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NASA Tests 10-Engine Electric Airplane

HAMPTON, VA—Researchers at NASA’s Langley Research Center, in Hampton, VA have developed a ten-engine, battery-powered plane that takes off and lands like a helicopter but, once airborne, maneuvers like an airplane.

Last week, engineers successfully tested the remote-controlled plane at a military base a couple hours from the research center.

This week, the technology is being showcased at the Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International 2015 conference in Atlanta, Georgia.


The prototype, called the Greased Lightning or GL-10, remains in the design and testing phase, but after a series of test flights the consensus is: so far, so good.

Originally, the idea was to build a hybrid plane, with a combination of diesel and electric engines. But a process of rapid prototyping—in which several smaller versions were lost to hard landings—resulted in the current all-electric plane.

The plane, as it stands, could serve a number or purposes, or it could serve as a model for a larger prototype.

More research is needed to confirm the GL-10’s aerodynamic efficiency. But the latest test flights prove that at the very least that their model is sky-worthy.

Microsoft Delivers Public Preview of Office 2016 for Windows Desktops

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Microsoft is making available to the public a test build of its Office 2016 desktop suite for Windows desktops.

The new Office 2016 public preview, available for download beginning May 04, is the second public test version of Office 2016. The first preview, delivered in March 2015, was for IT Pros and developers. The new public preview is available to both Office 365 subscribers (with Pro Plus as part of their subscriptions) and non-subscribers—and both home users and enterprise users.

Office 2016 works on Windows 7, 8 and Windows 10 PCs, laptops and tablets. Users must uninstall Office 2013 in order to use the new preview; the two versions cannot run side-by-side. Also worth knowing: Microsoft will be updating the public preview regularly, both before it is made commercially available and beyond.

Microsoft officials reiterated that the Office 2016 suite for Windows desktops will be available in the fall of 2015, the same timing officials had shared previously.

Microsoft also is working on touch-first/Universal versions of its key Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook) for Windows 10 devices that will be available for download via the Windows 10 Store. A second version of those touch-first mobile apps for Windows 10 Mobile are expected to be available for testers early this week.

Microsoft has been testing privately Office 2016 since last year. Testers have said they’ve seen relatively few brand-new features in the coming suite.

Microsoft is playing up the cloud connectivity enhancements to Office 2016 as one of its key selling points. The new Office 2016 suite also will include several enhancements such as document coauthoring, new “Tell Me” navigation support, integration with Power BI, and more lockdown/rights management capabilities.

Update: The coauthoring capability isn’t yet available in preview. Here’s a Microsoft Support article that explains more plainly as to what is in the current Office 2016 preview.

Microsoft officials also announced today at Ignite that the company will be adding its Sway application—a new presentation offering which has been in consumer preview since last year—to its Office 365 Education and Business plan subscribers starting later this month

Security Alert: How to Crack Many Master Lock Combinations in Eight Tries or Less

WARNING

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This Type of Locks Are Not Safe

There’s a vulnerability in Master Lock branded padlocks that allows anyone to learn the combination in eight or fewer tries, a process that requires less than two minutes and a minimal amount of skill to carry out.

The exploit involves lifting up a locked shackle with one hand while turning the combination dial counterclockwise starting at the number 0 with the other. Before the dial reaches 11, there will be three points where the dial will resist being turned anymore. One of them will be ignored as it is exactly between two whole numbers on the dial. The remaining two locations represent locked positions. Next, an attacker again lifts the locked shackle, this time with less force, while turning the dial clockwise. At some point before a full revolution is completed, the dial will resist being turned. (An attacker can still turn through it but will physically feel the resistance.) This location represents the resistance location. The two locked positions and the one resistance position are then recorded on a Web page that streamlines the exploit.

The page responds with the first digit of the combination and two possible digits for the last digit. By testing which of the possible last digits has more “give,“ an attacker can quickly figure out which one is correct. By eliminating the false digit from the Web form, the page will automatically populate the eight possible numbers for the second digit of the combination. Now that the attacker knows the first and last digits and knows the second digit is one of eight possible numbers, the hack is a simple matter of trying each possible combination until the correct one opens the lock. The following video provides a simple tutorial.

The technique was devised by Samy Kamkar, a serial hacker who has created everything from stealthy keystroke-pilfering USB chargers to DIY stalker apps that mined Google Streetview. In 2005, he unleashed the Samy worm, a cross-site scripting exploit that knocked MySpace out of commission when it added more than one million MySpace friends to Kamkar’s account.

Kamkar told Ars his Master Lock exploit started with a well-known vulnerability that allows Master Lock combinations to be cracked in 100 or fewer tries. He then physically broke open a combination lock and noticed the resistance he observed was caused by two lock parts that touched in a way that revealed important clues about the combination. (He likened the Master Lock design to a side channel in cryptographic devices that can be exploited to obtain the secret key.) Kamkar then made a third observation that was instrumental to his Master Lock exploit: the first and third digit of the combination, when divided by four, always return the same remainder. By combining the insights from all three weaknesses he devised the attack laid out in the video.

It’s by no means the only way to break the security of a popular padlock. It comes a few years after Master Lock engineers developed new padlocks that resisted a popular form of attacks using shims made from soft drink cans. Kamkar said he has tried his exploit on more than a dozen Master Lock combination locks, and so far it has worked on all of them. In the coming weeks, he plans to unveil more details, including an Arduino-based robot that streamlines the exploit.

