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China Records Slowest Population Growth In Decades

Tue, 2021-05-11 13:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: China's population grew at its slowest pace in decades, according to government data released on Tuesday. The average annual growth rate was 0.53% over the past 10 years, down from a rate of 0.57% between 2000 and 2010 -- bringing the population to 1.41 billion. The results add pressure on Beijing to boost measures for couples to have more babies and avert a population decline. The results were announced in a once-a-decade census, which was originally expected to be released in April. The census was conducted in late 2020 where some seven million census takers had gone door-to-door to collect information from Chinese households. Given the sheer number of people surveyed, it is considered the most comprehensive resource on China's population, which is important for future planning. Ning Jizhe, head of the National Bureau of Statistics revealed that 12 million babies were born last year -- a significant decrease from the 18 million newborns in 2016. However he added that it was "still a considerable number." [...] China's working-age population -- which it defines as people aged between 16 and 59 -- has also declined by 40 million as compared to the last census in 2010. But chief methodologist Zeng Yuping said that the total size "remains big" with 880 million. "We still have an abundant labour force," he said. However, [principal economist from The Economist Intelligence Unit, Ms Yue Su] warned that going forward, continued drops in the labour force "will place a cap on China's potential economic growth." She added: "The demographic dividend that propelled the country's economic rise over recent decades is set to dissipate quickly." Last month, the Census Bureau reported that the United States population grew at the slowest rate since the 1930s, "a remarkable slackening that was driven by a leveling off of immigration and a declining birthrate," reports The New York Times.

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IBM's CodeNet Dataset Can Teach AI To Translate Computer Languages

Tue, 2021-05-11 10:02
IBM announced during its Think 2021 conference on Monday that its researchers have crafted a Rosetta Stone for programming code. Engadget reports: In effect, we've taught computers how to speak human, so why not also teach computers to speak more computer? That's what IBM's Project CodeNet seeks to accomplish. "We need our ImageNet, which can snowball the innovation and can unleash this innovation in algorithms," [Ruchir Puri, IBM Fellow and Chief Scientist at IBM Research, said during his Think 2021 presentation]. CodeNet is essentially the ImageNet of computers. It's an expansive dataset designed to teach AI/ML systems how to translate code and consists of some 14 million snippets and 500 million lines spread across more than 55 legacy and active languages -- from COBOL and FORTRAN to Java, C++, and Python. "Since the data set itself contains 50 different languages, it can actually enable algorithms for many pairwise combinations," Puri explained. "Having said that, there has been work done in human language areas, like neural machine translation which, rather than doing pairwise, actually becomes more language-independent and can derive an intermediate abstraction through which it translates into many different languages." In short, the dataset is constructed in a manner that enables bidirectional translation. That is, you can take some legacy COBOL code -- which, terrifyingly, still constitutes a significant amount of this country's banking and federal government infrastructure -- and translate it into Java as easily as you could take a snippet of Java and regress it back into COBOL. CodeNet can be used for functions like code search and clone detection, in addition to its intended translational duties and serving as a benchmark dataset. Also, each sample is labeled with its CPU run time and memory footprint, allowing researchers to run regression studies and potentially develop automated code correction systems. Project CodeNet consists of more than 14 million code samples along with 4000-plus coding problems collected and curated from decades' of programming challenges and competitions across the globe. "The way the data set actually came about," Puri said, "there are many kinds of programming competitions and all kinds of problems -- some of them more businesslike, some of them more academic. These are the languages that have been used over the last decade and a half in many of these competitions with 1000s of students or competitors submitting solutions." Additionally, users can run individual code samples "to extract metadata and verify outputs from generative AI models for correctness," according to an IBM press release. "This will enable researchers to program intent equivalence when translating one programming language into another." [...] IBM intends to release the CodeNet data to the public domain, allowing researchers worldwide equal and free access.

