Tech News

FDA finds new toxic hand-sanitizer ingredient, expands warning to 157 products

Science - Posted On:2020-08-14 15:45:00 Source: arstechnica

The US Food and Drug Administration is yet again expanding its warnings of toxic hand sanitizers—this time, not just after finding additional dangerous products; the FDA also found an additional toxic ingredient.

The FDA this week announced that it has identified hand sanitizers that contain 1-propanol, a toxic form of alcohol not yet seen in contaminated products. If ingested, it can cause confusion, unconsciousness, slowed pulse and breathing, and even death.

The ever-growing “do-not-use” list of dangerous hand sanitizers now includes 157 products. You can see the entire list of dangerous products here on the FDA’s website. Below is a sampling of some labels of the dangerous products.

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Medical Debt Collection Firm R1 RCM Hit in Ransomware Attack

Ransomware - Posted On:2020-08-14 15:15:00 Source: krebsonsecurity

R1 RCM Inc. [NASDAQ:RCM], one of the nation’s largest medical debt collection companies, has been hit in a ransomware attack.

Formerly known as Accretive Health Inc., Chicago-based R1 RCM brought in revenues of $1.18 billion in 2019. The company has more than 19,000 employees and contracts with at least 750 healthcare organizations nationwide.

R1 RCM acknowledged taking down its systems in response to a ransomware attack, but otherwise declined to comment for this story.

The “RCM” portion of its name refers to “revenue cycle management,” an industry which tracks profits throughout the life cycle of each patient, including patient registration, insurance and benefit verification, medical treatment documentation, and bill preparation and collection from patients.

The company has access to a wealth of personal, financial and medical information on tens of millions of patients, including names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, billing information and medical diagnostic data.

It’s unclear when the intruders first breached R1’s networks, but the ransomware was unleashed more than a week ago, right around the time the company was set to release its 2nd quarter financial results for 2020.

R1 RCM declined to discuss the strain of ransomware it is battling or how it was compromised. Sources close to the investigation tell KrebsOnSecurity the malware is known as Defray.

Defray was first spotted in 2017, and its purveyors have a history of specifically targeting companies in the healthcare space. According to Trend Micro, Defray usually is spread via booby-trapped Microsoft Office documents sent via email.

“The phishing emails the authors use are well-crafted,” Trend Micro wrote. For example, in an attack targeting a hospital, the phishing email was made to look like it came from a hospital IT manager, with the malicious files disguised as patient reports.

Email security company Proofpoint says the Defray ransomware is somewhat unusual in that it is typically deployed in small, targeted attacks as opposed to large-scale “spray and pray” email malware campaigns.

“It appears that Defray may be for the personal use of specific threat actors, making its continued distribution in small, targeted attacks more likely,” Proofpoint observed.

A recent report (PDF) from Corvus Insurance notes that ransomware attacks on companies in the healthcare industry have slowed in recent months, with some malware groups even dubiously pledging they would refrain from targeting these firms during the COVID-19 pandemic. But Corvus says that trend is likely to reverse in the second half of 2020 as the United States moves cautiously toward reopening.

Corvus found that while services that scan and filter incoming email for malicious threats can catch many ransomware lures, an estimated 75 percent of healthcare companies do not use this technology.

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New Google Chrome feature makes it easier to browse privately

Security - Posted On:2020-08-14 15:15:00 Source: bleepingcomputer

Google is implementing a new feature in its Chrome Canary build that allows users to create a Windows desktop shortcut that automatically launches the browser into Incognito mode. [...]

