Television

Samsung and Roku Smart TVs Vulnerable To Hacking, Consumer Reports Finds (consumerreports.org) 102

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Consumer Reports: Consumer Reports has found that millions of smart TVs can be controlled by hackers exploiting easy-to-find security flaws. The problems affect Samsung televisions, along with models made by TCL and other brands that use the Roku TV smart-TV platform, as well as streaming devices such as the Roku Ultra. We found that a relatively unsophisticated hacker could change channels, play offensive content, or crank up the volume, which might be deeply unsettling to someone who didn't understand what was happening. This could be done over the web, from thousands of miles away. (These vulnerabilities would not allow a hacker to spy on the user or steal information.) The findings were part of a broad privacy and security evaluation, led by Consumer Reports, of smart TVs from top brands that also included LG, Sony, and Vizio. The testing also found that all these TVs raised privacy concerns by collecting very detailed information on their users. Consumers can limit the data collection. But they have to give up a lot of the TVs' functionality -- and know the right buttons to click and settings to look for.
IOS

Key iPhone Source Code Gets Posted On GitHub (vice.com) 188

Jason Koebler shares a report from Motherboard: An anonymous person posted what experts say is the source code for a core component of the iPhone's operating system on GitHub, which could pave the way for hackers and security researchers to find vulnerabilities in iOS and make iPhone jailbreaks easier to achieve. The code is for "iBoot," which is the part of iOS that is responsible for ensuring a trusted boot of the operating system. It's the program that loads iOS, the very first process that runs when you turn on your iPhone. The code says it's for iOS 9, an older version of the operating system, but portions of it are likely to still be used in iOS 11. Bugs in the boot process are the most valuable ones if reported to Apple through its bounty program, which values them at a max payment of $200,000. "This is the biggest leak in history," Jonathan Levin, the author of a series of books on iOS and Mac OSX internals, told Motherboard in an online chat. "It's a huge deal." Levin, along with a second security researcher familiar with iOS, says the code appears to be the real iBoot code because it aligns with the code he reverse engineered himself.
Businesses

Foxconn Unit To Cut Over 10,000 Jobs As Robotics Take Over (nikkei.com) 104

According to Nikkei Asian Review, "Foxconn's panel arm Innolux is planning to slash more than 10,000 jobs this year as part of the company's aggressive efforts to increase the use of automation in manufacturing." Honorary Chairman Tuan Hsing-Chien said in a press conference on Tuesday: "We will reduce our total workforce to less than 50,000 people by the end of this year, from some 60,000 staff at the end of 2017." From the report: Innolux is a liquid crystal display-making affiliate of major iPhone assembler Hon Hai Precision Industry, better known as Foxconn Technology Group. Tuan is also a technology adviser to Foxconn, Sharp and Innolux. Tuan said up to 75% of production will be fully automated by the end of 2018. Most of Innolux's factories are in Taiwan. Tuan's pledge came a few days after Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou said the company would pour in some $342 million to overhaul its manufacturing process by using artificial intelligence.
Google

Nest Is Done As a Standalone Alphabet Company, Merges With Google (arstechnica.com) 45

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: There's a shakeup at Nest today. Following previous rumors back in November, Google just announced Nest will no longer be a standalone Alphabet company; instead, it will merge with the Google hardware team. The current Nest CEO, Marwan Fawaz, will report to Google Hardware SVP Rick Osterloh. Google's blog post says the merger will allow it to "combine hardware, software, and services" between the two companies, which are all "built with Google's artificial intelligence and the Assistant at the core." Nest and Google have been growing closer together even without this merger, with Nest getting a spot at the "Made By Google" Pixel 2 launch event to tout Nest and Google Assistant integration. An earlier report from The Wall Street Journal said that Google and Nest already combined their supply chain teams in 2016. While Google has focused on making the "Google" brand well known in the hardware world with the Pixel phones and Google Home, CNET reports that Google won't be dumping the Nest brand.
Software

Windows 10 Will Soon Get Progressive Web Apps To Boost the Microsoft Store (techradar.com) 152

