The Rise of Malvertising

Zirconium’s tech support malvertising on Microsoft’s website

Congratulations! You have been selected to win a $100 gift card! Have you ever gotten one of those ugly messages popping up in your web browser? Not only are they annoying, they can also be very dangerous. A gang of web browser hijackers upped their malvertising game by creating 28 fake ad agencies. The group, tackily named Zirconium, made over a billion ad impressions on unsuspecting victims last year. The ads were force-redirect popups that opened a spam webpage.

So how did Zirconium manage to create so many fake agencies to sell ads to websites? Most of the agencies built up what seemed to be a legitimate history to gain credibility. They created Twitter and LinkedIn profiles with stock photo profile pictures as well as their own websites. They sold seemingly real ads to create a sense of establishment before selling malvertisements on larger and often credible websites, including Microsoft and Facebook. After hijacking thousands of devices and making billions of ad impressions, the group was finally stopped.

With more and more technology driving our every day lives, such malware could do major damage to our devices and personal lives. Cyber attackers may use malvertising as a way to gain access to your browsing history, passwords, and personal information. They can even use it as a way to completely crash your device, rendering it unusable. So what can you do to protect yourself from such malicious activity? According to MakeUseOf.com, it is extremely important to keep your browsers and antivirus software up to date, use script management add-ons, and disable Silverlight and Flash. Until the Internet is funded in a different way, ads will continue to plague our browsers. It is up to us to prevent and respond to ads and potential threats in a safe and secure manner.

What is Malvertising?

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/gang-crooks-hijacked-web-browser-215742162.html

https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2018/01/malvertising-factory-with-28-fake-agencies-delivered-1-billion-ads-in-2017/

Lyft Abusing Customer Information

The many recent discussions of the conspiracies of companies like Google and Facebook  accumulating massive amounts of customer data and the problems that could occur from this have become a very popular debate. The endless data feeds they have from the websites we have surfed and applications we use supply them with enormous amounts of data. Now, these internet applications aren’t the only things we have to worry about, we can add Lyft and Uber to that list.

Lyft employees have been accused of abusing access clearances to explore customer information. Not only this, but Lyft employees have been seen tracking customers, ranging from former significant others to famous stars. Along with tracking abilities, some Lyft employees have been found bragging of having well-known figure’s phone numbers. This becomes a significant invasion of privacy and poses great dangers to these innocent customers that are having their information accessed.

It is now no surprise that companies such as Google track some of our less harmful information, but with companies such as Lyft and Google having access to our address, phone numbers, and even current locations is a serious situation that needs to be handled. It is becoming a more common trend to see applications and other services abusing customer data. With all the capabilities that can be achieved in todays day in age with a simple address or phone number, customers must be very important where they put their information on the Internet.

https://www.theverge.com/2018/1/25/16934064/lyft-customer-data-abuse-allegations

Longmont Police up the Ante with Drones

Everyday people are finding new ways to use drones to their advantage. For example, Longmont police in Colorado are planning on using drones to map out vehicle crashes, crime scenes, and even locate people using thermal imaging. $42,000 is being invested into only four drones, but the necessary software and technology actually costs more than the drones themselves. Luckily, Longmont police know exactly how they want to use these aircraft gadgets. They also envision the drones playing a significant role during investigations because they are able to see things that humans just can’t.

We already see drones in use today for the military, but now drones are expanding to new sectors. What drones are capable of is amazing, but rather them taking over our jobs, they are actually helping us do our jobs better and more efficiently. The Longmont police will be able to get a visual of traffic accidents and crime scenes faster with drones than it takes them to travel to the location. This allows the police to assess the situation more quickly and more closely. Obviously the drones won’t be able to physically help in those types of situations if someone is hurt or needs rescue, but its’ presence nonetheless would be beneficial for law enforcement.

I think drones are a great idea for police because their goal is to protect as many people as possible, and drones can act as an additional officer in the sky. It’s a huge upgrade for the men and women in blue uniforms as crimes occur way too often in many locations. What is interesting the most to me is that drones will be able to detect and locate missing people and criminals that police want to find. We see manhunts on the news every now and then, but they take multiple days or even weeks with just officers searching on the ground. Drones should be able to find those people whether they’re inside a building or not, and that will save a lot of time. There is the security and privacy issue with drones if they can see inside anyone’s house, but if we just think about it for police and investigation purposes only, then it’s a great improvement from what we currently have.

Sources:

http://www.timescall.com/longmont-local-news/ci_31615194/longmont-seeking-input-polices-drones

https://idealog.co.nz/tech/2015/08/five-things-drones-are-used-arent-firing-missiles-delivering-amazon-orders-or-annoying-neighbours

A “Flick” of a second

Throughout the history of movies, television and even video games, there has been a significant increase in use of video effects throughout these medias. New movies always testing the boundaries for using the most elaborate special effects. It is an ongoing race towards improving these video effects among producers.

The newest improvement that has been “invented” is the flick. The flick is a new unit of time, measuring 1/705,600,000 of a second, which is one unit smaller than a nanosecond.  Christopher Horvath, an engineer working for Facebook was the creator of this new unit of time. Now, I think a common thought is, “what in the world would this be used for?” These flicks main use will be to generate visual effects for film, television and other media. This can be beneficial to reduce errors such as stutters in graphics that are used throughout mainstream media.

