posted 12 days ago on ars technica
On Saturday, Electronic Arts COO Peter Moore took the stage at Sony's PlayStation Experience expo keynote in Las Vegas, but unlike other companies in attendance, he didn't have any games to reveal. Instead, he used the 20th anniversary of PlayStation as an opportunity to give gifts out to anybody who owns a PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita. Starting Saturday, and lasting until Sunday night at midnight Pacific Time, owners of those three consoles can log into the PlayStation Store to grab a free game for each platform. PS3 owners can look forward to the classic first-person runner Mirror's Edge; PS4 players can snag this year's Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare; and PS Vita fans can snag Need For Speed: Most Wanted for free on-the-go racing. Once the promotional period ends, the offer's off the table, so rush to your favorite Sony systems for your freebies while you can. Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
On Saturday, Sony opened its first-ever PlayStation Experience expo with world premiere footage of fan favorite game series like Uncharted and Final Fantasy and entirely new IP. The expo launched with a show-of-force keynote presentation that reveled in its Sony-first status, complete with a proclamation that the PlayStation 4 was the “fastest-selling game console of all time” and a whopping 25 minutes of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End gameplay. That demo was the longest fans had yet seen, and it included astounding visual effects such as dense foliage and startling haze effects (the latter made all the more impressive by how tiny particles glistened in hero Nathan Drake’s flashlight). The core gameplay was otherwise typical Uncharted stuff: climb rock walls, shoot angry guys, sneak through foliage, only far better looking and with tweaks like a grappling hook and melee-specific functions that echo the brutal combat of developer Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us. The crowd erupted when a Final Fantasy VII logo appeared. Square Enix exec Shinji Hashimoto played a lengthy reveal video of the game’s original PlayStation form and a note indicating “coming to PlayStation 4 in Spring 2015,” but based on the video and Hashimoto’s comments in broken English, we can only it won’t be remastered, but rather made from the original game’s PC build. So, no, don’t expect updates to the classic’s dated CGI cut scenes. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
You can now request an Uber ride in Portland, Oregon, but your driver may get slapped with a hefty fine. The ridesharing company launched in the city on Friday night, a move that City Commissioner Steve Novick said was illegal. “People who pick up passengers for Uber in Portland should know that they are operating illegally and could be subject to penalties,” Novick said in a press release. “Public safety, fairness among competitors and customer service are our top priorities. Unlike permitted drivers, Uber drivers do not carry commercial insurance, putting Portland customers at great risk.” Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
People hold beliefs for a complex variety of reasons. Some of these beliefs may be based on facts, but others may be based on ideas that can never be proved or disproven. For example, people who are against the death penalty might base their belief partly on evidence that the death penalty does not reduce violent crime (which could later be shown to be false), and partly on the notion that the death penalty violates a fundamental human right to life. The latter is an unfalsifiable belief, because it can’t be changed purely by facts. According to a new study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, unfalsifiability is an important component of both religious and political beliefs. It allows people to hold their beliefs with more conviction, but it also alows them to become more polarized in those beliefs.  Currently, very little is known about why certain worldviews gain more mindshare in some populations, while others remain on the fringes. We also currently know only a little about how and why people continue to hold a belief in the face of contradictory evidence. Sometimes people argue on the basis of fact, questioning the quality of the evidence against their position, for example.  Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
