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Monday briefing: 400,000 UK customers could be involved in Equifax breach

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Your WIRED daily briefing. Today, data on up to 400,000 UK customers may have been accessed in the hack on US credit monitoring agency Equifax, Bing adds fact-checking support, Waymo has asked for a delay to its court date against Uber and more.

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1. Data on 400,000 UK customers could be involved in Equifax breach

US credit checking agency Equifax has revealed that the personal information of around 400,000 people in the UK “may potentially have been accessed” in a hack that’s thought to have affected up to 145 million customers (The Guardian). The breach, which has been revealed to have been made possible by poor update patching and cybersecurity practices on Equifax’s part, is among the biggest on record. While Equifax’s UK systems were not affected, the company says that British customer data may have been accessed because some UK customer’s information was stored on the US system between 2011 and 2016 due to a “process failure”. This data includes names, dates of birth, email addresses and telephone numbers, but does not postal addresses, passwords or financial information.

2. Bing adds fact checking to search results

Microsoft has added new fact-checking capabilities to its Bing search engine, with a fact-check label that publishers can use to indicate the veracity of news stories (The Verge). The company detailed the label in a blog for sites wishing to use it, saying that linked fact-checking sites’ “analysis must be transparent about sources and methods, with citations and references to primary sources included”. Although the ClaimReview embedding code can be linked to any site, Microsoft says that only sites that follow Bing’s fact-checking criteria will be shown, to help prevent the system from being used to propagate false claims.

3. Waymo requests delay to its court date against Uber

Google parent company Alphabet has requested a delay to its scheduled October 11 court date against Uber, which it says was involved in the theft of trade secrets from Alphabet self-driving vehicle subsidiary, Waymo (Recode). The firm requested the delay so its lawyers would have sufficient time to go through data in a report commissioned by Uber when it took over former Google self-driving car engineer Anthony Levandowski’s self-driving truck firm, Otto. Alphabet says that report, which a judge ordered Uber to hand over on September 13, “unequivocally establishes the facts underlying Waymo’s trade secret misappropriation claims”.

4. Alphabet could be preparing to invest in Lyft

An unnamed Reuters source claims that Alphabet is currently in talks with US-based ride-hailing firm Lyft about investing in the taxi company (Ars Technica). The two firms have an existing partnership, with Lyft collaborating with Waymo to bring its autonomous vehicles to the public. The rumoured new deal is said to be worth $1 billion, but neither company was prepared to comment.

5. Boeing planes could fire lasers from their noses to spot turbulence

Early next year, a Boeing 777 will take off from the company’s airfield near Seattle with a laser shooting out of its nose (WIRED). It’s part of a new system that Boeing hopes could spot brutal turbulence that can damage aircraft and toss passengers around the cabin – and give crews enough time to hunker down before the going gets tough. While modern passenger aircraft can withstand even the bumpiest rides, turbulence remains dangerous for the people inside those planes. According to the FAA, 44 people were severely injured by turbulence in 2016, and that doesn’t count the less severe rocking and spilt drinks that passengers endure on flights on a daily basis. Boeing thinks a long-range LiDAR could be the answer. “We expect to be able to spot clear-air turbulence more than 60 seconds ahead of the aircraft, or about 17.5 kilometres, giving the crew enough time to secure the cabin and minimize the risk of injuries,” says Stefan Bieniawski, the Boeing program’s lead investigator.

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6. We’re lucky Earth isn’t caught in a permanent Ice Age

The Earth might be even more special than we previously thought: a new scientific study has found that if we were just a fraction further from the Sun, our planet would be locked in a never-ending Ice Age (WIRED). The findings, published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters, will help us understand what criteria to look for in Earth-like exoplanets. “It has a magnetic field that protects us from the solar wind,” says Martin Turbet, from Sorbonne Universitésin Paris. “It has an ozone layer that shields us from UV light, it has the right amount of water on the surface for both lands and oceans to exist.” Turbet and his colleagues have found another factor to Earth’s list of exceptional qualities. The study looked at the effect of carbon dioxide condensation on cold planets during an Ice Age. On planets slightly colder than Earth, they found CO2 would condense at the poles preventing it from escaping as a gas and warming up the planet through the greenhouse effect. “We show in fact that the Earth is just at the right distance from the Sun to be able to escape from episodes of complete glaciation, that – we know – must have occurred 2.4Gy (giga-annum – billion years) and 700My (million years) ago,” he explains. Move the Earth away from the Sun by only 15 per cent, the team found, and it would be permanently frozen.

7. Snapchat blocks Al Jazeera in Saudi Arabia

Snapchat has blocked Qatari-based broadcaster Al Jazeera’s official social media channel from users inside Saudi Arabia following a request by Saudi authorities (BBC News). Saudi Arabia currently has a contentious relationship with neighbouring Qatar and its state-funded broadcaster, Al Jazeera, which Saudi Arabia says has violated its strict local laws on broadcast media. A Snap representative said: “We make an effort to comply with local laws in the countries where we operate”.

8. Polaroid is back with a new but retro instant camera

The Polaroid OneStep 2 leverages nostalgia to get you back into using instant cameras again (WIRED). Mimicking the original 1977 OneStep, it’s been designed in the familiar polaroid grey with flashes of bright colours picked out from the company’s logo. And obviously, it’s simple to use: pop in a piece of film, point, click, and wait for it to develop. There have been some upgrades, though: a USB charging connection, built-in flash and a self-timer (ideal for selfies without a screen). The OneStep 2 camera has been made available for pre-order from today and will set you back £109.99. It will be in shops from October. The firm has also created a new instant film, which includes just eight exposures, for £14.99.

9. The Handmaid’s Tale wins big at the Emmys

Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian classic, The Handmaid’s Tale – detailing a religious fundamentalist future American in which fertile women are enslaved – has become the first streaming TV series to win at the Emmy Awards, and took away best drama series, best director, best actress and best supporting actress (BBC News). Netflix also got a look in, with a best writing award for Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, as well as a best TV movie award for Black Mirror episode San Junipero.

10. Modder claims Nintendo Switch has a built-in NES emulator

Nintendo modder Yellows8 says that the Nintendo Switch comes with a hidden NES emulator and a copy of 8-bit classic Golf in a hidden directory (Ars Technica). Detailed on SwitchBrew, the ‘flog’ directory is supposedly present on all versions of Nintendo’s latest console and the game is reportedly even equipped with Joy-Con based golf swing motion control support. However, they note, “It’s unknown what exactly triggers launching this title officially” so it could just be a hidden proof of concept. Nintendo declined to comment, although the company’s press representative said: “Ha!”

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