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Peter Thiel: We Need a New Atomic Age 268 writes: Peter Thiel writes in the NYT that what's especially strange about the failed push for renewables is that we already had a practical plan back in the 1960s to become fully carbon-free without any need of wind or solar: nuclear power. "But after years of cost overruns, technical challenges and the bizarre coincidence of an accident at Three Mile Island and the 1979 release of the Hollywood horror movie "The China Syndrome," about a hundred proposed reactors were canceled," says Thiel. "If we had kept building, our power grid could have been carbon-free years ago. Instead, we went in reverse."

According to Thiel, a new generation of American nuclear scientists has produced designs for better reactors. Crucially, these new designs may finally overcome the most fundamental obstacle to the success of nuclear power: high cost. Designs using molten salt, alternative fuels and small modular reactors have all attracted interest not just from academics but also from entrepreneurs and venture capitalists like me ready to put money behind nuclear power. However, none of these new designs can benefit the real world without a path to regulatory approval, and today's regulations are tailored for traditional reactors, making it almost impossible to commercialize new ones. "Both the right's fear of government and the left's fear of technology have jointly stunted our nuclear energy policy," concludes Thiel. "supporting nuclear power with more than words is the litmus test for seriousness about climate change. Like Nixon's going to China, this is something only Mr. Obama can do. If this president clears the path for a new atomic age, American scientists are ready to build it."

VTech Hack Exposes Data On 4.8 Million Adults, 200,000 Kids ( 64

New submitter lorenzofb writes: A hacker broke into the site of the popular toy company VTech and was able to easily get 4.8 million credentials, and 227k kids' identities using SQL injection. The company didn't find out about the breach until Motherboard told them. According to Have I Been Pwned, this is the fourth largest consumer data breach ever. "[Security specialist Troy Hunt] said that VTech doesn't use SSL web encryption anywhere, and transmits data such as passwords completely unprotected. ... Hunt also found that the company's websites "leak extensive data" from their databases and APIs—so much that an attacker could get a lot of data about the parents or kids just by taking advantage of these flaws."
United States

US and China Setting Up "Space Hotline" ( 15

Taco Cowboy writes: Washington and Beijing have established an emergency 'space hotline' to reduce the risk of accidental conflict. Several international initiatives are already in train to seal a space treaty to avoid a further build-up of weapons beyond the atmosphere. However, security experts say the initiatives have little chance of success. A joint Russia-China proposal wending its way through the UN was not acceptable to the US. An EU proposal, for a "code of conduct" in space, was having diplomatic "difficulties" but was closer to Washington's position.

A Post-Antibiotic Future Is Looming ( 137

New submitter radaos writes: A gene enabling resistance to polymyxins, the antibiotics of last resort, has been found to be widespread in pigs and already present in some hospital patients. The research, from South China Agricultural University, has been published in The Lancet. According to research Jian-Hua Liu, "Our results reveal the emergence of the first polymyxin resistance gene that is readily passed between common bacteria such as Escherichia coli and Klesbsiella pneumoniae, suggesting that the progression from extensive drug resistance to pandrug resistance is inevitable." Work on alternatives is progressing — Dr. Richard James, former director of the University of Nottingham's center for healthcare associated infections, writes, "Until last month I was still pessimistic about our chances of avoiding the antibiotics nightmare. But that changed when I attended a workshop in Beijing on a new approach to antibiotic development based on bacteriocins – protein antibiotics produced by bacteria to kill closely related species, and exquisitely narrow-spectrum."
The Military

Satellite Wars ( 98

schwit1 writes: Sixty years after the space race began, an orbital arms race is again in development. Military officials from the U.S., Europe and Asia confirm in private what the Kettering Group and other amateur stargazers have been watching publicly. Almost every country with strategically important satellite constellations and its own launch facilities is considering how to defend — and weaponize — their extraterrestrial assets. "I don't think there is a single G7 nation that isn't now looking at space security as one of its highest military priorities and areas of strategic concern," says one senior European intelligence official.

The U.S. is spending billions improving its defenses — primarily by building more capacity into its constellations and improving its tracking abilities. A $900m contract was awarded to Lockheed Martin in 2014 to develop a radar system capable of tracking objects as small as baseballs in space in real time. But there are also hints that the U.S. may be looking to equip its satellites with active defenses and countermeasures of their own, such as jamming devices and the ability to evade interceptions. A purely offensive anti-satellite program is in fast development as well. High-energy weapons and maneuverable orbiters such as space planes all open the possibility of the U.S. being able to rapidly weaponize the domain beyond the atmosphere, should it feel the need to do so.


