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Monday, April 6th, 2020
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3:34 am
After Four More Phone Masts Attacked, YouTube Promises To Remove Some 5G Conspiracy Videos
The Guardian reports that YouTube "will reduce the amount of content spreading conspiracy theories about links between 5G technology and coronavirus that it recommends to users, it has said, as four more attacks were recorded on phone masts within 24 hours." The online video company will actively remove videos that breach its policies, it said. But content that is simply conspiratorial about 5G mobile communications networks, without mentioning coronavirus, is still allowed on the site. YouTube said those videos may be considered "borderline content" and subjected to suppression, including loss of advertising revenue and being removed from search results on the platform. "We also have clear policies that prohibit videos promoting medically unsubstantiated methods to prevent the coronavirus in place of seeking medical treatment, and we quickly remove videos violating these policies when flagged to us," a YouTube spokesperson said. "We have also begun reducing recommendations of borderline content such as conspiracy theories related to 5G and coronavirus, that could misinform users in harmful ways...." YouTube says that since early February, it has manually reviewed and removed thousands of videos that spread dangerous or misleading coronavirus information.

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1:34 am
How Robert Cringely Scored 5 Million N95 Masks From China
This week, tech pundit Robert Cringely described how a chance conversation with China-based entrepreneur Anina led to a friend with a garment factory "now making fully certified N-95 respirators with no clear distribution plan." Late on a Sunday night with the tech world in shut-down, how long would it take for me to find someone looking for up to five million N-95 masks? It took 10 minutes. I reached out to Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff and to Mark Cuban from the Dallas Mavericks and Shark Tank... Mark Cuban put me in touch with ProjectN95, a just-created national clearinghouse for urgently needed medical equipment... It's important to realize what a miracle we accomplished. Normally there are lots of middlemen in Chinese distribution, but in this case, there were none, which meant maximal speed and minimal price. The goods were U.S. FDA certified, too, and the certification could be verified... We are tech people attempting to function during a pandemic, but what really counted here were personal relationships. Anina knows and trusts the factory owner. Anina and I have known each other for 15 years and I've known Marc Benioff and Mark Cuban even longer. We spend billions as a culture trying to build digital versions of such webs of trust, but sometimes it is better to do it the old fashion way.

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Sunday, April 5th, 2020
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11:15 pm
Scientists Create 'Xenobots' -- Virtual Creatures Brought to Life
"If the last few decades of progress in artificial intelligence and in molecular biology hooked up, their love child — a class of life unlike anything that has ever lived — might resemble the dark specks doing lazy laps around a petri dish in a laboratory at Tufts University." The New York Times reports on a mind-boggling living machine that's programmable -- and biodegradable. Strictly speaking, these life-forms do not have sex organs — or stomachs, brains or nervous systems. The one under the microscope consisted of about 2,000 living skin cells taken from a frog embryo. Bigger specimens, albeit still smaller than a millimeter-wide poppy seed, have skin cells and heart muscle cells that will begin pulsating by the end of the day. These are all programmable organisms called xenobots, the creation of which was revealed in a scientific paper in January... A xenobot lives for only about a week, feeding on the small platelets of yolk that fill each of its cells and would normally fuel embryonic development. Because its building blocks are living cells, the entity can heal from injury, even after being torn almost in half. But what it does during its short life is decreed not by the ineffable frogginess etched into its DNA — which has not been genetically modified — but by its physical shape. And xenobots come in many shapes, all designed by roboticists in computer simulations, using physics engines similar to those in video games like Fortnite and Minecraft... All of which makes xenobots amazing and maybe slightly unsettling — golems dreamed in silicon and then written into flesh. The implications of their existence could spill from artificial-intelligence research to fundamental questions in biology and ethics. "We are witnessing almost the birth of a new discipline of synthetic organisms," said Hod Lipson, a roboticist at the Columbia University who was not part of the research team. "I don't know if that's robotics, or zoology or something else." An algorithm running for about 24 hours iterated through possible body shapes, after which the the two researchers tried "to sculpt cellular figurines that resembled those designs." They're now considering how the process might be automated with 3-D cell printers, and the Times ponders other future possibilities the researchers have hinted at for their Xenobots. ("Sweep up ocean microplastics into a larger, collectible ball? Deliver drugs to a specific tumor? Scrape plaque from the walls of our arteries?") Sharing the Times' story on Twitter, Vint Cerf summed it up with just three words> . "This is weird."

