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Tech wrap: Fired Google engineer files complaint; hackers demand HBO ransom in bitcoin; Disney leaving Netflix; new supercomputer online

Bulldog Bulletin

Aug, 9 2017, 5:43 AM

In today's Bulldog wrapup of technology and science news:

The details:

A 28-year-old former Google engineer who was fired over a memo he wrote about gender differences said Tuesday he's exploring all his legal options and has already filed a labor complaint over his treatment.

James Damore, whose memo over the weekend caused an uproar online, said in an email that he was terminated late Monday for "perpetuating gender stereotypes." He said that prior to being fired he had filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board and that "it's illegal to retaliate against a NLRB charge."

A filing by Damore with the board Monday alleged he was subjected to "coercive statements" while at Google.

A Google spokesperson said Tuesday that the company could not have retaliated because it was unaware of his labor complaint until reading about it in the media after his dismissal. As of Tuesday afternoon, the company said it had not been sent notice of the complaint by the board.

The board declined to comment.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Monday said in an email to employees that, while he supports free expression by company workers, Damore's memo crossed the line of the company's code of conduct "by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace." Pichai added that he was cutting short a family vacation overseas to address staff in a town hall Thursday.

"To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK," Pichai wrote.

A group of hackers posted a fresh cache of stolen HBO files online Monday, and demanded a multimillion-dollar ransom from the network to prevent the release of entire television series and other sensitive proprietary files.

HBO, which had previously acknowledged the theft of "proprietary information," said it's continuing to investigate and is working with police and cybersecurity experts.

In a swaggering five-minute video from "Mr. Smith" to HBO CEO Richard Plepler included in the dump, the hackers used white text scrolling on a black background to deliver an ultimatum. In short: Pay up within three days or see the group, which claims to have stolen 1.5 terabytes of HBO shows and confidential corporate data, upload entire series and sensitive proprietary files.

Specifically, the hackers demanded "our 6-month salary in bitcoin," and claimed they earn $12 million to $15 million a year from blackmailing organizations whose networks they have penetrated. They said they would only deal directly with "Richard" and only send one "letter" detailing how to pay.

The dump itself was just 3.4 gigabytes — mostly technical data that appears to provide a topography of HBO's network and to list network-administrator passwords. It includes what appear to be draft scripts from five "Game of Thrones" episodes, including one upcoming episode, and a month's worth of email apparently from the account of Leslie Cohen, HBO's vice president for film programming.

Disney is parting ways with Netflix.

The company said Tuesday that it will end its partnership with the streaming service in 2019.

Disney also announced it will launch its own streaming services, and plans to acquire a majority stake in BAMTech, a major streaming and marketing service.

According to a spokesperson, Marvel TV series like "Luke Cage," "Jessica Jones" and "The Punisher" will continue to live on Netflix -- for now. Animated series like "The Clone Wars" will move to the Disney app. Existing movies from Disney and Pixar will remain on Netflix until their current deals expire.

Netflix shares fell 5% after hours, while Disney slid 4%.

Disney shares are flat this year despite a major rally in the broader market.

Disney is paying $1.58 billion for majority ownership of BAMTech.

Last August, Disney acquired a 33% stake in that company, which is a spinoff from Major League Baseball Advanced Media, for $1 billion.

One of the world's fastest supercomputers is helping scientists better understand the sun's behavior and predict weather months in advance but also got touted Tuesday as an important tool for diversifying Wyoming's economy, which has seen better days.

The new supercomputer named Cheyenne, located at a National Center for Atmospheric Research facility on the outskirts of Wyoming's capital city, is the world's 22nd fastest. Put to work earlier this year, Cheyenne is three times faster yet three times more efficient than its predecessor, a machine called Yellowstone.

The NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center housing both machines is an important tool for recruiting tech businesses and keeping students interested in computers from leaving Wyoming to seek their fortunes elsewhere, Gov. Matt Mead said at a dedication for the new machine Tuesday.

The facility also is an important tool for research into hydrology, ways to trap carbon dioxide emitted by coal-fired power plants and other science important to Wyoming, he said.

"What it shows in Wyoming is that we're not only trying to broaden and diversify the economy, we care about the results," Mead said.





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