Now even YouTube serves ads with CPU-draining cryptocurrency miners

[Note:  This item comes from friend Steve Goldstein.  DLH]

Now even YouTube serves ads with CPU-draining cryptocurrency miners
Ad campaign lets attackers profit while unwitting users watch videos.
By Dan Goodin
Jan 26 2018

YouTube was recently caught displaying ads that covertly leach off visitors’ CPUs and electricity to generate digital currency on behalf of anonymous attackers, it was widely reported.

Word of the abusive ads started no later than Tuesday, as people took to social media sites to complain their antivirus programs were detecting cryptocurrency mining code when they visited YouTube. The warnings came even when people changed the browser they were using, and the warnings seemed to be limited to times when users were on YouTube.

Great now my browser everytime I watch youtube… my anti virus always blocking coinhive because malware . Idk much about it but this is getting annoying and I need a solution please T n T

— Arung (@ArungLaksmana) January 23, 2018

Hey @avast_antivirus seems that you are blocking crypto miners (#coinhive) in @YouTube #ads
Thank you 🙂

— Diego Betto (@diegobetto) January 25, 2018

Por lo visto @YouTube es muy gracioso y no le bastaba con bajarnos la audiencia, ahora van y nos meten el JavaScript de Coinhive para utilizar nuestros dispositivos para minar Monero! De verdad, @Google! Que leeches estáis haciendo con YouTube??

— ᛗ🦊ᛟErvoᛟ🦊ᛗ (@Mystic_Ervo) January 24, 2018

On Friday, researchers with antivirus provider Trend Micro said the ads helped drive a more than three-fold spike in Web miner detections. They said the attackers behind the ads were abusing Google’s DoubleClick ad platform to display them to YouTube visitors in select countries, including Japan, France, Taiwan, Italy, and Spain.

The ads contain JavaScript that mines the digital coin known as Monero. In nine out of 10 cases, the ads will use publicly available JavaScript provided by Coinhive, a cryptocurrency-mining service that’s controversial because it allows subscribers to profit by surreptitiously using other people’s computers. The remaining 10 percent of the time, the YouTube ads use private mining JavaScript that saves the attackers the 30 percent cut Coinhive takes. Both scripts are programmed to consume 80 percent of a visitor’s CPU, leaving just barely enough resources for it to function.

“YouTube was likely targeted because users are typically on the site for an extended period of time,” independent security researcher Troy Mursch told Ars. “This is a prime target for cryptojacking malware, because the longer the users are mining for cryptocurrency the more money is made.” Mursch said a campaign from Septemberthat used the Showtime website to deliver cryptocurrency-mining ads is another example of attackers targeting a video site.

To add insult to injury, the malicious JavaScript in at least some cases was accompanied by graphics that displayed ads for fake AV programs, which scam people out of money and often install malware when they are run.


Orcas can imitate human speech, research reveals

Orcas can imitate human speech, research reveals
Killer whales able to copy words such as ‘hello’ and ‘bye bye’ as well as sounds from other orcas, study shows
By Nicola Davis
Jan 30 2018

High-pitched, eerie and yet distinct, the sound of a voice calling the name “Amy” is unmistakable. But this isn’t a human cry – it’s the voice of a killer whale called Wikie.

New research reveals that orcas are able to imitate human speech, in some cases at the first attempt, saying words such as “hello”, “one, two” and “bye bye”.

The study also shows that the creatures are able to copy unfamiliar sounds produced by other orcas – including a sound similar to blowing a raspberry.

Scientists say the discovery helps to shed light on how different pods of wild killer whales have ended up with distinct dialects, adding weight to the idea that they are the result of imitation between orcas. The creatures are already known for their ability to copy the movements of other orcas, with some reports suggesting they can also mimic the sounds of bottlenose dolphins and sea lions.

“We wanted to see how flexible a killer whale can be in copying sounds,” said Josep Call, professor in evolutionary origins of mind at the University of St Andrews and a co-author of the study. “We thought what would be really convincing is to present them with something that is not in their repertoire – and in this case ‘hello’ [is] not what a killer whale would say.”

Wikie is not the first animal to have managed the feat of producing human sounds: dolphins, elephants, parrots, orangutans and even beluga whales have all been captured mimicking our utterances, although they use a range of physical mechanisms to us to do so. Noc, the beluga whale, made novel use of his nasal cavities, while Koshik, an Indian elephant jammed his trunk in his mouth, resulting in the pronouncement of Korean words ranging from “hello” to “sit down” and “no”. 

But researchers say only a fraction of the animal kingdom can mimic human speech, with brain pathways and vocal apparatus both thought to determine whether it is possible.

