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Ars Technica
Syndicate content Ars Technica
Serving the Technologist for more than a decade. IT news, reviews, and analysis.
Updated: 1 hour 29 min ago

Intel’s SGX blown wide open by, you guessed it, a speculative execution attack

August 14, 2018 - 8:18pm

Foreshadow explained in a video.

Another day, another speculative execution-based attack. Data protected by Intel's SGX—data that's meant to be protected even from a malicious or hacked kernel—can be read by an attacker thanks to leaks enabled by speculative execution.

Since publication of the Spectre and Meltdown attacks in January this year, security researchers have been taking a close look at speculative execution and the implications it has for security. All high-speed processors today perform speculative execution: they assume certain things (a register will contain a particular value, a branch will go a particular way) and perform calculations on the basis of those assumptions. It's an important design feature of these chips that's essential to their performance, and it has been for 20 years.

But Meltdown and Spectre showed that speculative execution has security implications. Meltdown (on most Intel and some ARM processors) allows user applications to read the contents of kernel memory. Spectre (on most Intel, AMD, and ARM chips) can be used to attack software sandboxes used for JavaScript in browsers and, under the right conditions, can allow kernel memory or hypervisor memory to be read. In the months since they were first publicized, we've seen new variants: speculative store bypass, speculative buffer overflows, and even a remotely exploitable version of Spectre.

Read 22 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Ajit Pai grilled by lawmakers on why FCC spread “myth” of DDoS attack

August 14, 2018 - 7:19pm

Enlarge / FCC Chairman Ajit Pai listens during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing in Washington, DC, on June 20, 2017. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

Democratic members of Congress want to know when Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai knew that the FCC's claims about being hit by a DDoS attack were false.

An FCC Inspector General (IG) investigation found that the FCC lied to members of Congress multiple times in letters that answered questions about DDoS attacks that never happened. Pai's FCC claimed for more than a year that a May 2017 outage in the public comments system was caused by multiple DDoS attacks. In reality, the FCC system crashed because it was unable to handle an influx of comments triggered by comedian John Oliver asking viewers of his program Last Week Tonight to oppose Pai's net neutrality repeal.

Today, four Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to Pai "demanding to know when he and his staff learned that the Commission had provided inaccurate information about why its comment system went down during the net neutrality repeal public comment period," the Democrats said in an announcement.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Dealmaster: Take $50 off Bose’s flagship noise-cancelling headphones

August 14, 2018 - 7:09pm

Greetings, Arsians! Courtesy of our friends at TechBargains, we have another round of deals to share. Today's list is headlined by a deal on Bose's QuietComfort 35 (Series II) wireless noise-cancelling headphones, which are currently down to $299 at Walmart, Amazon, and various other retailers. That's a $50 discount and the lowest non-promo-code price we've seen to date.

We've explained the deal with the QC35s before. While Bose's bass-boosting sound doesn't offer the accuracy or balance of other $300 cans (or even some below that), it's at least smooth. If noise cancellation is your top priority, though, the QC35s are simply stronger at silencing the outside world (particularly low-end frequencies) than their peers. They're also highly comfortable.

The Series II model here is actually a bit less effective at noise-cancellation than the older Series I model mentioned in the link above, but the difference isn't so huge as to be immediately noticeable. Since Bose has discontinued the Series I, you don't have much of a choice anyway. The Series II also adds a shortcut button for quickly accessing Alexa or the Google Assistant, if that's something you'd ever find handy. In any case, we rarely see the Series II on sale, so if you were interested in picking up a pair, today looks like a good opportunity to do so.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

FCC says court made error in approval of AT&T/Time Warner merger

August 14, 2018 - 5:33pm

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson)

The Department of Justice's attempt to reverse the AT&T/Time Warner merger received some help yesterday from an unexpected source: the Federal Communications Commission.

The FCC previously allowed AT&T to buy Time Warner without having to undergo a lengthy public-interest review, despite pushback from Democrats in the Senate and FCC. The DOJ fought the merger alone, ultimately losing a court ruling that allowed AT&T to complete the acquisition.