The next major update to Windows 10 will bring Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) to the Microsoft Store. PWAs are websites (or web apps) which are implemented as native apps, and delivered just like a normal app through Windows 10's store. According to TechRadar, "The big advantages are that no platform-specific code is required, allowing devs to make apps that run across different platforms, and that PWAs are hosted on the developer's server, so can be updated directly from there (without having to push updates to the app store)." The other benefit for Microsoft is that they will be getting a bunch of new apps in Windows 10's store. From the report: As Microsoft explains in a blog post, these new web apps are built on a raft of nifty technologies -- including Service Worker, Fetch networking, Push notifications and more -- all of which will be enabled when EdgeHTML 17 (the next version of the rendering engine that powers the Edge browser) goes live in Windows 10 in the next big update. PWAs can be grabbed from the Microsoft Store as an AppX file, and will run in their own sandboxed container, without needing the browser to be open at all. As far as the user is concerned, they'll be just like any other app downloaded from the store. Microsoft says it is already experimenting with crawling and indexing PWAs from the web to pick out the quality offerings, which it will draft into the Microsoft Store. The firm has already combed through some 1.5 million web apps to pick out a small selection of PWAs for initial testing. As well as discovering apps via web crawling, developers will also be able to submit their offerings directly to Microsoft for approval.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF Founder John Perry Barlow Has Died At Age 70 (eff.org) 61

The Electronic Frontier Foundation reports that its founder, John Perry Barlow, has passed away quietly in his sleep this morning. He was 70 years old. From the report: It is no exaggeration to say that major parts of the Internet we all know and love today exist and thrive because of Barlow's vision and leadership. He always saw the Internet as a fundamental place of freedom, where voices long silenced can find an audience and people can connect with others regardless of physical distance. Barlow was sometimes held up as a straw man for a kind of naive techno-utopianism that believed that the Internet could solve all of humanity's problems without causing any more. As someone who spent the past 27 years working with him at EFF, I can say that nothing could be further from the truth.

Barlow knew that new technology could create and empower evil as much as it could create and empower good. He made a conscious decision to focus on the latter: "I knew it's also true that a good way to invent the future is to predict it. So I predicted Utopia, hoping to give Liberty a running start before the laws of Moore and Metcalfe delivered up what Ed Snowden now correctly calls 'turn-key totalitarianism.'" Barlow's lasting legacy is that he devoted his life to making the Internet into "a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth... a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity."

AI

Reddit Bans 'Deepfakes' AI Porn Communities (theverge.com) 110

Reddit has banned the r/deepfakes subreddit that's devoted to making AI-powered porn using celebrities' faces, classifying it as a form of "involuntary pornography." Reddit follows several other platforms that have already banned deepfakes pornography, including Pornhub, which said yesterday that deepfakes imagery counted as nonconsensual pornography. The Verge reports: In a post today, Reddit announced an update to its rules on posting sexual imagery of a person without their consent. The new rule extends a ban on posting photos or video of people who are nude or engaged in sexual acts without the subject's permission, saying that this includes "depictions that have been faked" -- including the sophisticated face-swapped videos that have become especially popular on Reddit over the past month. "Do not post images or video of another person for the specific purpose of faking explicit content or soliciting 'lookalike' pornography."

This doesn't affect all AI-based face swapping enthusiasts on Reddit. The subreddit for FakeApp, a program that allows anyone to swap faces in videos, is still online. So is r/SFWdeepfakes, which is devoted to non-pornographic use of the technology. At least one small, specific subreddit devoted to simulated porn for an individual actor also seems to have slipped under the radar. But along with the central deepfakes hub, the main subreddit for posting not-safe-for-work deepfakes has gotten shut down, and so has the community r/YouTubefakes. The subreddit r/CelebFakes, which focused on non-AI-powered photoshopped pornographic images, was initially left online, but removed shortly after the announcement.
The site will rely on "first-party reports" to shut down future deepfakes material.
Medicine

FDA Declares Popular Alt-Medicine Kratom an Opioid (nbcnews.com) 230

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: The Food and Drug Administration declared the popular herbal product kratom to be an opioid on Tuesday, opening a new front in its battle to get people to stop using it. New research shows kratom acts in the brain just as opioids do, FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in a statement. And he said the agency has documented 44 cases in which kratom at least helped kill people -- often otherwise healthy young people.

