Turbotodd

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

Posts Tagged ‘2018

Midterm Election Cyber Shenanigans

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Happy Election Day for those of you here in the U.S.!

I hope you all got out to vote, either in advance in early voting or in what, I’m sure, are probably long lines today on actual election day.

I was waiting for any stories to break about any social media shenanigans going on today or leading up to election day.

I wasn’t disappointed (well, I was, but you know what I mean).

CNBC reports that Facebook felt compelled to block 115 accounts ahead of the midterms, with U.S. law enforcement having notified Facebook on Sunday of the accounts’ online activity, saying they believed the accounts “may be linked to foreign entities.”

From Facebook’s blog post:

Given that we are only one day away from important elections in the U.S., we wanted to let people know about the action we’ve taken and the facts as we know them today.

Our very early-stage investigation has so far identified around 30 Facebook accounts and 85 Instagram accounts that may be engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior. We immediately blocked these accounts and are now investigating them in more detail. Almost all the Facebook Pages associated with these accounts appear to be in the French or Russian languages, while the Instagram accounts seem to have mostly been in English — some were focused on celebrities, others political debate.

Typically, we would be further along with our analysis before announcing anything publicly. But given that we are only one day away from important elections in the US, we wanted to let people know about the action we’ve taken and the facts as we know them today.

Once we know more — including whether these accounts are linked to the Russia-based Internet Research Agency or other foreign entities — we will update this post.

Facebook appears to have learned a lesson from 2016 — a strong offense can prevent later necessary defense. 

Meanwhile, a joint statement from DHS, the Justice Department, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the FBI said the following:

Foreign actors — and Russia in particular — continue to try to influence public sentiment and voter perceptions through actions intended to sow discord.

[These attacks can come in the form of] spreading false information about political processes and candidates, lying about their own interference activities, disseminating propaganda on social media and through other tactics [and that Americans should be aware of such efforts].

Uh, wasn’t that kind of a given?!

I guess everybody’s vote counts in the 2018 midterms — including Vlad’s!

Written by turbotodd

November 6, 2018 at 2:25 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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Another Facebook Breach

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Happy Friday!

Well, depending on who you ask.

The BBC, Gizmodo, and others are reporting a new Facebook data breach, this time of private Facebook messages of at least 81,000 unfortunate souls.

It’s being reported the culprit was a Chrome Extension exploit, and is apparently not related to the more widespread September breach previously reported of 120 million Facebook accounts.

Some details:

The hackers, who may be Russian since they reached out to the BBC Russian Service, appear to have the Facebook messages of at least 81,000 people, mostly of Russians and Ukrainians, but also from people in the U.S., UK, and Brazil, according to the BBC.

“Browsers like Chrome can be very secure, but browser extensions can introduce serious gaps in their armor. The addition of browser extensions increases what is otherwise a small attack surface. Malicious extensions can be used to intercept and manipulate the data passing through the browser,” said Rick Holland, CISO of Digital Shadows, which helped the BBC analyze the breach.

As to the content of those messages:

Many of the messages are relatively benign and include simple chats about going on vacation and attending concerts. But as you’d expect, there are also more sensitive discussions, including “intimate correspondence between two lovers,” as the BBC describes it.

Hoped all 81K Facebook users whose private messages were sold!

Written by turbotodd

November 2, 2018 at 3:24 pm

The Google Walkout

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What’s going on on this fine Thursday?

Quite a lot, actually.

But speficially, Google is finding itself in the middle of a significant employee walkout (mostly by women), one that started in its Tokyo offices and has been working its way around the world.

The New York Times has a detailed run down of the specific grievances here.

For one, they’ve asked Google to end its use of private arbitration in cases of alleged sexual assault and harassment.

They’ve also demanded the publication of a transparency report on instances of sexual harassment, further disclosures of salaries and compensation, an employee representative on the company board, and a chief diversity officer who can speak directly to the Alphabet board.

The seven employees who organized the walkout had this to say:

Today at 11:10 a.m. in every time zone in which the protest is taking place, employees at nearly two thirds of Google’s global offices are walking out of their offices. We, the seven core organizers of today’s Google Walkout, represent thousands of Google employees in our call to demand change.

All employees and contract workers across the company deserve to be safe. Sadly, the executive team has demonstrated through their lack of meaningful action that our safety is not a priority. We’ve waited for leadership to fix these problems, but have come to this conclusion: no one is going to do it for us. So we are here, standing together, protecting and supporting each other. We demand an end to the sexual harassment, discrimination, and the systemic racism that fuel this destructive culture.

We are building on the work of others. Many at Google have been advocating for structural change for years. It’s their legacy and leadership that made this moment possible. We are a small part of a massive movement that has been growing for a long time. We are inspired by everyone from the women in fast food who led an action against sexual harassment to the thousands of women in the #metoo movement who have been the beginning of the end for this type of abuse.

