Television

Netflix Adds 5.3 Million Subs In Q3, Beating Forecasts (variety.com) 34

Netflix shows no signs of slowing down. The company announced its third quarter results, adding more subscribers in both the U.S. and abroad than expected. Variety reports: The company gained 850,000 streaming subs in the U.S. and 4.45 million overseas in the period. Analysts had estimated Netflix to add 784,000 net subscribers in the U.S. and 3.62 million internationally for Q3. "We added a Q3-record 5.3 million memberships globally (up 49% year-over-year) as we continued to benefit from strong appetite for our original series and films, as well as the adoption of internet entertainment across the world," the company said in announcing the results, noting that it had under-forecast both U.S. and international subscriber growth. Netflix also indicated that its content spending may be even higher next year than previously projected. The company had said it was targeting programming expenditures of $7 billion in 2018; on Monday, Netflix said it will spend between $7 billion and $8 billion on content (on a profit-and-loss basis) next year. For 2017, original content will represent more than 25% of total programming spending, and that "will continue to grow," Netflix said.
Google

Google Chrome for Windows Gets Basic Antivirus Features (betanews.com) 52

Google is rolling out a trio of important changes to Chrome for Windows users. From a report: At the heart of these changes is Chrome Cleanup. This feature detects unwanted software that might be bundled with downloads, and provides help with removing it. Google's Philippe Rivard explains that Chrome now has built-in hijack detection which should be able to detect when user settings are changes without consent. This is a setting that has already rolled out to users, and Google says that millions of users have already been protected against unwanted setting changes such as having their search engine altered. But it's the Chrome Cleanup tool that Google is particularly keen to highlight. A redesigned interface makes it easier to use and to see what unwanted software has been detected and singled out for removal.
Social Networks

Elon Musk Teases Reddit With Bad Answers About BFR Rocket (reddit.com) 97

Long-time Slashdot reader Rei writes: On Saturday evening, Elon Musk took questions in a Reddit AMA (Ask-Me-Anything) concerning SpaceX's new design for the BFR (Big F* Rocket). But unlike the 2016 IAC conference where many audience questions seemed to be trolling Musk, this time the tables were turned. Asked why Raptor thrust was reduced from 300 tons to 170, Musk replied, "We chickened out." He responded to a statement about landing on the moon by quoting Bob the Builder, while responding to a user's suggestion about caching internet data from Mars by writing simply "Nerd." A question as to whether BFR autogenous pressurization would be heat-exchanger based, Musk replied that they planned to utilize the Incendio spell from Harry Potter -- helpfully providing a Wikipedia link for the spell.

A technical question about the lack of a tail? "Tails are lame." A question about why the number of landing legs was increased from 3 to 4? "Because 4." After one Redditor observed "This is one bizarre AMA so far," Musk replied "Just wait..." While Musk ultimately did follow up some of the trolling with some actual responses, the overall event could be best described as "surreal".

To be fair, Musk provided some serious answers. (And his final comment ended with "Great questions nk!!") But one Redditor suggested Musk's stranger answers were like a threat, along the lines of "Just wait. It will get way more bizarre than that. Let me finish my whiskey."

Musk replied, "How did you know? I am actually drinking whiskey right now. Really."
Television

Cord-Cutters Drive Cable TV Subscribers to a 17-Year Low (houstonchronicle.com) 195

An anonymous reader quotes the Washington Post: On Wednesday, AT&T told regulators that it expects to finish the quarter with about 90,000 fewer TV subscribers than it began with. AT&T blamed a number of issues, including hurricane damage to infrastructure, rising credit standards and competition from rivals. The report also shows AT&T lost more traditional TV customers than it gained back through its online video app, DirecTV Now. And analysts are suggesting that that's evidence that cord-cutting is the main culprit... "DirecTV, like all of its cable peers, is suffering from the ravages of cord-cutting," said industry analyst Craig Moffett in a research note this week. Moffett added that while nobody expected AT&T's pay-TV numbers to look good, hardly anyone could have predicted they would look "this bad."

