Tuesday, December 16, 2014
When the solar winds blow strong, it plays havoc with electronics here on Earth. We can protect our sensitive electronic infrastructure—power grids, navigation and communication satellites, and such—but only with sufficient warning. And that's where NASA's new DSCOVR satellite comes in.
When the sun ejects a solar flare into space, the high energy particles that constitute solar wind can cause Earth's atmosphere to erupt in a geomagnetic storm thereby damaging, or at least temporarily disrupting, the terrestrial electronics. The Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR, not DSCO for some reason) represents the latest generation of NASA's solar wind early warning system, providing researchers and utilities valuable minutes to harden sensitive systems against the electromagnetic onslaught.
The DSCOVR will launch early next month from Cape Canaveral aboard an Falcon 9 rocket and travel nearly a million miles to Lagrange 1, the gravity-neutral midway point between the Earth and the Sun. From this position, it will have an uninterrupted view of the the Earth's sunlit half, providing between 15 minutes and an hour or lead time ahead of a disruptive solar storm's arrival.
"A CME [coronal mass ejection] is many times larger than Earth, and will pass over the satellite, allowing scientists to determine the magnetic field and the strength of the resulting geomagnetic storm that will ensue," Douglas Biesecker, NOAA's DSCOVR program scientist, said in a press statement.
What's more, the satellite's unique orbit means that "we will be able to see the whole sunlit disc of Earth all the time," said Adam Szabo, NASA's DSCOVR project scientist, in a press statement. It will do so by utilizing the NASA Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) and this could prove a boon for the Earth observation sciences. As the NOAA website explains:
EPIC's observations will provide a unique angular perspective, and will be used in science applications to measure ozone and aerosol amounts, cloud height, vegetation properties and ultraviolet reflectivity of Earth. The data from EPIC will be used by NASA for a number of Earth science developments including dust and volcanic ash maps of the entire Earth.
EPIC makes images of the sunlit face of the Earth in 10 narrowband spectral channels. As part of EPIC data processing, a full disk true color Earth image will be produced about every two hours.
The DSCOVR is actually almost 20 years old. It was first proposed way back in 1998 by vice-president/Internet inventor Al Gore (hence "GoreSat") as an Earth observation satellite/publicity stunt. According to a report by the New York Times, Gore had hoped to raise climate change awareness by updating the historic "Blue Marble" image captured by Apollo 17.
Unfortunately for Gore, NASA wasn't biting. NASA's Inspector General at the time shot down the proposal stating that "Triana's [DSCOVR's original name] added science may not represent the best expenditure of NASA's limited science funding." This rebuke was reason enough for the newly-elected Dubya Bush administration to mothball the project indefinitely.
The $100 million satellite stayed in storage for the entirety of Bush's term but the approaching end of ACE's operational life, as well as a sterling recommendation of DSCOVR's usefulness from the NSF, instigated the Obama administration to pull it out in 2008 and re-certify it for launch. [NOAA - Wiki - NASA]
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Law enforcement officials who oversee counties with many undocumented immigrants believe that the president's executive action is necessary to curb dangerous mistrust between immigrants and the police.
The post In Immigrant-Heavy Cities, Law Enforcement Leaders Say Executive Action Will Make Communities Safer appeared first on ThinkProgress.
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"The pledges made so far lead to earlier emission peaking in many countries, with 1-1.5 °C less total warming than without these policies, but not sufficient to meet the 2°C target."
The post New Research Says Latest International Climate Pledges Still Fall Short of 2°C Goal appeared first on ThinkProgress.
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Google has been given until February to change its management of data from users or else face a fine of up to $18 million.
The threat comes from the Dutch data protection agency which admits it is running out of patience with Google at this point. It has threatened to fine Google up to a max of €15 million - $18.6 million - if it does not stop violating Dutch users' privacy.
This all stems from a 2012 change in Google's privacy policies across services, intended to unify them into a single policy. The pooling of data across services ruffled a lot of feathers, particularly in the European Union where regulators at the state and European levels have raised questions about the change's compatibility with data protection and privacy laws.
"This has been ongoing since 2012 and we hope our patience will no longer be tested," said Jacob Kohnstamm, chairman of the Dutch data protection authority.
The problem the regulator has with Google seems to boil down to the fact that users weren't properly informed in advance of the changes, and Google sought no consent to pool data from search, its email service, and other sites together.
