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Thieves can guess your secret Visa card details in just seconds

12/5/2016 6:40pm

Enlarge / A website bot as it distributes CVV guesses over multiple sites. (credit: Ali, et al.)

Thieves can guess your secret Visa payment card data in as little as six seconds, according to researchers at Newcastle University in the UK. Bad actors can use browser bots to distribute guesses across hundreds of legitimate online merchants.

The attack starts out with a card's 16-digit number, which can be obtained in a variety of ways. Attackers can buy numbers on black-market websites, often for less than $1 apiece, or use a smartphone equipped with a near-field communication reader to skim them. The numbers can also be inferred by combining your first six digits—which are based on the card brand, issuing bank, and card type—with a verification formula known as the Luhn Algorithm. Once an attacker has a valid 16-digit number, four seconds is all they need to learn the expiration date and the three-digit card-verification value that most sites use to verify the validity of a credit card. Even when sites go a step further by adding the card holder's billing address to the process, the technique can correctly guess the information in about six seconds.

The technique relies on Web bots that spread random guesses across almost 400 e-commerce sites that accept credit card payments. Of those, 26 sites use only two fields to verify cards, while an additional 291 sites use three fields. Because different sites rely on different fields, the bots are able to enter intelligent guesses into the user field of multiple sites until the bots hit on the right ones. Once the correct expiration date is obtained for a given card—typically banks issue cards that are valid for up to 60 months—the bots use a similar process to obtain the CVV number. In other cases, when sites allow the bots to obtain the CVV first—a process that can never require more than 1,000 guesses—the bots then work to obtain the expiration date and, if required, the billing address.

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Trying, and failing, to sneak into Amazon’s Skynet take on grocery shopping

12/5/2016 5:15pm

Enlarge / "Let's go shopping!" "No, let's Amazon Go shopping." "Dave, I hate your puns." (credit: Sam Machkovech)

SEATTLE—Amazon's foray into the world of brick-and-mortar grocery shopping has been all but confirmed for nearly a year thanks to leaks such as spotted permit applications. The rumor became reality on Monday with the announcement of Amazon Go, an experiment in grocery shopping that removes the clerks.

This is not just another idle announcement, either: the company's pilot store is now open for business. It's attached to one of Amazon's headquarter buildings in Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood and is already stocked with food options (and a giant staff of cooks and food preparers). There's just one catch—only full-time "blue badge" Amazon staffers can get in right now.

Never one to take "no" for an answer, I grabbed a camera and walked up to the front door with hopes that my shining blue eyes would make up for my lack of a blue badge. That didn't work out, but I did gather a few more details while receiving death glares from staffers and security personnel.

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Windows 10 “Home Hub” feature will take on Amazon Echo and more

12/5/2016 4:45pm

Microsoft is going to make the Windows 10 PC a more family-focused device, taking on Amazon's Echo and Google Home as it does, according to the latest reports and rumors about forthcoming features.

The story starts with Twitter user Walking Cat poking around preview builds and finding reference to a feature named Home Hub, which appears to take the multi-user features of Windows 10 in a new direction. In addition to individual per-user accounts on shared machines, Home Hub will enable a shared Family Account and Family Desktop. This account will have its own calendar, music, pictures, and other resources that are used by and shared between several different people.

Mary Jo Foley tied that discovery to job postings from November, where Microsoft outlined its desire to build family-oriented sharing features for Windows and its desire to compete with Google, Amazon, Apple, and AT&T

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Mistrial declared in murder trial of cop filmed shooting fleeing suspect

12/5/2016 4:02pm

Note: this video contains violence.

A Charleston, South Carolina, judge declared a mistrial Monday in the case of a white South Carolina police officer on trial for the video-taped shooting of Walter Scott, a 50-year-old black man. The video was secretly taken last year by a passerby, and it has been viewed online millions of times. This week, after four days of deliberations, the 12-member jury announced it was hopelessly deadlocked.

Michael Slager testifying. (credit: Today/YouTube)

On trial is Michael Slager, a 35-year-old now-fired North Charleston officer. He's accused of killing Scott by shooting the man in the back. Scott was pulled over in April 2015 for a routine traffic stop—a tail-light that was not working. He had a warrant for his arrest and fled the scene, prompting a chase. The officer testified that there was a brief altercation in a park over his Taser, and the cop then shot Scott five times as he fled. Slager has said he acted out of "total fear."

Charleston County's top prosecutor vowed a retrial. "We will try Mr. Slager again," Scarlett A. Wilson said in a statement.

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Court: Secret spying of would-be Christmas tree bomber was OK

12/5/2016 3:13pm

Enlarge / Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland, Oregon, was the site of an attempted bombing on November 27, 2010. (credit: Craig Mitchelldyer / Getty Images News)

A US federal appeals court has rejected an effort to overturn the Portland Christmas tree bomber’s conviction on the grounds that the surveillance to initially identify the suspect did not, in fact, require a warrant. On Monday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals also rejected an entrapment argument raised by lawyers for suspect Mohamed Osman Mohamud.

As Ars reported back in January 2016, the case (United States v. Mohamud) involves a Somali-American accused of trying to blow up a 2010 lighting ceremony in Portland. Undercover FBI agents posed as jihadis and presented Mohamud with the means to conduct the operation, which turned out to be wholly bogus. Mohamud was eventually found guilty and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

But after the conviction, the government disclosed that it used surveillance under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act to collect and search Mohamud's e-mail. Seeing this, Mohamud’s legal team attempted to re-open the case—but the judge denied their motion. Mohamud's defense raised this issue on appeal, but they have now been rejected by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Troubled Navy ship class design infringed on patent, lawsuit claims

12/5/2016 3:00pm

The USS Freedom (LCS-1), designed by Lockheed Martin... or perhaps by a jilted British designer who is pressing IP theft claims against the Navy. (credit: US Navy)

This has not been a good year for the US Navy's newest ships. Four ships from the Navy's two classes of Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)—the high-tech, modular warships that were supposed to be the future of naval warfare in areas close to shore—have suffered major engineering problems, including breaking down at sea. Three of the LCS ships that suffered engineering failures were from the Freedom class, ships built by Lockheed Martin for the LCS program: USS Freedom, USS Fort Worth, and USS Milwaukee. The program has also seen other setbacks, including the USS Montgomery (an Independence-class LCS built by Austal USA) suffering a cracked hull after bumping the wall of a Panama Canal lock.

But the LCS' engineering woes may not be the end of the trouble its shipbuilding programs are facing. As defense writer David Axe reports, David Giles, a British aerospace engineer-turned-marine architect, has filed a lawsuit accusing the Navy of stealing elements of the Freedom's design from work he did to commercialize a wave-piercing, "semi-planing" hull—work Giles patented in the early 1990s.

Giles' design, called the Prelude, was derived from work his firm first pitched to the British Royal Navy. The patents were filed for a design for high-speed container ships, called Fastships. Giles formed a company by the same name to build them. The design patents expired in 2010, but Giles' company—which is now bankrupt—filed suit against the Navy in 2012 after years of seeking compensation.

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Android 7.1.1 released for Pixel and (most) Nexus devices

12/5/2016 2:10pm

Enlarge / The Nexus 5X and 6P. (credit: Ron Amadeo)

Today, Google released a new minor version of Android: 7.1.1 Nougat. The new release means different things to different Google devices. The Pixel and Pixel XL move from Android 7.1 to 7.1.1, bringing the December security update and some bugfixes. It's a bigger deal for Nexus devices, however, as the update marks the move from Android 7.0 to 7.1.1 and the end of the "Android 7.1 Developer Preview" for Nexus devices.

For now, 7.1.1 is out for the Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel C, and the Nexus 6P, 5X, 9, 9 LTE as well as the Nexus Player. Interestingly, the Nexus 6 also received a December security release today, but it's based on Android 7.0. It seems like the Nexus 6 won't get an Android 7.1 update this month.

Android 7.1 exclusively launched on Google's new flagship device, the Google Pixel, in October. Nexus devices—a brand which Google seems to be done with—were instead relegated to a "developer preview" release of Android 7.1 (along with the Pixel C), which ends with this update. Android 7.1 was developed alongside the Pixel devices, and Google chose to make many features exclusive to the Pixel line. For instance, Nexus devices still won't get the Google Assistant, new navigation bar, or the Pixel Launcher, but they should see better touch input latency, a F.lux-style "Night Light," and new emojis.

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“Pizzagate” conspiracy theory prompts gunman to “self-investigate” pizza parlor

12/5/2016 2:00pm

Enlarge / Edgar Maddison Welch, 28, arrested outside the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, DC. (credit: ABC News/YouTube)

A rifle-wielding North Carolina man was arrested Sunday in Washington, DC for carrying his weapon into a pizzeria that sits at the center of the fake news conspiracy theory known as "Pizzagate," authorities said Monday.

DC's Metropolitan Police Department said it had arrested 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch on allegations of assault with a dangerous weapon. "During a post arrest interview this evening, the suspect revealed that he came to the establishment to self-investigate 'Pizza Gate' (a fictitious online conspiracy theory)," the agency said in a statement.

Welch was arrested without incident.

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FCC Republicans try to protect AT&T and Verizon in net neutrality case

12/5/2016 12:40pm

(credit: Mike Mozart)

The two Republican members of the Federal Communications Commission criticized the FCC for investigating AT&T and Verizon in a net neutrality case centering on data cap exemptions. Any action taken now will be overturned under President Donald Trump, they promised.

The FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau last week said it reached a preliminary conclusion that AT&T is violating net neutrality rules by using data cap exemptions (or "zero-rating") to favor DirecTV video on its mobile network. The FCC also kicked off a similar examination of Verizon's data cap exemptions. AT&T and Verizon are exempting their own video services from mobile data caps while charging other companies for the same zero-rating treatment.

But Republicans, who opposed the net neutrality rules and will gain the FCC majority from Democrats after the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, are trying to protect AT&T and Verizon from FCC action.

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Sony admits to plotting PlayStation’s HDR launch for three years

12/5/2016 11:59am

ANAHEIM, Calilfornia—HDR, or high dynamic range, has finally begun rolling out in a major way this year, thanks to compatible hardware, games, and videos also rolling out in droves. But how long ago did HDR content really start to come down the pipeline?

On Saturday, one of Sony's most esteemed game producers, Gran Turismo series creator Kazunori Yamauchi, told reporters that his team at Polyphony Digital was the first to lead the charge for HDR content within Sony. Surprisingly, Yamauchi-san also said that his team, the designers of the 2017 racer Gran Turismo Sport, made those plans before the PlayStation 4 Pro even existed, in the middle of 2013.

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Google’s new “Trusted Contacts” app lets you keep tabs on family

12/5/2016 11:40am

Today Google launched a "personal safety app" for Android called "Trusted Contacts." The new app offers another location-sharing service from the company, one that Google envisions for use in emergency situations.

After installing the app, you can flag some of your contacts as "trusted." Then you'll be able to send your location to a trusted contact or ask for their location. The whole app is built around the "emergency" use case, complete with a dead man's switch for location requests. When someone asks for your location, you'll get a full screen pop up allowing you to approve or deny the request. You only have five minutes to do this, though—after five minutes, your location will be shared automatically. The idea is that if you're unable to use your phone, your trusted contacts will still be able to find you.

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The best part of Fantastic Beasts is that it’s about science

12/5/2016 11:30am

Enlarge / Newt Scamander with an endangered bird he's hoping to release back into its native habitat in Arizona. (credit: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them)

The animals in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them are so compelling that it’s easy to ignore the movie’s otherwise mediocre plot. That’s because the magizoologist character Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is a science hero who has somehow found himself in a fantasy movie. Sure, he's a wizard who carries a massive lab around with him in a cunning suitcase that’s a lot bigger on the inside. But despite all the spell-casting, this Harry Potter prequel offers some of the most realistic representations of environmental research field work you’re likely to see in a movie this decade.

Some spoilers ahead. C’mon people, you’ve had weeks to see this movie.

Not everything about Fantastic Beasts is worthwhile, so let’s ignore the incoherent plot about temperance politics and the Magical Congress of the USA and Johnny Depp’s hair and anti-magical repression something something. None of it made any more sense than a standard episode of True Blood. Luckily, it felt like a backdrop to the real story of this film, which is about Newt coming to the United States so that he can release a giant, Cretaceous-looking magical bird back into its natural habitat.

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High Dynamic Range, explained: There’s a reason to finally get a new TV

12/5/2016 11:28am

We're dealing with better tech these days—embrace it. (credit: Tony Young)

Ever since the HDTV standard emerged in the mid-'00s, screen producers have struggled to come up with new standards that feel anywhere as impressive. That's been a tough sell, as no baseline image standard has yet surpassed the quality jump from CRT sets to clearer panels with 1080p resolution support.

3D content came and went, with its unpopularity owing to a few factors (aversion to glasses, hard-to-find content). The higher-res 4K standard is holding up a little better, but its jump in quality just doesn't move the needle for average viewers—and certainly not those sticking to modestly sized screens.

But there's another standard that you may have heard about—high dynamic range, or HDR. It's a weird one. HDTV, 3D, and 4K have all been easy to quickly and accurately describe for newcomers ("more pixels," "one image per eye," etc.), but HDR's different. Ask an average TV salesperson what HDR is, and you'll usually get a vague response with adjectives like "brighter" and "more colorful." Brighter and more colorful than what, exactly?

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Millions in US still living life in Internet slow lane

12/5/2016 11:13am

(credit: Elliott Brown)

Millions of Americans still have extremely slow Internet speeds, a new Federal Communications Commission report shows. While the FCC defines broadband as download speeds of 25Mbps, about 47.5 million home or business Internet connections provided speeds below that threshold.

Dealing with speeds a bit lower than the broadband standard isn't too horrible, but there are still millions with speeds that just aren't anywhere close to modern. Out of 102.2 million residential and business Internet connections, 22.4 million offered download speeds less than 10Mbps, with 5.8 million of those offering less than 3Mbps. About 25.1 million connections offered at least 10Mbps but less than 25Mbps.

54.7 million households had speeds of at least 25Mbps, with 15.4 million of those at 100Mbps or higher. These are the advertised speeds, not the actual speeds consumers receive. Some customers will end up with slower speeds than what they pay for.

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After seven years, The Last Guardian frustrates as much as it delights

12/5/2016 10:00am

Enlarge / Now I'm freeeeeeeee... free fallin'.

Way back in 2010, a full year after it was first announced as a PlayStation 3 game, The Last Guardian creator Fumito Ueda stressed to a Tokyo Game Show press conference audience that the key to the game he envisioned was developing an "emotional attachment" between the game's unnamed boy character and Trico, his three-story-tall, mythical animal-hybrid companion that combines elements of a bird, a dog, and a horse. Six years later, after finally completing Ueda's oft-delayed opus, I find that the main emotion I feel toward Trico and the game he inhabits is frustration. A beautiful disaster

The Last Guardian plays out as one big joint escort quest, with Trico and the boy working together to escape the extremely intricate ruins of a crumbling tower complex built into the side of a cliff. Before I dig into what frustrated me so much about the game, I'd be remiss not to laud the architectural feat of that digital environment.

Every broken brick, every rusted-over bridge, and every pile of rubble overgrown with weeds makes you feel like you're inhabiting the epilogue of a once-great civilization. It's a world full of ornate symbology and bronze-age-meets-magical-realism technology that's all the stronger for never being even partially explained. You'll feel like you're trespassing on the ghosts of master builders, who placed every last stone with a sense of purpose you'll never fully understand but love examining anyway.

Much like Ueda's Ico and Shadow of the Colossus before it, The Last Guardian also benefits from a painterly use of light, which pokes through holes in the walls to reflect through cavernous halls and oversaturated outdoor scenes with a soft, otherworldly glow. Played on an HDR television on the PlayStation Pro, every scene has a vibrancy and range of visual expressiveness that's hard to equal in modern gaming (things look pretty good on a standard 1080p television, too). Seeing what new visual splendor lies around the next corner quickly becomes the main impetus to struggle your way through the game's puzzles.

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Oculus Touch controller review: Let your fingers do the grabbing

12/5/2016 10:00am

Edited and produced by Jennifer Hahn. (video link)

After years of development kits and prototype demos, Oculus finally launched the first consumer version of its Rift VR headset in March. But even as a real product that people could purchase, the first consumer version of the Rift was incomplete when it launched. That's because, unlike competing high-end VR headsets like the HTC Vive and PlayStation VR, the Oculus Rift didn't have an integrated method to track your hands in virtual space.

To be sure, you can do plenty of fun things in virtual reality with the kind of standard, handheld, button-based controller that's been guiding games on 2D screens for decades. But when you're confronted with a stereoscopic 3D world that entirely surrounds you, as happens in the Rift headset, your first instinct is to reach out and touch the things in that world. As we noted with disappointment in our initial review of the Rift, without hand-tracking controllers, "this brave new display technology is a strictly 'look, don't touch” affair.'"

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Virgin Galactic returns to flight with its VSS Unity spacecraft

12/5/2016 9:42am

Virgin Galactic

It has been a long road back from a fatal 2014 accident for Virgin Galactic, the splashy spaceship company founded by Sir Richard Branson to bring the masses into space. After its VSS Enterprise crashed into the Mojave Desert during a test flight, killing vehicle co-pilot Michael Alsbury, the company has had to redesign some key safety systems and rebuild its spacecraft. It revealed the VSS Unity in February.

