Saturday, May 25, 2019

News Briefs

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  • Thursday, Mar. 21, 2019
Facebook left millions of passwords readable by employees
In this Aug. 21, 2018, file photo a Facebook start page is shown on a smartphone in Surfside, Fla. Facebook said Thursday, March 21, 2019, that it stored millions of its users’ passwords in plain text for years. The acknowledgement from the social media giant came after a security researcher posted about the issue online. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- 

Facebook left millions of user passwords readable by its employees for years, the company said Thursday , an acknowledgement it offered after a security researcher posted about the issue online.

By storing passwords in readable plain text, Facebook violated fundamental computer-security practices. Those call for organizations and websites to save passwords in a scrambled form that makes it almost impossible to recover the original text.

"There is no valid reason why anyone in an organization, especially the size of Facebook, needs to have access to users' passwords in plain text," said cybersecurity expert Andrei Barysevich of Recorded Future.

Facebook said there is no evidence its employees abused access to this data. But thousands of employees could have searched them. The company said the passwords were stored on internal company servers, where no outsiders could access them.

The incident reveals yet another huge and basic oversight at a company that insists it is a responsible guardian for the personal data of its 2.2 billion users worldwide.

The security blog KrebsOnSecurity said Facebook may have left the passwords of some 600 million Facebook users vulnerable. In a blog post , Facebook said it will likely notify "hundreds of millions" of Facebook Lite users, millions of Facebook users and tens of thousands of Instagram users that their passwords were stored in plain text.

Facebook Lite is a version designed for people with older phones or low-speed internet connections. It is used primarily in developing countries.

Last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg touted a new "privacy-focused vision " for the social network that would emphasize private communication over public sharing. The company wants to encourage small groups of people to carry on encrypted conversations that neither Facebook nor any other outsider can read.

The fact that the company couldn't manage to do something as simple as encrypting passwords, however, raises questions about its ability to manage more complex encryption issues — such in messaging — flawlessly.

Facebook said it discovered the problem in January. But security researcher Brian Krebs wrote that in some cases the passwords had been stored in plain text since 2012. Facebook Lite launched in 2015 and Facebook bought Instagram in 2012.

Recorded Future's Barysevich said he could not recall any major company caught leaving so many passwords exposed internally. He said he's seen a number of instances where much smaller organizations made such information readily available — not just to programmers but also to customer support teams.

Security analyst Troy Hunt, who runs the 'haveibeenpwned.com' data breach website, said that the situation is embarrassing for Facebook, but that there's no serious, practical impact unless an adversary gained access to the passwords. But Facebook has had major breaches, most recently in September when attackers accessed some 29 million accounts .

Jake Williams, president of Rendition Infosec, said storing passwords in plain text is "unfortunately more common than most of the industry talks about" and tends to happen when developers are trying to rid a system of bugs. He said the Facebook blog post suggests storing passwords in plain text may have been "a sanctioned practice," although he said it's also possible a "rogue development team" was to blame.

Bajak reported from Boston.

  • Thursday, Mar. 21, 2019
Lee Daniels: "Pain and anger" around "Empire" in recent weeks
In this Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017 file photo, Lee Daniels, co-creator of the Fox series "Empire," poses for a portrait during the 2017 Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Ron Eshel/Invision/AP, File)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

"Empire" co-creator and executive producer Lee Daniels says the weeks since cast member Jussie Smollett was arrested and charged with fabricating a racist and homophobic attack have been "a freakin' rollercoaster."

In an Instagram video that doesn't refer to Smollett by name, Daniels says since "the incident" he and his cast have "experienced pain and anger and sadness and frustration and really don't know how to deal with it."

Daniels had been among the first to voice his support for Smollett after he made the report in January.

Daniels says the situation nearly made him forget to tell audiences that the Fox drama returns to the air Wednesday. Daniels and other producers removed Smollett's character from the season's final episodes after his arrest in Chicago.

Smollett has pleaded not guilty.