CN.dart.call("xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:[], collapse: true});Netbooks never really went away—it's just that no one calls them netbooks anymore. The label became a byword for cheap, plasticky, slow, cramped little laptops that no one would make the mistake of buying twice, but these devices are still around. Sometimes they look like convertibles or even tablets with keyboard accessories, but companies that stopped making "netbooks" never stopped trying to make a device that could provide some facsimile of the Windows PC experience for two or three hundred bucks. Specs at a glance: HP Stream 11 SCREEN 1366×768 at 11.6" (135 ppi) OS Windows 8.1 with Bing 64-bit CPU 2.16GHz (2.58Ghz Turbo) dual-core Intel Celeron N2840 RAM 2GB 1333MHz DDR3 GPU Intel HD Graphics HDD 32GB eMMC NETWORKING 2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 PORTS 1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0, HDMI, SD card reader, headphone jack SIZE 11.81 x 8.1 x 0.78" (300mm x 205.7mm x 19.3mm) WEIGHT 2.74 lbs (1.25kg) BATTERY 3-cell 37Wh Li-polymer WARRANTY 1 year STARTING PRICE $199.99 OTHER PERKS 720p Webcam, Kensington lock slot For a while these kinds of computers were being squeezed out mostly by tablets, but now Microsoft is making moves to counter another threat to its desktop hegemony: Chromebooks. Google's laptops need a reliable Internet connection of reasonable speed to accomplish pretty much anything, and they're still limited in what they can do. But there are plenty of them in Amazon's list of best-selling laptops at any given time, and they appear to be gaining traction within a few particular markets. They start right around $200, and almost all of them cost less than $400. Microsoft has made a few changes to Windows' licensing to combat these laptops, just as it made changes to Windows XP's licensing in the late 2000s to counter those early Linux netbooks. Most prominently, a new "Windows 8.1 with Bing" SKU offers OEMs a price cut in exchange for the ability to change the default search engine. And that, along with cheap don't-call-it-an-Atom chips, is what is letting companies like HP build laptops like the 11-inch and 13-inch Stream laptops for $200 and $230, respectively. Read 31 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
After a very brief announcement and teaser at E3 this year, Nintendo used the inaugural Game Awards webstream and live presentation in Las Vegas tonight to show off a more substantial trailer highlighting new gameplay features in the next Legend of Zelda game, planned to hit the Wii U some time in 2015. In the trailer, Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto and project producer Eiji Aounuma discuss the game's "massive world" designed with "a number of high places with great views" to view far-off goals ("It would take a very long time for Link to walk" across the map, Aounuma says). Distant landmarks can be highlighted through a first-person view, controlled by tilting the GamePad, then show up as markers on an interactive, zoomable map on the touchscreen. Much of the trailer dealt with Link riding a horse, which can now run through forested areas and avoid trees automatically with minimal interaction from the players (as Aounuma blithely puts it, "real horses don't run into trees very often.") Without the need to directly control the horse, the player is free to do things like change the camera angle, swing at enemies or aim and shoot arrows. Players can also jump off their mount, going into a slow motion flip that allows for easy arrow shooting. Oh, and you can pick and eat apples growing on the trees, if that's what you're in to. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
On Friday, Variety reported that Sony Pictures Entertainment employees received an e-mail from hackers threatening their families. Sources told Variety that employees were told to turn off their phones after receiving the message. The e-mail is just the latest affront to Sony in the last two weeks since it was hacked in late November. Sony Pictures Entertainment suffered a devastating blow to its internal corporate network at the hands of hackers who promptly released passwords, e-mails, identification documents for cast and crew members of Sony's productions, business documents listing salaries, and media files from employees' computers. Today's e-mail was poorly written and cryptically asked that employees “Please sign your name to object the false of the company at the email address below.” Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
OAKLAND, Calif. — Top Apple executives were on the witness stand Thursday, contesting class-action lawyers' contentions that the company's copy-protection scheme was anti-competitive and illegal. It was the third day of testimony in a long-running antitrust class-action suit that has finally headed to a trial. Plaintiffs representing a class of resellers and consumers say Apple's digital rights management (DRM) shut out competitors and illegally raised prices. First up was iTunes chief Eddy Cue, who repeatedly pointed out that Apple didn't want DRM on its music at all. But big record labels wouldn't participate in an online music marketplace unless DRM was present, he said. Read 52 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Hackers have an almost unlimited number of ways to install malware on the computers of unsuspecting people. One of the more effective ones is, paradoxically itself, preying on the fear of being hacked. A good example is the fake warning above. It's designed to resemble the alerts that Chrome, Firefox, and most other browsers display when a user tries to visit a site known to be malicious. It allows people to visit the site only by clicking a button acknowledging the risk. In fact, the above warning is generated by attackers pushing ZeuS, a highly malicious computer trojan that steals online banking credentials and makes infected computers part of a botnet that can carry out a variety of other criminal acts. Researchers from PhishLabs who came across the warning still don't know exactly how people encounter the advisory hoax. They were, however, able to track the malware that gets installed when a user falls for it and clicks the update button. It's tied to a ZeuS command and control server. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Can you make a good Mario game without a jump button? It sounds like a silly question. Jumping is such a deeply ingrained part of the Mario experience that the protagonist in Donkey Kong was originally named "Jumpman" before he became the Nintendo mascot we know and love. But one of the most interesting parts of last year's Super Mario 3D World was the bonus stages that took away that core ability, giving players control of a pudgy, waddling Captain Toad who had to use a complex series of ramps, ladders, and elevators if he wanted to gain altitude. It was a nice change of pace that required using a different part of the brain than the more frenetic, standard 3D platforming that dominated the game. Now, with Captain Toad's Treasure Tracker, Nintendo is trying to prove that those bonus stages are interesting enough to sustain an entire, standalone platform game where you never jump under your own power. They manage to do just that, through some incredibly clever and varied level design. The developers have done an impressive job stretching the simple concept out across dozens of short levels that rarely feel repetitive or recycled (only a few reused boss fight vignettes, repeated with minor difference, really stick out in this regard). One moment you're tilting Toad down an old-fashioned pinball table. The next you're running through a sequence of dash pads down a collection of narrow pathways. One moment you'll be flying through the air in a series of cannons, the next you're manning the cannon to fire turnips to clear the way through walls and enemies. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 14 days ago on ars technica
Staffers on Mitt Romney’s failed 2012 presidential campaign revealed that the primary reason why its social media campaign was not nearly as successful as President Barack Obama’s was because Romney's was committee-approved to death, according to an academic paper published [PDF] on Friday. Zac Moffatt, the Romney campaign’s digital director, quipped to researcher Daniel Kreiss, a journalism professor at the University of North Carolina, that the campaign had "the best tweets ever written by 17 people." Another staffer, Caitlin Checkett, described the myriad of checks the campaign had imposed on itself, which got worse over time. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 14 days ago on ars technica
This will likely be our pick for best game at PlayStation Experience; we've played No Man's Sky already, and we want to keep flying through its bizarre, procedurally generated galaxies. We're used to expos full of video game announcements in months like March and June, locked tightly to the Western promotional cycle of pre-holiday sales hype—how else will little Timmy know what he wants under the tree? Yet as the industry's audience has aged, its promotional machine hasn't grown quite as much, which might be why Sony is giving its own exclusive early-December expo a shot. (Or maybe the company just really, really needs good news right now.) This weekend, the PlayStation Experience will take over Las Vegas' Sands Expo and Convention Center, and it will revolve around games set to launch on Sony's PS4 and PS Vita platforms through the next year and beyond. We'll be on hand to play a ton of games, including refreshed demos of upcoming 2015 titles like The Order: 1886, Bloodborne, and Until Dawn—possibly Uncharted 4, as well, though who knows. Either way, we're startled by how much exclusive and not-yet-seen stuff we've been told to expect. In particular, our inbox is overflowing with invites from the expo's indie contingent, which means we'll be playing the following promising gems (and then some): No Man's Sky, an overwhelmingly gorgeous open-world space game that we've been stoked about for some time; Axiom Verge, a glitch-loaded twist on the Metroidvania genre; Rocket League, a stunt-cars-meet-soccer party sport; Y2K, an American-hipster twist on Earthbound-styled JRPGs; Paperbound, a four-player, Smash Bros.-styled ninja fighting game; Snow, an open-world stunt-skiing game; Gunsport, a cyberpunk couch-combat game full of lasers; and Henka Twist Caper, a bizarre party-flexing game that requires PlayStation Move wands. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 14 days ago on ars technica
