Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Bosses Bust Workers Who Fake Computer Activity


Wildlife Protections Take a Back Seat to SpaceX’s Ambitions

“A New York Times investigation found that Elon Musk exploited federal agencies’ [no paywall] competing missions to achieve his goals for space travel. As Elon Musk’s Starship — the largest rocket ever manufactured — successfully blasted toward the sky last month, the launch was hailed as a giant leap for SpaceX and the United States’ civilian space program. 

Two hours later, once conditions were deemed safe, a team from SpaceX, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a conservation group began canvassing the fragile migratory bird habitat surrounding the launch site. The impact was obvious. The launch had unleashed an enormous burst of mud, stones and fiery debris across the public lands encircling Mr. Musk’s $3 billion space compound. Chunks of sheet metal and insulation were strewn across the sand flats on one side of a state park. Elsewhere, a small fire had ignited, leaving a charred patch of park grasslands — remnants from the blastoff that burned 7.5 million pounds of fuel. 

Most disturbing to one member of the entourage was the yellow smear on the soil in the same spot that a bird’s nest lay the day before. None of the nine nests recorded by the nonprofitCoastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program before the launch had survived intact. Egg yolk now stained the ground. “The nests have all been messed up or have eggs missing,” Justin LeClaire, a Coastal Bend wildlife biologist, told a Fish and Wildlife inspector as a New York Times reporter observed nearby.The outcome was part of a well-documented pattern. 

On at least 19 occasions since 2019, SpaceX operations have caused firesleaksexplosionsor other problems associated with the rapid growth of Mr. Musk’s complex in Boca Chica. These incidents have caused environmental damage and reflect a broader debate over how to balance technological and economic progress against protections of delicate ecosystems and local communities…”

The Jiggle Is Up: Bosses Bust Workers Who Fake Computer Activity

WSJ via MSN: “It’s getting harder to outsmart the digital minders at work. The rise of remote work and, in turn, employee-monitoring software sparked a boom in mouse and keyboard jigglers and other hacks to help staffers fake computer activity—often so they can step away to do laundry or a school pickup. Now some companies are cracking down on the subterfuge, deploying tools that can better spot the phony busywork. 

The latest salvo in this productivity-tracking arms race came in a recent regulatory filing from Wells Fargo. In the disclosure, first reported on by Bloomberg News, the bank said it had fired more than a dozen employees in its wealth and investment management unit for allegedly simulating keyboard activity to create the “impression of active work.” 

Wells Fargo declined to say exactly how it detected the suspicious activity or whether the workers were remote, only that it “does not tolerate unethical behavior.” Across Reddit and other social-media forums, the report sparked angst, and questions. “Anyone else concerned?” wrote one Reddit user. Another, more to the point, asked: “Can IT detect my mouse jiggler?” The answer, increasingly, is yes. 

The share of companies using some kind of electronic worker-surveillance system surged during the pandemic, reaching nearly 50% in 2023, according to a survey of nearly 300 medium to large employers by research and advisory firm Gartner. These systems, which track how active workers are at their computers, have long been able to detect some installed software or extra hardware. 

More of these software systems, such as Teramind and Hubstaff, now also use machine-learning tools that can identify repetitive cursor movements or irregular patterns in someone’s computer activity. In addition, some worker-monitoring software can randomly scrape screen images to check whether screen activity is changing as the computer mouse moves…”