Tech News

MacOS Malware Used Run-Only AppleScripts To Avoid Detection For Five Years

it - Posted On:2021-01-15 22:44:58 Source: slashdot

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: For more than five years, macOS users have been the targets of a sneaky malware operation that used a clever trick to avoid detection and hijacked the hardware resources of infected users to mine cryptocurrency behind their backs. Named OSAMiner, the malware has been distributed in the wild since at least 2015 disguised in pirated (cracked) games and software such as League of Legends and Microsoft Office for Mac, security firm SentinelOne said in a report published this week. But the cryptominer did not go entirely unnoticed. SentinelOne said that two Chinese security firms spotted and analyzed older versions of the OSAMiner in August and September 2018, respectively. But their reports only scratched the surface of what OSAMiner was capable of, SentinelOne macOS malware researcher Phil Stokes said yesterday. The primary reason was that security researchers weren't able to retrieve the malware's entire code at the time, which used nested run-only AppleScript files to retrieve its malicious code across different stages. As users installed the pirated software, the boobytrapped installers would download and run a run-only AppleScript, which would download and run a second run-only AppleScript, and then another final third run-only AppleScript. Since "run-only" AppleScript come in a compiled state where the source code isn't human-readable, this made analysis harder for security researchers. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Facebook Uses AI To Predict If COVID-19 Patients Will Need More Care

technology - Posted On:2021-01-15 21:14:58 Source: slashdot

Facebook is harnessing the power of artificial intelligence to help doctors predict whether they will need more resources, such as extra oxygen to care for COVID-19 patients in hospitals. CNET reports: The social network said Friday it developed two AI models, one based on a single chest X-ray, and another from a series X-rays, that could help forecast if a patient infected by the coronavirus is likely to get worse. A third model predicts the amount of extra oxygen a COVID-19 patient might need. Facebook's AI models generally did a better job than a human when it came to forecasting up to four days in advance if a patient will need more intensive care resources. Partnering with with New York University Langone Health's Predictive Analytics Unit and Department of Radiology, Facebook's AI research is another example of how tech companies are trying to help the health industry battle COVID-19. [...] Facebook's models rely on a technique in which AI learns on its own rather than depending on data labelled by humans, which can be a time-consuming process. The social network and NYU are publishing their research and open sourcing the AI models. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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GitLab oversaw a $195 million secondary sale that values the company at $6 billion

Cloud - Posted On:2021-01-15 21:00:00 Source: techcrunch

GitLab has confirmed with TechCrunch that it oversaw a $195 million secondary sale that values the company at $6 billion. CNBC broke the story earlier today. The company’s impressive valuation comes after its most recent 2019 Series E in which it raised $268 million on a 2.75 billion valuation, an increase of $3.25 billion in […]

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Report: Xbox’s “instant on” feature could consume 4 billion kWh by 2025 [Updated]

Gaming & Culture - Posted On:2021-01-15 20:59:59 Source: arstechnica

[Update (8:45 ET): A Microsoft spokesperson provided Ars with the following statement: Users are given a choice during setup between the two power modes for the console: energy saving and instant on. To ensure players can select the option they prefer, they are not opted-in to either power mode by default. At Microsoft, we are committed to sustainability and, as we begin a new generation of gaming with Xbox Series X|S, we’re continuing to explore how we can reduce our environmental impact across the product life cycle - from conceptualization, design, production, and packaging, to what happens once our consoles are in the hands of consumers and at their end-of-life. As part of this commitment, we are evaluating additional methods to highlight the benefits of energy saving mode, but have nothing further to share at this time.]

Original Story

The "instant on" feature on new Xbox Series S/X consoles could suck up a total of 4 billion kWh—the equivalent of a year's operation for a large power plant—from US owners alone through 2025. That's according to a preliminary report released this week from the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmentally focused nonprofit advocacy group.

