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New Spaceport Announced In Nova Scotia - Operational In 2023

Slashdot reader boudie2 writes:

Maritime Launch Services has secured financing it says will allow it to begin construction on a spaceport facility this fall and get its first launch off the ground in 2022. The first Cyclone 4M medium-class launch vehicle would take off in 2023.

The company wants to construct a rocket-launching site in Canso, Nova Scotia to send satellites into orbit for use in near-earth imaging, communications and scientific experiments. President and CEO Steve Matier stated the company has been approached by small satellite launchers, and MLS is considering hosting one of them for a first flight to orbit from the launch site as the facility scales up its operations. The company is expecting additional funding for the project will be secured through equity, debt and launch contracts.

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Study Finds Alarming Levels of 'Forever Chemicals' In US Mothers' Breast Milk

Slashdot reader Hmmmmmm quotes the Guardian:

A new study that checked American women's breast milk for PFAS contamination detected the toxic chemical in all 50 samples tested, and at levels nearly 2,000 times higher than the level some public health advocates advise is safe for drinking water. The findings "are cause for concern" and highlight a potential threat to newborns' health, the study's authors say. "The study shows that PFAS contamination of breast milk is likely universal in the US, and that these harmful chemicals are contaminating what should be nature's perfect food," said Erika Schreder, a co-author and science director with Toxic Free Future, a Seattle-based non-profit that pushes industry to find alternatives to the chemicals.

PFAS, or per and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a class of about 9,000 compounds that are used to make products like food packaging, clothing and carpeting water and stain resistant. They are called "forever chemicals" because they do not naturally break down and have been found to accumulate in humans. They are linked to cancer, birth defects, liver disease, thyroid disease, plummeting sperm counts and a range of other serious health problems. The peer-reviewed study, published on Thursday in the Environmental Science and Technology journal, found PFAS at levels in milk ranging from 50 parts per trillion (ppt) to more than 1,850ppt.

There are no standards for PFAS in breast milk, but the public health advocacy organization Environmental Working Group puts its advisory target for drinking water at 1ppt, and the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, within the Department of Health and Human Services, recommends as little as 14ppt in children's drinking water.

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Researchers Build Tiny Wireless, Injectable Chips, Visible Only Under a Microscope

Implantable miniaturized medical devices that wirelessly transmit data "are transforming healthcare and improving the quality of life for millions of people," writes Columbia University, noting the devices are "widely used to monitor and map biological signals, to support and enhance physiological functions, and to treat diseases."

Long-time Slashdot reader sandbagger shares the university's newest announcement:

These devices could be used to monitor physiological conditions, such as temperature, blood pressure, glucose, and respiration for both diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. To date, conventional implanted electronics have been highly volume-inefficient — they generally require multiple chips, packaging, wires, and external transducers, and batteries are often needed for energy storage... Researchers at Columbia Engineering report that they have built what they say is the world's smallest single-chip system, consuming a total volume of less than 0.1 mm cubed. The system is as small as a dust mite and visible only under a microscope...

"We wanted to see how far we could push the limits on how small a functioning chip we could make," said the study's leader Ken Shepard, Lau Family professor of electrical engineering and professor of biomedical engineering. "This is a new idea of 'chip as system' — this is a chip that alone, with nothing else, is a complete functioning electronic system. This should be revolutionary for developing wireless, miniaturized implantable medical devices that can sense different things, be used in clinical applications, and eventually approved for human use...."

The chip, which is the entire implantable/injectable mote with no additional packaging, was fabricated at the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company with additional process modifications performed in the Columbia Nano Initiative cleanroom and the City University of New York Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC) Nanofabrication Facility. Shepard commented, "This is a nice example of 'more than Moore' technology—we introduced new materials onto standard complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor to provide new function. In this case, we added piezoelectric materials directly onto the integrated circuit to transducer acoustic energy to electrical energy...." The team's goal is to develop chips that can be injected into the body with a hypodermic needle and then communicate back out of the body using ultrasound, providing information about something they measure locally.

The current devices measure body temperature, but there are many more possibilities the team is working on.

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Wealthy Install Location-Tracking Apps to Establish Proof-of-Residency for Tax Purposes

The New York Times shares the dilemma of Jeff Sheu, managing director of a private equity firm, who is "exactly the type of high earner California does not want to lose. When people in his tax bracket leave, the state is likely to audit them to make sure they really have left."

