iPhone Cracked, Deepfakes Cause Alarm – Spotlight #298

Good Monday morning. It’s June 17th. Collaboration software service Slack goes public on Thursday. There are 10 million daily users active on Slack and 30% of them are paying a base rate of more than $6 per month.

1. News to Know Now

  • Breaking Sunday – Lyrics site Genius is accusing Google of copying its lyrics transcriptions without credit and displaying them directly on Google. The company says it uses curved and straight apostrophes to create a Morse Code Message that reads “red-handed”. Read the story at Engadget.

  • Pre-screening videos isn’t viable for YouTube, says president Susan Wojcicki to a Code conference audience. Hundreds of hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

  • Tech data guru Mary Meeker shared with the same crowd her latest updated Internet trends report.  A number that defines our society: 25% of Americans are online 24/7.  The whole thing is 333 slides. Mary presented it in 30 minutes so here are the slides to look at using your own speed settings.

2. Deepfakes

Let’s define the term deepfakes now since there are now 6.1 million Google News entries using the term.

Deepfakes are computer-generated creations of audio, video, or even text that uses machine learning to create a realistic copy.

Movie special effects are a great example of deepfakes. 

Futurists have warned about the effective way deepfakes can spread disinformation. Think back to something outrageous you’ve read. Maybe you’ve looked for a video that corroborates or disproves what you’ve read. If Russian-sponsored posts on Facebook were disruptive to U.S. elections, think about the effect of a video showing a major party presidential candidate saying something controversial. 

To prove the point, here are the latest deepfakes being passed around the Internet. Both feature comedian Bill Hader, a gifted impressionist. As he talks like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Al Pacino in the clip below, his face subtly shifts to become the actor he is impersonating. Yet the clip could have simply started with the actor’s image.

The video’s creator, who is using entertainment videos like this and from movies like The Terminator and A Knight’s Tale, expresses concern that many commenters don’t even realize that the video has been altered.

3.  Security Issues Accelerate

Baltimore city officials were quietly breathing a sigh of relief this week, more than thirty days after a crippling ransomware attack devastated the city’s IT structure. Recriminations aside, Baltimore is still in trouble. Officials say that residents won’t receive utility bills for the second straight month and that 25% of employees are still without email accounts. Meanwhile, home sales are down and the city faces months of cyber-recovery efforts.

The National Security Agency (NSA) denies that software stolen in a 2017 hack of the agency helped spawn the attack despite reporting in The New York Times that suggests otherwise. The NSA did issue a cybersecurity advisory that advised all Microsoft Windows 7 and XP users to patch their computer systems.

We told you about Microsoft’s warnings regarding this issue on May 20th and June 3rd. Short version: legacy applications run in many organizations might not work with patched software so some IT units don’t always patch the software. That’s the human vulnerability that the NSA tools and other hacking tools exploit. And that’s why something created two years ago completely stopped Baltimore’s tech infrastructure.

Apple’s mobile operating system may also be compromised. Israeli security firm Cellebrite announced this week that it will work with law enforcement to “unlock and extract data from” any iOS device according to Digital Trends. Government and law enforcement officials continue to demand access to devices as part of their investigative authority. Apple has famously rebuffed those requests in the past, making the ability to hack an iPhone lucrative work. Supply chain holes also allowed banking malware to be installed on new versions of Android installed on mobile devices. Forbes has coverage.

4. In the Spotlight

  • Shaking your mobile device (gently,  please) while using the Facebook application can now be used to access the company’s bug reporting form. All device types, including Android, are being rolled out now and everyone is opted in although they can disable the feature. (Engadget)

  • Children’s advertisers are shifting their purchases from YouTube according to Axios coverage of a PwC report. Remember that  YouTube’s rules do not allow children under the age of 13 to have accounts and that the site is not intended for unsupervised use by children. Instead, let your little ones watch YouTube Kids.

5. Protip: Chrome Remote Desktop Updated 

Chrome Remote Desktop is now officially out of beta and available FREE online. Point your browser to the new website to either get an access code for someone to use to access your computer or to enter the access code someone else has generated for you.

Those of you running the unofficial help desk in your social circle will rejoice at this news. But it’s SO EASY to use. Less easy–cleanup of your friend’s attempt to partition a hidden hard drive.

6. Great Data: Bill Gates Picks 10 Technologies

Although people probably (hopefully) stopped calling Bill Gates for tech support some time ago, he still keeps up on technology.  After MIT Technology Review asked Gates to curate this year’s list of the top technology innovations, the smart data people at Visual Capitalist turned his picks into a spiffy infographic.

Great medical and energy breakthroughs to go please.

7. Food for Thought: Employee Phishing Attack

In the wake of the Baltimore tech catastrophe and news about security breaches every day, Brian Krebs raises a great question:  should failing a phishing test be grounds for termination?

White House personnel including Anthony Scaramucci and then-Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert famously fell for phishing emails pretending to be from Reince Priebus and Jared Kushner. So did the CEO of Goldman Sachs and bankers from Citigroup and Barclays.

Read Krebs’ intro and then have the debate at your office.

P.S. I hope that you’ll do this. If you do, drop me a line and let me know privately or on the record. I would love to hear what you come up with.

8.  Coffee Break

Kudos to the Pakistani government initiative to livestream a meeting, but maybe leave out the cat filters next time. A government official blamed the feline filter on human error by a hardworking volunteer which completely exonerates the canine population. 

Have a look at the strange cat-men.

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