Ticketmaster Discloses Breach That Impacts Nearly 5 Percent of Its Customers

Ticketmaster on Wednesday disclosed a data breach reportedly caused by malware infecting a customer support system outsourced to an external company.

In a statement, Ticketmaster said some of its customer data may have been accessed by an unknown intruder. Email notifications were sent to customers who purchased tickets between February and June 23, 2018, the company said

Names, addresses, email addresses, telephone numbers, and payment card details may have been compromised.

Source: Ticketmaster Discloses Breach That Impacts Nearly 5 Percent of Its Customers

Personal Information of 340 Million People and Businesses Leaked By Florida Marketing Firm Exactis

A little-known, Florida-based marketing firm called Exactis may be responsible for a significant amount of personal data being exposed. According to a report from Wired, the firm left 340 million individual records on a publicly accessible server that any person could have gotten ahold of.

The leak was discovered earlier this month by security researcher Vinny Troia, founder of the New York-based security firm Night Lion Security. He reported his find to the FBI and Exactis earlier this week, and while the company has since protected the data, it’s unclear just how long it sat exposed.

So just how bad is the leak? It’s pretty bad! The data stored on the server amounts to about two terabytes worth of personal information.

Troia told Wired the database from Exactis appears to have data from “pretty much every US citizen” in it, with approximately 230 million records on American adults and 110 million records on US business contacts. That falls in line with Exactis’ own claim on its website that it has data on 218 million individuals. If the leak is truly as big as estimated, it would make for one of the largest exposures of personal information in recent memory.

Those records contain a variety of data points, including phone numbers, home addresses, and email addresses connected to an individual’s name. It also included more than 400 characteristics about a person, ranging from if the person is a smoker or not, their religion, if they own any pets, if they have kids, their age, gender, etc. It also included interests like scuba diving and plus-sized apparel, per Wired.

Notably, financial information and Social Security numbers were not discovered in the database. (Don’t worry, all that information was likely already exposed by Equifax last year.) That doesn’t mean the information doesn’t have value, though. Were this data to have been accessed by a malicious actor, they could easily pair it with previous breaches to create an even more complete profile of an individual or use it to carry out social engineering attacks.

There are plenty of troubling things about the Exactis leak, not the least of which is the sheer breadth of information exposed. First, there’s the question of just where this small marketing firm based in Palm Coast, Florida got its hands on the personal interests and contact information of hundreds of millions of Americans.

Troia said he didn’t know where the data was coming from exactly, but called it “one of the most comprehensive collections” he’s ever seen. Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center, theorized to Wired that the information may have come from a variety of sources including magazine subscriptions, credit card transaction data, and credit reports.

Then there’s the fact that no one has any idea if this massive database was accessed by anyone prior to Troia. Only Exactis would have any idea how long the server has sat unprotected, and could potentially see who accessed it. The company has not yet publicly responded to the leak and did not respond to request for comment.

Odds are, someone—a hacker or just a random person—likely stumbled across the server before Troia. The security researcher found the database while using the search tool Shodan, which allows just about anyone to scan publicly accessible, internet connected devices. Anyone with access to the same tools could have just as easily discovered the same server Troia found.

These types of leaks, where a server containing sensitive information is left unsecured, happen with surprising regularity. A conservative data firm accidentally leaked information on more than 200 million Americans last year. 12,000 social media influencers had their information exposed in a similar mishap, as did US military veterans and government contractors. All of this goes to show that companies in the business of collecting data aren’t in the business of protecting it.

Source: Personal Information of 340 Million People and Businesses Leaked By Florida Marketing Firm

Enabling new Google photo face and people search in UK, Europe, Germany

Virtual Private Networks, a.k.a. VPN, are very handy to make your internet traffic to appear from a different location than you are.

All your traffic is tunneled to an exit point of your choosing, for example a data center in New York City. To Google Photos service you then seem to be located in New York City, USA.

tunnelbear.jpgOne such easy to use VPN service for android is Tunnelbear but there are many others. Tunnelbear offers 500 MB of free traffic and you don’t need much more than 20MB to get this set-up.

It worked, I got face/people search in my Goole Photos android app and this is how I did it:

In summary you want to delete the Google Photos application data and re-start the application while being connected to the VPN. This will trick Google Photos into believing you are located in US and the feature will be switched on.

Once the feature is switched on you don’t have to re-connect to the VPN; the feature will remain on!

Detailed instructions: delete the data from Google Photos, turn on airplane mode, turn off location services, connect via Tunnelbear, start up Google photos, go through the introductory 4 steps, go into settings and turn on “Group Similar Faces”. Success, you now have your photos organised by many, many different people present in them.

The face categorisation appeared as soon as I connected via VPN. There was no initial time for google to build up a face database for my photos.

This really seems to suggest that all photos added to Google Photos are categorised by face. The search feature is just hidden in certain geographical locations to comply with local laws.

Is this really in the spirit of the law or just cheat? You decide!