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9:44 pm
Unqork CEO: Anything Java Coders Can Do, No-Code Can Do 200x Faster
Here's some interesting thoughts from long-time Slashdot reader theodp: CNBC reports that the next frontier in the Microsoft, Google, Amazon cloud battle is over a world without code. Google recently acquired no-code app development platform AppSheet, Microsoft just launched a new public preview of its low-code Power Apps mobile app for iOS and Android, and there is speculation about an 'Amazon for Everyone' product from AWS. "Anything a Java developer or engineer can build using custom code, we can do it 200 times faster," boasted Unqork CEO Gary Hoberman, whose no-code company raised $131 million in its latest funding round from investors that included Alphabet. The promise of no-code development platforms has been touted for decades — is it different this time?

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8:52 pm
Mobilizing 3D Printers Around the World Against the Coronovirus
"From face-shields to respirator valves, 3-D printer owners pitch in to the efforts to provide PPE to Australian hospitals," writes davecb (Slashdot reader #6,526). It's not only happening in Australia. But the Guardian talked to Mat Bowtell, a former Toyota engineer in Australia who's using fourteen 3D printers to manufacture thousands of face shields for healthcare workers. And citing 3D printing, the director of a not-for-profit working with the government says the country has an "incredible onshore capability" to respond to the pandemic: "The 3D printing capability onshore is a massive distinguisher for Australia to step up to the crisis," he said. When asked how else 3D printing might be deployed in practice, Goennemann points to the supply of ventilators, which are needed to assist breathing in the most seriously ill Covid-19 patients... Goennemann says Resmed, the main ventilator manufacturer, could struggle to get parts due to the disruption of global supply chains. That's where 3D printing can help. "I don't want to speak on behalf of Resmed, but that's an area where we have critical supply, and parts can be 3D printed onshore rather than being procured offshore," he said... For Bowtell, the decision to shift his production to face shields had nothing to do with profit. It was about doing what he could in the most extraordinary of times. "It's about survival at the moment," Bowtell said. "Just helping people to get through this together." Reuters also reported that one Italian company used its 3D printers to manufacture valves for respirators for its local hospital. And a paywalled article at Fortune also describes the team building an open source ventilator, while also noting that more than 4,800 people with 3D printers "have, via a public Google Doc, signed up to help print everything from face shields to ventilator parts for their local hospitals." They also highlight Budmen Industries, an upstate New York company selling 3D printers that has now also printed 1,492 face shields for New York medical workers. And finally there's the CoVent-19 Challenge, "an open innovation 8-week Grand Challenge for engineers, innovators, designers, and makers" on the GrabCAD Challenges platform, to create "a rapidly deployable, minimum viable mechanical ventilator for patients with COVID-19 related ventilator-dependent lung injury."

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7:34 pm
Russia Accused of Spreading Coronavirus Disinformation
Two associate professors studying foreign trolls online have penned an op-ed in the Washington Post arguing that Russian efforts to stir up antagonisms online "continues to be true with coronavirus disinformation." In our research, we have found multiple networks of fake accounts — one of which we can attribute to Russia — that use conversations about coronavirus as a tool for political attacks. To right-leaning Americans, these trolls criticize the response from liberals, suggest the coronavirus is being used to take away their freedoms, and point the finger of blame at China. To left-wing Americans, they suggest the administration's response is immoral and inadequate and point the finger of blame at Trump. On both sides, these are arguments that real Americans are also making, typically with honest intentions. The attacks play to the trolls' goals, however, and so they repeat them, making the loudest and ugliest versions more mainstream. In doing so, they dangerously widen existing divisions in a time of crisis, making critical compromise more difficult. As before, these networks rely on hashtags from organic American conversations, such as #TrumpLiedPeopleDied and #ReopenAmerica. They aren't creating the divisions, but they are working hard to make them wider.... Many commentators have discussed various ways in which the United States has acted to make the coronavirus crisis worse than it could or should be. The public's own role in spreading global disinformation needs to be added to that list. We have to address our own culpability in the problems that are fomented by disinformation. At a time when most news and information people digest is socially mediated, we need to create citizens and platforms that are more resilient to lies and more accepting of facts. Above all, however, we need to stop doing the trolls' jobs for them. The article also cites "websites peddling conspiracy theories" (including what it calls the "Chinese lab origin theory, among other fearmongering stories related to the virus.") "Among those accounts circulating the stories are pro-Russian and Russian state media-affiliated social media influencers."