The outlook doesn't look much healthier for the rest of the television industry. Over the past year, cable and satellite firms have collectively lost nearly 3 million customers, according to estimates by market analysts at SNL Kagan and New Street Research. The number of households with traditional TV service is hovering at about the level it was in 2000, according to New Street's Jonathan Chaplin, in a study last week. Other analysts predict that, after factoring in AT&T's newly disclosed losses, the industry will have lost 1 million traditional TV subscribers by the end of this quarter.

The Internet

Not Just Equifax. Rival Site Transunion Served Malware Too -- and 1,000 More Sites (arstechnica.com) 68

An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: Equifax isn't the only credit-reporting behemoth with a website redirecting visitors to fake Adobe Flash updates. A security researcher from AV provider Malwarebytes said transunioncentroamerica.com, a TransUnion site serving people in Central America, [was] also sending visitors to the fraudulent updates and other types of malicious pages... Malwarebytes security researcher Jerome Segura says he was able to repeatedly reproduce a similar chain of fraudulent redirects when he pointed his browser to the transunioncentroamerica.com site. On some occasions, the final link in the chain would push a fake Flash update. In other cases, it delivered an exploit kit that tried to infect computers with unpatched browsers or browser plugins... "This is not something users want to have," Segura told Ars...

Equifax on Thursday was quick to say that its systems were never compromised in the attacks. TransUnion said much the same thing. This is an important distinction in some respects because it means that the redirections weren't the result of attackers having access to restricted parts of either company's networks. At the same time, the incidents show that visitors to both sites remain much more vulnerable to malicious content than they should be.

Both sites hosted fireclick.js, an old script from a small web analytics company which pulls pages from sites like Akamai, SiteStats.info, and Ostats.net. "It appears that attackers have compromised the third-party library," writes BankInfoSecurity, adding that Malwarebytes estimates over a 1,000 more sites are using the same library.
Communications

Russia Reportedly Used Pokemon Go In an Effort To Inflame Racial Tensions (theverge.com) 209

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Russia's far-ranging campaign to promote dissension in the United States reportedly included an effort to weaponize Pokemon Go. CNN reported that in July 2016, a Tumblr page linked to Russia's now-notorious Internet Research Agency promoted a contest encouraging people sympathetic to the Black Lives Matter movement to play the game near famous sites of police brutality. Players were told to change their characters' names to the victims of those incidents -- an apparent effort to inflame racial tensions. The Tumblr page was linked to Do Not Shoot Us, a multi-platform campaign designed to mimic aspects of Black Lives Matter. (As CNN notes, the name plays on "hands up, don't shoot," one of the movement's slogans.) Do Not Shoot Us included a website, donotshoot.us, along with related pages on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. The Facebook page was one of 470 pages that were removed after the company determined that it was linked to Russian groups attempting to interfere in US politics.
Bitcoin

Over 500 Million PCs Are Secretly Mining Cryptocurrency, Researchers Reveal (newsweek.com) 76

Ad blocking firm AdGuard has found that over 500 million people are inadvertently mining cryptocurrencies through their computers after visiting websites that are running background mining software. The company found 220 popular websites with an aggregated audience of half a billion people use so-called crypto-mining scripts when a user opens their main page. Newsweek reports: The mining tool works by hijacking a computer's central processing unit (CPU), commonly referred to as "the brains" of a computer. Using part of a computer's CPU to mine bitcoin effects the machine's overall performance and will slow it down by using up processing power. The researchers found that bitcoin browser mining is mostly found on websites "with a shady reputation" due to the trouble such sites have with earning revenue through advertising. However, in the future it could become a legitimate and ethical way of making money if the website requests the permission of the visitor first.

"220 sites may not seem like a lot," the researchers wrote in a blogpost detailing their discovery. "But CoinHive was launched less than one month ago on September 14. The growth has been extremely rapid: from nearly zero to .22 percent of Alexa's top 100,000 websites. "This analysis well illustrates the whole web, so it's safe to say that one of every forty websites currently mines cryptocurrency (namely Monero) in the browsers their users employ."

