Thursday, September 17, 2020

Bronze Age Europeans Couldn't Drink Milk, It Seems

About 3000 years ago, thousands of warriors fought on the banks of the Tollense river in northern Germany. They wielded weapons of wood, stone, and bronze to deadly effect: Over the past decade, archaeologists have unearthed the skeletal remains of hundreds of people buried in marshy soil. It's one of the largest prehistoric conflicts ever discovered. Now, genetic testing of the skeletons reveals the homelands of the warriors—and unearths a shocker about early European diets: These soldiers couldn't digest fresh milk...

The results leave scientists more puzzled than ever about exactly when and why Europeans began to drink milk. "Natural genetic drift can't explain it, and there's no evidence that it was population turnover either," says Christina Warinner, a geneticist at Harvard University and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History who was not involved with the study. "It's almost embarrassing that this is the strongest example of selection we have and we can't really explain it."

Perhaps something about fresh milk helped people ward off disease in the increasingly crowded and pathogen-ridden European towns and villages of the Iron Age and Roman period, says the study's co-author. But he admits he's baffled too. "We have to find a reason why you need this drink."

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Does Wok-from-Home Cripple a Segment of the Economy?

With the pandemic sending millions of workers home, suggests MIT economist David Autor in a paper last month, the office economy is under threat. The pandemic, he and his co-author, Elisabeth Reynolds, a lecturer at MIT, write, has made a permanent shift to remote work for a large part of the office workforce a near certainty. And with that, tens of thousands of workers in the office support economy — those who “feed, transport, clothe, entertain, and shelter people when they are not in their own homes” — will lose their jobs.

Read more here...




Friday, September 11, 2020

Windows Custom Themes Can Be Used to Steal Credentials

Researcher Jimmy Bayne (@bohops) revealed that specially crafted Windows themes could be used to perform Pass-the-Hash attacks. Pass-the-Hash attacks are used to steal Windows login names and password hashes by tricking a user into accessing a remote SMB share that requires authentication. 

When trying to access the remote resource, Windows will automatically try to login to the remote system by sending the Windows user's login name and an NTLM hash of their password. In a Pass-the-Hash attack, the sent credentials are harvested by the attackers, who then attempt to dehash the password to access the visitors' login name and password.

Specially crafted Windows 10 themes and theme packs can be used in 'Pass-the-Hash' attacks to steal Windows account credentials from unsuspecting users. Windows allows users to create custom themes that contain customized colors, sounds, mouse cursors, and the wallpaper that the operating system will use. Windows users can then switch between different themes as desired to change the appearance of the operating system. 

A theme's settings are saved under the %AppData%\Microsoft\Windows\Themes folder as a file with a .theme extension, such as 'Custom Dark.theme.' Windows themes can then be shared with other users by right-clicking on an active theme and selecting 'Save theme for sharing,' which will package the theme into a '.deskthemepack' file. These desktop theme packs can then be shared via email or as downloads on websites, and installed by double-clicking them. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

NSA Surveillance Was Unconstitutional

The National Security Agency program that swept up details on billions of Americans' phone calls was illegal and possibly unconstitutional, a federal appeals court ruled:

However, the unanimous three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the role the so-called telephone metadata program played in a criminal terror-fundraising case against four Somali immigrants was so minor that it did not undermine their convictions. 

The long-awaited decision is a victory for prosecutors, but some language in the court's opinion could be viewed as a rebuke of sorts to officials who defended the snooping by pointing to the case involving Basaaly Moalin and three other men found guilty by a San Diego jury in 2013 on charges of fundraising for Al-Shabaab. Judge Marsha Berzon's opinion, which contains a half-dozen references to the role of former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden in disclosing the NSA metadata program, concludes that the "bulk collection" of such data violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. 

The call-tracking effort began without court authorization under President George W. Bush following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. A similar program was approved by the secretive FISA Court beginning in 2006 and renewed numerous times, but the 9th Circuit panel said those rulings were legally flawed.

Read more... 


Monday, August 31, 2020

Skynet is on its way - AI wins against human fighter pilot in DARPA dogfight

As we read over at some military news site,

DARPA's AlphaDogfight trials have officially come to a close with Heron Systems' incredible artificial intelligence pilot system defeating not only its industry competitors, but going on to secure 5 straight victories against a highly trained U.S. Air Force F-16 pilot, without the human pilot scoring a single hit.

This should not be confused with the Intelligent Flight Control System (IFCS), a next-generation flight control system designed to provide increased safety for the crew and passengers of aircraft as well as to optimize the aircraft performance under normal conditions. What is most valuable to 99% of the rest of the world -- outside of military applications -- is regarding passenger planes which fly autonomously. Software would have to be capable of handling emergency situations. At present, modern airliners do a good job of flying automatically until something unexpected happens. At that point, a pilot takes control and typically resolves the problem. Very rarely, though, a pilot must act to save the aircraft from catastrophe. 

There's more details about autonomous flight over at the I-triple-E, Application of AI Methods to Aircraft Guidance and Control.