US Predator and Reaper drones in Afghanistan were hacked and a virus inserted into their remote cockpits at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, logging every keystroke their pilots make.
These remote drones, arguably the most pivotal piece of American war efforts in Afghanistan over the last 10 years, have continued to fly missions even though the threat was first detected two weeks ago. There is no indication that sensitive or classified data was retrieved as a result of the virus, but it continues to pose a problem.
“We keep wiping it off, and it keeps coming back,” says a source familiar with the network infection, one of three that told Danger Room about the virus. “We think it’s benign. But we just don’t know.”
30 CIA-controlled drones have been flying missions since 2008 when President Obama took office and have hit more than 230 targets in Pakistan during that time. Over 2000 deaths have been “credited” to the drones in that time. The Air Force uses 5 times as many Predators and Reaper drones in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Air Force declined to comment directly on the virus. “We generally do not discuss specific vulnerabilities, threats, or responses to our computer networks, since that helps people looking to exploit or attack our systems to refine their approach,” says Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis, a spokesman for Air Combat Command, which oversees the drones and all other Air Force tactical aircraft. “We invest a lot in protecting and monitoring our systems to counter threats and ensure security, which includes a comprehensive response to viruses, worms, and other malware we discover.”
Most people have grown accustomed to ignoring banner ads. There are browser plugins that block them and filters that hide them. Even when they’re visible, many people simply pretend like they aren’t there.
The problem isn’t with the people. They problem is with the ads themselves. In many cases, they simply all look the same. Sale this. Special that. Stock photo, some text, and a button to click to get more information. They’re old.
According to research by BuySellAds, there are ways to make banner ads more appealing. As an increasing number of people spend a growing amount of time online, websites need banner ads to monetize themselves and advertisers need views and clicks to make an impact on their business. It’s a singular goal, one that is addressed in their latest infographic.
There are two signs that point to a company entering into “desperation mode”: big cuts and big investments.
Big, risky investments often signal prosperity at large companies, but they can also mean the exact opposite as companies try to buy their way out of bad situations and stagnant balance sheets. The latter seems to be the case with Sprint, a company that is committing a lot more money than they plan on bringing in over the next couple of years.
First, there’s the iPhone. While the initial announcement that Sprint was getting the iPhone was met with glee, the decisions they’ve made since them have investors and analysts scratching their head. Sprint plans on offering unlimited data on the Apple offering, but they’ve also committed to $20 billion over the next 4 years. This news was enough to send some investors for the hills, but today’s actions have the remaining investors even more upset.
“They’re going to be spending more money than they’re bringing in for the next couple of years… even before iPhone costs,” Hudson Square analyst Todd Rethemeier said.
An angry batch of investors questioned the company’s choices during a conference today. One well-applauded question surrounded Clearwire, a company owned by Sprint on the verge of bankruptcy that has more spectrum than Sprint. Why would they spend billions when they have a majority stake in the wireless telecommunications network operator already (with much of the money potentially going to Clearwire’s competitor, LightSquared)?
When in doubt, spend. That’s one way of looking at the situation, but it’s not giving investors the warm and fuzzies. Has Sprint made a batch of fool’s bets in the last few weeks that are sure to wreck the company or do they know things that analysts and investors do not? Will the iPhone save the company or help to bankrupt it? Are they sprinting towards disaster?
Firefox’s sizable updates will soon download and install without bothering the user
Mozilla is changing the way Firefox handles updates. Mozilla has announced it will take yet another page from Google Chrome’s playbook and move automatic updates to the background where they will happen silently, without the need for user input. Of course that also means Firefox updates will happen without user consent, something Mozilla avoided in the past.
The new silent update policy, which Mitchell Baker, Chair of the Mozilla Foundation, announced via her blog, will not take effect until Firefox 10, which will arrive in early 2012.
Lest you think that Mozilla is moving to Chrome-style silent updates simply because it wants to, Baker clarifies that the change is in response to user feedback:
In the past we have been very careful to make sure people know something is changing with their web browser before it changes. We did this to make sure people are aware and in control of what’s happening to their environment. Our position was to err on the side of user notification. Today people are telling us — loudly — that the notifications are irritating and that a silent update process is important. This work is underway.
Moving to a silent update system will help address what’s known as “update fatigue” by eliminating the endless update notices. Google Chrome has already shown that this is a much more effective way to keep software updated without troubling users every single time a bug fix arrives.
However, Chrome has another trick up its sleeve that makes its frequent updates easier on users — a custom compression algorithm that reduces the size of those updates. Chrome’s Courgette project makes sure that silent updates don’t choke your bandwidth while they’re downloading. Firefox, at the moment, does not seem to have a similar tool in place. As it stands, when Firefox downloads an update in the background it’s only marginally smaller that what you’d download if you used the downloads page.
Hopefully Mozilla plans to enable some better compression tools — and thus, smaller updates — in the future. While Baker doesn’t specifically address the issue, she does say that Mozilla has a long-term plan that will “alleviate the issues” many users have had with the new rapid release cycle and that Mozilla will have “improvements rolling out in the coming weeks.”
It’s impossible to imagine the web as it is today without Steve Jobs in the story. Even something as seemingly simple as proportional width fonts might not exist were it not for Jobs and Apple, to say nothing of the WebKit project and dozens of other contributions.
Through it all Jobs and Apple always managed to keep the focus on people. Computers, useful as they are, are nothing without people. The web is the same. The web is about people. It’s a tool to help people imagine more, do more, be more.
So thank you Mr. Jobs for being crazy enough to think you could change the world and the people living in it. It’s clear that you did.
If you haven’t already, check out Steve Levy’s piece on Jobs over at Epicenter. Below is a video of Jobs’s 2005 Stanford commencement address.
CSS is notoriously difficult to organize. The complexity of CSS selectors coupled with ever-changing project requirements and redesigns can quickly turn even the simplest of stylesheets into a snarled, tangled mess of code. Ugly code can be perfectly functional code (if it couldn’t the entire web would have collapsed in on itself long ago), but who wants to maintain barely understood spaghetti code?
We’ve looked at some general suggestions for organizing CSS in the past, the highlight of which is still CSS guru Nicole Sullivan’s suggestions for organizing and maintaining large CSS codebases.
I recently stumbled across another great resource anyone who needs some practical, example-filled advice on how to organize CSS — Yahoo developer Jonathan Snook’s new online book, SMACSS.
SMACSS (pronounced “smacks”) stands for Scalable and Modular Architecture for CSS. Don’t let the overly technical title fool you, Snook’s book is not only highly readable it’s chock full of examples that will help you wrangle your code into something more manageable. Snook calls SMACSS more of a “style guide than rigid framework,” and suggests that it’s best approached as a way to “examine your design process and as a way to fit those rigid frameworks into a flexible thought process.” In other words, it’s a system you can adopt or borrow portions of and adapt to your own work.
The book is available online, either as a single, massive page of HTML or broken into sections. I highly suggest browsing by section since there are comments on each of the pages where readers can ask questions and offer their own suggestions. Throw SMACSS in Instapaper or add it to your bookmarks, it’s well worth a read and likely something you’ll want to refer back to in the future.