"Taken in total, the scientific evidence we've evaluated about kratom provides a clear picture of the biologic effect of this substance," Gottlieb wrote. "Kratom should not be used to treat medical conditions, nor should it be used as an alternative to prescription opioids. There is no evidence to indicate that kratom is safe or effective for any medical use." The FDA released detailed accounts of several of the deaths. The victims often had mixed kratom with other substances, including chemicals taken out of inhalers and found in over-the-counter cold and flu drugs.

China

Chinese Companies Hunt for AI Talent at American Conference (nikkei.com) 73

Chinese internet players have flocked to a research conference on artificial intelligence here, fighting to attract students from their home country who received a top-notch education in the U.S. From a report: Chinese is the language of choice among 34 company and group booths occupying prime real estate near the entrance to the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence conference, opened Friday. Native speakers represent companies including virtual mall operator Alibaba Group Holding and Tencent Holdings, which runs the communication platform WeChat. They woo students, mainly of Chinese origin, with descriptions of comfortable jobs or invite them to attend parties. The intense competition reflects the great strides China has made in the field. This year, the AAAI received research submissions in record numbers -- at least 3,800. Entries from China increased 57% on the year to a level roughly even with those from the U.S. Moreover, Chinese researchers were involved with about 60% of the research posters on display -- a privilege given to selected papers. The research poster exhibition was sponsored by Chinese internet company Baidu.
Businesses

Bowing To Popularity, Apple Stores In China Accept Alipay (9to5mac.com) 23

hackingbear writes: Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba has announced that its mobile wallet app Alipay is to be accepted in physical Apple Stores in the country. This would be the first time Apple has allowed retail store purchases to be made with a third-party mobile wallet app amid a push by the iPhone maker to revive growth in the world's No.2 economy. Apple has had to work hard to promote Apple Pay in China due to the popularity of existing, local mobile wallet apps like WeChat Pat and Alipay. The company had already bowed to the inevitable in allowing local apps to be used for online payments. Other American brands like McDonald's and Starbucks have already started accepting Alipay and WeChat Pay in China for sometimes.
Google

Now Google Might Make a Game Console and Game-Streaming Service (fastcompany.com) 90

Google could try to get serious about gaming with a rumored console and game-streaming service, according to the Information. From a report: The service, codenamed "Yeti," would stream modern games over the internet instead of processing them on locally, allowing them to run weaker hardware such as Google's Chromecast dongles. Several other companies, including Nvidia and Sony, already offer their own game-streaming services, but the problems are always the same: Publishers tend to support these services halfheartedly or not at all, and even with an excellent internet connection, the experience isn't as responsive or dependable as a powerful home console. It's unclear how Google might solve those problems, but the company is reportedly considering a holiday 2017 launch.
United States

36 Indicted in Global Cybercrime Ring That Stole $530M (go.com) 40

U.S. prosecutors say 36 people have been indicted in connection with an international cybercrime ring that bought and sold stolen credit card information, leading to losses of more than $530 million. From a report: The Justice Department says Wednesday that the so-called Infraud Organization dealt in the large-scale acquisition and sale of stolen identities, credit card information and malware. Deputy Assistant Attorney General David Rybicki says it was "truly the premier one-stop shop for cybercriminals worldwide." He says the organization used an online forum on the dark web to sell financial and personal information. Investigators believe the organization's nearly 11,000 members targeted more than 4.3 million credit cards and bank accounts.
AI

'Humans Not Invited' Is a CAPTCHA Test That Welcomes Bots, Filters Out Humans (vice.com) 82

While most CAPTCHA tests we come across on the Web are usually meant to keep robots out, one website is welcoming them in. From a report: The conceit of Humans Not Invited is essentially a reverse CAPTCHA. Visitors to the site are greeted with a vision test not unlike the ones you've done before, but instead it's filled with seemingly indistinguishable blue and gray blurry boxes. When I tried, prompted to "select all squares with selfie sticks." Most humans, like me, will fail to decipher the hidden selfie sticks and will be shown a message that says "YOU'RE A HUMAN. YOU'RE NOT INVITED." To the human eye these boxes appear indistinguishable, a specially programmed bot can spot out the correct image simply by identifying a handful of pixels, according to the project's creator, Damjanski, (his real name is Danjan Pita).
Technology

Before They Can Drive a Taxi, London's Cabbies Have To Commit the City To Memory in a Rigorous Test Called the Knowledge (cnet.com) 295

In their fight against Uber, London's taxi drivers claim a distinct advantage: They must forgo GPS and navigate the huge city entirely from memory. CNET: Put in place in 1865, the Knowledge exam requires cabbies to navigate between any two points in central London without following a map or GPS. It can take four years to learn the information and pass a series of stringent oral tests. It's a grueling process unmatched by any training taxi drivers have to face anywhere else, and it's the most arduous thing Pearson's [Editor's note: a driver; used as anecdote in the story] ever done. "My uncle was a cab driver and he encouraged me to give it a go," he said. "But I still didn't realize how hard it would be."