“That is what makes it even more impressive – even though the morphology [of orcas] is so different, they can still produce a sound that comes close to what another species, in this case us, can produce,” said Call.

He poured cold water, however, on the idea that orcas might understand the words they mimic. “We have no evidence that they understand what their ‘hello’ stands for,” he said.

Writing in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, researchers from institutions in Germany, UK, Spain and Chile, describe how they carried out the latest research with Wikie, a 14-year-old female orca living in an aquarium in France. She had previously been trained to copy actions performed by another orca when given a human gesture.

After first brushing up Wikie’s grasp of the “copy” command, she was trained to parrot three familiar orca sounds made by her three-year old calf Moana. 

Wikie was then additionally exposed to five orca sounds she had never heard before, including noises resembling a creaking door and the blowing a raspberry.

Finally, Wikie was exposed to a human making three of the orca sounds, as well as six human sounds, including “hello”, “Amy”, “ah ha”, “one, two” and “bye bye”.


California Senate defies FCC, approves net neutrality law

[Note:  This item comes from friend Mike Cheponis.  DLH]

California Senate defies FCC, approves net neutrality law
Net neutrality takes big step forward in California, but lawsuits loom.
By John Brodkin
Jan 30 2018

The California State Senate yesterday approved a bill to impose net neutrality restrictions on Internet service providers, challenging the Federal Communications Commission attempt to preempt such rules.

The FCC’s repeal of its own net neutrality rules included a provision to preempt state and municipal governments from enforcing similar rules at the local level. But the governors of Montana and New York have signed executive orders to enforce net neutrality, and several states are considering net neutrality legislation.

The FCC is already being sued by 21 states and the District of Columbia, which are trying to reverse the net neutrality repeal and the preemption of state laws. Attempts to enforce net neutrality rules at the state or local level could end up being challenged in separate lawsuits.

No blocking, throttling, or paid prioritization

California may be the closest to passing such legislation after yesterday’s Senate approval of SB-460, a bill proposed by Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles).

The bill passed 21-12, with all 21 ayes coming from Democrats. The bill is now being moved to the State Assembly, where Democrats have a 53-25 majority over Republicans.

The bill would prohibit home and mobile Internet providers from “Blocking lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices,” except in cases of reasonable network management.

Throttling would also be outlawed, along with “paid prioritization, or providing preferential treatment of some Internet traffic to any Internet customer.” More generally, the bill prohibits ISPs from interfering with “a customer’s ability to select, access, and use broadband Internet access service or lawful Internet content, applications, services, or devices of the customer’s choice, or an edge provider’s ability to make lawful content, applications, services, or devices available to a customer.”

ISPs would be forbidden from using deceptive or misleading marketing practices “that misrepresent the treatment of Internet traffic or content to its customers.”

Violations would be punishable under the state’s existing consumer protection laws, which allow for injunctions and financial damages. The California bill would also prohibit state agencies from buying Internet service from an ISP “unless that provider certifies, under penalty of perjury, that it will not engage in” the activities banned by the bill.


Holocaust survivor breaks decades-long silence to share her horrific story

Holocaust survivor breaks decades-long silence to share her horrific story
By Staff
Jan 29 2018

For more than seven decades, Edith Fox kept her Holocaust story inside.

She sometimes told friends she wanted the words “Holocaust Survivor” on her tombstone. But she didn’t want to talk about what she had endured. It was simply too painful.

After surviving four years in Auschwitz as a teen, Fox waited two years before emigrating to the United States. She ended up in Buffalo, where she met her husband, Joseph. They raised three children here.

Fox now lives in Tucson, Ariz. In recent months, her health began to fail and she decided – at age 90 – she didn’t want her story to die with her. She was concerned people were forgetting about the Holocaust, and was horrified to hear that some deny it ever took place. She wanted to do her part to make sure people never forget.

Today, as the world marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day, we present Fox’s story in her own words. It was told to Nina Trasoff, Fox’s “friendly visitor” through a Jewish Family and Children’s Services program in Tucson designed to keep Holocaust survivors active, and to family friend Sharon Price.

My name is Edith Fox, maiden name Weingarten. I was born and lived in Czechoslovakia in a town called Teplice (Teplice-Šanov before 1948).

My mother, Giselle Weingarten, never talked about her parents, so I don’t know what happened to them, but her big brother raised her and two other sisters. At that time in Europe we didn’t discuss family matters. In my time, all I did was go to school, prepare food, play with my friends and do homework. My mother was married to my father, Mano Fogel, who worked at a lumber yard. She had a fabric store; she always was a businesswoman.