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DNC, RNC To Test Limits of Virtual Events as Election Enters Final Stage

politics - Posted On:2020-08-14 15:15:00 Source: slashdot

The Democratic and Republican nominating conventions, long mainstays of the US presidential election cycle, have been forced online, creating the biggest test yet for conducting life remotely during the coronavirus. From a report: Robbed of the energy of convention halls, the parties will seek to re-create that enthusiasm in high-production streaming events that beam their luminaries from around the country to online audiences. The Democrats, whose convention begins on Monday after a roughly month-long delay, have lined up the party's most visible figures, including former President Barack Obama. The Republicans, who will make their case for four more years in the White House, grab the spotlight on Aug. 24. Done with savvy and pizzazz, the Democrats and Republicans could galvanize support for their candidates -- former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump, respectively -- despite the absence of cheering crowds, over-amplified rock music and blizzards of confetti. If technical glitches hobble the proceedings, the parties risk broadcasting a mammoth Zoom call derailed by freezes, connection mishaps and mute fails. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Trump admin. finally kills off Obama-era rule limiting methane emissions

Policy - Posted On:2020-08-14 14:59:59 Source: arstechnica

The Environmental Protection Agency this week finalized a rule that kills off Obama-era limitations on how much methane, a potent greenhouse gas, oil and natural gas producers are allowed to emit into the atmosphere—even though industry leaders didn't want the changes.

The changes to the rules, known as the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS), remove some segments of the industry from being covered under the existing standards at all, and these changes also lift the methane caps on other segments, the EPA announced on Thursday.

The oil and gas industry basically splits into three big buckets of activity: upstream, meaning the actual drilling for oil or gas; midstream, which is the world of storage and pipelines; and downstream, that last mile where products are refined and sold. The current changes apply to the downstream and midstream segments, as the EPA broke down in a graphic (PDF).

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Over 25% of all UK universities were attacked by ransomware

Security - Posted On:2020-08-14 14:45:00 Source: bleepingcomputer

A third of the universities in the United Kingdom responding to a freedom of information (FOI) request admitted to being a victim of a ransomware attack. These represent more than 25% of the universities and colleges in the country. [...]

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. takes final bow with high-octane journey through time

Gaming & Culture - Posted On:2020-08-14 14:15:00 Source: arstechnica

Agent Phil Coulson and his plucky team of superheroes battled an alien race of Chronicoms in a high-octane journey through multiple time periods in the seventh and final season of ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It's always been a fun show, even when the narrative occasionally went bonkers—honestly, especially then—with compelling characters that kept you coming back each week. The seventh and final season brought a pronounced sense of playfulness to the show's pre-existing strengths, effectively saving its best season for last and tying everything together in a satisfying two-part finale.

(Some spoilers below, but no major plot twists.)

The spin-off series created by The Avengers writer and Director Joss Whedon brought Coulson (Clark Gregg) back from the dead to lead an elite squad of agents to take on the terrorist group Hydra, eventually incorporating a superhuman race called Inhumans into the storyline.

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Google Has Stopped Responding To Data Requests from Hong Kong Authorities

technology - Posted On:2020-08-14 14:14:59 Source: slashdot

Google will stop responding to requests for data from Hong Kong authorities with the search giant instead directing requests for user data to a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with the United States that is done in conjunction with the Department of Justice. From a report: The move comes after a new national security law imposed by China curbed political expression. Although Hong Kong officials have said that the law would only target a "small minority," human rights groups such as Amnesty International are concerned that police will use the new law as a way to crack down on government critics with those that are found guilty potentially facing life imprisonment. Google, Facebook and Twitter each announced in July that they were pausing the review of the Hong Kong government requests for user data to study the new law, with Google now taking the next step in stopping responding directly. "Since the new national security law was enacted in June, we have not produced data in response to new requests from Hong Kong authorities and that remains the case," a Google spokesperson tells CNET in a statement. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Ripped chemical bags added to risk of Beirut blast

Policy - Posted On:2020-08-14 13:45:00 Source: arstechnica

Lebanese officials knew that more than half the bags of a 2,750-ton stockpile of ammonium nitrate that caused a deadly explosion in Beirut were damaged six years ago but took no action to dispose of the chemical.

A 2014 inspection report by Beirut port authorities, seen by the Financial Times, labels the chemical as “explosives” and said that 1,950 of the 2,750 one-tonne bags filled with the chemical were “torn." Photos of the stockpile taken the following year, also seen by the FT, show the huge sacks appearing to be stacked haphazardly on top of each other and ammonium nitrate spilling from large rips in the industrial bags.