But the DOJ appealed that court ruling last month, and yesterday the FCC gave the DOJ's case a small boost. The FCC isn't actually supporting the DOJ's case, but the commission's filing points out an error made by the US District Court for the District of Columbia. In US District Judge Richard Leon's ruling against the DOJ, he said that he was "hesitant to assign any significant evidentiary value" to previous statements that AT&T and the AT&T-owned DirecTV made to the FCC. AT&T's own statements to the FCC, made in the years prior to the AT&T/Time Warner merger, supported the DOJ's case that a merged entity could raise the price of programming. Those AT&T statements were made as part of the FCC's 2010 review of the Comcast/NBCUniversal merger and in other FCC proceedings.

Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Honoring the ’80s, Def Con’s badge is also a text adventure

August 14, 2018 - 5:14pm

Enlarge / My DEF CON badge, complete with Wall of Sheep add-on from the DC801 crew, built by @kL34N and @SirGed. My puzzle quest is far from complete—it may require reprogramming and flipping a component. (credit: Sean Gallagher)

Nearly 30,000 people came to Las Vegas last week for the 26th edition of DEF CON, the iconic security conference. And no small amount of the mental energy of that vast crowd was spent on one particular thing: the conference badge.

This year's badges, designed by Tymkrs, were elevated works of printed circuit board art with a collection of LED-lit features, including red and green human figures and a color-shifting DEF CON logo. But it quickly becomes apparent that there was a lot more going on here than just blinking lights.

DEF CON alternates year to year between electronic, hackable badges and non-electronic ones; last year's badges were a throwback design intended to celebrate the conference's 25th anniversary. But every year, the badges include some sort of clue to a cryptographic challenge—three years ago, the badge was an actual vinyl record that required attendees to find a turntable to hear the puzzle clue.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

New law bans US from buying tech from Chinese giants ZTE and Huawei

August 14, 2018 - 4:45pm

Enlarge

President Trump yesterday signed a defense funding bill that included a sweeping ban on the US government using technology supplied by Chinese telecommunications giants ZTE and Huawei. The bill also includes a narrower ban on using surveillance gear provided by Chinese companies Hytera Communications, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology, or Dahua Technology for national security applications.

The legislation directs federal agencies to stop using the Chinese-made hardware within two years. If that proves impractical, an agency can apply for a waiver to permit a longer phase-out period.

Obviously, being banned from selling to the US government is a significant blow to these companies. But overall the bill actually represents something of a reprieve for ZTE. Back in June, the US Senate passed a version of the bill that would have re-imposed an export ban that would have been a de facto death sentence for ZTE because ZTE is heavily dependent on components like Qualcomm chips and Google's Android operating system.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Google Pixel XL users say Android 9 Pie causes quick-charging problems [Updated]

August 14, 2018 - 4:23pm

Enlarge

Despite a lengthy beta period that lasted around fives months, it seems Android 9 Pie managed to ship with a few bugs. As first noticed by Android Police, Pixel XL owners are saying that updating to Google's latest mobile OS is causing problems with quick charging.

Pixels (and many other Android phones) use USB-PD for quick charging. Assuming you have a compatible phone, charger, and cable, users should see greatly increased charging speeds. Android doesn't show the exact power transfer, but it differentiates between normal charging and quick charging with a "charging rapidly" message on the home screen. Some Pixel XL owners on Android Pie say that the "rapidly charging" message never pops up anymore after updating to Pie, while others say that the phone has gotten pickier about what chargers can provide rapid charging. Users are reporting slower charging, too, so it's not just a messaging issue.

A thread on the XDA forums dating all the way back to June and an Android bug report from July show that the issue existed in the Android P betas but was never fixed. Google inexplicably closed the original report with "Status: Won't Fix (Infeasible)" during the beta. After the Android Pie final release, a second bug report was opened and a lot more people started chiming in. Now the bug has been marked as "Assigned."

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

SpaceX reveals the controls of its Dragon spacecraft for the first time

August 14, 2018 - 4:00pm

Enlarge / NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins meets with employees at SpaceX on Monday. (credit: SpaceX)

HAWTHORNE, Calif.—Across the cavernous rocket factory, the buzz, whirr, and whine of various machinery never ebbed. Even when the president of SpaceX and four blue-suited astronauts strode confidently onto the factory floor Monday afternoon and took up microphones to address several dozen reporters, the incessant work inside the SpaceX Falcon 9 hatchery continued.

On one side of the factory, technicians produced rolls of carbon fiber and built myriad payload fairings, which cannot yet be reused during a launch. To meet its cadence of a launch every other week, SpaceX must build at least two of these each month. Another section of the factory fabricated the Merlin 1-D rocket engines that power the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage. And in another large white room behind glass, several Dragon spacecraft were in various states of completion.

