Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired How Facebook Hackers Compromised 30 Million Accounts

Hexbyte Tech News Wired How Facebook Hackers Compromised 30 Million Accounts

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

After two weeks of investigation, Facebook announced additional details on Friday of how attackers carried out a massive breach of the social network that compromised accounts for tens of millions of users. The company downgraded its estimate of how many users had their access tokens stolen from an original estimate of at least 50 million to 30 million—and shed new light on exactly how an attack of this magnitude happened in the first place.

Facebook had previously said that hackers took advantage of three vulnerabilities in the “View As” feature—which lets users see what their profile looks like to other users—to grab access tokens that could then allow them to infiltrate user accounts. The flaws had been present in the platform since July 2017, but the company first detected a rise in suspicious activity on September 14 of this year. That eventually led it to discover the bugs, and the attack they enabled, on September 25.

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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired How to Check If Your Facebook Account Got Hacked—And How Badly

Hexbyte Tech News Wired How to Check If Your Facebook Account Got Hacked—And How Badly

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

Halie Chavez; Martin Barraud/Getty Images

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

Halie Chavez; Martin Barraud/Getty Images

At the end of last month, Facebook made a bombshell disclosure: As many as 90 million of its users may have had their so-called access tokens—which keep you logged into your account, so you don’t have to sign in every time—stolen by hackers. Friday, the company put the actual number at 30 million. Here’s how to see if you were one of them, and if so, what the hackers got from your account.

There might understandably be some confusion around the matter; a few weeks ago, Facebook logged out 90 million of its users out of an abundance of caution, making them reset their passwords and negating the access token hack. Over the next few days, Facebook will insert a customized message into the News Feeds of the 30 million people whose accounts were actually impacted, based on the extent of the damage.

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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired Dietary Supplements Can Contain Viagra, Steroids, or Worse

Hexbyte Tech News Wired Dietary Supplements Can Contain Viagra, Steroids, or Worse

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

You know those sexual enhancement dietary supplements for sale at gas stations and markets across the country? Beware, they might actually be viagra. Or steroids. Or an antidepressant. Many supposed dietary supplements for weight loss, erectile dysfunction, and muscle building may contain actual pharmaceuticals—but you likely have no way of knowing what’s in them.

Between 2007 and 2016, the FDA issued warnings about unapproved pharmaceutical ingredients in 776 dietary supplements, according to a new report in JAMA Network Open. Of those, less than half received voluntary recalls. The authors compiled their data from the FDA’s own warning website. Known as the Tainted Products Marketed as Supplements List, it catalogs any time the FDA reports finding unapproved pharmaceutical ingredients in supplements. The hundreds of offending supplements the FDA found during that nine-year period traced back to 146 companies. These represent only a small fraction of the potentially hazardous supplements on the market.

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Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers Epic Games Sues YouTuber ‘Golden Modz’ Over ‘Magical’ Fortnite Powers – TorrentFreak

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers Epic Games Sues YouTuber ‘Golden Modz’ Over ‘Magical’ Fortnite Powers – TorrentFreak

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers

With more than 1.7 million subscribers, ‘Golden Modz’ ranks among the more popular gaming YouTubers. In his videos, he often showcases GTA 5 and Fortnite cheats, referring to them as ‘magical powers,’ which are sold on a linked website. This type of magic is not what Epic Games wants to see and this week they sued Golden Modz and another alleged cheater for copyright infringement.

Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers Last year Epic Games started to sue several Fortnite cheaters, accusing them of copyright infringement.

With these lawsuits the company hopes to stop the cheaters and send a clear message to others who do the same. However, Fortnite cheating remains rampant.

This week Epic Games continued its efforts by suing a rather prominent target, Golden Modz, who they’ve identified as Brandon Lucas. With more than 1.7 million subscribers on YouTube, he is the most high profile target we’ve seen thus far.

The complaint, filed at a North Carolina Federal Court, accuses ‘Golden Modz’ of copyright infringement and also names Colton Conter, a.k.a. ‘Exentric,’ as a second defendant.

“This is a copyright infringement, breach of contract, and tortious interference case in which the Defendants are infringing Epic’s copyrights by injecting unauthorized cheat software (‘cheats’ or ‘hacks’) into the copyright protected code of Epic’s popular video game Fortnite®,” Epic Games writes.

Both defendants have displayed their use of cheats in various YouTube videos. By using these cheats, they inject code into the game which modifies the original, which is a clear violation of copyright law, according to Epic Games.