Other researches have exclaimed that the flick could play a significant role throughout the virtual reality game experiences. The future of this still developing virtual reality game idea is a very hard task to tackle. To allow users to actually feel submerged in the game, the delay time must be minimum, and if it is even slightly off, it can add up to a considerable amount. The flick could create more fluency throughout these virtual reality games to make them even more realistic than they already are.

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-42787529

Elon Musk’s reveals plans for Hyperloop tunnel

After much talk about potentially a New York to Washington Hyperloop tunnel, which would include stops in Philadelphia and Baltimore, Boring Company has decided to start with the California area of Culver City.

This decision is not too shocking considering Elon Musk’s, chief of Tesla Inc and Space Exploration Technologies Corp, idea originated after being “fed up” with LA traffic. In 2016 he tweeted that he would “build a boring tunnel machine”, and two years later he has revealed the plans for the first Boring Company’s Hyperloop tunnel system in the area, which will provide a service at “futuristic high speed”. 

Boring Company hopes that their Hyperloop tunnel idea will “alleviate soul-destroying traffic and augment public transit”. The tunnel will be a “privately funded human transportation tunnel that [will] run underneath the Westside of Los Angeles”. Although the tunnel will be owned by the company, they are not expecting any public funding, and they believe that “the cost to passengers would be comparable to, or less than existing forms of public transit in the region”.

According to a Culver City report, “The tunnel [will] contain a high-speed underground public transportation system in which passengers are transported on autonomous electric skates traveling at 125-150mph.”

Hopefully Boring Company venture is a success, and leads the way in an all new era of long distance travel.

Sources:
http://www.bbc.com/news/technology42788510
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-23/musk-s-boring-co-presents-l-a-tunnel-plan-to-culver-city

 

Russia Infiltrates Twitter

It seems like Twitter struggles with all aspects except appealing to millennials and our President. Their stock never does particularly well and many generations are not very happy with Twitter. Social media, and Twitter especially, were manipulated in the 2016 election and it is funny to see that the president elected loves Twitter. Recently, Twitter admitted to finding 1,062 more Russian infiltrated propaganda accounts, 3,814 total accounts now to be exact.

The Russian government has backed many accounts for propaganda purposes to spread fake news and political division among Americans. Twitter has said that it expects a minimum of 50,000 Russian related accounts to have been created to sway Americans in the past presidential election. The Kremlin also created 13,512 bot accounts with their only agenda to tweet fake news to trick Americans. They had posed as Trump supporters and attacked the anti-Trump supporters on Twitter.

In this new age of technology, it is interesting to see how social media will manipulate our elections and other important American events. Hopefully the main social media companies will be able to protect our Americans from other countries’ negative agendas. The Russians need to be reprimanded for the dirty work they did in the 2016 presidential election. Twitter needs to step up in 2020 if they want to stay relevant.

Source: https://www.wsj.com/articles/twitter-reveals-1-000-more-accounts-tied-to-russian-propaganda-agency-1516414856

http://socialbarrel.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Twitter-and-russia.jpg

Amazon’s Futuristic Store

Amazon is set to open the store of the future tomorrow, January 22nd. This convenience store will be cashierless, a completely new and futuristic concept. The store will be called “Amazon Go” and it will be located in their headquarters in Seattle.

Dilip Kumar is the man behind the the idea of the Amazon Go store. He used tests with actual employees to configure the technology to operate cashierless. He uses computer vision and machine learning algorithms to charge shoppers for what they get, without having to have a cashier checkout counter. Cameras track the shoppers and the products so they can see which shopper picked up which product and charge them accordingly.

The idea first came out publicly in 2016 and after a while of difficulties, and it is now unveiling in 2018. If there is great success with the Amazon Go store, maybe the first large store that the technology will be implemented into would be Whole Foods. If you didn’t know, Amazon bought Whole Foods for 13.5 billion dollars last August. Hopefully we will see this technology implemented into many stores for the sake of time and convenience.

 

Source: https://www.wsj.com/articles/amazons-cashierless-go-convenience-store-set-to-open-1516546801

http://g-ec2.images-amazon.com/images/G/01/social/api-share/amazon_logo_500500.pn

 

 

SkyCam Use in NFL Games

Recently the NFL has slowly started implementing the use of a new broadcasting camera technology called SkyCam, which typically hangs above the offense and “follows” the gameplay down the field. SkyCam is a computer-controlled, stabilized, cable-suspended camera system that maneuvers in the open space over the playing field by a computer-controlled cable-drive system. This camera angle is very similar to what the football video game series Madden shows in its default camera settings. Compared to the classic side-view of a large portion of the field, SkyCam allows viewers to see the field from the quarterback’s perspective which the NFL believes immerses them more in the football game. There has been a lot of controversy over the use of it, lots of people both love and hate the SkyCam, but it seems that the NFL is trying to implement it more and more regardless.