So when Gwynne Shotwell stopped in front of this Dragon clean room, held a microphone aloft, and welcomed her “extraordinary” astronaut guests to the factory, the noise did not abate. Rather, it seemed to crescendo as Shotwell raised her voice to introduce the crew of SpaceX’s first human mission, NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken. Likewise, the din continued as she welcomed Mike Hopkins and Victor Glover, crew members for the second flight of the Dragon spacecraft.

Read 25 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Einstein’s equivalence principle updated with a dash of quantum

August 14, 2018 - 3:36pm

Enlarge / From left to right, a time lapse of a Bose-Einstein condensate forming. (credit: NASA/JPL)

At the heart of Einstein’s theory of gravity (general relativity) is the equivalence principle. The equivalence principle says that there is no difference between being stationary and subject to gravity tugging you and accelerating in a vehicle that's free of gravitational pull. 

In practice, this means that there is no difference between inertial mass (the mass a rocket works on) and gravitational mass (the mass the Earth tugs on). This equivalence has been measured time and time again with no violation ever found. But these tests assumed that quantum mechanics didn’t change the equivalent principle: that assumption is partially wrong.

Some quantum in your equivalence

In relativity, mass and energy are two sides of the same coin. For very small objects, we need to think about that in terms of quantum mechanics, where a particle can be in a superposition of energy states. A particle in a superposition of energy states has two energies at the same time until it is measured, whereupon it has a single fixed energy. An object in a superposition of energetic states can have a superposition of inertial masses. But does it have the same superposition of gravitational masses? 

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Malware has no trouble hiding and bypassing macOS user warnings

August 14, 2018 - 3:22pm

(credit: Apple)

Apple works hard to make its software secure. Beyond primary protections that prevent malware infections in the first place, company engineers also build a variety of defense-in-depth measures that are designed to lessen the damage that can happen once a Mac is compromised. Now, Patrick Wardle, a former National Security Agency hacker and macOS security expert has exposed a major shortcoming that generically affects many of these secondary defenses.

In a presentation at the Def Con hacker convention in Las Vegas over the weekend, Wardle said it was trivial for a local attacker or malware to bypass many security mechanisms by targeting them at the user interface level. When these security measures detect a potentially malicious action, they will block that action and then display an alert or warning. By abusing various programming interfaces built into macOS, malicious code could generate a programmatic click to interact or even dismiss such alerts. This "synthetic click," as Wardle called it, works almost immediately and can be done in a way that is invisible to the user.

“The ability to synthetically interact with a myriad of security prompts allows you to perform a lot of malicious actions,” Wardle told Ars. “Many of Apple's privacy and security-in-depth protections can be trivially bypassed.”

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Are diesel’s days numbered? A view from a trip to BYD’s electric bus factory

August 14, 2018 - 3:10pm

Enlarge / The lines of sight in the BYD factory are all like this: a row of buses stretching to the horizon. (credit: Megan Geuss)

LANCASTER, CALIF.—One single diesel transit bus consumes the equivalent of 10,440 gallons of gasoline a year, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Replacing that diesel-burning transit bus with an electric bus has some obvious benefits. Electric buses improve local air quality, because the particulates that come from burning diesel don't exist. And, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, an electric bus runs cleaner than a diesel bus no matter where you plug it in on the US grid, even if you're plugging into a grid fed by fossil fuels.

In the desert north of Los Angeles, a Chinese company called BYD (short for "Build Your Dreams") is banking on transit managers realizing this. BYD offered Ars a tour of its Lancaster facility in July, and we found a bustling factory floor filled with 900 workers who were building, welding, shaping, and painting about 90 buses in various stages of completion. The company's workforce, recently unionized, is expected to grow to 1,200 in the near future.

So far, BYD has put more than 250 electric buses on US roads, and, as of mid-July, the company had more than 400 orders in the pipeline. That's a significant number of buses in this nascent industry: last December, Reuters estimated that only 300 public buses on US roads were electric. Of course, BYD's numbers include publicly and privately owned electric buses, while Reuters' statistic only tallies public buses. Still, the numbers show just how aggressively the electric bus industry is growing, considering the size of the market just six months ago.

Read 28 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Ars Pro: You can now PayPal us the money!