I was the youngest in my family. I had five brothers. They were very protective of me. Their names were Heskel, Ignat, Sam, Harry and Zigmant. Two of my brothers were drafted into the Czech army.

I was 13 years old when the war started. In 1941, Nazis came and rounded us up: my parents and my three other brothers. They told us to take our personal belongings. They also told us they would take us to Poland, which at that time was divided, occupied by Germans and Russians. They told us we will get homes and businesses for free.

Instead, when we got to Poland, the Nazis made us run; if you couldn’t run, you’d get killed. They killed my mother right in front of me. She couldn’t run fast enough. I grabbed her. It was too much for a kid to see. I told the Nazis to kill me, too, but they said no, you are going to work. People were dying in front of me. I saw a rabbi who was lying in the corner with his feet cut off, but he was still alive. He was lying out there until he died. It was unbelievable what they did.

Then they separated men and women and after that I never saw my father or my brothers again.

They took me and my friend, Leah, to the ghetto in Stanislau in Poland, where all the toddlers of Jewish families were housed. We had to wash the diapers of 300 babies. When we found out that the Nazis were coming to take us all, we asked the adults caring for the children if we could go into the bunker with them to be safe, but there was no room, so Leah and I went into the cellar where the furnace was and climbed into its chimney to hide.

The Nazis came and threw all the children into trucks like trash. Then they killed everyone in the bunker.

Leah and I stayed there hiding near the furnace for two to three days. Then we walked and walked, trying to get to the Czech border with Hungary. We saw a Czech soldier and thought he would help us, but he was controlled by the Nazis and was going to turn us in at the headquarters near Auschwitz. At the last minute, he let us go, telling us to go with God. We hid in the gutter. Leah wanted to go home, but she was killed when she tried. I was recaptured, and they took me to the Auschwitz concentration camp and I was all alone there. I didn’t know what happened to the rest of my family. I was put in the line where (Josef) Mengele sent people to the right or to the left. To the left, people were killed. To the right, they were sent to work.


Why College Campus Populations Are Shrinking

Why College Campus Populations Are Shrinking
By Daniel Malloy
Jan 29 2018

Glossy brochures with photos of young adults traipsing around leafy quads might dominate the popular imagination of what higher education looks like. But steadily and dramatically, we’re seeing movement away from a life of lecture halls and dorms.

The number of higher ed students studying on campus dropped by more than 1 million between 2012 and 2016.

The decline from 18.3 million to 17.1 million (6.4 percent) is spelled out in a new study from the Babson Survey Research Group on online and distance learning. The study found a decline in higher ed enrollment overall, coupled with growth in students enrolled only in distance courses — now at 3 million, or about 15 percent of the overall higher ed population. The drop on campus has been slow and steady in recent years, but it’s become impossible to dismiss as a blip. “It’s something that is death by a thousand cuts as opposed to a stab in the heart,” says Jeff Seaman, co-director of Babson Survey Research Group, an education-focused firm affiliated with Babson College.

The decline has been uneven. For-profit colleges saw a whopping 44.1 percent drop in on-campus learners, as the industry suffered from bad press and fresh government crackdowns. Public and private nonprofit schools saw smaller, but still real, declines in campus students.

There is a mix of factors at play. Demographic trends mean there are fewer 18-year-olds entering the classic college years. “But that’s been the minority student in higher ed for some time,” Seaman points out.

To get at the more complex reasons for the enrollment plunge, take a deeper dive into the data. Two-year public colleges were hit the hardest in total, losing 1 million campus students (16.3 percent) from 2012 to 2016, according to figures Seaman shared with OZY. Four-year public colleges actually saw 5.2 percent campus growth in that span, while private nonprofit four-year schools saw a 4.1 percent decline. Because the lowest-cost options took the biggest loss, it does not appear that the bubble finally popped on soaring college costs. Instead, the numbers are evidence of education’s countercyclical nature: The humming economy and low unemployment rate curtail the need to go back to school.

The enrollment squeeze is mostly hitting smaller institutions, rather than bigger brand-name schools. While the impact has been limited so far, Seaman says he expects more program downsizing and institution mergers in the future. Meanwhile, online learning is on the rise because of its lower cost, improving reputation and convenience for students with jobs and families.

For schools on the brink, Mike Goldstein, senior counsel at education industry law firm Cooley, says a pivot to cyber is not a cure-all. “Online is expensive to do right, and it’s a very crowded market,” Goldstein says. “Unless you’ve got a reason why students are going to enroll in your online service, you’re not necessarily going to solve anything.”


