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Ransomware Attack Knocks The Weather Channel Off the Air
Posted on Thursday January 01, 1970

A computer attack knocked the Weather Channel off the air for more than an hour Thursday morning [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source], and federal authorities are investigating the incident, WSJ is reporting. From the report: After its broadcast was disrupted, the weather news service sent a tweet saying it had been the victim of "a malicious software attack," adding that federal law-enforcement officials were investigating the matter. A spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation said the incident was a ransomware attack, and the agency was conducting an investigation. Ransomware is an increasingly common form of digital extortion. Criminals install it on computer networks via trickery or hacking, and the software then spreads from computer to computer, locking up systems until a digital ransom is paid.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Instagram Hides Like Counts In Leaked Design Prototype
Posted on Thursday January 01, 1970

Instagram's Android code is hiding a design change that hides the number of likes your posts get. "During this test, only the person who shares a post will see the total number of likes it gets," the company says. TechCrunch reports on the seemingly small design change test and the massive potential impact it'll have on users' well-being: Hiding Like counts could reduce herd mentality, where people just Like what's already got tons of Likes. It could reduce the sense of competition on Instagram, since users won't compare their own counts with those of more popular friends or superstar creators. And it could encourage creators to post what feels most authentic rather than trying to rack up Likes for everyone to see. You can see [in a leaked screenshot] on the left that the Instagram feed post lacks a Like count, but still shows a few faces and a name of other people who've Liked it. Users are alerted that only they will see their post's Like counts, and anyone else won't. Many users delete posts that don't immediately get "enough" Likes or post to their fake "Finstagram" accounts if they don't think they'll be proud of the hearts they collect. Hiding Like counts might get users posting more because they'll be less self-conscious. It appears there's no plan to hide follower counts on user profiles, which are the true measure of popularity, but also serve a purpose of distinguishing great content creators and assessing their worth to marketers. Hiding Likes could just put more of a spotlight on follower and comment counts. And even if users don't see Like counts, they still massively impact the feed's ranking algorithm, so creators will still have to battle for them to be seen.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Utah Bans Police From Searching Digital Data Without a Warrant
Posted on Thursday January 01, 1970

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Forbes: In a major win for digital privacy, Utah became the first state in the nation to ban warrantless searches of electronic data. Under the Electronic Information or Data Privacy Act (HB 57), state law enforcement can only access someone's transmitted or stored digital data (including writing, images, and audio) if a court issues a search warrant based on probable cause. Simply put, the act ensures that search engines, email providers, social media, cloud storage, and any other third-party "electronic communications service" or "remote computing service" are fully protected under the Fourth Amendment (and its equivalent in the Utah Constitution). HB 57 also contains provisions that promote government transparency and accountability. In most cases, once agencies execute a warrant, they must then notify owners within 14 days that their data has been searched. Even more critically, HB 57 will prevent the government from using illegally obtained digital data as evidence in court. In a concession to law enforcement, the act will let police obtain location-tracking information or subscriber data without a warrant if there's an "imminent risk" of death, serious physical injury, sexual abuse, livestreamed sexual exploitation, kidnapping, or human trafficking. Backed by the ACLU of Utah and the Libertas Institute, the act went through five different substitute versions before it was finally approved -- without a single vote against it -- last month. HB 57 is slated to take effect in mid-May.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Google Will Begin To Block Sign-ins From Embedded Browser Frameworks in June
Posted on Thursday January 01, 1970

To fight phishing, Google last year announced it would require users to enable JavaScript during Google Account sign-in so that it could run attack-detecting risk assessments, and this week, the company said it'll begin to block all sign-ins from embedded browser frameworks like Chromium Embedded Framework starting in June. From a report: For the uninitiated, embedded browser frameworks enable developers to add basic web browsing functionality to their apps, and to use web languages like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to create those apps' interface (or portions of it). They're typically cross-platform -- Chromium Embedded Framework runs on Linux, Windows, and macOS -- and they support a range of language bindings. With the change, Google is specifically targeting man in the middle (MITM) attacks, which it says are particularly difficult to spot from automation platforms like embedded browser frameworks.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Notre Dame Official Says 'Computer Glitch' Could Be Fire Culprit
Posted on Thursday January 01, 1970

A "computer glitch" may have been behind the fast-spreading fire that ravaged Notre Dame, Associated Press reported Friday, citing the cathedral's rector. From the report: Speaking during a meeting of local business owners, rector Patrick Chauvet did not elaborate on the exact nature of the glitch, adding that "we may find out what happened in two or three months." On Thursday, Paris police investigators said they think an electrical short-circuit most likely caused the fire. French newspaper Le Parisien has reported that a fire alarm went off at Notre Dame shortly after 6 p.m. Monday but a computer bug showed the fire's location in the wrong place. The paper reported the flames may have started at the bottom of the cathedral's giant spire and may have been caused by an electrical problem in an elevator. Chauvet said there were fire alarms throughout the building, which he described as "well protected."

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