The evidence will increase concerns that negligence and poor management were the root cause of the blast at the port, which killed more than 170 people and devastated the capital. Prime Minister Hassan Diab blamed “political corruption” for the tragedy as he resigned on Monday.

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SpaceX Starlink speeds revealed as beta users get downloads of 11 to 60Mbps

Biz & IT - Posted On:2020-08-14 13:30:00 Source: arstechnica

Beta users of SpaceX's Starlink satellite-broadband service are getting download speeds ranging from 11Mbps to 60Mbps, according to tests conducted using Ookla's speedtest.net tool. Speed tests showed upload speeds ranging from 5Mbps to 18Mbps.

The same tests, conducted over the past two weeks, showed latencies or ping rates ranging from 31ms to 94ms. This isn't a comprehensive study of Starlink speeds and latency, so it's not clear whether this is what Internet users should expect once Starlink satellites are fully deployed and the service reaches commercial availability. We asked SpaceX several questions about the speed-test results yesterday and will update this article if we get answers.

Links to 11 anonymized speed tests by Starlink users were posted by a Reddit user yesterday. Another Reddit user compiled some of the tests to make this graphic:

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Epic’s battle for “open platforms” ignores consoles’ massive closed market

Gaming & Culture - Posted On:2020-08-14 13:15:00 Source: arstechnica

Yesterday, Epic used Fortnite to essentially wage open war against Apple's and Google's mobile app marketplaces. First it added a discounted "Epic Direct Payment" option alongside the standard iOS App Store and Google Play payment options in Fortnite, in direct violation of those stores' policies.

Then, when Fortnite was predictably removed from both platforms, Epic filed lawsuits against both companies, alleging "anti-competitive restraints and monopolistic practices" in the mobile app marketplace. That move came alongside a heavy-handed PR blitz, including a video asking players to "join the fight to stop 2020 from becoming '1984.'"

But through this entire public fight for "open mobile platforms," as Epic puts it, there is one major set of closed platforms that the company seems happy to continue doing business with. We're speaking, of course, about video game consoles.

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SpaceX Starlink beta tests show speeds up to 60Mbps, latency as low as 31ms

Biz & IT - Posted On:2020-08-14 13:15:00 Source: arstechnica

Beta users of SpaceX's Starlink satellite-broadband service are getting download speeds ranging from 11Mbps to 60Mbps, according to tests conducted using Ookla's speedtest.net tool. Speed tests showed upload speeds ranging from 5Mbps to 18Mbps.

The same tests, conducted over the past two weeks, showed latencies or ping rates ranging from 31ms to 94ms. This isn't a comprehensive study of Starlink speeds and latency, so it's not clear whether this is what Internet users should expect once Starlink satellites are fully deployed and the service reaches commercial availability. We asked SpaceX several questions about the speed-test results yesterday and will update this article if we get answers.

Links to 11 anonymized speed tests by Starlink users were posted by a Reddit user yesterday. Another Reddit user compiled some of the tests to make this graphic:

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Epic's Battle For 'Open Platforms' Ignores Consoles' Massive Closed Market

apple - Posted On:2020-08-14 13:15:00 Source: slashdot

Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo demand the same platform control -- and the same 30% fee. From a report: Yesterday, Epic used Fortnite to essentially wage open war against Apple's and Google's mobile app marketplaces. First it added a discounted "Epic Direct Payment" option alongside the standard iOS App Store and Google Play payment options in Fortnite, in direct violation of those stores' policies. Then, when Fortnite was predictably removed from both platforms, Epic filed lawsuits against both companies, alleging "anti-competitive restraints and monopolistic practices" in the mobile app marketplace. That move came alongside a heavy-handed PR blitz, including a video asking players to "join the fight to stop 2020 from becoming '1984.'" But through this entire public fight for "open mobile platforms," as Epic puts it, there is one major set of closed platforms that the company seems happy to continue doing business with. We're speaking, of course, about video game consoles. The major console makers also all exercise full control over what games and apps can appear in their own walled gardens. When it comes to iOS, Epic says that "by blocking consumer choice in software installation, Apple has created a problem so they can profit from the solution." When it comes to consoles, Epic is silent about the same state of affairs. In this sense, consoles are even more restrictive than Android, where games and apps (including Fortnite) can be sideloaded without using the Google Play Store. Yet Google has earned a lawsuit for its role in this state of affairs, while the console makers have remained undisturbed. In addition to the business implications, console makers' total control of their marketplaces also has a direct impact on the types of content that players get to play. Any game that receives an Adults Only rating from the ESRB isn't welcome on any of the three major consoles, for instance. And if you want to use UWP to code an N64 emulator that works on the Xbox One, Microsoft will pull it down as quickly as it can. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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As Epic attacks Apple and Google, it ignores the same problems on consoles

