Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for September 2018

Facebook Security Flaw

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The New York Times is reporting that Facebook said today an attack on its computer network led to the exposure of information from nearly 50 million of its users.

Facebook said it discovered the breach earlier this week, “finding that attackers had exploited a feature in Facebook code that allowed them to take over user accounts.”

The Times reports that Facebook said it did not know the origin or identity of the attackers, nor had it fully assessed the scope of the attack, and is in the beginning stages of its investigation.

Here’s Facebook’s detailed explanation of the exploit and the actions it says it has taken:

Our investigation is still in its early stages. But it’s clear that attackers exploited a vulnerability in Facebook’s code that impacted “View As”, a feature that lets people see what their own profile looks like to someone else. This allowed them to steal Facebook access tokens which they could then use to take over people’s accounts. Access tokens are the equivalent of digital keys that keep people logged in to Facebook so they don’t need to re-enter their password every time they use the app.

Here is the action we have already taken. First, we’ve fixed the vulnerability and informed law enforcement.

Second, we have reset the access tokens of the almost 50 million accounts we know were affected to protect their security. We’re also taking the precautionary step of resetting access tokens for another 40 million accounts that have been subject to a “View As” look-up in the last year. As a result, around 90 million people will now have to log back in to Facebook, or any of their apps that use Facebook Login. After they have logged back in, people will get a notification at the top of their News Feed explaining what happened.

Third, we’re temporarily turning off the “View As” feature while we conduct a thorough security review.

This attack exploited the complex interaction of multiple issues in our code. It stemmed from a change we made to our video uploading feature in July 2017, which impacted “View As.” The attackers not only needed to find this vulnerability and use it to get an access token, they then had to pivot from that account to others to steal more tokens.

The Times goes went on to write that:

One of Facebook’s most significant challenges has been convincing its users that it is responsible enough to handle the incredible wealth of data the company handles. More than 2 billion people use Facebook every month, and another two billion separately use WhatsApp, a messaging app owned by Facebook, and Instagram, the Facebook-owned popular photo-sharing app.

You know the drill.  Check your password, change it, etc ad nauseum ad infinitum.

Written by turbotodd

September 28, 2018 at 12:22 pm

Posted in 2018, cybersecurity

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Explaining AI Decisions

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IBM’s Institue of Business Value recently issued a new report concerning the implementation of AI, and according to a survey of 5,000 executives, discovered that 60 percent of those polled said they were concerned about being able to explain how AI is using data and making decisions in order to meet regulatory and compliance standards.

According to a story in The Wall Street Journal, there’s concern that:

AI decisions can sometimes be black boxes both for the data scientist engineering them and the business executives telling their benefits. This is especially true in deep learning tools such as neural networks that are used to identify patterns in data, whose structure roughly tries to mimic the operations of the human brain.

But just as in high school geometry, the question arises as to how to demonstrate one has proved their work. That is to say, to reveal how the AI system arrived at a specific conclusion.

The Journal identifies measures IBM took last week which include cloud-based tools that can show users which factors led to an AI-based recommendations. 

The tools can also analyze AI decisions in real-time to identify inherent bias and recommend data and methods to address that bias. The tools work with IBM’s AI services and those from other cloud services providers including Google, said David Kenny, senior vice president of cognitive solutions at IBM.

You can learn more about those measures in this blog post.

Written by turbotodd

September 27, 2018 at 12:13 pm

Walmart’s Leafy Green Blockchain

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TechCrunch recently reported on an initiative in which Walmart has been working with IBM on a food safety blockchain, and that Walmart would be requiring all suppliers of leafy green vegetables for Sam’s and Walmart upload their data to the blockchain by September 2019.

TechCrunch’s story notes that “most supply chains are bogged down in manual processes,” making it difficult to track down food safety issues like E. coli romain lettuce. But “by placing a supply chain on the blockchain, it makes the process more traceable, transparent and fully digital.

Each node on the blockchain could represent an entity that has handled the food on the way to the store, making it much easier and faster to see if one of the affected farms sold infected supply to a particular location with much greater precision.

Walmart has been working with IBM for over a year on using the IBM Food Trust Solution use case in this scenario.

Most notable is the time compression involved. The story notes that before moving the process to the blockchain, it typically took approximately 7 days to trace the source of food. With the blockchain, that has been reduced to 2.2 seconds, which means that also “substantially reduces the likelihood that infected food will reach the consumer.”

You can learn more about the IBM Food Trust blockchain solution here.

Written by turbotodd

September 26, 2018 at 11:16 am

SiriusXM Serious About Acquiring Pandora

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Big deal in the works this Monday morning.

CNBC’s reporting that SiriusXM is going to buy Pandora in an all-stock deal valued at $3.5 billion. 

As The New York Times writes about the deal, “Pandora rose to success by providing tailored radio stations for its users that were sprinkled with ads” but that in recent years “it has struggled to compete with rival services like Spotify and Apple Music.

The Times also notes that Pandora has been a potential acquisition target for at least two years, and that SiriusXM had been in the running to buy the company since it injected $480 million of funding into the company last year.