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Extra Crunch roundup: antitrust jitters, SPAC odyssey, white-hot IPOs, more

eCommerce - Posted On:2021-01-15 20:30:00 Source: techcrunch

Some time ago, I gave up on the idea of identifying a thread that could connect each story in this weekly roundup. There are no unified theories for technology news.

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Amazon.com and 'Big Five' Publishers Accused of eBook Price-Fixing

news - Posted On:2021-01-15 20:29:59 Source: slashdot

Amazon.com and the "Big Five" publishers -- Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster -- have been accused of colluding to fix ebook prices, in a class action filed by the law firm that successfully sued Apple and the Big Five on the same charge 10 years ago. The Guardian reports: The lawsuit, filed in district court in New York on Thursday by Seattle firm Hagens Berman, on behalf of consumers in several US states, names the retail giant as the sole defendant but labels the publishers "co-conspirators." It alleges Amazon and the publishers use a clause known as "Most Favored Nations" (MFN) to keep ebook prices artificially high, by agreeing to price restraints that force consumers to pay more for ebooks purchased on retail platforms that are not Amazon.com. The lawsuit claims that almost 90% of all ebooks sold in the US are sold on Amazon, in addition to over 50% of all print books. The suit alleges that ebook prices dropped in 2013 and 2014 after Apple and major publishers were successfully sued for conspiring to set ebook prices, but rose again after Amazon renegotiated their contracts in 2015. "In violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act, Defendant and the Big Five Co-conspirators agreed to various anti-competitive MFNs and anti-competitive provisions that functioned the same as MFNs," the complaint states. "Amazon's agreement with its Co-conspirators is an unreasonable restraint of trade that prevents competitive pricing and causes Plaintiffs and other consumers to overpay when they purchase ebooks from the Big Five through an ebook retailer that competes with Amazon. That harm persists and will not abate unless Amazon and the Big Five are stopped." The suit seeks compensation for consumers who purchased ebooks through competitors, damages and injunctive relief that would require Amazon and the publishers to "stop enforcing anti-competitive price restraints." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Apple Plans First iMac Desktop Redesign In Nearly a Decade

hardware - Posted On:2021-01-15 19:59:58 Source: slashdot

In addition to upgraded MacBook Pros, Bloomberg reports that Apple is also "planning the first redesign of its iMac all-in-one desktop computer since 2012," as it shifts away from Intel to its own silicon. From the report: The new models will slim down the thick black borders around the screen and do away with the sizable metal chin area in favor of a design similar to Apple's Pro Display XDR monitor. These iMacs will have a flat back, moving away from the curved rear of the current iMac. Apple is planning to launch two versions -- codenamed J456 and J457 -- to replace the existing 21.5-inch and 27-inch models later this year, the people said, asking not to be identified because the products are not yet announced. The new models will use next-generation versions of Apple's Mac processors like the upcoming 2021 MacBook Pros. The iMac redesign will be one of the biggest visual updates to any Apple product this year, according to people familiar with the company's roadmap. Apple is also working on a pair of new Mac Pro desktop computers, its priciest Mac machines that don't come with a screen included, the people said. One version is a direct update to the current Mac Pro and will continue to use the same design as the version launched in 2019. Apple has discussed continuing to use Intel processors for that model rather than moving to its own chips. The second version, however, will use Apple's own processors and be less than half the size of the current Mac Pro. The design will feature a mostly aluminum exterior and could invoke nostalgia for the Power Mac G4 Cube, a short-lived smaller version of the Power Mac, an earlier iteration of the Mac Pro. Apple has also reportedly started development of a cheaper external monitor to sell alongside the Pro Display XDR. "The cheaper monitor would feature a screen geared more for consumer than professional use and wouldn't have the brightness and contrast ratio of the top-tier offering," reports Bloomberg. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Xbox's 'Instant On' Feature Could Consume 4 Billion kWh By 2025