Source: Enabling new Google photo face and people search in UK, Europe, Germany

The Biggest Digital Heist in History Isn’t Over Yet: $1.2 b and still growing since 2013

Since late 2013, this band of cybercriminals has penetrated the digital inner sanctums of more than 100 banks in 40 nations, including Germany, Russia, Ukraine, and the U.S., and stolen about $1.2 billion, according to Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency. The string of thefts, collectively dubbed Carbanak—a mashup of a hacking program and the word “bank”—is believed to be the biggest digital bank heist ever.


Besides forcing ATMs to cough up money, the thieves inflated account balances and shuttled millions of dollars around the globe. Deploying the same espionage methods used by intelligence agencies, they appropriated the identities of network administrators and executives and plumbed files for sensitive information about security and account management practices.


For years police and banking-industry sleuths doubted they’d ever catch the phantoms behind Carbanak. Then, in March, the Spanish National Police arrested Ukrainian citizen Denis Katana in the Mediterranean port city of Alicante. The authorities have held him since then on suspicion of being the brains of the operation. Katana’s lawyer, Jose Esteve Villaescusa, declined to comment, and his client’s alleged confederates couldn’t be reached for comment. While Katana hasn’t been charged with a crime, Spanish detectives say financial information, emails, and other data trails show he was the architect of a conspiracy that spanned three continents. And there are signs that the Carbanak gang is far from finished.


The attackers cased their targets for months, says Kaspersky. The Carbanak crew was looking for executives with the authority to direct the flow of money between accounts, to other lenders, and to ATMs. They were also studying when and how the bank moved money around. The thieves didn’t want to do anything that would catch the eyes of security. State-backed spies use this type of reconnaissance in what’s known as an advanced persistent threat. “In those instances, the attacks are designed to steal data, not get their hands on money,” Emm says. When the time was right, the thieves used the verification codes of bank officers to create legit-looking transactions.

By the fall of 2014, the authorities realized they were dealing with something new. That October, Keith Gross, chair of the cybersecurity group for a European bank lobby, called a crash meeting with experts from Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, and other major European lenders. In a meeting room at Europol’s fortress-like headquarters in The Hague, Kaspersky researchers briefed the bank officials on what they’d found in Ukraine. “I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Troels Oerting, then the head of Europol’s Cybercrime Centre, told the group. “It’s a well-orchestrated malware attack, it’s very sophisticated, and it’s global.”

So Europol went global, too, enlisting help from law enforcement agencies in Belarus, Moldova, Romania, Spain, Taiwan, the U.S., as well as bank industry representatives. It set up a secure online clearinghouse where investigators could cross-check data and find links between the thefts, says Fernando Ruiz, head of operations in Europol’s cybercrime unit. At the heart of its operation was a lab where technicians dissected the two dozen samples of malware identified in the Carbanak thefts. By isolating unique characteristics in the code, detectives could trace where the programs came from and maybe who was using them. The work led them toward Denis Katana’s apartment in Alicante, a four-hour drive southeast of Madrid. “This is what the Spanish police used to open their investigation,” Ruiz says.


Yet experts point out that even if Katana was the mastermind, he was just one guy in a crime that surely must have had many authors. Unlike the bank jobs of yore, digital heists are amoeba-like ventures that divide over and over again as the malware proliferates. “We’ve already seen the modification of Carbanak and multiple groups using it,” says Kimberly Goody, an analyst at security software maker FireEye Inc. “Same case with Cobalt.”

In recent weeks, employees at banks in the Russian-speaking world have been receiving emails that appear to be from Kaspersky, the security company that unearthed Carbanak. The messages warn recipients that their PCs have been flagged for possibly violating the law and they should download a complaint letter or face penalties. When they click on the attachment, a version of the Cobalt malware infects their networks. It turns out cyberheists may not die even when their suspected perpetrators are nabbed.

Source: The Biggest Digital Heist in History Isn’t Over Yet – Bloomberg

Mumbai bans plastic bags and bottles

Mumbai has the become the largest Indian city to ban single-use plastics, with residents caught using plastic bags, cups or bottles to face penalties of up to 25,000 rupees (£276) and three months in jail from Monday.

Council inspectors in navy blue jackets have been posted across the city to catch businesses or residents still using plastic bags. Penalties have already kicked in for businesses and several, reportedly including a McDonald’s and Starbucks, have already been fined.

Penalties range from 5,000 rupees for first-time offenders to 25,000 rupees and the threat of three months’ jail for those caught repeatedly using single-use plastics.

“For the pollution situation it’s fine to do this but for the people it is a big problem,” said Kamlash Mohan Chaudhary, a Mumbai resident. “People here carry everything in plastic bags.”

Chaudhary, a taxi driver, said he had started carrying a cloth bag and that his local mutton vendor had begun wrapping the meat in newspaper rather than plastic sheets.

Local media have reported complaints from vendors who say some inspectors are using confusion over the ban to extort money from businesses.

India recently hosted World Environment Day, which this year focused on the epidemic of plastic waste. About 6.3bn tonnes of plastic globally has been discarded into the environment since 1950, most of which will not break down for at least 450 years.

Half of the world’s plastic was created in the past 13 years and about half of that is thought to be for products used once and thrown away, such as bags, cups or straws.