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Voyager 1 Detects Plasma 'Hum'

Tue, 2021-05-11 08:02
Obipale shares a report from Phys.Org: Voyager 1 -- one of two sibling NASA spacecraft launched 44 years ago and now the most distant human-made object in space -- still works and zooms toward infinity. The craft has long since zipped past the edge of the solar system through the heliopause -- the solar system's border with interstellar space -- into the interstellar medium. Now, its instruments have detected the constant drone of interstellar gas (plasma waves), according to Cornell University-led research published in Nature Astronomy. Examining data slowly sent back from more than 14 billion miles away, Stella Koch Ocker, a Cornell doctoral student in astronomy, has uncovered the emission. "It's very faint and monotone, because it is in a narrow frequency bandwidth," Ocker said. "We're detecting the faint, persistent hum of interstellar gas." This work allows scientists to understand how the interstellar medium interacts with the solar wind, Ocker said, and how the protective bubble of the solar system's heliosphere is shaped and modified by the interstellar environment.

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MDMA Passes a Big Test For PTSD Treatment

Tue, 2021-05-11 03:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: In an important step toward medical approval, MDMA, the illegal drug popularly known as Ecstasy or Molly, was shown to bring relief to those suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder when paired with talk therapy. Of the 90 people who took part in the new study, which is expected to be published later this month in Nature Medicine, those who received MDMA during therapy experienced a significantly greater reduction in the severity of their symptoms compared with those who received therapy and an inactive placebo. Two months after treatment, 67 percent of participants in the MDMA group no longer qualified for a diagnosis of PTSD, compared with 32 percent in the placebo group. MDMA produced no serious adverse side effects. Some participants temporarily experienced mild symptoms like nausea and loss of appetite. Before MDMA-assisted therapy can be approved for therapeutic use, the Food and Drug Administration needs a second positive Phase 3 trial, which is currently underway with 100 participants. Approval could come as early as 2023. Mental health experts say that this research -- the first Phase 3 trial conducted on psychedelic-assisted therapy -- could pave the way for further studies on MDMA's potential to help address other difficult-to-treat mental health conditions, including substance abuse, obsessive compulsive disorder, phobias, eating disorders, depression, end-of-life anxiety and social anxiety in autistic adults. And, mental health researchers say, these studies could also encourage additional research on other banned psychedelics, including psilocybin, LSD and mescaline. "This is a wonderful, fruitful time for discovery, because people are suddenly willing to consider these substances as therapeutics again, which hasn't happened in 50 years," said Jennifer Mitchell, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco, and lead author of the new study.

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Facebook Is Testing Pop-Up Messages Telling People To Read a Link Before They Share It

Tue, 2021-05-11 01:25
Following Twitter's lead, Facebook is trying out a new feature designed to encourage users to read a link before sharing it. TechCrunch reports: The test will reach 6% of Facebook's Android users globally in a gradual rollout that aims to encourage "informed sharing" of news stories on the platform. Users can still easily click through to share a given story, but the idea is that by adding friction to the experience, people might rethink their original impulses to share the kind of inflammatory content that currently dominates on the platform. The strategy demonstrates Facebook's preference for a passive strategy of nudging people away from misinformation and toward its own verified resources on hot-button issues like COVID-19 and the 2020 election. While the jury is still out on how much of an impact this kind of gentle behavioral shaping can make on the misinformation epidemic, both Twitter and Facebook have also explored prompts that discourage users from posting abusive comments.

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Amazon 'Seized and Destroyed' 2 Million Counterfeit Products In 2020

Tue, 2021-05-11 00:45
Amazon "seized and destroyed" over 2 million counterfeit products that sellers sent to Amazon warehouses in 2020 and "blocked more than 10 billion suspected bad listings before they were published in our store," the company said in its first "Brand Protection Report." Ars Technica reports: In 2020, "we seized and destroyed more than 2 million products sent to our fulfillment centers and that we detected as counterfeit before being sent to a customer," Amazon's report said. "In cases where counterfeit products are in our fulfillment centers, we separate the inventory and destroy those products so they are not resold elsewhere in the supply chain," the report also said. Third-party sellers can also ship products directly to consumers instead of using Amazon's shipping system. The 2 million fakes found in Amazon fulfillment centers would only account for counterfeit products from sellers using the "Fulfilled by Amazon" service. The counterfeit problem got worse over the past year. "Throughout the pandemic, we've seen increased attempts by bad actors to commit fraud and offer counterfeit products," Amazon VP Dharmesh Mehta wrote in a blog post yesterday. Amazon's new report was meant to reassure legitimate sellers that their products won't be counterfeited. While counterfeits remain a problem for unsuspecting Amazon customers, the e-commerce giant said that "fewer than 0.01 percent of all products sold on Amazon received a counterfeit complaint from customers" in 2020. Of course, people may buy and use counterfeit products without ever realizing they are fake or without reporting it to Amazon, so that percentage may not capture the extent of the problem.

