Category Archives: Technology

silicon valley & technology news

Rights Groups Seek Help Keeping Messaging Apps ‘Disguised’

Digital civil rights groups are writing to Congress next week to ask for help persuading internet giants Google and Amazon to reverse decisions they made that will make it harder for people to get around censorship controls worldwide.

At issue is the ongoing cat-and-mouse game between governments, such as Russia, Iran and China, and internet and messaging communications technology like Telegram and Signal, which are used to communicate outside of censors’ oversight.

In this case, encrypted messaging apps, such as Telegram and Signal, have been using a digital disguise known as “domain fronting.”

​Disguising the final destination

As the encrypted message moves through networks, it appears to be going to an innocuous destination, such as google.com by routing through a Google server, rather than its true destination.

If a government acts against the domain google.com, it conceivably shuts down access to all services offered by the internet giant for everyone in the country.

Russia crackdown

Russia did just that in mid-April when it sought to crack down on Telegram.

But hackers can also use this disguise to mask malware, according to ZDNet. 

In recent weeks, first Google and then Amazon Web Services said they would close the loopholes that allowed apps to use the disguise.

“No customer ever wants to find that someone else is masquerading as their innocent, ordinary domain,” said Amazon in a press release announcing better domain protections. Neither Google or Amazon responded for a request to comment.

Companies vote against being a disguise

Matthew Rosenfield, a co-author of the Signal protocol, said that “the idea behind domain fronting was that to block a single site, you’d have to block the rest of the internet as well. In the end, the rest of the internet didn’t like that plan.” 

Amazon sent Signal an email telling it that its use of circumvention was against Amazon’s terms of service. In Middle East countries, such as Egypt, Oman and Qatar, Signal disguised itself as Souq.com, Amazon’s Arabic e-commerce platform.

​Letter to Congress

The letter being sent to Congress will remind members of their stated support for encrypted communication tools and call on them to contact the technology giants to change their decision, according to sources.

Access Now, a digital-rights organization based in New York, identified about a dozen “human rights enabling technologies” that rely on domain fronting using Google.

Peter Micek, general counsel of Access Now, said in a statement that Google and Amazon have an obligation “to meet their human rights responsibilities and protect users at risk.”

“The market leaders that have the resources to fight for human rights must be just that — leaders,” he said.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

NASA Mission to Peer Into Mars’ Past

A powerful Atlas 5 rocket was poised for liftoff early Saturday from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, carrying to Mars the first robotic NASA lander designed entirely for exploring the deep interior of the red planet.

The Mars InSight probe was scheduled to blast off from the central California coast at 4:05 a.m. PDT (1105 GMT), creating a luminous predawn spectacle of the first U.S. interplanetary spacecraft to be launched over the Pacific.

The lander will be carried aloft for NASA and its Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) atop a two-stage, 19-story Atlas 5 rocket from the fleet of United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co.

The payload will be released about 90 minutes after launch on a 301-million-mile (484 million km) flight to Mars. It is scheduled to reach its destination in six months, landing on a broad, smooth plain close to the planet’s equator called the Elysium Planitia.

InSight’s mission

That will put InSight roughly 373 miles (600 km) from the 2012 landing site of the car-sized Mars rover Curiosity. The new 800-pound (360-kg) spacecraft marks the 21st U.S.-launched Martian exploration, dating to the Mariner fly-by missions of the 1960s. Nearly two dozen other Mars missions have been launched by other nations.

Once settled, the solar-powered InSight will spend two years, about one Martian year, plumbing the depths of the planet’s interior for clues to how Mars took form and, by extension, the origins of the Earth and other rocky planets.

Measuring marsquakes

InSight’s primary instrument is a French-built seismometer, designed to detect the slightest vibrations from “marsquakes” around the planet. The device, to be placed on the surface by the lander’s robot arm, is so sensitive it can measure a seismic wave just one-half the radius of a hydrogen atom.

Scientists expect to see a dozen to 100 marsquakes over the course of the mission, producing data to help them deduce the depth, density and composition of the planet’s core, the rocky mantle surrounding it and the outermost layer, the crust.

The Viking probes of the mid-1970s were equipped with seismometers, too, but they were bolted to the top of the landers, a design that proved largely ineffective.