  • Wednesday, Mar. 20, 2019
Europe fines Google $1.7 billion in antitrust case
European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager speaks during a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, March 20, 2019. European Union regulators have hit Google with a 1.49 billion euro ($1.68 billion) fine for abusing its dominant role in online advertising. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
BRUSSELS (AP) -- 

Europe's antitrust regulators slapped Google with a big fine Wednesday for the third time in less than two years, ordering the tech giant to pay 1.49 billion euros ($1.7 billion) for freezing out rivals in the online advertising business.

The ruling brings to nearly $10 billion the fines imposed against Google by the European Union. And it comes at a time when big tech companies around the world are facing increasing regulatory pressure and fierce political attacks over privacy violations, online misinformation, hate speech and other abuses.

Still, the latest penalty isn't likely to have much effect on Google's business. It involves practices the company says it already ended, and the sum is just a fraction of the $31 billion in profit that its parent, Alphabet, made last year.

Alphabet stock rose 2 percent on Wall Street on Wednesday.

The EU ruling applies to a narrow portion of Google's ad business: when Google sells ads next to Google search results on third-party websites.

Investigators found that Google inserted exclusivity clauses in its contracts that barred these websites from running similarly placed ads sold by Google's rivals.

As a result, advertisers and website owners "had less choice and likely faced higher prices that would be passed on to consumers," said the EU's competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager.

Anyone who suffered from Google's behavior can seek compensation through national courts, she said.

EU regulators opened their investigation in 2016 — seven years after Microsoft filed a complaint — though by that time, Google had already made some changes to give customers more freedom to show competing ads. For that reason, regulators did not require a specific remedy to restore competition.

But Vestager said it appeared rivals haven't been able to catch up, and some are "quite small." By contrast, the EU said, Google has more than 70 percent of the European market for selling ads that run alongside search results on third-party websites.

Google did not say whether it would appeal.

"We've already made a wide range of changes to our products to address the commission's concerns," Google's senior vice president of global affairs, Kent Walker, said in a statement. "Over the next few months, we'll be making further updates to give more visibility to rivals in Europe."

E-marketing analyst Bill Fisher noted a "growing wave of sentiment" toward curbing the influence of Big Tech and said that even if the EU's rulings apply only to Google's European operations, Google should "begin to open up, become more transparent and possibly look to alter some of its business practices" worldwide.

Earlier this month, a British expert panel recommended the government curb the dominance of giants like Facebook, Amazon and Google. In the U.S., Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has proposed breaking up the biggest American tech companies, accusing them of wielding too much power.

This week, as part of a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union and other activists, Facebook agreed to overhaul its ad-targeting systems to prevent discrimination in housing, credit and employment ads.

The EU has led the way in promoting tougher regulation of big tech companies. Besides cracking down on antitrust breaches by Microsoft and Intel, it has enforced stricter data privacy rules that affect Facebook and other social media companies.

U.S. regulators haven't been as tough, though the Federal Trade Commission recently created a task force focused on anti-competitive behavior in the industry.

Last year, Vestager fined Google a record 4.34 billion euros ($5 billion at the time) for forcing cellphone makers using the company's Android operating system to install Google search and browser apps.

In 2017, she penalized Google 2.42 billion euros ($2.7 billion) for manipulating online shopping search results and directing visitors to its comparison-shopping service, Google Shopping, at the expense of its rivals.

Google, which is appealing those two earlier fines, has said it has since made adjustments to its shopping results and will start asking European users of Android phones if they want to use other search or browser apps.

Chan reported from London. Tali Arbel in New York contributed to this report.

  • Tuesday, Mar. 19, 2019
Filmmaker David Lynch teaching a class on creativity
This Nov. 4, 2017 file photo shows director David Lynch during the Rome Film Festival in Rome. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis, File)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

According to filmmaker David Lynch, all it takes are 70 ideas to make a feature film.

The visionary mind behind "Blue Velvet," ''Mulholland Drive" and "Twin Peaks" is imparting this and other wisdom, like never giving up final cut, in a new MasterClass on creativity and filmmaking that's available now for enrollment online.

