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News for nerds, stuff that matters

The White House Has a Plan To Slash Plastic Use in the US

19 July 2024 @ 7:50 pm

Calling plastic pollution one of the world's most pressing environmental problems, the Biden administration on Friday said that the federal government, the biggest buyer of consumer goods in the world, would phase out purchases of single-use plastics. From a report: The administration also said it planned tougher regulations on plastic manufacturing, which releases planet-warming greenhouse gases and other dangerous pollutants. The efforts, which the White House called the first comprehensive strategy to tackle plastic use nationwide, aim to reduce demand for disposable plastic items while also helping to create a market for substitutes that are reusable, compostable or more easily recyclable. Brenda Mallory, who heads the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said in a statement that the changes would "require unprecedented action at every stage of the plastic life cycle." Because of its purchasing power, the White House added, "the federal government has the potential to si

FTC Attacks Microsoft's Post-Merger Game Pass Price Increases

19 July 2024 @ 7:15 pm

The FTC says the across-the-board price increases that Microsoft recently announced for its Xbox Game Pass subscription service tiers represent "exactly the sort of consumer harm from the merger the FTC has alleged" when it sought to block Microsoft's merger with Activision. From a report: In a letter to the court posted as part of an ongoing appeal by the FTC in the case, the federal regulator alleges Microsoft's moves are a clear example of "product degradation" brought about by "a firm exercising market power post-merger." The letter's primary focus is on the soon-to-be-discontinued $10.99/month Console Game Pass tier. That's being replaced with a $14.99/month Game Pass Standard tier (a 36 percent price increase) that no longer includes "day one" access to all of Microsoft's first-party titles. To maintain that key benefit, "Console" subscribers will have to spend 81 percent more for the $19.99 Game Pass Ultimate tier, which also includes a number of additional benefits over the cur

Oracle Reaches $115 Million Consumer Privacy Settlement

19 July 2024 @ 6:01 pm

Oracle agreed to pay $115 million to settle a lawsuit accusing the database software and cloud computing company of invading people's privacy by collecting their personal information and selling it to third parties. Reuters: The plaintiffs, who otherwise have no connection to Oracle, said the company violated federal and state privacy laws and California's constitution by creating unauthorized "digital dossiers" for hundreds of millions of people. They said the dossiers contained data including where people browsed online, and where they did their banking, bought gas, dined out, shopped and used their credit cards. Oracle then allegedly sold the information directly to marketers or through products such as ID Graph, which according to the company helps marketers "orchestrate a relevant, personalized experience for each individual."

Sanctioned Russia Emerges Unscathed in Global IT Outage

19 July 2024 @ 5:21 pm

Russian officials boasted on Friday that Moscow was spared the impact of the global IT systems outage because of its increased self-sufficiency after years of Western sanctions, though some experts said Russian systems could still be vulnerable. From a report: Microsoft and other IT firms have suspended sales of new products in Russia and have been scaling down their operations in line with sanctions imposed over Russia's war in Ukraine, which Moscow describes as a special military operation. The Kremlin, along with companies from state nuclear giant Rosatom, which operates all of Russia's nuclear plants, to major lenders and airlines, reported no glitches amid the outage that affected international companies across the globe. "The situation once again highlights the significance of foreign software substitution," Russia's digital development ministry said. Russian financial and currency markets also ran smoothly.

It's Not Just CrowdStrike - the Cyber Sector is Vulnerable

19 July 2024 @ 4:40 pm

An anonymous reader shares a report, which expands on the ongoing global outage: The incident will exacerbate concerns about concentration risk in the cyber security industry. Just 15 companies worldwide account for 62 per cent of the market in cyber security products and services, according to SecurityScorecard. In modern endpoint security, the business of securing PCs, laptops and other devices, the problem is worse: three companies, with Microsoft and CrowdStrike by far the largest, controlled half the market last year, according to IDC. While the US Cyber Safety Review Board dissects large cyber attacks for lessons learned, there is no obvious body charged with analysing these technical failures to improve the resilience of global tech infrastructure, said Ciaran Martin, former head of the UK's National Cyber Security Centre. The current global outage should spur clients -- and perhaps even governments and regulators -- to think more about how to build diversification and redunda

The Rise and Fall of Software Developer Jobs

19 July 2024 @ 4:00 pm

The demand for software developers has declined sharply from the peak seen in 2021 and 2022, according to independent analysis by job portal Indeed and research firm ADP, reflecting a broader slowdown in high-paying white-collar job opportunities across tech, marketing, and finance sectors. Nick Bunker, an economist at Indeed, identified these positions as the labor market's current weak point. The shift follows a period of intense recruitment during the pandemic, when tech workers could command premium salaries. ADP Research adds: Employment of software developers in fact has been slowing since 2020, the year pandemic lockdowns first hit the United States. In January 2024, the U.S. employed fewer software developers than it did six years ago. [...] The ADP Research Institute tracked employees at 6,500 companies, including more than 75,000 software developers and engineers in 10 industries, between January 2018 and January 2024. Using this data, we built an index to track the emplo

To Fix CrowdStrike Blue Screen of Death Simply Reboot 15 Straight Times, Microsoft Says

19 July 2024 @ 3:22 pm

Microsoft has a suggested solution for individual customers affected by what may turn out to be the largest IT outage that has ever happened: Just reboot it a lot. From a report: Customers can delete a specific file called C00000291*.sys, which is seemingly tied to the bug, Microsoft said in a status update published Friday. But in some cases, people can't even get to a spot where they can delete that file. In an update posted Friday morning, Microsoft told users that they should simply reboot Virtual Machines (VMs) experiencing a BSoD over and over again until they can fix the issue. [...] "We have received reports of successful recovery from some customers attempting multiple Virtual Machine restart operations on affected Virtual Machines," Microsoft told users. "We have received feedback from customers that several reboots (as many as 15 have been reported) may be required, but overall feedback is that reboots are an effective troubleshooting step at this stage."

Google Cracks Down on Low-Quality Android Apps

19 July 2024 @ 2:44 pm

Google has revised its Play Store policies, aiming to eliminate subpar and potentially harmful Android apps. The updated Spam and Minimum Functionality policy, set to take effect on August 31, 2024, targets apps that crash frequently, lack substantial content, or provide minimal utility to users, the company said. This policy shift follows Google's ongoing efforts to enhance Play Store security, with the company having blocked over 2 million policy-violating apps and rejected around 200,000 submissions in 2023 alone.

Global IT Outage Linked To CrowdStrike Update Disrupts Businesses

19 July 2024 @ 2:00 pm

A widespread IT outage, caused by a defective software update from cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, is affecting businesses worldwide, causing significant disruptions across various sectors. The issue has primarily impacted computers running Windows, resulting in system crashes and "blue screen of death" errors. The travel industry appears to be among the hardest hit, with airlines and airports in multiple countries reporting problems with check-in and ticketing systems, leading to flight delays. Other affected sectors include banking, retail, and healthcare. CrowdStrike CEO George Kurtz confirmed the outage was due to a "defect" in a content update for Windows hosts, ruling out a cyberattack. The company is working on a fix. CrowdStrike said the crash reports were "related to the Falcon Sensor" -- its cloud-based security service that it describes as "real-time threat detection, simplified management, and proactive threat hunting." A Microsoft spokesperson told TechCrunch that the

Little-Known Tool Is Giving Instant Access To Vast Amounts of Homebuyer Data

19 July 2024 @ 10:00 am

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Record: When Florida real estate professional Susan Hicks discovered the app Forewarn over a year ago, she was shocked to learn that for a service costing about $20 a month she could instantly retrieve detailed data on prospective clients with only their phone number. "For anybody who's had exposure to this, usually the first time they see it, it blows their mind," Hicks told Recorded Future News, adding that she enthusiastically recommends the tool to the brokers she manages. "It's incredible that there's that amount of information out there that you can just access with one click." "It can be real creepy and you have to swear that you're not going to use it in a wrong manner," Hicks added, referring to Forewarn rules which say real estate agents can't share data from the app publicly or with third parties, or use the app to pull information on non-professional contacts. Forewarn is primarily marketed to and used by the real estate indust