Microsoft warns 10,000 customers they’re targeted by nation-sponsored hackers
- According to a post from Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Customer Security & Trust Tom Burt, about 84% of the attacks targeted customers that were large, “enterprise” organizations such as corporations.
- Burt said Microsoft has seen “extensive” activity from five specific groups sponsored by Iran, North Korea, and Russia.
- Microsoft identified another of the five groups as Strontium, a Russian outfit that’s better known as Fancy Bear or APT28.
- Fancy Bear was one of two Russian-sponsored groups that hacked the Democratic National Committee ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
- Burt identified the three other nation-sponsored groups as Yttrium (a Russian outfit that Microsoft caught targeting US think tanks and non-governmental organizations in December), Iran-based Mercury, and Thallium of North Korea.
- Burt also said that, since launching its AccountGuard platform for protecting democratic elections last August, the company has made 781 notifications of nation-sponsored attacks targeting organizations that make use of the technology.
Zombifying fungus bypasses the brain to make ants its puppets, study finds
- David Hughes, an entomologist at Penn State University, has been studying the fascinating relationship between carpenter ants and their parasitic partner, Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, for years, in hopes of learning more about how the fungus controls its doomed host.
- Prior research showed that the zombification might be due to the release of a special chemical that causes the muscles in the infected ants' mandibles to contract forcefully for that death-grip bite.
- This latest study "gives us a broader picture of the fungus-host interactions that are occurring in the mandible [jaw] muscles of infected ants at the time of biting," said Penn State's Colleen Mangold, a co-author on the paper.
- Those interactions are likely what's behind that death-grip bite, since the fungus doesn't actually directly attach to an infected ant's brain.
- The team also observed strange vesicle-like particles attached to infected tissue, although it's not clear whether those are being produced by the fungus or the host ant.
Painted-on salt provides glowing thermometer for tiny things
- It's a (nearly) normal camera coupled with a laser that measures temperature from the emission of visible light.
- Room temperature objects emit very little thermal radiation, and you need a highly sensitive detector in your camera.
- The researchers have developed a group of temperature-sensitive luminescent materials to use as tiny thermometers.
- First the electron will give up some energy to its surroundings in the form of vibrations—the nuclei of the molecule start shaking about—then, at last, it may emit a photon of light to return to the ground state.
- The typical time it takes to emit light, called the lifetime, can be measured and then turned into a temperature with some calibration.
- They have identified a set of 2D materials (salts) that are nicely sensitive to temperature yet don’t rapidly age or suddenly stop working.
- The researchers show that their material provides a temperature resolution of 0.05°C—and the measurement is fast.
WHO declares Ebola outbreak an international emergency
- The World Health Organization on Wednesday declared the nearly year-long Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
- The declaration Wednesday follows the spread of Ebola to Goma, a DRC city of nearly 2 million people at the border with Rwanda that acts as hub of regional transportation.
- On Sunday, health workers there confirmed the city’s first case in a 47-year-old pastor who had just arrived from Butembo, a DRC city that has struggled with the outbreak since last December.
- The Emergency Committee of experts convened to assess the state of the outbreak today ultimately determined that the risk of Ebola’s spread “remains very high at national and regional levels but still low at global level.” The experts also urged responders to continue immunizing at-risk individuals with an experimental Ebola vaccine, which has shown to be 97.5 percent effective.
Turkey crosses “red line,” gets booted from F-35 partnership
- The US government had warned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that his government's purchase of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia would be incompatible with NATO systems and would trigger an exclusion of Turkey from the F-35 program.
- But Erdoğan has been steadily marching away from NATO since the July 2016 coup attempt against his government.
- In a speech on July 15 (the third anniversary of the coup attempt), Erdoğan welcomed the first components of S-400 systems to Turkey, saying that "the S-400s are the strongest defense system against those who want to attack our country...
- God willing, we are doing this as a joint investment with Russia and will continue to do so.” He added that "with God’s permission," the missile systems would be fully deployed by April 2020.