Even worse, Golden Modz also stands accused of selling cheats online through the websites goldengodz.com and gtagods.com, which are often advertised in his gameplay videos.

“Lucas is operating these websites and selling these cheats and accounts for his own personal enrichment. He posts videos of people using the cheats for the same reason. His ill-gotten gains come at the expense of Epic and members of the Fortnite community.”

Cheats for sale

Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers

Golden Modz and Exentric team up on occasion, which appears to be the case in this video. They refer to their cheats as magical powers, informing viewers where to buy these, while hosting giveaways as well.

“At the end of the stream, I’m gonna do a three month of Fortnite magical powers giveaway. Definitely not cheats – wink wink – its magical powers okay,” Golden Modz notes.

According to Epic Games and the video’s title, there is little magical about these powers.

“In some of their YouTube videos, Defendants play (sometimes together) in duos and squads, and joke that the cheat software gives its users ‘magical’ powers, allowing them to ‘troll’ Fortnite by killing dozens of other players and ‘win’ the game,” the complaint reads.

Teaming up

The complaint points out several videos where the defendants showcase their hacks and cheats. Epic has asked YouTube to remove several of these, which hasn’t gone unnoticed.

In fact, last month Golden Modz uploaded a video titled “I am getting sued by fortnite…” which, as it turns out, was rather prophetical. In the video, he notes that many other YouTubers are creating these videos, and he doesn’t really see his actions as problematic.

“I’m almost kind of feeling I’m being discriminated against by Epic Games you know I’m just a kid that’s making YouTube videos and a lot of people were enjoying this,” Golden Modz said.

Epic Games clearly disagrees and the company wants to be compensated for its losses. They’re suing both defendants for copyright infringement and breach of contract, adding several other claims including contributory copyright infringement against Golden Modz specifically.

“Defendants should be permanently enjoined from continuing to engage in the conduct complained of herein, their profits should be disgorged, and they should be ordered to pay Epic’s damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs related to this action,” Epic writes.

A copy of the complaint, obtained by TorrentFreak, is available here (pdf).

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Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers This Is The Real Reason We Haven’t Directly Detected Dark Matter

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers This Is The Real Reason We Haven’t Directly Detected Dark Matter

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers

Physicists assemble the LUX (Large Underground Xenon) detector, which was one of the world’s most sensitive searches for the direct detection of dark matter particles. When in place inside the Homestake mine, the liquid-xenon-filled capsule hoped to detect three or four particles of dark matter a year. It wound up detecting zero. (John B. Carnett/Bonnier Corporation via Getty Images)

Finding the particle we assume is responsible for dark matter has always been a guessing game. We guessed wrong.

You can’t get mad at a team for trying the improbable, hoping that nature cooperates. Some of the most famous discoveries of all time have come about thanks to nothing more than mere serendipity, and so if we can test something at low-cost with an insanely high reward, we tend to go for it. Believe it or not, that’s the mindset that’s driving the direct searches for dark matter.

In order to understand how to find dark matter, however, you have to first understand what we know so far, and what the evidence points to as far as direct detection goes. We haven’t found it yet, but that’s okay. Not finding dark matter in an experiment is not evidence that dark matter doesn’t exist. The indirect evidence all shows that it’s real. The question before us is how to demonstrate its reality, hopefully by finding the particle responsible for it directly.

The particles and antiparticles of the Standard Model of particle physics are exactly in line with what experiments require, with only massive neutrinos providing a difficulty and requiring beyond-the-standard-model physics. Dark matter, whatever it is, cannot be any one of these particles, nor can it be a composite of these particles. (E. SIEGEL / BEYOND THE GALAXY)

Let’s begin with a basic recap of dark matter: the idea, the motivation, the observations, the theory and then we’ll talk about the hunt.

The idea. You know the basics: there are all the protons, neutrons and electrons that make up our bodies, our planet and all the matter we’re familiar with, as well as some photons (light, radiation, etc.) thrown in there for good measure. Protons and neutrons can be broken up into even more fundamental particles — the quarks and gluons — and along with the other Standard Model particles, make up all the known matter in the Universe.

The big idea of dark matter is that there’s something other than these known particles contributing in a significant way to the total amounts of matter in the Universe. Why would we think such a thing?