India’s use of plastic is less than half of the global average: about 11kg a year per capita compared with 109kg in the US.

Source: Mumbai bans plastic bags and bottles | World news | The Guardian

AI recreates chemistry’s periodic table of elements

It took nearly a century of trial and error for human scientists to organize the periodic table of elements, arguably one of the greatest scientific achievements in chemistry, into its current form.

A new artificial intelligence (AI) program developed by Stanford physicists accomplished the same feat in just a few hours.

Called Atom2Vec, the program successfully learned to distinguish between different after analyzing a list of chemical compound names from an online database. The unsupervised AI then used concepts borrowed from the field of natural language processing – in particular, the idea that the properties of words can be understood by looking at other words surrounding them – to cluster the elements according to their chemical properties.

“We wanted to know whether an AI can be smart enough to discover the on its own, and our team showed that it can,” said study leader Shou-Cheng Zhang, the J. G. Jackson and C. J. Wood Professor of Physics at Stanford’s School of Humanities and Sciences.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-06-ai-recreates-chemistry-periodic-table.html#jCp

Source: AI recreates chemistry’s periodic table of elements

kepler.gl – easy to use geospatial analysis tool

Kepler.gl is a powerful web-based geospatial data analysis tool. Built on a high performance rendering engine and designed for large-scale data sets.


Source: kepler.gl

OpenAI has created bots that can play Dota 2 as a team

The bots learn from self-play, meaning two bots playing each other and learning from each side’s successes and failures. By using a huge stack of 256 graphics processing units (GPUs) with 128,000 processing cores, the researchers were able to speed up the AI’s gameplay so that they learned from the equivalent of 180 years of gameplay for every day it trained. One version of the bots were trained for four weeks, meaning they played more than 5,000 years of the game.


In a match, the OpenAI team initially gives each bot a mandate to do as well as it can on its own, meaning that the bots learned to act selfishly and steal kills from each other. But by turning up a simple metric, a weighted average of the team’s success, the bots soon begin to work together and execute team attacks quicker than humanly possible. The metric was dubbed by OpenAI as “team spirit.”

“They start caring more about team fighting, and saving one another, and working together in these skirmishes in order to make larger advances towards the group goal,” says Brooke Chan, an engineer at OpenAI.

Right now, the bots are restricted to playing certain characters, can’t use certain items like wards that allow players to see more of the map or anything that grants invisibility, or summon other units to help them fight with spells. OpenAI hopes to lift those restrictions by the competition in August.

Source: OpenAI has created bots that can play Dota 2 as a team — Quartz

Per 1 juli 2018: Besluit digitale toegankelijkheid websites en apps overheid

In 2016 is een Europese richtlijn voor digitale toegankelijkheid in werking getreden. Nederland is verplicht om Europese richtlijnen om te zetten in nationale wetgeving. Deze richtlijn is omgezet in een Algemene Maatregel van Bestuur: het Tijdelijk besluit digitale toegankelijkheid overheid.Europese richtlijn digitale toegankelijkheidOp 22 december 2016 trad de EU-richtlijn voor de toegankelijkheid van websites en mobiele applicaties van overheidsinstanties in werking.De richtlijn verplicht lidstaten om te waarborgen dat digitale kanalen van organisaties in de publieke sector toegankelijk zijn. De verplichting geldt voor: websites; mobiele applicaties (apps); intranetten en extranetten die live gaan of substantieel aangepast worden na inwerkingtreding van de nieuwe regels.De richtlijn moet uiterlijk 23 september 2018 in nationale wetgeving zijn omgezet.

Source: Per 1 juli 2018: Besluit digitale toegankelijkheid | Beleid in Nederland | Digitoegankelijk.nl

Attacking Private Networks from the Internet with DNS Rebinding – Following the wrong link could allow remote attackers to control your WiFi router, Google Home, Roku, Sonos speakers, home thermostats, eat your etherium coins and more.

The home WiFi network is a sacred place; your own local neighborhood of cyberspace. There we connect our phones, laptops, and “smart” devices to each other and to the Internet and in turn we improve our lives, or so we are told. By the late twenty teens, our local networks have become populated by a growing number of devices. From 📺 smart TVs and media players to 🗣 home assistants, 📹 security cameras, refrigerators, 🔒 door locks and🌡thermostats, our home networks are a haven for trusted personal and domestic devices.

Many of these devices offer limited or non-existent authentication to access and control their services. They inherently trust other machines on the network in the same way that you would inherently trust someone you’ve allowed into your home. They use protocols like Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) and HTTP to communicate freely between one another but are inherently protected from inbound connections from the Internet by means of their router’s firewall 🚫. They operate in a sort of walled garden, safe from external threat. Or so their developers probably thought.

Source: Attacking Private Networks from the Internet with DNS Rebinding

This is a good explanation of the attack including some POCs and test links

How your ethereum can be stolen through DNS rebinding



EU breaks internet, starts wholesale censorship for rich man copyright holders

The problems are huge, not least because the EU will implement an automated content filter, which means that memes will die, but also, if you have the money to spam the system with requests, you can basically kill any content you want with the actual content holder only having a marginal chance of navigating EU burocracy in order to regain ownership of their rights.