Businesses

Real Moviegoers Don't Care About Rotten Tomatoes 170

In a recent essay published on the Hollywood Reporter, Martin Scorsese inveighs against two conjoined trends -- the widespread reporting of box-office results and the grading of movies by consumers on CinemaScore and by critics on Rotten Tomatoes -- and blames it for "a tone that is hostile to serious filmmakers." In particular, he contends that this hostile environment is worsening "as film criticism written by passionately engaged people with actual knowledge of film history has gradually faded from the scene." Richard Brody, a movie critic at the New Yorker, thinks Scorsese is missing the mark. He writes: I think that film criticism is, over all, better than ever, because, with its new Internet-centrism, it's more democratic than ever and many of the critics who write largely online are more film-curious than ever. Anyone who is active on so-called Film Twitter -- who sees links by critics, mainly younger critics, to his or her work -- can't help but be impressed by the knowledge, the curiosity, and the sensibility of many of them. Their tastes tend to be broader and more daring than those of many senior critics on more established publications. And, even if readers of the wider press aren't reading these more obscure critics, the critics whom general readers read are often reading those young critics (and if they're not, it shows). This is, of course, not universally so, any more than it ever was. The Internet is democratic in all directions -- it's also available to writers of lesser knowledge, duller taste, and dubious agendas, and it may be their work that's advertised most loudly -- but the younger generation of critics is present online and there for the finding. [...] What Scorsese doesn't exactly say, but what, I think, marks a generation gap in movie thinking that his essay reflects, is the appearance of an increasing divide between artistically ambitious films and Hollywood films -- the gap between the top box-office films and the award winners. For filmmakers ready to work on lower budgets, the gap is irrelevant. The filmmakers whose conceptions tend toward the spectacular are the ones whose styles may, literally, be cramped by shrinking budgets -- filmmakers such as Scorsese and Wes Anderson, whose work has both an original and elaborate sense of style and a grand historical reach.
Twitter

Twitter Is Crawling With Bots and Lacks Incentive To Expel Them (bloomberg.com) 94

An anonymous reader shares a report: On Wednesday, the exterior of Twitter's San Francisco headquarters bore an eerie message: "Ban Russian Bots." Someone -- the company doesn't know who -- projected the demand onto the side of its building. Bots, or automated software programs, can be programmed to periodically send out messages on the internet. Now Twitter is scrambling to explain how bots controlled by Russian meddlers may have been used to impact the 2016 president election. Twitter was designed to be friendly to bots. They can help advertisers quickly spread their messages and respond to customer service complaints. Research from the University of Southern California and Indiana University shows that 9 to 15 percent of active Twitter accounts are bots. Many innocuously tweet headlines, the weather or Netflix releases. After the election, there was little discussion inside the company about whether the platform may have been misused, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because it is private. But the ubiquity and usefulness of bots did come up. At one point, there were talks about whether Twitter should put a marking on bot accounts, so that users would know they were automated, one of the people said. Yet most of the conversation after the election focused on whether Trump's tweets violated Twitter's policies, the person said.
Education

'Maybe Wikipedia Readers Shouldn't Need Science Degrees To Digest Articles About Basic Topics' (vice.com) 303

Wikipedia articles about "hard science" (physics, biology, chemistry) topics are really mostly written for other scientists, writes Michael Byrne, a reporter on Science beat at Vice's Motherboard news outlet. From the article: This particular class of Wikipedia article tends to take the high-level form of a scientific paper. There's a brief intro (an abstract) that is kinda-sorta comprehensible, but then the article immediately degenerates into jargon and equations. Take, for example, the page for the electroweak interaction in particle physics. This is a topic of potentially broad interest; its formulation won a trio of physicists the Nobel Prize in 1979. Generally, it has to do with a fundamental linkage between two of the four fundamental forces of the universe, electromagnetism and the weak force. The Wikipedia article for the electroweak force consists of a two-paragraph introduction that basically just says what I said above plus some fairly intimidating technical context. The rest of the article is almost entirely gnarly math equations. I have no idea who the article exists for because I'm not sure that person actually exists: someone with enough knowledge to comprehend dense physics formulations that doesn't also already understand the electroweak interaction or that doesn't already have, like, access to a textbook about it. For another, somewhat different example, look at the article for graphene. Graphene is, of course, an endlessly hyped superstrong supermaterial. It's in the news constantly. The article isn't just a bunch of math equations, but it's also not much more penetrable for a reader without at least some chemistry/materials science background.
Businesses

