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Obama reportedly ordered implants to be deployed in key Russian networks

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Enlarge (credit: Wikimedia Commons/Maria Joner)

In his final days as the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama authorized a covert hacking operation to implant attack code in sensitive Russian networks. The revelation came in an 8,000-word article The Washington Post published Friday that recounted a secret struggle to punish the Kremlin for tampering with the 2016 election.

According to Friday’s article, the move came some four months after a top-secret Central Intelligence Agency report detailed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s direct involvement in a hacking campaign aimed at disrupting or discrediting the presidential race. Friday’s report also said that intelligence captured Putin’s specific objective that the operation defeat or at least damage Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and help her Republican rival Donald Trump. The Washington Post said its reports were based on accounts provided by more than three dozen current and former US officials in senior positions in government, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity.

In the months that followed the August CIA report, 17 intelligence agencies confirmed with high confidence the Russian interference. After months of discussions with various advisors, Obama enacted a series of responses, including shutting down two Russian compounds, sanctioning nine Russian entities and individuals, and expelling 35 Russian diplomats from the US. All of those measures have been known for months. The Post, citing unnamed US officials, said Obama also authorized a covert hacking program that involved the National Security Agency, the CIA, and the US Cyber Command. According to Friday’s report:

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Scientific research piracy site hit with $15 million fine

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Alexandra Elbakyan.

Alexandra Elbakyan. (credit: Alexandra Elbakyan)

The operator of a searchable piracy site for scientific research papers has been ordered to pay $15 million as fallout from a US copyright infringement lawsuit brought by one of the world’s leading scientific publishers, New York-based Elsevier.

The award doesn’t mean the six-year-old Sci-Hub site is shuttering, though, despite being ordered to do so. The site has been engaged in a game of domain Whac-a-Mole ever since the case was filed in New York federal court nearly two years ago. And it doesn’t mean that the millions of dollars in damages will get paid, either. The developer of the Pirate Bay-like site for academic research—Alexandra Elbakyan of Russia—has repeatedly said she wouldn’t pay any award. She didn’t participate in the court proceedings, either. US District Judge Robert Sweet issued a default judgement (PDF) against the site this week, but Sci-Hub remains online.

Elsevier markets itself as a leading provider of science, medical, and health “information solutions.” The infringing activity is of its subscription database called “ScienceDirect.” Elsevier claims ScienceDirect is “home to almost one-quarter of the world’s peer-reviewed, full-text scientific, technical, and medical content.”

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BlackBerry’s no-phone business model isn’t working out as planned

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Enlarge / Hardly anyone is buying these. (credit: Crackberry)

BlackBerry Ltd, the company that once led the world’s “smartphone” market and ruled the corporate mobile e-mail world, posted its financials today for the most recent three months, and they were not pretty. Software and professional services sales were down by 4.7 percent, totaling $101 million for the quarter, and as a result the company missed analyst expectations for revenue by a wide mark.

The news comes as a blow to investors, who had pumped up the price of BlackBerry’s stock by about 60 percent over the past three months—largely because people were so bullish on BlackBerry’s software sales exploding. Today, the company’s share price fell by over 12 percent before close. In fact, the company only turned a profit because of a $940 million payment from Qualcomm to settle arbitration over royalty payments.

In 2016, BlackBerry completely outsourced manufacturing of its phones. Since then, revenues from phone sales have collapsed—totaling $37 million for the quarter ending May 31, compared to $152 million last year.

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32TB of Windows 10 beta builds, driver source code leaked [Updated]

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32TB of unreleased, private Windows 10 builds, along with source code for certain parts of the driver stack, have been leaked to BetaArchive, reports The Register.

The dump appears to contain a number of Windows 10 builds from the development of codenamed Redstone 2. Redstone 2 was released earlier this year, branded as the Creators Update.

Some of these builds are built for 64-bit ARM chips, and some are said to include private debug symbols. Microsoft routinely releases debug symbols for Windows; the symbols contain additional information not found in the compiled Windows binaries that helps software developers identify which functions their code is calling. The symbols normally released are public symbols; while they identify many (though not all) functions and data structures, they don’t contain information about each function’s variables or parameters. The private symbols, in contrast, contain much more extensive information, giving much more insight into what each piece of code is doing and how it’s doing it.

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Plastic Water Bottles Might Have Poisoned Ancient Californians

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Native Americans living in California made their own plastic water bottles. However, they didn’t know how toxic that might be.

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Walmart reportedly won’t bid for Whole Foods after Amazon’s huge offer

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Jeff Bezoz, CEO of Amazon. Walmart isn’t actively considering a bid for Whole Foods, which Amazon said it would purchase for $13.7 billion last week, according to a report by Reuters. If so, that would remove a major obstacle to Amazon’s bid to acquire the grocery chain. Whole Foods has hundreds of stores across the U.S., which could give Amazon a foothold in the grocery business — and possibly food… Read More

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Uber has seen a sharp drop in new driver retention this year: Apptopia

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 Uber has seen a sharp drop in retention rates for new drivers in the U.S., according to analysis of the Uber driver app provided to TechCrunch by app analytics firm Apptopia. Read More

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For Binary Capital’s investors, a public apology may fall short

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 In May of last year, speaking on behalf of his firm, venture capitalist Justin Caldbeck of Binary Capital tweeted: “Big believers in ‘addition by subtraction’ for company culture. Bad apples impact others, and rest of team will thank you when they’re gone.” His messaging seems ironic in light of a detailed report about his own predatory behavior toward at least… Read More

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Andrew Ng announces Deeplearning.ai, his new venture after leaving Baidu

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 Andrew Ng, the former chief scientist of Baidu, announced his next venture, Deeplearning.ai, with only a logo, a domain name and a footnote pointing to an August launch date. Read More

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Five building blocks of a data-driven culture

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 To be data-driven requires an overarching data culture that couples a number of elements, including high-quality data, broad access and data literacy and appropriate data-driven decision-making processes. In this article, we discuss some of the key building blocks. Read More

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