Something Cool (and Wicked?) This Way Comes

Collage of renders from thispersondoesnotexist.comTake a good look at the collage of people here. Now click on the image and take a really closer look and tell me the one thing all these fine folks have in common with one another.

Give up? Okay, I’ll tell you then: none of them are real. These peoples’ photos have been computer generated using artificial intelligence and technology developed by graphics card producer, Nvidia. Don’t believe me? Head over to the website ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com and give it a shot yourself. Once the image is loaded and you’ve had a chance to check it out, refresh your browser and another “person” will be generated from scratch.

Now, I know you’re probably thinking, “Okay, well, what’s the big deal? I’ve seen lots of computer generated ‘people’ before…” Think Audrey Hepburn in the recent chocolate commercial or Carrie Fisher or Peter Cushing in the Star Wars film. But these incarnations are very different in that there are a lot of incredibly talented people (artists, animators, programmers, etc) behind the scenes who spend tons of time and money to create this digital likeness. What’s different about the photos of the people generated on ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com here is that a computer is creating these images from scratch, on the fly each time someone refreshes the browser window. No artists, etc needed here just some powerful computing and cutting-edge clever programming utilizing AI and GAN or Generative Adversarial Network, which uses two neural networks.

Well, that’s certainly cool, right? I mean many folks might already be thinking how much more realistic this means videogames will be within just a couple of generations (videogame platform generations like Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch, not human generations). Sure, and that’ll be really cool, too!

Others might be thinking about the wider, more dramatic changes that technology like this might usher in. Think Hollywood. Specifically, think Hollywood actors. While the idea of virtual or digital actors isn’t new, this incredibly realistic technology is. The idea of virtual entertainers isn’t anything new either. Just take a look at a recent (2018) concert in Los Angeles in which a virtual Japanese “idol”, Hatsune Miku, performs for a live audience. She’s basically a hologram and her voice is synthetic. Yet, look and listen to the crowd – they know the songs, the lyrics, and they respond to Miku. Now imagine how much potential money Hollywood (or anyplace else that churns out entertainment) could make from utilizing this technology in the future. Actors who never age or die unless the role calls for it – and they’re certainly able to be resurrected at any time. It will provide an endless supply of new talent from which to choose.

Now, let’s go a step further…what else could something like this be used for? Like any technology, it could be used for good or bad and I think it’s prudent to assume this type of technology will be used for many “bad” things just as much or more than it will be used for good or innocent applications. How about something like fake news? It’s already becoming very difficult to determine fact from manufactured fiction sometimes and technology like this will make it even more difficult and challenging. Think about the implications for a minute. What if you, the viewer, are truly 100% unable to determine if something you see is real or not? Now think about the wider implications? What if people in general all over the world are truly unable to determine truth from fiction in the future…

Cool technology? Yeah, it is! Does it scare you? Even a bit? If it doesn’t, perhaps it should.

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Flickr Purging User Content Starting Today

Flickr logoStarting today (February 5th) the photo-sharing site Flickr will start deleting photos and videos from user accounts if they exceed 1,000 items and don’t pay for a “Pro” account (currently about $50 per year).

Flickr used to be owned by Yahoo but has more recently been acquired by SmugMug (a professional photo-sharing site). Under yahoo ownership, free accounts had access to 1TB of storage space for their photo and video data.

While there are a few exceptions to this 1,000 item limit, for most users of free accounts they won’t apply and anything beyond 1,000 items will be automatically purged.

While there are other cloud-based options like Google Drive etc it’s always a good idea to keep multiple backups of any important data (like your irreplaceable images!), both local and cloud-based. Contact us today to see how we can help back up your important data to be sure it’s safe!

 

Sources:

https://www.engadget.com/2019/02/04/flickr-1000-photo-limit-psa/

https://www.smugmug.com/together/

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Thieves try to steal a Tesla

Thieves steal Tesla carTake a look at a recent attempt of a couple of U.K. thieves to steal a Tesla Model S. They’re smart enough to actually gain entrance to the vehicle without the fob but they’re not smart enough to unplug the charger!

The owner of the vehicle does admit to not doing a couple of things that could have actually prevented the bad guys from gaining entrance including setting a PIN and using a Faraday pouch for the fob (while would block fob’s signal).

But it just goes to show that even “sophisticated” criminals who use technology aren’t always the brightest.

