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NASA Awards Contract for Construction, Maintenance, Environmental, Testing Services

NASA has selected Firelake-Arrowhead NASA Services of Lenexa, Kansas, to perform facility management, surveying, energy management, life safety code compliance and environmental management services for the agency’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

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Raw sockets backdoor gives attackers complete control of some Linux servers


(credit: Jeremy Brooks)

A stealthy backdoor undetected by antimalware providers is giving unknown attackers complete control over at least 100 Linux servers that appear to be used in business production environments, warn researchers.

In a blog post published Wednesday, Montreal-based GoSecure claimed that a piece of malware dubbed “Chaos” is infecting poorly secured systems by guessing weak passwords protecting secure shell application administrators use to remotely control Unix-based computers. The secure shell, or SSH, accounts being compromised run as root, and this is how the backdoor is able to get such access as well. Normally, firewalls in front of servers block such backdoors from communicating with the outside Internet. Once installed, Chaos bypasses those protections by using what’s known as a “raw socket” to covertly monitor all data sent over the network.

“With Chaos using a raw socket, the backdoor can be triggered on ports running an existing legitimate service,” Sebastian Feldmann, a master’s degree student intern working for GoSecure, wrote. “As an example, a Webserver that would only expose SSH (22), HTTP (80), and HTTPS (443) would not be reachable via a traditional backdoor due to the fact that those services are in use, but with Chaos it becomes possible.”

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Playboy says linking to Playmate archive violates copyright; judge says no way


Enlarge / A man reads a copy of the second issue of the Indonesian edition of US adult magazine Playboy at a news-stand in downtown Jakarta in June 2006. (credit: JEWEL SAMAD / AFP / Getty Images)

A federal judge in Los Angeles has dismissed a copyright infringement lawsuit filed against Happy Mutants, the parent company of the popular website Boing Boing.

Back in November 2017, Playboy Entertainment Group sued Boing Boing, accusing it of violating the company’s copyright when, in February 2016, the website simply linked to a separate online collection of “Every Playboy Playmate Centerfold Ever.” That portfolio, which was hosted on Imgur, has since been removed. Imgur did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment.

Because Boing Boing has advertising on its site, Playboy argued, it is profiting from those unauthorized images.

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Mitt Romney announces he’s running for U.S. Senate in Utah


Former 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney announced Friday that he’s running for Senate in Utah, saying that “I am ready to fight for this great state and advocate for solutions that improve the lives of Utahns.”

Romney was widely expected to enter the race after Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch said in January that he wouldn’t run for reelection.

“I am running for United States Senate because in these trying times there is no better moment to bring Utah’s values to Washington. Utah’s economic and political success is a model for our nation,” Romney said.

A statement emailed to reporters Friday morning by Romney’s campaign said the former Massachusetts governor plans to visit all of Utah’s 29 counties over the coming months and highlighted his experience heading the organizing committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Among his Massachusetts gubernatorial achievements, the statement listed Romney’s role in developing “a health insurance program that covered all citizens,” a program that served as a blueprint for Obamacare.

Romney’s campaign announcement also highlighted his role as a bishop and stake president in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which is headquartered in Salt Lake City.

“Utahns are known for hard work, innovation, and our can-do pioneering spirit,” Romney said in the statement. “Utah’s economic and political success is a model for our nation.”

Romney’s Senate bid has drawn outsized national attention not only because of his status as a former GOP presidential nominee but also because he has been among the most vocal Republican critics of President Donald Trump. During the 2016 campaign, Romney urged Republican primary voters to cast ballots for anyone other than Trump and labeled him “a phony” and “a fraud.”

In that same speech, Romney said Trump’s “promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University” and that he was “playing the American public for suckers.” Trump characteristically punched back at Romney throughout the campaign, labeling him a “stiff” who begged for an endorsement in 2012 and “choked like a dog” in the election.

The relationship between the two men seemed to warm in the weeks and months after Trump’s 2016 election victory, when the president considered Romney among the finalists to be his secretary of state. Still, Romney has remained willing to criticize Trump, including last month over the president’s reported characterization of certain African and Caribbean nations as “shithole countries.”

Romney, in his campaign launch video, seemed to take a subtle jab at Trump’s hardline immigration policies and a White House budget that experts have said will balloon the federal deficit. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in Washington,” he said. “Utah has balanced its budgets. Washington is buried in debt… Utah welcomes legal immigrants from around the world. Washington sends immigrants a message of exclusion.”

Should Romney win the Senate seat in deep-red Utah, which has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1970, he would replace Hatch, the dean of the Senate and a staunch defender of the president. Eager to avoid replacing an ally with an antagonist, Trump launched a charm offensive against Hatch late last year in an ultimately futile effort to convince the 83-year-old senator to seek reelection this year.


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As satellite threat looms, Air Force moves to buy small rocket services


Enlarge / A dedicated 747-400 aircraft will carry Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne to an altitude of approximately 35,000 feet before release for its rocket-powered flight to orbit. (credit: Virgin Orbit)

The U.S. military apparently wants to get into the business of launching smaller satellites on smaller rockets. In the administration’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2019, the Air Force budget contains a new “Rocket Systems Launch Program” item for the purpose of buying “small launch services” for the timely delivery of smaller payloads into low-Earth and geostationary transfer orbit.

The new program, which must be approved by Congress, provides $47.6 million in fiscal year 2019 and a total of $192.5 million over the next five years. It deals with the delivery into space of payloads weighing up to 8,000 pounds (about 3,600kg)—considerably less than the capability of an Atlas V or Falcon 9 rocket. This program comes just as several new US-based companies, including Rocket Lab, Virgin Orbit, Vector, Stratolaunch Systems, and more have developed, or are in the midst of developing, small satellite launch boosters.

“Like the commercial and entrepreneurial communities, the government needs small satellites and dedicated small launch vehicles to provide affordable, responsive space capabilities,” Dan Hart, the chief executive of Virgin Orbit, told Ars. “This request is another important signal that the government is taking proactive steps to assure they can rapidly reconstitute and replenish critical space capabilities, which is something that the new generation of affordable, commercially developed launch vehicles are perfectly positioned to do. We are strongly supportive of this request.”

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