posted 10 days ago on ars technica
At Microsoft's Windows 10 event today at the company's headquarters, the company introduced two new devices and a whole new application development model for the Windows platform: holographic computing. Windows Holographic is a three-dimensional, environmentally aware application environment that will be supported in various ways on all Windows 10 devices. Holographic will be put most spectacularly on display by HoloLens, a wearable computer that uses tricks of light to project three-dimensional virtual objects on top of the environment around the user, allowing them to interact with the holograms using voice and gesture commands. Behold, the HoloLens. Microsoft In a live presentation, Alex Kipman, chief inventor for Microsoft's Studio C, and members of his team demonstrated some of the early functionality of the HoloLens, including a "holographic" video of Microsoft executive Terry Myerson projected (at least from the HoloLens' perspective) on a small pillar and the construction of a 3-D model with HoloStudio—which Kipman said was a sort of "Windows Paintbrush" for the three-dimensional world. Models created in HoloStudio can be then sent to a 3-D printer; a quadrocopter created with HoloStudio was printed in advance of the demonstration and flown onstage. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
At today's Windows 10 event, Microsoft's Executive Vice President of Operating Systems Terry Myerson announced official release timeframes for the next Windows 10 preview to come to PCs and phones. "In the next week, we'll be releasing a new build of Windows 10 to our insiders," Myerson revealed. "After the Seahawks win the Superbowl, we'll be releasing the first build of Windows 10 on phones." "Windows 10 to our insiders" means the new OS will be available for users to try out on PC. While interested users must sign up for Microsoft's insiders program, anyone can join for free (it's essentially a rolling, general beta). More information can be found on Microsoft's program homepage. Myerson did not specify whether Windows 10 will be an automatic update for current Technical Preview users or if the new build of the OS will need to be downloaded and reinstalled. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
At a Windows 10 event today, Microsoft's Phil Spencer announced that Windows 10 users will soon be able to stream any Xbox One game to a Windows 10 PC or tablet. After a one-time setup, an Xbox app on the Windows 10 device will show all the games available on the Xbox One, letting users stream those games across a local network. The demo showed a stream starting within a few seconds, and using an Xbox One controller paired through the PC. Players can turn off the Xbox One from the PC when they're done. The streaming function is part of a new integrated Xbox app that will link PC gaming to the world of Xbox Live. The app, which comes pre-loaded in every Windows 10 PC and tablet, lets users chat via voice or text across platforms between Windows 10 and Xbox platforms. Users can also keep track of friends by Gamertag across devices. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
Today at Microsoft's Windows 10 preview event, the company gave us our first look at what Windows 10 will look like when it's running on small screens. The "standard" Windows 10 experience as demonstrated in the Technical Preview is only for screens 8 inches or above; phones and smaller tablets get their own interface. Though Microsoft simply referred to this as "Windows 10 for phones and small tablets," this is our first look at the next version of Windows Phone. The biggest overarching feature of the small-screened version of Windows 10 is better integration with the desktop version of Windows—Microsoft is really pushing the new OS as a "universal platform." If you've got a Windows phone and a Windows laptop or desktop signed into the same Microsoft account, most of your information will be able to sync seamlessly across platforms. If you dismiss or interact with a notification in your Action Center on your phone, for example, the change will be reflected in the Action Center on your laptop so you won't need to interact with it again. Lists of recent documents in the Office apps will roam between devices. Playlists created in a new music app will sync between devices as well—these are just the applications that Microsoft mentioned, but you can expect all of the first-party Windows apps to support some kind of syncing. Dragging the software keyboard around will be useful on larger screens. Microsoft Microsoft is also making more of an effort to make apps on Windows phones, tablets, and touch-enabled PCs look and work the same. A number of "Universal Apps" will lead this charge, including a touch-enabled version of Microsoft Office that will be included with all phones and small tablets. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
On Wednesday, 4chan founder Christopher Poole, better known by the moniker “moot,” announced his retirement from running the site. moot started 4chan 11 and a half years ago when he was 15, and the image-based bulletin board has grown into a staunch supporter of anonymity for its posters since. That notoriety has drawn some of the best and also a lot of the very, very worst to its 63 boards. In his post today, moot explained the decision: 4chan has faced numerous challenges over the years, including how to continuously satisfy a community of millions, and ensure the site has the human, technical, and financial resources to continue operating. But the biggest hurdle it's had to overcome is myself. As 4chan's sole administrator, decision maker, and keeper of most of its institutional knowledge, I've come to represent an uncomfortably large single point of failure. moot continued to say that he has made sure the site will be financially secure in the foreseeable future and has delegated the tasks of running the site to “a few senior volunteers.” Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
