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Enlarge (credit: Malwarebytes) The website belonging to Maisto International, a popular maker of remote-controlled toy vehicles, has been caught pushing ransomware that holds visitors' files hostage until they pay a hefty fee. Malicious files provided by the Angler exploit kit were hosted directly on the homepage of Maisto[.]com, according to antivirus provider Malwarebytes. The attack code exploits vulnerabilities in older versions of applications such as Adobe Flash, Oracle Java, Silverlight, and Internet Explorer. People who visit Maisto[.]com with machines that haven't received the latest updates are surreptitiously infected with the CryptXXX ransomware. Fortunately for victims in this case, researchers from Kaspersky Lab recently uncovered a weakness in the app that allows users to recover their files without paying the extortion demand. People infected with ransomware in other drive-by attacks haven't been so lucky. According to Malwarebytes Senior Security Researcher Jerome Segura, the infection on the Maisto homepage was discovered by fellow researchers at website security firm Sucuri. One of the company's tools has detected the site was running an out-of-date version of the Joomla content management system, which is presumed to be the way attackers were able to load the malicious payloads on the homepage. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Cortana at work in Windows 10. (credit: Microsoft) Windows 10 will still let you pick a default browser that isn't Edge, and even if you use Edge or Internet Explorer, it will continue to let you pick a default search engine other than Bing. But in a change which goes into effect today, Web searches that use the Cortana-driven search box in the Windows 10 taskbar will no longer give you any choice: they will always open in Bing, and they will always use Edge to do so. Microsoft explains that it is making this change because of the smarter capabilities that it has built in to its Cortana digital personal assistant, and the integration this requires of the browser and search engine. For example, the company says that a search for "Pizza Hut" in Cortana will, when opened up in Edge, show locations and directions and rich information. Plans are afoot to make this feature more capable and extensive; eventually you will be able to ask Cortana to "get tickets to Rihanna show," and Windows will find appropriate tickets and streamline a customer's purchase. This integration requires a common understanding of entities and semantic information about what is being searched for, and how to present this data. Microsoft can offer that in its own platform, but has no consistent, reliable way to do this with other browsers or search engines. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: Christiaan Colen) The two US lawmakers behind legislation requiring the tech sector to build backdoors in encrypted products are playing the terrorism card. In an editorial Thursday in the Wall Street Journal, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) stoke fears that our personal safety is tied to their proposed legislation. The pair cite what they called an "islamic State-inspired attack last year in Garland, Texas" and the non terror-related murder of a Louisiana pregnant woman named Brittney Mills. "These are two of the many cases where law enforcement is unable to fully investigate terrorism or criminal activities. In fact, today the FBI is unable to gain access to data on many of the mobile devices they obtain that are password protected," the lawmakers write. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: Google Fiber) Google Fiber is available in Nashville, Tennessee, its fifth metro area, but for now is only installed in four apartment and condominium buildings, The Tennessean reported yesterday. "The milestone comes 15 months after Google Fiber announced Nashville as a new market," the paper said. "In the meantime, existing providers AT&T and Comcast have upped their own fiber rollout in Middle Tennessee and have begun offering the ultra-fast connection to area homes and apartments." A Google Fiber official said it intends to "connect the lion's share of Nashville," including single-family homes, multi-dwelling units, and small businesses, but it's not clear when that will happen. A list of the four buildings where Google Fiber is already installed can be found here, along with a list of many more buildings where "fiber is coming." The four Nashville buildings where Fiber is installed have a little more than 1,110 housing units combined. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A surprisingly large number of developers are posting their Slack login credentials to GitHub and other public websites, a practice that in many cases allows anyone to surreptitiously eavesdrop on their conversations and download proprietary data exchanged over the chat service. According to a blog post published Thursday, company researchers recently estimated that about 1,500 access tokens were publicly available, some belonging to people who worked for Fortune 500 companies, payment providers, Internet service providers, and health care providers. The researchers privately reported their findings to Slack, and the chat service said it regularly monitors public sites for posts that publish the sensitive tokens. Still, a current search on GitHub returned more than 7,400 pages containing "xoxp." That's the prefix contained in tokens that in many cases allow automated scripts to access a Slack account, even when it's protected by two-factor authentication. A separate search uncovered more than 4,100 Slack tokens with the prefix "xoxb." Not all results contained the remainder of the token that's required for logging in, but many appeared to do just that. By including valid tokens in code that's made available to the world, developers make it possible for unscrupulous people to access the private conversations between the developers and the companies they work for and to download files and private Web links they exchange. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Our Alphabet org chart. Welcome the new hardware division. (credit: Ron Amadeo) Google is building a hardware division. That's according to a report from Re/code, which says that Google is forming a new division with former Motorola president Rick Osterloh at the helm. Motorola was the old "Google hardware division" that Google decided it didn't want. Osterloh originally joined Google via the company's Motorola purchase in 2011 and was named CEO of the Motorola after Dennis Woodside left. Google sold Motorola to Lenovo in 2014, and Osterloh left Motorola last month after some Lenovo "reorganization" at Motorola. Google has now snapped him up. Osterloh becomes a senior vice president at Google, which puts the hardware group on equal footing with Android, Ads, Search, and YouTube. According to the report, the Google Hardware Division will absorb most of the hardware projects inside Google. There's the good stuff from the Chrome/Android division like Nexus devices, Chromecasts, and Chromebooks, along with Google and Alphabet's struggling hardware projects that haven't had much of a home—OnHub, ATAP (the Advanced Technology and Projects group), and Google Glass. OnHub was born in Alphabet's "Access" division that also houses Google Fiber. OnHub is a router that promises to someday become a smart home device but so far it hasn't materialized. ATAP has yet to ship an actual piece of hardware and recently had its leader—former DARPA head Regina Dugan—leave for Facebook. Google Glass failed rather spectacularly in the public and later become a forgotten-about group under Tony Fadell's leadership, but not part of Nest. Re/code notes that there's also apparently a new "living room" group in the hardware division. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: Getty Images | Martin Hospach) The Federal Communications Commission today proposed new price regulations for so-called “business data services,” potentially bringing Comcast and other cable companies under a type of regulatory regime that already applied to phone companies such as AT&T and Verizon. The price rules won’t extend to home Internet or the typical broadband service that companies buy to get their employees online. Instead, this form of data connectivity—also called “special access”—is sometimes thought of as the Internet equivalent of a barrel of oil. Even if you don’t know what a barrel of oil costs, its price affects how much you pay for gas. Similarly, special access prices can affect what ordinary consumers pay for mobile broadband. Wireless carriers buy special access to supply bandwidth for their cellular data networks, so the prices charged can indirectly affect the monthly bills paid by smartphone users. Read 18 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The low end of the Chromebook market is well-served, partly because Chromebooks do best in the cash-strapped education market and because the simplicity (and limitations) of ChromeOS are a better fit for budget hardware. For people who want something high-end, there’s always the $999 Chromebook Pixel, but that leaves a big space in between for people who want to make something that looks and feels nice but doesn’t cost a ton. Certainly, there have been efforts. The Toshiba Chromebook 2 had a gorgeous 1080p IPS screen but a relatively weak Intel CPU. Dell’s Chromebook 13 is solidly mid-range, though the best features (including a 1080p screen, faster chips, and more RAM) are reserved for the higher-end models. And now there’s the HP Chromebook 13, which is merely a decent Chromebook at its $499 starting price but a full-on Chromebook Pixel competitor if you’re willing to pay more. At $499, you get a 13.3-inch 1080p screen, a Skylake-based 1.5GHz Pentium 4405Y (which despite its name is a relative to the low-power Core M), 4GB of 1866MHz DDR3 RAM, and a 1080p screen, which isn’t bad for the price. A Core M-derived Pentium is still going to deliver stronger performance (particularly in the single-threaded CPU and the graphics departments) than the Atom-derived Celerons and Pentiums that ship in many low-end Chromebooks. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A remake of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is apparently in the works after the official Call of Duty Twitter account replied to a 16-month-old tweet with two emoji: pile of poo and jeans. @ngusvanderslott — Call of Duty (@CallofDuty) April 27, 2016 In December 2014, Angus Varderslott announced that he would "literally shit [his] pants" with excitement if he ever learned of a Call of Duty 4 remaster. Call of Duty 4 was a landmark title. It was the first Call of Duty game set in the present day, after a series of World War II-themed titles, and it set the standard for "cinematic" first-person shooters. While these days the series is derided as being rather formulaic and linear, the first Modern Warfare title held genuine surprises, with an extraordinarily tense sniper mission in the ruins of Pripyat (the Ukrainian city abandoned after the Chernobyl disaster) and the death of one of the player characters in the aftermath of a nuclear strike. The tweet reply suggests that Varderslott had better take a trip to the laundry. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Forza 6 Apex's weather effects weren't shown in motion beyond a mere trailer tease, so we're curious whether rain detail will impact 4K performance. (credit: Microsoft/Turn 10) After its late-February tease, Microsoft Studios and Turn 10 are finally ready to unleash the Forza Motorsport racing series on PCs—and as we reported at the game's reveal event, it's coming in an unusual way. Forza Motorsport 6 Apex will launch exclusively on Windows 10 PCs on Thursday, May 5, in the form of a free "open beta" downloadable from the Windows Store. Based on our early Apex impressions, PC players are essentially getting a limited trial version of last year's Xbox One racer as opposed to a particularly new experience. Having seen Forza 6 Apex in the flesh, we know the game will be a huge conversation starter for PC gamers for many reasons. For one, if high-end PC owners can replicate the 4K-resolution, 60-frames-per-second performance that we saw on Turn 10's monstrous test rig, they'll be in for the most incredible public demo of DirectX 12 technology yet released. Forza 6 Apex's real-time demo looked incredible, as that silky-smooth refresh rate faced zero stutters while rendering giant textures and gorgeous lighting effects. Nighttime racing in 4K. 6 more images in gallery .related-stories { display: none !important; } On the other hand, it remains to be seen exactly how well Apex will scale on weaker PCs; Turn 10 currently recommends at least a 3.7Ghz i3 processor and 2GB of VRAM. Also, since the game is tied to the beleaguered Universal Windows Platform (UWP), users may once more face issues like the inability to disable v-sync and a forced borderless, full-screen mode. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Senator Ted Cruz. (credit: Gage Skidmore) Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) clearly needs to fire whoever buys domain names for him. The Republican presidential contender, having already lost the obvious TedCruz.com—settling for TedCruz.org—missed out Wednesday on the predictable URL to incorporate his new running mate, Carly Fiorina. The former CEO of Hewlett-Packard herself ran as a GOP presidential candidate but dropped out earlier this year after failing to gain much traction with Republican voters. According to Politico, GOP consultant Matt Mackowiak “made the snap decision” to buy CruzFiorina.com as news of Cruz’ vice presidential pick broke. For his part, Cruz settled on CruzCarly.com. Mackowiak re-directed his domain to a donation page for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The Nexus 9. Yesterday we got news of two new Nexus devices, and today we're losing a Nexus device. It looks like the Nexus 9 is dead. The tablet has been unceremoniously removed from the Google Store—the product page now just redirects to the generic Nexus listing page, and the "tablets" link in the navigation bar now points to the Pixel C only. RIP, Nexus 9. The HTC-built Nexus 9 had a rough life. The Nvidia Tegra-powered tablet launched in November 2014 to a very poor reception. The supposedly "premium" tablet had a squishy back, the backlight leaked, sometimes the buttons didn't work, and the device was generally not worth its $400 price tag. It hit the bargain bin almost immediately, with HTC selling it for half price a day after launch. As an Android tablet, its apps were neglected by developers and Google, and it was resigned to a life of running stretched-out phone apps forever. It even failed as a Nexus device, taking a whopping two months to be updated to Android 5.1. The Nexus 9 was replaced by the better-but-still-not-good Pixel C, which improved on the N9 with a metal body and removable keyboard, but it was still a tough sell at $499 with unfinished software. Now Google's troubled tablet can be laid to rest. Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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Artist's rendition of the horde of DDoS requests coming at your router. Rainbow Six: Siege players are complaining that the game continues to make their global IP address available to other players, putting those players at risk for DDoS attacks from bitter opponents. The problem seems to stem from the way the game implements voice chat between players. Back in September, Ubisoft confirmed that while the game uses dedicated servers to host matches, it still uses direct, peer-to-peer connections "strictly to support voice and chat comms for a team." Beta players began noticing almost immediately that this infrastructure decision presents a pretty big security hole when playing with strangers on the Internet. This netcode analysis from January shows how a simple packet sniffer like NetLimiter could easily reveal the IP addresses of all other players in the match, even though voice chat is only available between teammates during a match. Armed with these IP addresses, unscrupulous players could easily use any number of services to initiate a DDoS attack to remove opposing players from the game. There's a decent amount of evidence that many players were doing just that to gain a leg up in ranked matches, with some managing to climb the in-game ranking ladder despite awful play statistics. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Greetings, Arsians! Courtesy of our partners at TechBargains, we have a number of deals to share today. The highlight is a great deal on the Dell Optiplex 5040 compact desktop—save big on this tiny PC and get it now for just $725 instead of the usual $1,270. This compact desktop has been recently redesigned to be even more space-efficient, measuring 3.6-inches wide and 11.4-inches high, and it supports Core i7 Skylake processors. It's ideal for anyone who wants to save on space but doesn't want to compromise on computing power. Don't forget to check out the rest of our deals below. Featured Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Elizabeth Parrish (credit: YouTube) Elizabeth Parrish, CEO of the biotech company BioViva, claims that her body's cells are 20 years younger after testing her company’s age-reversing gene therapy on herself. The 45-year old Seattle-area woman, who has no scientific or medical training, underwent the experimental treatment last September in an undisclosed clinic in Colombia. The unorthodox, overseas trial, which was designed to skirt US federal regulations, prompted the resignation of one of the company’s scientific advisors. George Martin of the University of Washington quit after telling MIT Technology Review, "This is a big problem. I am very upset by what is happening. I would urge lots of preclinical studies.” Though details of the fast-tracked trial are unpublished, Parrish says it involved intravenous infusions of an engineered virus. That infectious germ carried the genetic blueprints for an enzyme called telomerase, which is found in humans. When spread to the body’s cells, the enzyme generally extends the length of DNA caps on the ends of chromosomes, which naturally wear down with cellular aging. In a 2012 mouse study, Spanish researchers found that similar treatment could extend the lifespan of the rodents by as much as 20 percent. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Landing a vehicle as large as a Dragon spacecraft on Mars would be unprecedented. (credit: SpaceX) SpaceX announced an audacious plan on Wednesday to land an approximately 6,000kg spacecraft on the surface of Mars. This simple declaration from the uber-popular rocket company drew a ton of questions from all quarters, and Ars spoke to a range of people across the space industry to get some answers. How big a milestone would this be? Can SpaceX do it? Is the plan realistic? And why does Rice play Texas, anyway? (OK, we didn't actually try to figure out that last one.) Is this really a big deal? Oh, heavens, yes. No private company has ever launched a significant, independently financed expedition into deep space, let alone all the way to Mars. In fact, only two world powers have ever softly landed spacecraft on Mars. The United States has done so half a dozen times, and the Soviet Union did it once with Mars 3 in 1971—although the vehicle failed after sending back just 15 seconds of data. And all previous soft landings have been relatively small and light; SpaceX is talking about landing a Dragon weighing about 6,000kg on the surface of Mars. The previous landing heavyweight was Curiosity, at 900kg. Soft-landing a 6,000kg object on Mars would be a stunning achievement for NASA or any government-backed space agency. For a private company, it's unheard of. Can they do it? Why not? In just the last six months, SpaceX has successfully launched and then recovered the first stages of multiple Falcon 9 rockets, first landing them on the ground and then later landing on an autonomous drone ship. SpaceX is known for making bold promises, and—eventually—delivering on them. However, the company has missed deadlines before, and making the 2018 launch window to Mars will be a real challenge. Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Ars Technica Live, episode 1: Meat. (video link) Welcome to the first episode of Ars Technica Live, a monthly series of in-depth interviews with people working at the intersections of technology, science, and culture. In this episode, your Ars hosts Annalee Newitz and Cyrus Farivar interviewed Stanford anthropologist Krish Seetah about his research on the deep history of butchery before a live audience at Longitude, a tiki bar in Oakland, California. Seetah gave us a fascinating look at how the technologies and morality of butchery have shaped humanity for millions of years—and our discussion inspired an intense debate with some of the attendees. Butchery evolved before humans Seetah's first job when he was growing up in the neighborhood of Brixton in London was as a butcher's assistant. He told us about how his many years as a butcher shaped his understanding of meat and ultimately became a major part of his interests as a scholar. He's worked on studies that look at early humans' relationships with animals, as well as the technologies we've developed from animal products like wool, and he is now working on a book-length project about the early history of butchery. He pointed out immediately that there is evidence that the ancestors of Homo sapiens were butchering animals with stone tools nearly 2.5 million years ago. That's long before our ancestors invented fire and, indeed, long before Homo sapiens evolved some 200,000 years ago. