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In an about-face due to widespread pressure from the blogosphere, Google said Friday that it is rescinding its move to bar sexually explicit content on its free blogging platform, Blogger. Wikipedia Google announced Tuesday that starting March 23, bloggers using its platform would no longer be permitted to "publicly share images and video that are sexually explicit or show graphic nudity on Blogger." But a "ton of feedback" prompted Google to alter course. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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I wore these on my wedding day. You could say that Leonard Nimoy and Star Trek are pretty important to me. Jessica Arden photography Like a lot of people who were kids in the late '80s and early '90s, I was introduced to the Star Trek franchise by way of The Next Generation. But I didn't become a fan of the franchise until the (then) Sci-Fi Channel started showing reruns of the original series in the '90s. Those old shows could be an order of magnitude cheesier than TNG and its direct spin-offs ever were, but there was something captivating about the tense, slow burn of "The Doomsday Machine," the pathos of "The City on the Edge of Forever," or the science-fiction fun of "Mirror, Mirror." And then, of course, there's The Wrath of Khan, which is the only one of the many Trek films that's actually a great movie and not just a great Star Trek movie. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Star Trek was a revelation to me when I first watched it as a kid. I was too young to have seen the culture around the show during its initial run in the 1960s, though, which probably explains how I missed the five records put out by Leonard "Spock" Nimoy between 1967 and 1970. Cast members from every iteration of the show have exhibited an odd penchant for recording musical albums—everyone from Brent "Data" Spiner to Nichelle "Uhura" Nichols has cut a record. And William "Kirk" Shatner is of course legendary for his bizarro musical performances (if you haven't heard his cover of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, set three minutes aside to give it a listen). In 1991, Entertainment Weekly noted that "the show has inspired more misguided crooning careers than any other TV series." But Nimoy's efforts were a bit different. Though he did plenty of covers, including Johnny Cash's iconic "I Walk the Line," Nimoy wrote his own songs, too, like the creditable folk effort "Maiden Wine" from 1969's The Touch of Leonard Nimoy. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The BlackPhone, a $600-plus encrypted Android handset designed to keep the prying eyes of criminals and the government out of mobile communications, is now fully owned by Silent Circle thanks to the company raking in investment cash. Terms of the buyout deal with Spanish smartphone maker Geeksphone, the phone's hardware manufacturer, were not disclosed. Silent Circle said Thursday that it has raised $50 million and plans on showing off an encrypted "enterprise privacy ecosystem" at World Mobile Congress next week. A BlackPhone tablet is on the way, too. "Silent Circle has brought tremendous disruption to the mobile industry and created an integrated suite of secure enterprise communication products that are challenging the status quo," Mike Janke, cofounder and chairman of the Silent Circle board, said in a statement. "This first stage of growth has enabled us to raise approximately $50M to accelerate our continued rapid expansion and fuel our second stage of growth." Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Lenovo announced today that it will stop shipping PCs with adware and bloatware and that it now aims to be the "leader in providing cleaner, safer PCs." This response comes in the wake of a massive backlash after the company was found to be including bundled advertising software that completely broke the security provided by HTTPS. Lenovo's plan comes in two parts. First, the company will scale back preinstalled software. Its systems will include the operating system and any necessary drivers and software to make the hardware work (to, for example, support fingerprint readers or 3D cameras). It will also include some Lenovo applications (such as the ThinkVantage System Update software, which is a genuinely useful app for updating drivers and system firmware) and security software. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Leonard Nimoy: 2012 College of Fine Arts Convocation Address Leonard Nimoy, the actor best known for his role as Mr. Spock, the Vulcan first officer of the starship Enterprise from Star Trek: The Original Series, died on Friday at age 83. His wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, confirmed to the New York Times that the cause of death was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Nimoy announced that he had the disease last year and attributed it to his decades-long smoking habit, which he had given up three years before. As Spock, Nimoy brought joy to millions who identified with the half-human, half-Vulcan who was a hyper-logical hero on his starship, but who struggled with human emotions and was often an outcast to his human counterparts. (Well, Spock suffered the insufferable ribbing from Bones more frequently than other Star Trek characters.) His Vulcan salute—and his phrase “live long and prosper”—became a greeting shared frequently between Star Trek fans across the world. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Greetings, Arsians! Courtesy of our partners at TechBargains, the Dealmaster has arrived on the scene with a bountiful bag of beautiful bargains for your Friday shopping pleasure. Leading off today's edition is a watch. But not just any watch—it's the Casio Pathfinder Triple-Sensor digital watch. It powered by the Sun and has a titanium bracelet, making it lighter and more durable than stainless steel. It dishes up all sorts of handy data, including altitude, temperature, barometric pressure, tides, moon phase, compass direction, and more. Wait, there's more? Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Emulsifiers are used in processed foods, drugs, vitamins, vaccines, soaps, and cosmetics. They hold ingredients that generally don't like to be together, like oil and water, in a stable union. They are found in everyday products ranging from mouthwash to ice cream to salad dressing and barbecue sauce. When emulsifiers first came into vogue, they were classified by the government as GRAS—"generally regarded as safe"—because in animal studies designed to detect acute toxicity and/or carcinogenic properties, they exhibited neither. But their consumption in the Western world has risen dramatically over the late twentieth century, largely in tandem with inflammatory disorders like colitis and metabolic syndrome, a collective suite of obesity-associated diseases. That connection has prompted more refined safety studies on emulsifiers and other food additives. The results of some of this new work were published in Nature, implicating two specific emulsifiers in the development of colitis and metabolic syndrome in mice. The emulsifiers exert these effects by disturbing a mouse's microbial community. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Battery research is one of the hottest areas of materials science, with a steady stream of promising ideas emerging from research labs. But even though battery performance has steadily climbed, a lot of that progress is due to an evolution of existing technology rather than an adoption of more radical ideas floating around in labs. At the recent meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, two of the people who run some of these labs gave good descriptions of why it has been so difficult to translate promising results into revolutionary products. More capacity, lower price Stanford's Yi Cui showed a slide that laid out the goals of battery research very simply. Right now, batteries cost about $300 per each kiloWatt-hour of capacity. For the two largest use cases (electric vehicles and on-grid storage), we need that figure to drop to about $100 per kW-hr in order for the technology to compete with fossil-fuel-powered cars and generating facilities. For the grid, where the batteries are stationary, it doesn't matter how much they weigh. But for a more effective electric vehicle, we'd like to see the energy density rise from its present 200 W-hr/kg to about 600 W-hr/kg. Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The Federal Communications Commission chairman is expecting lawsuits challenging the FCC's net neutrality order, but is confident that this time the rules will survive. Verizon sued to block rules issued in 2010, and won when a federal appeals court said in January 2014 that the FCC erred by imposing per se common carrier regulations on broadband providers, which the FCC had never classified as common carriers. The latest net neutrality order, passed yesterday, fixes that, Wheeler said in a press conference after the vote. "The DC Circuit sent the previous Open Internet Order back to us and basically said, 'hey, you're trying to impose common carrier-like regulation without stepping up and saying, 'these are common carriers,'" Wheeler said yesterday. "We have addressed that issue, that is the underlying issue, that is the sine qua non of the all the debates we've had so far. That gives me great confidence going forward." Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Video: Our top 10 favorite sci-fi character moments. (video link) If you're reading Ars Technica, there's a good chance that you like science fiction in all its forms. As a storytelling medium, science fiction television has had its ups and downs—from the golden heyday of the 1960s with Star Trek, The Outer Limits, Twilight Zone, and others, to the dreck-y nadir of the late 1970s and early 1980s, where every vision of the future seemed made of dreary beige plastic, all the way through the modern renaissance heralded by Star Trek: the Next Generation and carried on today by a huge variety of shows. But at its very best, the science fiction we love has used its explosions and spaceships and wormholes and bumpy-headed aliens to tell us contemporary stories in an unconventional setting—often turning the status quo on its head to provide new insight into the way life and society works. There’s no such thing as good "lifeless" science fiction—the set and setting only take you so far. For a show to work, it needs believable characters that an audience can latch on to; we need to be able to buy into their motivations so that even if we don’t agree with them, we understand them. The very best science fiction television shows are the ones that succeed in establishing an ongoing emotional connection to the audience—the ones that make us actually care about the characters. In the video above, I’ve canvassed through four Ars favorites—Star Trek: The Next Generation, Battlestar Galactica, Babylon 5, and The X-Files—for ten of our favorite character moments. That’s ten instances where actors transcended the medium and wrung raw feeling out of the audience. I could have gone on forever picking awesome bits out of each show—and I could have included dozens more shows, too!—but I had to draw the line somewhere, so in the end I went with my gut and picked the moments that resonated most with me personally. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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We're still not entirely convinced of the in-game utility of Nintendo's Amiibo figures, even if the near-field communication plastic statues will soon unlock classic game demos on the Wii U. Regardless, the market can't seem to get enough of the little guys. Case in point: a limited-edition gold Mario Amiibo that is already reselling for up to $100 on eBay, a huge markup for the $13 MSRP. Preorders for the limited edition gold Mario, offered exclusively at Walmart in the US, sold out about 15 minutes after going up on the retailer's website yesterday, despite a reported limit of two Amiibos per household. If you missed that tiny window to buy one, don't worry, you can check out one of the 177 currently running auctions for the figurine on eBay. That includes one auction that has been bid up to $710 and another at $510, though the bidding history on those outlier prices makes us suspicious of their legitimacy. What seems more legitimate is the five completed "Buy It Now" listings that have already sold for $100 on the site. Even the cheapest Gold Mario Amiibos on eBay are going for $45, a nearly 250 percent markup. The median of the 140 completed auctions as of this writing is right around a $70 price. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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View Liveblog2015-02-27T12:00:00-06:00 My trip to Munich is over, and I've fully reintegrated back into the daily grind at the Ars Orbiting HQ. While I was there, however, I learned a ton of stuff about what GE is doing with what they call "the factory of the future"—giving machines doing manufacturing the ability to understand what they're doing and adapt on the fly to changes in conditions. As we wrap up our coverage of Munich and turn our eyes next to Sean Gallagher's trips to San Ramon and Niskayuna, this is your chance to ask about my adventures in Munich, the perils of international air travel, and maybe even a question or two about carbon fiber or jet engines. Or, heck, we can talk about ski injuries and their aftermath. Whatever questions you have, show up here at noon CST today, click the giant orange banner up at the top of this article, and for about an hour, I'm all yours. Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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After three full days in Munich, I rolled out of bed at 4:00am on Thursday to start the long trek home. First came an early cab ride at what in the US would be considered mostly extralegal speeds. Several unlimited speed stretches later, I was dropped off at Munich Airport to await the first of the day's two flights. Airport security in Germany wasn’t terribly different from going through the TSA pre-check line in the US—I didn’t have to take off my shoes, and although I did have to pull my laptop out, there was a simple metal detector instead of a more advanced imager. I was through it pretty quickly, though it probably helped that it was still only about 5:30am. On the way over, I’d flown Delta—first from Houston to Atlanta, and then across the ocean from Atlanta to Munich. However, my flights back were code-shared—each leg was actually going to be on KLM aircraft, with a Delta flight number sort of tagged onto the back. This was great because it meant that right off the bat, my business-class ticket got me into Munich Airport’s KLM lounge. I settled in for the thirty-minute wait to boarding with a steaming cup of coffee made from freshly ground beans and enjoyed the quiet. Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Ford has a plan to help cut car emissions, and this time it doesn’t have anything to do with batteries, hybrid powertrains, or clever engine technology. Instead, the company is focusing on improving the parking experience, and its answer involves a crowdsourced real-time database of occupied and empty parking spots across the country and remote control vehicles enabled by off-the-shelf commercial 4G LTE. At first glance that might not sound like it has much to do with reducing vehicle CO2 emissions, but according to Ford, their data shows that hunting for parking spaces in urban environments can account for between 20 and 30 percent of a vehicle’s emissions. To find out more about what Ford has been working on, we spoke with Mike Tinskey, director of vehicle electrification and infrastructure at Ford. He told Ars about a pair of research projects that the car maker has been working on as part of a larger program called Smart Mobility. Smart Mobility involves 25 different experiments and pilot studies around the world, but these two have both been developed in conjunction with a team at Georgia Tech here in the US; Ford has had a long-running relationship with the group, which Tinskey describes as being analogous to the company’s research and advanced modeling arm for sustainability. According to Tinskey, Smart Mobility exists at the intersection of mobility and sustainability, with the overall goal of finding novel ways to reduce CO2. "When you look for places to do that, you start looking at antiquated things like parking, where people waste a lot of time, and a lot of CO2," he said. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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US Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) today filed legislation to overturn the municipal broadband decision the Federal Communications Commission made earlier in the day. The FCC today voted to preempt state laws in North Carolina and Tennessee that prevent municipal broadband providers from expanding outside their territories. “The FCC’s decision to grant the petitions of Chattanooga, Tennessee and Wilson, North Carolina is a troubling power grab,” Blackburn said in a press release. “States are sovereign entities that have Constitutional rights, which should be respected rather than trampled upon. They know best how to manage their limited taxpayer dollars and financial ventures. Ironically, they will now be burdened by the poor judgment of a federal government that is over $18 trillion in debt and clearly cannot manage its own affairs." Read 19 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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On Thursday, Twitter announced that its abuse-report system, which was recently refined to simplify and shorten the reporting process, has now expanded to allow users to report content such