2 hours ago


Trump says he’s looking into a Pentagon cloud contract for Amazon or Microsoft because ‘we’re getting tremendous complaints’

President Donald Trump said Thursday that he’s seriously considering looking at a Pentagon contract that’s said to be worth up to $10 billion for Microsoft or Amazon.

“I never had something where more people are complaining,” Trump said, adding that he’s going to take a close look at it.

“We’re getting tremendous complaints from other companies,” Trump said in a press pool at the White House during a meeting with the prime minister of The Netherlands. “Some of the greatest companies in the world are complaining about it.” He named Microsoft, Oracle and IBM.

Since April, Microsoft and Amazon have been the only remaining competitors for the contract after IBM and Oracle were ruled out by the Defense Department. The contract, known as JEDI, is viewed as a marquee deal for the company that ultimately wins it, particularly as Microsoft and Amazon are aggressively pursuing government work for their expanding cloud units.

While Trump didn’t cite Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos by name Thursday, the billionaire executive has been a constant source of frustration for the president. Bezos owns The Washington Post, which Trump regularly criticizes for its coverage of his administration. Trump also has gone after Amazon repeatedly for, as he claims, not paying its fair share of taxes and ripping off the U.S. Post Office.

The Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, contract was originally supposed to be awarded in September 2018. The cloud computing deal could be announced as early as next month, the Pentagon told CNBC.

The Pentagon did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment regarding Trump’s statements. A Microsoft representative declined to comment and a spokesperson for AWS didn’t respond to an inquiry.

IBM told CNBC, “IBM has long raised serious concerns about the structure of the JEDI procurement. We continue to believe that the Department of Defense and our men and women in uniform would be best served by a multi-cloud strategy.”

AWS and Microsoft are the only companies that meet the minimum requirements for the contract, Defense Department spokesperson Elissa Smith told CNBC in April. Business from the CIA in the U.S. has been a big boon for AWS.

Last week, Oracle lost a court challenge in which it contended that the contract was tainted by conflicts of interest.

Source - CNBC
... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

2 hours ago


The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency - Squad X project

DARPA’s Squad X project pairs Marines and robots to eliminate the fog of war
The system uses drones, robots, and AI to gather information for soldiers in the field
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), has been working on a project that partners dismounted soldiers with autonomous robots and drones called Squad X. It’s designed to provide soldiers in the field with more information about their surroundings.

Historically, one of the most persistent issues on the battlefield is something known as the “fog of war” — a catch-all phrase that describes the uncertainty of one’s surroundings. Technology has done wonders to help eliminate this: scouts on horseback, balloonists, airplanes, and satellites have been able to deliver more and more information to commanders, allowing them to respond to their enemies and surroundings more effectively. The introduction of drones, robots, and sensors onto the battlefield promise illuminate one’s surroundings further, which is where Squad X appears to come in.

DARPA first tested out the Squad X program last year in California with a week-long test, which had US Marines using drones and robots to coordinate their movements and to detect potential threats in the field. The project uses a variety of tools to gather and transmit information to Marines and soldiers: autonomous robots that can drive around their locations; aerial drones that can survey their immediate surroundings; and off-the-shelf Android tablets to take in all of that information and present it to soldiers on the ground. An artificial intelligence system processed the information from the sensors, and presented the relevant data to the participants.

There are two systems at the heard of this project: one from CACI called BITS Electronic Attack Module (BEAM) Squad System (BSS), which allows personnel to “detect, locate, and attack specific threats in the radio frequency and cyber domains,” and Lockheed Martin’s Augmented Spectral Situational Awareness and Unaided Localization for Transformative Squads (ASSAULTS) system, which uses drones and robots to locate targets and engage them. DARPA says that the systems provide “small squads battalion-level insights and intelligence.”

Squad X program manager Lt. Col. Phil Root explained that the systems that they were testing don’t involve weapons. “The human is of course involved with any lethal action, but at this point, it’s about establishing superior situational awareness.” What the system is designed to do is to gather the relevant information, process it, and then allow soldiers and Marines to act on what they learn.

Lockheed Martin’s ASSAULTS system outfits Marines with vests rigged with sensors and accompanied by the drones and robots, who then moved through desert and simulated urban environments. DARPA notes that the robots are “always exploring and making the most of the current situation” to gather information and keep an eye on their surroundings. Another experiment included a “super node” an autonomous off-road Polaris loaded down with sensors.

Like other ongoing tests that the Army is conducting with autonomous armored vehicles, DARPA has noted that the tests aren’t just to figure out how to use the systems, but how the tactics that the soldiers use will change. Root said that there was a “steady evolution of tactics” that came with their robotic teammate. DARPA wasn’t just developing the tools for the soldiers, Root says, “but rather develop the hardware and the tactics that allow this to operate seamlessly within the close-combat ground environment.”

Source - By Andrew Liptak @AndrewLiptak
... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

4 hours ago


The EU has fined Qualcomm €242 million (around $272 million) for selling 3G modem chips at predatory prices in an attempt to drive a competing supplier, Icera, out of the market. The European Commission says that the company used its market dominance to sell chips meant for mobile internet dongles at below cost between 2009 and 2011. Today’s announcement marks the end of the EU’s nearly four year long investigation into Qualcomm’s actions.

Announcing the fine, the EU’s Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, said that “Qualcomm’s strategic behavior prevented competition and innovation in this market, and limited the choice available to consumers in a sector with a huge demand and potential for innovative technologies.”