August 14, 2018 - 3:05pm

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

Earlier this year, we launched Ars Pro, our new subscription program. It's pretty simple: for just $25 per year (or $3 per month), subscribers get to browse Ars Technica without ever seeing a single ad.

Ars Pro has been a big success, and one of the reasons why is because we're listening to feedback from our readers to make it even better. One of the biggest requests has been support for PayPal. So we've made it happen!

In addition to an ad-free experience, all Ars Pro subscribers get full-text RSS feeds and can read Ars Technica free of tracking scripts (with the exception of scripts that come with objects embedded in stories, like tweets and videos from YouTube). Pros also get access to our subscriber-only forums, PDFs of all our long-form content, and single-page view for multipage articles.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Fortnite on Android gets off to a bumpy, Samsung-only start, lags behind PUBG

August 14, 2018 - 1:38pm

Enlarge / The launch screen for Fortnite on Android, as rendered by a Samsung Galaxy S8+. (Account information has been scrubbed.) (credit: Epic Games)

Last week, Epic and Samsung took the wraps off a huge Fortnite promotion—albeit after the surprise had been ruined by leakers. Fortnite's mobile version was indeed launching on Android, as Epic had already promised, but only Samsung phone users (and only certain models) would get exclusive access, for a limited time.

Any Android handset and tablet owner can hunt for and install the game's APK, but as of press time, Samsung's exclusivity deal means the game won't boot beyond a title screen on most devices. This is notable, in part, because of Epic's choice to forgo the Google Play app store, which is likely driving users to download and install the APK without a clear answer about device compatibility. (Google has since chosen to address the game's Play workaround.)

But testing the free-to-play shooter on my own Galaxy S8+, one of the Android version's first compatible phones, has revealed another notable tidbit: that Epic's self-imposed hardware limit hasn't made the game run smoothly in the slightest.

Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Caesars Palace not-so-Praetorian guards intimidate DEF CON goers with searches [Updated]

August 13, 2018 - 11:40pm

Enlarge / This sign is an invitation for a room search at some Las Vegas hotels. (credit: Getty Images)

In the wake of the mass shooting in Las Vegas in October of 2017, hotels in the city started drafting more aggressive policies regarding security. Just as Caesars Entertainment was rolling out its new security policies, the company ran head on into DEF CON—an event with privacy tightly linked to its culture.

The resulting clash of worlds—especially at Caesars Palace, the hotel where much of DEF CON was held—left some attendees feeling violated, harassed, or abused, and that exploded onto Twitter this past weekend.

Caesars began rolling out a new security policy in February that mandated room searches when staff had not had access to rooms for over 24 hours. Caesars has been mostly tolerant of the idiosyncratic behavior of the DEF CON community, but it's not clear that the company prepared security staff for dealing with the sorts of things they would find in the rooms of DEF CON attendees. Soldering irons and other gear were seized, and some attendees reported being intimidated by security staff.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Bitcoin and ether are both down more than two-thirds from their peaks

August 13, 2018 - 9:20pm

Enlarge / Ether, the cryptocurrency of the Ethereum network. (credit: https://ethereumprice.org/)

Ether, the currency of the Ethereum network, has plunged 9 percent over the last 24 hours. The virtual currency is now worth about $290—the first time it has been below $300 this year.

The declining price is part of a broader cryptocurrency sell-off that saw most major cryptocurrencies lose value over the last 24 hours. And it's part of a longer-term trend that has seen the gradual deflation of last year's cryptocurrency bubble.

Bitcoin, the world's most valuable currency, has lost only 1 percent of its value over the last 24 hours. But it has drifted steadily downward this year, falling from a high of almost $20,000 in mid-December to $6,250 today.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The Ars Technica Back to School buying guide

August 13, 2018 - 9:00pm

Enlarge / A few gadgets we think will be appreciated this school year. (credit: Jeff Dunn)

College is a time for meeting new people, opening up your worldview, taking in new experiences, reading (please, for the love of God, read), and generally experiencing the last years of a life untainted by taxes and a daily job.

It is not a time to care about things—if I could just write “books” and leave this buying guide at that, I would. But a modern student requires a few equally modern gadgets to get through the school year, and there are certainly a few pieces of technology that can make their life on campus feel a little less overwhelming and a little more enjoyable.