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DHS Launches Warning System To Find Domestic Terrorism Threats On Public Social Media

Tue, 2021-05-11 00:02
An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: The Department of Homeland Security has begun implementing a strategy to gather and analyze intelligence about security threats from public social media posts, DHS officials said. The goal is to build a warning system to detect the sort of posts that appeared to predict an attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 but were missed or ignored by law enforcement and intelligence agencies, the officials said. The focus is not on the identity of the posters but rather on gleaning insights about potential security threats based on emerging narratives and grievances. So far, DHS is using human beings, not computer algorithms, to make sense of the data, the officials said. "We're not looking at who are the individual posters," said a senior official involved in the effort. "We are looking at what narratives are resonating and spreading across platforms. From there you may be able to determine what are the potential targets you need to protect." The officials didn't describe what criteria or methods the analysts would use to parse the data. They said DHS officials have been consulting with social media companies, private companies and nonprofit groups that analyze open-source social media data. Law enforcement officers and intelligence analysts are legally entitled to examine -- without warrants -- what people say openly on Twitter, Facebook and other public social media forums, just as they can take in information from reading newspapers. But civil liberties groups generally oppose government monitoring of social media, arguing that it doesn't produce much intelligence and risks chilling free speech.

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Harley-Davidson Launches All-Electric Motorcycle Brand 'LiveWire'

Mon, 2021-05-10 23:20
Harley-Davidson on Monday launched an all-electric motorcycle brand "LiveWire," the latest effort by the company to ramp up bets on the rapidly growing electric-vehicle market. Reuters reports: Named after Harley's first electric motorbike, which was unveiled in [2014], the "LiveWire" division is slated to launch its first branded motorcycle in July. The company had said in February it would create a separate electric vehicle-focused division, as it aims to attract the next generation of younger and more environmentally conscious riders. "We are seizing the opportunity to lead and define the market in EV," Chief Executive Officer Jochen Zeitz said in a statement on Monday. "LiveWire also plans to innovate and develop technology that will be applicable to Harley-Davidson electric motorcycles in the future." "There's a new logo and a new 'virtual' headquarters, with engineering teams stationed in Silicon Valley and Milwaukee," notes The Verge. "LiveWire will work with Harley-Davidson dealerships as an independent brand, with a blend of digital and physical retail formats."

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Game Developers Break Silence Around Salaries

Mon, 2021-05-10 22:40
Developers are sharing their salaries on Twitter under the hashtag #GameDevPaidMe to encourage pay transparency in their industry. Axios reports: The hashtag started circulating last year, but has returned periodically as developers fight for better working conditions. Salary sharing is a way to equalize the field. By removing the secrecy, as well as the stigma, around discussing pay, workers have more power to advocate for themselves when negotiating salaries and raises. In 2020, Blizzard employees shared their salaries anonymously via a spreadsheet to compare compensation. The pay gap between people at the top, and workers on the ground is measurable in hundreds of thousands of dollars -- even when those CEOs take pay cuts. What they're saying: A lead designer on "Hearthstone" working for Blizzard Entertainment: "I started getting paid fairly once I started asking questions. I only started asking questions once I better understood what I was worth. Understanding what your worth can be a difficult question, but this helps." A lead designer at Blackbird Interactive: "Every single person who plays games should take a good look at #GameDevPaidMe and get a sense for what the people who make your art actually make." A senior game designer at Reflector Entertainment: "Don't wait for your employer to give you the raise you deserve, be open to talking to other companies even if you feel you are at a 'great' spot."