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The 1800s Tech That’s Still The Fast Way To Send Cash

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In a world where technology makes so much possible in an instant, moving money can still be a waiting game. With smartphones, you can send cash to friends in just a few taps — but it can take one to three days before it shows up in the bank.

One trusty way to receive money within minutes relies on technology that predated the first text message by more than 100 years: the wire service.

Hikmet Ersek, chief executive of Western Union, says the company has advanced considerably since the days of the telegraph. Its mobile business, driven primarily through a smartphone app, is the fastest growing slice of the company’s revenue, which grew 2% in the last quarter to $5.74 billion.

But Ersek, who has led Western Union since 2010, said that most people still prefer to send money from one of its retail locations; there are more than 500,000 worldwide, including 50,000 in the United States.

Ersek recently chatted with The Washington Post about its core business, immigrants in the United States sending cash abroad to family members. He also spoke about the role women play in household finances and the future of mobile payments. This has been edited for length and clarity.

Q. Who is your typical customer?

A. About 60% of our customers are migrants. The global immigrants market is more than $500 billion a year, most of them supporting families back home. Is it your mom or uncle, children? The number one reason for sending money back home is supporting their children so that they have a better education.

Q. Your company is global; where do you have the biggest reach?

A. Our largest market is the U.S. outbound market: sending money. In the receiving market, the number one country is India, then it’s Mexico, then Philippines, then China.

Of the “send” countries, the number one market is definitely the U.S. Saudi Arabia is worldwide second because of the immigrant market. In Europe, places like France and the United Kingdom are the largest countries.

Q. A theme of the economy this year has been that the U.S. is doing well while other countries are struggling. How does that affect your business?

A. I’m not sure if the economy is doing very well in the U.S. I think it’s doing better. Obviously the U.S. economy is doing much better and creating more jobs than the European economy, but our business is extremely resilient. Our customers have been very resilient, but we do see a difference sometimes in the dollar amounts. Instead of sending $300, they send $280.

Q. As you know, mobile payments are huge abroad, and some smaller players are trying to infiltrate the market here for people who want to send money to family members abroad. How many of your customers are sending money on their phones, and what is Western Union doing to compete in this space?

A. Our digital business is 6% of our total revenue. It’s the smallest but fastest-growing part of our business. In the U.S., more and more customers want to send money digitally.

Within the digital business, the fastest growing part is mobile. People use their app while they go underground in New York and they get a phone call from Bangladesh, from their mom saying she wants $160, and they can use their app and send the money immediately. I believe in the future that people will use mobile devices — it could be a watch, by the way — to send money.

On the receive side though, we don’t see our customers using mobile yet. The only country really is Kenya. But we don’t see a lot that people will get money on their mobile phones and then use that phone to go and shop for milk. So the use case on the mobile receive side is less. But on the send side, I believe, that’s going to be a huge part of Western Union in the future.

Q. Social media companies like SnapChat and Facebook have partnered with money apps to let people send money to friends and family. How does Western Union compete with these efforts?

A. It’s easy to send money from New York to San Francisco, but it’s not easy to send money from New York to Sri Lanka. Facebook and Google and others struggle with that. If you want to move money across borders, you need a company like Western Union. It’s easier to do it within one country, because you don’t need that kind of expertise, that kind of competency, like you do with cross-border. That’s our competitive advantage.

Q. Tell me about Western Union’s partnership with Apple Pay.

A. That’s always a part of our strategy. We are opening our network to any way of collecting payments. If people are using Apple Pay, why not use your Apple Pay to send money to Sri Lanka?

You have money on your phone. You get a call from your brother, you go with your Apple Pay and send money to your brother, who within minutes can pick up $150 in Sri Lanka. It’s the same as collecting money from a MasterCard, Visa or American Express. We can connect people globally, and people can send money in a way they want. I think people like that.

Q. What do you think mobile payments will look like in the future?

A. It’s my opinion that the mobile device in the future will have a different form than today. It’s changed a lot. Today’s phones are small computers, and in the future, the watch could be also a wallet.

Q. Security is on everyone’s mind right now. What are some of the things Western Union is doing to protect customers’ data?

A. Everybody should be concerned, because that is the new way of doing crime. In the past you went to a bank and robbed the bank. Now you’re going online to try to get money there. Our system double-checks everything. Let’s say you want to send money; you use your credit card online. But before we pay out the money, we double-check: Is it the right person? Who is it on the receive side?

For every transaction, there are two people involved. We have a money-laundering database, and we check every transaction against any crime activities. We have not been seeing any fraud activity online that has majorly affected us.

Q. And the person receiving the money has to know certain details about the transaction, correct?

A. Absolutely. There is a (code) that is issued only one time. The receiver has to know the details of the sender, plus this number.

Q. Anything else coming from Western Union that consumers should be aware of?

A. There is always a perception that Western Union has an old business model, but don’t forget there are 29 transactions every second, and all of these transactions are done electronically. It’s not like we carry it from one location to another location, cash in a suitcase.

Now what’s happening is that instead of collecting cash, people are more and more using online or digital phones to carry out the transactions and, I believe in the future, also watches and other mobile devices.

~~  Washington Post ~~

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