DoJ Going After Makers of Dietary Supplement ( 161

schwit1 writes: Several federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Justice, have announced criminal and civil actions related to unlawful advertising and sale of dietary supplements. "Six executives with USPlabs LLC and a related company, S.K. Laboratories, face criminal charges related to the sale of unlawful dietary supplements. Four were arrested on Tuesday and two are expected to surrender, the Justice department said. The indictment says that USPlabs used a synthetic stimulant manufactured in China to make Jack3d and OxyElite Pro but told retailers that the supplements were made from plant extracts." The FTC is working on this as well, and their press release has more details. The DoJ's case involves "more than 100 makers and marketers" of these supplements. It's about time.

China To Spend $47 Billion In Bid To Become 3rd-Largest Global Chip Manufacturer ( 53

An anonymous reader writes: In an interview with Reuters, the head of China's Tsinghua Unigroup has revealed they will invest 300 billion yuan ($47bn) over the next five years with the ambition of becoming the world's third largest chip-maker. The state-backed company, also the technological investment arm of Tsinghua University, is in talks with an unnamed U.S. company (most likely Micron) though Zhao discounts the possibility of buying a controlling share as politically insensitive.

Chinese Researchers Reveal Active Stealthy Material ( 137

hackingbear writes: Even after billions and billions of dollars spent on the stealthy skin used on F-22, F-35 and B-2, the material has weaknesses, and one of those is ultra-high-frequency (UHF) radar, which can pick up traces of the plane that other radar misses. Chinese researchers came to the rescue and created a material just 5/16 of an inch thick that can safeguard stealth planes against UHF detection. The material tunes itself to a range of detection frequencies, protecting against a large swath of radar scans. What's even more amazing? They published this seemingly top secret invention wide open in the Journal of Applied Physics .

China, Russia Try To Hack Australia's Upcoming Submarine Plans 83

An anonymous reader writes: Chinese and Russian spies have attempted to hack into the top secret details of Australia's future submarines (paywalled), with both Beijing and Moscow believed to have mounted repeated cyber attacks in recent months. One of the companies working on a bid for Australia's new submarine project said it records between 30 and 40 cyberattacks per night.

Baidu Data Research Reveals China's Ghost Cities ( 109

An anonymous reader writes: Chinese web services giant, Baidu, has embarked on a new study in which it uses location information from users' mobile devices, as well as mapping and building data, to identify areas with high volumes of construction with relatively low population densities — known as 'ghost cities.' The researchers, in the published findings Ghost Cities: Analysis Based on Positioning Data in China, were able to discount areas which experienced high levels of tourism which skew the figures in peak seasons. The Baidu Big Data team discovered 50 ghost cities, although only 20 of these were revealed in the report to avoid potential harm to the real estate market in these areas.

Going Dark Crypto Debate Going Nowhere ( 111

msm1267 writes: FBI general counsel James Baker reiterated a theme his boss James Comey started months ago, that Silicon Valley needs to find a solution to the "Going Dark" encryption problem. Two crypto and security experts, however, pointed out during a security event in Boston that encryption remains the best defense against the government's surveillance overreach and espionage hacking targeting intellectual property. “If we were able to engineer a mechanism where we’re splitting a key and having a third party escrow it where the government could ask for it, the very next thing that would happen is that China et al will ask for the same solution. And we’re unlikely to give them the same solution,” Eric Wenger, director of cybersecurity and privacy, said. “Complexity kills, and the more complex you make a system, the more difficult it is to secure it. I don’t see how developing a key-bases solution secures things the way you want it to without creating a great deal of complexity and having other governments demand the same thing.”

Full Text of Trans-Pacific Partnership Released (Officially, This Time) ( 247

EmagGeek writes: The full text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, has been officially released, and is available for the public to see. According to CNN, The TPP is a 12-nation deal that touches on 40% of the global economy. The provisions of the deal would knock down tariffs and import quotas, making it cheaper to import and export, and open new Asia-Pacific markets. Negotiations have been going on for years, led by the United States and Japan — with China conspicuously absent from the list of signees.
United Kingdom

Controversial New UK Internet Powers Bill Makes No Mention of VPNs ( 115

An anonymous reader writes: The Draft Investigatory Powers Bill presented by the UK Home Secretary Theresa May to Parliament today has caused controversy because it proposes new legislation to force UK ISPs to retain an abbreviated version of a user's internet history for a year, and would also oblige vendors such as Apple not to provide consumer-level encryption that the vendor cannot access itself in accordance with a court order. But perhaps the most surprising aspect of DIPA is that Virtual Private Networks are mentioned nowhere in its 299 pages, even though VPNs are a subject of great interest to Europe, Russia, Iran, China and the United States.