It's the end of an era... kinda. Microsoft unveiled the Windows 10 Consumer Preview in Redmond today and, with it, a new browser codenamed Spartan. This replaces Internet Explorer as the default Windows browser, and it represents the future of Microsoft's browser development. The browser brings new interface. Just as Firefox did before it, the new interface takes its design cues from Chrome, with tabs in the title bar and the address bar inside the tabs. Microsoft showed off a few different Spartan features, including Cortana support, a Reading List that can save articles for offline reading and sync between your phones and PCs, and the ability to annotate and clip pieces of webpages for easy sharing. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
During Microsoft's Windows 10 event today, corporate vice president Joe Belfiore demonstrated the Cortana digital assistant running as part of the Windows 10 operating system. While Belfiore cautioned the PC version of Cortana is still in development, it's expected to be part of a Windows 10 Insider release within the next three to five months. Cortana will reside on the toolbar at the bottom of the Windows 10 home screen, replacing Windows' embedded search feature. In addition to allowing users to find applications and execute commands by typing them in, Cortana allows users to give voice commands by saying "Hey Cortana" to alert the feature to an incoming voice command or search. Many of the features are a direct carry-over from Cortana on Windows Phone. Belfiore demonstrated Cortana's integration with the Bing search engine and its "Notebook" feature for managing what types of information the personal assistant is permitted to remember. But Belfiore also demonstrated Cortana's integration with the file system by searching for photos, playing music, and by launching applications after asking Cortana to send an e-mail. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
Microsoft has just announced the first pricing information for Windows 10 at its preview event today. The biggest news is that the new OS will be completely free for current Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 users for its first year of availability—after that time period has expired, OS upgrades will presumably need to be paid for as they are currently (though Microsoft was less-than-clear on this point, it made no mention of a paid, Office 365-style subscription for Windows upgrades). The Windows 10 upgrade for Windows Phone 8.1 users will also be free. "Once a device is upgraded to WIndows 10, we'll be keeping it current for the supported lifetime of the device," said Terry Myserson, executive vice president of the Operating Systems Group. "With Windows 10, we think of Windows as a service... The question 'what version are you running' will cease to make sense." Windows 7 and Windows 8.x collectively run on well over half of the world's Windows PCs, meaning that a wide swath of existing Windows users will be able to make the jump to Windows 10 free of charge. A larger user base, especially in the first year after Windows 10's official release, increases the chances that developers will target Windows 10 and its new APIs. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
Samsung won't be using Qualcomm's Snapdragon 810 in the next Galaxy S smartphone because of overheating issues, according to a Bloomberg report published this morning. The phone will instead use "Samsung's most advanced chips," according to Bloomberg's sources—this suggests a 64-bit Exynos 7 Octa or a closely related chip. Though the Galaxy S series isn't the sales juggernaut it once was, it's still one of the single best-selling handsets in the Android ecosystem, and Qualcomm has supplied SoCs for some variants of the S phones since the days of the Galaxy S II. Samsung still uses Exynos chips in S-series phones destined for its home turf in South Korea and some other markets, however, so it wouldn't be a major engineering feat to drop Qualcomm in other territories, especially since Samsung's in-house LTE modems are coming into their own. In some ways, it's not surprising that the Snapdragon 810 might be giving Qualcomm trouble. The company has switched from using its own custom-designed Krait CPU architecture to off-the-shelf Cortex A57 and A53 designs from ARM, at least in part because of demand for 64-bit chips from OEMs and users (previous Snapdragon generations only used Cortex cores in lower-end SoCs with less potential for thermal problems). Major transitions like that can be tricky, especially when you're working with small, tightly integrated chips. These also aren't the first reports about the 810's overheating problems, and some CES previews of LG's Flex 2 suggested that the phones on the floor kept dimming their screens because they were running too hot. All mobile SoCs throttle their performance to some degree when they run up against heat issues, but most of the time the effects are subtle enough that you won't actually notice them during normal use. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
Developers of the Firefox browser want to better protect user privacy by limiting the amount of data contained in Referer headers. The "meta referrer," as the new feature is dubbed, is aimed at stemming the ballooning amount of information many sites stuff into Referer headers, Mozilla Security and Privacy Engineer Sid Stamm wrote in a blog post published Wednesday. Referer headers started out as a way for website operators to know what external link users clicked on to arrive the page they are currently viewing. Over time, the information contained in such links has mushroomed and often includes usernames, site preferences, and other data that reveals personal information. Some sites have worked around this privacy invasion by erecting an elaborate set of redirects that strip some of that data out of Referer headers. "This HTTP header has become quite problematic and not very useful, so we're working to make it better," Stamm wrote. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
