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Microsoft neuters Office 365 account attacks that used clever ruse

Ars Technica - July 8, 2020 - 10:59pm

Enlarge (credit: Emerson Alecrim / Flickr)

Microsoft has neutered a large-scale fraud campaign that used knock-off domains and malicious apps to scam customers in 62 countries around the world.

The software maker and cloud-service provider last week obtained a court order that allowed it to seize six domains, five of which contained the word “office.” The company said attackers used them in a sophisticated campaign designed to trick CEOs and other high-ranking business leaders into wiring large sums of money to attackers rather than trusted parties. An earlier so-called BEC, or business email compromise, that the same group of attackers carried out in December used phishing attacks to obtain unauthorized access. The emails used generic business themes such as quarterly earnings reports. Microsoft used technical means to shut it down.

The attackers returned with a new BEC that took a different tack: instead of tricking targets into logging in to lookalike sites, and consequently divulging the passwords, the scam used emails that instructed the recipient to give what was purported to be a Microsoft app access to an Office 365 account. The latest scam used the COVID-19 pandemic as a lure.

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Amid oil- and gas-pipeline halts, Dakota Access operator ignores court

Ars Technica - July 8, 2020 - 10:07pm

Words projected onto the EPA's headquarters during a demonstration. (credit: Victoria Pickering / Flickr)

Update: This story has been updated with a statement from the operator of the Dakota Access pipeline.

A series of decisions in the last few days has halted or scuttled three high-profile oil- and gas-pipeline projects. The Keystone and Dakota Access oil pipelines—sources of long-running controversy—both suffered legal setbacks that will require additional environmental impact reviews. Separately, the Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline recently won a case before the US Supreme Court, yet it has now been abandoned by the two energy companies behind it.

The Keystone XL pipeline is meant to carry oil produced in Alberta, Canada, southeast to Nebraska, but it has suffered major delays. The Dakota Access pipeline, on the other hand, has been operational for several years, carrying oil from North Dakota to southern Illinois.

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Intel details Thunderbolt 4: Required DMA protection, longer cables, and more

Ars Technica - July 8, 2020 - 9:48pm

Intel has outlined what to expect from the new Thunderbolt 4 standard, which is expected to start appearing in consumer devices later this year.

While it won't offer an increase over the 40GB/s that Thunderbolt 3 does, Thunderbolt 4 has steeper minimum requirements than Thunderbolt 3 for devices to claim certification—and that makes some new features and perks standard.

These are the specifications for Thunderbolt 4, according to Intel:

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Superpowered siblings time travel to save the world in Umbrella Academy S2 trailer

Ars Technica - July 8, 2020 - 9:05pm

The Hargreeves siblings are scattered in time and must reunite to stop the apocalypse in the second season of The Umbrella Academy.

A group of dysfunctional siblings with superpowers travels back in time to the 1960s in the hope of warding off the apocalypse in the official trailer for the second season of The Umbrella Academy. The Netflix series is an adaptation of the award-winning Dark Horse Comics series of the same name created by Gerard Way and illustrated by Gabriel Bá.

(Spoilers for S1 below.)

The comics are set in an alternate 1977 (the year Way was born) in which President John F. Kennedy was never assassinated. The Monocle, an alien disguised as billionaire industrialist Sir Reginald Hargreeves, adopts seven surviving children out of 43 mysteriously born to random women who had not been pregnant the day before. The children are raised at Hargreeves' Umbrella Academy and become a family of superheroes with special powers. But it's a dysfunctional arrangement, and the family members ultimately disband, only reuniting as adults when Hargreeves dies.

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Harvard, MIT sue Trump admin to block deportation of online-only students

Ars Technica - July 8, 2020 - 8:19pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Motortion)

Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology today sued the Trump administration to block an action that forces foreign students with nonimmigrant visas to leave the United States or transfer to different schools that offer in-person classes. The schools' complaint, filed in US District Court for the District of Massachusetts, asks for a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction preventing the administration from enforcing the new policy issued by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

In the complaint, Harvard and MIT said:

By all appearances, ICE's decision reflects an effort by the federal government to force universities to reopen in-person classes, which would require housing students in densely packed residential halls, notwithstanding the universities' judgment that it is neither safe nor educationally advisable to do so, and to force such a reopening when neither the students nor the universities have sufficient time to react to or address the additional risks to the health and safety of their communities. The effect—and perhaps even the goal—is to create as much chaos for universities and international students as possible.