Apollo missions to the moon brought seismometers to the lunar surface as well, detecting thousands of moonquakes and meteorite impacts. But InSight is expected to yield the first meaningful data on planetary seismic tremors beyond Earth.

Insight also will be fitted with a German-made drill to burrow as much as 16 feet (5 meters) underground, pulling behind it a rope-like thermal probe to measure heat flowing from inside the planet. 

Meanwhile, a special transmitter on the lander will send radio signals back to Earth, tracking Mars’ subtle rotational wobble to reveal the size of the planet’s core and possibly whether it remains molten.

Hitching a ride aboard the same rocket that launches InSight will be a pair of miniature satellites called CubeSats, which will fly to Mars on their own paths behind the lander in a first deep-space test of that technology.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

NASA Mission to Peer Into Mars’ Past

A powerful Atlas 5 rocket was poised for liftoff early Saturday from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, carrying to Mars the first robotic NASA lander designed entirely for exploring the deep interior of the red planet.

The Mars InSight probe was scheduled to blast off from the central California coast at 4:05 a.m. PDT (1105 GMT), creating a luminous predawn spectacle of the first U.S. interplanetary spacecraft to be launched over the Pacific.

The lander will be carried aloft for NASA and its Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) atop a two-stage, 19-story Atlas 5 rocket from the fleet of United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co.

The payload will be released about 90 minutes after launch on a 301-million-mile (484 million km) flight to Mars. It is scheduled to reach its destination in six months, landing on a broad, smooth plain close to the planet’s equator called the Elysium Planitia.

InSight’s mission

That will put InSight roughly 373 miles (600 km) from the 2012 landing site of the car-sized Mars rover Curiosity. The new 800-pound (360-kg) spacecraft marks the 21st U.S.-launched Martian exploration, dating to the Mariner fly-by missions of the 1960s. Nearly two dozen other Mars missions have been launched by other nations.

Once settled, the solar-powered InSight will spend two years, about one Martian year, plumbing the depths of the planet’s interior for clues to how Mars took form and, by extension, the origins of the Earth and other rocky planets.

Measuring marsquakes

InSight’s primary instrument is a French-built seismometer, designed to detect the slightest vibrations from “marsquakes” around the planet. The device, to be placed on the surface by the lander’s robot arm, is so sensitive it can measure a seismic wave just one-half the radius of a hydrogen atom.

Scientists expect to see a dozen to 100 marsquakes over the course of the mission, producing data to help them deduce the depth, density and composition of the planet’s core, the rocky mantle surrounding it and the outermost layer, the crust.

The Viking probes of the mid-1970s were equipped with seismometers, too, but they were bolted to the top of the landers, a design that proved largely ineffective.

Apollo missions to the moon brought seismometers to the lunar surface as well, detecting thousands of moonquakes and meteorite impacts. But InSight is expected to yield the first meaningful data on planetary seismic tremors beyond Earth.

Insight also will be fitted with a German-made drill to burrow as much as 16 feet (5 meters) underground, pulling behind it a rope-like thermal probe to measure heat flowing from inside the planet. 

Meanwhile, a special transmitter on the lander will send radio signals back to Earth, tracking Mars’ subtle rotational wobble to reveal the size of the planet’s core and possibly whether it remains molten.

Hitching a ride aboard the same rocket that launches InSight will be a pair of miniature satellites called CubeSats, which will fly to Mars on their own paths behind the lander in a first deep-space test of that technology.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

Can Landslides be Predicted?

Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and heavy rains can cause large amounts of rock and soil to collapse under their own weight and tumble down a slope. These landslides can crush everything in their path. Aided by sophisticated satellites, scientists are creating a comprehensive catalogue of landslide-prone areas, hoping it will help affected communities predict when and where they might happen. VOA’s George Putic has more.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

Can Landslides be Predicted?

Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and heavy rains can cause large amounts of rock and soil to collapse under their own weight and tumble down a slope. These landslides can crush everything in their path. Aided by sophisticated satellites, scientists are creating a comprehensive catalogue of landslide-prone areas, hoping it will help affected communities predict when and where they might happen. VOA’s George Putic has more.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

Tesla’s Musk Calls Wall Street Snub ‘Foolish’ but Defends His Behavior

Tesla Inc Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk acknowledged on Friday that it was “foolish” of him to snub analysts on a conference call earlier in the week, but further needled Wall Street with a series of accusatory tweets.