Despite the difficulty of mastering it, cabbies proudly defend the Knowledge as a critical part of their job, something technology can't replace. They say it sets them apart from ride-hailing services like Uber, whose drivers don't have to learn the Knowledge, and they believe it allows them to deliver a superior level of service. But ever since mapping apps arrived on phones and GPS-wielding Uber drivers exploded into London in 2012, the Knowledge has faced a volatile future. Should cabbies have to spend years of their life memorizing every inch of London when they can simply punch in a destination on a screen and be guided? Absolutely, say the drivers I spoke with.

Security

Meet the Tiny Startup That Sells IPhone and Android Zero Days To Governments (vice.com) 51

An anonymous reader writes: The story of Azimuth Security, a tiny startup in Australia, provides a rare peek inside the secretive industry that helps government hackers get around encryption. Azimuth is part of an opaque, little known corner of the intelligence world made of hackers who develop and sell expensive exploits to break into popular technologies like iOS, Chrome, Android and Tor.
Twitter

Twitter Bans Notorious Bitfinex and Tether Critic Bitfinex'ed (thenextweb.com) 73

Twitter has officially suspended Bitfinex'ed -- a notorious internet sleuth who has long speculated that popular exchange desk Bitfinex has quietly been printing its dollar-pegged Tether digital tokens out of thin air, a move that could lead to the collapse of Bitcoin and perhaps even the entire market, The Next Web reports. From the report: In an email to TNW, Bitifinex'ed said that Twitter has yet to clarify the reasons for the suspension. "This account has been suspended," the message reads. It is worth noting that in addition to the claims made against Bitfinex and Tether, Bitfinex'ed has previously accused other well-known figures within the crypto-community of foul play. Indeed, earlier in January the anonymous investigator suggested Litecoin Charlie Lee might have engaged in insider trading during his time at Coinbase. Lee ultimately denied these claims. In the aftermath of this altercation, waves of Lee supporters took to Twitter to condemn the premises of the piece Bitfinex'ed authored.
Science

Many Animals Can Count, Some Better Than You (nytimes.com) 61

An anonymous reader shares a report: The story of the frog's neuro-abacus is just one example of nature's vast, ancient and versatile number sense, a talent explored in detail in a recent themed issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, edited by Brian Butterworth, a cognitive neuroscientist at University College London, C. Randy Gallistel of Rutgers University and Giorgio Vallortigara of the University of Trento. Scientists have found that animals across the evolutionary spectrum have a keen sense of quantity, able to distinguish not just bigger from smaller or more from less, but two from four, four from ten, forty from sixty. Orb-weaving spiders, for example, keep a tally of how many silk-wrapped prey items are stashed in the "larder" segment of their web. When scientists experimentally remove the cache, the spiders will spend time searching for the stolen goods in proportion to how many separate items had been taken, rather than how big the total prey mass might have been. Small fish benefit from living in schools, and the more numerous the group, the statistically better a fish's odds of escaping predation. As a result, many shoaling fish are excellent appraisers of relative head counts.
Chrome

Scammers Use Download Bombs To Freeze Chrome Browsers on Shady Sites (bleepingcomputer.com) 72

An anonymous reader shares a report: The operators of some tech support scam websites have found a new trick to block visitors on their shady sites and scare non-technical users into paying for unneeded software or servicing fees. The trick relies on using JavaScript code loaded on these malicious pages to initiate thousands of file download operations that quickly take up the user's memory resources, freezing Chrome on the scammer's site. The trick is meant to drive panicked users into calling one of the tech support phone numbers shown on the screen. According to Jerome Segura -- Malwarebytes leading expert in tech support scam operations, malvertising, and exploit kits -- this new trick utilizes the JavaScript Blob method and the window.navigator.msSaveOrOpenBlob function to achieve the "download bomb" that freezes Chrome.
Bitcoin