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Microsoft boss Satya Nadella loves cloud computing, and a new, rumored Microsoft service could be putting all that computing power to better use than every. A project codenamed "Arcadia" (yes, another Halo reference) could soon stream games and apps to Windows devices, phones and tablets and computers alike.
The report comes in from ZDNet's quite reliable Mary Jo Foley, who cites sources that say Arcadia is built right on top of Microsoft's Azure cloud, as well as a job listing that explicitly mentions the project. The obvious application is games, specifically running Xbox games remote and then streaming them to phones or tablets a la Nvidia's GRID technology. After all, Sony is already leading in the remote-play race, with in-home streaming from the PS4 to the PS Vita or select Android phones, as well as the still-beta Playstation Now service.
But there are more applications beyond just that. Sources tell ZDNet that using Arcadia to put Android apps on Windows devices has at least been considered. Though it seems like the idea of using Arcadia—but not the idea of bringing over Android apps in another way—has been tabled for now.
Whether Arcadia is ready for primetime soon is anyone's guess, but Microsoft does have a big Windows 10 event coming up next month, so it's possible it might make an appearance there. The service is almost certain to launch exclusively on Windows 10, but it's easy to see how it might eventual leak out to other platforms as well. Microsoft has been doing a lot of cross-platform work lately; it's sure great for selling Surfaces and Xboxes and Nokia phones. But it's even better to transform millions of other devices to windows (pun intended) into Microsoft's cloud. [ZDNet]
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The Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF) is expanding its research with three new projects that examine wastewater as a resource. Two of the projects seek to show that materials in wastewater can be commoditized. The third project explores a new method of reducing phosphorus in wastewater. - - The University of Nebraska-Lincoln will explore the "Production of Bioisoprene from Wastewater" (WERF project # NTRY6R14). The research team will convert biomass from wastewater treatment facil...
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This app wants to end texts that just say “what are you up to” originally published by Gigaom, © copyright 2014.
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The past few years have seen an absurd amount of companies getting hacked, from simple passwords to entire databases of email. And sure, when we're affected by these hacks, we look for someone to blame—but we rarely stop to look at our own lives and see what we can learn from these companies' mistakes.
Companies often seem like they're monolithic titans that can't be touched. Underneath all the branding, though, they're made up of people. People who can make mistakes, overlook something, or even get lazy. Whether you're one of the people who works for a big company, or just an average Jane looking to protect her chat logs, we can all learn a thing or two from these slip-ups.
Don't Neglect The Basics
To say Sony has been making news lately for its round of hacks would be a bit like saying a few people have heard of The Beatles. As our sister site Gawker pointed out, though, the biggest problem with the Sony hack was how low the barrier to entry was for the intruders. Massive documents containing master lists of passwords were not only labeled with names like "Master_Password_Sheet", but contained plain text with no encryption or other protection. It's like hiding your entire keyring under the doormat, and putting a note on the door that says "key under doormat."
In case you're unaware (or work for Sony), this is particularly bad because if an attacker gains access to one machine that stores these passwords, they can access everything. At the very least, protecting the spreadsheets themselves with a file-specific password might have prevented some damage (in the same way a password manager can protect regular users). However, these were likely neglected because it was assumed that more elaborate measures would keep them safe. As one security researcher told Gawker:
It's pretty common, I've seen, for large non-progressive organizations (older software dev shops, finance places) to have precariously old ways of thinking - like that "their firewall will save them".
Often, when we analyze our security threats, we can assume that intruders will come from shadowy overseas elite hackers that can break through our locks anyway (and, to be fair, in Sony's case it was probably true). But that's no excuse for making it easy on them. Encrypting those spreadsheets—or using proper password management software—could have at least slowed down the intruders.
In Sony's case, even encrypting those specific files could have helped. For most regular users, our online security checklist can help get you started. We also have a guide for the minimum things you should do to protect your Android phone. They may not all keep out North Korea or whoever, but they at least raise the bar.
Treat Everything Like It Might Be Hacked One Day
Around the Gawker Media circles, we aim to be big enough to admit when we're wrong. And when our company was hacked back in 2010, we weren't a beacon of security strength. However, it would've been easy to say that our team was simply outmatched by someone smarter (after all, there's always someone smarter).
The commenter account leaks would've been bad enough. However, excerpts from internal chat logs also made their way out. Arguably, these were the more embarrassing part of the attack. While we've all said things in private that can be interpreted badly if made public, but we often don't think about it at the time—and neither did the folks at Sony, who have found all their emails released to the public domain. Whether it's right or not doesn't matter when the damage is done.