There goes free speech and innovation.


Source: COM_2016_0593_FIN.ENG.xhtml.1_EN_ACT_part1_v5.docx

AI Lab: Learn to Code with the Cutting-Edge Microsoft AI Platform

Among our exciting announcements at //Build, one of the things I was thrilled to launch is the AI Lab – a collection of AI projects designed to help developers explore, experience, learn about and code with the latest Microsoft AI Platform technologies.

What is AI Lab?

AI Lab helps our large fast-growing community of developers get started on AI. It currently houses five projects that showcase the latest in custom vision, attnGAN (more below), Visual Studio tools for AI, Cognitive Search, machine reading comprehension and more. Each lab gives you access to the experimentation playground, source code on GitHub, a crisp developer-friendly video, and insights into the underlying business problem and solution. One of the projects we highlighted at //Build was the search and rescue challenge which gave the opportunity to developers worldwide to use AI School resources to build and deploy their first AI model for a problem involving aerial drones.

Source: AI Lab: Learn to Code with the Cutting-Edge Microsoft AI Platform | Machine Learning Blog

New ‘e-dermis’ brings sense of touch, pain to prosthetic hands

a team of engineers at the Johns Hopkins University that has created an electronic skin. When layered on top of prosthetic hands, this e-dermis brings back a real sense of through the fingertips.

“After many years, I felt my hand, as if a hollow shell got filled with life again,” says the anonymous amputee who served as the team’s principal volunteer tester.

Made of fabric and rubber laced with sensors to mimic nerve endings, e-dermis recreates a sense of touch as well as pain by sensing stimuli and relaying the impulses back to the peripheral nerves.

“We’ve made a sensor that goes over the fingertips of a prosthetic hand and acts like your own skin would,” says Luke Osborn, a graduate student in biomedical engineering. “It’s inspired by what is happening in human biology, with receptors for both touch and pain.

“This is interesting and new,” Osborn said, “because now we can have a prosthetic hand that is already on the market and fit it with an e-dermis that can tell the wearer whether he or she is picking up something that is round or whether it has sharp points.”

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Engineers at the Johns Hopkins University have created an electronic skin and aim to restore the sense of touch through the fingertips of prosthetic hands. Credit: Science Robotics/AAAS

The work—published June 20 in the journal Science Robotics – shows it is possible to restore a range of natural, touch-based feelings to amputees who use prosthetic limbs. The ability to detect pain could be useful, for instance, not only in but also in lower limb prostheses, alerting the user to potential damage to the device.

Source: New ‘e-dermis’ brings sense of touch, pain to prosthetic hands

Skynet for the win? AI hunts down secret testing of nuclear bombs

A group of scientists have built a neural network to sniff out any unusual nuclear activity. Researchers from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), one of the United States Department of Energy national laboratories, decided to see if they could use deep learning to sort through the different nuclear decay events to identify any suspicious behavior.

The lab, buried beneath 81 feet of concrete, rock and earth, is blocked out from energy from cosmic rays, electronics and other sources. It means that the data collected is less noisy, making it easier to pinpoint unusual activity.

The system looks for electrons emitted and scattered from radioactive particles decaying, and monitor the abundance of argon-37, a radioactive isotope of argon-39 that is created synthetically through nuclear explosions.

Argon-37 which has a half-life of 35 days, is emitted when calcium captures excess neutrons and decays by emitting an alpha particle. Emily Mace, a scientist at PNNL, said she looks for the energy, timing, duration and other features of the decay events to see if it’s from nuclear testing.

“Some pulse shapes are difficult to interpret,” said Mace. “It can be challenging to differentiate between good and bad data.”

Deep learning makes that process easier. Computer scientists collected 32,000 pulses and annotated their properties, teaching the system to spot any odd features that might classify a signal as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

“Signals can be well behaved or they can be poorly behaved,” said Jesse Ward. “For the network to learn about the good signals, it needs a decent amount of bad signals for comparison.” When the researchers tested their system with 50,000 pulses and asked human experts to differentiate signals, the neural network agreed with them 100 per cent of the time.

It also correctly identified 99.9 per cent of the pulses compared to 96.1 per cent from more conventional techniques.

Source: Skynet for the win? AI hunts down secret testing of nuclear bombs • The Register

Red Shell packaged games (Civ VI, Total War, ESO, KSP and more) contain a spyware which tracks your Internet activity outside of the game

Red shell is a Spyware that tracks data of your PC and shares it with 3rd parties. On their website they formulate it all in very harmless language, but the fact is that this is software from someone i don’t trust and whom i never invited, which is looking at my data and running on my pc against my will. This should have no place in a full price PC game, and in no games if it were up to me.

I make this thread to raise awareness of these user unfriendly marketing practices and data mining software that are common on the mobile market, and which are flooding over to our PC Games market. As a person and a gamer i refuse to be data mined. My data is my own and you have no business making money of it.