as self-harm incidents and "the sharing of private and confidential information" (aka doxing). The announcement, posted by Twitter Vice President of User Services Tina Bhatnagar, explained that December's report-process update was met with a "tripling" of the site's abuse support staff, which has led to a quintupling of abuse report processing. "While we review many more reports than ever before, we’ve been able to significantly reduce the average response time to a fraction of what it was, and we see this number continuing to drop," Bhatnagar wrote. Thursday's update also mentioned "several new enforcement actions for use against accounts that violate our rules." Sources at Twitter have confirmed to Ars Technica that one of the site's new enforcement actions will include a contact-information verification system—a first for the service. This means that in certain situations where users have been warned or temporarily banned but not permanently suspended, they will be instructed to provide either an e-mail address or phone number to return to the service. Ars was told that for the time being, this verification wouldn't be applied to every warning or temporary ban. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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This week a nonprofit group filed a complaint (PDF) with the Federal Trade Commission asking it to investigate Samsung for violating its customers' privacy with its voice recording feature on its Samsung smart TVs. “Samsung routinely intercepts and records the private communications of consumers in their homes,” the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) wrote. “Samsung’s attempts to disclaim its intrusive surveillance activities by means of a 'privacy notice' do not diminish the harm to American consumers.” In an e-mail Samsung told Ars, “The claims made by EPIC are not correct and do not reflect the actual features of our Smart TV. Samsung takes consumer privacy very seriously and our products are designed with privacy in mind." Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously voted today to make Michelle Lee, formerly Google's patent chief, the director of the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). She still has to be confirmed by the full Senate, but that shouldn't be a problem after the smooth committee vote. USPTO directors have come from the tech sector before—the last director, David Kappos, was a top lawyer at IBM. But Lee's appointment marks the first time someone with a background from an Internet-focused company will take the helm at USPTO. While she was at Google, Lee became one of the most outspoken corporate lawyers on the problem of "patent trolls" plaguing the system with their lawsuits. She's already been the unofficial boss for two years, serving as "interim director" while the office waited for the White House to appoint someone. In June of last year, rumors started to trickle out of Washington that the White House was set to nominate Philip Johnson, a Johnson & Johnson lawyer. That suggestion sparked a major backlash among tech reformers. Nominating Johnson seemed like pouring salt in the wound, since tech was still smarting from the failure to pass a patent reform bill. Big pharma companies were key opponents of reform, and Johnson personally spoke out about some of the changes tech reformers were seeking. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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If there's anything I regret about our recent trip to Munich, it's that I didn't get a chance to see more of the city. Unfortunately, the constraints of production and travel timing meant I only had three days on the ground before I returned home, 10 to 12 hours of each of those three days were spent filming and conducting interviews with the scientists and researchers we were there to see. Consequently, I've got a lot of pictures of the composite manufacturing lab to share! Research center director Carlos Härtel shows us the all-carbon fiber "maypole" in the center's lobby. 15 more images in gallery .related-stories { display: none !important; } As far as Munich proper—München, if you're a local—the few spare hours we had weren't enough to do more than the most superficial bit of looking around. Still, we walked, saw Marienplatz and the Ratskeller, rode the subway, and snagged as many pictures as we could. I'll have more to say about my final Munich impressions in my next blog post, but here are some of our images from around town. A quick trip on an unrestricted section of the Autobahn in our rental car. Crazy speeding Americans coming through! 17 more images in gallery .related-stories { display: none !important; } Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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Verizon is just so mad at the Federal Communications Commission today that a normal press release wouldn't do. After all, Verizon issues so many press releases denouncing the FCC for trying to regulate telecommunications that today's vote on net neutrality required a special one to make sure it would be remembered. So Verizon wrote it in Morse code and set the date as "1934" to make the point that the FCC is taking us backward in time. Verizon sent out the press release in this e-mail: Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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LONDON—Today, I got to play around with Europe's (and probably the world's) fastest LTE network: when I opened up Speedtest.net, depending on how many people were standing in the room, my download speed was between 350 and 400Mbps, my upload speed was around 45Mbps, and my ping latency was just 20ms. Funny enough, beyond Speedtest.net, it is actually quite hard to use 400Mbps of bandwidth. When I loaded up a 4K video from YouTube, I only used around 40Mbps, or 10 percent, of my wireless uber-pipe. Ars Technica certainly loaded very quickly indeed. As it stands today, there are very few