Posts tagged with ‘Tech’

Those revelations sparked fresh fury in media circles, where retracting a story is viewed as a serious blow to one’s journalistic credibility—and to do so without notifying readers is a cardinal sin. Retracting four thousand posts without telling anyone is simply unheard of. To many in the industry, it smacks of a disregard for journalism’s basic tenets of accountability. That apparent disregard is especially galling when it comes from an upstart that is raking in VC rounds and gobbling up top journalists from established outlets that are struggling to survive.

That’s Will Oremus, Slate’s Senior Tech Writer, on the discovery that over 4,000 BuzzFeed posts mysteriously disappeared this year.

Founder/CEO Jonah Peretti confirmed that this was true, as BuzzFeed embarked on a project to take down sub-par posts earlier this year. His caveat, however, was that this was no breach of journalistic integrity as BuzzFeed began as a tech company, not a media company.

Point is, they employ journalists, produce an increasing amount of original reporting and long-form journalism, and they’re not the only media company to have tech roots or projects. And when that’s the case, it’s not a good idea to delete content from one part of your site without comprising the integrity of the other, unless you find a way to be very transparent about it.

Related: BuzzFeed’s Jonah Peretti Goes Long (on Medium with Felix Salmon).

Open Journalism on GitHub
Time to explore.
Image: Screenshot, Open Journalism Showcase on GitHub.
H/T: ONA Issues. 

Open Journalism on GitHub

Time to explore.

Image: Screenshot, Open Journalism Showcase on GitHub.

H/T: ONA Issues

Try to imagine a culture where no one has ever ‘looked up’ anything…

…In a primary oral culture, the expression ‘to look up something’ is an empty phrase: it would have no conceivable meaning. Without writing, words as such have no visual presence, even when the objects they represent are visual. There are sounds. You might ‘call’ them back – ‘recall’ them. But there is nowhere to ‘look’ for them. They have no focus and no trace.

Walter J. Ong, “Try to Imagine,” as quoted by James Gleik in The Information.

Today’s ponderable when (almost) everything is a quick search away.

Universal Converter Box
Via xkcd.

Universal Converter Box

Via xkcd.

We Are Nomads

We Are Nomads

Russian Hackers Stole a Billion Passwords. You Won’t Believe What Didn’t Happened Next

A team of hackers based in south central Russia stole over a billion passwords from sites large and small, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

The breach, conducted by a hacker group called CyberVor and discovered by a computer security firm, is the largest known to date but continues a trend of mass credential theft:

In December, 40 million credit card numbers and 70 million addresses, phone numbers and additional pieces of personal information were stolen from the retail giant Target by hackers in Eastern Europe.

And in October, federal prosecutors said an identity theft service in Vietnam managed to obtain as many as 200 million personal records, including Social Security numbers, credit card data and bank account information from Court Ventures, a company now owned by the data brokerage firm Experian.

The CyberVor hack appears impressively large (1.2 billion accounts stolen from 420,000 sites) but a number of commentators are skeptical that the breach is as extensive as the Times reports.

At Forbes, Kashmir Hill questions Hold Security, the firm the Times sourced its information to, for withholding information about what sites were hacked, and standing to benefit from the breach itself:

Panic time, right? You can’t even change your passwords to protect yourself because you don’t know which websites are affected or if they’re still vulnerable. This is the worst kind of news, spare on details and causing a panic without offering a solution. Oh wait, but there is a solution! You can pay “as low as $120″ to Hold Security monthly to find out if your site is affected by the breach [1]. Hold Security put a page up on its site about its new breach notification service around the same time the New York Times story went up.

Then there’s the issue of what CyberVor is or isn’t doing with the stolen user names and passwords.

Via Lily Hay Newman at Slate:

Strangest of all, the Times reports that the hackers are mainly just using the credentials to hack social media accounts and spam them. Which is weird, because when criminals steal valuable things, they usually try to sell them. Or if they steal things that give them access to money they take the money. So maybe the credentials aren’t that valuable on their own.

Russell Brandom at The Verge points out that CyberVor may have purchased the bulk of the credentials off the black market which, while serious, isn’t as disastrous as a full-fledged, successful botnet attack.