Mayor quits FCC committee, says it favors ISPs over the public interest

[Note:  This item comes from friend David P. Reed.  David’s comment:’My thoughts: The FCC Broadband Committee as described in the article is clearly off the rails. The San Jose mayor resigning just highlights the fact that there is no citizen representation at all in that committee, no representatives of those affected.

Why does the FCC (and its Broadband Committee) think it even has the power to decide how local deployment and operation of high-speed Internet access should happen? Don’t states have all the rights that are not explicitly in the US Constitution? Isn’t free speech and free assembly (the whole point of connectivity) guaranteed to all citizens as a fundamental right?

It’s become quite clear that the FCC commissioner believes that the US Federal Government is a Plutocracy, with business lobbyists as its courtiers, seeking the power of the sovereign to favor their business interests.

No regulation without representation.’  DLH]

Mayor quits FCC committee, says it favors ISPs over the public interest
Ajit Pai accused of tilting broadband committee toward industry representatives.
Jan 25 2018

A broadband deployment advisory group organized by the Federal Communications Commission is trying to make it harder for cities and towns to build and operate their own Internet services.

The Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) was set up by the FCC last year and is now releasing draft versions of its recommendations. One member—the mayor of San Jose, California—quit the group today out of frustration that the recommendations favor the interests of private industry over municipalities.

The problem “became particularly apparent at our most recent meeting in Washington, DC,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo told FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in his resignation letter.

Liccardo continued:

One working group, which did not have a single municipal representative among its 30+ participants, created a draft model state code that included provisions to eliminate all municipal control over when, how, and whether to accept industry applications for infrastructure deployment. Another working group had an industry representative dramatically re-write its draft municipal code in the 11th hour, pushing aside the product of months of the working group’s deliberations. The result, in each case, were provisions that plainly prioritized industry interests.

It has become abundantly clear that, despite the good intentions of several participants, the industry-heavy makeup of BDAC will simply relegate the body to being a vehicle for advancing the interests of the telecommunications industry over those of the public. The apparent goal is to create a set of rules that will provide industry with easy access to publicly-funded infrastructure at taxpayer-subsidized rates, without any obligation to provide broadband access to underserved residents.

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn also criticized the recommendations.

“It is regrettable that the concerns of localities do not appear to have been fully addressed,” Clyburn, one of two Democrats on the Republican-controlled FCC, told the advisory committee yesterday. “While I appreciate the BDAC’s acknowledgement that public-private partnerships may provide solutions to bridge those divides, I noticed that there was an expressed preference for industry over municipalities in broadband deployment efforts. As I have said many, many times before, one size does not fit all, and private industry infrastructure investments do not always flow to communities that are most in need.”

Clyburn expressed further dismay today after hearing of Liccardo’s resignation. “It is deeply disappointing to me that it has reached the point that San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo felt compelled to resign,” she said. “Disregarding an elected official representing one of the largest US cities in the nation is unconscionable.”

Pai did not respond directly to Liccardo’s and Clyburn’s accusations.


Prestigious Climate-Related Fellowships Rescinded

[Note:  This item comes from friend Andy Maffei. DLH]

Prestigious Climate-Related Fellowships Rescinded
Reduced program is one of several that usually support climate science postdoctoral research but have eliminated or suspended funding opportunities.
By Gabriel Popkin
Jan 19 2018

The delay and uncertainty compound an already difficult funding situation for early-career climate scientists, Travis said. In addition to the CGC program, a smaller NOAA program, Postdocs Applying Climate Expertise, did not accept any fellows in 2017 and will not in 2018. What’s more, a National Science Foundation (NSF) program that has funded 45 postdocs in atmospheric and geospace sciences since August 2014, including many who study climate and global change, has not accepted any new applications since January 2016. Amanda Adams, a program director at NSF, said the program is “paused” while the agency assesses its effectiveness and that the hiatus is not related to budgetary considerations.

Postdocs can also receive support from their institutions or from the professors with whom they work. But funding postdocs is “really, really difficult” for faculty, says McGee, because it requires having a large grant or other source of money to pay their salary and benefits. Such funding typically requires postdocs to do research aligned with an existing project, rather than develop their own.

“Graduate students are probably always somewhat concerned” about funding, said Swann, “but I think they’re feeling extra stressed right now.”

Despite the challenging environment, Travis still hopes to land a job at a university or federal agency. She got a break when MIT, her current institution, stepped in with a year of support after the NOAA offer fell through. But that money runs out in June, and she still needs to secure another source of funds. “It made starting my postdoc really stressful—I immediately felt like I had to start applying for funding again,” she said. “It slowed my research down for sure.”