While the malware that took down computers at Sony Pictures last week was compiled just days before it was triggered, an earlier version of the code used to unleash the destructive attack may have been in use much earlier within Sony’s network. Malware with the same cryptographic signature and filename as the “Destover” malware was spotted by the security firm Packet Ninjas in July. That malware communicated with one of the same IP addresses and domain names as the final “Destover” malware: a server at Thammasat University in Bangkok, Thailand. The malware, which was found in a Cisco Partner ThreatGrid repository, also communicated with a network address assigned to a New York business customer of TimeWarner Cable. The Packet Ninjas report adds to the evidence that the attackers were inside Sony Pictures’ network for an extended period of time before unleashing the destructive attack that wiped the hard drives of PCs at the company and took its e-mail system offline. And further analysis of the malware’s code and behavior shows that it was tailored specifically to use parts of Sony Pictures’ e-mail server infrastructure to spread. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 14 days ago on ars technica
Between the high-profile critical disappointments of Watch Dogs and Assassin's Creed: Unity, criticizing Ubisoft has become somewhat fashionable of late. Much as I would like to buck that trend, my exposure to its latest game, massively multiplayer driving game The Crew, confirms that the mega-publisher is having a rough time of things. The Crew’s plot centers around the 5-10 gang, founded by your character’s brother back in the day. You’re fresh out of a stint in prison (for street racing, naturally) and things have changed with the 5-10: your brother is gone, and a real bad dude now holds the title of V-8 in his stead (underlings have titles like V-6, V-4, and so on). Now the 5-10 has gone nationwide, getting heavily involved in smuggling. Your task is to work your way up the 5-10 hierarchy as an informant for the FBI, exposing high-level corruption as you go. To that end, you earn rep within the criminal organization by completing standard classes of racing missions—delivering a passenger to a location, beating other people in a street race—as you work your way around the US and up the gang’s power structure. Since this is an MMO, you can do that in the company of friends (or random members of the public), cooperating on missions. Alternatively, you can just head out on the open road and explore a virtual America that’s surprisingly detailed, even if it’s been reduced in size to the point that you can drive across it in less than half an hour. Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 14 days ago on ars technica
A DSL standard that combines fiber and copper to reach gigabit speeds was approved today by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The next step for the new G.fast standard is certifying chipsets and equipment. To that end, the Broadband Forum industry consortium is holding a plugfest in January to test interoperability of products, with a beta trial of a certification program to follow in mid-2015. "Certified G.fast implementations are expected to appear on the market before the end of 2015," the ITU said. G.fast relies on fiber to reach neighborhoods, with data sent over copper the rest of the way. This is similar to AT&T's 45Mbps fiber-to-the-node deployments, but the new DSL standard allows for much greater speed to consumers' homes. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 14 days ago on ars technica
Microsoft's Cortana digital assistant, currently still in beta in the US, UK, and China, will be spreading her reach later today. Users of the Windows Phone Developer Program will imminently receive an update that enables an alpha version of Cortana in France, Italy, Germany, and Spain. She's picking up four new languages, and a range of local knowledge and local jokes, including, of course, a taste for fútbol/fußball/football. As an alpha, Cortana in these four countries is not feature complete; she's missing reference data (in English you can ask her for various facts and figures, and she'll reply) and perhaps her best and most useful feature, flight tracking. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 14 days ago on ars technica
Update: If you got a bounced back e-mail when you tried to enter through the original @arstechnica.com address, please resend your entry to the updated ArsCharityDrive@gmail.com. If you did not get a bounceback, your entry has been received. Sorry for the inconvenience. Original Story It’s the season of giving, and here at Ars, we’d like to give some stuff to you while you give to some deserving charities. That’s right—it’s the 2014 edition of our annual Charity Drive. Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 14 days ago on ars technica
CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA—After a delay yesterday due to stuck cryogenic valves, NASA's Orion EFT-1 mission departed from Space Launch Complex 37B from Cape Canaveral this morning at 7:05am EST. The launch marks an important milestone: it's the first attempt since the Apollo missions ended 42 years ago to put a new spacecraft designed for manned missions beyond low earth orbit (LEO). For NASA, Orion EFT-1 (Exploration Flight Test 1) is more than just a return to goals more ambitious than low-Earth orbit. It represents the restoration of our capability to explore the rest of the solar system, starting with a planned lunar rendezvous with Orion's second planned flight, EM-1 (Exploration Mission 1). Mars is the ultimate goal, but that seems like more of a dream of NASA administrators at the moment. Speaking to the media two days ago, NASA Chief Administrator Charlie Bolden and his staff made this very clear—Mars is the goal, but the steps to get there are clearly under consideration, and the team is very aware of the political and budgetary realities that it will have to overcome. Former NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver spoke more pessimistically about both EFT-1 and NASA's upcoming Orion-based Mars plans in a Bloomberg interview earlier this week. "This is a test of flight that'll go for four hours, go no father than certainly satellites we launch all the time, on a commercial rocket we've launched many times, testing a heat shield which is very likely not to be used in 20 years when we actually go to Mars," she said. "I understand NASA likes to launch things; this is something the contractors and the politicians who've sold this missions to the Congress have decided they would like to proceed with, but it's not something that in my view is be best use of NASA resources." Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 14 days ago on ars technica
Rovio has confirmed that 110 people will lose their jobs as the Angry Birds maker also shuts down its game-development studio in Tampere, Finland. The layoffs, first announced in October, amount to about 14 percent of the company's workforce. It had been expected that Rovio would make 130 people redundant but after a round of consultations this number has now been reduced. Rovio said that as a result of the redundancies "several positions" have been opened for internal applications. The actual number of employees out of work will depend on how many new internal positions are filled. The closing of its Tampere development studio means that Rovio will move all of its Finnish operation to its Espoo headquarters. The company shot to fame in 2009 when it released Angry Birds, its 52nd game. The title went on to become the most downloaded mobile game of all time. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 14 days ago on ars technica
The venerable Street Fighter franchise will continue, but not on Xbox consoles, apparently. That's according to a short teaser trailer for the upcoming Street Fighter V, which briefly popped up on Capcom's YouTube channel this morning before being reset to private. Screengrabs from that trailer note the game is "exclusive on PS4 & PC." While it was public, the trailer showed a short gameplay sequence between familiar characters Ryu and Chun Li, that looked fairly reminiscent of the Street Fighter IV series. The trailer has no mention of a release window or details on whether the release is a timed exclusive or a more permanent arrangement between Capcom and Sony. There's also no mention of an arcade release, surprising considering the series' roots and Street Fighter IV's success in Japanese arcades. The leak comes ahead of tonight's presentation of The Game Awards, which has promised a number of exclusive game reveals, and this weekend's Sony PlayStation Experience fan event, both in Las Vegas. It also follows the surprise August announcement that Square Enix's 2015 Tomb Raider title would be a timed exclusive on the Xbox One. Third-party console exclusives have gotten rarer over the years, but seem to be seeing a slight uptick as some Japanese publishers focus certain franchises on single consoles in this generation (see also: Bayonetta 2 on the Wii U) Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 14 days ago on ars technica
In the wake of revelations about the extent of US spying, both Apple and Google announced in September their newest phones will be encrypted by default. That means no one—not law enforcement or the companies themselves—would be able to grab data off a locked device. The FBI didn't like that idea one bit and they said so to Congress. On Thursday, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced a bill that, if passed, would make sure the companies can encrypt unmolested. The Secure Data Act would prohibit government agencies from requiring any "backdoors" be placed in US software or hardware. "Strong encryption and sound computer security is the best way to keep Americans’ data safe from hackers and foreign threats," said Wyden in a statement. He continues: Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 14 days ago on ars technica