Still, the breach is a strong reminder of our collective vulnerability, and underscores the inadequacy of username password combinations. Increasing one’s personal digital security requires a few extra steps. While not foolproof, Newman offers some sensible recommendations:

The key is adding extra layers of protection. Using a password manager, or at least randomly generating strong passwords, eliminating duplicate passwords used on multiple accounts, and adding two-factor (or multi-factor) authentication everywhere it’s offered are all readily available steps that can help you protect yourself.

Takeaway: Digital security threats and the cybercrime that accompanies it cost the global economy somewhere in the neighborhood of $400 billion per year and affects tens of millions who have personal information stolen.

That said, articles such as this one from The New York Times oversells (1.2 billion credentials stolen!) and under-delivers (but we can’t tell you who might be at risk). With scant details on what individuals can do outside of paying its primary source for an audit, the worry is there’ll be a lot of hype with very little information to take action on.

1. Forbes clarifies that $120 is a yearly monitoring cost at $10/month.

A human author simply decides an interesting emotional path for the story, and the computer does the rest.

Margaret Sarlej, PhD candidate at University of New South Wales, to Phys.org. Computer writes its own fables.

We’ve written before about robots writing the news, now they’re writing fables.

Sarlej has written an application that takes 22 identified emotions used in fables, mixes and matches them with a plot, and pops out a written story.

Easier said than done. 

Via The Guardian:

Breaking stories down for a computer “involves not only encoding story elements like characters, events, and plot, but also the ‘common sense’ people take for granted”, said Sarlej. Telling a story is simple enough for a child to do, but stories are actually “incredibly complex”.

"For example, if Bob gives Alice an apple, Alice will have the apple, and Bob will not. To a person, that’s obvious, and doesn’t require explanation. If Bob punches Carl, people would generally assume Carl will be unhappy about it, but a computer doesn’t have the ‘common sense’ to make such an inference. In a computer programme, details like this must be explicitly spelled out," she said.

Current results are fairly rudimentary but, according to Scarlej’s supervisor, computers “will be making interesting and meaningful contributions to literature within the next decade.”

Evade Surveillance, Fashionably

Via Forbes

Clothing has historically played an important role in protecting our privacy, namely by covering up our “private parts.” But it can do even more to protect us. At hacker conference Hope X, designer Becky Stern of Adafruit gave a whirlwind tour of “disruptive wearable technology” — “disruptive” not in the Silicon Valley “oh-my-god-the-iWatch-is-coming” sense but in that it interferes with people’s attempts to invade your physical and virtual space. Instead of defending against lances and swords, this modern armor promises to thwart surveillance cameras, TSA agents, drone strikes, subway crowding, and cellular connectivity.

Read through to watch Stern’s presentation and see other clothing, makeup and accessory innovations.

Images: “The CHBL Jammer Coat is a piece of clothing that enables its user to disappear… The piece is made of metallized fabrics, which are blocking radio waves and shielding the wearer against tracking devices. You are no longer reachable on your mobile phone and no information from your credit card can be captured. The Wave Circle pattern of the fabric gives an illusion of strange multiple body parts, which hides and frees the individual physicality.” Via COOP HIMMELB(L)AU.

Hack the News, Playing With Words Edition
Disrupt to Bullshit replaces various versions of the word ‘disrupt’ with various versions of the word ‘bullshit,’ in all websites.
Bonus: “It is inspired by the plugins Cloud To Butt and Cloud To Butt Plus.”
Double Bonus: Available as a Chrome Extension and Firefox Add-On
Triple Bonus: You can review the code on GitHub
H/T: Evgeny Morozov

Hack the News, Playing With Words Edition

Disrupt to Bullshit replaces various versions of the word ‘disrupt’ with various versions of the word ‘bullshit,’ in all websites.

Bonus: “It is inspired by the plugins Cloud To Butt and Cloud To Butt Plus.”

Double Bonus: Available as a Chrome Extension and Firefox Add-On

Triple Bonus: You can review the code on GitHub

H/T: Evgeny Morozov

Attack on Tor Has Likely Stripped Users of Anonymity →

Via Gizmodo:

Tor, the network used specifically for privacy and anonymity, just warned users of an attack meant to deanonymize people on the service. Anyone who used Tor from February 2014 through this July 4 can assume they were impacted.

