Facebook Reduces Role of Human Editors in ‘Trending Topics’

Facebook is taking new steps to reduce the role of human judgment in its “Trending Topics” feature, which drew controversy earlier this year over claims the service was suppressing conservative views.

Although it denied bias, Facebook has sought to reassure users that it’s not showing favoritism when it highlights stories that are drawing comment on the social network.

Facebook says topics are selected by an algorithm that considers how often users post or share articles. Editors will still vet the list, but the feature will no longer include headlines or summaries written by editors. Instead it will show a selection of user comments and an excerpt from a news article.

Earlier, Facebook said editors would stop relying on outside news outlets to help decide which topics should be highlighted.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/facebook-reduces-role-human-editors-trending-topics-41682383

Navy Gets $2.7B Attack Submarine Sponsored by Michelle Obama

An attack submarine that is sponsored by first lady Michelle Obama and will be named for her home state has been delivered to the U.S. Navy.

Submarine builder General Dynamics Electric Boat, based in Groton, Connecticut, delivered the submarine that will become the USS Illinois to the Navy on Saturday after nearly five and a half years of construction.

The first lady, who’s from Chicago, will be involved in the life of the submarine and the lives of its sailors and their families.

The submarine will become the USS Illinois, SSN 786, and begin its active service at a commissioning ceremony in Groton on Oct. 29.

It took thousands of shipyard employees in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Virginia and submarine supply businesses nationwide to build the $2.7 billion submarine, the 13th member of the Virginia class.

There were no major issues during construction, and the submarine performed “superbly” during recent tests at sea, said an Electric Boat vice president, Kenneth Blomstedt.

Capt. Michael Stevens, the Navy’s Virginia-class program manager, said these attack submarines are needed to replace those that were built during the Cold War and are retiring.

“Every submarine counts,” he said. “Every submarine is needed out there.”

Electric Boat, which has been designing and building submarines since 1900, had until Aug. 31 to transfer ownership of the future USS Illinois to the Navy, per the contract. It’s the ninth submarine in a row to be delivered to the Navy early and on budget, Stevens said.

The submarine has a redesigned bow with two large tubes to launch Tomahawk missiles, instead of 12 smaller tubes. The larger tubes were designed so the Navy would have the flexibility to also launch future weapons and unmanned vehicles, Blomstedt said.

Cmdr. Jess Porter, the submarine’s commanding officer, described the Illinois as a “stealthy weapon” that can influence adversaries in a way that makes the U.S. more secure. The crew of about 130 men will take the submarine to sea for additional testing to prove its capabilities, Porter said.

Construction began in March 2011. Modules were built in Rhode Island, at Electric Boat’s manufacturing facility, and in Virginia, at Newport News Shipbuilding. The two shipyards build Virginia-class attack submarines under a teaming agreement and alternate the deliveries. The final assembly and testing took place at Electric Boat’s headquarters in Groton.

Obama, who has made it a priority to support military families, broke a bottle of champagne across the submarine’s hull to christen it last year. She has been invited to give the order to “bring the ship to life” at the commissioning ceremony in October.

Inside the submarine, there’s a metal plate inscribed with the first lady’s initials, which each sailor will see several times a day. It’s mounted where the crew eats.

The Navy has ordered 15 more Virginia-class submarines, and 10 of those are under construction. The last of the 15 is scheduled to be delivered in 2023 as the 28th member of the class.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/navy-27b-attack-submarine-sponsored-michelle-obama-41693326

Attempt to Hack Human Rights Activist Exposes iPhone Vulnerabilities

When noted human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor recently began receiving mysterious text messages promising to detail abuses inside prisons in the United Arab Emirates, it wasn’t a topic completely out of the ordinary, considering his line of work.

However, his suspicions were raised by the text messages, he told ABC News in a Skype interview from the UAE, because he had been the victim of several other hacking attacks in recent years. Mansoor, who last year was the Martin Ennals Award Laureate, a top recognition in the field of human rights campaigning, was arrested in 2011 and spent eight months in prison in what he said was a politically motivated effort to discredit him.

Little did he know, however, that the text messages that first arrived on Aug. 10 and then through Aug. 11 would lead to the discovery of what experts called unprecedented vulnerabilities in Apple‘s iOS operating system.