The agreement between SiriusXM and Pandora includes a “go-shop” provision where Pandora “may actively solicit, receive, evaluate, and potentially enter negotiations with parties that offer alternative proposals following the execution date of the definitive agreement.”

The company’s acquisition of Pandora would make SiriusXM the world’s largest audio entertainment company, with over $7 billion in combined revenue in 2018.

Written by turbotodd

September 24, 2018 at 10:01 am

Posted in 2018, acquisition

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Tiger’s Triumph

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For golf fans everywhere, it was quite the past several days to witness the triumphant return of Tiger Woods to the top of the leaderboard at this year’s final PGA event, the Tour Championship.

Woods ended up beating Billy Horschel by two strokes with a final round one over par. However, he was 11 under for the tournament and his play on Saturday, especially the front nine, where he scored six birdies in nine holes, was nothing short of spectacular. 

This from a golfer who a year ago self-admittedly didn’t have a swing and wasn’t sure if he’d return to professional golf. Judging from the army of fans following him down the 18th fairway at East Lake, they were glad to see him back.

Now, it’s on to this weekend’s Ryder Cup at Le Golf National just outside Paris. Will the Americans be able to win two in a row? And will Tiger’s contributions in Paris measure up to his singular achievement this weekend?

We’ll find out this Friday!

Written by turbotodd

September 24, 2018 at 9:32 am

Posted in 2018, golf, PGA, pga tour

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Adobe To Buy Marketo

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TechCrunch reported late yesterday that Adobe is buying marketing automation company Marketo for $4.75 billion:

“The acquisition of Marketo  widens Adobe’s lead in customer experience across B2C and B2B and puts Adobe Experience Cloud at the heart of all marketing,” Brad Rencher, executive vice president and general manager, Digital Experience at Adobe said in a statement.

Adobe’s press release had this to say about the deal:

Adobe (Nasdaq:ADBE) today announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Marketo, the market-leading cloud platform for B2B marketing engagement, for $4.75 billion, subject to customary purchase price adjustments. With nearly 5,000 customers, Marketo brings together planning, engagement and measurement capabilities into an integrated B2B marketing platform. Adding Marketo’s engagement platform to Adobe Experience Cloud will enable Adobe to offer an unrivaled set of solutions for delivering transformative customer experiences across industries and companies of all sizes.

Marketo’s platform is feature-rich and cloud-native with significant opportunities for integration across Adobe Experience Cloud. Enterprises of all sizes across industries rely on Marketo’s marketing applications to drive engagement and customer loyalty. Marketo’s ecosystem includes over 500 partners and an engaged marketing community with over 65,000 members.

This acquisition brings together the richness of Adobe Experience Cloud analytics, content, personalization, advertising and commerce capabilities with Marketo’s lead management and account-based marketing technology to provide B2B companies with the ability to create, manage and execute marketing engagement at scale.

And why marketeers should care, according to Marketing Land:

Adobe’s Creative Cloud services has long been part of the marketing industry standard for creating and managing media-rich assets. Now with the addition of Marketo’s B2B marketing automation platform, Adobe will be able to deliver a full-scale marketing solution, allowing marketers — and their marketing technology teams — to unify costs within a single layer of their martech stack.

Written by turbotodd

September 21, 2018 at 11:20 am

Close Those Circles

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As goes Wichita, so goes Wichita Falls.

Reuters is reporting that one of America’s oldest and largest North American life insurance firms, John Hancock, will stop underwriting traditional life insurance and instead sell only interactive policies that track fitness and health data through wearable devices and smartphones.

Reuters story indicates that policyholders score premium discounts for hitting exercise targets tracked on wearable devices such as a Fitbit or Apple Watch and get gift cards for retail stores and other perks by logging their workouts and healthy food purchases in an app.

Presumably that doesn’t include buying pints of Chocolate Häagen-Dazs.

Privacy and consumer advocates have already raised the alarm, wondering whether insurers like John Hancock could use the data to select for more profitable customers, and penalizing those who don’t close all their Apple Watch circles every day.

And you thought it was just a cool digital watch you could show off to your friends!

Written by turbotodd

September 20, 2018 at 10:16 am

Automation Feast or Famine

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Happy Wednesday. 

Now that we’ve gotten that whole new iPhone analysis thing out of the way, let’s get back to the smart stuff.

The Wall Street Journal CIO Journal’s “Morning Download” email has been a must read for me for a couple of years now, and they do a generally good job of keeping their fingers on the pulse of enterprise IT, software, etc.

In today’s edition, they cited a new report from the World Economic Forum report on the jobs impact of artificial intelligence between now and 2022.

The report suggested that 984,000 jobs would disappear, but that 1.74 million new jobs would be created. 

The survey was of chief HR officers and top strategy execs from 300 global companies.

Almost 40 percent of respondents indicated they expect to expand their workforce by 2022, but more than a quarter expect automation to create new roles in their companies. 