games - Posted On:2021-01-15 19:14:59 Source: slashdot

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The "instant on" feature that's activated by default on new Xbox Series S/X consoles could suck up a total of 4 billion kWh -- the equivalent of a year's operation for a large power plant -- from US owners alone through 2025. That's according to a preliminary report released this week from the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmentally focused nonprofit advocacy group. As the name implies, the "instant on" feature of the Series S/X (and the Xbox One before it) lets users skip the usual startup time when turning the console back on. That saves about 10 to 15 seconds of waiting per power cycle on the Series S/X, down from about 45 seconds on the Xbox One. "Instant on" standby also lets the system check periodically for system updates in order to download and install them in between play sessions. But leaving the "instant on" feature active means the Xbox Series S/X draws nine to 10 watts of power 24 hours a day -- even when it's not being actively used -- compared to less than 1W if the standby settings are switched to "energy saving" mode. The Xbox Series S/X initially drew 25 to 28W of "instant on" standby power at launch, but a recent firmware update caused a dramatic reduction, placing the new systems below the ~13W drawn by the Xbox One's "instant on" mode. The PlayStation 5, by contrast, uses between 1 and 2 watts when sitting idle in "rest mode." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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GitLab raises $195M in secondary funding on $6B valuation

Cloud - Posted On:2021-01-15 18:45:00 Source: techcrunch

GitLab has confirmed with TechCrunch that it raised a $195 million secondary round on a $6 billion valuation. CNBC broke the story earlier today. The company’s impressive valuation comes after its most recent 2019 Series E in which it raised $268 million on a 2.75 billion valuation, an increase of $3.25 billion in under 18 […]

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Calculations Show It'll Be Impossible To Control a Super-Intelligent AI

science - Posted On:2021-01-15 18:29:59 Source: slashdot

schwit1 shares a report from ScienceAlert: [S]cientists have just delivered their verdict on whether we'd be able to control a high-level computer super-intelligence. The answer? Almost definitely not. The catch is that controlling a super-intelligence far beyond human comprehension would require a simulation of that super-intelligence which we can analyze. But if we're unable to comprehend it, it's impossible to create such a simulation. Rules such as "cause no harm to humans" can't be set if we don't understand the kind of scenarios that an AI is going to come up with, suggest the authors of the new paper. Once a computer system is working on a level above the scope of our programmers, we can no longer set limits. Part of the team's reasoning comes from the halting problem put forward by Alan Turing in 1936. The problem centers on knowing whether or not a computer program will reach a conclusion and answer (so it halts), or simply loop forever trying to find one. As Turing proved through some smart math, while we can know that for some specific programs, it's logically impossible to find a way that will allow us to know that for every potential program that could ever be written. That brings us back to AI, which in a super-intelligent state could feasibly hold every possible computer program in its memory at once. Any program written to stop AI harming humans and destroying the world, for example, may reach a conclusion (and halt) or not -- it's mathematically impossible for us to be absolutely sure either way, which means it's not containable. The alternative to teaching AI some ethics and telling it not to destroy the world -- something which no algorithm can be absolutely certain of doing, the researchers say -- is to limit the capabilities of the super-intelligence. It could be cut off from parts of the internet or from certain networks, for example. The new study rejects this idea too, suggesting that it would limit the reach of the artificial intelligence -- the argument goes that if we're not going to use it to solve problems beyond the scope of humans, then why create it at all? If we are going to push ahead with artificial intelligence, we might not even know when a super-intelligence beyond our control arrives, such is its incomprehensibility. That means we need to start asking some serious questions about the directions we're going in. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Daily Crunch: WhatsApp responds to privacy backlash

Mobile - Posted On:2021-01-15 18:14:59 Source: techcrunch

WhatsApp delays enforcement of a controversial privacy change, Apple may get rid of the Touch Bar in future MacBooks and Bumble files to go public. This is your Daily Crunch for January 15, 2021. The big story: WhatsApp responds to privacy backlash Earlier this month, WhatsApp sent users a notification asking them to consent to […]

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The Week in Ransomware - January 15th 2021 - Locking you up

Security - Posted On:2021-01-15 17:44:59 Source: bleepingcomputer

It has been another quiet week for ransomware, though we did have some interesting stories come out this week. [...]