You can't always watch every single thing you say, and it's hard to endorse obsessive paranoia as the right approach to security. Nevertheless, it's good practice to treat everything like it will someday be hacked. It's happening to everyone these days, and while our primary goal should be to improve our security, we should also take precautions to ensure that our skeletons aren't so easy to find. That doesn't mean you can't ever speak your mind. Just be aware that you may have to own up to it someday.
Don't Ignore Physical Security
Most of us don't have a very accurate idea of what a "hack" looks like in progress because we don't see it happen. As a result, we fall back on the Hollywood image of a skinny person in a dark room typing away on a Linux terminal, breaking through layers and layers of complex virtual security. As Target learned the hard way, though, it's not always a virtual firewall that gets breached.
When Target lost millions of customer records to one of the biggest retail security breaches in history, it wasn't because someone hacked the Gibson. They installed malware the little box that you swipe your card in. While technically the hack was initiated remotely (using network credentials from an HVAC company of all places), most people don't focus on the physical locations where data is collected, as it's assumed the "big hacks" wouldn't happen there.
To bring the point even further home, our sister site Gizmodo has talked at length about card skimmers, which snag credit card information at the source. While the Target hack was done with software and card skimmers use special hardware, the result is still the same. Data was stolen right where it was collected.
What does this mean for you? For starters, don't assume that you're safe just because you use 1048-bit, end-to-end encryption on your files stored in heavily guarded server facilities. While Google or Dropbox may be able to provide reasonable protection from remote hackers, if you don't protect your desktop, someone can walk right in and see your files. Lock the doors to your office, enable a PIN on your phone, encrypt your Wi-Fi, and don't let your laptop out of your sight. Just because some hacks happen over the internet doesn't mean you can forget about the places you physically interact with technology.
Be Mindful of Connected Accounts
Google, Facebook, and Twitter have all made efforts to make it easier to access services on the internet. You can use your Google account, for example, to log in to our own commenting system here on Lifehacker, among many others. This is a handy way to avoid keeping track of yet more passwords. While Google and Facebook are pretty secure, if you use a smaller service to connect your accounts, and it gets hacked—like Bit.ly did—it can introduce new problems.
For those who don't recall, Bit.ly is a URL shortener. It allowed users to connect their social media accounts so it could post for you. When it got hacked, the company warned users that their authentication tokens—the keys that allowed Bit.ly to access Facebook or Twitter on your behalf—were stolen as well.
This meant that even though neither Facebook or Twitter were hacked, people's accounts were still semi-vulnerable. Hacks of this kind allow the intruders to gain access to whatever information the service itself had, like your name, email address, phone number, timeline activity, or even the ability to post for you.
Previously mentioned security audit service MyPermissions can help you do an audit of your accounts and see what apps you've given access to your account. You can also check Facebook, Twitter, and Google at these links to revoke permissions directly if necessary. You may not want to do this for applications in active use, but anything you don't recognize or use anymore, get rid of it. In Google's case, you can also see physical devices that still have access to your account, so even if you use MyPermissions, double check with Google.
More importantly, if a company gets hacked, check your accounts even if you don't use that service anymore. Similarly, you should be careful of which companies you entrust your accounts to. Don't just ask "Would I let this company post to my timeline for me?" Ask "Do I trust this company not to get hacked?"
Even Experts Can Be Vulnerable
When you think of companies that are likely to be hacked, a firm that specializes in computer security doesn't sound like it would top the list. Nonetheless, RSA Security found itself the victim of what it described as "an extremely sophisticated cyber attack." How did they do it? By sending phishing emails—emails designed to look like they come from a different, trustworthy entity—to a small group of employees.
As regular consumers, most of us don't tend to familiarize ourselves with the intricacies of enterprise-level corporate security. In fact, most of us get bored reading that phrase. Instead, we fallback on the comfortable notion that "They're experts. They can handle it." And in many cases, that's true! People who are trained and paid to know more than we do can probably handle things better than we can.
However, nothing is foolproof. Even people who work in information security for a living can be hacked. By a similar token, we can think that because we read Lifehacker, use a password manager, and enable two-factor authentication, obviously we could never be hacked.
Neither case is true. We all take risks, of course, but we should never assume that a system is bulletproof just because we (or the people we trust) are smart. There's always someone smarter out there. Be aware of your vulnerabilities. Patch the holes. Backup your data. And, like we said earlier, assume that you will get hacked at some point, and take the necessary precautions.