Who’s behind the attacks? It appears researchers from Carnegie Mellon. Via The Verge:

The Tor team suspects the CERT division of Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute (SEI). Earlier this month, CERT abruptly canceled a Black Hat conference talk called “You Don’t Have to be the NSA to Break Tor: Deanonymizing Users on a Budget.” The NSA has famously attempted to break Tor, to limited success.

So what’s the big deal?: If it was the team from CERT, consider the attack a proof of concept. If they can get in, so to can more malicious actors. According to The Guardian, the CERT talk at the Black Hat conference would explain “how anyone with $3,000 could de-anonymise users of Tor.”

Somewhat related: US Government increases funding for Tor, via The Guardian.

Tor, the internet anonymiser, received more than $1.8m in funding from the US government in 2013, even while the NSA was reportedly trying to destroy the network.

According to the Tor Project’s latest annual financial statements, the organisation received $1,822,907 from the US government in 2013. The bulk of that came in the form of “pass-through” grants, money which ultimately comes from the US government distributed through some independent third-party.

Sorta Somewhat Related, Tinfoil Hat Edition: Back in January, Reuters reported that the NSA funneled $10 million to RSA, a computer security firm whose encryption tools are an industry standard. The Reuters report indicates that the funding helped ensure that a less secure encryption system was used as the default setting in an RSA “software tool called Bsafe that is used to enhance security in personal computers and many other products.”

World War I Technology
Via The Atlantic:

When Europe’s armies first marched to war in 1914, some were still carrying lances on horseback. By the end of the war, rapid-fire guns, aerial bombardment, armored vehicle attacks, and chemical weapon deployments were commonplace. Any romantic notion of warfare was bluntly shoved aside by the advent of chlorine gas, massive explosive shells that could have been fired from more than 20 miles away, and machine guns that spat out bullets like firehoses. Each side did its best to build on existing technology, or invent new methods, hoping to gain any advantage over the enemy. Massive listening devices gave them ears in the sky, armored vehicles made them impervious to small arms fire, tanks could (most of the time) cruise right over barbed wire and trenches, telephones and heliographs let them speak across vast distances, and airplanes gave them new platforms to rain death on each other from above. New scientific work resulted in more lethal explosives, new tactics made old offensive methods obsolete, and mass-produced killing machines made soldiers both more powerful and more vulnerable.

Today marks the hundredth anniversary of the start of World War I. Earlier this year, The Atlantic ran a 10-part series of photo essays on different aspects of the war.
Image: “American troops using a newly-developed acoustic locator, mounted on a wheeled platform. The large horns amplified distant sounds, monitored through headphones worn by a crew member, who could direct the platform to move and pinpoint distant enemy aircraft.” Via The Atlantic. Select to embiggen.

World War I Technology

Via The Atlantic:

When Europe’s armies first marched to war in 1914, some were still carrying lances on horseback. By the end of the war, rapid-fire guns, aerial bombardment, armored vehicle attacks, and chemical weapon deployments were commonplace. Any romantic notion of warfare was bluntly shoved aside by the advent of chlorine gas, massive explosive shells that could have been fired from more than 20 miles away, and machine guns that spat out bullets like firehoses. Each side did its best to build on existing technology, or invent new methods, hoping to gain any advantage over the enemy. Massive listening devices gave them ears in the sky, armored vehicles made them impervious to small arms fire, tanks could (most of the time) cruise right over barbed wire and trenches, telephones and heliographs let them speak across vast distances, and airplanes gave them new platforms to rain death on each other from above. New scientific work resulted in more lethal explosives, new tactics made old offensive methods obsolete, and mass-produced killing machines made soldiers both more powerful and more vulnerable.

Today marks the hundredth anniversary of the start of World War I. Earlier this year, The Atlantic ran a 10-part series of photo essays on different aspects of the war.

Image: “American troops using a newly-developed acoustic locator, mounted on a wheeled platform. The large horns amplified distant sounds, monitored through headphones worn by a crew member, who could direct the platform to move and pinpoint distant enemy aircraft.” Via The Atlantic. Select to embiggen.

Yes There is a Chrome Extension That Makes Reading the News More Fun 
The extension’s here. The code is here.
The original xkcd comic is here.

Yes There is a Chrome Extension That Makes Reading the News More Fun 

The extension’s here. The code is here.

The original xkcd comic is here.