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With Trump’s vaccine rollout in chaos, Biden unveils five-point plan

Science - Posted On:2021-01-15 17:44:59 Source: arstechnica

President-elect Joe Biden on Friday unveiled a five-point plan to try to rescue the country’s beleaguered COVID-19 vaccination campaign and achieve his stated goal of reaching 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office.

The five steps include, in brief:

“The vaccine rollout in the United States has been a dismal failure thus far,” Biden said in speech. These five things are an attempt to turn things around, to “turn frustration into motivation.”

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Hackers alter stolen regulatory data to sow mistrust in COVID-19 vaccine

Biz & IT - Posted On:2021-01-15 17:44:59 Source: arstechnica

Last month, the makers of one of the most promising coronavirus vaccines reported that hackers stole confidential documents they had submitted to a European Union regulatory body. On Friday, word emerged that the hackers have falsified some of the submissions’ contents and published them on the Internet.

Studies of the BNT162b2 vaccine jointly developed by pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech found it’s 95 percent effective at preventing COVID-19 and is consistently effective across age, gender, race, and ethnicity demographics. Despite near-universal consensus among scientists that the vaccine is safe, some critics have worried it isn’t. The hackers appear to be trying to stoke those unsupported worries.

Data unlawfully accessed by the hackers “included internal/confidential email correspondence dating from November, relating to evaluation processes for COVID-19 vaccines,” the European Medicines Agency based in Amsterdam said in a statement. “Some of the correspondence has been manipulated by the perpetrators prior to publication in a way which could undermine trust in vaccines.”

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University of Florida Asks Students To Use App To Report Professors Who Don't Teach In Person

technology - Posted On:2021-01-15 17:44:59 Source: slashdot

jyosim writes: Professors at the University of Florida are outraged that the university essentially put a "tattle" button on a campus safety app that lets students report if professors aren't teaching in person. Apparently more than 100 professors there have asked to teach online for health reasons but have been denied, and administrators worry that they'll just teach online anyway. Professors feel the app is akin to a "police state." "The university spokesperson said that administrators had heard that some professors 'would simply refuse to teach an in person class if that's what they were supposed to be doing,' so they added the feature, which rolled out this week as spring classes began," reports EdSurge. An email was sent to all students on Monday that encouraged them to use the app if they saw any 'inconsistencies' in course delivery." In response, Daniel A. Smith, chair of the university's political-science department, wrote in a letter: "Emulation of police states is not a good look for a university devoted to the education of democratic citizens. What sort of message does this send to our students?" On Twitter, professor Lisa S. Scott said she was "more than a little disturbed" by the move, adding, "@UF do better. We've been working our asses off for you through all of this." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Wandavision premieres in ways that would never work on ABC—and that’s great

Gaming & Culture - Posted On:2021-01-15 17:14:59 Source: arstechnica

The modern era of Marvel Comics television has been a jumpy one, with ABC and Netflix dividing-and-conquering based on available comic series, exclusivity deals, and otherwise trying not to step on Marvel Studios' gargantuan toes. Fans got some fascinating television out of the process, but those network deals eventually fizzled—perhaps not coincidentally, right around the time that the Disney corporate umbrella began plotting its own content-filled streaming service.

As a result, today's premiere of Wandavision on Disney+ is far from the first TV series with clear links to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But it's definitely the clearest one yet. Take two major actors from repeat MCU films, slap them into the first-ever TV series that opens with a Marvel Studios logo, and you've got yourself one massive statement of intent.

