posted 10 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / The incredible flurry of (mostly small) earthquakes in Oklahoma has been clustered around areas of wastewater injection in deep disposal wells (shown in warm colors). (credit: Langenbruch and Zoback (2016), Science Advances) The onset of Oklahoma’s earthquakes several years ago suddenly changed life in the north-central part of the state. But since they are self-inflicted, this seismic shift need not be a permanent one. The earthquakes have been triggered by the injection of large volumes of wastewater in deep disposal wells, which is able to raise fluid pressure and loosen long-locked faults in the crystalline “basement” rock below. The wastewater comes from oil and gas wells in the area, which cough up a lot of dirty, salty water along with the hydrocarbons. Just a few weeks ago, a magnitude 5.0 earthquake caused a fair amount of damage to buildings in Cushing—buildings that were never designed to withstand seismic activity. And in September, a magnitude 5.8 quake in Pawnee set a historical record for the state. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Excerpts from Michael Slager's testimony. A white South Carolina police officer on trial for shooting an African-American man in the back—in a video of the killing that has been watched millions of times online—took the witness stand in his own defense and said he was gripped with "total fear." Michael Slager, a 35-year-old North Charleston officer, is on trial for killing Walter Scott, 50, who was pulled over in April 2015 for a routine traffic stop. Scott, who had a warrant for his arrest, fled the Mercedes-Benz he was driving, was chased into a field, and was then shot and killed as a passerby secretly captured the shooting on video. The footage prompted the police to change their response to the killing, and charges were eventually levied. "In my mind at that time was, people don't run for a broken tail light. There's always another reason," he testified Tuesday, sometimes in tears. "I don't know why he ran. It doesn't make any sense to me." Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / President-elect Donald Trump on the campaign trail. (credit: Getty Images | Joe Raedle) President-elect Donald Trump yesterday announced a third advisor to oversee the Federal Communications Commission's transition from Democratic to Republican control. Roslyn Layton, Trump's new addition, joins Jeffrey Eisenach and Mark Jamison on the FCC transition team. All three are outspoken opponents of the FCC's Title II net neutrality rules and are affiliated with the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Trump advisor Roslyn Layton. (credit: Roslyn Layton) Current FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's signature move was the reclassification of ISPs as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act and imposition of net neutrality rules. The move was supported by Democrats and consumer advocates who say ISPs shouldn't be able to favor or disfavor online content by blocking, throttling, or charging for prioritization. Wheeler's Title II net neutrality rules survived a court challenge from ISPs but could be eliminated under Trump either with Congressional legislation or FCC action. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: Netflix) Netflix today announced a feature many users have wanted for years—the ability to download videos and watch them later, without an Internet connection. "Netflix members worldwide can now download in addition to stream great series and films at no extra cost," the company's announcement said. "While many members enjoy watching Netflix at home, we’ve often heard they also want to continue their Stranger Things binge while on airplanes and other places where Internet is expensive or limited." Downloads are available for all pricing plans. The feature is available in the new versions of Netflix's apps for iOS and Android devices. Not every show or movie is available for download, likely due to restrictions in programming contracts. Netflix says the download feature is available for "select TV shows and movies." Besides Stranger Things, the Netflix announcement said that Orange Is the New Black, Narcos, and The Crown are available for download now. These four have something in common: they are all produced by Netflix. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: Megan Geuss) GoPro may have touted strong Black Friday sales, but the company is still experiencing turmoil. GoPro announced it would cut 15 percent of its workforce, totaling about 200 full-time positions, and close its entertainment unit to reduce 2017 operational costs. This news comes at the end of a frustrating year for the action cam company. Back in January, GoPro cut seven percent of its workforce in an effort to "better align resources to key growth initiatives." Earlier this month, the company recalled its $799 Karma drone because some of them lost power during operation. Only about 2,500 Karma drones were sold, but GoPro decided to recall all of them for safety reasons and because the number of drones affected by the problem was unknown. One of the employees departing the company before year's end will be President Tony Bates, who previously worked at Skype and Microsoft. "My time at GoPro has been an incredible experience," Bates wrote in the statement. "In the past three years, GoPro has seen enormous progress in camera technology, software and international growth. Today GoPro has a solid leadership team deeply focused on its core business and profitability." Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The No Man's Sky page on Valve's Steam platform didn't mislead customers despite a litany of gripes, the UK's advertising regulator has ruled. In a comprehensive Advertising Standards Authority ruling responding to 23 complaints made by disgruntled gamers, the regulator concluded that the pictures and videos used to promote the game on its Steam page did represent the sorts of things players might expect to encounter in the game. Neither Valve, which operates Steam, nor Hello Games, which made the game, are on the hook for any further action. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Super Mario Bros. 3 looks really different than I remember... When I first heard that Nintendo was porting what is likely my favorite Wii U game to the fully portable Nintendo 3DS, I was excited. When I heard that the 3DS version of Super Mario Maker would severely limit the online sharing functions that helped make the Wii U version so special, I was skeptical. When I actually played the game this week, though, I ended up surprised that the limited level builder also came packed with built-in levels that form one of the most enjoyable 2D Mario experiences in years. But I'm getting a little ahead of myself. At its core, level-building base, Super Mario Maker for 3DS is a pretty faithful reconstruction of the Wii U original. Just as in its console cousin, you use a stylus to place blocks, coins, items, enemies, doors, pipes, and all manner of other Mario series staples to create the levels of your dreams. You can still choose between four classic Mario games for core themes (Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros.), each with slightly different physics, items, and moves for Mario to use. The level-crafting interface feels a tad more cramped on the 3DS' smaller touch screen, but you can temporarily move unnecessary elements off screen to get more real estate to work with. Switching from editing to playing is a tad more annoying on the 3DS, too, since you have to wait for the level to shift from the bottom screen to the wider top screen and back with each switch. Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: Ron Amadeo) Researchers say they've uncovered a family of Android-based malware that has compromised more than 1 million Google accounts, hundreds of them associated with enterprise users. Gooligan, as researchers from security firm Check Point Software Technologies have dubbed the malware, has been found in at least 86 apps available in third-party marketplaces. Once installed, it uses a process known as rooting to gain highly privileged system access to devices running version 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean, and KitKat) and version 5 (Lollipop) of Google's Android operating system. Together, the vulnerable versions account for about 74 percent of users. The rooted devices then download and install software that steals the authentication tokens that allow the phones to access the owner's Google-related accounts without having to enter a password. The tokens work for a variety of Google properties, including Gmail, Google Photos, Google Docs, Google Play, Google Drive, and G Suite. In a blog post published Wednesday morning, Check Point researchers wrote: Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge The number of reported webcam blackmail cases has more than doubled in the past year, and at least four suicides in the UK have been connected to this form of sextortion, says the National Crime Agency. The NCA's Anti-Kidnap and Extortion unit has seen 864 cases of financially motivated webcam blackmail so far this year, up from 385 for the whole of 2015. The NCA believes the true number is a lot higher, though, due to significant under-reporting. Most victims (95 percent) were men or boys; men between 21 and 30 represent the largest group, but boys between 11 and 20 were also a "substantial portion." The four sextortion-linked suicides have all been men and boys—and again, that figure could be under-reported. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Tom Atkinson OXFORD, England—I first met Dr. Charles King at his ‘graduation’ from Richard Branson’s Virgin Media Techstars accelerator. The pitch he delivered to a packed audience in London described how ROVR—the company he started in 2012 with co-founder Julian Williams—was addressing a fundamental problem with the much-touted Virtual Reality boom: No matter how fun your content is, if it makes people throw up, it’s probably an experience they can do without. According to King, two-thirds of us experience some degree of discomfort in VR even if we don’t quite “sell the Buick” as he so colorfully puts it. But Simulator Sickness (SS) is no laughing matter. A handful of experts say that exposure to some forms of VR can be as disorientating as getting drunk, and they call for headsets such as the Oculus and HTC Vive to be banned until more research is done on the long-term effects this has on our eyes and brain. Read 30 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge There's a zero-day exploit in the wild that's being used to execute malicious code on the computers of people using Tor and possibly other users of the Firefox browser, officials of the anonymity service confirmed Tuesday. Word of the previously unknown Firefox vulnerability first surfaced in this post on the official Tor website. It included several hundred lines of JavaScript and an introduction that warned: "This is an [sic] JavaScript exploit actively used against TorBrowser NOW." Tor cofounder Roger Dingledine quickly confirmed the previously unknown vulnerability and said engineers from Mozilla were in the process of developing a patch. According to security researchers who analyzed the code, it exploits a memory corruption vulnerability that allows malicious code to be executed on computers running Windows. The malicious payload it delivers, according to an independent researcher who goes by the Twitter handle @TheWack0lian, is almost identical to one that was used in 2013 to deanonymize people visiting a Tor-shielded child pornography site. The FBI ultimately acknowledged responsibility for the exploit, which was embedded in Web pages served by a service known as Freedom Hosting. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