The two bright, large galaxies at the center of the Coma Cluster, NGC 4889 (left) and the slightly smaller NGC 4874 (right), each exceed a million light years in size. But the galaxies on the outskirts, zipping around so rapidly, points to the existence of a large halo of dark matter throughout the entire cluster. (ADAM BLOCK/MOUNT LEMMON SKYCENTER/UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA)

The motivation. We know how stars work, and we know how gravity works. If we look at galaxies, clusters of galaxies and go all the way up to the largest-scale structures in the Universe, we can extrapolate two things. One: how much mass there is in these structures at every level. We look at the motions of these objects, we look at the gravitational rules that govern orbiting bodies, whether something is bound or not, how it rotates, how structure forms, etc., and we get a number for how much matter there has to be in there. Two: we know how stars work, so as long as we can measure the starlight coming from these objects, we can know how much mass is there in stars.

These two numbers don’t match, and they don’t match spectacularly. There had to be something more than just stars responsible for the vast majority of mass in the Universe. This is true for the stars within individual galaxies of all sizes all the way up to the largest clusters of thousands of galaxies in the Universe.

The predicted abundances of helium-4, deuterium, helium-3 and lithium-7 as predicted by Big Bang Nucleosynthesis, with observations shown in the red circles. The Universe is 75–76% hydrogen, 24–25% helium, a little bit of deuterium and helium-3, and a trace amount of lithium by mass. After tritium and beryllium decay away, this is what we’re left with, and this remains unchanged until stars form. Only about 1/6th of the Universe’s matter can be in the form of this normal (baryonic, or atom-like) matter. (NASA / WMAP SCIENCE TEAM)

The observations. This is where it gets fun, because there are a ton of them; I’ll focus on just three. When we extrapolate the laws of physics all the way back to the earliest times in the Universe, we find that there was not only a time so early when the Universe was hot enough that neutral atoms couldn’t form, but there was a time where even nuclei couldn’t form! The formation of the first elements in the Universe after the Big Bang — due to Big Bang Nucleosynthesis — tells us with very, very small errors how much total “normal matter” is there in the Universe. Although there is significantly more than what’s around in stars, it’s only about one-sixth of the total amount of matter we know is there.

The fluctuations in the Cosmic Microwave Background were first measured accurately by COBE in the 1990s, then more accurately by WMAP in the 2000s and Planck (above) in the 2010s. This image encodes a huge amount of information about the early Universe, including its composition, age, and history. The fluctuations are only tens to hundreds of microkelvin in magnitude, but definitively point to the existence of both normal and dark matter in a 1:5 ratio. (ESA AND THE PLANCK COLLABORATION)

The fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background are particularly interesting. They tell us what fraction of the Universe is in the form of normal (protons+neutrons+electrons) matter, what fraction is in radiation, and what fraction is in non-normal, or dark matter, among other things. Again, they give us that same ratio: that dark matter is about five-sixths of all the matter in the Universe.

The observations of baryon acoustic oscillations in the magnitude where they’re seen, on large scales, indicate that the Universe is made of mostly dark matter, with only a small percentage of normal matter causing these ‘wiggles’ in the graph above. (MICHAEL KUHLEN, MARK VOGELSBERGER, AND RAUL ANGULO)

And finally, there’s how structure forms on the largest scales. This is particularly important, because we can not only see the ratio of normal-to-dark matter in the magnitude of the wiggles in the graph above, but we can tell that the dark matter is cold, or moving below a certain speed even when the Universe is very young. This pieces of knowledge lead to outstanding, precise theoretical predictions.

According to models and simulations, all galaxies should be embedded in dark matter halos, whose densities peak at the galactic centers. On long enough timescales, of perhaps a billion years, a single dark matter particle from the outskirts of the halo will complete one orbit. The effects of gas, feedback, star formation, supernovae, and radiation all complicate this environment, making it extremely difficult to extract universal dark matter predictions.(NASA, ESA, AND T. BROWN AND J. TUMLINSON (STSCI))

The theory. This tells us that around every galaxy and cluster of galaxies, there should be an extremely large, diffuse halo of dark matter. This dark matter should have practically no “collisions” with normal matter — upper limits indicate that it would take light-years of solid lead for a dark matter particle to have a 50/50 shot of interacting just once — there should be plenty of dark matter particles passing undetected through Earth, me and you every second, and dark matter should also not collide or interact with itself, the way normal matter does.

There are some indirect ways of detecting this: the first is to study what’s called gravitational lensing.