He took screenshots of the message and sent them to his friend on the other side of the world, Bill Marczak, a senior research fellow with Citizen Lab, which conducts cybersecurity research.

The 28-year-old Berkeley, California, resident had been working on the computer late into the evening, and decided to take a quick look at his phone before hitting the sack at about 1:30 a.m.

“Immediately, when I saw those messages [from Mansoor] it clicked in my brain and I thought, ‘I’ve seen those websites before!’” Marczak told ABC News.

Marczak said that he and his colleagues have been compiling a list of websites that are associated with clients of the Israeli software firm NSO Group, which Citizen Lab and cybersecurity firm Lookout say have developed a spyware package called Pegasus.

An NSO Group official told ABC News that the firm developed software “that helps them combat terror and crime,” and that it sells the software “only to authorized governmental agencies.”

The spokesman, Zamir Dahbash, said that NSO Group “has no knowledge of and cannot confirm” the security firms’ allegations. However, he noted in an email that “the company does NOT operate any of its systems.”

Marczak said believes he has a list of around 200 sites that are deployments of NSO Group’s clients. The sites, he explained, were used to dupe hacking victims into downloading malicious software onto their phones, allowing hackers to take control.

While Marczak said he had long suspected the sites hosted the malware, he did not, until receiving Mansoor’s messages, have a specific link to prove it.

Working through the night, Marczak recalled, he and his colleague John Scott-Railton downloaded the spyware onto a dummy iPhone, from which they monitored all the data that was sent and received.

“We basically set up a test phone. We connected it to the internet through another computer that was logging everything sent and received by the phone,” he said.

Transcribing from Mansoor’s screenshot, they typed the link into the dummy iPhone’s Safari browser.

“For about 10 seconds, Safari was just blank, and then after 10 seconds the Safari app closed — it just exited. We saw nothing further on the phone screen, but meanwhile the phone, according to our logging, was sending and receiving a lot of information. It appeared to be downloading and installing software from the internet,” Marczak recalled.

The malware was about 2.5 megabytes in size when pulled down from the internet, and about 5 megabytes when uncompressed, he said.

“To see it in action was really, really incredible and fascinating, and just seeing the fact that once we clicked on this link once in this text message, that was enough,” he said.

In fact, what he found was unprecedented and has never been seen before.

“This was the most serious vulnerability for iPhone that we’ve seen in the wild,” Marczak said. “What made this vulnerability especially serious was the fact that it was triggered by a single click — or a single tap — on a link that could infect your phone. That’s not something we’ve seen before for iPhones.”

Other experts agreed.

“This is the only public disclosure of a one-click remote jailbreak of a modern Apple device. And it’s the first time we’ve ever seen this type of exploit used against real targets to steal actual information,” Lookout’s Vice President for Security Research Mike Murray told ABC News in an email. “Pegasus is amazingly complex and sophisticated … everything you have on your phone is compromised once this spyware takes hold.”

The researchers notified Apple of the vulnerabilities on Aug. 15, and the tech giant released a software update to address the issues on Thursday.

Marczak said that the researchers aren’t sure who was attempting to compromise Mansoor’s phone.

“In this case we weren’t able to trace it back to the operator. Whoever was operating it, they were using servers in the cloud. These were servers that they had rented in the United States,” Marczak said. “Presumably these servers were just proxying data back to whoever was trying to spy on Mansoor.”

He later told ABC News the rented U.S. servers belonged to Amazon, which sells server use for legitimate individual, business and research use around the world.

In a statement, an Amazon Web Services spokesperson said: “AWS’s terms are very clear about the misuse of our services, and we employ a variety of measures to detect and address misuse. When we find misuse, we take action quickly and shut it down. The activity being reported is not currently happening on AWS.”

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/attempt-hack-top-human-rights-activist-exposed-unprecedented/story?id=41671098

Goodbye, Herring? Biotech Bait Gives Lobstermen Alternative

Lobster and crab fishermen have baited traps with dead herring for generations, but an effort to find a synthetic substitute for forage fish is nearing fruition just as the little fish are in short supply, threatening livelihoods in a lucrative industry.

With about $1 million in funding from the National Science Foundation, a small company has developed “OrganoBait,” a hockey puck-shaped product packed with an artificial attractant crabs and lobsters love.