websites or services that will let you pull data down at 400Mbps, or where being able to download at 400Mbps even makes much sense. If we've learned anything from the last few decades of telecoms and networking, however, it's that Internet usage will always expand until every last inch of available bandwidth is consumed. So while 400Mbps might seem a little bit over the top today, in five years you'll probably wonder how you ever survived with anything less. For some background, I had a 400Mbps LTE connection at my disposal because I had been invited to Wembley Stadium in London to try out the first deployment of Category 9 LTE in the UK. It was a "live" deployment in that it used commercially available hardware, but it was still very much tech demo—the Cat 9 base station only covered a small portion of the stadium, and there were only a handful of devices in the world configured to connect to this specific LTE network. The LTE network was operated by EE (one of the UK's big four wireless carriers), the LTE base station was made by Huawei, and the mobile device that I used was a smartphone powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 SoC. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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On Thursday, Facebook's official "Diversity" account announced another sweeping change to the gender selection on users' profiles. Starting today, users of Facebook's English sites can type pretty much whatever they want into a custom box. "We recognize that some people face challenges sharing their true gender identity with others, and this setting gives people the ability to express themselves in an authentic way," the unnamed Diversity account holder said. This change follows in the footsteps of Facebook's decision last year to expand its gender options, which were previously limited to male, female, or no response. Just like the last update, users must type their preferred gender descriptor after choosing "other," and Facebook will suggest terms from its prior list like "androgynous" and "gender fluid." However, if users want to type in their own descriptor, they can now do so—and then choose whether that descriptor is shown publicly, to friends, or privately. Users can also still choose a preferred pronoun: him, her, or they/them. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The likelihood that the US will suffer from a "catastrophic" cyber attack is unlikely, the nation's top intelligence officer said Thursday. Instead, the country will be peppered with "low-to-moderate level cyber attacks," James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. "Cyber threats to US national and economic security are increasing in frequency, scale, sophistication, and severity of impact," according to the "Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community" (PDF) report that Clapper presented to lawmakers. "Rather than a 'Cyber Armageddon' scenario that debilitates the entire US infrastructure, we envision something different. We foresee an ongoing series of low-to-moderate level cyber attacks from a variety of sources over time, which will impose cumulative costs on US economic competitiveness and national security." Listing cyber attacks as the leading threat to national security over terrorism, the report said the government's "unclassified" IT systems supporting military, commercial, and social activities "remain vulnerable to espionage and/or disruption." The top nation-states where the threats are coming from include China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia, the report said. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Wednesday's hijacking of the Lenovo.com domain name and interception of the company's e-mail was pulled off by first hacking Web Commerce Communications, the registrar that procured the Lenovo address, security journalist Brian Krebs reported. In a post published Wednesday night, KrebsOnSecurity cited hackers Ryan King and Rory Andrew Godfrey as saying that the compromise of the Malaysia-based registrar was carried out by members of the fame-seeking group Lizard Squad. That's the same group connected to the Lenovo attack, since Web links to a Twitter account belonging to Lizard Squad members were embedded in the spoofed Lenovo website. Krebs wrote: Reached via instant message, both King and Godfrey said the Lizard Squad used a command injection vulnerability in Webnic.cc to upload a rootkit—a set of hacking tools that hide the intruder’s presence on a compromised system and give the attacker persistent access to that system. Webnic.cc is currently inaccessible. A woman who answered the phone at the company’s technical operations center in Kuala Lumpur acknowledged the outage but said Webnic doesn’t have any additional information to share at this time. “We’re still in the investigation stage,” said Eevon Soh, a Webnic customer support technician. It appears the intruders were able to leverage their access at Webnic.cc to alter the domain name system (DNS) records for the Google and Lenovo domains, effectively giving them the ability to redirect the legitimate traffic away from the domains to other servers—including those under the attackers’ control. The Lenovo.com hijacking was foiled in the early stages thanks to the vigilance of engineers at CloudFlare, a service that helps improve the performance and security of websites. Armed with control over the Lenovo domain, the attackers transferred its registration to redirect to CloudFlare nameservers. The CloudFlare engineers spotted the abnormality and quickly returned control of the domain to its rightful owner. With the hijacking foiled, the attackers tweeted what appeared to be a valid code that authorizes the transfer of a domain from one registrar to another. The attackers reportedly carried out a similar hijacking of a Google domain name earlier this week. Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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