Lynch joins an esteemed lot of MasterClass instructors from Martin Scorsese to Spike Lee. Prices range from $90 for one class to $180 for unlimited access.

In his class, Lynch talks about the value of daydreaming for catching ideas. He also extols the importance of studying classic films and why he doesn't like rules.

Lynch says he was drawn to the idea that a MasterClass could make a difference to new filmmakers.

  • Friday, Mar. 15, 2019
Netflix will cut "Bird Box" footage months after outcry
This image released by Netflix shows Sandra Bullock in a scene from the film, "Bird Box." (Saeed Adyani/Netflix via AP)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

Netflix will remove footage of a real fiery train disaster from its hit post-apocalyptic survival film "Bird Box" months after the streaming giant was criticized for exploiting a tragedy.

The stock footage was taken from a 2013 crash in the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic when a train carrying crude oil came off the tracks and exploded into a massive ball of fire, killing 47 people.

Netflix licensed the footage from the stock image vendor Pond 5 and used it in "Bird Box" in an early TV news montage. The Sandra Bullock-led thriller is about monstrous entities that compel any human who sees them to quickly try to kill themselves.

Pond 5 in January said the footage "was taken out of context" and apologized. But Netflix said at the time it wasn't planning to cut the clip, although said it was looking at ways to do things differently moving forward.

Nexflix changed its mind and said Friday it will replace the footage with an outtake from a former TV series in the U.S. The company said it is "sorry for any pain caused to the Lac-Megantic community."

The mayor of Lac-Megantic, Julie Morin, had criticized the use of the footage, calling it "a lack of respect." She and Quebec's culture and communications minister, Nathalie Roy, applauded Netflix's latest move. "This result shows that by being united and pooling our efforts, everything is possible," Roy tweeted.

  • Friday, Mar. 15, 2019
Tyson will return to TV after misconduct probe
In this Nov. 1, 2017 file photo, Neil deGrasse Tyson attends a fan event celebrating the release Kelly Clarkson's album "Meaning of Life" at YouTube Space New York in New York. Tyson will return to the air on two TV shows that had been put on hold for a sexual misconduct investigation. The National Geographic Channel said in a statement Friday that Tyson’s “StarTalk” will return to the air in April with the 13 episodes that remain in the season. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson will return to the air on two TV shows that had been put on hold for a sexual misconduct investigation.

The National Geographic Channel said in a statement Friday that Tyson's "StarTalk" will return to the air in April with the 13 episodes that remain in the season.

The statement says Tyson's other show, "Cosmos," will return on National Geographic TV and Fox at a date to be determined.

Late last November, National Geographic Networks and Fox said they would examine reports that Tyson behaved in a sexually inappropriate manner toward two women. Friday's statement did not address the complaints or investigation.

A message with a representative seeking from Tyson wasn't immediately returned.

Tyson said in December that he denied the allegations and welcomed the investigation.

  • Friday, Mar. 15, 2019
James Gunn rehired to direct "Guardians of the Galaxy 3"
This June 25, 2018 file photo shows James Gunn at the premiere of "Ant-Man and the Wasp" in Los Angeles. Months after being fired over old tweets, James Gunn has been rehired as director of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.” Representatives for the Walt Disney Co. and for Gunn on Friday confirmed that Gunn has been reinstated as writer-director of the franchise he has guided from the start. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

Months after being fired over old tweets, James Gunn has been rehired as director of "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3."

Representatives for the Walt Disney Co. and for Gunn on Friday confirmed that Gunn has been reinstated as writer-director of the Marvel franchise he has guided from the start. Gunn was fired last July over tweets from nearly a decade ago in which Gunn joked about subjects like pedophilia and rape.

Gunn earlier apologized for the tweets, which he called "unfortunate efforts to be provocative." Disney Chairman Alan Horn at the time said Gunn's words were inconsistent with the studio's values. The comments, made from 2008 to 2011, were brought to light by far-right propagandists Mike Cernovich and Jack Posobiec who combed through Gunn's social media history after Gunn's criticism of President Donald Trump.

