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DOJ charges two Russians with using malware to steal millions

US and British officials announced the charges today. They allege that Yakubets, who went by "aqua" online, conducted two international computer hacking and bank fraud schemes over the course of a decade.

"Maksim Yakubets allegedly has engaged in a decade-long cybercrime spree that deployed two of the most damaging pieces of financial malware ever used and resulted in tens of millions of dollars of losses to victims worldwide," said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski.

Yakubets is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud using the "Zeus" malware, which he and co-conspirators used to steal millions of dollars from 21 municipalities, banks, companies and nonprofits across the US. According to The Washington Post, targeted companies included a dairy company in Ohio, a luggage store in New Mexico and an order of religious sisters.

Officials also indicted Igor Turashev, from Yoshakr-Ola, Russia, for his alleged role in spreading the "Bugat" malware. The 10-count indictment alleges that Yakubets and Turashev used the "Bugat" malware to make unauthorized transfers from victims' bank accounts. They reportedly hit two banks, a school district and four companies, ranging from a petroleum business to a metal manufacturer. Those attacks resulted in the theft of millions of dollars.

"For over a decade, Maksim Yakubets and Igor Turashev led one of the most sophisticated transnational cybercrime syndicates in the world," said U.S. Attorney Scott W. Brady. "Deploying 'Bugat' malware, also known as 'Cridex' and 'Dridex,' these cybercriminals targeted individuals and companies in western Pennsylvania and across the globe in one of the most widespread malware campaigns we have ever encountered."

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/12/05/doj-russian-nationals-charged-cybercrime/

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The best gifts for music lovers, from headphones to DJ gear

Getting a gift for the DJ or turntablist on your list can be pricey. They typically only want hard-to-find records, turntables, mixers and custom slipmats. But if that person in your life is considering going digital, the Thud Rumble Photon Fader might be up their alley. This little device works with a regular turntable and connects directly to a computer or mobile device for low-latency scratching and mixing. In addition to a smooth fader knob, it has eight light-up buttons for MIDI control of your favorite apps. As a bonus, it's small enough to be tossed into a purse and is powered by USB, so there's no need for extra cables. The best part, though, is its $200 asking price. That's not an impulse buy, to be sure, but it's still way cheaper than that $800 turntable you saw at Guitar Center. -- R.B.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/12/05/the-best-gifts-for-music-lovers-from-headphones-to-dj-gear/

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Google’s powerful Recorder app now works on older Pixel phones

Google said last month it'd make Recorder available for older Pixels. On Thursday, it updated the app, which should now pop up in the Play Store for other supported Pixels, namely Pixel 2 and later devices. However, it doesn't seem to work on the original Pixel -- at least not officially.

As is the case with many other apps, it might run just fine on other Android devices. Some users have been sideloading the Recorder APK to their phones. The app crashed when some of them tried to launch it, though Android Police suggests the update might have resolved the issue.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/12/05/google-recorder-pixel-2-pixel-3-available/

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Apple may ditch the Lightning port on a 2021 iPhone

It's not clear just how you'd charge an iPhone like this. iPhones have supported Qi wireless charging since 2017, but going that route would require that Apple include a charging pad in the box and force users to look for pads elsewhere. You couldn't just plug into a wall outlet while you're at work. And while there are power-at-a-distance chargers, the technology is still young enough that it might not be practical for a phone. This is, of course assuming that an Apple plan to drop Lightning wouldn't entail a switch to another wired format like USB-C.

This wouldn't be Apple's only surprise, either. Kuo predicted that Apple would have an "iPhone SE2 Plus" with a full-screen 5.5- or 6.1-inch design, but only a small notch to save space -- instead of Face ID, you'd use Touch ID built into the power button (much like the Galaxy S10e and some Sony phones). The handset would arrive in the first half of 2021 and help Apple establish a pattern of releasing budget iPhones early each year, starting with an iPhone 8-like model in 2020.

There's good reason to be skeptical. While Kuo generally appear to have an inside track on Apple's plans, 2021 is a long ways off. Even if he's completely accurate now, there's a possibility that plans will change as Apple refines the design and decides what technology makes sense. Just don't say you weren't warned if September 2021 rolls around and there's a port-free iPhone on store shelves.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/12/05/apple-2021-iphone-with-no-lightning-port/

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YouTube’s Rewind 2019 video learns from last year’s mistakes

After a hilarious debacle last year which saw Rewind 2018 becoming the site's most disliked video ever, YouTube is taking pains to do something different this time around. The YouTube Twitter account announced the new direction in the format most amenable to the internet, the meme.

Rather than original content like last year, this year's video is a supercut of the most viewed videos and creators of the past twelve months. It features music, gaming and beauty content, with the big names from the platform like PewDiePie and Jelly as well as musicians like Lil Nas X and Billie Eilish.

The video is split into charts of top creator videos, music videos, dance videos, most popular video games and top beauty videos, plus emerging creators and popular creators. To go along with the video, YouTube also released statistics about the most watched content of the year. Here's hoping that showcasing exactly what was popular on the platform will help avoid the embarrassment of last year.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/12/05/youtube-rewind-2019-video/

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It looks like ‘Bayonetta’ and ‘Vanquish’ 4K remasters are coming to Xbox One

According to the listings, Platinum will re-release both games on February 18th to celebrate their 10-year anniversaries. What's more, both titles will be playable at 4K and 60 frames per second on the Xbox One X. You could already play the games at 4K on PC if you had the necessary hardware. At the moment, it's unclear if the remasters will make their way to PlayStation 4 as well -- though that seems like a safe bet. While it's best to be skeptical of any leak, retailer listings tend to be more accurate than others -- see the massive Walmart Canada leak that came out ahead of E3 2018.