But fortunately, there's an app for that:

With the May 17 tax filing deadline approaching, people who have moved to another state or are working more remotely need to be extra vigilant with their tax documents. For Mr. Sheu, that involves an app on his smartphone that uses location services to track him all the time. What he is sacrificing in privacy, he is gaining in peace of mind, knowing he will be able to show exactly when and where he was in a particular state, should California's tax authority come after him... "I'm never apart from my phone," Mr. Sheu said... "It feels to me like a pretty undebatable way to track where I am...."

Tax apps like TaxBird — which Mr. Sheu uses — and TaxDay and Monaeo were created years ago... "We've seen a fourfold increase in our app without any advertising in the past year," said Jonathan Mariner, founder and president of TaxDay, who was himself audited when he worked for Major League Baseball in New York but lived in Florida. "When people are concerned about privacy, I say you probably have a dozen apps on your phone that are tracking you, and you don't even know it...." Monaeo makes a point of describing how the data is cataloged — city, state and country, but without specific locations. It also says upfront that it does not share any data. (All three of the apps are vigilant about that.) While each tax app has different levels of precision and features to upload supporting documents, they all fulfill the basic need to prove your location to a tax authority. When it comes time to file taxes, users download reports detailing where they worked with varying degrees of specificity, from a simple day count to more detailed location information...

With hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, states in need of revenue are not going to let the money go without a fight. "This has the potential to become as messy as you can envision it," said Dustin Grizzle, a tax partner at MGO, an accounting firm. "States are going to say, 'Hey you're just using Covid to give you the ability to work remotely.'"

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Zero Day Found for Universal Turing Machine (CVE-2021-32471)

xanthos (Slashdot reader #73,578) writes: Our friends over at The Register are reporting a zero day vulnerability for one of the earliest modern computer architectures.

Pontus Johnson, a professor at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, has published what amounts to a sql injection attack on the 1967 implementation of the simulated Universal Turing Machine (UTM) designed by the late Marvin Minsky. The exploit allow an arbitrary program to be run in place of the intended one. It has been dutifully documented as CVE-2021-32471. At this time there is no patch or workaround.

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How Should a Company Handle a Ransomware Attack?

ITWire reports on how Norwegian firm Volue Technology handled a ransomware attack that began on May 5th:

The company has set up a Web page with information about the attack and also links to frequent updates about the status of its systems. There was no obfuscation about the attack, none at all. The company said: "The ransomware attack on Volue Technology ('Powel') was caused by Ryuk, a type of malware usually known for targeting large, public-entity Microsoft Windows systems."

What is even more remarkable about this page is that it has provided the telephone number and email address of its chief executive, Trond Straume, and asked for anyone who needs additional information to contact him. Not some underling.

ITWire argues this response "demonstrated to the rest of the world how a ransomware attack should be handled."

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MITRE Security Tests Reveal Built-in Advantage of First-Gen Antivirus Vendors

Slashdot reader storagedude writes: The MITRE cybersecurity product evaluations use adversarial attack techniques instead of basic malware samples, and as a result are the best tests of enterprise security products — particularly in light of dramatic recent attacks on SolarWinds and Colonial Pipeline.

What's especially interesting is just how well first-generation antivirus vendors like Symantec, McAfee and Trend Micro have fared in the MITRE tests. An eSecurity Planet article analyzes the data and speculates on why the old guard may have a built-in advantage over the hot upstarts:

"They may have been overshadowed in recent years by some of the flashy marketing of the upstarts, but that long history gives the old guard a product depth that's tough to beat," eSecurity Planet wrote. "Just one example: Symantec was prepared for last year's SolarWinds hack because it long ago faced attacks when hackers tried to disable endpoint agents, a primary vector for the Sunburst malware.

"In cybersecurity, experience still counts for something."

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After 35 Years, Classic Shareware Game 'Cap'n Magneto' Finally Fully Resurrected

A newspaper in Austin, Texas shares the story behind a cult-classic videogame, the 1985 Macintosh shareware game "Cap'n Magneto."

It was the work of Al Evans, who'd "decided to live life to the fullest after suffering severe burn injuries in 1963" at the age of 17.

Beneath the surface, "Cap'n Magneto" is a product of its creator's own quest to overcome adversity after a terrible car crash — an amalgamation of hard-earned lessons on the value of relationships, being an active participant in shaping the world and knowing how to move on... "Whether I was going to survive at all was very iffy," Evans said. "The chance of me living to the age of 28 or 30 was below 30% or something like that." Regardless of how much time he had left, Evans said he refused to let his injuries hold him back from living his life to the fullest. He would live his life with honesty, he decided, and do his best to always communicate with others truthfully. "I wasn't going to spend the next two years of my life dorking around different hospitals. So I said what's the alternative?" Evans said...