But Gunn's dismissal was passionately protested by many. Fan petitions circulated online. The "Guardians" cast, including Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel and other stars, supported Gunn in an open letter. "Although I don't support James Gunn's inappropriate jokes from years ago, he is a good man," Pratt said.

"I am tremendously grateful to every person out there who has supported me over the last few months," Gunn said in a statement. "I am always learning and will continue to work at being the best human being I can be."

Gunn added a thank you to Disney and said he was excited to "continue making films that investigate the ties of love that bind us all."

Gunn has since signed on to write and direct the next installment of Warner Bros.' "Suicide Squad" for the Marvel rival DC Comics. That film is to shoot in the fall and be released in August 2021.

A Disney spokesman declined to comment on when "Guardians 3" might go into production. The first two films have made more than $1.5 billion in worldwide ticket sales.

Deadline first reported Gunn's rehiring.

  • Friday, Mar. 15, 2019
Golden Globe Awards to kick off awards season on Jan. 5
This Jan. 6, 2019 file photo shows members of the media on the red carpet prior to the 76th annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, Calif. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), dick clark productions (dcp) and NBC will present the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 5, 2020. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association says it has chosen a date for next year's Golden Globe Awards.

The association said Friday the 77th annual awards will be held Jan. 5. The ceremony will kick off a condensed awards season with the Oscars moving up their ceremony to Feb. 9, 2020.

In January, the Globes were watched by 18.6 million viewers. The awards show, which hands out honors for film and television, has improved its reputation despite once being dismissed by critics for some puzzling nominees.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association says its members represent 56 countries.

  • Thursday, Mar. 14, 2019
YouTube star Lilly Singh to host NBC late-night show
In this April 19, 2018 file photo, Lilly Singh arrives at WE Day California at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. NBC is shaking up late-night TV, giving Carson Daly’s slot to a woman of color who’s a star on YouTube. The network said Thursday, March 14, 2019, that a new show, titled “A Little Late with Lilly Singh,” will air at 1:35 a.m. EDT beginning in September. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

NBC is shaking up late-night TV, giving Carson Daly's slot to a woman of color who's a star on YouTube.

The network said Thursday that a new show, titled "A Little Late with Lilly Singh," will air at 1:35 a.m. EDT beginning in September.

Singh will be the only woman to host a daily late-night show on a major broadcast network.

Her half-hour program will include in-studio interviews and pre-taped comedy sketches, NBC said.

In a statement, Singh called the prospect of being an Indian-Canadian woman with her own late-night show "a dream come true."

Her acting credits include HBO's movie "Fahrenheit?451," ''Bad Moms" and "Ice Age: Collision Course."?

Singh's YouTube channel, in which she creates comedic and other videos, has more than 14 million subscribers, NBC said.

Last month, Daly said he's decided it's time to bring his "Last Call" show to an end as he focuses on new and continuing projects, as host and producer of NBC's "The Voice."

  • Thursday, Mar. 14, 2019
Netflix cancels "One Day at a Time" reboot after 3 seasons
In this Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018 file photo, Justina Machado attends the Los Angeles premiere of "One Day at a Time" Season 2 at ArcLight Hollywood, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 

Netflix is canceling "One Day at a Time" after three seasons.

In a statement Thursday, the streaming service's chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, called it "disappointing" that more viewers didn't discover the sitcom.

A tweet on a Netflix company account said not enough people watched to justify renewing it, and called the cancellation a difficult step.

Created by Gloria Calderon Kellett and Mike Royce, it was among the few TV series with Latinos as the lead characters.

Justina Machado played a single Cuban-American mom and military veteran, with Rita Moreno as her mother.

It was a reboot of the original "One Day at a Time," which was co-created by Norman Lear and aired from 1975-84 with stars Valerie Bertinelli and Bonnie Franklin.

Lear was among the Netflix series' executive producers.

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