And now, a 5-minute ad for a service that lets you start your own ransomware "business"

Philadelphia is a crimeware-as-a-service business that sells a highly customizable ransomware package for budding entrepreneurs who want to dabble in crime. Read the rest

Wells Fargo: preventing the customers we ripped off from suing us is doing them a favor

Wells Fargo admits that its employees opened more than 2,000,000 fake accounts in order to run up fraudulent charges against its customers (employees who balked at committing fraud were fired and blacklisted for life from the banking industry); it also says that the customers it stole from can't sue the company because fake account paperwork bearing their forged signatures includes a promise to enter into binding arbitration rather than suing. Read the rest

The US Patent Office just (in 2017!) awarded IBM a patent over out-of-office email

On January 17, 2017 -- yes, 2017 -- the USPTO granted Patent 9,547,842 to IBM: "Out-of-office electronic mail messaging system." Read the rest

US border guards can't believe Nigerian man is a software engineer, google "questions to ask a software engineer" and give him a pop quiz

Celestine Omin is a Nigerian software engineer who works for Andela, a technology company backed by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, founded to give talented African coders an entree into the leading American tech firms; this week, he flew to the USA on a B1/B2 visa to meet with the company, but he found himself detained at the border. Read the rest

Collapsing "connected toy" company did nothing while hackers stole millions of voice recordings of kids and parents

Spiral Toys -- a division of Mready, a Romanian electronics company that lost more than 99% of its market-cap in 2015 -- makes a line of toys called "Cloudpets," that use an app to allow parents and children to exchange voice-messages with one another. They exposed a database of millions of these messages, along with sensitive private information about children and parents, for years, without even the most basic password protections -- and as the company imploded, they ignored both security researchers and blackmailers who repeatedly contacted them to let them know that all this data was being stolen. Read the rest

The internet promised open markets, delivered rigged ones, then fake ones, then outright monopolies

Markets don't solve all our problems, but they sometimes produce remarkably efficient systems for producing and distributing goods, and the internet traded on that promise with marketplaces like Ebay (anyone can sell, anyone can buy); Google (anyone can publish, anyone can read), and Amazon (one marketplace where all goods are transparently priced and ranked). Read the rest

Pipelines considered pointless: Big oil seems to be (finally) abandoning Canada's filthy tar sands

Canada's tar sands -- rebranded in this century as "oil sands" -- are the source of some of the world's filthiest and most expensive oil, which can only be extracted by burning tons of already-refined oil to boil tons of sand, producing a product that sells at a global discount because it is so adulterated. Read the rest

Networking by flickering lights gets some commercial traction

Philips has acquired Luciom, a French startup that makes Li-Fi products, which allow for very fast network connections over short distances by flickering an LED at speeds that are too fast to register on the human eye, and which can ever work in the dark by operating at low dimness settings the human eye perceives as "off." Read the rest

Wearing an activity tracker gives insurance companies the data they need to discriminate against people like you

Many insurers offer breaks to people who wear activity trackers that gather data on them; as Cathy "Mathbabe" O'Neil points out, the allegedly "anonymized' data-collection is trivial to re-identify (so this data might be used against you), and, more broadly, the real business model for this data isn't improving your health outcomes -- it's dividing the world into high-risk and low-risk people, so insurers can charge people more. Read the rest

A "travel mode" for social media - after all, you don't take all your other stuff with you on the road

As the US government ramps up its insistence that visitors (and US citizens) unlock their devices and provide their social media accounts, the solution have run the gamut from extreme technological caution, abandoning mobile devices while traveling, or asking the government to rethink its policy. But Maciej Cegłowski has another solution: a "travel mode" for our social media accounts. Read the rest

Federal courts resist transparency, but the Free Law Project fights back

In the age of Internet, discussions about the federal government and its functions are informed by and rely on our unprecedented access to federal documents. Anyone can freely view public records online, such as proposed Congressional legislation and presidential executive orders. Accessing public court documents, however, is a bit trickier. As Katherine Mangu-Ward wrote for the Wall Street Journal in 2011, "no aspect of government remains more locked down than the secretive, hierarchical judicial branch."

The previous owners of used "smart" cars can still control them via the cars' apps (not just cars!)

It's not just that smart cars' Android apps are sloppily designed and thus horribly insecure; they are also deliberately designed with extremely poor security choices: even if you factory-reset a car after it is sold as used, the original owner can still locate it, honk its horn, and unlock its doors. Read the rest

"Artisanal" Nintendo console cartridge hacker creates impossible alternate history games

Josh Jacobson is a Nintendo cartridge hacker who makes homebrew cartridges for games that were never released for NES/SNES, complete with label art and colored plastic cases that makes them look like they came from an alternate universe where (for example), there was a Nintendo version of Sonic the Hedgehog. Read the rest

Millions of lead-filled CRTs have been abandoned in warehouses across America

The swift replacement of CRT screens with flat panels created tons of extremely toxic e-waste, with dangerous tubes and leaded glass posing unique environmental and safety hazards for disposal workers and sites. Read the rest

In China's once poverty-stricken villages, former peasants manufacture a single product for one retailer

Alibaba subsidiary Taobao has given rise to "Taobao Villages" -- 18 villages that were once among China's poorest places, where former peasant farmers have attained prosperity by working in factories that produce a single class of goods (for example, Daiji township, a remote town in Shandong where most working age people have moved away, is now a high-speed-fiber linked booming factory town dedicated to "acting and dance costumes"). Read the rest

Disney wants to build an "aerial tramway" between the Disney World parks

Disney's "skybuckets" are fondly remembered as the best place in the themepark to do some sneaky kissin', but they were also a magnet for antisocial behavior, from smoking weed to spitting on people to jumping out of them -- and they proved lethal to park maintenance crews. Read the rest

How trolls like Milo Yiannopoulos monetize your hate, and what to do about it

This week's edition of the always, always-excellent On the Media podcast featured an interview (MP3) with notorious (and self-confessed) media manipulator Ryan Holiday, whose book, Trust Me, I'm Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator describes his career in PR, in which he perfected the art of making terrible people rich by getting decent people to hate them. Read the rest

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