Get Ready For Most Cryptocurrencies to Hit Zero, Goldman Says (bloomberg.com) 276

An anonymous reader shares a report: The tumble in cryptocurrencies that erased nearly $500 billion of market value over the past month could get a lot worse, according to Goldman Sachs Group's global head of investment research. Most digital currencies are unlikely to survive in their current form, and investors should prepare for coins to lose all their value as they're replaced by a small set of future competitors, Goldman's Steve Strongin said in a report dated Feb. 5. While he didn't posit a timeframe for losses in existing coins, he said recent price swings indicated a bubble and that the tendency for different tokens to move in lockstep wasn't rational for a "few-winners-take-most" market. "The high correlation between the different cryptocurrencies worries me," Strongin said. "Because of the lack of intrinsic value, the currencies that don't survive will most likely trade to zero."
Bitcoin

Senate Cryptocurrency Hearing Strikes a Cautiously Optimistic Tone (techcrunch.com) 44

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: In a hearing today before the Senate Banking Committee, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton and Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Christopher Giancarlo opened up about what the near-term U.S. regulatory fate of cryptocurrency might look like. In a week of plunging prices and bad news, the hearing struck a tone that coin watchers could reasonably interpret as surprisingly optimistic. Over the course of the open hearing, Clayton and Giancarlo traded testimony over what can be regulated, what should be regulated and how, while offering a broader outlook on the long-term future of virtual currency markets and blockchain tech.

The testimony drew a useful distinction among three pillars of the virtual currency ecosystem (for lack of a better unifying term): cryptocurrencies, "a replacement for dollars;" ICOs, "like a stock offering;" and distributed ledger technologies, or the technical framework generally known as blockchain. Throughout the hearing, on the SEC side, Clayton struck a relatively solemn tone focused on ICO fraud concerns, while the CFTC's Giancarlo came across as genuinely enthusiastic and curious about the emerging market.
When asked about the intrinsic value of cryptocurrency, Clayton said: "There are a lot of smart people who think there's something to the value of cryptocurrency and the international exchange and I'm not seeing those benefits manifesting themselves in the market yet. I look at this from the perspective of Main Street investors and they should understand that."

On ICOs as a security: "I believe every ICO I've seen is a security... You can call it a coin but if it functions as a security, it is a security... Those who engage in semantic gymnastics or elaborate re-structuring exercises in an effort to avoid having a coin be a security are squarely in the crosshairs of our enforcement provision."
AI

Pornhub Is Banning AI-Generated 'Deepfakes' Porn Videos (vice.com) 124

On Tuesday, Pornhub told Motherboard that it considers deepfakes to be nonconsensual porn and that it will ban these videos. "Deepfakes" is a community originally named after a Redditor who enjoys face-swapping celebrity faces onto porn performers' bodies using a machine learning algorithm. Motherboard reports: "We do not tolerate any nonconsensual content on the site and we remove all said content as soon as we are made aware of it," a spokesperson told me in an email. "Nonconsensual content directly violates our TOS [terms of service] and consists of content such as revenge porn, deepfakes or anything published without a person's consent or permission." Pornhub previously told Mashable that it has removed deepfakes that are flagged by users. Pornhub's position on deepfakes is similar to statements made by Discord and Gfycat, and in line with its existing terms of service, which prohibit content that "impersonates another person or falsely state or otherwise misrepresent your affiliation with a person."
Earth

Scientists Create a New Form of Matter: Superionic Water Ice (sciencemag.org) 62

According to The New York Times, scientists created a new form of water that simultaneously acts like a solid and liquid. "The substance, which consists of a fluid of hydrogen ions running through a lattice of oxygen, was formed by compressing water between two diamonds and then zapping it with a laser," reports Science Magazine. "That caused pressures to spike to more than a million times those of Earth's atmosphere and temperatures to rise to thousands of degrees, conditions scientists had predicted may lead to the formation of superionic ice. This kind of water doesn't exist naturally on Earth, the scientists report in Nature Physics, but it may be present in the mantles of icy planets like Neptune and Uranus."

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