Hollywood Studios Join Disney To Launch Movies Anywhere Digital Locker Service (theverge.com) 48

There may be a grand unifying service to make accumulating a large digital cinematic library feasible, or so is the hope anyway. From a report: For several years now, Disney has been the only Hollywood studio with a digital movie locker worth using, but a host of other industry heavyweights have now jumped on board to launch an expanded version of the service called Movies Anywhere. It's both a cloud-based digital locker and a one-stop-shop app: customers connect Movies Anywhere to their iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play, or Vudu accounts, and all of the eligible movies they've purchased through those retailers appear as part of their Movies Anywhere library. Given that the Movies Anywhere app works across a number of platforms, it basically allows them to take their digital film library with them no matter what device or operating system they're using. [...] The launch of Movies Anywhere should be the merciful, final blow that puts an end to UltraViolet, one of the entertainment industry's first attempts at putting together a comprehensive digital locker service. That service flailed due to a poor customer experience and lack of adoption on the part of big digital retailers like Apple. The team behind Movies Anywhere seems to have learned from UltraViolet's mistakes, however, as well as Disney's previous successes.
Television

Comcast Pressures Local Cable Firms to Curb Low-Cost TV Packages (bloomberg.com) 98

Gerry Smith, reporting for Bloomberg: Comcast is trying to restrict cable operators' sales of low-cost TV service to ensure its regional sports networks don't lose too many subscribers, according to a trade group of about 750 smaller companies that have taken their complaint to regulators. Comcast has tried to limit the availability of sports-free offerings in contract talks with pay-TV operators, according to the American Cable Association, whose members have about 7 million subscribers. In addition to being the largest U.S. cable provider, Comcast owns regional sports channels in markets such as Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia. The claim shows programmers are fighting back as more consumers seek TV options that don't include sports. Cable operators are trying to stem subscriber losses by offering a "basic" service with just a few channels and internet access for fans of Netflix or Amazon.
Security

Equifax Website Hacked Again, this Time To Redirect To Fake Flash Update (arstechnica.com) 150

For several hours on Wednesday Equifax's website was compromised again, this time to deliver fraudulent Adobe Flash updates, which when clicked, infected visitors' computers with adware that was detected by only three of 65 antivirus providers, reports Dan Goodin at Ars Technica. From the report: Randy Abrams, an independent security analyst by day, happened to visit the site Wednesday evening to contest what he said was false information he had just found on his credit report. Eventually, his browser opened up a page on the domain hxxp:centerbluray.info. He was understandably incredulous. The site that previously gave up personal data for virtually every US person with a credit history was once again under the control of attackers, this time trying to trick Equifax visitors into installing crapware Symantec calls Adware.Eorezo. Knowing a thing or two about drive-by campaigns, Abrams figured the chances were slim he'd see the download on follow-on visits. To fly under the radar, attackers frequently serve the downloads to only a select number of visitors, and then only once. Abrams tried anyway, and to his amazement, he encountered the bogus Flash download links on at least three subsequent visits. Update: Equifax said on Thursday it was taking one of its web pages offline as its security team looks into reports of another potential cyber breach.
Social Networks