In a post-earnings call on Wednesday, Musk refused to answer questions from analysts on the electric vehicle maker’s capital requirements, saying “boring, bonehead questions are not cool,” before turning questions over to a little known investor who runs HyperChange, a YouTube investment channel.

The outspoken performance shocked many analysts, sparked a fall in Tesla’s share price and led some to question whether Musk’s behavior could risk the company’s ability to raise capital.

In early-morning tweets on Friday, Musk said the two analysts he cut off — RBC Capital Markets’ Joseph Spak and Bernstein’s Toni Sacconaghi — “were trying to justify their Tesla short thesis.”

‘Shorting’ means they were betting the stock would fall, but the two have ‘hold’ or ‘neutral’ ratings on the stock, according to Thomson Reuters data. “I should have answered their questions live. It was foolish of me to ignore them,” Musk tweeted.

The two analysts were not immediately available for a comment.

The spat comes at a crunch time for Tesla, when it is struggling to ramp up production of its Model 3 sedan, on which its profitability depends. It is trying to build 5,000 of the vehicles per week by the end of June and overcome manufacturing hurdles that have delayed its rollout.

Although Musk has insisted the company neither needs nor wants new funding, many believe the company will seek to raise more capital by the end of 2018.

Tesla’s stock recovered a little on Friday, up 2.4 percent at $291 in early afternoon trade. But short sellers, who shorted nearly 400,000 shares on Thursday, doubled that amount on Friday, according to financial analytics firm S3 Partners.

“Musk’s meltdown will change Tesla’s ability to raise capital when he needs it with a sector of investors,” said Eric Schiffer, chief executive of the Patriarch Organization, a Los Angeles-based private-equity firm.

“At this critical point, he needs to reinforce confidence, not raise a narrative of him as unstable and whose rational side is lost in space,” said Schiffer, who does not hold Tesla shares.

Jefferies analyst Philippe Houchois said the underlying business fundamentals were more important in any capital raise, although “management credibility” was also a factor.

“That has an impact but it’s not something that will prevent them from raising capital,” Houchois said.

Nord LB analyst Frank Schwope said that Musk’s refusal to answer questions or receive criticism was “not very clever” but added that his ability to find new money was still intact.

‘Dry’ questions

The questions Musk cut short on Wednesday related to Model 3 reservations and capital requirements.

“The ‘dry’ questions were not asked by investors, but rather by two sell-side analysts who were trying to justify their Tesla short thesis. They are actually on the opposite side of investors,” Musk tweeted on Friday.

“HyperChange represented actual investors, so I switched to them,” he wrote. On the call, he devoted 23 minutes to 25-year-old Tesla investor, Galileo Russell, who runs HyperChange TV.

At least three brokerages cut price targets on the stock following the call.

Sacconaghi, one of the rebuffed analysts, wrote: “We do worry that such theatrics will unnecessarily undermine investor confidence in Tesla’s outlook.”

Sacconaghi has a price target of $265 on Tesla’s stock and Spak lowered his target to $280 from $305 on Thursday. Tesla’s median Wall Street price target is $317.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

Tesla’s Musk Calls Wall Street Snub ‘Foolish’ but Defends His Behavior

Tesla Inc Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk acknowledged on Friday that it was “foolish” of him to snub analysts on a conference call earlier in the week, but further needled Wall Street with a series of accusatory tweets.

In a post-earnings call on Wednesday, Musk refused to answer questions from analysts on the electric vehicle maker’s capital requirements, saying “boring, bonehead questions are not cool,” before turning questions over to a little known investor who runs HyperChange, a YouTube investment channel.

The outspoken performance shocked many analysts, sparked a fall in Tesla’s share price and led some to question whether Musk’s behavior could risk the company’s ability to raise capital.

In early-morning tweets on Friday, Musk said the two analysts he cut off — RBC Capital Markets’ Joseph Spak and Bernstein’s Toni Sacconaghi — “were trying to justify their Tesla short thesis.”

‘Shorting’ means they were betting the stock would fall, but the two have ‘hold’ or ‘neutral’ ratings on the stock, according to Thomson Reuters data. “I should have answered their questions live. It was foolish of me to ignore them,” Musk tweeted.