When Something Bad Happens, Take Action As Soon As Possible
When something bad happens, it's natural to want to deny it. It can upset your entire day (or week), throw you off your schedule, and put you in a bad mood. The longer you wait, though, the worse it gets. Just ask Monster.com, who waited several days after discovering a hack to disclose it.
Now, this is obviously problematic for a variety of reasons. Monster's customers were none too pleased that their accounts were vulnerable without their knowledge. During that timeframe, scammers with full access to users' accounts were sending emails from what appeared to be recruiters to other users, asking for financial information.
This wasn't just an issue of Monster's reputation getting damaged. Users were in active danger because the accounts weren't closed down immediately. As we've discussed before, when major hacks happen, it's important that we inform users immediately so that action can be taken to prevent abuse.
Of course, companies that get hacked and news outlets like us can only do so much. If you discover a vulnerability in your accounts or devices, don't hesitate. Take action immediately to fix the problem. It may suck for a while that your day had to get interrupted with yet another security problem, but it's far better than letting a hacker run wild with your data.
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This is what's next for Dr. Vivek Murthy.
The post We Finally Have A Surgeon General Again. Here’s What He’ll Do Now. appeared first on ThinkProgress.
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Yesterday, the Uncarrier launched supercharged LTE for the New York City area, boosting speeds up to 50 percent with max download rates up to 100 Mbps. Now, in a fireside chat of sorts with Yahoo's David Pogue, T-Mo CEO John Legere announced a rollover plan for your data, called "Data Stash."
As part of Uncarrier 8.0, Data Stash is pretty much what it sounds like. If you don't use all the data you pay for one month, it will carrier over to the next month. To sweeten the deal, new and existing T-Mobile customers who qualify will also received 10 GB of data to start of with. "This is probably the biggest thing we've ever done since Uncarrier 1.0," Legere told Pogue. He also called Pogue a habitual porn user.
Legere says on average, customers purchase 4 to 5 GB of data and, also on average, those people leave 3GB of data unused. Now, T-Mobile won't clean off the table every month, it will also give you some leftovers to take home too.
Data Stash is a free service for T-Mobile customers that will begin in January 2015.
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Not home in time for SNL? Doesn't mean you can't still watch it live. NBC is going to start streaming its broadcast network shows online, live and in real-time, as long as you have a cable subscription.
You won't have to pay extra for online access, like that dumb CBS streaming plan. It's free (ish)—you just have to prove that you're a cable subscriber. Then you'll be able to watch stuff as it's broadcast on your computer, tablet, or phone. The Wall Street Journal says the desktop portion debuts today, with mobile counterparts following in early 2015.
Now, most networks have places where you can watch stuff online, but live is a nice and frankly overdue touch. Not revolutionary, but nice. [WSJ]
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HBO Go this week announced that the streaming service has been made available to Amazon Fire TV owners today, with Fire Stick customers having access to the app sometime in the Spring. Of course if you head to activate your device, you'll find that Comcast and Charter aren't supported. Why the companies are blocking a relatively uncomplicated app and authentication service isn't clear. Amazon says that negotiations are ongoing.
"We d love to provide HBO Go for Comcast customers on Fire TV and encourage those customers to reach out to Comcast for further information on availability," is all Amazon spokepeople would say about the matter.
Comcast isn't commenting whatsoever. Comcast has been a stumbling block for HBO Go availability for some time; users have been complaining since 2011 that the cable giant doesn't allow HBO Go to work on Roku if you're a Comcast cable subscriber. Comcast was a similar hurdle when HBO Go launched on the Playstation 3.
When pressed, Comcast will only state that technical integration of such functionality takes time. While that might be true, it doesn't take three-plus years worth of time -- suggesting that Comcast's intentionally blocking the functionality. Only this week did news emerge that Comcast and Roku have finally struck a deal some three years later, only after merger critics brought it up as an example of bad Comcast behavior.
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Engineers increasingly are using Tepex performance composites from LANXESS subsidiary Bond-Laminates to significantly improve the mechanical strength of components made of fiber-reinforced thermoplastic compression molding compounds. The latest example is a cover on the rear muffler of the BMW i8. It is fabricated in a direct long fiber thermoplastic (DLFT) process from a polypropylene compression molding compound reinforced with long glass fiber rovings. An insert made of Tepex dynalite 10...
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