To float his many hobbies and interests, however, Evans knew he had to make money. In addition to doing work as a graphic designer and a translator, he picked up computer programming, which opened his eyes to a digital frontier that allowed for the creation of new worlds with the stroke of a keyboard. When he realized the technical capabilities of the Macintosh — the first personal computer that had a graphics-driven user interface and a built-in mouse function — Evans said he set out to build a world that could marry storytelling and graphics. With the help of his wife Cea, Evans created his one and only computer game: "Cap'n Magneto."

"I really wanted to write a good game, and I definitely think it was that," Evans said...

Australia-based gaming historian, author and journalist Richard Moss says, "What really marked it as different, though, was that the alien speech, once ungarbled by a tricorder item that players had to find, would be spoken aloud through the Mac's built-in speech synthesizer and written on-screen in comic-style speech bubbles," Moss said. "And unlike most role playing games of the time, every character you'd meet in the game could be friendly and helpful or cold and dismissive or aggressive and hostile — depending on a mix of random chance and player choice...."

With "Cap'n Magneto," Evans said he wanted to make sure that players could befriend the non-playable alien characters that the hero encounters. Though the game is beatable without their help, it is significantly easier with the help of allies. A reality in which everyone was an enemy, to Evans, was simply dishonest.

"That doesn't reflect the game of life, you know? Some people, well, most people actually, are probably pretty friendly," he said.

35 years after its release, Evans — now 75 years old — received a message on Facebook informing him that the game was still being played — but no one could finish it because the built-in "nagware" required payments that couldn't be completed.

That problem has finally been fixed, and long-time Slashdot reader shanen now shares the web site where the full game can finally be downloaded.

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Huawei Could Eavesdrop on 6.5 Million Dutch Cellphone Users Without their Knowledge

"Chinese technology provider Huawei was recently accused of being able to monitor all calls made using Dutch mobile operator KPN," writes the Conversation. Long-time Slashdot reader schwit1 shares their report:

The revelations are from a secret 2010 report made by consultancy firm Capgemini, which KPN commissioned to evaluate the risks of working with Huawei infrastructure. While the full report on the issue has not been made public, journalists reporting on the story have outlined specific concerns that Huawei personnel in the Netherlands and China had access to security-essential parts of KPN's network - including the call data of millions of Dutch citizens - and that a lack of records meant KPN couldn't establish how often this happened... KPN essentially granted Huawei "administrator rights" to its mobile network by outsourcing work to the Chinese firm.

Legislation is only now catching up to prevent similar vulnerabilities in telecoms security...

Lower revenues force operators to carefully manage costs. This means that operators have been keen to outsource parts of their businesses to third parties, especially since the late 2000s. Large numbers of highly skilled engineers are an expensive liability to have on the balance sheet, and can often appear underused when things are running smoothly... , outsourcing by mobile operators is widespread. And firms in the UK and across Europe have often turned to Huawei to provide IT services and to help build core networks.

In 2010, Huawei was managing security-critical functions of KPN's core network.

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Improvements Finally Made in How We Name Asteroids

RockDoctor (Slashdot reader #15,477) writes:

For a number of years the administrative process for giving asteroids names has had a worsening logjam. Important or "interesting" bodies (such as `Oumuamua, the first definitely interstellar object identified) would still get names rapidly assigned, but in the background myriads of unspectacular objects would persist with "names" based on their discovery date like "1981 GD1". Which is adequate for managing databases, but less than satisfactory for most humans.

A new publication from the "Working Group for Small Body Nomenclature", combines what used to be several steps into one stage. So now one can easily find that "1981 GD1" has the name "Rutherford", to commemorate one of the major scientists of the 20th century.

No doubt there will be complaints of an over-concentration on figures from Classical legend (22 of 179 names assigned), but eventually that mine will play out. Professional and amateur astronomers (34 and 30 names) are, unsurprisingly, the largest groups commemorated. Other scientists get a good showing (16, Rutherford included), along with memorials to teachers, observatories and universities. One architect and one astronaut (there isn't a bar on memorialising living persons) also get mentions, and modest numbers of sports stars, musicians and other cultural figures pad out the list. Chinese, Japanese and Taiwanese contributors have a significant input to this batch, along with a number of South American contributions and a fair number from smaller countries (Paul Erdos, for example, in the {dead+ white+ mathematical eccentrics} category). And one entry which I can only class as a joke — 1990 QX19 gets a name which should have been used years ago. Obviously you'll need to RTFA to see the joke, but RTFA-ing is an un-Slashdot activity.