The two analysts were not immediately available for a comment.

The spat comes at a crunch time for Tesla, when it is struggling to ramp up production of its Model 3 sedan, on which its profitability depends. It is trying to build 5,000 of the vehicles per week by the end of June and overcome manufacturing hurdles that have delayed its rollout.

Although Musk has insisted the company neither needs nor wants new funding, many believe the company will seek to raise more capital by the end of 2018.

Tesla’s stock recovered a little on Friday, up 2.4 percent at $291 in early afternoon trade. But short sellers, who shorted nearly 400,000 shares on Thursday, doubled that amount on Friday, according to financial analytics firm S3 Partners.

“Musk’s meltdown will change Tesla’s ability to raise capital when he needs it with a sector of investors,” said Eric Schiffer, chief executive of the Patriarch Organization, a Los Angeles-based private-equity firm.

“At this critical point, he needs to reinforce confidence, not raise a narrative of him as unstable and whose rational side is lost in space,” said Schiffer, who does not hold Tesla shares.

Jefferies analyst Philippe Houchois said the underlying business fundamentals were more important in any capital raise, although “management credibility” was also a factor.

“That has an impact but it’s not something that will prevent them from raising capital,” Houchois said.

Nord LB analyst Frank Schwope said that Musk’s refusal to answer questions or receive criticism was “not very clever” but added that his ability to find new money was still intact.

‘Dry’ questions

The questions Musk cut short on Wednesday related to Model 3 reservations and capital requirements.

“The ‘dry’ questions were not asked by investors, but rather by two sell-side analysts who were trying to justify their Tesla short thesis. They are actually on the opposite side of investors,” Musk tweeted on Friday.

“HyperChange represented actual investors, so I switched to them,” he wrote. On the call, he devoted 23 minutes to 25-year-old Tesla investor, Galileo Russell, who runs HyperChange TV.

At least three brokerages cut price targets on the stock following the call.

Sacconaghi, one of the rebuffed analysts, wrote: “We do worry that such theatrics will unnecessarily undermine investor confidence in Tesla’s outlook.”

Sacconaghi has a price target of $265 on Tesla’s stock and Spak lowered his target to $280 from $305 on Thursday. Tesla’s median Wall Street price target is $317.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

At Film Festival, Virtual Reality Films Merge the Digital and Physical

Virtual reality experiences are becoming more physical and more interactive. No longer just a “lean back” experience, the immersive technology is taking viewers out of the living room and into entirely new worlds. At the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, VOA’s Tina Trinh met with creators who are pushing the boundaries of the digital and physical divide.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

Astronomers Given Detailed Map of 1.7 Billion Stars

The European Space Agency has released an updated catalogue of more than 1.7 billion stars in our galaxy, as well as other celestial bodies, such as exoplanets, asteroids and quasars. The new data gives astronomers an unprecedented three-dimensional map for studying the origin of the universe and searching for habitable planets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

Data Firm at Center of Facebook Privacy Scandal Will Close

The data firm at the center of Facebook’s privacy scandal is declaring bankruptcy and shutting down.

In a statement, Cambridge Analytica says it has been “vilified” for actions it says are both legal and widely accepted as part of online advertising. The firm says the media furor stripped it of its customers and suppliers, forcing it to close.

Cambridge Analytica has been linked to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. The British firm suspended CEO Alexander Tayler in April amid investigations. 

Cambridge Analytica sought information on Facebook to build psychological profiles on a large portion of the U.S. electorate. The company was able to amass the database quickly with the help of an app that appeared to be a personality test. The app collected data on tens of millions of people and their Facebook friends, even those who did not download the app themselves.

Facebook has since tightened its privacy restrictions. Cambridge has denied wrongdoing, and Trump’s campaign has said it didn’t use Cambridge’s data.

The firm has said it is committed to helping the U.K. investigation into Facebook and how it uses data. But U.K. Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said in March the firm failed to meet a deadline to produce the information requested.

Denham said the prime allegation against Cambridge Analytica is that it acquired personal data in an unauthorized way, adding that the data provisions act requires services like Facebook to have strong safeguards against misuse of data.

 

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!