So today, over 60 percent of all Google offices, and thousands of Google employees will walk out, around the world.

You can read their full post on The Cut here. 

The times they are a changin’.

Written by turbotodd

November 1, 2018 at 12:19 pm

And the Winner of the Call for Code Is…

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When IBM and its partners announced the Call for Code global developer initiative in May, I quickly surmised I was going to be part of a team working on an effort that would be a highlight of my career at Big Blue.

Little did I know the ripple effect that effort would have around the globe.

The rallying cry was an important one: Asking developers everywhere to team up and use their skills and mastery of the latest and greatest technologies to drive positive and long-lasting chance across the world with their code.

Specifically, for the 2018 effort (Call for Code is a multi-year initiative), to create solutions that significantly improve preparedness for natural disasters and relief when they hit in order to safeguard the health and well-being of communities.

The Call officially began in June, and the deadline for contributions was towards the end of September.

Then, last night at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco, the winner was announced: Project OWL.

Project OWL’s stated disaster preparedness problem was an important one: To help avoid the chaos and uncertainty a disaster can bring, first responders need to make critical decisions with limited evidence and execute with confidence.

Their solution was brilliant: To use a set of APIs and open data sets from a variety of sources (The Weather Company, the American Red Cross, FEMA) to help build an ad-hoc mobile “Clusterduck” network.

The network would be an offline communications infrastructure created by physical, Wi-Fi-enabled devices dispersed in clusters which would help first responders and relief workers to share information about their specific situation, location and needs.

While the Project OWL team was the winner of the $200K grand prize, the other finalists also offered quite compelling solutions, and I would encourage you to read more about them in this blog post.

As for Project OWL, they took their moment in the spotlight last night in San Francisco and have already turned their attention back to improving upon their initial effort, with the goal of focusing on regions where annual weather patterns consistently impact communities negative, including India, China, the Philippines, and parts of the U.S.

They’ll also receive support from the IBM Corporate Service Corps (think of it as IBM’s Peace Corps), and will have the opportunity to pitch OWL to venture capitalist firm NEA for potential funding.

In the end, over 100k developers from 156 nations participated in this year’s challenge, and built some 2,500 disaster preparedness apps, demonstrating once again the power software developers around the globe have to change the world for the better!

Written by turbotodd

October 30, 2018 at 2:54 pm

Posted in 2018, call for code, developers

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IBM to Acquire Red Hat

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IBM and Red Hat have announced they have reached a definitive agreement under which IBM will acquire all of the issued and outstanding common shares of Red Hat for $190.00 per share in cash, representing a total enterprise value of approximately $34 billion.

More simply put, IBM is acquiring Red Hat.

“The acquisition of Red Hat is a game-changer. It changes everything about the cloud market,” said Ginni Rometty, IBM Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer. “IBM will become the world’s #1 hybrid cloud provider, offering companies the only open cloud solution that will unlock the full value of the cloud for their businesses.

“Most companies today are only 20 percent along their cloud journey, renting compute power to cut costs,” she said. “The next 80 percent is about unlocking real business value and driving growth. This is the next chapter of the cloud. It requires shifting business applications to hybrid cloud, extracting more data and optimizing every part of the business, from supply chains to sales.”

This acquisition brings together the best-in-class hybrid cloud providers and will enable companies to securely move all business applications to the cloud. Companies today are already using multiple clouds.

However, research shows that 80 percent of business workloads have yet to move to the cloud, held back by the proprietary nature of today’s cloud market. This prevents portability of data and applications across multiple clouds, data security in a multi-cloud environment and consistent cloud management.

“Open source is the default choice for modern IT solutions, and I’m incredibly proud of the role Red Hat has played in making that a reality in the enterprise,” said Jim Whitehurst, President and CEO, Red Hat. “Joining forces with IBM will provide us with a greater level of scale, resources and capabilities to accelerate the impact of open source as the basis for digital transformation and bring Red Hat to an even wider audience –  all while preserving our unique culture and unwavering commitment to open source innovation.”

BM and Red Hat will be strongly positioned to address this issue and accelerate hybrid multi-cloud adoption. Together, they will help clients create cloud-native business applications faster, drive greater portability and security of data and applications across multiple public and private clouds, all with consistent cloud management.

In doing so, they will draw on their shared leadership in key technologies, such as Linux, containers, Kubernetes, multi-cloud management, and cloud management and automation. 

IBM’s and Red Hat’s partnership has spanned 20 years, with IBM serving as an early supporter of Linux, collaborating with Red Hat to help develop and grow enterprise-grade Linux and more recently to bring enterprise Kubernetes and hybrid cloud solutions to customers.