The EU’s investigation found that Qualcomm sold its 3G chips at below cost prices to Huawei and ZTE just as Icera was emerging as a viable competitor. The Commission called these price concessions “targeted” and said that they “allowed [Qualcomm] to maximise the negative impact on Icera’s business.”

Today’s fine is just the latest in a series of antitrust rulings that Qualcomm has been hit with in recent years. Earlier this year, a US judge ruled that Qualcomm charges “unreasonable high” royalties for its patents, and criticized its practice of offering discounts to customers who agree to exclusively use its chips. This latter practice was also the subject of a $1.2 billion fine, also from the EU, that was issued last year. Regulators in South Korea, China, and Taiwan have fined Qualcomm over a variety of anticompetitive practices.

However, unlike the previous antitrust rulings, today’s fine is unlikely to have an ongoing impact on Qualcomm’s bottom line. The predatory pricing the EU says Qualcomm engaged in ended in 2011, and in today’s ruling the Commission has not criticized any of the company’s current practices, or the amounts that it charges for its patents or licenses. Instead the fine, which amounts to 1.27 percent of the company’s 2018 revenue, is designed to deter other companies from attempting the same thing.

Unfortunately for Icera, the fine has come too late to save its modem business. The company was acquired by Nvidia in 2011, which exited the modem market in 2015. Nvidia had hoped to integrate the company’s modems into its Tegra processors, but the plans never made it to fruition.

In response to the fine, Qualcomm said that it intends to appeal. The company’s executive vice president and general counsel, Don Rosenberg, said that the Commission had based its decision on the pricing of a “over a very short time period and for a very small volume of chips” and that Qualcomm’s actions had not caused any harm to Icera, which continued to compete in the market after it was acquired by Nvidia. “This decision is unsupported by the law, economic principles or market facts, and we look forward to a reversal on appeal,” Rosenberg said.

Now, as we move towards the 5G era, the modem market is due to lose another player. Intel announced that it would exit the 5G modem business after Apple and Qualcomm ended their protracted legal battle, leaving just a handful of players left to compete with Qualcomm’s 5G modems.

Update July 18th, 10:27AM ET: Added details of Qualcomm’s intention to appeal the ruling.

Source - By Jon Porter @JonPorty
... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

4 hours ago


Instagram is strengthening its moderation policies today and adding a new alert that will warn people who violate rules when their account is close to being deleted.

The alert will show users a history of the posts, comments, and stories that Instagram has had to remove from their account, as well as why they were removed. “If you post something that goes against our guidelines again, your account may be deleted,” the page reads.

Instagram will give users a chance to appeal its moderation decisions directly through the alert, rather than having to go through its help page on the web. Only some types of content will be able to be appealed at first (such as pictures removed for nudity or hate speech), and Instagram plans to expand the available content appeal types over time.

The change will help clarify for users why they’re in trouble and should remove the shock of suddenly finding that your account has vanished. While it’s likely that a great number of banned accounts are removed for obvious rule violations, Instagram — like its parent company Facebook — has regularly had moderation problems when it comes to nudity and sexuality, where users have had photos removed for posting pictures of breastfeeding or period blood. This update won’t prevent those mistakes (those types of photos are supposed to be allowed), but it would make appealing the decision easier.

In addition to the new alert, Instagram is also going to give its moderating team more leeway to ban bad actors. Instagram’s policy has been to ban users who post “a certain percentage of violating content,” but it’ll now ban people who repeatedly violate its policies within a window of time, too. The specifics here are all as vague as ever, as Instagram doesn’t want to offer details and let bad actors game the system, but it sounds like it could lead to fewer problematic accounts slipping through on a technicality.

Source - By Jacob Kastrenakes @jake_k
... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

12 hours ago


Google will now pay bigger rewards for discovering Chrome security bugs

Google launched a bug bounty program for Chrome in 2010. Today they’re increasing the maximum rewards for that program by 2-3x.

Rewards in Chrome’s bug bounty program vary considerably based on how severe a bug is and how detailed your report is — a “baseline” report with fewer details will generally earn less than a “high-quality” report that does things like explain how a bug might be exploited, why it’s happening, and how it might be fixed. You can read about how Google rates reports right here.

But in both cases, the potential reward size is being increased. The maximum payout for a baseline report is increasing from $5,000 to $15,000, while the maximum payout for a high quality report is being bumped from $15,000 to $30,000.

There’s one type of exploit that Google is particularly interested in: those that compromise a Chromebook or Chromebox device running in guest mode, and that aren’t fixed with a quick reboot. Google first offered a $50,000 reward for this type of bug, increasing it to $100,000 in 2016 after no one had managed to claim it. Today they’re bumping it to $150,000.

They’ve also introduced a new exploit category for Chrome OS rewards: lockscreen bypasses. If you can get around the lockscreen (by pulling information out of a locked user session, for example,) Google will pay out up to $15,000.

Google pays additional rewards for any bugs found using its “Chrome Fuzzer Program” —a program that lets researchers write automated tests and run them on lots and lots of machines in the hopes of finding a bug that only shows up at much larger scales. The bonus for bugs found through the Fuzzer program will be increased from $500 to $1000 (on top of whatever reward you’d normally get for a bug in that category.)

Google says that it’s paid out over $5M in bug bounties through its Chrome Vulnerability Rewards Program since it was introduced in 2010. As of February of this year, the company had paid out over $15M across all of their bug bounty programs.

Source - Greg Kumparak @grg - TC
... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook