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Software Glitch Caused 911 Outage For 11 Million People

Oct 23

HughPickens.com writes: Brian Fung reports at the Washington Post that earlier this year emergency services went dark for over six hours for more than 11 million people across seven states. “The outage may have gone unnoticed by some, but for the more than 6,000 people trying to reach help, April 9 may well have been the scariest time of their lives.” In a 40-page report (PDF), the FCC found that an entirely preventable software error was responsible for causing 911 service to drop. “It could have been prevented. But it was not,” the FCC’s report reads. “The causes of this outage highlight vulnerabilities of networks as they transition from the long-familiar methods of reaching 911 to [Internet Protocol]-supported technologies.” On April 9, the software responsible for assigning the identifying code to each incoming 911 call maxed out at a pre-set limit; the counter literally stopped counting at 40 million calls. As a result, the routing system stopped accepting new calls, leading to a bottleneck and a series of cascading failures elsewhere in the 911 infrastructure. Adm. David Simpson, the FCC’s chief of public safety and homeland security, says having a single backup does not provide the kind of reliability that is ideal for 911. “Miami is kind of prone to hurricanes. Had a hurricane come at the same time [as the multi-state outage], we would not have had that failover, perhaps. So I think there needs to be more [distribution of 911 capabilities].”

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Windows 0-Day Exploited In Ongoing Attacks

Oct 23

An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft is warning users about a new Windows zero-day vulnerability that is being actively exploited in the wild and is primarily a risk to users on servers and workstations that open documents with embedded OLE objects. The vulnerability is currently being exploited via PowerPoint files. These specially crafted files contain a malicious OLE (Object Linking and Embedding) object. This is not the first time a vulnerability in OLE has been exploited by cybercriminals, however most previous OLE vulnerabilities have been limited to specific older versions of the Windows operating system. What makes this vulnerability dangerous is that it affects the latest fully patched versions of Windows.

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DHS Investigates 24 Potentially Lethal IoT Medical Devices

Oct 23

An anonymous reader writes: In the wake of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recent recommendations to strengthen security on net-connected medical devices, the Department of Homeland Security is launching an investigation into 24 cases of potential cybersecurity vulnerabilities in hospital equipment and personal medical devices. Independent security researcher Billy Rios submitted proof-of-concept evidence to the FDA indicating that it would be possible for a hacker to force infusion pumps to fatally overdose a patient. Though the complete range of devices under investigation has not been disclosed, it is reported that one of them is an “implantable heart device.” William Maisel, chief scientist at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said, “The conventional wisdom in the past was that products only had to be protected from unintentional threats. Now they also have to be protected from intentional threats too.”

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Hungary To Tax Internet Traffic

Oct 23

An anonymous reader writes: The Hungarian government has announced a new tax on internet traffic: 150 HUF ($0.62 USD) per gigabyte. In Hungary, a monthly internet subscription costs around 4,000-10,000 HUF ($17-$41), so it could really put a constraint on different service providers, especially for streaming media. This kind of tax could set back the country’s technological development by some 20 years — to the pre-internet age. As a side note, the Hungarian government’s budget is running at a serious deficit. The internet tax is officially expected to bring in about 20 billion HUF in income, though a quick look at the BIX (Budapest Internet Exchange) and a bit of math suggests a better estimate of the income would probably be an order of magnitude higher.

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Xerox Alto Source Code Released To Public

Oct 23

zonker writes: In 1970, the Xerox Corporation established the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) with the goal to develop an “architecture of information” and lay the groundwork for future electronic office products. The pioneering Alto project that began in 1972 invented or refined many of the fundamental hardware and software ideas upon which our modern devices are based, including raster displays, mouse pointing devices, direct-manipulation user interfaces, windows and menus, the first WYSIWYG word processor, and Ethernet. The first Altos were built as research prototypes. By the fall of 1976 PARC’s research was far enough along that a Xerox product group started to design products based on their prototypes. Ultimately, ~1,500 were built and deployed throughout the Xerox Corporation, as well as at universities and other sites. The Alto was never sold as a product but its legacy served as inspiration for the future. With the permission of the Palo Alto Research Center, the Computer History Museum is pleased to make available, for non-commercial use only, snapshots of Alto source code, executables, documentation, font files, and other files from 1975 to 1987. The files are organized by the original server on which they resided at PARC that correspond to files that were restored from archive tapes. An interesting look at retro-future.

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The Future of Stamps

Oct 22

New submitter Kkloe writes: Wired is running a profile of a gadget called Signet, which is trying to bring postage stamps into the age of high technology. Quoting: “At its core, it is a digital stamp and an app. If you want to send a parcel, you’d simply stamp it with a device that uses a laser to etch it with your name and a unique identifying pattern. After that, the USPS would pick up your package; from there, the app would prompt you to provide the name of the person you’re trying to reach.” I’m curious whether such a finely-detailed etching can even survive a journey. How far can you expect it to travel before all the handling and sorting make the mark unreadable to the sorting machines in the delivery office? Then you’d have to worry the post office would mark it as a fraudulent stamp (as someone has to pay for the shipping in some way) and either return it or throw it away.

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The Bogus Batoid Submarine is Wooden, not Yellow (Video)

Oct 22

This is a “wet” submarine. It doesn’t try to keep water out. You wear SCUBA gear while pedaling it. And yes, it is powered by a person pushing pedals. That motion, through a drive train, makes manta-style wings flap. This explains the name, since rays are Batoids, and this sub is a fake Batoid, not a real one. It’s a beautiful piece of work, and Martin Plazyk is obviously proud to show it off. He and his father, Bruce, operate as Faux Fish Technologies. Follow that link and you’ll see many photos, along with a nice selection of videos showing their creations not just in static above-water displays, but in their natural (underwater) element. Meanwhile, here on Slashdot, Martin tells how Faux Fish subs are made. (Alternate Video Link)

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Samsung Acknowledges and Fixes Bug On 840 EVO SSDs

Oct 22

Lucas123 writes: Samsung has issued a firmware fix for a bug on its popular 840 EVO triple-level cell SSD. The bug apparently slows read performance tremendously for any data more than a month old that has not been moved around on the NAND. Samsung said in a statement that the read problems occurred on its 2.5-in 840 EVO SSDs and 840 EVO mSATA drives because of an error in the flash management software algorithm. Some users on technical blog sites, such as Overclock.net, say the problem extends beyond the EVO line. They also questioned whether the firmware upgrade was a true fix or if it just covers up the bug by moving data around the SSD.

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NPR: ’80s Ads Are Responsible For the Lack of Women Coders

Oct 22

gollum123 writes: Back in the day, computer science was as legitimate a career path for women as medicine, law, or science. But in 1984, the number of women majoring in computing-related subjects began to fall, and the percentage of women is now significantly lower in CS than in those other fields. NPR’s Planet Money sought to answer a simple question: Why? According to the show’s experts, computers were advertised as a “boy’s toy.” This, combined with early ’80s geek culture staples like the book Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, as well as movies like War Games and Weird Science, conspired to instill the perception that computers were primarily for men.

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Cell Transplant Allows Paralyzed Man To Walk

Oct 22

New submitter tiberus sends word of a breakthrough medical treatment that has restored the ability to walk to a man who was paralyzed from the chest down after his spinal cord was severed in a knife attack. A research team from the UK, led by Professor Geoff Raisman, transplanted cells from the patient’s nose, along with strips of nerve tissue from his ankle, to the place where the spine was severed. This allowed the fibers in the spinal cord to gradually reconnect. The treatment used olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) - specialist cells that form part of the sense of smell. … In the first of two operations, surgeons removed one of the patient’s olfactory bulbs and grew the cells in culture. Two weeks later they transplanted the OECs into the spinal cord, which had been cut through in the knife attack apart from a thin strip of scar tissue on the right. They had just a drop of material to work with - about 500,000 cells. About 100 micro-injections of OECs were made above and below the injury. Four thin strips of nerve tissue were taken from the patient’s ankle and placed across an 8mm (0.3in) gap on the left side of the cord. … Two years after the treatment, he can now walk outside the rehabilitation center using a frame.

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