How Facebook Outs Sex Workers (gizmodo.com) 632

An anonymous reader shares a Gizmodo report: Leila has two identities, but Facebook is only supposed to know about one of them. Leila is a sex worker. She goes to great lengths to keep separate identities for ordinary life and for sex work, to avoid stigma, arrest, professional blowback, or clients who might be stalkers (or worse). Her "real identity" -- the public one, who lives in California, uses an academic email address, and posts about politics -- joined Facebook in 2011. Her sex-work identity is not on the social network at all; for it, she uses a different email address, a different phone number, and a different name. Yet earlier this year, looking at Facebook's "People You May Know" recommendations, Leila (a name I'm using in place of either of the names she uses) was shocked to see some of her regular sex-work clients. Despite the fact that she'd only given Facebook information from her vanilla identity, the company had somehow discerned her real-world connection to these people -- and, even more horrifyingly, her account was potentially being presented to them as a friend suggestion too, outing her regular identity to them. Because Facebook insists on concealing the methods and data it uses to link one user to another, Leila is not able to find out how the network exposed her or take steps to prevent it from happening again. "We're living in an age where you can weaponize personal information against people"Kashmir Hill, the reporter who wrote the above story, a few weeks ago shared another similar incident.
Privacy

US Government Has 'No Right To Rummage' Through Anti-Trump Protest Website Logs, Says Judge (theregister.co.uk) 276

A Washington D.C. judge has told the U.S. Department of Justice it "does not have the right to rummage" through the files of an anti-Trump protest website -- and has ordered the dot-org site's hosting company to protect the identities of its users. The Register reports: Chief Judge Robert E. Morin issued the revised order [PDF] Tuesday following a high-profile back and forth between the site's hosting biz DreamHost and prosecutors over what details Uncle Sam was entitled to with respect to the disruptj20.org website. "As previously observed, courts around the country have acknowledged that, in searches for electronically stored information, evidence of criminal activity will likely be intermingled with communications and other records not within the scope of the search warrant," he noted in his ruling. "Because of the potential breadth of the government's review in this case, the warrant in its execution may implicate otherwise innocuous and constitutionally protected activity. As the Court has previously stated, while the government has the right to execute its Warrant, it does not have the right to rummage through the information contained on DreamHost's website and discover the identity of, or access communications by, individuals not participating in alleged criminal activity, particularly those persons who were engaging in protected First Amendment activities." The order then lists a series of protocols designed to protect netizens "to comply with First Amendment and Fourth Amendment considerations, and to prevent the government from obtaining any identifying information of innocent persons."
Software

PornHub Uses Computer Vision To ID Actors, Acts In Its Videos (techcrunch.com) 135

Baron_Yam shares a report from TechCrunch, which details PornHub's use of machine learning to ID actors and acts in its videos: The computer vision system can identify specific actors in scenes and even identifies various positions and attributes. While it is obviously very difficult to describe the feature set for a family audience, the system can identify individual performers in real time -- in the demo here it recognizes one performer even from the side -- and it can also identify sex acts. Facial detection is nothing new, even for mobile devices, but this system goes one step further by categorizing videos and images based on various attributes. This means you'll be able find favorites by name or characteristics, a feat that once require prodigious amounts of data entry.

"So far we've used the model on about 500k featured videos which includes user submitted and we plan to scan the whole library in the beginning of 2018," said Price. "Very shortly, the technology will also be used to detect various sex positions / categories and be able to properly tag them as well."

Businesses

FCC's Claim That One ISP Counts As 'Competition' Faces Scrutiny In Court (arstechnica.com) 200

Jon Brodkin reports via Ars Technica: A Federal Communications Commission decision to eliminate price caps imposed on some business broadband providers should be struck down, advocacy groups told federal judges last week. The FCC failed to justify its claim that a market can be competitive even when there is only one Internet provider, the groups said. Led by Chairman Ajit Pai, the FCC's Republican majority voted in April of this year to eliminate price caps in a county if 50 percent of potential customers "are within a half mile of a location served by a competitive provider." That means business customers with just one choice are often considered to be located in a competitive market and thus no longer benefit from price controls. The decision affects Business Data Services (BDS), a dedicated, point-to-point broadband link that is delivered over copper-based TDM networks by incumbent phone companies like AT&T, Verizon, and CenturyLink.

But the FCC's claim that "potential competition" can rein in prices even in the absence of competition doesn't stand up to legal scrutiny, critics of the order say. "In 2016, after more than 10 years of examining the highly concentrated Business Data Services market, the FCC was poised to rein in anti-competitive pricing in the BDS market to provide enterprise customers, government agencies, schools, libraries, and hospitals with much-needed relief from monopoly rates," Phillip Berenbroick, senior policy counsel at consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge said. But after Republicans gained the FCC majority in 2017, "the commission illegally reversed course without proper notice and further deregulated the BDS market, leaving consumers at risk of paying up to $20 billion a year in excess charges from monopolistic pricing," Berenbroick said.