Future numbers of the Bulletin will publish new batches of assigned names, and work away on the backlog. You still need to be the discoverer of a "small body" to submit a name proposal, but that step of the process is also under review. With about 22,000 of the currently-recognised million-plus objects with well-characterised orbits, there is no realistic prospect of running out any time soon — they are being found faster than they get named. But eventually you too could name a pathetic little mudball for someone you despise. Won't that be fun?

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US Considers Law Requiring Companies to Report All Cyberattacks

The Colonial Pipeline cyberattack has spurred new efforts in the U.S. Congress "to require critical companies to tell the government when they've been hacked." Politico reports:

Even leading Republicans are expressing support for regulations after this week's chaos — a sharp change from past high-profile efforts that failed due to GOP opposition. The swift reaction from lawmakers reflects the disruptive impact of the ransomware attack on Colonial...

The vast majority of private companies don't have to report cyberattacks to any government entity — not even those, like Colonial, whose disruptions can wreak havoc on U.S. economic and national security. And often, they choose to keep quiet. That information gap leaves the rest of the country in the dark about how frequently such attacks occur and how they're perpetrated. It also leaves federal authorities without crucial information that could help protect other companies from similar attacks. Without reporting from companies, "the United States government is completely blind to what is happening," Brandon Wales, the acting director of DHS' Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, told reporters on Thursday. "That just weakens our overall cyber posture across our entire country."

Wales said the solution was for Congress to require companies to report cyber incidents. Lawmakers of both parties told POLITICO they are crafting legislation to mandate cyberattack reporting by critical infrastructure operators such as Colonial, along with major IT service providers and any other companies that do business with the government. The planned legislation predates the pipeline attack — lawmakers began drafting it soon after learning about last year's massive SolarWinds espionage campaign, in which suspected Russian hackers infiltrated nine federal agencies and roughly 100 companies. But the Colonial strike has added urgency to the effort. The group expects to introduce the legislation within weeks, a Senate aide said. "You couldn't have a better reason" for such a mandate than seeing the economic impact of Colonial and SolarWinds, said Senate Intelligence Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.), one of the leaders of the legislation along with Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.

Warner said the intent is to provide a "public-private forum where, with appropriate immunity and confidentiality, you can — mid-incident — report, so we can make sure that it doesn't spread worse..." In the case of Colonial, CISA's Wales said the company did not provide the administration with technical information about the breach until Wednesday night — five days after it was reported — and even then the data was not comprehensive... Companies typically choose not to voluntarily share data with the government for legal and reputational reasons. They fear that the notoriously leak-prone government won't protect their information, leading to embarrassing and potentially actionable revelations.

Politico adds that "The incident reporting situation has become untenable, many cybersecurity experts say,"

"Nation-state hackers are using vulnerable companies as springboards into their customers and partners, and criminal groups are attacking hospitals, schools and energy companies in ways that, if reported, could be tracked and prevented elsewhere."

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California City Apologizes for Wrongly Accusing Bloggers of Criminal Hacking

To settle a lawsuit, the city of Fullerton California "has agreed to pay $350,000 and take back its accusations of criminal computer hacking" against two local bloggers, reports the Orange County Register. The settlement ends what the newspaper calls "a contentious fight over censorship and freedom of speech."

The lawsuit accused Joshua Ferguson and David Curlee of stealing computerized personnel files from a Dropbox account to which the city had mistakenly given them access. Some of the files were later published online... Attorney Kelly Aviles, representing the bloggers, said she was pleased with the settlement, but the litigation could have been avoided. "The city shouldn't have tried to blame their mistakes on journalists trying to cover the city," Aviles said. "It was unbelievably wrong ... those kind of people should never be in public office..."

Under the terms of the deal, Aviles will be paid $230,000, while Ferguson and Curlee will receive $60,000 each. Additionally, the city must publish a public apology on the home page of its website, Aviles said. While no formal charges were brought against the bloggers, the city's accusations of criminal conduct cost them friends and family members. She said Ferguson was fired from his job. "It was really traumatic for them," Aviles said.

In turn, the bloggers must return the remaining confidential records — which they don't plan on publishing anyway, Aviles said.

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The Bizarre Story of the Man Who Invented Ransomware in 1989

Slashdot reader quonset writes:

To this day no one is sure why he did it, but in 1989 a Harvard-taught evolutionary biologist named Joseph Popp mailed out 20,000 floppy discs with malware on them to people around the world. At the time he was doing research into AIDS and the discs had been sent to attendees of the World Health Organization's AIDS conference in Stockholm.

Eddy Willems was working for an insurance company in Belgium and his boss asked him to see what was on the disc...

