posted 11 days ago on ars technica
final gather / flickr In June, the US Supreme Court decided the Alice v. CLS Bank case, tweaking patent law in a way that suggests a lot more patents should be thrown out as overly abstract. Samsung hoped that case would allow it to knock out two patents that Apple had successfully used against it in the long-running patent war between the two smartphone leaders. Last month, Samsung lawyers filed papers arguing that Apple's patents on universal search and "swipe-to-unlock" are exactly the type of basic ideas that the US Supreme Court wants to see rejected. US District Judge Lucy Koh has now ruled that Samsung won't get a last-minute Alice reprieve. In a short five-page order (PDF), Koh found that Samsung didn't raise any defenses from the area of patent law that Alice relates to, Section 101, and it can't do so now. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
401(k) 2012 Comcast’s proposed $45.2-billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable has been criticized by angry customers, consumer advocacy groups, and even some members of Congress. But Comcast has plenty of support, too, much of it from politicians and organizations that benefit from its political and charitable donations. With the deadline to submit initial comments on the merger to the Federal Communications Commission set to expire Monday, a number of elected officials and charities have urged the FCC to think favorably of Comcast during its merger review. Charities supporting the acquisition include the Greater Washington Urban League, the Urban League of Broward County in Florida, the Boys and Girls Club of Rockford, Illinois, and the United Way of Tucson in Arizona. "Comcast has dedicated itself to advancing organizations like ours through financial support and partnerships," the Greater Washington Urban League wrote. Read 19 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
Almost two weeks ago in Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown. The incident kicked off protests in the racially divided town, and Wilson has been in hiding since the shooting. Four days ago, a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to support Wilson was launched, and as of Friday afternoon it had brought 5,901 donations totaling $234,990. However, money wasn’t the only thing people were giving to the crowdfunding campaign: the campaign page quickly found itself drowning in hateful, racist commentary. "We are NOT gonna let that racist bastard Sharpton and his kind railroad you into prison," said a $50 donor under the name Mark Milazzo. "Wake up White America!" Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
On Thursday, 25-year-old Philip Danks was sentenced to 33 months in jail by a Wolverhampton judge for pirating a copy of Fast and Furious 6. Danks bragged that he was the first person in the world to seed the illicit recording, which he recorded from the back of a local cinema in May 2013. His upload was downloaded around 700,000 times. The court also ruled that Michael Bell, the boyfriend of Danks' sister, played a part in distributing the film. He was sentenced to 120 hours of community service. The film's distributor, Universal Pictures, argued to the judge that Danks' upload cost the company about £2.5 million. Danks had also sold DVD copies of the movie for £1.50 each. He said his total profit from the scheme was about £1,000. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Julien GONG Min Censorship of the Internet in China is a heavily studied but little-understood process, driven by both private networks and government employees and having effects that are hard to measure. To better understand it, a group of researchers tested censors and filters by attempting to post over a thousand bits of content on various social networking sites. They found that there was an aggressive pre-filtering process that holds a high number of submissions for review before they're posted and that the results are actually undermining China's censorship mission—the filters hamstring pro-government content as often as they block anti-government writing. Part of the authors' process involved setting up a social media site of their own within China to see what standards they would be subjected to and what tools they would have to use in order to comply with the country's censorship requirements. They found that sites have an option to install automated review tools with a broad range of filter criteria. Censorship technology is decentralized, they wrote, which is a technique for "[promoting] innovation" in China. Most research that has been done on Chinese censorship is largely based on what posts exist on the Internet at one point and then do not at a later time, indicating that they were pulled by censors. While that behavior is easily observed, there is another layer to the censorship system where users' posts get held for review by censors before they're made public. This new study attempted to figure out what sorts of post would get held for review, what would eventually make it through, and what might escape suspicion at either the posting or review stage, only to be removed later. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
