Verizon slammed for poor hurricane response as Floridians lack cell service

Verizon network still in bad shape—FCC demands refunds and will investigate.

Enlarge / A Verizon logo at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

Wireless carriers' failure to fully restore cellular service in Florida after Hurricane Michael "is completely unacceptable," Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said today in a rare rebuke of the industry that he regulates.

Verizon, in particular, has been under fire from Florida Governor Rick Scott, who says Verizon hasn't done enough to restore service. By contrast, Scott has praised AT&T for its disaster response.

The FCC will open an investigation into the post-hurricane restoration efforts, Pai said. Pai and Scott urged wireless carriers to immediately disclose plans for restoring service, waive the October bills of affected customers, and let customers switch providers without penalty.

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Already facing an uphill misinformation fight, Facebook loses to scammers, too

Facebook’s focus on misinformation is leaving an opening for another type of scam.

Enlarge / A partial screenshot of one of the scam profiles pushing an adult dating scam on Facebook.

Responding to critics in the US Congress and elsewhere who say Facebook isn’t doing enough to stop the flow of disinformation, the social network in recent days has purged hundreds of accounts it found were designed to sway elections, sow social division, and prop up ruthless governments. The focus has left an opening for scammers who routinely use Facebook to send unsuspecting users to fraudulent dating sites.

Randy Abrams, a senior security analyst at Webroot, told Ars that the account belonging to one of his family members was recently compromised. The people behind the compromise used the hacked account to send Abrams requests to like various accounts, which all showed images of scantily clad women inviting visitors to view videos. Many of the fake profiles had followers and likes in excess of 6,500, an indication the scam has been gaining traction. At the time this post went live, the campaign remained active, even after Ars reported it to the company's PR representatives.

The videos redirected to a variety of sites that invited viewers to meet nearby women who wanted sex. Many of the images on these sites showed nude women and asked visitors to enter credit card numbers to proceed. Clicking the browser's back arrow created an endless series of new sites. The only way to get out of the never-ending loop was to close the tab.

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Winamp 6, due out in 2019, aims to whip more llama ass

“You can listen to the MP3s you may have at home, but also to the cloud, to podcasts…”

Computer monitor using Winamp.

Enlarge (credit: Keng Susumpow / Flickr)

Rejoice, llama-whipping fans, a new version of Winamp is set to be released in 2019, according to a Monday report by TechCrunch.

Alexandre Saboundjian, the CEO of Radionomy, said that the upgrade would bring a "complete listening experience."

AudioValley, Radionomy's parent company, did not immediately respond to Ars' request for comment.

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Verizon fiber suffered “unprecedented” damage from Hurricane Michael

Ongoing damage to Verizon fiber delays restoration of cell service.

Enlarge / Vehicles sit partially submerged in floodwaters after Hurricane Michael hit in Panama City, Florida, US, on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

Nearly 300,000 households were still without home Internet, phone, or TV service yesterday in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, as telcos scramble to repair networks damaged by Hurricane Michael. More than 200,000 of the households without cable or wireline service are in Florida, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

Mobile service has also taken a big hit, with outages affecting about 15 percent of cell sites in the 21 Florida counties where the FCC is tracking hurricane-related outages.

Carriers have made progress in reducing those outage numbers the past few days. Nearly 29 percent of tracked cell sites in Florida were out as of October 11, but the outage rate has been nearly cut in half since.

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Here’s how to see if you’re among the 30 million compromised Facebook users

The bad news: Private data was stolen. The good: Fewer accounts were affected.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | NurPhoto )

The attackers who carried out the mass hack that Facebook disclosed two weeks ago obtained user account data belonging to as many as 30 million users, the social network said on Friday. Some of that data—including phone numbers, email addresses, birth dates, searches, location check-ins, and the types of devices used to access the site—came from private accounts or was supposed to be restricted only to friends.

The revelation is the latest black eye for Facebook as it tries to recover from the scandal that came to light earlier this year in which Cambridge Analytica funneled highly personal details of more than 80 million users to an organization supporting then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. When Facebook disclosed the latest breach two weeks ago, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he didn’t know if it allowed attackers to steal users’ private data. Friday’s update made clear that it did, although the 30 million people affected was less than the 50 million estimate previously given. Readers can check this link to see what, if any, data was obtained by the attackers.

On a conference call with reporters, Vice President of Product Management Guy Rosen said that at the request of the FBI, which is investigating the hack, Facebook isn’t providing any information about who the attackers are or their motivations or intentions. That means that for now, affected users should be extra vigilant when reading emails, taking calls, and receiving other types of communications. The ability to know the search queries, location check-ins, phone numbers, email addresses, and other personal details of so many people gives the attackers the ability to send highly customized emails, texts, and voice calls that may try to trick people into turning over money, passwords, or other high-value information.

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Supermicro boards were so bug ridden, why would hackers ever need implants?

Whether spy chips reported by Bloomberg existed, attackers had much easier options.

Article intro image

Enlarge / A Supermicro motherboard. (credit: Supermicro)

By now, everyone knows the premise behind two unconfirmed Bloomberg articles that have dominated security headlines over the past week: spies from China got multiple factories to sneak data-stealing hardware into Supermicro motherboards before the servers that used them were shipped to Apple, Amazon, an unnamed major US telecommunications provider, and more than two dozen other unnamed companies.

