Microsoft’s Xbox chief Phil Spencer says he’s acutely aware of the problems the gaming industry faces from a cultural perspective — issues like toxicity, abuse and harassment, and exclusionary attitudes that can keep gaming’s benefits from spreading beyond its most hardcore, traditional demographic. So today, Spencer says Microsoft is launching an industry-wide initiative to combat these issues by sharing solutions and technology and committing itself to aggressive enforcement. “First, gaming is for everyone. No one group ‘owns’ gaming. Instead, whether you’re new to gaming or are a diehard e-sports fan, you are welcome to play and welcome to all the fun and skill-building that comes with gaming. In this way, when everyone can play, the entire world wins,” Spencer writes in a blog post titled “Video Games: A Unifying Force for the World.”
With Julian Assange locked away in a London jail, a new battle has broken out over what may contain some of the WikiLeaks founder’s biggest secrets: his computers. On Monday, judicial authorities from Ecuador carried out an inventory of all the belongings and digital devices left behind at the London embassy following his expulsion last month from the diplomatic compound that had been his home the past seven years. It came as Sweden announced it was seeking Assange’s arrest on suspicion of rape, setting up a possible future tug-of-war with the United States over any extradition of Assange from Britain. It’s not known what devices authorities removed from the embassy or what information they contained. But authorities said they were acting on a request by the U.S. prosecutors, leading Assange’s defenders to claim that Ecuador has undermined the most basic principles of asylum while denying the secret-spiller’s right to prepare his defense.
The U.S. government is considering a tech export ban that would target Hikvision, a Chinese video surveillance company that’s been instrumental in sending anywhere from 1 million to 3 million Muslims into China’s network of secretive concentration camps, according to a new report from the New York Times. Under the proposed ban, Hikvision would be unable to buy American technology, not unlike last week’s restrictions placed on Huawei that now prohibit American companies like Intel and Google from doing business with the Chinese tech giant. Hikvision did not immediately return Gizmodo’s request for comment on Wednesday.
A company accused of fraudulently obtaining 757,000 IPv4 addresses has been ordered to hand them back after the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) won a landmark judgment against it. The dispute began in late 2018 when ARIN, which allocates IPv4 addresses in the US, Canada and parts of the Caribbean on a non-profit basis, discovered that a company called Micfo and its owner Amir Golestan had fraudulently tricked it into handing over the IP blocks. IPv4 addresses are in incredibly short supply (see below), which means that getting hold of them involves waiting lists. Scarcity also makes them valuable on resale – between $13 and $19 each. That would make the IP addresses Micfo obtained worth between $9.8 million and $14.3 million. Not surprisingly, cases of pocket-lining IP address fraud have risen, as ARIN’s senior director of global registry knowledge, warned about in a conference presentation in 2016.
The Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) cybersecurity practices continue to “lag behind” those of its Republican counterpart despite investments the group has made since the 2016 presidential election, according to a new report. “In aggregate, the DNC security scores lag behind the [Republican National Committee] RNC in almost all categories,” reads the report released Tuesday by the company SecurityScorecard assessing the cyber risk exposure of U.S. and European political parties. "While SecurityScorecard believes the DNC has made significant investments in security since 2016, the organizational behavior at managing digital assets still lags behind the RNC," the report states.
An Ohio school district was forced to send students and some of its staff home on Monday after a malware infection caused major issues to its IT infrastructure. But, surprise, surprise, the malware infection was not a ransomware attack, as most infosec experts would have expected, but a banking trojan. More precisely, the malware that brought down the school district's IT systems is named Trickbot, according to a Facebook post published Monday by officials from the Coventry Local School District in Ohio. Officials said they were infected last week, but only discovered the infection on Friday. Despite working to restore impacted systems, the school district's IT staff were not able to finish their recovery efforts over the weekend.
The U.S. Postal Service on Tuesday started a two-week test transporting mail across three Southwestern states using self-driving trucks, a step forward in the effort to commercialize autonomous vehicle technology for hauling freight. San Diego-based startup TuSimple said its self-driving trucks will begin hauling mail between USPS facilities in Phoenix and Dallas to see how the nascent technology might improve delivery times and costs. A safety driver will sit behind the wheel to intervene if necessary and an engineer will ride in the passenger seat. If successful, it would mark an achievement for the autonomous driving industry and a possible solution to the driver shortage and regulatory constraints faced by freight haulers across the country. The pilot program involves five round trips, each totaling more than 2,100 miles (3,380 km) or around 45 hours of driving. It is unclear whether self-driving mail delivery will continue after the two-week pilot.
Lyft announced several new initiatives on Tuesday that are designed to enhance the safety of its passengers. The company is adding an in-app panic button for riders who need to call 911. (It did the same for the driver’s app late last year.) Other changes include an enlarged version of the driver’s license plate number in the app, which is an effort to prevent passengers from getting in the wrong vehicle. The changes come a month after a University of South Carolina student was killed allegedly by a man posing as her Uber driver. Lyft is also offering sexual harassment prevention training to all of its drivers and riders in light of the numerous incidents of harassment or assault that have occurred in ride-hail vehicles over the last few years.
The evolution of artificial intelligence is driving advances in technology but raising questions over ethics, the head of the OECD said on Wednesday, as more than 40 nations backed a set of principles meant to improve transparency around AI. The principles, endorsed by the United States, call for AI systems to be fair, transparent and accountable and are the first of their kind, said Angel Gurria, head of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The principles call on companies to disclose enough about how their systems work for people to understand their results and be able to challenge them. Not only should AI be used to benefit people, but the technology should also uphold the rule of law, human rights, democratic values and diversity.
