iPhones, Printers, Deskphones Hacking Info from Def Con – Spotlight #305

Good Monday morning. It’s August 12th.  Eid Mubarak to our readers celebrating Eid Al-Adha!

2. News To Know Now

1.  Amazon robots called Scouts are now delivering in Irvine, California, a well-to-do city in Orange County. The program started in suburban Seattle. Testing continues in both places during weekday daylight hours. Amazon’s announcement.

2.  Image recognition by smart programs from Google, Amazon, and Microsoft still mostly lags human identification of images except when the program is 90% or more confident in its response. That’s when Google’s machine learning programs beat even human results. Read Perficent Digital’s study.

3. Biometric technology is now creating accurate maps of a person’s face from a short audio sample. Identifying deep fakes, helping solve crimes, and using voice prints to identify legitimate callers to banks like Chase and HSBC are some legit use cases. Here’s a great ten minute video.

3.  Security Update as Black Hat, Def Con End

The Def Con and Black Hat hacking conferences held each summer in Las Vegas combine a curious mix of hackers (ethical or otherwise), computer security pros, journalists, and law enforcement. The NSA Director has keynoted Def Con, a broadcast journalist tried to conceal a recording device one year, and usually one presentation is scheduled that causes organizations (Massachusetts Bay Transport Authority, Cisco, and ManTech) to file suit to block their information from being shared. That’s apart from the usual antics like Black Hat attendees hacking everything in their hotels including the ATM and hotel TV systems.

Highlights from this year:

  • 2019’s model medical village at Def Con was a simulated hospital room with involvement and sometimes ambivalent participation by the FDA and industry manufacturers. Remember that we told you three weeks ago that hackers had to prove to Medtronic that they could take over an insulin pump and administer a lethal dose. 
  • A now 18-year-old Bill Demirkapi showed attendees that he was able to access millions of records containing grades, passwords, immunizations, and other sensitive data for millions of K-12 students in school districts using Blackboard and Follett software. The companies had worked with him pre-disclosure to plug vulnerabilities. Wired has coverage.
  • The Voting Village featured a voting booth prototype developed by DARPA, the government agency whose early 1970s “Internetting project” became pretty popular. None of the teams had access until the last day so the results were inconclusive although some teams appear to have made good progress cracking the $10 million prototypes.  Read more at CNET.
  • A Whatsapp vulnerability disclosed this spring led to a Google security team discovering that they can break into an iPhone by sending a text. For years, we’ve told people that they need to open an attachment or click something to trigger malicious software. But there are increasing instances when a phone can be compromised without the user taking action. Details at Google’s Project Zero blog. Unless you code, the part you care about is that they found ten problems and all have been fixed.

Before the Black Hat and Def Con conferences started we learned from the field that McAfee researchers found that a 10 year old Avaya phone problem had been patched, but not removed. We also heard from Microsoft that Russian GRU initiatives are targeting organizations that have not changed default passwords for devices like printers or VOIP phones. Why Microsoft? They have a unique view of American offices thanks to the number of Windows machines installed.  More at MIT Technology Review.

4.  SearchWeek: News about finding things online

Sue wrote a sweet Mother’s Day column for her movie website years ago about movies to share on Mother’s Day. And Sue’s really good at search engine optimization so her very sweet article brought in scads of sick people who shouldn’t think that way about mothers. 

Terms like lesbian and “school girl” typed into Google had similar problems. Online activism led by @SEO_lesbienne noted that search results for those terms disproportionately featured pronography. Searches for those terms will now yield news and research articles like, I dunno, all the other words you could search. In other words, Google will stop treating the word “lesbian” like a porn term. (The Next Web)

We told you last week that video results will soon play directly in Google search results. Podcasts are also going to receive their own section on search pages based on what Google says is “[our] understanding of what’s being talked about on a podcast, so you can find even more relevant information about a topic in audio form. Soon, you won’t necessarily need the term “podcast” in your search to see episodes, making podcast discovery simpler across Search.”

Google also announced that hotel owners can now edit their services and amenities in a special section of Google My Business. Here is info on how to do that

5. Debugged: 3 Misinformation Findings After Mass Shootings

The Poynter Institute is out with three things learned about misinformation after the El Paso and Dayton shootings. 

  1. False flag conspiracies are now routine.
  2. Misinformation spreads on messaging apps.
  3. Classic hoaxes still thrive online.

Their short, thorough analysis.

6. Also in the Spotlight

Google is quietly testing a premium Google Play subscription for mobile apps according to Android Police.

Facebook is doing the same for premium video subscriptions from BBC and CollegeHumor among others according to Variety.

Only 17% of the biographies on Wikipedia are about women and the sciences are especially underrepresented according to TNW.

7. Food for Thought: Internet Language

As I said to the doggo before, “OMG, do you even canine?”

Gretchen McCullough, author of Because Internet, would not be surprised. She’s writing about how online communications are making our language even more dynamic.  That’s great, but remember how you can’t understand some 19th century writing? 

What are you and your organization doing to ensure that your communications are understood by multiple audiences scattered at different points along this language spectrum?  

Here’s a Time review of Because Internet to prime the pump.

8. Protip: AR in Google Maps directions

More Google announcements: “Live View” is a new Google Maps beta that uses Augmented Reality (AR) to superimpose huge honking arrows and street signs over a live view of your surroundings.  It’s going to help walking directions SO much.

Have a look here.

9. Great Data: Impossible Burger Live Tracking

Red Robin and Burger King have made it clear that they are selling plant-based burgers, but Steve in Accounting said BK was out so you’ll stick to your usual. 

Or not if you use the whimsical (and super smart use of free consumer generated data) Burger Stalker from Bloomberg. I know, Bloomberg. That blew me away too.

There’s one only 20 minutes away. Crazy.

10. Coffee Break: Last Chance for the Perseid

The Perseid meteor showers peak today but viewing them can sometimes be difficult because of light pollution. Here is how to stream them via Space.com,

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