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6:34 pm
Earth's Crust Is Shaking Less After Coronavirus Lockdowns
CNN reports: Around the world, seismologists are observing a lot less ambient seismic noise -- meaning, the vibrations generated by cars, trains, buses and people going about their daily lives. And in the absence of that noise, Earth's upper crust is moving just a little less. Thomas Lecocq, a geologist and seismologist at the Royal Observatory in Belgium, first pointed out this phenomenon in Brussels. Brussels is seeing about a 30% to 50% reduction in ambient seismic noise since mid-March, around the time the country started implementing school and business closures and other social distancing measures, according to Lecocq. That noise level is on par with what seismologists would see on Christmas Day, he said. The reduction in noise has had a particularly interesting effect in Brussels: Lecocq and other seismologists are able to detect smaller earthquakes and other seismic events that certain seismic stations wouldn't have registered.... Paula Koelemeijer posted a graph on Twitter showing how noise in West London has been affected, with drops in the period after schools and social venues in the United Kingdom closed and again after a government lockdown was announced. Celeste Labedz, a PhD student at the California Institute of Technology, posted a graph showing an especially stark drop in Los Angeles. The Belgian seismologist told CNN that the results suggested an inspiring message for humankind. "You feel like you're alone at home, but we can tell you that everyone is home. Everyone is doing the same. Everyone is respecting the rules."

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5:34 pm
Edge Overtakes Firefox To Become the Second-Most Popular Browser
Long-time Slashdot reader AmiMoJo quotes Softpedia: It was probably just a matter of time, but the thing so many people, including everyone at Microsoft, expected finally happened: Microsoft Edge surpassed Mozilla Firefox to become the world's second most-used desktop browser. Data provided by market analysis firm NetMarketShare reveals that the whole thing happened in March, when the adoption of the Chromium-powered Microsoft Edge improved to a level that allowed it to overtake Mozilla's own browser. So right now, Microsoft Edge is the second most-used desktop browser on the planet with a share of 7.59%, while Mozilla Firefox is now third with 7.19%. As for who's leading the pack, Google Chrome continues to be number one with a share of 68.50%.

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4:34 pm
Stanford Begins America's First Large-Scale Test For Coronavirus Antibodies
"Crowds flock to Santa Clara County test sites to learn if they have antibodies to COVID-19," reports the Bay Area Newsgroup, citing long lines of cars forming at three Stanford research sites for the drive-through tests: The 2,500 test slots on Friday and Saturday filled up within hours, as news of the project -- the first large scale study of its type in the U.S. -- spread quickly through the county. The test detects protective antibodies to the virus rather than the virus itself. This gives scientists a snapshot of how many people in the county have already been infected, but weren't seriously sick and didn't realize it. And it tells residents whether they carry potentially protective antibodies -- so may be immune to future infection. "This is critical information," said principal investigator Dr. Eran Bendavid, an infectious disease specialist and professor of medicine with Stanford Health Policy. "We will show the country what to do and how to do it," he said... It can guide public health measures and policies -- showing where the epidemic is heading, when it is safe to lift shelter-in-place restrictions and how far away we are from "herd immunity," when it becomes harder for a virus to spread... This approach, called a "serological test," remains a research tool and is not yet widely available in the United States. Stanford is working on a second test that will be deployed for more widespread use. U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval is imminent -- "within hours, not days," [California governor] Newsom said.... Meanwhile, a global effort to study antibodies is being coordinated by the World Health Organization. Called Solidarity II, more than a half dozen countries will pool their findings from large-scale testing... It is not yet proven that these antibodies actually provide protection... But there are promising clues that COVID-19 might act like it's closest cousin, the SARS virus, which triggers an immune response that persists for at least three years. In a Chinese study of rhesus monkeys, COVID-19 antibodies protected the animals from a second infection. If protected, people could potentially return to work. There is also the prospect that the antibodies could be used as therapy against the disease. Dozens of companies are working to develop antibody tests, as are researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The article notes that United Biomedical Inc will "soon" also provide free antibody testing to all 8,000 residents in Telluride, Colorado, and in some countries in Asia.

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3:34 pm
What It's Like To Attend a Conference -- in Person -- in the Age of Covid-19?
What happens when no one shows up for a tech conference? Fast Company's technology editor harrymcc writes: From Apple to Microsoft to Google, major tech companies have responded to the coronavirus crisis by either canceling their 2020 conference or making them purely virtual. But one well-established event — Vancouver's CanSecWest — went ahead earlier this month, with streaming as an option but not mandatory. Only three attendees showed up in the flesh. But so did security reporter Seth Rosenblatt, who wrote about the eerie experience for Fast Company. They were outnumbed by the six staffers at the event -- "there to run the online component" -- but the article notes that the conference's organizer and founder promised all attendees "infrared body temperature checks, on-site coronavirus testing, ample supplies of disposable face masks and hand sanitizer, and restrictions on physical contact and interaction..." "Empty hallways and escalators echoed with every footstep, and it smelled empty, the ventilation system circulating unused air. At the conference registration desk, I was offered a disposable surgical face mask and gloves."

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2:34 pm
Could Radioactivity Make Otherwise Frozen Planets Habitable?
sciencehabit writes: Not too close, but not too far. That's long been the rule describing how distant a planet should be from its star in order to sustain life. But a new study challenges that adage: A planet can maintain water and other liquids on its surface if it's heated, not by starlight, but by radioactive decay, researchers calculate. That opens up the possibility for many planets — even free-floating worlds untethered to stars — to host life, they speculate.

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1:34 pm
How To Get To Net Zero Carbon Emissions: Cut Short-Lived Superpollutants
Dan Drollette writes: We absolutely, positively, must tackle climate change speedily. Or as the authors of this article put it: 'By 'speed,' we mean measures — including regulatory ones — that can begin within two-to-three years, be substantially implemented in five-to-10 years, and produce a climate response within the next decade or two.' (Quick aside: one of the authors, Mario Molina, won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1995, for his work on holes in the ozone layer.) From the article: Rapid warming over the near term threatens to accelerate self-reinforcing feedbacks in which the planet starts to warm itself in a Hothouse Earth scenario — vicious cycles which could lead to uncontrollable warming as these feedback mechanisms become the dominant force regulating the climate system. These feedbacks would then set off a domino-like cascade that triggers tipping points in the Arctic and elsewhere, many of them irreversible and potentially catastrophic.