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Electric Cars 'Will Be Cheaper To Produce Than Fossil Fuel Vehicles By 2027'

Mon, 2021-05-10 22:02
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Electric cars and vans will be cheaper to produce than conventional, fossil fuel-powered vehicles by 2027, and tighter emissions regulations could put them in pole position to dominate all new car sales by the middle of the next decade, research has found. By 2026, larger vehicles such as electric sedans and SUVs will be as cheap to produce as petrol and diesel models, according to forecasts from BloombergNEF, with small cars reaching the threshold the following year. The falling cost of producing batteries for electric vehicles, combined with dedicated production lines in carmarkers' plants, will make them cheaper to buy, on average, within the next six years than conventional cars, even before any government subsidies, BloombergNEF found. The new study, commissioned by Transport & Environment, a Brussels-based non-profit organization that campaigns for cleaner transport in Europe, predicts new battery prices will fall by 58% between 2020 and 2030 to $58 per kilowatt hour. A reduction in battery costs to below $100 per kWh, is viewed as an important step towards greater take-up of fully electric vehicles, and would largely remove the financial appeal of hybrid electric vehicles, which combine a battery with a conventional engine.

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FDA Clears Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine For Kids Ages 12 To 15

Mon, 2021-05-10 21:42
The Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved Pfizer and BioNTech's request to allow their Covid-19 vaccine to be given to kids ages 12 to 15 on an emergency use basis, allowing states to get middle school students vaccinated before the fall. The two-dose vaccine is already authorized for use in people 16 and older. CNBC reports: Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said the decision brings "us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy and to ending the pandemic." She assured parents that the agency "undertook a rigorous and thorough review of all available data" before clearing it for use in the teens. The companies said in late March that the vaccine was found to be 100% effective in a clinical trial of more than 2,000 adolescents. They also said the vaccine elicited a "robust" antibody response in the children, exceeding those in an earlier trial of older teens and young adults. Side effects were generally consistent with those seen in adults, they added. Vaccinating children is seen as crucial to ending the pandemic. The nation is unlikely to achieve herd immunity -- when enough people in a given community have antibodies against a specific disease -- until children can get vaccinated, health officials and experts say. Children make up around 20% of the total U.S. population, according to government data. Between 70% and 85% of the U.S. population needs to be vaccinated against Covid to achieve herd immunity, experts say, and some adults may refuse to get the shots. Though more experts now say herd immunity is looking increasingly unlikely as variants spread. The report notes that the same two-dose regimen that's use for people 16 years of age and older will also be used for kids ages 12 to 15. FDA approval for kids under age 12 could come in the second half of the year.

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AMD is Biting at Intel's Server Market Share With Its Largest Gains in Over a Decade

Mon, 2021-05-10 21:25
An anonymous reader shares a report: The first few months of 2021 have been absolutely massive for AMD and Intel. According to the latest report from Mercury Research, the first three months of 2021 saw the largest yearly increase in shipments of CPUs in a quarter of a century, and second only to the final moments of 2020 in terms of raw volume. You'd be perhaps surprised to learn that Intel has gained a touch in overall x86 market share in Q1 2021, whereas AMD reportedly lost out. There's only a percentage point in it: a 1% gain for Intel and a 1% loss for AMD, though. Far from major gains in either direction. Mercury Research puts that down to an increase in budget chip shipments for Chipzilla, which tallies with other figures out of the tech giant as of late. But where Intel has gained in mobile processor market share, it loses out marginally in desktop. That's where AMD's Ryzen processors are seemingly crushing it, and despite some difficulty sourcing the top-tier chips, such as the Ryzen 9 5950X and Ryzen 9 5900X, AMD is still managing to make gains within the market predisposed to Intel processors for so long. [...] But perhaps the biggest win in AMD's eyes is the 1.8% increase in server market share quarter to quarter, and 3.8 percent year on year. That means its Epyc processors are selling supremely well against Intel's Xeon chips, and the market that AMD will be most determined to get more of a footing in.

