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Facebook to encrypt messages, Google AR, Intel's pocket-sized LIDAR camera, credential security

  • Episode 636
  • December 11, 2019

Here are the stories we're following for the week of Wednesday December 11, 2019


Larry Page and Sergey Brin, co-founders of Google have stepped down from their positions as its CEO and President, respectively, with immediate effect at its parent company, Alphabet Inc.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, co-founders of Google have stepped down from their positions as its CEO and President, respectively, with immediate effect at its parent company, Alphabet Inc.

However, both will continue their involvement as co-founders, shareholders, and members of Alphabet’s Board of Directors.

Going forward, Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, will become the CEO of both Google and Alphabet. He will assume the role of managing Alphabet’s investment in its portfolio of “other bets” in areas including self-driving cars and life sciences. Besides this, he will also remain a member of Alphabet’s Board of Directors.

The stepping down of Page and Brin represents the end of an era for Google that was founded by both in 1998 while they were Ph.D. students at Stanford University.

Despite not holding important management roles at Alphabet, the two plan to continue talking with Pichai regularly.

Source: www.techworm.net

Sent to us by: Robbie Ferguson


Governments in the UK, US and Australia have asked Facebook, in an open letter, to roll back plans to bring end-to-end encryption to all of its platforms.

Governments in the UK, US and Australia have asked Facebook, in an open letter, to roll back plans to bring end-to-end encryption to all of its platforms.

Facebook, who has been at the center of many privacy scandals, responds that everyone has the right to a private conversation.

It is the latest in a battle between privacy and safety, which has played out between governments and tech firms ever since digital communication became mass market.

End-to-end encryption is a secure way of sending information so that only the intended receiver can read it. The information is encrypted while it is still on the sender's device and is only decrypted when it reaches the person intended. Nobody, not even the platform owner, has the keys to unlock it.

The UK and the US have just signed an historic agreement to give each other much faster access to private conversations - cutting down the time from months or years, to weeks or days.

But that agreement could potentially be rendered a bit useless if the messages are encrypted.

Setting up a government backdoor is not the answer either, as Amnesty International pointed out, "Proposals for a 'backdoor' have repeatedly been shown to be unworkable. There is no middle ground: if law enforcement is allowed to circumvent encryption, then anybody can."

Prof Alan Woodward, a security expert at the University of Surrey and a consultant to Europol gave a good analogy when he said, "A backdoor is rather like leaving a key under the mat - once someone knows it is there anyone can walk in."

Source: www.bbc.com

Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash


Mexican Cops Have Pre-Ordered a Fleet of Cybertrucks.

Mexican Cops Have Pre-Ordered a Fleet of Cybertrucks.

Having pre-ordered 15 Tesla Cybertrucks, that makes the Mexican city of San Luis Potosí the second to share plans to put police officers in Cybertrucks, following Dubai’s announcement a couple weeks back.

The San Luis Potosí government is reportedly interested in replacing its internal combustion engine vehicles with the trucks to cut down on maintenance costs and save money in the long run.

Adrian Esper Cardenas, mayor of San Luis Potosí, described the purchase as “common sense.” He added that the city will also use some of the 15 trucks for tasks like picking up trash around the city.

It would be simple for the city to reverse course if it changes its mind — all it takes to preorder a Cybertruck is a fully-refundable $100 deposit.

That way, if the police force gets cold feet as it thinks about the truck’s not-quite-meatball-proof windows, it could still completely back out before actually buying Tesla’s trucks.

Source: futurism.com

Sent to us by: Robbie Ferguson


Google is showing off stunning new augmented reality features coming to web and mobile apps soon.

Google is showing off stunning new augmented reality features coming to web and mobile apps soon.

Google has been quietly working to improve its augmented reality platform, ARCore, since its official launch early last year. Now, the company says it's ready to unveil some of the next-generation upgrades to depth detection and physics that they've achieved, promising to make AR experiences seem much more realistic in the near future.

The upgrades, part of ArCore’s all-new Depth API, will soon allow developers to perform what’s known as "occlusion", which is when an artificial object can be blocked from view by real-world objects in a scene. Place a virtual cat in your living room, for instance, and you can see it disappear from view when you angle your camera in a way that places a bed or table or some other object in between.

The result is a more believable scene, because the depth detection going on under the hood means your smartphone better understands every object in a scene and how far apart each object is from one another. Google says it’s able to do this through optimizing existing software, so you won’t need to buy a new phone with a specific sensor or type of processor. If you have a phone that supports ARCore, which is pretty much every new Android phone released in the last few years, you’ll be able to access these new features directly on the device, with no help from the cloud.