As if that weren't gutsy enough, Wandavision goes further in terms of ambition with a two-part series premiere that will befuddle fans and outsiders alike. After over a year of squint-worthy reveals, with hints of black-and-white TV throwbacks and superhero-filled intrigue, we have 65 minutes of goofiness, dread, and a sense that this weird series is only going to get weirder.

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Amazon Warehouse Workers To Decide Whether To Form Company's First US Union

news - Posted On:2021-01-15 17:14:59 Source: slashdot

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: Some 6,000 workers at Amazon's warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., will begin voting next month on a groundbreaking possibility: the first union in the company's U.S. history. The National Labor Relations Board on Friday scheduled the vote by mail because of coronavirus concerns. It will begin Feb. 8 and continue through March 29. Workers at one of Amazon's newest facilities are deciding whether to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Friday's ruling came after the agency facilitated a hearing, in which Amazon and the retail-workers union hashed out who should be included in the bargaining unit and how the vote should take place. Both parties agreed that hundreds of seasonal workers should be eligible to cast ballots. The NLRB rejected Amazon's calls for a traditional in-person vote in favor of balloting by mail. "The biggest thing is Amazon is one of the biggest employers in the United States and they're heavily, heavily anti-union," said Arthur Wheaton of The Worker Institute at Cornell University. "So if you can start to get some of their U.S.-based (workers) successfully organized with the union, then that could lead to other cities also doing that." Amazon has said that between March and mid-September, it employed almost 1.4 million front-line workers across Amazon and Whole Foods in the United States. The company has argued the petitioners did not represent "the majority of our employees' views" and touted the warehouse facility's pay and benefits. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Google to kill Chrome Sync feature in third-party browsers

Security - Posted On:2021-01-15 16:30:00 Source: bleepingcomputer

Google says that it will block third-party Chromium web browsers from using private Google APIs after discovering that they were integrating them although they're intended to be used only in Chrome. [...]

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Report: Xbox’s “instant on” feature could consume 4 billion kWh by 2025

Gaming & Culture - Posted On:2021-01-15 16:30:00 Source: arstechnica

The "instant on" feature that's activated by default on new Xbox Series S/X consoles could suck up a total of 4 billion kWh—the equivalent of a year's operation for a large power plant—from US owners alone through 2025. That's according to a preliminary report released this week from the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmentally focused nonprofit advocacy group.

As the name implies, the "instant on" feature of the Series S/X (and the Xbox One before it) lets users skip the usual startup time when turning the console back on. That saves about 10 to 15 seconds of waiting per power cycle on the Series S/X, down from about 45 seconds on the Xbox One. (This is separate from the Xbox Series S/X's heavily promoted "quick resume" feature that loads the game state for recent titles directly from the system's fast SSD storage and works in either mode)

"Instant on" standby also lets the system check periodically for system updates in order to download and install them in between play sessions. But leaving the "instant on" feature active means the Xbox Series S/X draws nine to 10 watts of power 24 hours a day—even when it's not being actively used—compared to less than 1W if the standby settings are switched to "energy saving" mode.

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Google Removing Inadvertent Ability for Chromium Browsers To Access Chrome Bookmarks, Sync

it - Posted On:2021-01-15 16:30:00 Source: slashdot

Besides the intended differences, web browsers based on Chromium offer an underlying experience that's mostly identical to Chrome. Google recently discovered that users of third-party Chromium browsers have inadvertently been able to access data and other sync features reserved for Chrome. From a report: "Some" Chromium browsers today can leverage features and APIs that are "only intended for Google's use." This includes Click to Call and, notably, Chrome Sync. The latter is responsible for syncing bookmarks, extensions, history, settings, and more across signed-in devices running the first-party browser. As a result, users logged into Google sites on Chromium browsers are able to see their old bookmarks and other data from previous Chrome usage. This inadvertent access was discovered during a recent audit and Google will be "limiting access to [its] private Chrome APIs" from March 15th. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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