The announcement yesterday was only from “Holy Potatoes! We’re in Space?!”, but i would consider all their games as on risk to contain that spyware if they choose to include it again, with or without announcement. Also the Publisher of this one title is Daedalic Entertainment, while the others are self published. I would think it could be interesting to check if other Daedalic Entertainment Games have that spyware in it as well. I had no time to do that.

Reddit [PSA] RED SHELL Spyware – “Holy Potatoes! We’re in Space?!” integrated and removed it after complaints

[PSA] Civ VI, Total War, ESO, KSP and more contain a spyware which tracks your Internet activity outside of the game (x-post r/Steam)

Addresses to block:

Hackers steal $30m from top Seoul bithumb exchange

Hackers stole more than $30 million worth of cryptocurrencies from South Korea’s top bitcoin exchange, sending the unit’s price falling around the world on Wednesday.

The virtual currency was priced at $6,442 dollars late afternoon in Seoul, down about 4.4 percent from 24 hours earlier, after the latest attack on Bithumb raised concerns over cryptocurrency security.

Hyper-wired South Korea has emerged as a hotbed of trading in virtual units, at one point accounting for some 20 percent of global bitcoin transactions—about 10 times the country’s share of the global economy.

Bithumb, which has more than 1 million customers, is the largest virtual exchange in the South.

“It has been confirmed that virtual currencies worth 35 billion won ($32 million) was stolen through late night yesterday (Tuesday) to early morning today,” the exchange said in a statement.

All deposits and withdrawals were suspended indefinitely to “ensure security”, it said, adding the losses would be covered from the firm’s own reserves.

It was the second major attack on South Korean exchanges in just 10 days, after hackers stole 40 billion won from Seoul-based Coinrail, which suspended withdrawal and deposits services since then.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-06-hackers-30m-seoul-bitcoin-exchange.html#jCp

Source: Hackers steal $30m from top Seoul bitcoin exchange

IBM AI Project Debater scores 1 – 1 vs man in 2 debates

The AI, called Project Debater, appeared on stage in a packed conference room at IBM’s San Francisco office embodied in a 6ft tall black panel with a blue, animated “mouth”. It was a looming presence alongside the human debaters Noa Ovadia and Dan Zafrir, who stood behind a podium nearby.

Although the machine stumbled at many points, the unprecedented event offered a glimpse into how computers are learning to grapple with the messy, unstructured world of human decision-making.

For each of the two short debates, participants had to prepare a four-minute opening statement, followed by a four-minute rebuttal and a two-minute summary. The opening debate topic was “we should subsidize space exploration”, followed by “we should increase the use of telemedicine”.

In both debates, the audience voted Project Debater to be worse at delivery but better in terms of the amount of information it conveyed. And in spite of several robotic slip-ups, the audience voted the AI to be more persuasive (in terms of changing the audience’s position) than its human opponent, Zafrir, in the second debate.

It’s worth noting, however, that there were many members of IBM staff in the room and they may have been rooting for their creation.

IBM hopes the research will eventually enable a more sophisticated virtual assistant that can absorb massive and diverse sets of information to help build persuasive arguments and make well-informed decisions – as opposed to merely responding to simple questions and commands.

Project Debater was a showcase of IBM’s ability to process very large data sets, including millions of news articles across dozens of subjects, and then turn snippets of arguments into full flowing prose – a challenging task for a computer.


Once an AI is capable of persuasive arguments, it can be applied as a tool to aid human decision-making.

“We believe there’s massive potential for good in artificial intelligence that can understand us humans,” said Arvind Krishna, director of IBM Research.

One example of this might be corporate boardroom decisions, where there are lots of conflicting points of view. The AI system could, without emotion, listen to the conversation, take all of the evidence and arguments into account and challenge the reasoning of humans where necessary.

“This can increase the level of evidence-based decision-making,” said Reed, adding that the same system could be used for intelligence analysis in counter-terrorism, for example identifying if a particular individual represents a threat.

In both cases, the machine wouldn’t make the decision but would contribute to the discussion and act as another voice at the table.

Source: Man 1, machine 1: landmark debate between AI and humans ends in draw | Technology | The Guardian

Essentially, Project Debater assigns a confidence score to every piece of information it understands. As in: how confident is the system that it actually understands the content of what’s being discussed? “If it’s confident that it got that point right, if it really believes it understands what that opponent was saying, it’s going to try to make a very strong argument against that point specifically,” Welser explains.

”If it’s less confident,” he says, “it’ll do it’s best to make an argument that’ll be convincing as an argument even if it doesn’t exactly answer that point. Which is exactly what a human does too, sometimes.”

So: the human says that government should have specific criteria surrounding basic human needs to justify subsidization. Project Debater responds that space is awesome and good for the economy. A human might choose that tactic as a sneaky way to avoid debating on the wrong terms. Project Debater had different motivations in its algorithms, but not that different.

The point of this experiment wasn’t to make me think that I couldn’t trust that a computer is arguing in good faith — though it very much did that. No, the point is that IBM showing off that it can train AI in new areas of research that could eventually be useful in real, practical contexts.