These innovations have become core technologies within IBM’s $19 billion hybrid cloud business. Between them, IBM and Red Hat have contributed more to the open source community than any other organization.

With this acquisition, IBM will remain committed to Red Hat’s open governance, open source contributions, participation in the open source community and development model, and fostering its widespread developer ecosystem. In addition, IBM and Red Hat will remain committed to the continued freedom of open source, via such efforts as Patent Promise, GPL Cooperation Commitment, the Open Invention Network and the LOT Network.

IBM and Red Hat also will continue to build and enhance Red Hat partnerships, including those with major cloud providers, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, Alibaba and more, in addition to the IBM Cloud. At the same time, Red Hat will benefit from IBM’s hybrid cloud and enterprise IT scale in helping expand their open source technology portfolio to businesses globally.

Written by turbotodd

October 29, 2018 at 1:22 pm

But Is It Art?

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I think we’re about to jump the AI shark. And that’s before the shark has hardly even started to begun to swim.

A new work of art entitled “Portrait of Edmond de Belamy” is going on sale at Christie’s tonight, and according to a report by Quartzy, at first glance it appears to look like the handiwork of a long-dead Old Master.

Quartzy reports that it has a few smudges, a lightness in the brush strokes, some negative space at the edge of the canvas, and even a subtle chiaroscuro.

But, in fact, the picture of a man in a black shirt is not the work of any painter, living or dead.

No, it’s the result of an artificial intelligence algorithm.

“Portrait of Edmond De Belamy” will be the first algorithm – made artwork to go on auction in the world of fine art.

So how was the painting produced?

The humans behind the AI, a Parisian art collective called “Obvious,” first fed 15,000 images of paintings from between the 14th and 20th centuries into an open-source generative adversarial network, or “GAN”: 

This sort of neural network works in two parts: one generates the picture using the data available, and the other “discriminates,” essentially telling it whether it’s done a good job or whether the finished images are still obviously the work of a machine. It’s not clear exactly how many images the network shored up on the screen in total, but this is the one that won out. Obvious members then printed it on canvas, framed in gilt—and put it up for sale.

Will anybody buy it?

Quartzy reports that Christie’s is banking on somebody biting, probably with a final sale price of between $7,000 to $10,000?

No word yet whether or not the first AI-produced painting will shed itself after the sale, but knowing the arrogance of those AI algorithms, there’s a good stance it will instead attempt to replicate itself.

Written by turbotodd

October 25, 2018 at 9:39 am

Tim Cook and the Data Industrial Complex

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TechCrunch is reporting that Apple CEO Tim Cook has begun to basically throw down the gauntlet with respect to the global trade in digital data, suggesting that it has exploded into a “data industrial complex.”

“Our own information — from the everyday to the deeply personal — is being weaponized against us with military efficiency,” warned Cook. “These scraps of data, each one harmless enough on its own, are carefully assembled, synthesized, traded and sold.

“Taken to the extreme this process creates an enduring digital profile and lets companies know you better than you may know yourself. Your profile is a bunch of algorithms that serve up increasingly extreme content, pounding our harmless preferences into harm.”

This discussion came about as a result of a keynote speech Cook was giving to the 40th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners in Brussels.

Cook also addressed the issue of artificial intelligence, saying that “at its core this technology promises to learn from people individually to benefit us all. But advancing AI by collecting huge personal profiles is laziness, not efficiency.”

“For artificial intelligence to be truly smart it must respect human values — including privacy. If we get this wrong, the dangers are profound. We can achieve both great artificial intelligence and great privacy standards. It is not only a possibility — it is a responsibility.”

I find it fascinating that Cook tied up AI and privacy. He’s clearly looking well ahead to where some of the next major digital battlegroups are likely to take place, and the raw horsepower AI could bring to privacy violations.

Cook went on to say that Apple is “in full support of a comprehensive, federal privacy law in the United States.

He argued that a U.S. privacy law should prioritize four things:

  1. Data minimization — “the right to have personal data minimized”, saying companies should “challenge themselves” to de-identify customer data or not collect it in the first place
  2. Transparency — “the right to knowledge”, saying users should “always know what data is being collected and what it is being collected for, saying it’s the only way to “empower users to decide what collection is legitimate and what isn’t”. “Anything less is a shame,” he added
  3. The right to access — saying companies should recognize that “data belongs to users”, and it should be made easy for users to get a copy of, correct and delete their personal data
  4. The right to security — saying “security is foundational to trust and all other privacy rights”

Over the past several years, Apple has positioned itself as a protector of digital privacy rights. However, it should be noted that  Apple is also far less dependent on digital advertising revenue as are other key players in the tech space (Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc.)

Written by turbotodd

October 24, 2018 at 11:49 am

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