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Wildlife is Thriving in Chernobyl 35 Years After the Nuclear Explosion

Mon, 2021-05-10 20:44
In the absence of humans, the region around Chernobyl is being reclaimed by nature. From a report: 35 years ago a total of 350,000 people were evacuated from the territory after one of humanity's worst nuclear disasters. Ukrainian authorities say the area may not be fit for humans for another 24,000 years. Today, however, it serves as Among the Chernobyl exclusion zone, endangered animals thrive, including the stunning Przewalski's horses. For many decades they were considered the last truly wild horse in the world. In the 1970s they were almost rendered extinct in the wild, but a captive breeding program managed to rescue the species from extinction. Today, several hundred live in the wild in the steppes of Asia and in Europe, but there's also a steadily growing population - to the surprise of many - in Chernobyl. Further reading: Chernobyl alcohol drink seized by authorities.

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Gas Flaring Declined in 2020, Study Finds

Mon, 2021-05-10 20:05
Gas flaring worldwide decreased by 5 percent in the pandemic year, mostly because of lower demand for oil, according to a recent report from the World Bank. From a report: While the overall drop was expected, the report offered a detailed picture of the flaring activities around the world, with steep declines in some areas, like the United States, and surprising increases in others, notably China. Flaring occurs when the gas that emerges with crude oil is burned off rather than captured. That burning emits carbon dioxide, a gas that is the main contributor to climate change. According to World Bank officials, flaring adds roughly 400 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions to the atmosphere every year. According to the report, Russia was responsible for more flaring overall than any other country in 2020, contributing 15 percent of the global total. But within Russia, there were areas of progress. Burning continued to decrease in the Khanty-Mansi region of Siberia, where flaring volumes have dropped by nearly 80 percent over the previous 15 years.

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Apple Suppliers Linked To Uyghur Forced Labor in New Report

Mon, 2021-05-10 19:25
Several Apple suppliers may have used forced labor in China, according to The Information. From a report: Working with two human rights groups, the publication identified seven companies that supplied products or services to Apple and supported forced labor programs, according to statements made by the Chinese government. The programs target the country's Muslim minority population, particularly Uyghurs living in Xinjiang. Six of the seven suppliers were said to participate in work programs operated by the Chinese government, The Information reports, which human rights groups describe as frequently offering cover for forced labor. Workers can be jailed for refusing to join the work programs, the report says, and those enrolled in the programs are often moved far from their homes. One of the suppliers operated in Xinjiang, the region of China predominantly populated by Uyghurs and where the most egregious human rights violations have reportedly taken place. The companies supplied Apple with antennas, cables, and coatings, among other products and services, according to The Information.

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Thousands of Tor Exit Nodes Attacked Cryptocurrency Users Over the Past Year

Mon, 2021-05-10 18:45
For more than 16 months, a threat actor has been seen adding malicious servers to the Tor network in order to intercept traffic and perform SSL stripping attacks on users accessing cryptocurrency-related sites. From a report: The attacks, which began in January 2020, consisted of adding servers to the Tor network and marking them as "exit relays," which are the servers through which traffic leaves the Tor network to re-enter the public internet after being anonymized. But since January 2020, a threat actor has been inserting thousands of malicious servers into the Tor network to identify traffic heading to cryptocurrency mixing websites and perform an SSL stripping attack, which is when traffic is downgraded from an encrypted HTTPS connection to plaintext HTTP. The belief is that the attacker has been downgrading traffic to HTTP in order to replace cryptocurrency addresses with their own and hijack transactions for their own profit. The attacks are not new and were first documented and exposed last year, in August, by a security researcher and Tor node operator known as Nusenu. At the time, the researcher said the attacker managed to flood the Tor network with malicious Tor exit relays on three occasions, peaking their attack infrastructure at around 23% of the entire Tor network's exit capacity before being shut down by the Tor team on every occasion.