Commercial fishermen have long experimented with alternative baits. They have tried other fish species, processed slabs of horseshoe crab, even cow hide and pigs feet. Some products remain on the market; many have gone quickly.

No one has made commercially successful synthetic bait, and even animal-based alternatives don’t always gain market acceptance, said Bob Bayer, a professor of veterinary science at the University of Maine who studies lobsters and has worked on attractants for 30 years.

“If somebody comes up with a good one, it will be used,” Bayer said. “If it’s effective and cost effective.”

The lobster catch has been booming, but the fleet is suffering the most acute bait shortage facing the fishing industry. Lobster traps typically are baited with herring. However, not enough herring are being caught in the waters far off New England.

If prolonged, experts say, the shortage could raise the price and reduce the availability of lobsters and crabs.

Development of synthetic baits could cut into the $20 billion U.S. bait fishery, which dates to the Colonial era and plays a role in some other commercial fisheries, as well as in food products and nutritional supplements. Fishermen caught more than 200 million pounds of herring and 1.2 billion pounds of menhaden in 2014.

New England fishing managers are guiding the industry through a shortage of herring offshore by limiting the number of days they can fish closer to the coast. Without the restrictions, officials say, fishermen would be at risk of exceeding quotas the government establishes to protect fish species from overexploitation.

OrganoBait, developed by the Greensboro, North Carolina, firm Kepley Biosystems, is different from other alternative baits. It’s not an animal product, but instead a calcium-based tablet made with synthetic materials that replicate the smell of decaying fish to attract lobsters and crabs.

Kepley president Anthony Dellinger said the product could take pressure off forage fish, which some environmentalists say need protection.

“This is an area that can benefit from some science and technology,” Dellinger said. “You can just eliminate the bait sector and it will be more fish in the ocean. Less impact on sea turtles, dolphins, all of the cute little critters.”

The product has been tested with blue crab fishermen off Virginia and North Carolina since 2014 and with New Jersey blue crab fishermen and Florida stone crab fishermen since last year. There was also a pilot test with lobster fishermen in Nova Scotia, and an extensive test is scheduled for November.

In coastal Virginia, blue crab fisherman Malcolm Luebkert is one of a handful of fishermen testing out the synthetic bait, and he said he’s bracing for a future when bait fish shortages become the norm. So far, he said, the synthetic alternative seems effective.

“When menhaden becomes scarce, we need an alternative, and we need one that’s good,” he said.

Mark Pfister, a bait dealer who intends to sell OrganoBait in Florida once it is on the market, said the early returns on stone crabs are promising. The price point for the product has not been determined, though Dellinger said it will be priced competitively with bait fish, which can cost about 30 cents per pound.

“There have been baits out before, but they’ve all failed,” Pfister said. “This one looks like it’s not going to fail.”

Getting fishermen on board will present challenges. Stephen Train, a lobster fisherman based in Long Island, Maine, said he’s more inclined to suffer high prices and volatility in bait fish availability than take a chance on an unproven alternative.

“I don’t know if it would fish,” Train said.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/goodbye-herring-biotech-bait-lobstermen-alternative-41670471

SpaceX Dragon Returns to Earth With Station Science, Gear

A SpaceX Dragon capsule returned to Earth on Friday with scientific gifts from the International Space Station.

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins waved goodbye as the Dragon slowly flew away Friday morning. Six hours later, the spacecraft parachuted into the Pacific, just off Mexico’s Baja California coast. It’s loaded with 3,000 pounds of research and equipment, including 12 mice that flew up on the Dragon as part of a genetic study.

“Good splashdown of Dragon confirmed,” SpaceX reported via Twitter.

Rubins and Japanese astronaut Takuya Onishi used the big robot arm to release the capsule. Mission Control thanked the astronauts for their effort, then added, “To the Dragon recovery team, fair winds and following seas.”

The Dragon delivered a new docking port last month that will be used in another year or two by SpaceX and Boeing, which are developing crew capsules for NASA. Its shuttles five years retired, the space agency has turned over orbital deliveries of both cargo and astronauts to private companies, in order to focus on Mars exploration. In the meantime, NASA astronauts ride in Russian capsules to the space station.