So, as we’ve done a few times already this year, we’ve dug through our recent reviews to put together a list of preferred gadgets, this time aimed at those heading back to school in the next few weeks. Because we’re dealing with students, we mainly focused on the affordable stuff. (We also tried to avoid anything that could too easily become a beer bong—books, everyone, books!)

Read 54 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Lenovo’s new P1 workstation packs Xeon, 64GB ECC RAM, 4TB SSD into 0.7 inches

August 13, 2018 - 8:50pm

If you need more power than the typical 13-inch Ultrabook can handle, Lenovo's new mobile workstations might be the answer.

The ThinkPad P1 looks like a 15-inch Ultrabook, 0.7 inches thick and under 4lbs, but inside, it has a mobile Xeon processor, up to 64GB of ECC RAM, and as much as 4TB SSD storage. A discrete GPU, up to the Nvidia Quadro P2000, drives that display (either 1920×1080 300 nit, 72 percent of NTSC, or 3840×2160 400 nit 10-bit-per-channel supporting 100 percent of the Adobe color gamut and touch). It has a good selection of ports—two Thunderbolt 3 USB Type-C, two USB 3.1 generation 1 Type A, HDMI 2.0, mini-gigabit Ethernet (with a little dongle), 3.5mm headset, and microSD, and it has 802.11ac and Bluetooth 5. The battery is a substantial 80WHr.

Lenovo

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Archaeologists use ancient dirty dishes to reconstruct climate shifts

August 13, 2018 - 8:35pm

Enlarge / Artist's reconstruction of the east and west mounds at Çatalhöyük. In the foreground, you can see the newer west mound, with the older east mound decaying in the background. (credit: Çatalhöyük Research Project)

Around 8,200 years ago, melting glaciers poured fresh, cold water into the North Atlantic, causing the climate in Europe and Southwest Asia to turn suddenly colder and drier for about the next 160 years. Evidence of that event shows up in ice cores from Greenland, tree rings and lake sediments in Europe, and lake sediments and peat deposits in Southwest Asia.

How did it affect people who were only beginning to adapt to agriculture? Archaeologists can’t confidently link what was happening at an archaeological site, like Çatalhöyük in Turkey, with what pollen and oxygen isotopes say was happening 160km (99.4 miles) away at Lake Nar, because local conditions can vary.

New chemical analysis of animal-fat residue in broken pottery has now given us a clearer look at how changes in the North Atlantic impacted life at Çatalhöyük. Local climate turned slightly cooler year-round and noticeably drier in the summer, which would have reduced crop yields and food availability for local farmers’ cattle and goats. Equipped with direct evidence of local climate shifts, archaeologists examined artifacts at the site to understand how people coped with the lean times.

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

This Bugatti EB110 video is a great reminder of the 1990s supercar boom

August 13, 2018 - 8:12pm

Raphael GAILLARDE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Bugatti in 2018 is precisely where corporate parent Volkswagen wants it to be. The Alsatian automaker is once again known the world over for making what some consider to be the ultimate road car: a 16-cylinder engine with four-digit horsepower, a top speed so fast no tire can handle it, and a build so over-engineered it has a seven-digit price tag. We're living in the second heyday for a marque that first rose to prominence almost a century ago.

That first golden age was built at the race track. The company's most famous machine was the Type 35, a car you could drive to a Grand Prix, win, and then drive home—assuming you had the talent and could afford one, obviously. In its latest incarnation, Bugatti has largely avoided competition. But in the mid-1990s, just before VW assumed control of the storied name, it had another go at finding a motorsports halo.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Just like iOS 11, Apple is delaying a key feature of iOS 12: Group FaceTime

August 13, 2018 - 7:57pm

Enlarge / Apple demonstrates Group Facetime at WWDC 2018. (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Apple released the seventh beta build of iOS 12 today. The update is focused on performance improvements on older devices—a tentpole promise of iOS 12—but the beta release notes reveal something unexpected about the public release of iOS 12 later this year: the Group FaceTime feature won't make the cut.

Demonstrated prominently in Apple's WWDC keynote event earlier this year, Group FaceTime would allow more than two people to participate in a FaceTime video call at once, with a presentation similar to that of longtime conference-call staple Google Hangouts. Apple has said Group FaceTime will support up to 32 simultaneous participants and that it will be supported on both macOS and iOS.

Apple's iOS 12 beta 7 release notes (PDF) note the removal of Group FaceTime from the beta (and from the eventual public release) with the following:

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments


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