When there are bright, massive galaxies in the background of a cluster, their light will get stretched, magnified and distorted due to the general relativistic effects known as gravitational lensing. (NASA, ESA, AND JOHAN RICHARD (CALTECH, USA) ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: DAVIDE DE MARTIN & JAMES LONG (ESA / HUBBLE)NASA, ESA, AND J. LOTZ AND THE HFF TEAM, STSCI)

By looking at how the background light gets distorted by the presence of intervening mass (solely from the laws of general relativity), we can reconstruct how much mass is in that object. There’s got to be dark matter in there, but from looking at colliding clusters of galaxies, we learn something even more profound.

The gravitational lensing map (blue), overlayed over the optical and X-ray (pink) data of the Bullet cluster. The mismatch of the locations of the X-rays and the inferred mass is undeniable. (X-RAY: NASA/CXC/CFA/M.MARKEVITCH ET AL.; LENSING MAP: NASA/STSCI; ESO WFI; MAGELLAN/U.ARIZONA/D.CLOWE ET AL.; OPTICAL: NASA/STSCI; MAGELLAN/U.ARIZONA/D.CLOWE ET AL.)

The dark matter really does pass right through one another, and accounts for the vast majority of the mass; the normal matter in the form of gas creates shocks (in X-ray/pink, above), and only accounts for some 15% of the total mass in there. In other words, about five-sixths of that mass is dark matter! By looking at colliding galaxy clusters and monitoring how both the observable matter and the total gravitational mass behaves, we can come up with an astrophysical, empirical proof for the existence of dark matter.

But that’s indirect; we know there’s supposed to be a particle associated with it, and that’s what the hunt is all about.

If dark matter does have a self-interaction, its cross-section is tremendously low, as direct detection experiments have shown. It also doesn’t scatter very much off of nuclei. (Mirabolfathi, Nader arXiv:1308.0044 [astro-ph.IM])

The hunt. This is the great hope: for direct detection. Because we don’t know what’s beyond the standard model — we’ve never discovered a single particle not encompassed by it — we don’t know what dark matter’s particle (or particles) properties should be, should look like, or how to find it. We don’t even know if it’s all one thing, or if it’s made up of a variety of different particles.

So we look at what we’d be able to detect instead, and look there. We can look for interactions down to a certain cross-section, but no lower. We can look for energy recoils down to a certain minimum energy, but no lower. And at some point, experimental limitations — natural radioactivity, cosmic neutrons, solar/cosmic neutrinos, etc. — make it impossible to extract a signal below a certain threshold.

Hall B of LNGS with XENON installations, with the detector installed inside the large water shield. If there’s any non-zero cross section between dark matter and normal matter, not only will an experiment like this have a chance at detecting dark matter directly, but there’s a chance that dark matter will eventually interact with your human body. (INFN)

Long story short: the latest experiment to search for dark matter directly didn’t find it, at least not yet. That’s been the story for every direct detection experiment ever performed, confirmed, and robustly tested, over and over again.

And that’s okay! Unless dark matter happens to be of a certain mass with a certain interaction cross-section, none of the designed experiments are going to see it. That doesn’t mean dark matter isn’t real, it just means that dark matter is something else than what our experiments are optimized to find.

The cryogenic setup of one of the experiments looking to exploit the hypothetical interactions between dark matter and electromagnetism. Yet if dark matter doesn’t have specific properties that current experiments are testing for, none of the ones we’ve even imagined will ever see it directly. (AXION DARK MATTER EXPERIMENT (ADMX) / LLNL’S FLICKR)

So we keep looking, we keep thinking of new possibilities for what it could be, and we keep thinking of new ways to search for it. That’s what science at the frontiers is like. Personally, I don’t expect these direct detection attempts to be successful; we’re stabbing in the dark hoping we hit something, and there are little-to-no good reasons for dark matter to be in these ranges. But it’s what we could see, so we go for it. If we find it, Nobel Prizes and new physics discoveries for everyone, and if we don’t, we know a little more about where the new physics isn’t. But just as you shouldn’t fall for the hyper-sensationalized claims that dark matter has been directly detected, you shouldn’t fall for the ones that say “there’s no dark matter” because a direct detection experiment failed.

We are after the most fundamental stuff in the Universe, and we’ve only recently begun to understand it. It shouldn’t be a surprise if the search takes a little — or even a lot — longer. In the meantime, the journey for knowledge and understanding of just what it is that holds the Universe together continues.