Why Avast Won't Show Source Code To the Government, But Others Do ( 79

An anonymous reader writes: Avast, a security and antivirus company based in Prague, says they refuse to share their source code, and that the U.S. government hasn't even asked them. This is not necessarily the case for the rest of the industry. Over the summer we learned from a report at The Intercept that GCHQ and the NSA had a project to subvert security software so they could use vulnerabilities and exploits to their own advantage. Antivirus firms McAfee and Symantec were notably absent from the list of targets, and Symantec later confirmed over email that they "permitted source code review in controlled environments to meet government requirements." In addition to raising questions about whether a security product can be trusted under such circumstances, it also causes political problems: "Giving assurances to one country, and receiving government certification, can harm a security company in another. China, a known cyber-adversary of the US, accused Symantec last year of including backdoors that could allow outside access -- though it did not specifically say how -- and banned the product from the country."

Virginia Radio Station Broadcasting Chinese Propaganda ( 294

An anonymous reader writes: An investigation by Reuters has uncovered a radio station located just outside Washington, D.C. that broadcasts dedicated Chinese propaganda to the U.S. capital and the surrounding area. In 2009, under new ownership, Virginia-based station WAGE erected new broadcast towers, amplifying its signal by ten times, and changed its call letters to WCRW, for "China Radio Washington." All WCRW programming shares a common theme, with newscasts that avoid any criticism of China and are critical of Beijing's political enemies; for example, a report on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong last year did not explain why people were in the streets, and said only that the demonstrations had "failed without support." WCRW's American owners claim they have no input on content and are only rebroadcasting programming provided to them by a state-sponsored Chinese company to which they lease the airtime. U.S. law requires that anyone seeking to influence American policy or public opinion on behalf of a foreign government must register with the Department of Justice, but according to Reuters, government officials didn't even know WCRW existed until Reuters told them about it.
The Military

US Tech Giants Increasingly Partner With Military-Connected Chinese Companies 100

theodp writes: The New York Times reports that analysts and officials in the American military community are increasingly examining a recent trend among U.S. tech companies of forming new partnerships with Chinese firms that have ties to the Chinese military. Critics are concerned that the growing number of such deals could inadvertently improve the fundamental technology capabilities of the Chinese military — or worse, harm United States national security. "One Chinese technology company receives crucial technical guidance from a former People's Liberation Army rear admiral," notes the Times. "Another company developed the electronics on China's first atomic bomb. A third sells technology to China's air-to-air missile research academy. Their ties to the Chinese military run deep, and they all have something else in common: Each Chinese company counts one of America's tech giants — IBM, Cisco Systems or Microsoft — as a partner." A blurring of the lines among many companies that supply military and commercial technology makes it difficult to know what cooperation might result in technology ultimately being used by China's military. "The Chinese companies are required to do the best for their government. American companies say they are only answerable to their shareholders," said James McGregor of the consulting firm Apco Worldwide. "So who is looking out for the United States?"

Chinese Hackers Targeted Insurer To Learn About US Healthcare ( 157

hackingbear writes: When Anthem revealed a data breach that exposed the details of more than 80 million people, the incident raised a lot of questions: who would conduct such a hack against a health insurance firm? Investigators finally have some answers... and they're not quite what you'd expect. Reportedly, the culprits were Chinese hackers helping their nation understand how US medical care works. It may be part of a concerted campaign to get ready for 2020, when China plans to offer universal health care. Next, we should outsource politicians from China to fix our healthcare system.

China Ends One-Child Policy 279

jones_supa writes: China has scrapped its one-child policy, allowing all couples to have two children for the first time since draconian family planning rules were introduced in 1979. The announcement followed a four-day Communist Party summit in Beijing where China's top leaders debated financial reforms and how to maintain growth at a time of heightened concerns over the economy. China will "fully implement a policy of allowing each couple to have two children as an active response to an ageing population," the party said in a statement published by Xinhua.

MySQL Servers Hijacked With Malware To Perform DDoS Attacks ( 55

An anonymous reader writes with news of a malware campaign using hijacked MySQL servers to launch DDoS attacks. Symantec reports: "Attackers are compromising MySQL servers with the Chikdos malware to force them to conduct DDoS attacks against other targets. According to Symantec telemetry, the majority of the compromised servers are in India, followed by China, Brazil and the Netherlands, and are being used to launch attacks against an US hosting provider and a Chinese IP address."

China May Have Hacked International Hague Tribunal Over South China Sea Dispute ( 47

An anonymous reader writes: In July, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague conducted a hearing on the territorial dispute in the South China Sea between the Philippines and China. On the third day of the hearing, the Court's website was suddenly knocked offline. The attack reportedly originated from China and infected the page with malware, leaving anyone interested in the landmark legal case at risk of data theft. "By infecting the computers of journalists, diplomats, lawyers, and others who are involved or interested in the case, Chinese cyber units may be able to find out the names of people who are following the case and anticipate what their response might be if the court rules against China. For example, if Vietnamese or Japanese diplomats visited the website and their computers were infected, China could have access to internal documents and understand that country’s next moves over the disputed islands."