DEA tracked every opioid pill sold in the US. The data is out—and it’s horrific
- Between 2006 and 2012, opioid drug makers and distributors flooded the country with 76 billion pills of oxycodone and hydrocodone—highly addictive opioid pain medications that sparked the epidemic of abuse and overdoses that killed nearly 100,000 people in that time period.
- Further ReadingDrug companies submerged WV in opioids: One town of 3,000 got 21 million pills The Post also noted that the distribution was concentrated in certain places, finding that West Virginia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Nevada had the top pill-per-person-per-year rates of all states, ranging from 66.5 to 54.7.
- While the local governments suing the companies have had access to this data during the litigation, it was only released to the public after the Washington Post and HD Media, publisher of the Charleston Gazette-Mail of West Virginia, sued and waged a year-long legal battle.
Xiaomi’s Mi A3 brings stock Android, OLED display for €249
- Instead of Xiaomi's iOS-inspired "MIUI" Android skin, these phones are in Google's "Android One" program, which means they come with stock Android and get two years of OS updates.
- The phones usually get a wider distribution than your typical Xiaomi phones (watch out for the LTE bands, though), so even if you're not in Europe, they're usually easy to pick up on a site like Amazon.
- On the back, you'll find a triple camera setup, and on the front is an optical fingerprint reader in the display.
- The major concern I see on the Xiaomi Mi A3 spec sheet is in the display section.
- LTE compatibility on the Xiaomi A line is usually pretty limited.
- For now, the phone is launching in Spain, but it will slowly be moving across Europe over the coming weeks.
New archaeological layer discovered at L’Anse aux Meadows
- L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland is famed for being a site where Norse travelers set up a colony hundreds of years before Europe at large became aware of North America's existence.
- While taking sediment cores from a nearby peat bog to help study the ancient environment, archaeologist Paul Ledger and his colleagues discovered a previously unknown chapter in the story of L’Anse aux Meadows.
- Based on its depth and the insect species present, the layer looks like similar surfaces from the edges of Viking Age Norse settlements in Greenland and Iceland.
- In many ways, the layer of lived-on ancient ground, captured in the sediment core, looks more like layers from the margins of Norse settlements in Greenland and Iceland than like pre-Columbian Beothuk and Dorset sites in Newfoundland.
- That’s pretty common at Norse settlements in Greenland, but layers from indigenous sites in Newfoundland tend to be shallower.
Censored Chinese search project is “terminated,” Google rep testifies
- Google has ended all work on its censored Chinese search engine, a company representative testified on Tuesday.
- The new search engine would have initially been offered as an Android app, and it would have reportedly blacklisted "websites and search terms about human rights, democracy, religion, and peaceful protest," according to the Intercept.
- After the effort was revealed, Google came under pressure from employees, human rights advocates, and US elected officials to abandon it.
- He took a similar position when he testified before Congress in December, saying, "right now, we have no plans to launch search in China" but declined to rule out such an effort in the future.
- The company pointed to a March statement saying that "there is no work being undertaken on such a project" and that "team members have moved to new projects." But Bhatia's Tuesday statement was Google's clearest statement yet that the company won't be building a censored search engine in China.
OneWeb’s low-Earth satellites hit 400Mbps and 32ms latency in new test
- OneWeb says a test of its low-Earth orbit satellites has delivered broadband speeds of more than 400Mbps with average latency of 32ms.
- OneWeb originally promised service in Alaska "as early as 2019," but by February 2019 the company said it would only be able to provide customer demos by 2020.
- OneWeb is one of several companies aiming to provide global broadband connectivity with a network of low-Earth satellites.
- But the lower orbits used by OneWeb and other companies should result in latencies that are much closer to wireline quality.
- OneWeb's biggest competitor so far is SpaceX, which has FCC permission to launch nearly 12,000 low-Earth satellites.
- OneWeb received its initial FCC approval in June 2017, while SpaceX got its first major FCC approval in March 2018 and launched 60 satellites in May 2019.
- More recently, Amazon revealed plans for a similar broadband-satellite service, and the company applied for FCC authorization earlier this month.