Bayonetta and Vanquish have a lot of history between the two of them. Of the two, most people are probably more familiar with Bayonetta. It first came out on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2009, before making its way to Nintendo Switch, Wii U and PC in later years. It was directed by Devil May Cry (and Okami) creator Hideki Kamiya. Like Devil May Cry, Bayonetta is an over-the-top action game. Players control Bayonetta, a shapeshifting witch, through a variety of thrilling combat encounters. The game is equal parts bizarre and brilliant.

Vanquish, meanwhile, is best described as a fast-paced and very anime take on Gears of War. It was first released on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2010, and was directed by Resident Evil mastermind Shinji Mikami. The story is mostly nonsensical, but the game itself is a lot of fun, especially if you grew up on a diet of action movies. Vanquish is more of a cult-classic than Bayonetta (the latter has spawned two sequels), but both are well worth your time if you enjoy something a bit more off the beaten path.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/12/05/bayonetta-vanquish-4k-remasters-xbox-one-leak/

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Apple explains why the iPhone 11 is always checking your location

The company stressed that the UWB-related checks are handled "entirely on the device," and that Apple isn't collecting location data. It's promising a dedicated toggle for UWB in a future iOS release.

The claim lines up with developer Will Strafach's determination that the location activity doesn't leave the iPhone, and suggests that there's no reason to be concerned about the behavior. However, Apple's response is drawing concern. The company initially declined to comment on the location findings, and doesn't clearly tell users that these location checks will still happen. In other words, people had room to speculate about sinister purposes rather than an up-front explanation that might have settled things much sooner.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/12/05/apple-explains-iphone-11-pro-location-activity/

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‘NHL 20’ adds Snoop Dogg as a commentator and playable character

The developer teased the addition of the legendary rapper to the game earlier this week, and with an update that dropped Thursday, Snoop pulled on his virtual skates to become a playable character in the World of Chel mode. Not only that, you'll hear him dropping (like it's hot) in as a guest commentator. Snoop actually has some experience on that front, as he called a Los Angeles Kings game in January.

When EA announced NHL 20 in June, it hinted at plans to rope in celebrity guests, such as Will Ferrell, Drake, Wayne Gretzky and Snoop, so there might be other surprise commentators on the way. For now, you might listen to Snoop urging players to "Pass It, Pass It."

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/12/05/nhl-20-snoop-dogg-commentator-playable-character/

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Qualcomm’s new chipset promises better AR and VR anywhere

If nothing else, the new Snapdragon XR2 platform features a lot of firsts: Qualcomm says it's the world's first 5G-enabled extended reality system, which should allow for a new breed of experiences that rely on low latency, super-fast data connections. (Eventually, anyway.) The Snapdragon XR2 is also apparently the first XR platform to allow for 8K, 360-degree video playback.

Just keep in mind that the XR2 isn't supposed to replace Qualcomm's existing XR chipset -- the XR1 the company announced in 2018 will stick around for use in more "mainstream" applications. Instead, the XR2 is meant to be a high-end sequel that offers double the CPU and GPU performance of its predecessors and supports display panels as pixel-dense as 3K by 3K per eye running at 90 frames per second.

That extra horsepower and those higher-res screens should all go a long way in helping the next generation of extended reality experiences feel more immersive, but there's more going on here than just better graphics. Qualcomm says a new, dedicated AI engine in the XR2 can handle processes like object and voice recognition, 3D reconstruction, depth detection and more up to 11 times faster than the earlier XR1 chipset.

The XR2 is also the first extended reality platform out there that can support up to seven on-device cameras at once -- with the help of a custom vision processor, XR2-powered devices will be able to track the user's head, eyes, hands and even lips. That's especially important when you consider that one of Qualcomm's big goals going forward is popularizing mixed reality -- in this case, that means using some of those cameras to pass video data straight through to the eye displays, and laying virtual objects on top of those real-world scenes.

It's obviously still early days for this chipset, but two important questions immediately spring to mind: When will people actually get to use this stuff, and what form will the first XR2 devices take?

Well, Qualcomm says five OEMs are already working with XR2, and we could see the fruits of their work sometime next year. The form factor question is a bit more interesting though, as Qualcomm's own concept images look more like a pair of Oakleys than a traditional, bulky VR headset. Qualcomm representatives also told reporters over the phone that they see "extended reality, becoming this new platform, where everyone is using glasses for hands-free, immersive, interactive communication and content."

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/12/05/qualcomm-snapdragon-xr2-ar-vr-extended-reality/

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Microsoft’s redesigned Office mobile apps read text out loud

The apps now have a more consistent visual design, which includes new app icons, splash screens, cards, typography and more. Productivity features like Play My Emails will let users listen to their inbox as if it were a podcast, and Read Aloud will serve a similar function in Word and Office apps. You can also use your phone to quickly scan documents and tables to Office, OneDrive and other apps.

Microsoft recognized that despite users spending up to four hours per day on their phones, each session averages just 20 to 30 seconds. So, the company asked how it could cram more productivity into the quick glances users take at their phones.

"While on the go, we often switch between apps and have shorter attention spans, sharper time constraints, or are in more distracting environments," Microsoft wrote. "When mobile apps seamlessly connect and feel similar, it reduces cognitive burden by eliminating the need to re-learn app patterns and navigation."

Microsoft says redesigned versions of Teams, Yammer and Planner are on their way, and it is sharing new mobile UI toolkits with third-party app developers, so other apps can embrace similar design elements and productivity focus.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/12/05/microsoft-redesign-mobile-apps/

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