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10:34 am
Why Taiwan's Coronavirus Response Is Among The Best Globally
Why does Taiwan have less than 400 confirmed cases of Covid-19? Taiwan's experience with the 2003 SARS outbreak "helped many parts of the region react faster to the current coronavirus outbreak and take the danger more seriously than in other parts of the world," reports CNN, "both at a governmental and societal level, with border controls and the wearing of face masks quickly becoming routine as early as January in many areas." Their article also notes that Taiwan "has a world-class health care system, with universal coverage," which drew praise in new report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association: "Taiwan rapidly produced and implemented a list of at least 124 action items in the past five weeks to protect public health," report co-author Jason Wang, a Taiwanese doctor and associate professor of pediatrics at Stanford Medicine, said in a statement. "The policies and actions go beyond border control because they recognized that that wasn't enough." This was while other countries were still debating whether to take action. In a study conducted in January, Johns Hopkins University said Taiwan was one of the most at-risk areas outside of mainland China -- owing to its close proximity, ties and transport links. Among those early decisive measures was the decision to ban travel from many parts of China, stop cruise ships docking at the island's ports, and introduce strict punishments for anyone found breaching home quarantine orders. In addition, Taiwanese officials also moved to ramp up domestic face-mask production to ensure the local supply, rolled out island-wide testing for coronavirus -- including re-testing people who had previously unexplained pneumonia -- and announced new punishments for spreading disinformation about the virus. "Given the continual spread of Covid-19 around the world, understanding the action items that were implemented quickly in Taiwan, and the effectiveness of these actions in preventing a large-scale epidemic, may be instructive for other countries," Wang and his co-authors wrote.... Taiwan is in such a strong position now that, after weeks of banning the export of face masks in order to ensure the domestic supply, the government said Wednesday that it would donate 10 million masks to the United States, Italy, Spain and nine other European countries, as well as smaller nations who have diplomatic ties with the island.

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7:04 am
Coronavirus: Could Etsy Help Save the World?
Long-time Slashdot reader theodp writes: With the CDC now recommending wearing cloth face coverings in public settings, Etsy has called in the cavalry, encouraging additional sellers on its platform to start creating and offering face masks to help meet an already significant demand for fabric face masks. "We believe that the Etsy community is uniquely positioned to address this crucial need during a global health crisis," Etsy CEO Josh Silverman said in a statement. "We hope that increasing the availability of fabric, non-medical grade face masks from Etsy sellers will allow more medical and surgical masks to reach the people who need them most: front-line health care workers."

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3:34 am
Attack Campaign Hits Thousands of MS-SQL Servers For Two Years
"In December, security researchers noticed an uptick in brute-force attacks against publicly exposed Microsoft SQL servers," reports CSOnline. "It turns out the attacks go as far back as May 2018 and infect on average a couple thousand database servers every day with remote access Trojans and cryptominers." Slashdot reader itwbennett writes: While the primary goal of the attack seems to be cryptocurrency mining, "what makes these database servers appealing for attackers apart from their valuable CPU power is the huge amount of data they hold," say researchers from Guardicore who investigated the attacks. The researchers also note that most machines (60%) stay infected only briefly, but "almost 20% of all breached servers remained infected for more than a week and even longer than two weeks," and 10% become reinfected... [T]he attackers aggressively remove malware from competitors from targeted machines. Many of the infected machines are located in America, India, South Korea, and Turkey, according to the article, which adds that the researchers traced the campaign back to China. "The scans and attacks originate from Chinese IP addresses -- likely associated with infected and hijacked machines -- and the command-and-control servers are also hosted in China and use Chinese language for their web-based management interfaces."

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1:34 am
IBM is Deploying Its Watson AI to Help Governments Answer People's Covid-19 Questions
Digital Trends reports: IBM's question-answering Watson A.I. is most famous for whooping the butt of human champions on quiz show Jeopardy. Now, IBM has repurposed its famous creation to help government agencies, health care organizations, and academic institutions around the world cope with the massive overload of questions that citizens have about the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the first time that Watson has been used to help in a pandemic scenario. A coronavirus-focused version of the Watson A.I. has been called into service as a virtual agent in places including Arkansas, California, Georgia, New York, and Texas in the United States, as well as the Czech Republic, Greece, Poland, Spain and U.K. It is capable of answering locally relevant questions, ranging from those about coronavirus symptoms and testing specifics to queries on things like social distancing. These consistent and accurate responses can be provided to citizens via voice calls or text chat... Watson Assistant for Citizens pulls data from a range of external sources — local, national, and international. Digital Trends got an interesting response from one consultant at IBM Watson Health who's an expert on digital health for the World Health Organization. "Our team is currently adding responses to psychological questions, by which a virtual nurse can help people to deal with their fears and emotional problems and provide comfort to them in these times."