On Tuesday, a District Court judge in Minnesota ruled [PDF] that a group of banks can proceed to sue Target for negligence in the December 2013 breach that resulted in the theft of 40 million consumer credit card numbers as well as personal information on 70 million customers. The banks alleged that Target had “failed to heed warning signs” that would have stymied the banks' losses. The breach occurred between mid-November and mid-December in 2013, after hackers placed malware on Target POS systems which made it possible for them to steal credit card numbers as consumers swiped. The vast number of people affected by the breach made Target's hack the most notorious, but subsequent reports revealed that Target was only one of many big-name retail stores that had credit card data stolen—Neiman Marcus, Michaels, and later Home Depot customers were also revealed to be targets. After the breach, multiple banks and consumers sued Target in Minnesota, where the company is headquartered. The lawsuits from both banks and consumers were grouped together into two consolidated class action complaints. Target filed a motion to dismiss the claims made by the financial institutions, but District Court judge Paul A. Magnuson ruled that the plaintiffs' claims were valid. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 14 days ago on ars technica
The National Security Agency has spied on hundreds of companies and groups around the world, including in countries allied with the US government, as part of an effort designed to allow agents to hack into any cellphone network, no matter where it's located, according to a report published Thursday. Armed with technical details of a specific provider's current or planned networks, agents secretly attempt to identify or introduce flaws that will make it possible for communications to be covertly tapped, according to an article published by The Intercept. Security experts warned that programs that introduce security flaws or suppress fixes for existing vulnerabilities could cause widespread harm, since the bugs can also be exploited by criminal hackers or governments of nations around the world. "Even if you love the NSA and you say you have nothing to hide, you should be against a policy that introduces security vulnerabilities," Karsten Nohl, a cryptographer and smartphone security expert, told The Intercept. "Because once NSA introduces a weakness, a vulnerability, it's not only the NSA that can exploit it." Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 14 days ago on ars technica
The “wiper” malware that knocked Sony Pictures’ corporate network offline for over a week, now being called Destover, bears a striking resemblance not only to the “DarkSeoul” malware that struck South Korean companies last year, but the Shamoon “wiper” that struck Saudi Aramco in 2012, according to analysis by Kaspersky Labs and other security researchers. While there is nothing in the analysis that would tie the three attacks to the same malware developers, they all used similar techniques, as well as some of the same commercial Windows drivers to attack the hard drives of their victims. In an e-mail exchange with Ars, Kaspersky Lab security researcher Kurt Baumgartner said, “Of the three, the Shamoon and Destover implementations share the most similarities, and based on these similarities it is possible that there was shared guidance or expertise between the two projects. All three share operational similarities.” The Sony Pictures malware used commercial software to do its damage to the victim computers’ hard drives—the RawDisk library from EldoS, which allows Windows applications to gain direct access to disk hardware without having to run in administrator mode. As EldoS advertises on its website for RawDisk, the library “offers software developers direct access to files, disks and partitions of the disks (hard drives, flash disks, etc,) for user-mode applications, bypassing security limitations of Windows operating systems.” This allowed the malware to skip past any restrictive security permissions in Windows’ NTFS file system and overwrite the data on the drive, including the master boot record (MBR). (Further details of the malware's behavior are in Ars' updated analysis article.) Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 14 days ago on ars technica
Last month, our review of Halo: The Master Chief Collection scrutinized many of the anthology's disparate parts, from its Halo 2 remaster to its accumulation of the four games' split-screen multiplayer modes, but we let one significant portion of the game slide. To quote: "We're pretty sure Microsoft has its Xbox Live chops down to make sure all four games' [online multiplayer] will run just fine come launch day and beyond." Yeah, about that... Our review went live before matchmaking servers went live for the general public, and though we logged in on launch day to confirm that matchmaking worked on a basic level, we were apparently the exception. Users stormed enthusiast sites like reddit and NeoGAF, along with Halo's official forums, to complain about their general inability to connect to either public matchmaking lists or friends' private games, even after developers 343 Industries had proclaimed that the anthology's matchmaking would be powered by dedicated servers. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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