(credit: NASA) Early in our Solar System's history, the Earth was slammed by a Mars-sized body. The collision effectively disassembled both bodies and created a swirling mass of debris from which the present Earth and its Moon condensed. The process of forming these two bodies was violent, as debris of various size rained down on their surfaces. As a result, the Moon's surface started out as a global ocean of molten rock. Eventually, as this ocean cooled, it formed the Moon's crust. But the process was complex. Different minerals solidified at different temperatures and depths. We've had some models of how this might have happened, based on a limited number of experiments, as well as our early understanding of the Moon's composition. But scientists from VU Amsterdam have revisited this issue in light of what we now know of the Moon. The scientists have tested how various mineral mixes behave under extreme temperatures and pressures. Their results indicate that the Moon must have started out with significant amounts of water mixed into its global magma ocean. How do you model an entire ocean of molten rock? You start with the known composition of the Moon and use that to create a mix of the appropriate minerals. Then you expose those minerals to extreme pressures and temperatures well beyond the melting point of rock. For these experiments, the temperatures ranged up to 1,550°C. Since the magma ocean was potentially hundreds of kilometers deep (current estimates range from 400 to 1,000 kilometers), pressures ranged up to 3 GigaPascals, which is nearly 30,000 atmospheres. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Uh oh. This seems bad. (credit: HBO) This week's Westworld episode, "The Well-Tempered Clavier," gave us all the answers. Well, most of the answers. OK, SOME answers. Fine. We're still freakin' mystified. My guest on Decrypted this week is Norman Chan, co-founder of Tested, who writes and makes videos about science, technology, and pop culture. Norm has some fascinating observations about which robot characters are the most realistic, and he told us what he thinks is really going on with Wyatt. Topics discussed: The big reveal about Arnold (and what this says about Ford's plans); timeframes and robot memory (this is a lot more complex than a "dual timeline" theory); long loops and short loops (and OMG we are starting to think a lot about Matrix: Reloaded); what the robot revolution will really be like (and how maybe we don't really want to see the robots leave Westworld); how the show really sells us on robots (it's not the effects; it's the acting); robot therapy (which involves nuking your memories); Maeve's incredible scene with Bernard (one of the most intense moments in the show so far); what needs to get resolved this season and what we are OK with leaving until season 2 (seriously we don't mind waiting to know more about the Delos plot). Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Committee chair Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) (credit: Getty | Allison Shelley) On Tuesday, President-elect Donald J. Trump announced his nomination of six-term Republican Congress member Tom Price of Georgia to be the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Like many of his Republican colleagues, Price has been a vocal and long-standing critic of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. But Price, a former orthopedic surgeon, stands apart. While other Republicans have expressed their desire take a hatchet to the landmark healthcare law, he has taken up a scalpel and carved out the most detailed plan yet to repeal and replace the ACA. ‘Repeal and replace’ was a mantra of Trump’s campaign, yet the President-elect provided no specifics on how to do it or what might replace the ACA. Price’s plan could fill that void. But uncertainty still prevails over any prognosis for the country’s healthcare system. Up for speculation is everything from the political maneuvers necessary to repeal the ACA to the Republican establishment’s acceptance of Price’s replacement plan, some aspects of which are at odds with other Republican plans. Read 27 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Scopely) On Tuesday, Zynga sued two of its former employees. The company claims they stole confidential information and took it to their new employer, rival social gaming startup, Scopely. Massimo Maietti and Ehud Barlach worked as higher-up employees for the San Francisco-based Zynga until they left in July and September, respectively. Scopely, which makes Dice with Buddies, Wheel of Fortune Free Play, and others, is also named as a co-defendant in the case. According to Zynga’s 28-page civil complaint, Maietti was the creative director on “one of Zynga’s most ambitious soon-to-be released games, which goes by the code name ‘Project Mars.’” Barlach, for his part, was the general manager of Hit It Rich! Slots. Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A Google Earth Timelapse of a community in Canada. Google Earth Timelapse is a really awesome project that lets you turn back the clock on Planet Earth. In 2013, Google worked with the US Geological Survey (USGS), NASA, and TIME to compile a history of satellite imagery from 1984 to 2012. Today, Google updated the project with "four additional years of imagery, petabytes of new data, and a sharper view of the Earth from 1984 to 2016." The new data isn't just "new" data—Google also managed to compile better older images of Earth thanks to the Landsat Global Archive Consolidation Program. Google says it sifted through 5 million satellite images from five different satellites, taking the best of the "three quadrillion pixels" to create 33 images of Earth (one for each year). Thanks to the plethora of data and Google's cloud-computing algorithms, you get all of this without any clouds blocking the view. The images are up on Google Earth Engine, where the interactive "Timelapse" page basically looks like Google Earth, but with a draggable timeline and a "play" button. Google has even highlighted a few spots where viewers can watch a glacier melt away into nothingness or check out pretty much anywhere in China, which looks like a game of SimCity. Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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Evolution of CCS charging technology for EVs toward 350 kW. (credit: Porsche) Several automakers have agreed to form a joint venture in Europe to build roughly 400 “ultra-fast” charging sites along highways on the continent to make long distance travel in electric cars more feasible. BMW, Volkswagen Group, Ford, and Daimler are heading up the venture, along with Audi and Porsche—both divisions of VW Group. In a press release today, the automakers said the charging stations would deliver 350 kW over a DC charging network, which is set to “significantly reduce charging time compared to available systems.” For comparison, Tesla’s supercharging stations deliver 120 kW and can fill a Tesla up to 170 miles of range in 30 minutes. The European network will use the Combined Charging System (CCS) standard that is compatible with current and future electric vehicles from all the joint venture companies as well as Fiat-Chrysler and Hyundai. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge AT&T's DirecTV Now online streaming service goes live tomorrow, and the best pricing will only be available for a limited time. That's a problem, because the service is missing key features at launch and it's not clear when they'll arrive. The biggest technical limitations might be the lack of recording functionality and the inability to pause live TV for more than a few seconds. DirecTV Now won't have DVR functionality until sometime next year, according to several news reports. If DVR launches in January or February, then it isn't such a huge deal, but if the functionality only comes late in 2017 that would dramatically reduce the value proposition for customers who sign up right away to lock in the most favorable pricing. It's not even definite that DVR functionality will come to DirecTV Now in 2017. When contacted by Ars today, the company said that "DVR and pause capability is coming in the future, likely next year." (For customers' sake, we hope "likely next year" doesn't turn into "2018.") Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Alirod Ameri) In a Tuesday blog post, Brewster Kahle, the founder of the Internet Archive, announced plans to mirror the entire massive repository in Canada—largely over fear of the incoming Trump administration. “On November 9 in America, we woke up to a new administration promising radical change," he wrote. “It was a firm reminder that institutions like ours, built for the long-term, need to design for change. For us, it means keeping our cultural materials safe, private, and perpetually accessible. It means preparing for a Web that may face greater restrictions.” He continued, warning that government surveillance “looks like it will increase.” As such, the Internet Archive is “fighting to protect our readers’ privacy in the digital world.” Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Eyeo CEO Till Faida at a conference in 2016. (credit: Getty Images) In the US, blocking online advertisements might land you in a heated debate. In Germany, you might have that debate in front of a judge. Eyeo GmbH, the company that makes Adblock Plus, has been through no fewer than six court cases by publishers who say blocking online ads violates German law. The ad-blocking company has now won all of its cases at the district level, and one case has been through an appeal. Other cases continue through the German appeals courts. The final lawsuit was brought by Germany's best-known media brand, Spiegel Online, run by the same company that owns the newsmagazine Der Spiegel. Yesterday, Eyeo disclosed that its lawyers were contacted by telephone to be told that the case against them has been dismissed. The judge's reasoning won't be known until a written decision is released later this week. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / The guts of the Surface Studio laid out to examine. (credit: iFixit) In their bid to determine how repairable and upgradeable things are, the people at iFixit have thoroughly disassembled and beautifully photographed Microsoft's new all-in-one desktop, the Surface Studio. It's not a tremendous surprise to learn that the machine is full of soldered-down parts with a custom motherboard; this isn't a regular ATX PC, after all, and Microsoft has not designed it to be end-user serviceable. Accordingly, the processor, GPU, and RAM are all soldered down; if you buy the system with its base 8GB of RAM, that's all it's ever going to have. The gorgeous 4500×3000 28-inch display is all but a completely sealed unit, too, though it's packed with touch screen sensors, cameras, speakers, and even its own decided ARM processor. The only saving grace is that, should you damage the screen, it appears that the entire unit can be replaced easily. This is unlikely to come cheap, mind you, as the screen is far and away the most expensive component of the entire system. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Android phones with SD card slots are the primary driver behind the new "app performance" rating for SD cards. (credit: Andrew Cunningham) SD cards have historically been associated with digital cameras, media players, game consoles, and other relatively simple and appliance-like devices. In these roles, the cards primarily needed to offer fast sequential read and write speeds, since they were typically just being asked to save and access one file at a time. But SD cards are becoming increasingly important as primary storage devices, use cases that demand better random read and write performance to account for multiple apps making small reads and writes to the cards in rapid succession. The new application performance symbols. (credit: SD Association) In recognition of these more complex use cases, the SD Association has introduced version 5.1 of the SD Specification (PDF), which adds a new "App Performance" class that guarantees buyers a minimum number of input/output operations per second (IOPS) just as the current speed classes guarantee minimum sequential writing speeds. The new "A1" speed class promises that cards support sustained write speeds of at least 10MBps, at least 1,500 read IOPS, and at least 500 write IOPS. Additional speed classes "will be introduced to meet market needs." A white paper published by the SD Association primarily credits Android 6.0's "adoptable storage" feature as the reason for the new standard—when Android OEMs don't turn it off, the feature makes it trivial for users to add to their phones' internal storage. But SD cards are considerably slower than the internal storage in most of these phones. To counteract this, Android generates warning pop-ups when cards don't meet minimum performance thresholds, but without doing extra research it's difficult for buyers to know whether the cards they're buying will be fast enough to avoid these messages. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: YouTube, Casey Neistat) CNN just brought one of the biggest vloggers on YouTube into its family. The news outlet acquired the startup Beme, a stripped-down Snapchat-like video-sharing app created by Matt Hackett and YouTuber Casey Neistat. According to Variety, a new venture will come out of the acquisition. Beme is shutting down, and its 11 employees, including Neistat, will join CNN to start a new media brand focused on millennial viewers. The Wall Street Journal reports that the deal is valued at $25 million. Hackett, who once was the vice president of engineering at Tumblr, will help build the brand's core technology while also helping to build new mobile video features for CNN's digital properties. Neistat, who has almost 5.8 million subscribers on YouTube, will serve as the brand's executive producer and shape its "editorial vision." It's likely that CNN will want to incorporate some of Beme's technology into this new brand or possibly some of its existing digital properties. Beme essentially forced the users to film what's around them rather than turning the camera on themselves. The app let users share four-second video clips by covering the top portion of the front of an iPhone, near the earpiece and the front-facing camera. This is most easily done by holding the iPhone to your chest, with the rear camera facing outward. This almost makes the phone "a stand-in for one’s body," as The New York Times once put it. Thanks in part to Neistat's following on YouTube, Beme was well-received when it first launched last year. However, with the heavy competition from Snapchat, and now Instagram which has incorporated Snapchat-esque features, Beme ultimately couldn't keep up. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Zboralski) The attacker who infected servers and desktop computers at the San Francisco Metropolitan Transit Agency (SFMTA) with ransomware on November 25 apparently gained access to the agency's network by way of a known vulnerability in an Oracle WebLogic server. That vulnerability is similar to the one used to hack a Maryland hospital network's systems in April and infect multiple hospitals with crypto-ransomware. And evidence suggests that SFMTA wasn't specifically targeted by the attackers; the agency just came up as a target of opportunity through a vulnerability scan. In an e-mail to Ars, SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said that on November 25, "we became aware of a potential security issue with our computer systems, including e-mail." The ransomware "encrypted some systems mainly affecting computer workstations," he said, "as well as access to various systems. However, the SFMTA network was not breached from the outside, nor did hackers gain entry through our firewalls. Muni operations and safety were not affected. Our customer payment systems were not hacked. Also, despite media reports, no data was accessed from any of our servers." That description of the ransomware attack is not consistent with some of the evidence of previous ransomware attacks by those behind the SFMTA incident—which Rose said primarily affected about 900 desktop computers throughout the agency. Based on communications uncovered from the ransomware operator behind the Muni attack published by security reporter Brian Krebs, an SFMTA Web-facing server was likely compromised by what is referred to as a "deserialization" attack after it was identified by a vulnerability scan. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | GSO Images) Congress has passed a law protecting the right of US consumers to post negative online reviews without fear of retaliation from companies. The bipartisan Consumer Review Fairness Act was passed by unanimous consent in the US Senate yesterday, a Senate Commerce Committee announcement said. The bill, introduced in 2014, was already approved by the House of Representatives and now awaits President Obama's signature. The Commerce Committee held a hearing on gag clauses a year ago and said it heard "testimony from Ms. Jen Palmer, a plaintiff in Palmer v. KlearGear, where a company demanded the removal of a negative online review or payment of $3,500 in fines because the online merchant’s terms of service included a non-disparagement clause. When the review was not taken down, the company reported the unpaid $3,500 to a credit reporting agency as an outstanding debt, which negatively impacted the Palmers’ credit." Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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