Google

Google Paid $7.2 Billion Last Year To Partners, Including Apple, To Prominently Showcase Its Search Engine and Apps on Smartphones (bloomberg.com) 57

A reader shares a Bloomberg report: There's a $19 billion black box inside Google. That's the yearly amount Google pays to companies that help generate its advertising sales, from the websites lined with Google-served ads to Apple and others that plant Google's search box or apps in prominent spots. Investors are obsessed with this money, called traffic acquisition costs, and they're particularly worried about the growing slice of those payments going to Apple and Google's Android allies. That chunk of fees now amounts to 11 percent of revenue for Google's internet properties. The figure was 7 percent in 2012. These Google traffic fees are the result of contractual arrangements parent company Alphabet makes to ensure its dominance. The company pays Apple to make Google the built-in option for web searches on Apple's Safari browsers for Mac computers, iPhones and other places. Google also pays companies that make Android smartphones and the phone companies that sell those phones to make sure its search box is front and center and to ensure its apps such as YouTube and Chrome are included in smartphones. In the last year, Google has paid these partners $7.2 billion, more than three times the comparable cost in 2012.
Microsoft

PSA: Microsoft Is Using Cortana To Read Your Private Skype Conversations (betanews.com) 180

BrianFagioli shares a report from BetaNews: With Cortana's in-context assistance, it's easier to keep your conversations going by having Cortana suggest useful information based on your chat, like restaurant options or movie reviews. And if you're in a time crunch? Cortana also suggests smart replies, allowing you to respond to any message quickly and easily -- without typing a thing," says The Skype Team. The team further says, "Cortana can also help you organize your day -- no need to leave your conversations. Cortana can detect when you're talking about scheduling events or things you have to do and will recommend setting up a reminder, which you will receive on all your devices that have Cortana enabled. So, whether you're talking about weekend plans or an important work appointment, nothing will slip through the cracks."

So, here's the deal, folks. In order for this magical "in-context" technology to work, Cortana is constantly reading your private conversations. If you use Skype on mobile to discuss private matters with your friends or family, Cortana is constantly analyzing what you type. Talking about secret business plans with a colleague? Yup, Microsoft's assistant is reading those too. Don't misunderstand -- I am not saying Microsoft has malicious intent by adding Cortana to Skype; the company could have good intentions. With that said, there is the potential for abuse. Microsoft could use Cortana's analysis to spy on you for things like advertising or worse, and that stinks. Is it really worth the risk to have smart replies and suggested calendar entries? I don't know about you, but I'd rather not have my Skype conversations read by Microsoft.

Privacy

Equifax Made Salary, Work History Available To Anyone With Your SSN and DOB (krebsonsecurity.com) 168

An anonymous reader quotes a report from KrebsOnSecurity: In May, KrebsOnSecurity broke a story about lax security at a payroll division of big-three credit bureau Equifax that let identity thieves access personal and financial data on an unknown number of Americans. Incredibly, this same division makes it simple to access detailed salary and employment history on a large portion of Americans using little more than someone's Social Security number and date of birth -- both data elements that were stolen in the recent breach at Equifax. At issue is a service provided by Equifax's TALX division called The Work Number. The service is designed to provide automated employment and income verification for prospective employers, and tens of thousands of companies report employee salary data to it. The Work Number also allows anyone whose employer uses the service to provide proof of their income when purchasing a home or applying for a loan.

The homepage for this Equifax service wants to assure visitors that "Your personal information is protected." "With your consent your personal data can be retrieved only by credentialed verifiers," Equifax assures us, referring mainly to banks and other entities that request salary data for purposes of setting credit limits. Sadly, this isn't anywhere near true because most employers who contribute data to The Work Number -- including Fortune 100 firms, government agencies and universities -- rely on horribly weak authentication for access to the information.

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