A new iPhone screen size doesn't come along every day—the last one happened in 2012, when the iPhone 4S (left) was replaced by the iPhone 5 (right). Jacqui Cheng We're just a few weeks out from the expected launch of Apple's next iPhone, which means the ever-noisy rumor mill is spinning even more quickly than usual. Rather than bombarding you continuously every time a blurry picture of a circuit board leaks, we're going to gather up the most relevant stuff for your perusal, applying a healthy amount of skepticism along the way. This week, the scuttlebutt is about the phone's larger screen, which may be its most obvious and most widely anticipated feature. Finding resolution This is supposedly a close-up shot of the new iPhone's display panel. Feld & Volk First up, we have some rumors from earlier this week on the screen's resolution—Apple will want to hold on to the "Retina" moniker it's been using for its screens since the iPhone 4, and that means maintaining or beating the 326 PPI density of its current screens. One report, based on a close-up photo of what is supposedly an iPhone display panel, claims a resolution of 1704×960. Another, based on a string found in the latest Xcode 6 beta, claims a resolution of 1472×828. The new iPhone is rumored to come in two different screen sizes, one 4.7-inch and one 5.5-inch. At 4.7 inches, those rumored resolutions would come out to 416 PPI and 359 PPI, respectively. At 5.5 inches, they would come out to 356 PPI and 307 PPI. Assuming that we do get two different iPhones in two different sizes, it's theoretically possible for both resolutions to be correct: the higher resolution might belong to the 5.5-inch model, while the lower resolution could apply to the 4.7-inch model. At this point there's not a lot of proof one way or the other. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Photograph by Stan Weichers Earlier this year, a weak earnings report and wave of store closures had us thinking about the long, slow decline of brick-and-mortar game retail. Today, things look a little brighter, with GameStop reporting healthy sales growth along with an incredible factoid about its centrality to the modern console software market. "Our hardware and software market share continues to expand and is now at an all time high as we go into the critical holiday season," GameStop President Tony Bartel said during an earnings call. “We continue to sell over one half of all PS4 and Xbox One titles.” Let that sink in for a second: a single chain of gaming stores sells more individual Xbox One and PS4 games than all the big box stores, retail websites, and direct digital downloads combined. That doesn't sound like a business that's on the verge of collapse. Total, year-over-year sales growth of 25 percent for the quarter, including a 16 percent increase in new software sales, also sounds pretty healthy for GameStop. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department The tale of an iPhone stolen from a burglarized Southern California home sits at the intersection of Web culture and the swap meet. A woman in the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Clarita reported to authorities that her home had been ransacked July 30, and among the missing items were cash and an iPhone. But in what appeared to be another episode of Thieves Gone Stupid, the victim's iCloud account was hit with pictures, including a selfie of a cute couple posing on a pillow. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department released the selfie days ago, saying that the unidentified people in the image were persons of interest. The story, with the couple's picture, went viral. On Thursday, the whodunit got even stranger. The man in the photo told NBC Los Angeles that neither he nor his girlfriend committed the burglary. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
When a British Ars reader went to delete his Ashley Madison account, this is what he saw. Earlier this week, Ars got an e-mail from a reader named Rob Plant. “I think most right-thinking people have been dismayed by the tactics of charging for picture take downs—what is worrying to me is that these practices now seem to have been taken up by more legitimate websites.” Ars has long covered the scourge of “revenge porn,” in which seedy websites post revealing photos of unwilling people and then charge those victims a fee to get the photo down. But Plant was writing about a site called Ashley Madison, which markets itself as a dating website for married people to find accomplices in extra-marital affairs. (Its slogan is blunt: “Life is short. Have an affair.”) The website has been around since 2001, and although it's taken some guff for allegations that it populates its network with fake profiles of women, it still boasts 29 million users worldwide, most of whom are presumably not fake. The way it works is this: Ashley Madison allows people to sign up for free with "Guest" accounts, which permit users to send and receive photos and “winks.” Guest accounts can also reply to messages sent by a member. To become a "Full Member," one must buy credits, as opposed to, say, paying a monthly subscription. Full Members can initiate messages and chats with their credits, and women can send messages “collect." After first contact (and guidelines of the Prime Directive permitting) messages between the two users are free. Read 23 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Daniel Genkin et al. Researchers from Tel Aviv University have demonstrated an attack against the GnuPG encryption software that enables them to retrieve decryption keys by touching exposed metal parts of laptop computers. There are several ways of attacking encryption systems. At one end of the spectrum, there are flaws and weaknesses in the algorithms themselves that make it easier than it should be to figure out the key to decrypt something. At the other end, there are flaws and weaknesses in human flesh and bones that make it easier than it should be to force someone to offer up the key to decrypt something. In the middle are a range of attacks that don't depend on flaws on the encryption algorithms but rather in the way they've been implemented. Encryption systems, both software and hardware, can leak information about the keys being used in all sorts of indirect ways, such as the performance of the system's cache, or the time taken to perform encryption and decryption operations. Attacks using these indirect information leaks are known collectively as side channel attacks. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Yoav F On a mobile application, users typically have a single choice to protect their privacy: install the application or not. The binary choice has left most users ignoring permission warnings and sacrificing personal data. Most applications aggressively eavesdrop on their users, from monitoring their online habits through the device identifier to tracking their movements in the real world via location information. Now, a research group at North Carolina State University hopes to give the average user a third option. Dubbed NativeWrap, the technology allows Web pages to be wrapped in code and make them appear as a mobile application, but with user-controlled privacy. Because many applications just add a user interface around a Web application, the user should have equivalent functionality for many wrapped apps, said William Enck, assistant professor in the department of computer science at North Carolina State University. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