Gaming & Culture - Posted On:2020-08-14 13:00:00 Source: arstechnica

Yesterday, Epic used Fortnite to essentially wage open war against Apple's and Google's mobile app marketplaces. First it added a discounted "Epic Direct Payment" option alongside the standard iOS App Store and Google Play payment options in Fortnite, in direct violation of those stores' policies.

Then, when Fortnite was predictably removed from both platforms, Epic filed lawsuits against both companies, alleging "anti-competitive restraints and monopolistic practices" in the mobile app marketplace. That move came alongside a heavy-handed PR blitz including a video asking players to "join the fight to stop 2020 from becoming '1984.'"

But through this entire public fight for "open mobile platforms," as Epic puts it, there is one major set of closed platforms that the company seems happy to continue doing business with. We're speaking, of course, about video game consoles.

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Emotet malware strikes U.S. businesses with COVID-19 spam

Security - Posted On:2020-08-14 12:45:00 Source: bleepingcomputer

The Emotet malware has begun to spam COVID-19 related emails to U.S. businesses after not being active for most of the USA pandemic. [...]

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Google Resumes Its Attack on the URL Bar, Hides Full Addresses on Chrome 86

technology - Posted On:2020-08-14 12:30:00 Source: slashdot

An anonymous reader shares a report: Google has tried on and off for years to hide full URLs in Chrome's address bar, because apparently long web addresses are scary and evil. Despite the public backlash that came after every previous attempt, Google is pressing on with new plans to hide all parts of web addresses except the domain name in Chrome 86, this time accompanied by an admittedly hover animation. The new look builds upon the animation-less hover reveal that's already in testing, but in contrast to that method, the improved variant also displays the protocol and the subdomain, which remain invisible in the older version. That's achieved with a neat sliding animation that moves over the visible part of the URL to make space for the strings preceding it. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Tesla research partnership progresses on new battery chemistry

Science - Posted On:2020-08-14 12:00:01 Source: arstechnica

Electric vehicles have come a long way in terms of going a long way on a charge. But everyone is still seeking the next big jump in battery technology—a battery with significantly higher energy density would mean more range or lower costs to hit the current range. There is always some room for incremental progress on current lithium-ion battery technology, but there is a lithium holy grail that has remained out of reach for decades: ditching its graphite anode to shrink the cell.

A lithium metal battery would simply use solid lithium as the anode instead of requiring a graphite framework for lithium atoms to tuck into as the battery charges. The problem is that the lithium doesn't form an order surface during recharging, so the battery capacity drops drastically—declining to 80 percent within 20 charge cycles in some configurations. Rogue lithium also tends to build up dangerous, branching, needle-like structures that can pierce the separator between the anode and cathode and short-circuit the cell.

Last year, a Dalhousie University lab group with ties to Tesla developed a lithium metal battery with somewhat better performance. Lithium atoms electroplate onto a copper electrode as the battery charges and then move back into a conventional lithium-nickel-manganese-cobalt cathode as charge depletes. Through a new electrolyte, they were able to get this battery to last about 90 cycles before hitting 80 percent capacity to control the nasty short-circuit problem.