The ICE policy will be especially problematic for Harvard and MIT students from certain countries, such as "Syria, where civil war and an ongoing humanitarian crisis make Internet access and study all but impossible," the lawsuit said. "Others come from Ethiopia, where the government has a practice of suspending all Internet access for extended periods, including presently, starting on June 30, 2020."

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Mathematician Ronald Graham Dies At 84

Slashdot - July 8, 2020 - 8:15pm
Categories: Geek, Opinion

Hong Kong downloads of Signal surge as residents fear crackdown

Ars Technica - July 8, 2020 - 5:20pm

Enlarge (credit: d3sign / Getty)

The secure chat app Signal has become the most downloaded app in Hong Kong on both Apple's and Google's app stores, Bloomberg reports, citing data from App Annie. The surging interest in encrypted messaging comes days after the Chinese government in Beijing passed a new national security law that reduced Hong Kong's autonomy and could undermine its traditionally strong protections for civil liberties.

The 1997 handover of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to China came with a promise that China would respect Hong Kong's autonomy for 50 years following the handover. Under the terms of that deal, Hong Kong residents should have continued to enjoy greater freedom than people on the mainland until 2047. But recently, the mainland government has appeared to renege on that deal.

Civil liberties advocates see the national security law approved last week as a major blow to freedom in Hong Kong. The New York Times reports that "the four major offenses in the law—separatism, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign countries—are ambiguously worded and give the authorities extensive power to target activists who criticize the party, activists say." Until now, Hong Kongers faced trial in the city's separate, independent judiciary. The new law opens the door for dissidents to be tried in mainland courts with less respect for civil liberties or due process.

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Scrabble players move toward banning 200+ slurs from tournament play

Ars Technica - July 8, 2020 - 4:57pm

Enlarge / I had to squint to make sure there weren't any offensive words in this illustrative photo. (credit: Flickr / DavidMartynHunt)

The North American Scrabble Players Association (NASPA) seems poised to remove hundreds of offensive slurs from tournament-level Scrabble play. The proposed move is part of an effort by the group to "support Black Lives Matter and bring justice to our world," as organization CEO John Chew put it in a recent newsletter.

Hasbro, which publishes Scrabble, told The New York Times that NASPA has "agreed to remove all slurs from their word list for Scrabble tournament play, which is managed solely by NASPA and available only to members." The company said it will also be updating the game's rules "to make clear that slurs are not permissible in any form of the game."

But after weeks of debate, NASPA's 12-person advisory board hasn't yet officially voted on the proposal to ban over 200 offensive slurs and variations from tournament play. That vote is set for later this week.

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Ask Ars: Should you stop using the word “marijuana”?

Ars Technica - July 8, 2020 - 4:47pm

Enlarge

Here's a question to ponder this morning: should people use the word "cannabis" or "marijuana" when referring to the psychoactive plant? That sounds like a pretty left-field question for a Wednesday morning, we know. But it was sparked by a lengthy discussion in the Ars office this morning, and we figured it might be interesting to get your take on the issue, particularly since the way we use language is under the spotlight right now.

Confession time: the debate was initiated by yours truly. I find it hard not to be pedantic, and since the actual names of the plants that people smoke (or vape, or eat) are cannabis sativa and cannabis indica, I think that's what we should use when we write about the topic at Ars. The word "marijuana" is also specific to North America, and while our audience is predominantly North American, it's not exclusively so.

But there's another reason to drop "marijuana" from the style guide: in the 1930s there was a conscious, racist effort by US government authorities to demonize the drug by associating it with Mexico.

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New data indicates that some Polynesians carry Native American DNA

Ars Technica - July 8, 2020 - 4:37pm

Enlarge / The Tongariki site, built by Polynesians on Rapa Nui. New data suggests that by the time their ancestors arrived on the island, they had already had contact with South America. (credit: Andres Moreno-Estrada)

The Polynesians were the greatest explorers of the world. Starting from the vicinity of Taiwan, they sailed across vast stretches of the Pacific, settling—and in some cases, continuing to trade between—astonishingly remote islands from New Zealand to Hawaii. But it's never been quite clear whether they made the final leap, sailing from Rapa Nui to reach the nearest major land mass: South America.

There are some hints that they have, primarily the presence of South American crops throughout the Pacific. But there has been no clear genetic signature in human populations, and the whole analysis is confused by the redistribution of people and crops after the arrival of European sailors.

Now, a new study finds clear genetic indications that Polynesians and South Americans met—we've just been looking at the wrong island—and wrong part of South America—for clear evidence. The researchers also raise a tantalizing prospect: that South Americans were already living on a Polynesian island when the Polynesians got there.

Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments


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