SpaceX is the only space station shipper capable of returning items for analysis back to Earth; that’s why the Dragon is so important to NASA. Everyone else’s cargo ships are filled with trash at mission’s end and burn up on re-entry.

———

Online:

SpaceX: http://www.spacex.com/

NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/mission—pages/station/main/index.html

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/spacex-dragon-heads-back-earth-station-science-gear-41666309

Online Fishing, Hunting License Sales Halted in Northwest

Idaho, Oregon and Washington have shutdown online sales of hunting and fishing licenses amid concerns a vendor’s computer system has been hacked and personal information is at risk.

Washington state on Friday announced free fishing through Tuesday because it has gone a step further than the other two states and halted all license sales.

The states each use the same vendor, Dallas, Texas,-based Active Network to handle online license sales.

It’s not clear what prompted concerns of a computer breach on Thursday or if one has actually taken place.

Active Network on its website says more than 42,000 organizers use its event and activity management software nationally. The company didn’t respond to inquiries from The Associated Press on Friday.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/online-fishing-hunting-license-sales-halted-northwest-41675486

Volkswagen, Dealers Reach Tentative Deal in Cheating Scandal

Volkswagen has reached a tentative deal with its U.S. dealers to compensate them for losses they said they suffered as a result of the company’s emissions cheating scandal.

Attorneys for Volkswagen and the roughly 650 dealers announced the deal at a court hearing Thursday. The value of the settlement was not disclosed, although Volkswagen said in a statement later that it would include cash payments.

U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer gave the attorneys until the end of September to submit a final proposal. The deal would require Breyer’s approval.

Volkswagen previously reached an agreement with attorneys for car owners. That deal calls for it to spend up to $10 billion buying back or repairing the majority of the roughly 560,000 vehicles involved in its scandal and paying their owners.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/volkswagen-dealers-reach-tentative-deal-cheating-scandal-41651836

Amazon Starts Car Research and Review Site

Amazon is starting a site offering research, reviews and other information on new and used cars.

The latest venture by the e-commerce powerhouse will compete with established players in the field including CarSoup.com, Edmunds.com, truecar.com and cars.com.

Amazon Vehicles won’t sell cars. But in addition to car specifications, images, videos and customer reviews, the new site will let customers ask each other questions about cars.

Amazon.com Inc. already sells car parts and accessories in its Amazon Automotive store.

From its roots as an online bookseller, the Seattle company has expanded into a myriad of arenas. Most recently it launched a site for handmade goods, introduced a voice-recognition speaker and begun creating original movies and TV shows.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/amazon-starts-car-research-review-site-41652058

‘Trident’ Vulnerabilities Prompt Apple iPhone Update

A pair of U.S. cybersecurity firms have announced the discovery of three vulnerabilities in the Apple iPhone operating system, a spokeswoman for Lookout, a mobile cybersecurity firm, said today.

Lookout said that it and another firm, Citizen Lab, discovered the trio of vulnerabilities, and are calling them “Trident.”

The companies have notified Apple of the vulnerabilities, the Lookout spokeswoman said.

Apple released a software update for affected devices Thursday afternoon. The Lookout spokeswoman said the update was related to the vulnerabilities.

Apple did not immediately respond to calls and emails from ABC News seeking comment.

A page detailing the update on the Apple website reads: “For our customers’ protection, Apple doesn’t disclose, discuss, or confirm security issues until an investigation has occurred and patches or releases are available.”

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/trident-vulnerabilities-prompt-apple-iphone-update-cybersecurity-firm/story?id=41652925

Digging in Weird Wyoming Cave Yields Ice Age Insights

Paleontologists say they have enough funding for one more season of digging at a Wyoming cave where they’re carefully removing a trove of animal bones from the last ice age.

Scientists led by Julie Meachen at Des Moines University in Iowa have been excavating fossils from Natural Trap Cave every year since 2014. This summer’s haul included wolf, bison, lion and cheetah bones.

Their work is boosting knowledge about the kinds of animals that roamed northern Wyoming around the end of the last ice age some 12,000 years ago.

The only way in or out of Natural Trap Cave is a 15-foot-wide hole in the ground. From there, it’s an eight-story drop to the cave floor.

Countless animals fell to their deaths into the cave over thousands of years.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/digging-weird-wyoming-cave-yields-ice-age-insights-41622798