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Disney+ will show a Lego Star Wars Holiday Special on Wookiee Life Day

Gaming & Culture - Posted On:2020-08-14 11:15:00 Source: arstechnica

Do you have celebration plans for Wookiee Life Day? According to Disney, it's the galaxy's "most cheerful and magical holiday," so on November 17, the company will celebrate the event on Disney+ with a Lego Star Wars Holiday Special. Set immediately after Rise of the Skywalker, Rey and BB-8 go on a journey through the nine-film timeline that promises to give screen time to goodies and baddies current and past. Except it's all done in Lego, so painted tongues will be firmly in plastic cheeks.

I've been a huge fan of the more irreverent take that Lego brings to the Star Wars universe since the cut scenes in Lego Star Wars II—whose heart wouldn't melt when Darth Vader whips out a Polaroid to prove to Luke that he's really his dad? And the more recent Lego Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures stands head and shoulders above Star Wars Resistance, at least to this middle-aged nerd.

All of this gives me faith that this new special won't suck. The original Star Wars Holiday Special is widely reviled by fans as the single worst thing to have come from that far, far away galaxy. It was a TV special aired in 1978, long before George Lucas' swashbuckling in space had become the cultural behemoth we know today. The plot involves Han and Chewie visiting Kashyyyk to celebrate Life Day, where apparently they meet his dad (called Itchy) and his son (called Lumpy). I say "apparently" because it never aired in the UK where I grew up, so I was mercifully spared as a child and I've never quite had a big enough masochistic streak to track down a copy in the decades that have followed.

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People slept on comfy grass beds 200,000 years ago

Science - Posted On:2020-08-14 11:15:00 Source: arstechnica

Fragments of glassy petrified grass and microscopic traces of plant material, dating to around 200,000 years ago, are all that’s left of a Paleolithic hunter-gatherer’s bed in the back of Border Cave. In the same part of the rock shelter, archaeologists found layers of ash with more recent (as in only around 43,000 years old) and better-preserved leaves of dried grass laid on top, as if people had burned their old, dirty bedding and then laid fresh, clean sheaves of grass over the ashes—the rock shelter version of changing the sheets.

The finds shed light on an aspect of early human life that we rarely get to consider. Most of the artifacts that survive from more than a few thousand years ago are made of stone and bone; even wooden tools are rare. That means we tend to think of the Paleolithic in terms of hard, sharp stone tools and the bones of butchered animals. Through that lens, life looks very harsh—perhaps even harsher than it really was. Most of the human experience is missing from the archaeological record, including creature comforts like soft, clean beds.

Until now, the oldest bedding archaeologists had ever found came from another South African site called Sibudu, where people 77,000 years ago had piled up layers of grasslike wetland plants called sedge, mixed with assorted medicinal plants, and occasionally burned the old layers. Some modern people in parts of Africa also use plants as bedding in similar ways. The Border Cave find shows that people have been making comfy sleeping pallets out of grass for at least 200,000 years—nearly as long as there have been Homo sapiens in the world.

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China Sets Trial Run For Digital Yuan in Top City Hubs

slashdot - Posted On:2020-08-14 11:15:00 Source: slashdot

Chinese authorities will expand test use of the country's prototype digital currency across the nation's three leading urban clusters centered on Beijing, Shanghai and the southern cities of Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong. From a report: The move, announced by the Ministry of Commerce, expands the coverage area for testing the cyber currency to a potential user base of around 400 million, or 29% of the country's population. It has been trialed since April in four cities with a combined population of 41 million, Work on the digital yuan, which is intended to be interchangeable with the country's paper currency, started more than five years ago but accelerated after Facebook unveiled its Libra digital currency project in June 2019. Rising concerns that the U.S. could try to throttle China's access to the global dollar-based financial system, amid mounting tensions between Washington and Beijing, have fed further interest in the effort. "The digital yuan as a competitor of the greenback is more of a long-term phenomenon," said Andrew Collier, managing director of financial research company Orient Capital Research in Hong Kong. "Digitalization doesn't address the lack of free convertibility of the yuan," he said. "However the digitalization of the currency and other settlement systems gives an advantage to its (China's) institutions, which will be significant when the currency is liberalized." Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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