A parasite queen (left) and the queen of the ants it preys on. Note the two scale bars both represent one millimeter, indicating the parasites' relatively small size. University of Rochester We tend to think of parasites as creatures that attach themselves to their hosts or worm their way inside, consuming the hosts' resources directly from their bodies. But there are other parasites that steal from their hosts simply by freeloading off them. The classic example is the cuckoo, which lays eggs in the nests of other birds, who then happily feed the cuckoo's offspring as if they were their own. A successful strategy like that is hard for evolution to pass up. So it really wasn't a surprise to find out that there are also parasitic species of ants, ones that breed within the nests of other ants and raise their offspring using the resources provided by the hosts. Now, researchers have developed evidence that at least one of those species evolved within the nests that they now occupy. The parasitic ant in question has the evocative name Mycocepurus castrator. It lives off the hard work of a related leaf-cutter ant named Mycocepurus goeldii. Although the host species is distributed widely within South America, M. castrator has a much narrower range—a single stand of eucalyptus trees conveniently located on the campus of Sao Paulo State University in Brazil. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Netflix via IMDB An IP address used by staff at the US House of Representatives has been banned from editing Wikipedia for 30 days. It's the second such punishment for would-be anonymous House Internet users in less than a month. The first ban was imposed for 10 days after a series of "disruptive" edits, including a change to the entry about the website Mediaite to describe it as a "sexist transphobic news and opinion blog." Now the same IP address has been condemned by editors for making several controversial edits on articles related to transgender issues. Last night, a Wikipedia administrator imposed a month-long ban, with some editors asking for harsher measures. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Left: Google's prototype car. Right: the eventual final design. Google Traditionally, Google's self-driving car prototypes have taken existing cars from manufacturers like Toyota and Lexus and bolted on the self-driving car components. This is less than ideal, since it limits the design possibilities of the car's "vision" system and includes (eventually) unnecessary components, like a steering wheel and pedals. However, Google recently built a self-driving car of its own design, which had no human control system other than a "go" button. The California DMV has now thrown a speed bump in Google's car design, though, in the form of new rules that require that all self-driving cars allow a driver to take “immediate physical control” if needed. The new law means Google's self-designed car will need to have a steering wheel and gas and brake pedals any time it hits the public road. According to The Wall Street Journal, Google will comply with the law by building a "small, temporary steering wheel and pedal system that drivers can use during testing" into the prototype cars. The report says California officials are working on rules for cars without a steering wheel and pedals, but for now, a human control system is mandatory. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Beta users will also get a new build of iTunes 12. Andrew Cunningham Apple has just released the first update to the OS X Yosemite Public Beta, about a month after the first beta shipped. If you skipped the first beta but would like to give this one a try, Apple's sign-up page still appears to be accepting new testers (the company said that it would close the program down after the first million sign-ups, a number that apparently hasn't been hit yet). The build number of the new beta indicates that it's roughly the same as Yosemite Developer Beta 6, which was released earlier this week to registered iOS and OS X developers. The first public beta was more or less identical to Developer Beta 4. In the space of those two developer betas, Apple has been working to squash out bugs and has further Yosemite-ized more traditional OS X components. The volume and brightness overlays have been changed to match the frosted translucent look used elsewhere in the OS, and Apple added a new batch of Yosemite-themed wallpapers. Additional application and System Preferences icons have also been redesigned to match Yosemite's simpler, "flatter" look. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Wikimedia Commons United States copyright regulators are agreeing with Wikipedia's conclusion that a monkey's selfie cannot be copyrighted by a nature photographer whose camera was swiped by the ape in the jungle. The animal's selfie went viral. The US Copyright Office, in a 1,222-page report discussing federal copyright law, said that a "photograph taken by a monkey" is unprotected intellectual property."The Office will not register works produced by nature, animals, or plants. Likewise, the Office cannot register a work purportedly created by divine or supernatural beings, although the Office may register a work where the application or the deposit copy state that the work was inspired by a divine spirit," said the draft report, "Compendium of US Copyright Office Practices, Third Edition." [PDF] The report comes two weeks after Wikimedia, the US-based operation that runs Wikipedia, announced that the public, not British photojournalist David Slater, maintains the rights to the selfie and the other pictures the black macaca nigra monkey snapped. The monkey hijacked the camera from Slater during a 2011 shoot in Indonesia and took tons of pictures, including the selfie. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