What Writer's Block? Swedish Man and His Bot Have Authored 2.7 Million Wikipedia Articles →

Via The Wall Street Journal:

Sverker Johansson could be the most prolific author you’ve never heard of.

Volunteering his time over the past seven years publishing to Wikipedia, the 53-year-old Swede can take credit for 2.7 million articles, or 8.5% of the entire collection, according to Wikimedia analytics, which measures the site’s traffic. His stats far outpace any other user, the group says.

He has been particularly prolific cataloging obscure animal species, including butterflies and beetles, and is proud of his work highlighting towns in the Philippines. About one-third of his entries are uploaded to the Swedish language version of Wikipedia, and the rest are composed in two versions of Filipino, one of which is his wife’s native tongue.

An administrator holding degrees in linguistics, civil engineering, economics and particle physics, he says he has long been interested in “the origin of things, oh, everything.”

It isn’t uncommon, however, for Wikipedia purists to complain about his method. That is because the bulk of his entries have been created by a computer software program—known as a bot. Critics say bots crowd out the creativity only humans can generate.

Mr. Johansson’s program scrubs databases and other digital sources for information, and then packages it into an article. On a good day, he says his “Lsjbot” creates up to 10,000 new entries.

That’s one way to go about it. Some Wikipedia editors aren’t happy it though.

Hacking Politics with Browser Extensions & Twitter Bots
Sixteen-year-old Nick Rubin created a browser extension that shows who’s funding US politicians. Called Greenhouse, the extension pulls data from OpenSecrets.org so that when reading a story you can mouse over politicians’ names to get a quick overview of what industries have donated to them. Additional data pulled from Reform.to shows if the politician supports campaign finance reform.
Over in the political satire corner of the Web, this Chrome Extension will play Entry of the Gladiators when an article about Toronto mayor Rob Ford loads in your browser. Entry of the Gladiators? You might know it better as the clown song that’s played at the circus. Sounds like this.
Meantime, two bots on Twitter are fighting the transparency fight.
One, @PhrmaEdits, tweets whenever anonymous edits to Wikipedia are made that can be traced back to a pharmaceutical’s IP address. The bot is based on @CongressEdits by Ed Summers, that does the same.
As Summers explains on his personal site, the idea behind @CongressEdits has gone international:

The simplicity of combining Wikipedia and Twitter in this way immediately struck me as a potentially useful transparency tool. So using my experience on a previous side project I quickly put together a short program that listens to all major language Wikipedias for anonymous edits from Congressional IP address ranges… and tweets them.
In less than 48 hours the @congressedits Twitter account had more than 3,000 followers. My friend Nick set up gccaedits for Canada using the same software … and @wikiAssemblee (France) and @RiksdagWikiEdit (Sweden) were quick to follow.

Image: Best Web Browser Extension by I Can Barely Draw. Select to embiggen.

Hacking Politics with Browser Extensions & Twitter Bots

Sixteen-year-old Nick Rubin created a browser extension that shows who’s funding US politicians. Called Greenhouse, the extension pulls data from OpenSecrets.org so that when reading a story you can mouse over politicians’ names to get a quick overview of what industries have donated to them. Additional data pulled from Reform.to shows if the politician supports campaign finance reform.

Over in the political satire corner of the Web, this Chrome Extension will play Entry of the Gladiators when an article about Toronto mayor Rob Ford loads in your browser. Entry of the Gladiators? You might know it better as the clown song that’s played at the circus. Sounds like this.

Meantime, two bots on Twitter are fighting the transparency fight.

One, @PhrmaEdits, tweets whenever anonymous edits to Wikipedia are made that can be traced back to a pharmaceutical’s IP address. The bot is based on @CongressEdits by Ed Summers, that does the same.

As Summers explains on his personal site, the idea behind @CongressEdits has gone international:

The simplicity of combining Wikipedia and Twitter in this way immediately struck me as a potentially useful transparency tool. So using my experience on a previous side project I quickly put together a short program that listens to all major language Wikipedias for anonymous edits from Congressional IP address ranges… and tweets them.

In less than 48 hours the @congressedits Twitter account had more than 3,000 followers. My friend Nick set up gccaedits for Canada using the same software … and @wikiAssemblee (France) and @RiksdagWikiEdit (Sweden) were quick to follow.

Image: Best Web Browser Extension by I Can Barely Draw. Select to embiggen.