Given the huge number of exoplanets discovered in recent years, the discovery of two new planets would come as no surprise—except that these two, discussed in a new study, may be part of our Solar System. The presence of the closer of the two planets had already been suggested in a previous work. The new study provides more evidence for its existence and adds a second planet. Both studies are based on observations of objects far beyond Neptune’s orbit, called extreme trans-Neptunian objects (ETNOs). These ETNOs display shared patterns in their orbits, which suggests they’re all being influenced gravitationally by heavier objects, much further away from the Sun. While this conclusion is based on a small sample (13 bodies), the authors confirm that their results are statistically significant and that at least two planets, orbiting far beyond Pluto’s orbit, are the most likely explanation for the observations. Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
At least 50 local law enforcement agencies—and the United States Marshals—have acquired a type of handheld radar that allows cops to scan through walls to detect a human target. According to a Tuesday report by USA Today, a New York-based company called L-3 Communications has sold about 200 of its Range-R devices “to 50 law enforcement agencies at a cost of about $6,000 each.” L-3 did not respond to Ars’ request for comment on Tuesday evening. The company, which primarily sells to governments, has profited over $4.3 billion between 2009 and 2013 alone. A cursory search of federal spending shows that the US Marshals have also spent over $52,000 on the devices since March 2012, with the most recent purchase being nearly $6,000 in September 2014. Read 18 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
Last week, the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence published the latest round of nominees for its annual video competition, in which robotics and AI teams from around the world submitted summaries of their projects as brief YouTube clips. As with prior years' entries, the videos included a few seriously interesting applications of new technologies, including a multi-robot system that can map unknown spaces more quickly and an intriguing educational tool that has kids teach a robot how to write—learning through reflection, essentially. The projects are currently subject to a "viewer's choice" award voting process, which lasts until January 29, and we're tempted to cast our ballot for "An Adaptive Learning AI Approach for Generating a Living and Conversing Mario Agent." The project takes a different stab at video game artificial intelligence than we've ever seen, combining the spoken commands of a viewer and the automated learning of a 2D platformer's hero to help a version of Super Mario beat an old-school video game level—all while tapping into his feelings. The project essentially automates a 2D platformer hero's behavior according to four "emotional" matrices: hunger, happiness, curiosity, and fear. For its demonstration video, the research team employed a modified version of Super Mario World that uses the SNES classic's sprites on custom stages—and played a piano-ditty version of the original Super Mario Bros. 1 theme for nostalgic kicks—then added a voice-recognition system so that testers could tweak Mario's emotions on the fly. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
PORTLAND, Ore.—As I drove toward the final meal of my overnight stay in Portland, I saw a distraught man gesturing wildly at the car I was driving. Having no idea whether he was hailing help or pointing out a flat tire, I rolled the driver's side window down. "Really, man?" he said, pausing to huff at the ground. "You have your phone out! You can't do that!" Indeed, this man caught me pulling my cell phone out while driving—an offense that could have landed me a $250 ticket in Oregon's most populous city. In my defense, I grabbed my LG Nexus 5 as I was pulling up to a stop sign to check directions as opposed to absent-mindedly texting at full speed. The odd thing, however, was I only turned the phone back on an hour earlier from a day of living without it, fulfilling a weird bargain that precipitated the whole trip. Just days earlier, my bosses at Ars—the ones who usually keep me busy playing with laptops, smartphones, tablets, and video games—had an unusual proposition for the staff. They needed one volunteer to take a spontaneous overnight train vacation. Oh, a fun weekend on company time? Sign me up. The catch? I wouldn't get to use my smartphone or any other modern portable device until the second day of the trip. Once I got home, naturally I had to write about it. Read 34 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
A year ago we got some insight into hard disk reliability when cloud backup provider Backblaze published its findings for the tens of thousands of disks that it operated. Backblaze uses regular consumer-grade disks in its storage because of the cheaper cost and good-enough reliability, but it also discovered that some kinds of disks fared extremely poorly when used 24/7. A year later the company has collected even more data and drawn out even more differences between the different disks it uses. For a second year, the standout reliability leader was HGST. Now a wholly owned subsidiary of Western Digital, HGST inherited the technology and designs from Hitachi (which itself bought IBM's hard disk division). Across a range of models from 2 to 4 terabytes, the HGST models showed low failure rates; at worse, 2.3 percent failing a year. This includes some of the oldest disks among Backblaze's collection; 2TB Desktop 7K2000 models are on average 3.9 years old, but still have a failure rate of just 1.1 percent. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
