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June 22, 2019

Argentina’s blackout and the storm-battered future of the grid

Enlarge (credit: Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Early Sunday morning, all of mainland Argentina lost power in an “unprecedented” blackout event that left most of the country’s 44 million citizens in the dark until the evening. The blackout also extended to Uruguay (which is connected to Argentina’s power grid) and limited parts of Chile. Although the exact cause of the blackout is still being investigated, Argentina experienced heavy rains over the weekend, and there is reason to believe that the inclement weather played a starring role in the largest blackout in recent history.

Extreme weather events are a [...]

 
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June 21, 2019

A tale of two cities: Why ransomware will just get worse

Enlarge / Baltimore, Maryland; Riviera Beach, Florida. Both got ransomware, and the outcomes were…the worst of times, and the worst of times.

Earlier this week, the city of Riviera Beach, Florida, faced a $600,000 demand from ransomware operators in order to regain access to the city’s data. The ransom was an order of magnitude larger than the ransom demanded by the attackers that struck Baltimore’s city government in May. Against the advice of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, however, the Riviera Beach city council voted to pay the ransom—over $300,000 of it covered by the city’s insurance [...]

 
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June 21, 2019

Manufacturing memory means scribing silicon in a sea of sensors

Enlarge / How it’s made: silicon wafers! (credit: Micron)

At Micron’s memory chip fabrication facility in the Washington, DC, suburb of Manassas, Virginia, the entire manufacturing area is blanketed in electronic detectors in all their various forms. But the primary purpose isn’t to keep intruders out or anything so prosaic. “A lot of them are microphones,” a spokesman for Micron said. “They listen to the robots.”

It turns out that there are thousands of microphones throughout the facility, or “fab,” as silicon manufacturing plants are commonly known. There are microphones inside the [...]

 
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June 20, 2019

Potent Firefox 0-day used to install undetected backdoors on Macs

Enlarge / The fox animoji. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Hackers exploited a pair of potent zero-day vulnerabilities in Firefox to infect Mac users with a largely undetected backdoor, according to accounts pieced together from multiple people.

Mozilla released an update on Tuesday that fixed a code-execution vulnerability in a JavaScript programming method known as Array.pop. On Thursday, Mozilla issued a second patch fixing a privilege-escalation flaw that allowed code to break out of a security sandbox that Firefox uses to prevent untrusted content from interacting with sensitive parts of a computer operating system. Interestingly, [...]

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