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  • IOTA Cryptocurrency Shut Down Its Entire Network After a Wallet Breach
    The nonprofit organization behind the IOTA cryptocurrency shut down its entire network this week after someone exploited a vulnerability their wallet app to steal funds. ZDNet reports: The attack happened this week, Wednesday, on February 12, 2020, according to a message the foundation posted on its official Twitter account. According to a status page detailing the incident, within 25 minutes of receiving reports that hackers were stealing funds from user wallets, the IOTA Foundation shut down "Coordinator," a node in the IOTA network that puts the final seal of approval on any IOTA currency transactions. The never-before-seen move was meant to prevent hackers from executing new thefts, but also had the side-effect of effectively shut down the entire IOTA cryptocurrency... IOTA members said hackers used an exploit in "a third-party integration" of Trinity, a mobile and desktop wallet app developed by the IOTA Foundation. Based on current evidence, confirmed by the IOTA team, it is believed that hackers targeted at least 10 high-value IOTA accounts and used the Trinity exploit to steal funds. Sunday the team released "a safe version" of their Trinity Desktop "to allow users to check their balance and transactions. This version (1.4.0) removes the vulnerability announced on 12th February 2020..." Their status page advised users to contact a member of the IOTA Foundation if their balance looks incorrect. "Please be aware that there are unfortunately active imposters posing as IOTA Foundation personnel on our Discord. Therefore it is important that you directly initiate contact with the IF or mod team yourself..." "The Coordinator remains down for now as we finalise our remediation plan. You will not be able to send value transactions."

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  • Iran Has Been Targeting VPN Servers to Plant Backdoors
    "A new report published today reveals that Iran's government-backed hacking units have made a top priority last year to exploit VPN bugs as soon as they became public in order to infiltrate and plant backdoors in companies all over the world," writes ZDNet: According to a report from Israeli cyber-security firm ClearSky, Iranian hackers have targeted companies "from the IT, Telecommunication, Oil and Gas, Aviation, Government, and Security sectors." The report comes to dispel the notion that Iranian hackers are not sophisticated, and less talented than their Russian, Chinese, or North Korean counterparts. ClearSky says that "Iranian APT groups have developed good technical offensive capabilities and are able to exploit 1-day vulnerabilities in relatively short periods of time." [ATP stands for "advanced persistent threat" and is often used to describe nation-state backed cyberattackers.] In some instances, ClearSky says it observed Iranian groups exploiting VPN flaws within hours after the bugs have been publicly disclosed... According to the ClearSky report, the purpose of these attacks is to breach enterprise networks, move laterally throughout their internal systems, and plant backdoors to exploit at a later date.

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  • NASA is Looking for New Astronauts
    "With a renewed interest in sending humans back to the Moon and then eventually to Mars, NASA needs all the able-bodied space explorers it can get..." writes BGR. "The requirements are, well, pretty strict, but what else would you expect from a group that sends humans into space?" Quoting NASA.gov: Since the 1960s, NASA has selected 350 people to train as astronaut candidates for its increasingly challenging missions to explore space. With 48 astronauts in the active astronaut corps, more will be needed to crew spacecraft bound for multiple destinations and propel exploration forward as part of Artemis missions and beyond... The basic requirements to apply include United States citizenship and a master's degree in a STEM field, including engineering, biological science, physical science, computer science, or mathematics, from an accredited institution... Candidates also must have at least two years of related, progressively responsible professional experience, or at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft. Astronaut candidates must pass the NASA long-duration spaceflight physical... As part of the application process, applicants will, for the first time, be required to take an online assessment that will require up to two hours to complete... After completing training, the new astronauts could launch on American rockets and spacecraft developed for NASA's Commercial Crew Program to live and work aboard the International Space Station, 250 miles above Earth, where they will take part in experiments that benefit life at home and prepare us for more distant exploration. They may also launch on NASA's powerful new Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, docking the spacecraft at the Gateway in lunar orbit before taking a new human landing system to the Moon's surface. After returning humans to the Moon in 2024, NASA plans to establish sustainable lunar exploration by 2028. Gaining new experiences on and around the Moon will prepare NASA to send the first humans to Mars in the mid-2030s. NASA expects to select the new class of astronaut candidates in mid-2021 to begin training as the next class of Artemis Generation astronauts. "We're celebrating our 20th year of continuous presence aboard the International Space Station in low-Earth orbit this year..." NASA said in its statement. Applications will be accepted from March 2nd through March 31st.