In the world of mainstream Web browsers, Microsoft stands alone. Apple's Safari browser is a closed source shell wrapped around an open source rendering engine, WebKit. Google's Chrome browser is a closed source fork of an open source shell wrapped around an open source rendering engine, Blink. Opera, too, puts its own shell around the Blink engine. Mozilla's Firefox is entirely open source. But Internet Explorer is closed from end to end. While the same kind of logical separation as is found in Safari and Chrome exists—the Internet Explorer shell is separate from the Trident rendering engine—both components are entirely proprietary. This puts Internet Explorer at a disadvantage. While the Web community has a multitude of different priorities and agendas, and the different participants frequently do not see eye-to-eye, it nonetheless has a consistent attitude of openness. Web standards are developed in public, and except for Internet Explorer, Web browsers (or at least, the most important parts of browsers, their rendering engines) are likewise developed in public. Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
On Tuesday a Washington state man was arrested by federal authorities in Seattle's Bellevue suburb for allegedly helping to run Silk Road 2.0, the anonymous online marketplace for illicit goods that sprang up after the original Silk Road was seized by federal authorities in 2013. In a complaint dated January 17, 2015 [PDF], federal authorities said Brian Richard Farrell, 26, admitted to them that he went by "DoctorClu" on Silk Road 2.0, and when he was questioned he told them that he was considered "'Defcon's' right hand man." Defcon was the interim leader of Silk Road 2.0 (which was seized in November when the feds arrested Blake Benthall, who they alleged to be the person behind the Defcon screen name). (Ars spoke to DoctorClu in an interview in June about the disappearance and return of Silk Road 2.0's original leader Dread Pirate Roberts 2.) According to the complaint, when federal agents asked Farrell if he could help them identify other top people who at been involved with Silk Road 2.0, Farrell told them “You're not going to find much of a bigger fish than me.” Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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NEW YORK—The Silk Road drug-trafficking trial seemed to be moving along swiftly last week, with testimony both Tuesday and Thursday containing big reveals about defendant Ross Ulbricht's strategy for proving his innocence. Today, with jurors back after a five-day break, the action slowed to a crawl. Nearly the entire morning was consumed by government and defense lawyers arguing about what kind of evidence should be allowed in regarding theories about who else might have been Dread Pirate Roberts, or DPR, the pseudonymous boss of Silk Road, the largest online drug marketplace. Much of the argument centered around the theory defense lawyer Joshua Dratel brought out on Thursday: that DPR could have been Mark Karpeles, the owner of the now-defunct Mt. Gox Bitcoin exchange. Karpeles, contacted by the media Thursday, has strenuously denied having any involvement in Silk Road. Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has opened an investigation of GAW Miners and its CEO Josh Garza, according to CoinFire, a Bitcoin news site, which on Tuesday cited “1,000 pages of a [leaked] investigation file." GAW was first introduced to the Bitcoin public around a year ago, and first came about re-selling Bitcoin mining rigs. Later, the company shifted to cloud-based mining, and more recently, it introduced its own altcoin, dubbed “Paycoin.” GAW also runs its own cloud-based wallet service (Paybase), its own cloud-based mining service (ZenMiner) and its own online discussion board (HashTalk). For months, there has been active speculation amongst the Bitcoin community that GAW may be a scam, or at least could be engaged in illegal behavior. There have been threads both on BitcoinTalk and reddit with titles like “GAW Miners - Liars, Frauds - A brief recap of what we know.” Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The Justice Department is agreeing to pay $134,000 to a New York woman to resolve an incident in which the Drug Enforcement Agency created a counterfeit Facebook profile and posted risqué personal pictures the agency obtained from her mobile phone without consent, according to federal court documents [PDF] filed Tuesday. The woman, who at the time went under the name Sondra Prince, eventually was sentenced to probation and six months of home confinement. The DEA created a phony Facebook profile in her name and maintained it for at least three months in 2010 in a bid to nab other suspects connected to an alleged drug ring. At one point in the litigation, the government said the counterfeit account was for "legitimate law enforcement purposes." Richard Hartunian, the US attorney for the northern district of New York, said in a statement that the settlement "demonstrates that the government is mindful of its obligation to ensure the rights of third parties are not infringed upon in the course of its efforts to bring those who commit federal crimes to justice." He said the deal "also takes into account emerging personal privacy concerns in the age of social media, and represents a fair resolution of plaintiff's claims." Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