More than 50 percent of employees of larger companies will need to invest in significant training for their employees to remain relevant, and nearly 50 percent of respondents said they expect their full-time workforce to shrink by 2022 as a result of automation.

In terms of cadence, 29 percent of current workplace tasks will be completed by machines in 2018, 42 percent in 2022, and more than half — 52 percent — by 2025.

I guess the large and lingering question is, which half of which tasks?

We’ll find out soon enough.

Written by turbotodd

September 19, 2018 at 12:34 pm

UiPath Raises $225 Million in Series C, Focuses on AI for Repetitive Tasks

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The AI venture capital wars continue to heat up.

VentureBeat reported early today that UiPath, a robotic process automation platform that helps companies automate repetitive tasks, has raised $225 million in a series C round of funding co-lead by Alphabet’s late-stage venture capital fund CapitalG and Sequoia Capital, with participation from Accel.

This follows on their series B round, which raised $153 million.

The company was founded in Romania, but is now headquartered in New York. VentureBeat writes that the platforms core selling point is that it brings automation to enterprise processes.

The company builds what it calls “intelligent software robots” that help businesses carry out what are often laborious and repetitive tasks using computer vision and rule-based processes.

UiPath’s tech sits atop business applications such as enterprise resource planning software and customer relationship management tools to emulate tasks usually carried out by a person manually pressing buttons at their desk.

The “robots” are trained to observe the interface to see and understand what is happening and then carry out the task as a human would.

Current customers range from NASA to Airbus to DHL, Equifax, Lufthanse, Autodesk, and 2,000 other companies around the globe. The company expects to use the Series C round to accelerate its product development and acquire more companies.

Robotic process automation…remember that category!

Written by turbotodd

September 18, 2018 at 4:11 pm

Posted in 2018, AI, artificial intelligence

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About Those New iPhones

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If you’re in the market for one of those new iPhones, there’s plenty of reviews coming out. What you want may depend on who you read.

The New York Times’ Brian Chen starts his review by saying he’d been a naysayer on the growing size of smartphones. But after spending a week with the new iPhone XS Max, Chen seems to have come around to the idea of having a much larger phone in one’s hand.

One reason for the change was that Apple had managed to cram a bigger screen into a slightly smaller body, which meant that Chen could hold the XS Max in one hand and type messages easily. So, less bevel, more screen space.

Chen indicated that he also liked the jumbo screen for practical reasons, finding it beneficial for reading maps when driving, when writing longer emails, and even for reading recipes in the kitchen. Just try not to do all three of those things at once!

Yet even Chen encouraged those looking to buy a new iPhone to try before you buy, because there are several sizes for different prices and they’ll all be in Apple stores to see first hand soon.

The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern did us all a favor by providing a very simple to read breakdown of the three new iPhones introduced last week:

  • iPhone XS: An upgrade to the 5.8-inch iPhone X from last year. It still starts at $1,000 and begins shipping Friday, Sept. 21. (The original X is gone. RIP.)
  • iPhone XS Max: A giant version of the XS with a 6.5-inch screen— Apple Inc.’s biggest-ever phone display. It starts at $1,100 and also ships Friday.
  • iPhone XR: A new model that doesn’t have the two-camera system and vibrant OLED screen, but does have a slightly larger 6.1-inch LCD screen and apparently better battery life. It starts at $750 and ships on Oct. 26.

She called the XS and XS Max “fabulous phones,” then hedged by writing that “we’ve hit a point where every smartphone is great – it comes down to what you want and what you want to spend.”

For the XS Max, she explained that “if you want a ginormous screen on an iPhone, the XS Max’S beautiful 6.5-inch OLED display is here for you.”

Taking photos, watching videos, FaceTiming, Fortniting, even writing emails felt more immersive on the big phone. But two things hold me back from going to the Max.

However, she concluded that unless you are in an iPhone upgrade program or absolutely dying for that Max screen, she suggested not jumping from the X to the XS.

“Going back to last year’s model, I missed the speed boost a bit, but not enough to drop another grand or more.”

And she reminds us not forget that the new iOS 12 is expected to speed up certain elements, particularly on older phones.

In fact, I just upgraded a now ancient iPad Air (Gen 1) to iOS 12, and it already seems like it’s 40% faster with the upgrade.

As for those looking to go more down market for one of these new iPhones (if down market can even be ascribed to these categories and prices of smartphones), the iPhone XR is poised to do very well.

While it doesn’t have the two-camera system of XS and XS Max, it does have a 6.1-inch LCD screen and ostensibly better battery life, and costs several hundred dollars cheaper.

And if you’re on the fence and might be looking into Android land, don’t forget that the Google Pixel 3 is expected to announce around October 9th.

TechRadar provides some rumor, innuendo and leaked pics of the new Pixel just in case you want to hedge and build some anticipation. 

Me, I bought a 6 Plus off Gazelle earlier this year for less than $500, and it works beautifully on iOS 12.

But am I tempted…?!!

Written by turbotodd

September 18, 2018 at 10:33 am

Posted in 2018, apple, iPhone, iPhone XS

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