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  • Alternative Browser 'Waterfox' Acquired By System1
    Waterfox is an open-source web browser for x64, ARM64, and PPC64LE systems, "intended to be speedy and ethical, and maintain support for legacy extensions dropped by Firefox, from which it is forked," according to Wikipedia. (Its tabs also still have angled sides with rounded corners.) Friday Waterfox's original creator, 24-year-old Alexandros Kontos, announced that the browser "now has funding and a development team, so Waterfox can finally start to grow!" after its acquisition by a company called System1. I started Waterfox when I was 16. It was a way for me to understand how large software projects worked and the Mozilla documentation was a great introduction... I've touted Waterfox as an ethical and privacy friendly browser... I never wanted Waterfox to be a part of the hyper-privacy community. It would just feel like standards that would be impossible to uphold, especially for something such as a web browser on the internet. Throughout the years people have always asked about Waterfox and privacy, and if they've ever wanted more than it can afford, I've always pushed them to use Tor. Waterfox was here for customisations and speed, with a good level of privacy... I wasn't doing anything with Waterfox except developing it and making some money via search. Why I kept going throughout the years, I'll never know... System1 has been to Waterfox a search syndication partner. Essentially a way to have a search engine partnership (such as Bing) is through them, because companies such as Microsoft are too big and too busy to talk to small players such as Waterfox... It's probably the one easy way a browser can make money without doing anything dodgy, and it's a way I've been happy to do it without having to compromise Waterfox (and will be the same way System1 makes money from Waterfox -- nothing else). People also don't seem to understand what System1 does... "Now I can finally focus on making Waterfox into a viable alternative to the big browsers," Kontos concludes. Long-time Slashdot reader Freshly Exhumed contextualized the news with this brief history of the alternate browser ecosystem: As the usage share of web browsers continues to show a lopsideded dominance by Google Chrome, many previously-independent browsers have fallen by the wayside or have been reinvented as Chrome variants (i.e. Opera, Edge, Brave). Apple forges on with its Safari browser while other, smaller projects tend to be quite limited for multi-platform users, such as Dolphin and Bromite. Mozilla continues independently with Firefox for almost every platform, while variants such as Pale Moon and Sea Monkey have attempted to provide products that avoid drastic and/or controversial changes made by Mozilla but sometimes do not match the multi-platform support of Firefox. Let us not forget Tor, the Firefox-based anonymity-focused browser. Alex Kontos is a developer who attempted to provide continuity with dropped Firefox capabilities in his multi-platform Waterfox browser, proudly declaring that Firefox's user data sharing and telemetry collection was not included. For that privacy focus a certain popularity of Waterfox occurred. Now Kontos has revealed that his Waterfox project has been sold to System1, a company describing itself as "a consumer internet and applications company with the most powerful audience expansion platform in the industry."

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  • Dark Mode vs. Light Mode: Which Is Better?
    Recently a well-respected UI consulting firm (the Nielsen Norman Group) published their analysis of academic studies on the question of whether Dark Mode or Light Mode was better for reading? Cosima Piepenbrock and her colleagues at the Institut für Experimentelle Psychologie in Düsseldorf, Germany studied two groups of adults with normal (or corrected-to-normal) vision: young adults (18 to 33 years old) and older adults (60 to 85 years old). None of the participants suffered from any eye diseases (e.g., cataract)... Their results showed that light mode won across all dimensions: irrespective of age, the positive contrast polarity was better for both visual-acuity tasks and for proofreading tasks... Another study, published in the journal Human Factors by the same research group, looked at how text size interacts with contrast polarity in a proofreading task. It found that the positive-polarity advantage increased linearly as the font size was decreased: namely, the smaller the font, the better it is for users to see the text in light mode. Interestingly, even though their performance was better in the light mode, participants in the study did not report any difference in their perception of text readability (e.g., their ability to focus on text) in light versus dark mode — which only reinforces the first rule of usability: don't listen to users... While dark mode may present some advantages for some low-vision users — in particular, those with cloudy ocular media such as cataract, the research evidence points in the direction of an advantage of positive polarity for normal-vision users. In other words, in users with normal vision, light mode leads to better performance most of the time... These findings are best explained by the fact that, with positive contrast polarity, there is more overall light and so the pupil contracts more. As a result, there are fewer spherical aberrations, greater depth of field, and overall better ability to focus on details without tiring the eyes... That being said, we strongly recommend that designers allow users to switch to dark mode if they want to — for three reasons: (1) there may be long-term effects associated with light mode; (2) some people with visual impairments will do better with dark mode; and (3) some users simply like dark mode better. The long-term effects associated with light mode come from an "intriguing" 2018 study they found which argued that reading white text from a black screen or tablet "may be a way to inhibit myopia, while conventional black text on white background may stimulate myopia..." The researchers wrote that myopia "is tightly linked to the educational status and is on the rise worldwide."

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