Motherboards that wound up inside the networks of Apple, Amazon, and more than two dozen unnamed companies reportedly included a chip no bigger than a grain of rice that funneled instructions to the baseboard management controller, a motherboard component that allows administrators to monitor or control large fleets of servers, even when they’re turned off or corrupted. The rogue instructions, Bloomberg reported, caused the BMCs to download malicious code from attacker-controlled computers and have it executed by the server’s operating system.

Motherboards that Bloomberg said were discovered inside a major US telecom had an implant built into their Ethernet connector that established a “covert staging area within sensitive networks.” Citing Yossi Appleboum, a co-CEO of security company reportedly hired to scan the unnamed telecom’s network for suspicious devices, Bloomberg said the rogue hardware was implanted at the time the server was being assembled at a Supermicro subcontractor factory in Guangzhou. Like the tiny chip reportedly controlling the BMC in Apple and Amazon servers, Bloomberg said the Ethernet manipulation was “designed to give attackers invisible access to data on a computer network.”

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Five graphics from Google show how carbon-intensive its data centers really are

Google wants to match actual energy demand with carbon-free supply.

Enlarge / Solar panels sit on the roof of Google headquarters in Mountain View. (credit: Kimberly White/Corbis via Getty Images)

Google has long been a carbon-neutral company in a theoretical sense. That is, even when it's physically impossible for Google's data centers and offices to consume renewable energy, the company offsets that "dirty" energy with "clean" energy purchases at other times and locations.

The problem is, this does not make Google carbon-neutral in a practical sense, because the company still needs polluting energy sources to keep functioning. In a new report (PDF), Google has acknowledged this limitation and offered a few interesting graphics showing how much carbon-free energy its data centers actually consume.

The report is interesting not just because Google is the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy in the world but also because it shows Google is heading off criticism that has been lobbed at all kinds of corporate buyers of renewable energy, including major players like Facebook and Apple. That is, if you're "offsetting" your carbon emissions by paying a wind farm owner for energy that's created at 2am on land that's 3,000 miles from your data center or factory, how much good have you really done?

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Amazon patents Alexa tech to tell if you’re sick, depressed and sell you meds

Echo could analyze your voice to detect a “physical or emotional abnormality.”

Amazon's Echo smart speaker with its blue light ring illuminated.

An Amazon Echo. (credit: Adam Bowie)

Amazon has patented technology that could let Alexa analyze your voice to determine whether you are sick or depressed and sell you products based on your physical or emotional condition.

The patent, titled "Voice-based determination of physical and emotional characteristics of users," was issued on Tuesday this week; Amazon filed the patent application in March 2017.

The patent describes a voice assistant that can detect "abnormal" physical or emotional conditions. "For example, physical conditions such as sore throats and coughs may be determined based at least in part on a voice input from the user, and emotional conditions such as an excited emotional state or a sad emotional state may be determined based at least in part on voice input from a user," the patent says. "A cough or sniffle, or crying, may indicate that the user has a specific physical or emotional abnormality."

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Apple bets $600 million on improving Apple Watch, iPhone battery life

Apple’s relationship with Dialog goes back many years, to the early iPhone days.

Enlarge / The iPhone X in space gray (left) compared to the iPhone XS in gold (right). You can barely tell the difference from this angle. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Apple struck a huge deal that will push its chip-making ambitions forward. The tech giant agreed to pay $600 million in total to Dialog Semiconductor, a UK-based chipmaker that has been working with Apple since the first iPhones came out.

That large amount of money will go toward two things: $300 million in cash pays for a portion of Dialog's company, including licensing power-management technologies, assets, and more than 300 employees who will now work for Apple. The company will pay the remaining $300 million to Dialog in advance for products to come out within the next three years.

"Dialog has deep expertise in chip development, and we are thrilled to have this talented group of engineers who’ve long supported our products now working directly for Apple," Johny Srouji, Apple’s senior vice president of Hardware Technologies, said in a statement. “Our relationship with Dialog goes all the way back to the early iPhones, and we look forward to continuing this long-standing relationship with them.”

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Robocallers “evolved” to sidestep new call blocking rules, AGs tell FCC

Thirty-five states urge FCC to let carriers block “neighbor spoofing” calls.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | vladru)

The Federal Communications Commission should let phone companies get more aggressive in blocking robocalls, 35 state attorneys general told the commission yesterday.

The FCC last year authorized voice service providers to block more types of calls in which the Caller ID has been spoofed or in which the number on the Caller ID is invalid. But the FCC did not go far enough, and robocallers have "evolved" to evade the new rules, the 35 attorneys general wrote in an FCC filing:

One specific method which has evolved recently is a form of illegal spoofing called "neighbor spoofing." A neighbor-spoofed call will commonly appear on a consumer's caller ID with the same area code and local exchange as the consumer to increase the likelihood he/she will answer the call. In addition, consumers have recently reported receiving calls where their own phone numbers appeared on their caller ID. A consumer who answered one such call reported the caller attempted to trick her by saying he was with the phone company and required personal information to verify the account, claiming it had been hacked.

The attorneys general said they "encourage the FCC to adopt rules authorizing providers to block these and other kinds of illegally spoofed calls."

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