Since then Virgin Galactic has completed a series of ground tests and mating to the "mothership" aircraft, Eve. Following captive carry tests in September, the company performed its first glide test on Saturday, when VSS Unity was released at an altitude of about 15km. The spacecraft reached a velocity of mach 0.6 during its 10-minute descent back to the ground in California. It then made a safe landing at test facilities in Mojave.

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The Last of Us: Part 2 revealed in trailer; Ellie and Joel return

12/5/2016 9:07am

Sony revealed a teaser trailer for The Last of Us 2 at PSX 2016.

The Last of Us, one of the finest story-driven games of a generation, is getting a sequel.

Revealed during Sony's PlayStation Experience event in Anaheim, California, The Last of Us: Part 2 is set five years after the events of The Last of Us, and stars an angry 19-year-old Ellie. Joel, the lead from the first game, makes a return too.

Few other details were revealed—the trailer, which shows Ellie playing a guitar surrounded by zombie bodies, was intended for E3 2017—but developer Naughty Dog's Neil Druckmann revealed that voice actors Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson will be reprising their roles as Joel and Ellie. In a panel session at PSX, Druckmann also hinted at the broader theme of the sequel, saying: "In the first game, the theme was the love between these two characters... this story's the counter of that. It's about hate."

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Final Fantasy 15 review: A curio, not a classic

12/5/2016 8:57am


There are worse places to be stuck in a car than on the sun-cooked roads of Lucis. "Picturesque" doesn’t cover the symbiotic qualities of these mountains, great lakes, and patchwork fields. Small wonder that one member of your entourage, comprised of Noctis, the heir to Lucis' throne, and his three friends and bodyguards, will routinely request you stop the car so he can take a photograph.

It's the eve of the prince's wedding and, rather than slosh drunkenly around some coastal town, he and his buddies have taken to the open road in their preposterously sleek and muscular car, the Regalia. It’s a curious choice of vehicle for a series defined by its fable-like airships and fantastical giant chicken mounts, but in time it makes sense. This is a contemporary-set Final Fantasy, complete with sat-navs, mobile phones and motels. What better way to conjure the sojourner spirit of the series in the modern day than via the conceit of a road trip?

Not that you have much freedom to drive anywhere you please. The Regalia must stick to the roads in Final Fantasy XV—the latest in a very long line of role-playing games that stretches back to the Nintendo NES—and while it's possible to take the wheel yourself, the simplistic controls mean that you're more likely to hand over driver duties to Ignis, the most mature member of the group, and sit back to enjoy the views instead.

The open road

If the setting is plainly exquisite then the company is more of an acquired taste. There's sensible Ignis, who cooks meals for the group each time you set up camp for the night, and whose bother and worry soon starts to grate. There’s hothead Gladio, whose tantrums can weary (even if, at times, they provide him with an advantage in battle). And there’s Prompto, who yelps and tugs like an excitable puppy. As the four bond not only via freelance monster-battling missions, picked up, rather confusingly, from the owners of the various cafes dotted around Lucis, but also in their often affecting moments of vulnerability (quiet moments of male bonding snatched on a motel roof, and so on) a sense of pleasing and enriching camaraderie develops.

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Ridesharing and cleaner, quieter transport: Volkswagen’s answer is called Moia

12/5/2016 8:50am

Could this be the home for BUDD-e? (credit: Volkswagen)

On Monday, Volkswagen Group used the TechCrunch Disrupt meeting in London to announce a new company, Moia. It joins the group's 12 automotive brands but isn't necessarily going to make cars; VW says that Moia is a response to the future of transportation and that buzzword du jour, "mobility."

Even though not everyone will still own a car in the future, "MOIA can help make everyone a customer of our company in some way or another,” Matthias Müller, CEO of VW Group, said. At first that means ride-sharing, and VW has already invested $300 million in a ridesharing platform called Gett (used by London's black taxis, among others). But eventually the plan is for Moia-owned vehicles—electric and autonomous, we assume—to be the ones summoned via app. Autocar speculates that this could be the eventual use for VW's BUDD-e concept car, which would be co-branded with Moia.

This looks like a smart move for VW Group, switching the topic as it does from the ongoing scandal of cheating emissions tests. Most of its rivals have already thrown down a mobility flag; GM and Maven, Daimler-Benz and Car2Go, BMW and ReachNow, and that's before we see autonomous car services from Ford and Tesla. Now VW can try to do the same with a name that's not covered in a layer of soot and particulates.

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