CNN picks up the story:

Willems was expecting to see medical research when the disc's contents loaded. Instead he became a victim of the first act of ransomware — more than 30 years before the ransomware attack on the US Colonial Pipeline... A few days after inserting the disc, Willems' computer locked and a message appeared demanding that he send $189 in an envelope to a PO Box in Panama. "I didn't pay the ransom or lose any data because I figured out how to reverse the situation," he told CNN Business.

He was one of the lucky ones: Some people lost their life's work.

"I started to get calls from medical institutions and organizations asking how I got around it," said Willems, who is now a cybersecurity expert at G Data, which developed the world's first commercial antivirus solution in 1987. "The incident created a lot of damage back in those days. People lost a lot of work. It was not a marginal thing — it was a big thing, even then...." It's unclear if any people or organizations paid the ransom.

CSO reports that Popp was eventually arrested and charged with multiple counts of blackmail after law enforcement identified him as the owner of the P.O. box where the ransom checks were to be sent.

CNN adds that "One of the biggest problems about ransomware nowadays is that ransoms are often paid with cryptocurrency, such as bitcoin, which is exchanged anonymously and not traceable."

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Aluminum-Ion Battery Claimed to Charge 60 Times Faster, Hold 3X the Energy

Graphene aluminum-ion battery cells from Brisbane-based Graphene Manufacturing Group "are claimed to charge up to 60 times faster than the best lithium-ion cells and hold three time the energy of the best aluminum-based cells," writes a transportation correspondent for Forbes:

They are also safer, with no upper Ampere limit to cause spontaneous overheating, more sustainable and easier to recycle, thanks to their stable base materials. Testing also shows the coin-cell validation batteries also last three times longer than lithium-ion versions.

GMG plans to bring graphene aluminum-ion coin cells to market late this year or early next year, with automotive pouch cells planned to roll out in early 2024.

Based on breakthrough technology from the University of Queensland's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, the battery cells use nanotechnology to insert aluminum atoms inside tiny perforations in graphene planes... GMG Managing Director Craig Nicol insisted that while his company's cells were not the only graphene aluminum-ion cells under development, they were easily the strongest, most reliable and fastest charging. "It charges so fast it's basically a super capacitor," Nicol claimed. "It charges a coin cell in less than 10 seconds." The new battery cells are claimed to deliver far more power density than current lithium-ion batteries, without the cooling, heating or rare-earth problems they face....

Aluminum-ion technology has intrinsic advantages and disadvantages over the preeminent lithium-ion battery technology being used in almost every EV today. When a cell recharges, aluminum ions return to the negative electrode and can exchange three electrons per ion instead of lithium's speed limit of just one. There is also a massive geopolitical, cost, environmental and recycling advantage from using aluminum-ion cells, because they use hardly any exotic materials. "It's basically aluminum foil, aluminum chloride (the precursor to aluminum and it can be recycled), ionic liquid and urea," Nicol said.

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US Lawmakers Could Restrict the Use of Non-Compete Agreements

Politico's technology site Protocol reports that some U.S. lawmakers are getting angry about an unpopular but widespread corporate policy -- the non-compete agreement:

Non-compete agreements prohibit employees who leave their jobs from taking similar positions with potential competitors for a certain period of time. In the U.S., somewhere between 27.8% and 46.5% of private-sector workers are subject to non-compete agreements, according to a 2019 Economic Policy Institute study.

Such agreements are unenforceable in California and limited in nearby Washington, but they can still have adverse effects on employees nationwide. That's why a current piece of legislation, the Workforce Mobility Act, seeks at the federal level to restrict the use of non-compete agreements in most situations. Sens. Chris Murphy and Todd Young introduced the bill, which would only allow non-competes in certain "necessary" situations... Non-compete legislation also has the support of President Joe Biden, who said during his campaign he would support such a bill. John Lettieri, president and CEO of the Economic Innovation Group, is a proponent of the Workforce Mobility Act and suggested the bill should enjoy broad support. "We believe we're in a position where it's possible for this to become law," Lettieri told Protocol.

"Whether you're a free market conservative or whether you're a pro-worker progressive, you can come from either of those ends of the spectrum and end up in the same place. And this is a special issue for that reason... Competition is generally good and for workers, competition among businesses for your labor is the most fundamental bargaining power you've got," he said. But if companies hinder that with non-compete agreements, they create "a downstream series of consequences that really are bad for the worker, they're bad for the broader labor market and it's increasingly clear they're bad for the broader economy as well...."

Companies such as Amazon and Microsoft — both headquartered in Seattle, Washington — and New York-headquartered IBM have all sued employees for breaking the terms of their non-compete agreements.

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