You can check out any time you'd like, but you can never... well, you know the song. Aurich Lawson The hapless, rude Comcast employee who was recorded by a customer during what we can only hope was his worst moment couldn’t have imagined what was about to unfold over the next month. Since then, annoyed Comcast customers have been recording calls and publicly shaming the company into giving them what they were unable to get from long, cringe-worthy conversations with customer service representatives. One of the latest examples came yesterday from Comcast customer Douglas Dixon of Sacramento County, who spoke with a half-dozen Comcast representatives over an hour and a half. Dixon posted a recording on the Internet and described the experience on reddit. After telling employee #6 that he was recording the call and would post it on the Internet if Comcast couldn’t fix his problem, she said, “That’s fine. There’s no need for you to threaten anybody.” Dixon’s call was spurred by Comcast’s promise to him and other customers that their speeds would be increased. In Dixon’s case, an e-mail from Comcast on August 5 said his service would be boosted from 50Mbps to 105Mbps as soon as he restarted his modem. Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Me, getting kind of sick. Since the unveiling of the Oculus Rift two years ago, there have been plenty of people willing to embrace the second coming of virtual reality with open arms and open minds. For at least one development team, though, those open minds have been infected with motion sickness as they try to code virtual reality support into their game. "We are all extremely excited about VR because we believe it brings unparalleled immersion and that is something we would love to be a part of," developer Aaron Foster wrote on a Steam Community update for outer space horror game Routine. "However, at the moment, we have had to slow down our VR integration as we all get extremely motion sick with the current kits. We will take another look at implementing VR closer to release but for now we can’t fully commit to a VR version of Routine." It's not clear whether Foster and his team are using the original Oculus development kits, which were shipped widely last year, or the newer "DK2" units that have only just begun to be sent to a handful of early pre-orderers in recent weeks. Our early experiences with Rift prototypes left us with a significant queasy feeling during and just after use, but advancements in head-tracking, image persistence, and resolution have mitigated those problems immensely in more recent versions of the headset. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
At left, a .380 ACP pistol is taped above the knee and is undetected by the Rapiscan scanner. At right, the same pistol is sewn to a pant leg. Security Analysis of a Full-Body Scanner Researchers are delivering a paper at a security conference Thursday highlighting how easy it is to get weapons through the nude body scanners that have been removed from US airports but have been placed at other government installations across the globe. The report, given at the Usenix Security Symposium in San Diego, highlights the insecurity of the Rapiscan Secure 1000 Single Pose "backscatter" scanner that once was used throughout the nation's airports but are now deployed at US prisons and courthouses, and other airports in Africa. The paper, "Security Analysis of a Full-Body Scanner," from researchers at the University of California-San Diego, University of Michigan, and Johns Hopkins University, confirms even what laymen researchers had already discovered: hiding weapons on the side of one's body defeats the machine. [PDF] We performed several trials to test different placement and attachment strategies. In the end, we achieved excellent results with two approaches: carefully affixing the pistol to the outside of the leg just above the knee using tape, and sewing it inside the pant leg near the same location. Front and back scans for both methods are shown in Figure 4. In each case, the pistol is invisible against the dark background, and the attachment method leaves no other indication of the weapon’s presence. In 2012, a Florida man said he filmed himself going through two different US airport security checkpoints using virtually the same method and got metal objects through the scanners undetected. The TSA responded that the "machines are safe." Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
The actual game has a lot more text than this screenshot implies. I've been thinking about depression a lot in the past week or so. The catalyst, as you might expect, was Robin Williams' unexpected death by suicide and the subsequent reports that the famous comedian and actor suffered from severe bouts of depression. That someone who seemed so outwardly successful and happy could succumb to something so dark inside of him was a chilling wake-up call for me and many others to reexamine ourselves and the people close to us. In the wake of that news, as so often happens with a high-profile suicide, there have been countless explainers, analyses, and ruminations written on the reality of depression and how to deal with it both as a sufferer and a supporter of those dealing with it. These pieces have been illuminating and informative in their own ways, but the coincidentally well-timed release of an unassuming text-based game called Depression Quest has become one of the most gripping and educational views on the subject, at least for me. Depression Quest has been available as a download for a while now, but it launched on Steam as a free/pay-what-you-want download last week, on the same day as Robin Williams' death (a coincidence creator Zoe Quinn expressed a great deal of ambivalence about). The game plays out like a semi-randomized choose-your-own-adventure book; you read a page of text describing an everyday situation, you choose from a number of decisions for how to deal with it, then you read about the consequences. There are occasional tone-setting still images, some light background music, and ambient noise accents in the background, but for the most part, the game plays out in your imagination. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Yesterday, NASA announced that its scientists have studied the unexpected persistence of an ozone-destroying chemical and have come to the conclusion that there must be some unidentified source of the substance. The item in question, carbon tetrachloride (CCl4), was banned in 1989 as part of the Montreal Protocol, which was intended to reduce the levels of ozone-destroying chemicals in the atmosphere. In general, the protocol has worked; atmospheric levels of the chemicals covered by the treaty have dropped, and there are indications that Antarctica's annual ozone hole has stabilized. Levels of carbon tetrachloride have also dropped. The hitch is that they're not dropping as fast as we think they should, based on what we know of atmospheric chemistry. That situation implies that we have one of two things wrong: either there are sources of the chemical that are still leaking it into the atmosphere, or our understanding of what's going on in the atmosphere is wrong. But NASA scientists have now taken data about existing sources and plugged them into a chemistry-climate model and concluded that the data best fits an unknown source. By their own admission, the scientists are mystified about what that source could be. Qing Liang of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center was quoted as saying, "It is now apparent there are either unidentified industrial leakages, large emissions from contaminated sites, or unknown CCl4 sources." Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Chromebox is Chromebox. Acer In the last year or two, we've seen the diversity of the Chromebook ecosystem expand as more PC companies have gotten on board. There are Intel Chromebooks, ARM Chromebooks, convertible Chromebooks, small Chromebooks, and big Chromebooks. These devices are all appreciably different from one another. It's more difficult to do that with a Chromebox, as Acer's newly announced Chromebox CXI shows. Acer will sell you a system with a Haswell-based 1.4GHz Intel Celeron 2957U, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, and a decent port selection for $179.99, or $219.99 for a 4GB version. This is, incidentally, the same list of features you can already get from Asus' Chromebox, which also costs $179.99. Both boxes are VESA-mountable and can support two displays via their HDMI and DisplayPort connectors—the only real difference is that Acer's box is designed to sit on its side, while Asus' is intended for horizontal use. The box measures 6.51 by 5.12 by 1.3 inches, slimmer than Asus' entry but taller and deeper. It's up to you to decide which one best suits your needs. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Mark Zuckerberg in front of his original "The Facebook" profile. Niall Kennedy Prosecutors say it took decades for Bernard Madoff to pull off one of the largest financial scams in US history to the tune of $65 billion, an elaborate Ponzi scheme perpetrated against the upper crust of society. But perhaps there's an even bigger scam afoot, and it involves the ownership of Facebook. The social networking site is valued at $190 billion and used by billions of people daily across the globe. Unlike Madoff's intricate accounting scheme that netted him a life sentence in 2009, the criminal proceedings surrounding the ownership of Facebook, at its core, rely on a two-page document—a contract that is either forged or worth billions of dollars. Either Facebook Chief Mark Zuckerberg, as an 18-year-old Harvard University student, promised half of his company to a rural New York man named Paul Ceglia, or he didn't. Read 43 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Tuberculosis, an often fatal bacterial infection of the lungs, was a scourge in the days before antibiotics. It's caused by a species of Mycobacteria, most of which live harmlessly in watery environments. Understanding how some of these have managed to make the leap to human lungs has turned out to be rather complicated. Further evidence of this comes from a study published Wednesday that suggests that infectious strains of the bacteria managed to cross the Atlantic before the first European strains did—carried in the lungs of seals. Getting things wrong about the history of tuberculosis seems to be a regular pastime of the people who study infectious diseases. Originally, due to some genetic similarities, people had proposed that we had picked it up from farm animals. But a careful study of evolutionary trees recently showed that it's likely that cows actually picked up tuberculosis from us, rather than the other way around. Similarly, the study of the strains found in the Americas had suggested that all of the bacteria present here had been derived from the European version. Which suggested that, along with other lovely gifts like smallpox, the disease was brought to the New World by the first European settlers. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Patrick Talbert Dozens of UPS stores across 24 states, including California, Georgia, New York, and Nebraska, have been hit by malware designed to suck up credit card details. In an announcement posted Wednesday to its website, UPS said that 51 locations, or around one percent of its 4,470 franchised stores across the country, were found to have been penetrated by a “broad-based malware intrusion.” UPS did not say precisely how such data was taken, but given the recent breaches at hundreds of supermarkets nationwide, point-of-sale hacks at Target, and other major retailers, such systems would be a likely attack vector. Earlier this month, a Wisconsin-based security firm also reported that 1.2 billion usernames and passwords had been captured by a Russian criminal group. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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