On late Monday, AT&T warned visitors on its website of a “data incident” with an ominous banner at the top of the company’s homepage, according to people who visited the page at the time. “You may be affected by a recent AT&T data incident. Check if your accounts are impacted,” the message said. The banner linked to a confusing and incomplete FAQ, which also contained a link to a site where users could enter their number to check if they were affected. We tested the tool with one AT&T account and found that it was not affected. On Tuesday morning, the banner was gone. But the page it linked to, was still live. And people on Reddit and other social media sites were a bit worried.
For the past three years, the team has been developing software that flawlessly detects a number of medical issues early on, and spent two years alone on lung cancer detection. 42,000 chest scans from 15,000 patients were used to train the software to analyze patterns and images and detect lung cancer, as well as 3,800 CT scans from Northwestern University. Google says the tool can even analyze and compare scans from different timeframes to identify malignant growths. “The whole experimentation process is like a student in school,” said Dr. Daniel Tse, project manager and author of the journal article. “We’re using a large data set for training, giving it lessons and pop quizzes so it can begin to learn for itself what is cancer, and what will or will not be cancer in the future. We gave it a final exam on data it’s never seen after we spent a lot of time training, and the result we saw on final exam — it got an A.” As it analyzes more data, the deep learning algorithm will get better and help radiologists give more accurate interpretations. It still needs further testing to prevent misinterpreting data and giving the wrong results.
Researchers have identified what they are calling a coordinated campaign to undermine President Trump on Instagram, an effort that bears hallmarks of the disinformation campaigns that proliferated on the platform in 2016. A recently published study by Italian analytics firm Ghost Data identified a network of 350 anti-Trump accounts coordinating efforts to promote messages deriding the president, sometimes with graphic or violent language. The researchers found 19 suspicious Instagram accounts that took the lead in promoting anti-Trump content. In total, the posts from the accounts generated have more than 35.2 million interactions, with 3.9 million of those interactions occurring in the last two months. The study concluded that the anti-Trump Instagram campaign has ramped up over the past several months, with the network's activities swelling "dramatically" since April.
“People carry a goldmine of data when traveling, including passports, payment information and detailed travel itineraries,” says Caleb Barlow, Vice President of X-Force Threat Intelligence at IBM Security. “When placed in the hands of a cybercriminal, all of this information can be patched together into a complete picture of the traveler’s life to inform identity theft, initiate spear phishing attacks, or be sold on the dark web.” Do you have a favorite airline or hotel brand? Your loyalty information and rewards are as good as cash to cybercriminals. “One of the benefits of loyalty cards is that they're relatively easy to use, and they don't have a lot of the same traceability as using, for example, a credit card, or moving money through wire transfers,” says Barlow.
Those oh-so-handy USB power charging stations in the airport may come with a cost you can’t see. Cybercriminals can modify those USB connections to install malware on your phone or download data without your knowledge. “Plugging into a public USB port is kind of like finding a toothbrush on the side of the road and deciding to stick it in your mouth. You have no idea where that thing has been,” says Caleb Barlow, Vice President of X-Force Threat Intelligence at IBM Security. “And remember that that USB port can pass data.” It’s much safer to bring your regular charger along and plug it into a wall outlet or, alternatively, bring a portable power bank to recharge your phone when you’re low on bars.
A bipartisan in the U.S. Congress today expressed plans to draft legislation to address facial recognition software by law enforcement. Calls for a need for action were heard in the House Oversight and Reform Committee from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) as well as ranking member Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), a Trump supporter who said “Seems to me it’s time for a timeout.” “You’ve hit the sweet spot that brings progressives and conservatives together,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) told committee chair Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD). “When you have a diverse group on this committee, as diverse as you might see on the polar ends, I’m here to tell you we’re serious about this, and let’s get together and work on legislation. The time is now before it gets out of control.”
Earlier this month, I shadowed several restaurants throughout New York and talked to restaurant employees across the US to see how they’ve received Google Duplex, the AI that makes life-like calls for reservations on your behalf. Most agreed that the AI sounded unmistakably human — and according to Google’s response to reporting by The New York Times, there’s a 25 percent chance that they were. Google says that a quarter of Duplex calls start with human callers, and 15 percent start with the AI and are later intervened by a person from the Duplex call center. The company told The New York Times that it uses a variety of signals to decide whether a call should be placed by a human or a robot, “like if the company is unsure of whether the business takes reservations, or if the user of the assistant might be a spammer.”
Amazon is said to be working on a wrist-worn, voice-activated device that’s supposed to be able to read human emotions. This would be a rather novel health and wellness gadget, of the sort we’re more used to seeing feature in tenuous crowdfunding campaigns instead of from one of the world’s biggest tech companies. Bloomberg has reviewed internal Amazon documents, which reportedly show the Alexa voice software team and Amazon’s Lab126 hardware division are collaborating on the wearable in development. Lab126 has already been responsible for the Kindle, the Fire Phone, and the Echo speaker that first introduced Alexa to the world, and a report last year suggested the group is also developing a home robot. The unifying thread to all of Amazon’s hardware efforts right now is to build out an ecosystem of Alexa-capable devices, with the rumored robot making Alexa more mobile and the alleged emotion-sensing wearable giving the voice assistant access to a whole new dimension of user awareness.