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Covid Variant From India Triggers WHO Concern Over Fast Spread

Mon, 2021-05-10 18:05
A fast-spreading strain of Covid-19 first identified in India, the scene of one of the world's most fearsome outbreaks, will be classified as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization. From a report: The global health group will publish a detailed report Tuesday on the variant, called B.1.617, said Maria van Kerkhove, the WHO's technical lead officer on Covid-19. "There is some available information to suggest increased transmissibility," she said at a media briefing on Monday. A study of a limited number of patients that has not undergone peer review also suggested that the mutant can evade some key antibodies, she said. "As such, we're classifying this as a variant of concern at the global level." India's health system has been stretched to the breaking point by a virus wave that's proving highly lethal and difficult to control. The country has reported more than 300,000 new virus infections for the past 19 days straight. Fearing an influx of infections and mindful of the new variant, countries including Singapore, the U.K. and Tanzania have curbed travel to and from India.

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A Nonprofit Promised To Preserve Wildlife. Then it Made Millions Claiming it Could Cut Down Trees

Mon, 2021-05-10 17:27
An anonymous reader shares a report from Technology Review: The Massachusetts Audubon Society has long managed its land in western Massachusetts as crucial wildlife habitat. Nature lovers flock to these forests to enjoy bird-watching and quiet hikes, with the occasional bobcat or moose sighting. But in 2015, the conservation nonprofit presented California's top climate regulator with a startling scenario: It could heavily log 9,700 acres of its preserved forests over the next few years. The group raised the possibility of chopping down hundreds of thousands of trees as part of its application to take part in California's forest offset program. The program allows forest owners like Mass Audubon to earn so-called carbon credits for preserving trees. Each credit represents a ton of CO2. California polluters, such as oil companies, buy these credits so that they can emit more CO2 than they'd otherwise be allowed to under state law. Theoretically, the exchange should balance out emissions to prevent an overall increase in CO2 in the atmosphere. The Air Resources Board accepted Mass Audubon's project into its program, requiring the nonprofit to preserve its forests over the next century instead of heavily logging them. The nonprofit received more than 600,000 credits in exchange for its promise. The vast majority were sold through intermediaries to oil and gas companies, records show. On paper, the deal was a success. The fossil fuel companies were able to emit more CO2 while abiding by California's climate laws. Mass Audubon earned enough money to acquire additional land for preservation, and to hire new staff working on climate change. But it didn't work out as well for the climate.

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Voice Social Network Clubhouse Arrives on Android

Mon, 2021-05-10 16:49
Clubhouse finally has an Android app that you can download from the Play Store -- provided you live in the U.S. From a report: The voice-based social network launched its beta Android app on Play Store for users in the U.S. on Sunday, and said it will gradually make the new app available in other English-speaking countries and then the rest of the world. The social network, valued at about $4 billion in its most recent fundraise, launched as an iPhone-only app last year. The app quickly gained popularity last year, attracting several high-profile celebrities, politicians, investors, and entrepreneurs. Clubhouse began developing the Android app early this year and started to test the beta version externally this month. In a town hall earlier Sunday, the startup said availability on Android has been the most requested product feature. "Our plan over the next few weeks is to collect feedback from the community, fix any issues we see and work to add a few final features like payments and club creation before rolling it out more broadly," the team wrote. As Clubhouse struggles to maintain its growth -- data from mobile insight firms including AppMagic suggests that Clubhouse installs have drastically dropped in recent months -- the Android app could prove pivotal in boosting the startup's reach across the globe.

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Pipeline Hackers Say They're 'Apolitical,' Will Choose Targets More Carefully Next Time

Mon, 2021-05-10 16:05
The criminal hacking group suspected of being behind the ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline, which was shut down as a precaution in response, has published a new statement on its dark web site saying it is "apolitical." From a report: "We are apolitical, we do not participate in geopolitics, do not need to tie us with a defined government and look for other our motives," the statement from the DarkSide ransomware group reads. The statement did not explicitly point to the Colonial Pipeline incident, but it was titled "About the latest news." Various outlets have reported that U.S. officials and private industry say DarkSide is behind the ransomware event. Dmitry Smilyanets, a cyber threat intelligence expert from cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, tweeted a screenshot of the statement on Monday. Motherboard verified the statement is available on DarkSide's dark web site. "Our goal is to make money, and not creating problems for society," the statement continues. The statement also indicated that the group may be making changes to how it operates and chooses targets. "From today we introduce moderation and check each company that our partners want to encrypt to avoid social consequences in the future," it read.

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