The first is parsing a lot of information in a decision-making context. The same technology that can read a corpus of data and come up with a bunch of pros and cons for a debate could be (and has been) used to decide whether or not a stock might be worth investing in. IBM’s system didn’t make the value judgement, but it did provide a bunch of information to the bank showing both sides of a debate about the stock.

As for the debating part, Welser says that it “helps us understand how language is used,” by teaching a system to work in a rhetorical context that’s more nuanced than the usual Hey Google give me this piece of information and turn off my lights. Perhaps it might someday help a lawyer structure their arguments, “not that Project Debater would make a very good lawyer,” he joked. Another IBM researcher suggested that this technology could help judge fake news.

How close is this to being something IBM turns into a product? “This is still a research level project,” Welser says, though “the technologies underneath it right now” are already beginning to be used in IBM projects.


The system listened to four minutes of its human opponent’s opening remarks, then parsed that data and created an argument that highlighted and attempted to debunk information shared by the opposing side. That’s incredibly impressive because it has to understand not only the words but the context of those words. Parroting back Wikipedia entries is easy, taking data and creating a narrative that’s based not only on raw data but also takes into account what it’s just heard? That’s tough.

In a world where emotion and bias colors all our decisions, Project Debater could help companies and governments see through the noise of our life experiences and produce mostly impartial conclusions. Of course, the data set it pulls from is based on what humans have written and those will have their own biases and emotion.

While the goal is an unbiased machine, during the discourse Project Debate wasn’t completely sterile. Amid its rebuttal against debater Dan Zafrir, while they argued about telemedicine expansion, the system stated that Zafrir had not told the truth during his opening statement about the increase in the use of telemedicine. In other words, it called him a liar.

When asked about the statement, Slonim said that the system has a confidence threshold during rebuttals. If it’s feeling very confident it creates a more complex statement. If it’s feeling less confident, the statement is less impressive.


IBM site


Here’s some phish-AI research: Machine-learning code crafts phishing URLs that dodge auto-detection

An artificially intelligent system has been demonstrated generating URLs for phishing websites that appear to evade detection by security tools.

Essentially, the software can come up with URLs for webpages that masquerade as legit login pages for real websites, when in actual fact, the webpages simply collect the entered username and passwords to later hijack accounts.

Blacklists and algorithms – intelligent or otherwise – can be used to automatically identify and block links to phishing pages. Humans should be able to spot that the web links are dodgy, but not everyone is so savvy.

Using the Phishtank database, a group of computer scientists from Cyxtera Technologies, a cybersecurity biz based in Florida, USA, have built <a target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow” href=”“>DeepPhish, which is machine-learning software that, allegedly, generates phishing URLs that beat these defense mechanisms.


The team inspected more than a million URLs on Phishtank to identify three different phishing miscreants who had generated webpages to steal people’s credentials. The team fed these web addresses into AI-based phishing detection algorithm to measure how effective the URLs were at bypassing the system.

The first scumbag of the trio used 1,007 attack URLs, and only 7 were effective at avoiding setting off alarms, across 106 domains, making it successful only 0.69 per cent of the time. The second one had 102 malicious web addresses, across 19 domains. Only five of them bypassed the threat detection algorithm and it was effective 4.91 per cent of the time.

Next, they fed this information into a Long-Short Term Memory network (LSTM) to learn the general structure and extract features from the malicious URLs – for example the second threat actor commonly used “tdcanadatrustindex.html” in its address.

All the text from effective URLs were taken to create sentences and encoded into a vector and fed into the LSTM, where it is trained to predict the next character given the previous one.

Over time it learns to generate a stream of text to simulate a list of pseudo URLs that are similar to the ones used as input. When DeepPhish was trained on data from the first threat actor, it also managed to create 1,007 URLs, and 210 of them were effective at evading detection, bumping up the score from 0.69 per cent to 20.90 per cent.

When it was following the structure from the second threat actor, it also produced 102 fake URLs and 37 of them were successful, increasing the likelihood of tricking the existent defense mechanism from 4.91 per cent to 36.28 per cent.

The effectiveness rate isn’t very high as a lot of what comes out the LSTM is effective gibberish, containing strings of forbidden characters.

“It is important to automate the process of retraining the AI phishing detection system by incorporating the new synthetic URLs that each threat actor may create,” the researchers warned. ®

Source: Here’s some phish-AI research: Machine-learning code crafts phishing URLs that dodge auto-detection • The Register

EU sets up High-Level Group on Artificial Intelligence

Following an open selection process, the Commission has appointed 52 experts to a new High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence, comprising representatives from academia, civil society, as well as industry.

The High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence (AI HLG) will have as a general objective to support the implementation of the European strategy on AI. This will include the elaboration of recommendations on future AI-related policy development and on ethical, legal and societal issues related to AI, including socio-economic challenges.

Moreover, the AI HLG will serve as the steering group for the European AI Alliance’s work, interact with other initiatives, help stimulate a multi-stakeholder dialogue, gather participants’ views and reflect them in its analysis and reports.

