, which is owned by the beIN Media Group. BeIN is known for its strong stance against piracy but in this case, it was too aggressive. “The infringed content is sports content (illegal video stream) branded and watermarked with the trademark/logo BEIN SPORTS HD,” Digiturk writes. The request identifies a series of URLs, many of which are associated with seemingly unauthorized IPTV services. However, it also lists, Kodi’s official download page. Generally speaking, Google is pretty good at spotting such errors but in this case the URL was removed, as mentioned at the bottom of related search results. Interestingly, Kodi was not the only legal open-source project that was targeted. The same notice also lists two URLs, which is the home of the popular media player VLC. Again, the download pages of the software were listed. Luckily for VLC, Google flagged these requests as incorrect, meaning that the pages remain available in Google’s search results. Kodi’s Keith Herrington is disappointed that their software is once again hit by the piracy stigma. “It’s unfortunate content companies continue to lump us and VLC together with services who are clearly in violation of copyright law by not only providing streams to their content but using their logo, etc and that Google doesn’t even bother to check or validate, they just remove. “It feels like a very ‘guilty until proven innocent’ model which I do not agree with,” Herrington adds. The Kodi Foundation has submitted a DMCA counter-notice to Google and hopes that their download page will reappear in search results in due course. Update: The Kodi team informed us that, in response to the counter-notice, Google restored the URL in the search results.
  15. As impressive as computers are becoming, they still pale in comparison to nature’s version – the brain. As such scientists have started designing computer chips that work in a similar way to the brain, using artificial neurons and synapses. Now Intel has unveiled its most powerful “neuromorphic” computing system to date. Named Pohoiki Springs, this system packs in 100 million neurons, putting it on par with the brain of a small mammal. Traditional computer chips are excellent at quickly crunching huge numbers that would make a human’s eyes water. But they aren’t as adept at abstract problems like spotting the difference between dogs and cats, which we can do seemingly without thinking. Machine learning is an emerging form of artificial intelligence that’s aiming to improve this. By training a system on thousands or millions of examples of what it needs to know, it can learn patterns and become very good at that type of task. And that’s the type of computing system that Intel is now experimenting with. The Loihi neuromorphic processor packs 130,000 artificial neurons and 130 million synapses, and functions like a human brain. Traditional computers process information in one area then pass it on to another for storage. But the Loihi – like the brain – performs both functions in the same spot, saving time and energy. Plus, the chip rewires its connections over time, boosting that efficiency further. Intel says that Loihi is as much as 1,000 times faster and 10,000 times more efficient at certain tasks than conventional processors. Just recently, for example, it was put to work identifying and categorizing smells in a new form of electronic nose. Pohoiki Springs is the latest and most advanced system to use this processor. It’s made up of 768 Loihi chips in one box the size of five standard servers. That boosts the number of neurons to an astounding 100 million, putting it in the ballpark of the brain of a small mammal. And best of all, it runs on a pretty small amount of power, unlike other energy-guzzling servers. This new system will be accessible via the cloud, allowing members of the Intel Neuromorphic Research Community (INRC) to tap into it to tackle more complex problems. “Pohoiki Springs scales up our Loihi neuromorphic research chip by more than 750 times, while operating at a power level of under 500 watts,” says Mike Davies, INRC director. “The system enables our research partners to explore ways to accelerate workloads that run slowly today on conventional architectures, including high-performance computing (HPC) systems.” Intel says Pohoiki Springs could be put to work in many different areas of computing, such as identifying optimal paths for driving directions or deliveries, minimizing risk in stock portfolio returns, or airline scheduling. Source: Intel