Ross Ulbricht was back in a Manhattan federal courtroom today facing drug trafficking and money laundering charges for allegedly running the Silk Road online drug marketplace. We'll have a story on today's court action posted shortly. A few hours ago, computer security researcher Nicholas Weaver published some analysis about bitcoins he says came from Ross Ulbricht's accounts. If the government has done a similar analysis—and there's no reason to think they couldn't—it will be one more obstacle for Ulbricht's defense team. Last week, the outlines of Ulbricht's defense became clear. Ulbricht's lawyer Joshua Dratel admitted that his client founded Silk Road, but said Ulbricht walked away from the site only to be "lured back." During opening statements, the defense attorney acknowledged that Ulbricht, who had 144,000 bitcoins on his computer seized by the feds, made money from Bitcoin. Dratel said this was, at least in part, from being a successful trader in the digital crypto-currency. Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
Just over a year ago, Jacob Appelbaum and Der Spiegel revealed pages from the National Security Agency's ANT catalog, a sort of "wish book" for spies that listed technology that could be used to exploit the computer and network hardware of targets for espionage. One of those tools was a USB cable with embedded hardware called Cottonmouth-I—a cable that can turn the computer's USB connections into a remote wiretap or even a remote control. Cottonmouth-I is the sort of man-in-the-middle attack that hackers dream of. Built into keyboard or accessory cables, it allows an attacker to implant and communicate with malware even on a computer that's "airgapped"—completely off a network. And its hardware all fit neatly into a USB plug. Because of the sophistication of the hardware, the advertised price for Cottonmouth-I was over $1 million per lot of 50—meaning each single device cost $20,000. But soon, you'll be able to make one in your basement for less than $20 in parts, plus a little bit of solder. At Shmoocon in Washington, DC, this past weekend, Michael Ossman, a wireless security researcher and founder of Great Scott Gadgets, and a contributor to the NSA Playset–a set of projects seeking to duplicate in open source the capabilities in the NSA's toolbox, showed off his progress on TURNIPSCHOOL, a man-in-the-middle USB cable project under development that fits a USB hub-on-a-chip and a microprocessor with a built-in radio onto a circuit board that fits into a molded USB plug. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
President Barack Obama has said that his proposed cybersecurity legislation is expected to bolster the private sector's defenses. Later tonight, he is expected to urge Congress and the American public to embrace the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act during his State of the Union address. The measure, known as CISPA, was unveiled a week ago and is controversial because it allows companies to share cyber threat information with the Department of Homeland Security—data that might include their customers' private information. White House The proposal by Obama, who once threatened to veto similar legislation, comes in the wake of the December hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment and breaches of giant retailers including Target. But new research out Tuesday from George Mason University calls into question how effective Obama's proposal would be. That's because the federal government's IT professionals as a whole have "a poor track record in maintaining good cybersecurity and information-sharing practices." What's more, the federal bureaucracy "systematically" fails to meet its own federal cybersecurity standards despite billions of dollars in funding. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Greetings, Arsians! The Dealmaster is back! We've got a bunch of deals this week, courtesy of our partners at TechBargains. The top deal is for a Lenovo Y-40 gaming laptop for $999—that's $500 off the MSRP. The laptop has a 14-inch 1080p LCD, a 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-5500U processor, 8GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and an AMD Radeon r9 M275 GPU with 4GB of video memory. Besides the fancy laptop, we have deals on all-in-one desktops, a few HDTVs, and even a discount on tax software. Enjoy! Featured Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
An electronic dongle used to connect to the onboard diagnostic systems of more than two million cars and trucks contains few defenses against hacking, an omission that makes them vulnerable to wireless attacks that take control of a vehicle, according to published reports. US-based Progressive Insurance said it has used the SnapShot device in more than two million vehicles since 2008. The dongle tracks users' driving to help determine if they qualify for lower rates. According to security researcher Corey Thuen, it performs no validation or signing of firmware updates, has no secure boot mechanism, no cellular communications authentication, and uses no secure communications protocols. SnapShot connects to the OBDII port of Thuen's 2013 Toyota Tundra pickup truck, according to Forbes. From there, it runs on the CANbus networks that control braking, park assist and steering, and other sensitive functions. "Anything on the bus can talk to anything [else] on the bus," Thuen was quoted as saying in an article from Dark Reading. "You could do a cellular man-in-the-middle attack" assuming the attacker had the ability to spoof a cellular tower that transmits data to and from the device. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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