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Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers Lab-Grown Human Retinas Illuminate How Eyes Develop Color Vision

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers Lab-Grown Human Retinas Illuminate How Eyes Develop Color Vision

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers

Sight begins when light bounces off surfaces and enters our eyes. The muscles of our pupils control how much light passes through, and the clear cornea and lens bend the light and focus it onto the retina, a thin strip of tissue covered in millions of light-sensitive neurons, or photoreceptors.

These nerve cells, named for the way they are shaped—like rods and cones—are where light is converted into electrical signals then sent via the optic nerve to the visual centers of the brain. A paper published October 11 in Science uses a retina grown outside the body to show how cones develop into the eyes’ color sensors.

Our daytime vision depends on the cones because they respond best to bright light (as opposed to the rods, which are sensitive to dim illumination). The pyramid-shaped cells come in three types: blue, green and red—each named after the colors of light they are able to detect. We need all three to perceive the many hues in our surroundings. The most common cause of color blindness—which affects approximately 8 percent of males and 0.5 percent of females of northern European descent—is caused by an inherited defect in red or green cones, which leads to reduced or complete loss in ability to see the two colors those cells detect.

Robert Johnston, a developmental biologist at Johns Hopkins University, and his colleagues wanted to understand how, exactly, developing cells in the human eye decide to become blue, green or red. Prior research had provided some big clues, showing this process occurs in a stepwise manner—blue cells come first, then red and green ones follow—and that thyroid hormone, a molecule secreted by the thyroid gland in the neck, is a critical player in this process. But many of these studies had been conducted on animals such as fish, chicken and mice because of the obvious ethical challenge of experimenting with human tissue. Although researchers can study donated retinas from deceased fetuses, it is nearly impossible to obtain samples for some periods of early development.

To overcome this limitation, Johnston’s team decided to use human stem cells to grow mini retinas, or retinal organoids, in the lab. They then let these miniature organs mature in a dish for nine months to a year “We were growing for them for basically the time that it takes to make a baby,” he says.

At the end of maturation the mini retinas looked remarkably like real human ones. The researchers found similarities in the shape of the cone cells, their distribution across the tissue and the production of various proteins. By closely examining the cone cells as they grew in the retinal organoids, the team found, for the first time in human tissue, the sequence of events that triggered development of stem cells into the various types of cone cells. Cells started turning into blue cones first—between 11 and 34 weeks after the retina started growing—then the red and green cones appeared shortly after. “The [lab-grown] retina recapitulates human development really well,” says study co-author Kiara Eldred, a doctoral student in Johnston’s lab. “It was exciting to know this is a good system to study human development.”

They also found thyroid hormone was needed to activate this process. When the researchers used a gene-editing tool to remove the receptor the hormone acted on, they created mini retinas with only blue cells. On the other hand, they found adding more thyroid hormone early in development caused the organoids to produce green and red ones almost exclusively. “This is really excellent basic biology,” Thomas Reh, a University of Washington biologist who was not involved in the latest study wrote in an e-mail, adding this work supports earlier research conducted in mice. In the mid-1990s Reh and others reported the first evidence thyroid hormone is critical to cone development in mice and chickens. In later studies the researchers outlined the role this molecule played in determining the actual distribution of red, blue and green cones across the retina. There has even been some support for these observations in people—a few clinical investigations have shown premature infants with low levels of thyroid hormone develop color vision defects.

“All the previous findings have been verified [by this study],” says Xi-Qin Ding, a cell biologist at the The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center who was also not involved in this work. She adds scientists have also found thyroid hormone is important for maintaining cones in adult animals, and that her lab has found suppressing the activity of this hormone in mice can protect the rodents from retinal degeneration.

According to Johnston, this research could help develop future therapies for eye disorders such as color blindness or macular degeneration, age-related damage to the retina that can result in vision loss. Organoids could not only provide a platform to study those conditions in more detail, but now the fact scientists can control the types of photoreceptors that grow in laboratory retinas means it might be possible to one day “transplant these things directly [into patients] or preprogram stem cells and let them grow up to be the particular cells that we want.”

For now Johnston sees the eye, which has many kinds of nerve cells such as the various photoreceptors and ganglion cells, as an ideal testing ground for a broader inquiry on how our bodies generate different types of neurons. “Recent data from several groups suggests there are hundreds of neuron types just in the eye alone,” Johnston says. “For me, it would be a dream just to contribute to understanding how those neurons are made, and hopefully extrapolate those concepts to other parts of the nervous system.”


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Diana Kwon

Diana Kwon is a journalist with a master’s degree in neuroscience from McGill University. She writes about health and the life sciences from Berlin.

Credit: Nick Higgins