Top Stories for the Week of May 24, 2017

  • Episode 505
  • May 24, 2017
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Here are the stories we're following for the week of Wednesday May 24, 2017

Dubai is replacing a sizable number of their police force with robots.

Dubai is constantly pushing the envelope for a "smart" city, and now a robotic police officer is making its rounds on city streets.

The robot rolls around on wheels. It can salute, bow, speak in multiple languages, and recognize hand gestures from up to 1 ½ meters away. It also has a tablet lodged in its chest which civilians can use to report crimes. It was designed by the Dubai police, with assistance from IBM’s Watson and Google.

It’s apparently not designed to deter serious crime, but to take over small tasks improve overall happiness levels along city streets, according to the Director of the Smart Services Department for the Dubai Police.

Think robots don't affect jobs? The department hopes to replace a full quarter of its forces with similar bots by 2030.


Sent to us by: Jeff Weston

Bell Canada has been hacked, resulting in a large data breach of customer info.

Amidst the noise of the WannaCry attack, Canada's largest telecom company, Bell Canada, had 2 million of its customer records stolen by unknown hackers.

Bell said it is working with Canadian police to figure out who was responsible for the disclosure of the customer email addresses, and phone numbers: all that's needed for a massive phishing scam. The names were also obtained for about 1,700 of their customers.

Bell Canada said in its brief statement, "There is no indication that any financial, password or other sensitive personal information was accessed."

Serving around 21 million customers in the Great White North, Bell Canada offers both fixed line and wireless phone service, as well as internet and television. The carrier reported revenues of $5.38bn CAD in their last fiscal quarter.

Bell Canada did not say whether the customer details stolen in the attack were pulled from a specific service.

The Canadian Privacy Commissioner's office has said it is also gathering data about the hack.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

Nokia's 3310 dumbphone has been rebooted, and is on sale now.

The rebooted Nokia 3310 has gone on sale, nearly 17 years after the original made its debut.

The phone, which has a two megapixel camera and relies on 2.5G connectivity to offer only limited internet access, is being sold for about 50 euros.

Part of the nostalgia is found in being able to leave your charger at home. The battery in the re-imagined 3310 offers up to 22 hours of talk time, and up to a month in standby mode.

One expert said its success depended on how much people would be willing to pay for a device that "oozes nostalgia".

Ben Wood, from technology consultancy CCS Insight is personally excited about the 3310's return, but says, "If you put this in the hands of a millennial who's addicted to Snapchat, of course it's the wrong phone."


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

New research has found that Yahoo Mail has been leaking private email attachments for years.

For years, Yahoo Mail has exposed a wealth of private user data because it failed to update widely used image-processing software that contained critical vulnerabilities. That's according to a security researcher who warned that other popular services are also likely to be leaking sensitive subscriber secrets.

Chris Evans, the researcher who discovered the vulnerabilities and reported them privately to Yahoo engineers, has dubbed them "Yahoobleed" because the vulnerabilities caused the site to bleed contents stored in server memory. The easy-to-exploit flaws resided in ImageMagick, an image-processing library that's supported by PHP, Ruby, NodeJS, Python, and about a dozen other programming languages. One version of Yahoobleed was the result of Yahoo failing to install a critical patch released in January 2015. A second Yahoobleed vulnerability was the result of a bug that ImageMagick developers fixed only recently after receiving a private report from Evans.

The vulnerability discovered by Evans could be exploited by e-mailing a maliciously manipulated image file to a Yahoo Mail address. After opening the 18-byte file, chunks of Yahoo server memory began leaking to the end user. Evans called this version of the attack "Yahoobleed1." "Yahoobleed2" worked by exploiting the vulnerability fixed in January 2015.

Together, the bugs allowed attackers to obtain browser cookies, authentication tokens, and private image attachments belonging to Yahoo Mail users. Despite Yahoo allowing one of the bugs to remain unpatched for 28 months, Evans praised company engineers for their speed and thoroughness in responding to his private report.

Rather than patch ImageMagick, Evans said, Yahoo opted to stop using the library, a move he applauded. Over the past 18 months, the app has come under increased criticism for harboring critical vulnerabilities, which in the past have threatened Facebook users, among others. Evans warned that other widely used Web services are likely still vulnerable.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

What happens when Artificial Intelligence is allowed to name paint colors?

Ever wonder where they get the strange names for paint colors? It could be worse: it could be up to AI.

Research scientist and neural network goofball Janelle Shane decided to train a neural network to generate new paint colors, complete with appropriate names. The results are possibly the greatest work of artificial intelligence I've seen to date.

Shane wrote on her Tumblr, "For this experiment, I gave the neural network a list of about 7,700 Sherwin-Williams paint colors along with their RGB values. Could the neural network learn to invent new paint colors and give them attractive names?"

Shane was able to get the algorithm to recognize some basic colors like red and gray, "though not reliably," because she also gets a sky blue called "Gray Pubic" and a dark green called "Stoomy Brown."

In the end, she concludes: "1. The neural network really likes brown, beige, and grey; 2. The neural network has really, really bad ideas for paint names."

Possibly the neural network needed better parameters, but really, who can argue with results like: Snowbonk, Bunflow, Bank Butt, Dorkwood and Turdly.


Sent to us by: Sr. Wences


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