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Saturday, April 4th, 2020
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11:34 pm
The Story of The Doctor Who Ordered America's First Covid-19 Lockdown
Long-time Slashdot reader bsharma shared the story of doctor/public health officer who "went first," ordering America's very first coronavirus lockdown in six counties on March 16th after the identification of only the 7th known case of Covid-19 in the United States. The Bay Area Newsgroup reports that on January 31st, Cody's cellphone rang at 6:49 a.m. "You've got your first positive," the voice said. Right then, Cody — Santa Clara County's Public Health Officer since 2013 — was positive that even by Silicon Valley standards, life as we know it here was about to change.... Back in the early 2000s, with the country on edge after 9/11, Cody, Karen Smith and Marty Fenstersheib led the health department's effort to build Santa Clara County's model for a massive, coordinated emergency response to a bioterrorism attack or pandemic that included social distancing, shutting schools and the most extreme, mandating that people stay home. It's the one they would turn to this month to slow the untraceable path of this new disease known as COVID-19. "None of us really believed we would do it," Smith, 63, said in a recent interview. "I was slightly terrified to think we were putting in place stay-at-home orders, tools that we think work but don't really know...." Through the years, Cody has learned that public health officers never have all the information they need and are always operating with uncertainty. But the stakes are so much higher now. The second confirmed case of coronavirus in the county came 48 hours after the first; both were travelers from China. But the criteria for sending swabs for testing to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta was so stringent and the bottleneck for test results so long, that the county was left hamstrung trying to figure out how big of a problem it really had. Not until nearly a month later, on Feb. 28, two days after the county was finally given authorization to use its own lab and judgment for testing, was the third "positive" confirmed. It would be a "sentinel case" — a turning point for the virus' spread across the Bay Area — a woman in her 60s with other health conditions. Unlike the first two, this was a clear case of "community transmission," meaning the woman had become infected somewhere in our community, with no clear connection to a traveler. "In very short order," Cody said, "it became apparent we needed to start scaling up fast...." By March 9, the sick woman in her 60s — the sentinel case — had died, and 43 cases had been confirmed, the highest of any county in California. Santa Clara County would now be branded across the country as a coronavirus "hot zone...." "It was clear to me already how quickly it was moving, and that's what gave me a sense of urgency," Cody said. "We just needed to embrace the risk and do it." "I recognize that this is unprecedented," Cody said in announcing the lockdown. "But we must come together to do this and we know we need a regional response... We must all do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19." A professor of epidemiology at the University of California San Francisco has told the same newspaper "That's going to turn out to be — if all goes well and I'm reading the tea leaves right — one of the major public health triumphs of modern times." That article reports that while California had roughly the same number of cases as New York in the first week of March, "by the end of the month, New York had 75,795 cases while California had a tenth of that — 7,482." An infectious disease doctor (and associate executive director with Permanente Medical Group) also told Politico Tuesday that at Kaiser Permanente hospitals across Northern California, they're "seeing a leveling off of Covid-19 cases in our hospitals." And one writer even quoted an emergency room doctor at the UCSF hospital who said last weekend they'd seen less than half the normal number of emergency room patients, and "My colleagues at Stanford, as well as at other facilities in San Francisco report much of the same conditions in their hospitals... "It seems very likely, that the 'shelter in place' policy has had a significant, positive effect on containing the spread of COVID-19 in the Bay Area."

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10:34 pm
U.S. Government: Update Chrome 80 Now, Multiple Security Concerns Confirmed
Part of America's Department of Homeland Security, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) "has advised users to update Google Chrome as new high-rated security vulnerabilities have been found," reports Forbes: In an April 1 posting, CISA confirmed that Google Chrome version 80.0.3987.162 "addresses vulnerabilities that an attacker could exploit to take control of an affected system," be that Windows, Mac or Linux. It went on to state that it "encourages" users and administrators to apply the update. It's not just CISA that is warning about the need to update Google Chrome. The Center for Internet Security (CIS) is a non-profit entity that works to safeguard both private and public organizations against cyber threats. In a multi-state information sharing and analysis center (MS-ISAC) advisory, it has also warned of multiple vulnerabilities in Google Chrome. The most severe of these could allow an attacker to achieve arbitrary code execution within the context of the browser... All it would take for an attacker to exploit the vulnerabilities is to get the user to visit, by way of a phishing attack or even redirection from a compromised site, a maliciously crafted web page. Beside three high-rated vulnerabilities, Forbes reports that "a further five security vulnerabilities were discovered by the Google internal security team using a combination of internal audits and fuzzing."