Related image

wired.com

I personally love the SkyCam and I hope the NFL continues using it. I like seeing the game from the quarterback’s perspective, and it also makes the games more interactive and dynamic since the camera isn’t fixed with the gameplay occuring within the large screen. I prefer a camera that follows the gameplay and can rotate around in any direction to show different angles. This system is definitely complex and took lots of planning and design to process the computing needed to move the camera along the cables properly, and shows the technological advancements behind the scenes of the game of football in addition to things like instant replay and immediate medical attention on the sidelines.

http://www.businessinsider.com/nfl-skycam-thursday-night-football-2017-12

Are Cashierless Stores the Future?

A look into the new Amazon Go store.

 

The Internet of Things is back at it again! Monday marks the first day that customers will be able to shop at the first Amazon Go store in Seattle. While this is definitely not the store for the technologically novices, it is exciting to see what we can really access. The store has absolutely no checkout lines, so how are customer supposed to shop? Well, to even enter the store you have to log on to your Amazon Go app. Sensors throughout the store will then track what you take and charge your Amazon account. There will even be digital displays under each item that will tell you how the item was rated, just like on the website!

As this is the first store of its kind, many wonder how it will take off. According to the article, Amazon tested the store on its current employees. According to an Amazon representative, the volume of business just from that small market was significantly higher than expected. While this is their first store of this kind, selling groceries, ready-to-eat meals, cold drinks and meal prep kits, Amazon operates 13 bookstores across the U.S.

A store like this definitely inspires a question or two. Is human interaction being replaced by the simplicity that technology brings? Will this be the beginning of the end for cashiers? How will Amazon ensure that the technology is always talking to each other and does not malfunction? While I have no answer to these questions, perhaps time can tell us a thing or two. Even though I am currently a cashier, I would be excited to try out this new store!

http://money.cnn.com/2018/01/21/technology/business/amazon-go-seattle-store/index.html

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Robot that can Read and Understand!

See the source imageHave you ever thought of a question and google couldn’t find the perfect answer for you?  In the near future, we could expect search engines to give an answer straight away rather than giving you possible links. Companies like Alibaba and Microsoft are racing to create a powerful AI, one that could do things that only thought possible for a human being to do, thinking, comprehending and actively responding. In this article we will take a look at how it might impact our society.

 

Alibaba and Microsoft have built artificial intelligence that have beaten humans on a Stanford University reading comprehension test. Alibaba later stated, “This is the first time that a machine has outperformed humans on such a test.” Artificial intelligence experts at Stanford created the test to calculate computers’ reading capabilities, which are constantly growing. Alibaba’s software was the first to beat the human score of the test. Although many considered this accomplishment as a great milestone, Luo Si, the chief scientist of natural language processing at the Chinese company’s AI research group acknowledged admitted this advance in artificial intelligence will cause many to lose their jobs. The technology “can be gradually applied to numerous applications such as customer service, museum tutorials and online responses to medical inquiries from patients, decreasing the need for human input in an unprecedented way,” Si also said.

 

I think we first have to ask, “ How are tests designed?” What does this test measure? The Stanford test consists of questions about a set of Wikipedia articles. For example, a human or AI program reads a passage and then answers multiple questions regarding the passage. Alibaba’s network program scored 82.44 on the test on January 11, beating the 82.304 scored by the human participants by a hair. A day later, Microsoft’s AI software also beat the human score, with a result of 82.650.

 

I felt that the AI programs weren’t really fully comprehending what it was reading. On a basic level, there are two parts to comprehension. The first part, taking in information and being able to categories them in patterns and links. The second part, being able to use those patterns and links to answer questions that aren’t directly related what is already known. For example I give you two pieces of information, water has a large amounts of H2O molecules and H2O reflects blue light. Then, I ask you what is the color of the water? If you can only do part one of comprehension, there is no direct correlation to what I asked and what you know, so you would not be able to answer that question. If you were able to do the second part of comprehension, you will be able make a assumption that since water is mostly H2O molecules, the color of water must be blue. It is kind of like learning something is class and being able to apply that knowledge on homework that isn’t exactly like the material learned in class.

 

I don’t think we are at a time where, AI will start replacing humans quite yet. The AI systems mentioned in the article seem to be not capable of the second part of the comprehension. They lack the human qualities that is required for the jobs that AI was thought to replace. Furthermore, I would add that the prediction that some job will be lost to AI is a gross underestimate. As soon as AI can master the second part of comprehension, they will replace everyone’s jobs, even the researcher’s jobs. The AI will be able to make assumptions, test ideas and learn. With its superior processing power, it will only be a short time before it surpasses all the information that humans have gathered over 1000 years.

 

I think we will come to a point when we have to decide on how much AI we want and how much we should develop it. It is going to become an ethical question. After AI has surpassed us, what does that mean for humans? What is our purpose? Should we merger with AI’s?

 

 

Pham, Sherisse. “Reading Robots Beat Humans in Stanford Test.” CNNMoney, Cable News Network, 16 Jan. 2018, 4:16 AM ET, money.cnn.com/2018/01/15/technology/reading-robot-alibaba-microsoft-stanford/index.html.

Picture reference:

https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/happens-robots-can-jobs/