In particular, the group will be tasked to:

  1. Advise the Commission on next steps addressing AI-related mid to long-term challenges and opportunities through recommendations which will feed into the policy development process, the legislative evaluation process and the development of a next-generation digital strategy.
  2. Propose to the Commission draft AI ethics guidelines, covering issues such as fairness, safety, transparency, the future of work, democracy and more broadly the impact on the application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, including privacy and personal data protection, dignity, consumer protection and non-discrimination
  3. Support the Commission on further engagement and outreach mechanisms to interact with a broader set of stakeholders in the context of the AI Alliance, share information and gather their input on the group’s and the Commission’s work.

Source: High-Level Group on Artificial Intelligence | Digital Single Market

Significant Vulnerabilities in Axis Cameras – patch now!

One of the vendors for which we found vulnerable devices was Axis Communications. Our team discovered a critical chain of vulnerabilities in Axis security cameras. The vulnerabilities allow an adversary that obtained the camera’s IP address to remotely take over the cameras (via LAN or internet). In total, VDOO has responsibly disclosed seven vulnerabilities to Axis security team.

The vulnerabilities’ IDs in Mitre are: CVE-2018-10658CVE-2018-10659CVE-2018-10660CVE-2018-10661CVE-2018-10662CVE-2018-10663 and CVE-2018-10664.

Chaining three of the reported vulnerabilities together, allows an unauthenticated remote attacker that has access to the camera login page through the network (without any previous access to the camera or credentials to the camera) to fully control the affected camera. An attacker with such control could do the following:

  • Access to camera’s video stream
  • Freeze the camera’s video stream
  • Control the camera – move the lens to a desired point, turn motion detection on/off
  • Add the camera to a botnet
  • Alter the camera’s software
  • Use the camera as an infiltration point for network (performing lateral movement)
  • Render the camera useless
  • Use the camera to perform other nefarious tasks (DDoS attacks, Bitcoin mining, others)

The vulnerable products include 390 models of Axis IP Cameras. The full list of affected products can be found here. Axis uses the ACV-128401 identifier for relating to the issues we discovered.

To the best of our knowledge, these vulnerabilities were not exploited in the field, and therefore, did not lead to any concrete privacy violation or security threat to Axis’s customers.

We strongly recommend Axis customers who did not update their camera’s firmware to do so immediately or mitigate the risks in alternative ways. See instructions in FAQ section below.

We also recommend that other camera vendors follow our recommendations at the end of this report to avoid and mitigate similar threats.

Source: VDOO Discovers Significant Vulnerabilities in Axis Cameras – VDOO

Transforming Standard Video Into Slow Motion with AI

Researchers from NVIDIA developed a deep learning-based system that can produce high-quality slow-motion videos from a 30-frame-per-second video, outperforming various state-of-the-art methods that aim to do the same. The researchers will present their work at the annual Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) conference in Salt Lake City, Utah this week. 

“There are many memorable moments in your life that you might want to record with a camera in slow-motion because they are hard to see clearly with your eyes: the first time a baby walks, a difficult skateboard trick, a dog catching a ball,” the researchers wrote in the research paper.  “While it is possible to take 240-frame-per-second videos with a cell phone, recording everything at high frame rates is impractical, as it requires large memories and is power-intensive for mobile devices,” the team explained.

With this new research, users can slow down their recordings after taking them.

Using NVIDIA Tesla V100 GPUs and cuDNN-accelerated PyTorch deep learning framework the team trained their system on over 11,000 videos of everyday and sports activities shot at 240 frames-per-second. Once trained, the convolutional neural network predicted the extra frames.

The team used a separate dataset to validate the accuracy of their system.

The result can make videos shot at a lower frame rate look more fluid and less blurry.

“Our method can generate multiple intermediate frames that are spatially and temporally coherent,” the researchers said. “Our multi-frame approach consistently outperforms state-of-the-art single frame methods.”

To help demonstrate the research, the team took a series of clips from The Slow Mo Guys, a popular slow-motion based science and technology entertainment YouTube series created by Gavin Free, starring himself and his friend Daniel Gruchy, and made their videos even slower.

The method can take everyday videos of life’s most precious moments and slow them down to look like your favorite cinematic slow-motion scenes, adding suspense, emphasis, and anticipation.

Source: Transforming Standard Video Into Slow Motion with AI – NVIDIA Developer News CenterNVIDIA Developer News Center

Paper straw factory to open in Britain as restaurants ditch plastic

No paper straws have been made in Britain for the last several decades. But that is about to change as a group of packaging industry veterans prepare to open a dedicated paper straw production line in Ebbw Vale, Wales, making hundreds of millions of straws a year for McDonald’s and other food companies as they prepare for a ban on plastic straws in the UK.

“We spotted a huge opportunity, and we went for it,” said Mark Varney, sales and marketing director of the newly created paper straw manufacturer Transcend Packaging. “When the BBC’s Blue Planet II was on the telly and the government started talking about the dangers of plastic straws, we saw a niche in the market.”

Varney and his business partners, all stalwarts of the packaging industry, watched as chains including Costa Coffee, Wetherspoons and Pizza Express announced plans to phase out plastic straws in favour of biodegradable paper.