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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HP HP's all-metal Chromebook 13 is evocative of the Chromebook Pixel. 6 more images in gallery .related-stories { display: none !important; } People who like Chrome OS but don't like the cheap low-end hardware it normally comes on or the expensive, aging Chromebook Pixel take note: HP and Google have announced a new 13-inch Chromebook that includes many of the Pixel's best features, but does it for a starting price of $499. That's half the $999 starting price of the Pixel, though it's still about twice as expensive as the cheapest Chromebooks. The Chromebook 13's specs definitely deliver, though you'll need to drop more money to get the really impressive specs. It's got an aluminum enclosure with a soft-touch material on the bottom, and its rounded hinge is more than a little evocative of the Pixel. Higher-end models have a 3200×1800 IPS display, even higher than the 2560×1700 of the Pixel, while lower-end models get a still-reasonable 1080p panel. It has two USB Type-C ports for charging, data, and display output, which also makes it compatible with HP's Elite USB-C Docking Station (PDF), and it includes one standard USB Type-A port for compatibility with existing accessories. Base models use 4GB of RAM, though 8GB and 16GB configurations are also available, and all models include 32GB of internal eMMC storage and an SD card reader. It also uses a range of Skylake Core M processors, from the Pentium 4405Y at the low end to the m7-6Y75 at the high end. All of these chips ought to provide more performance than the cheaper Atom-derived Celeron and Pentium chips in cheaper Chromebooks but should still allow for a fanless design while maintaining decent performance. It's 0.51 inches (12.9mm) thick, comparable to other Core M laptops, and it weighs 2.89 pounds (1.29 kg). 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 round out the wireless capabilities, and HP promises 11.5 hours of battery life while browsing. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: Flickr) Sony shipped 17.7 million PlayStation 4 consoles over the fiscal year ended March 31, bringing the total number of consoles shipped to an impressive 40 million. The strength of the PS4 helped Sony to reach its first full-year profit in three years, bringing in ¥‎147.8 billion (£936 million, $1.36 billion). Last year the company reported a loss of ¥126 billion (£798 million, $1.16 billion). Strong demand for the PS4 and games led to an 11.8 percent jump in sales for Sony's Game and Network Services division. Interestingly, Sony's PlayStation Network alone brought in ¥529 billion (£3.3 billion, $4.9 billion) in raw sales, which is more than the whole of Nintendo brought in (¥504 million, £3.1 billion, $4.6 billion) for its last fiscal year. While Sony's new-found profitability marks a dramatic turnaround for a company that has struggled to deliver consistent profits over the past decade, not all of it is performing well. Breaking it down by quarter, Sony actually made a ¥88.3 billion (£559 million, $816 million) loss in its fourth quarter, booking a charge against its chip business, as well as assessing damage from an earthquake that shut down its main plant for camera sensors. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Tobias Lortzing) Nature is, it’s often said, red in tooth and claw. But sometimes a claw scratches someone’s back in return for a symbiotic scratch of one’s own. Ants provide many examples of such mutually beneficial arrangements. As weird as it sounds, drinking the “blood” of a wounded bittersweet nightshade plant appears to be one of them. Ants and plants are often good friends (leafcutters aside) because ants prey on insects that munch on the plants. Some plants keep ants on retainer by secreting nectar from special structures (fittingly called “nectaries”) that can be found in various parts of the plant. The acacia tree even goes as far as growing hollow thorns that ants can nest inside when they aren’t dining on the gourmet ant food the tree provides. (Full disclosure: acacias also drug the ants so they can’t live off other food sources. It’s a complicated relationship...) The benefits the tree obtains from its ant security detail apparently outweigh the energetic costs of these lavish gifts. Something a little more subtle is going on with the bittersweet nightshade plant. A group of researchers led by Tobias Lortzing of the Free University of Berlin noticed that this nightshade bleeds sugary droplets when damaged, rather than quickly closing up its wounds. Seeing ants hit up those droplets for a snack, they wondered whether the plant adapted to call in ant support when herbivores come a-munching. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Google Play on Windows! It could happen some day. (credit: Ron Amadeo / Microsoft / Google) Earlier this week, some Chrome OS code surfaced that suggested the Google Play Store would bring "millions" of Android apps to Chrome OS. Google has experimented with Android apps on Chrome OS, but now it seems poised to unleash the full collection of Android apps onto the "browser only" operating system. There's no official word from Google on how this will play out, but the very architecture of Google's Android-apps-on-Chrome OS implementation opens some interesting possibilities. The feature is possible because of the "App Runtime for Chrome (ARC)," a project that implements the Android runtime on top of Chrome's "Native Client" extension architecture. Native Client is a Chrome sandboxing technology that was designed with performance and portability in mind, allowing plugins to run at "near native" speeds by taking full advantage of the system's CPU and GPU. ARC took a big step last year when it added support for the Google Play Services APIs, which many Play Store apps depend on to work. The Play Store on Chrome OS would open Google Play apps to a new form factor (horrible Android laptops notwithstanding), but it could also be the tip of the iceberg. Remember, ARC is just a Chrome extension, so it works everywhere desktop Chrome works. If the full Google Play Store comes to ARC, it would be possible for it to work on not just Chrome OS, but also Chrome's other host desktop operating systems: Windows, OS X, and Linux. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The Web browser is likely the most used piece of software on the average computing device. Yet despite its ubiquity, there is relatively little competition in the browser space. These days even experienced users would be hard pressed to tell the difference between the major offerings. Internet Explorer's new Edge incarnation is slightly different, but Firefox, Chrome, and even Opera are indistinguishable both in appearance and features available. There may be some small differences, but for the most part a Web browser is a Web browser is a Web browser. This is especially true when there's no Web browser. The rise of the embedded browser in mobile apps has very nearly eliminated the need for a dedicated one if you spend most of your time in mobile applications. But the disappearance of the browser is not a bad thing. The point after all is not the browser—it's the Web it accesses. Read 39 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: Apple) Following the huge success of Apple’s ResearchKit—which connected tens of thousands of patients with clinical research in its first year—comes the release today of its medical sibling, the open source platform CareKit. First unveiled by Apple last month, the platform is set up to be a springboard for apps that will allow users to manage their own health through mobile devices. Specifically, the platform includes four modules designed to allow patients to: monitor their progress through medical treatment plans; aggregate health and activity data via device sensors and manual logs; analyze that data in graphical interfaces; and share all of the information with health professionals and care takers by easily creating PDF files that can be e-mailed. (credit: Glow) The goal, according to Apple, is to empower patients to control and personalize their own medical care while providing doctors with more complete pictures of their patients’ health and progress. Inspiration for the new platform came from ResearchKit users who, after logging and tracking health data in apps, felt as though their phones were more in tune with their medical status than their doctors. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The new, "improved" United Cyber Caliphate—the power of four jihadi hacktivist cells fused together like some sort of cyber-Voltron. The Islamic State has been deft in its use of the Internet as a communications tool. ISIS has long leveraged social media to spread propaganda and even coordinate targets for attacks, using an ever-shifting collection of social media accounts for recruitment and even to call for attacks on individuals ISIS leaders have designated as enemies. But the organization's efforts to build a sophisticated internal “cyber army” to conduct information warfare against the US and other powers opposing it have thus far been fragmented and limited in their effectiveness—and more often than not they've been more propaganda than substance. Now, ISIS is taking another crack at building a more credible cyber force. As analysts from Flashpoint note in a report being published today (entitled "Hacking for ISIS: The Emergent Cyber Threat Landscape"), ISIS earlier this month apparently merged four separate pro-ISIS “cyber” teams into a single group called the United Cyber Caliphate. “Until recently, our analysis of the group's overall capabilities indicated that they were neither advanced nor did they demonstrate sophisticated targeting,” said Laith Alkhouri, Director of Research & Analysis for the Middle East and North Africa and a co-founder at Flashpoint. “With the latest unification of multiple pro-ISIS cyber groups under one umbrella, there now appears to be a higher interest and willingness amongst ISIS supporters in coordinating and elevating cyber attacks against governments and companies.” Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Microsoft is buying ten million strands of DNA from biology startup Twist Bioscience to investigate the use of genetic material to store data. The data density of DNA is orders of magnitude higher than conventional storage systems, with 1 gram of DNA able to represent close to 1 billion terabytes (1 zettabyte) of data. DNA is also remarkably robust; DNA fragments thousands of years old have been successfully sequenced. These properties make it an intriguing option for long-term data archival. Binary data has already been successfully stored as DNA base pairs, with estimates in 2013 suggesting that it would be economically viable for storage of 500 years or more. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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