Microsoft corrects '775 per cent cloud usage surge' claim

Found on The Register on Tuesday, 31 March 2020
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The software giant has now updated the post - and published a correction with the US Securities and Exchange Commission - that made the claim with new data, namely: "We have seen a 775 per cent increase in Teams' calling and meeting monthly users in a one month period in Italy, where social distancing or shelter in place orders have been enforced."

Microsoft has at least been classy enough to apply a strikethrough tag to the mistake, rather than dropping it into an Orwellian memory hole.

You can always try to make it look bigger than it is.

China Goes Back to Work as the Coronavirus Rages On Elsewhere

Found on Wired on Saturday, 28 March 2020
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Three months after the novel coronavirus was first reported in Wuhan, China appears to have successfully dampened the rate of new infections—even allowing for some fudging in the official numbers. The government of Hubei, the province that is home to Wuhan and bore the brunt of the outbreak, said Tuesday it would remove travel restrictions, allowing residents, except those in Wuhan, to again move freely. In some places, like Shenzhen, the manufacturing hub in the south, and Hangzhou, a tech hot spot on the east coast, residents say restaurants and malls are starting to refill.

It's pretty surprising how fast infections went down again in China.

I Got My File From Clearview AI, and It Freaked Me Out

Found on OneZero on Friday, 27 March 2020
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The Times, not usually an institution prone to hyperbole, wrote that Clearview could “end privacy as we know it.” According to the exposé, the company scrapes public images from the internet. These can come from news articles, public Facebook posts, social media profiles, or multiple other sources. Clearview has apparently slurped up more than 3 billion of these images.

Clearview packages this database into an easy-to-query service (originally called Smartcheckr) and sells it to government agencies, police departments, and a handful of private companies.

Expect your request to take up to two months to process. Be persistent in following up. And remember that once you receive your data, you have the option to demand that Clearview delete it or amend it if you’d like them to do so.

That's exactly why you have to be careful with all the data you put online. At first it might seem unimportant, and nobody but your friends should be interested in your snapshots, but then some company comes in and digs through all that to prepare it for easy stalking.

Asterix co-creator Albert Uderzo dies aged 92

Found on The Register on Wednesday, 25 March 2020
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Uderzo and writer Renee Goscinny created Asterix in 1959, with the character first appearing in a children's magazine. Two years later the first standalone Asterix album – Asterix the Gaul – appeared. The pair went on to produce another 25 volumes together, most of them bestsellers that comfortably shifted a million copies.

Asterix is comfortably France's premier popular literary cultural export. It's been filmed 14 times, translated into over 100 languages, turned into at least 40 video games and is the subject of a French theme park. Various sources suggest the books have sold more than 370 million copies.

Uderzo was probably the last great artist who produced comics for everybody. Comics which made all ages laugh in all nations. It's such a huge loss.

Coronavirus: Greggs to close all stores to prevent spread

Found on BBC News on Monday, 23 March 2020
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McDonalds, Nando's, KFC, Costa Coffee, Subway and Pizza Express have already announced similar measures.

McDonald's had earlier said it would close all 1,270 of its restaurants in the UK by the end of the day, affecting 135,000 workers.

While it does help to fight Covid-19, it also helps a lot to fight obesity and similar diseases based on fatty and unhealty food.

Locked-Down Lawyers Warned Alexa Is Hearing Confidential Calls

Found on Bloomberg on Sunday, 22 March 2020
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As law firms urge attorneys to work from home during the global pandemic, their employees’ confidential phone calls with clients run the risk of being heard by Amazon.com Inc. and Google.

Mishcon’s warning covers any kind of visual or voice enabled device, like Amazon and Google’s speakers. But video products such as Ring, which is also owned by Amazon, and even baby monitors and closed-circuit TVs, are also a concern, said Mishcon de Reya partner Joe Hancock, who also heads the firm’s cybersecurity efforts.

“Perhaps we’re being slightly paranoid but we need to have a lot of trust in these organizations and these devices,” Hancock said. “We’d rather not take those risks.”

Trust? There is no reason to trust these devices at all, given their histories which include letting people listen to private recordings for speech analysis.

Ransomware Gangs to Stop Attacking Health Orgs During Pandemic

Found on Bleeping Computer on Saturday, 21 March 2020
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Some Ransomware operators have stated that they will no longer target health and medical organizations during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

While this help is greatly appreciated, I hope other ransomware operators will stop targeting healthcare organizations after reading this article so that it is not needed.

It's probably less about being nice guys, but more about being concerned they might end up in an attacked hospital themselves, unable to get the proper care to survive.

Cybersecurity Firm Hired By Voatz To Audit Its System Finds Voatz Is Full Of Vulnerabilities

Found on Techdirt on Monday, 16 March 2020
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The only people who did feel this was a safe, secure way to collect votes were state legislators and Voatz itself. Some early poking and prodding by security researchers immediately found problems with Voatz's handling of votes.

Voatz responded badly, insulting the researchers and claiming its server-side software would miraculously prevent the described attack from happening. When the researchers pointed out Voatz was wrong about its own software, it published a blog post attacking the researchers as "publicity hounds" seeking to disrupt the election process.

This is software that's been used by governments to collect more than 80,000 votes in more than 50 elections. This is the software Sen. Ron Wyden has called "snake oil." When Voatz actually attempts to fix something, it sometimes makes it worse.

Paper. Just use paper for voting.

Half of people in the US would sell their genetic data for $95

Found on New Scientist on Friday, 13 March 2020
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The participants, a representative sample of the US population, watched a 3-minute video detailing both the commercial value of genomic data and genetic privacy issues. This included a statement that consumer genetic testing firm 23andMe sells access to its database to pharmaceutical firms for $140 per individual’s data.

While 38 per cent said they wouldn’t share their data, 50 per cent said they would if they were paid, and 12 per cent said they would do it for free.

There's only hope for 38%.

More than 2,200 agencies and companies have tried Clearview, report finds

Found on Ars Technica on Saturday, 29 February 2020
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Secretive startup Clearview AI distributes an apparently very powerful facial recognition tool that matches anyone against an enormous database of photos—it claims more than 3 billion—scraped from basically every major US platform on the Internet.

Apparently "security professionals" includes retailers such as Best Buy, Kohl's, Walmart, and Macy's, with Macy's on the actual paying customers list.

Nor is Clearview's spread limited to the US market: users affiliated with Interpol and a sovereign wealth fund in the United Arab Emirates both used the app, and accounts were found in several other nations, including Saudi Arabia and Australia.

It would be interesting to see if scraping billions of photos of people to build a searchable database is fully legal. Some countries are very picky about these things.