“It is great that all these businesses are phasing out plastic straws, but the problem for them was where to get paper ones from,” Varney said. “Everyone is having to import them from China, and when you look at the carbon footprint of that it kind of defeats the exercise.”

So Varney and his partners set about opening what they reckon will be the only paper straw production plant in Europe. “We set up this company to give the the customers what they actually want: biodegradable paper straws made in the UK,” he said.

Transcend signed a deal last week to supply straws to 1,361 McDonald’s outlets from September. The deal was agreed before Transcend has made its first straw as the company is waiting on delivery of machines from China. McDonald’s uses 1.8m straws a day in the UK. The Northern Irish factory of the Finnish packaging company Huhtamaki will also supply McDonald’s but is understood to not yet have paper straw production capabilities.

Source: Paper straw factory to open in Britain as restaurants ditch plastic | Business | The Guardian

Climate Change Can Be Reversed by Turning Air Into Gasoline

A team of scientists from Harvard University and the company Carbon Engineering announced on Thursday that they have found a method to cheaply and directly pull carbon-dioxide pollution out of the atmosphere.


the new technique is noteworthy because it promises to remove carbon dioxide cheaply. As recently as 2011, a panel of experts estimated that it would cost at least $600 to remove a metric ton of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The new paper says it can remove the same ton for as little as $94, and for no more than $232. At those rates, it would cost between $1 and $2.50 to remove the carbon dioxide released by burning a gallon of gasoline in a modern car.


Their technique, while chemically complicated, does not rely on unprecedented science. In effect, Keith and his colleagues have grafted a cooling tower onto a paper mill. It has three major steps.First, outside air is sucked into the factory’s “contactors” and exposed to an alkaline liquid. These contactors resemble industrial cooling towers: They have large fans to inhale air from the outside world, and they’re lined with corrugated plastic structures that allow as much air as possible to come into contact with the liquid. In a cooling tower, the air is meant to cool the liquid; but in this design, the air is meant to come into contact with the strong base. “CO2 is a weak acid, so it wants to be in the base,” said Keith.

Second, the now-watery liquid (containing carbon dioxide) is brought into the factory, where it undergoes a series of chemical reactions to separate the base from the acid. The liquid is frozen into solid pellets, slowly heated, and converted into a slurry. Again, these techniques have been borrowed from elsewhere in chemical industry: “Taking CO2 out of a carbonate solution is what almost every paper mill in the world does,” Keith told me.

Finally, the carbon dioxide is combined with hydrogen and converted into liquid fuels, including gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. This is in some ways the most conventional aspect of the process: Oil companies convert hydrocarbon gases into liquid fuels every day, using a set of chemical reactions called the Fischer-Tropsch process. But it’s key to Carbon Engineering’s business: It means the company can produce carbon-neutral hydrocarbons.

What does that mean? Consider an example: If you were to burn Carbon Engineering’s gas in your car, you would release carbon-dioxide pollution out of your tailpipe and into Earth’s atmosphere. But as this carbon dioxide came from the air in the first place, these emissions would not introduce any new CO2 to the atmosphere. Nor would any new oil have to be mined to power your car.

Source: Climate Change Can Be Reversed by Turning Air Into Gasoline – The Atlantic

Customer Rewards get a lot weirder if you think of them as seperate transactions

Source: xkcd: Customer Rewards

Giant African baobab trees die suddenly after thousands of years

Some of Africa’s oldest and biggest baobab trees have abruptly died, wholly or in part, in the past decade, according to researchers.

The trees, aged between 1,100 and 2,500 years and in some cases as wide as a bus is long, may have fallen victim to climate change, the team speculated.

“We report that nine of the 13 oldest … individuals have died, or at least their oldest parts/stems have collapsed and died, over the past 12 years,” they wrote in the scientific journal Nature Plants, describing “an event of an unprecedented magnitude”.

“It is definitely shocking and dramatic to experience during our lifetime the demise of so many trees with millennial ages,” said the study’s co-author Adrian Patrut of the Babeș-Bolyai University in Romania.

Among the nine were four of the largest African baobabs. While the cause of the die-off remains unclear, the researchers “suspect that the demise of monumental baobabs may be associated at least in part with significant modifications of climate conditions that affect southern Africa in particular”.

Further research is needed, said the team from Romania, South Africa and the United States, “to support or refute this supposition”.

Between 2005 and 2017, the researchers probed and dated “practically all known very large and potentially old” African baobabs – more than 60 individuals in all. Collating data on girth, height, wood volume and age, they noted the “unexpected and intriguing fact” that most of the very oldest and biggest trees died during the study period. All were in southern Africa – Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, and Zambia.

The baobab is the biggest and longest-living flowering tree, according to the research team. It is found naturally in Africa’s savannah region and outside the continent in tropical areas to which it was introduced. It is a strange-looking plant, with branches resembling gnarled roots reaching for the sky, giving it an upside-down look.

Source: Giant African baobab trees die suddenly after thousands of years | World news | The Guardian

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