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9:34 pm
What's New in Linux 5.6? WireGuard VPN and USB4
Linux 5.6 "has a bit more changes than I'd like," Linus Torvalds posted on the kernel mailing list, "but they are mostly from davem's networking fixes pulls, and David feels comfy with them. And I looked over the diff, and none of it looks scary..." TechRadar reports that the new changes include support for USB4 and GeForce RTX 2000 series graphics cards with the Nouveau driver: Yes, Turing GPU support has arrived with the open source Nouveau driver, along with the proprietary firmware images, as Phoronix.com reports. However, don't get too excited, as re-clocking doesn't work yet (getting the GPU to operate at stock clocks), and other important pieces of the puzzle are missing (like no Vulkan support with Nouveau). For the unfamiliar, Nouveau is an alternative to Nvidia's proprietary drivers on Linux, and although it remains in a relatively rough state in comparison, it's still good to see things progressing for Linux gamers with one of Nvidia's latest cards in their PC. Linux 5.6 also introduces fresh elements on the AMD front, with better reset support for Navi and Renoir graphics cards (which helps the GPU recover if it hits a problem)... Another notable move is the introduction of WireGuard support, a newcomer VPN protocol which makes a potentially nifty alternative to OpenVPN. Linux 5.6 also supports the Amazon Echo speaker, and naturally comes with a raft of other minor improvements... Linus's post also notes that for the next release's timing they'll "play it by ear... It's not like the merge window is more important than your health, or the health of people around you." But he says he hasn't seen signs that the pandemic could affect its development (other than the possibility of distraction by the news). "I suspect a lot of us work from home even normally, and my daughter laughed at me and called me a 'social distancing champ' the other day..."

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8:34 pm
Snopes Disputes 'Shakiness' of COVID-19 Origin Story Claimed By Washington Post OpEd
Thursday an Opinion piece in the Washington Post touted what the paper's own health policy reporter has described as "a conspiracy theory that has been repeatedly debunked by experts." That conspiracy theory argues that instead of originating in the wild, the COVID-19 virus somehow escaped from a research lab. Now the fact-checking web site Snopes has also weighed in this week, pointing out that the lab nearest the Wuhan market hadn't even published any coronavirus-related research prior to the outbreak. Instead the nearest coronavirus-researching lab was about 7 miles away, a maximum security "biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) laboratory certified to handle the world's most deadly pathogens." A February 2020 document erroneously described by several media outlets as a "scientific study" provides the supposedly science-based evidence of a virus escaping from a lab. This paper, such as it is, merely highlights the close distance between the seafood market and the labs and falsely claimed to have identified instances in which viral agents had escaped from Wuhan biological laboratories in the past... While SARS viruses have escaped from a Beijing lab on at least four occasions, no such event has been documented in Wuhan. The purported instances of pathogens leaking from Wuhan laboratories, according to this "study," came from a Chinese news report (that we believe, based on the similarity of the research described and people involved, to be reproduced here) that profiled a Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention researcher named Tian Junhua. In 2012 and 2013, he captured and sampled nearly 10,000 bats in an effort to decode the evolutionary history of the hantavirus. In two instances, this researcher properly self-quarantined either after being bitten or urinated on by a potentially infected bat, he told reporters. These events, according to the 2013 study his research produced, occurred in the field and have nothing to do with either lab's ability to contain infective agents... In sum, this paper -- which was first posted on and later deleted from the academic social networking website ResearchGate -- adds nothing but misinformation to the debate regarding the origins of the novel coronavirus and is not a real scientific study. In February the Washington Post had quoted Vipin Narang, an associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as saying that it's "highly unlikely" the general population was exposed to a virus through an accident at a lab. "We don't have any evidence for that," said Narang, a political science professor with a background in chemical engineering.

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