Pokémon Go creator Niantic showed off a video of an occlusion demo featuring a tiny virtual pikachu darting around an urban plaza, dashing in between objects and blending seamlessly with the environment. That was in July 2018. But it was just a video, and not a demo running on a device in real time.

Google says the advancements will be made available to developers in the future after it works more closely with developers and other collaborators to polish some of its approaches.

These go beyond occlusion and into more realistic physics and 3D mapping. Google has developed a way for AR objects to interact with the real world more realistically, move through an environment the way a real-world 3D object would, and interact with surfaces like you might expect physical matter would.

The company doesn’t have a timeline for when it does expect to release this toolset more broadly, but it’s likely these capabilities will be showing up in apps and AR web experiences some time next year.

Source: www.theverge.com

Sent to us by: Robbie Ferguson


After analyzing a database containing 3 billion leaked credentials from security breaches, the Microsoft threat research team determined more than 44 million user accounts had a serious security problem. We'll tell you what you need to know.

The Microsoft threat research team analyzed billions of login credentials that had been leaked following security breaches. These came from multiple sources, including law enforcement and publicly accessible databases.

Considering that data breaches are known to have exposed 4.1 billion records in the first six months of 2019 alone, there's obviously plenty of this kind of credential data floating around, and plenty that is traded across dark web markets. Security researchers analyze this breach data, and by so doing, it's possible to get an idea of the most commonly reused and therefore insecure passwords. The Microsoft identity threat research team was also looking for these compromised credentials to cross-check against the Microsoft user eco-system.

Across just the first three months of 2019, Microsoft found some 44 million accounts that were reusing passwords found within those breached credentials databases. You might think that 44 million reused passwords, out of more than 3 billion breached credentials, isn't too bad a percentage. Unless you are one of those Azure AD or Microsoft Account holders with the password problem, of course.

It's dangerous to think you are safe just because you don't use any of the headline passwords mentioned in the "most reused passwords" lists that regularly appear online, as threat actors use a variety of techniques to reveal login credentials. If one of your passwords turns up in a breached database and you use it to access your email account, for example, it's often game over as far as your security is concerned.

Microsoft warns about how this data is commonly used in what's known as a breach replay attack: "Once a threat actor gets hold of spilled credentials or credentials in the wild, they can try to execute a breach replay attack. In this attack, the actor tries out the same credentials on different service accounts to see if there is a match."

As far as the leaked credentials that the threat research team found during this analysis are concerned, Microsoft has confirmed that consumers need to take "no additional action," as it has already forced a password reset.

So what can we do to protect our accounts? The report goes on to say "Our numbers show that 99.9% of identity attacks have been thwarted by turning on multi-factor authentication."

Source: www.forbes.com

Sent to us by: Robbie Ferguson


Intel is making LIDAR affordable, with a new palm-sized camera.

Intel is adding a tiny LIDAR sensor to its RealSense range, claiming the Intel RealSense lidar camera L515 is the world’s smallest laser rangefinder – not to mention one of the most affordable.

Taking technology familiar from autonomous cars and robotics, the L515 then packages it down into a small enough form-factor that it could allow compact smart devices to scan the world in 3D.

LIDAR works by using a rapidly scanning laser, bouncing points of light off surrounding objects. By measuring the time taken for that light to reflect back, it can create a 3D map – or “point cloud” – of the world around the sensor. That accuracy has made it the centerpiece of many self-driving car projects, among other fields.

Traditionally, though, LIDAR has been hamstrung by two key factors: size and price. Early LIDAR sensors, particularly those with suitable range for automotive applications, have been huge: like a spinning trash can mounted on top of the vehicle’s roof. They’ve also cost tens of thousands of dollars or more.

Intel’s L515 taps into the growing category of solid-state LIDAR, however, and it’s cheap enough to arrive at just $349. The chip-maker developed its own tiny micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) mirror that allows the laser to scan the scene but at reduced power. Despite requiring less than 3.5 watts, Intel says that the L515 can still track 3D objects at a range of up to 30 feet at over 23 million accurate depth pixels per second, with a depth resolution of 1024 x 768 at 30 frames per second.

Arguably more exciting, though, is the potential for new applications – and new users – where LIDAR has traditionally been out of reach. Smoothing that transition is the fact that the L515 uses the same RealSense SDK 2.0 as Intel’s other current RealSense cameras, released under an open-source license, and compatible with Windows, Linux, Android, and macOS, along with multiple platforms including Unity, Unreal, and even Python.

Source: www.slashgear.com

Sent to us by: Robbie Ferguson


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