Source: electrek

 

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Microsoft Edge Allows for Web Logins without Remembering Passwords

Microsoft Edge logoMicrosoft Edge Allows for Web Logins without Remembering Passwords

 

By leveraging Windows Hello hardware, users can now log into websites using things like IR cameras, fingerprint readers, external security keys, and PINs without having to remember your passwords. Microsoft believes that having these additional means of logging in will not only allows users to log into website more easily, they also think this will assist users with security concerns, and that makes sense from the standpoint of things like key loggers (if a user doesn’t type his password into a field then a key logger can’t grab the password). While this may be true, please keep in mind that the bad buys are always on the lookout to crack the latest security ideas. Additionally you should be sure to follow existing best practices when it comes to passwords. This means be sure you have a safe backup of all your passwords, don’t use the same credentials for multiple sites, etc.

To try this you’ll either Windows Insider Preview 17723 or you can wait for Windows 10 version 1809 to be released.

Source: Windows Blog

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New Hours — We’re Now Open Saturday’s

Open sign for new hoursHaving computer or other technology problems but really busy with work or kids so it’s hard to contact us through the week? For your convenience and to better serve you, we’re happy to announce that starting today we’re open Saturday’s from 9am – 2pm. So give us a call or stop by today and let us serve your technology needs!

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Hacker Group Anonymous Declares War

The infamous hacker group Anonymous has declared war on jihadists over the Charlie Hedbo attack. Anonymous stated in a video posted on YouTube that the Islamic extremists are the “enemy of the freedom of speech” and that they will be shutting down social media sites and websites related to the terrorists, according to CNN.

The group stated in the video, “Freedom of speech and opinion is a non-negotiable thing, to tackle it is to attack democracy. Expect a massive frontal reaction from us because the struggle for the defense of those freedoms is the foundation of our movement.”

Some believe, however, that taking down the social media sites of the jihadists could make monitoring the terrorists more difficult, according to the BBC.

Anonymous is usually an enemy of authority and government. They have shut down sites related to policies they disapprove of. This includes government sites, child pornography sites, and the sites of large corporations likes PayPal, Sony, Visa, and Mastercard, according to Daily Mail. Support for the hacker group is divided. Some see the group as “hacktivists,” doing good for the world while others see the group as cyber terrorists.

Anonymous is based world-wide. Over the years, dozens have been arrested in the US, UK, Australia, the Netherlands, Spain, and Turkey.

Anonymous shows us that the wars of today, and of the future, will not only be fought with guns and bombs, they will be fought in cyberspace. It is becoming increasingly important to protect yourself online.

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Doctors Replace Woman’s Skull With 3D Printed Cranium [VIDEO]

Screenshot From YouTube

A young woman from the Netherlands who suffers from a chronic bone disorder will be receiving a new top portion of her skull thanks to a 3D printed skull. She is 22-years-old and the disorder has caused her skull to increase in thickness from 1.5cm to 5cm which has resulted in reduced eyesight and severe headaches.

A team of neurosurgeons at the Utrecht University Medical Centre performed the miraculous surgery. It is claimed that this is the first successful 3D printed cranium not being rejected by a patient. After a 23 hour surgery, led by Dr. Bon Verweij, the patient was saved from impending death or severe brain damage due to the thickness of the skull.

Prior to 3D printing technology there was no real ideal or effective treatment. “It was only a matter of time before critical brain functions were compromised and she would die,” said Dr Verweij.

Using an unspecified plastic the skull was specifically made for the patient. The patient has since regained her eye sight back completely and is symptom free and back to work. Whether the plastic will last for the remainder of her lifetime remains to be seen. If it does not, a future surgery will be required.

It is hoped that the technique will allow doctors to help people who have severely damaged skulls due to cancer or trauma.

 

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Apple Quietly Releases IOS 7.0.6 – Update Your Phone NOW!

apple.com – Screenshot

Apple released the IOS 7.0.6 upgrade without much emphasis on its importance, but don’t take that with a grain of salt. It’s important! It fixes a nasty bug that allows an attacker with a privileged network position to capture data protected by SSL/TSL. Sound like jargon? Here’s our suggestion. Update your iPhone right now!

Also, keep in mind that OSX has the same issue and has yet to have a fix rolled out. The bug in question doesn’t allow an app or Safari to authenticate the security of the site/app which makes a user vulnerable to a ‘Man in the Middle’ attack. A ‘Man in the Middle’ attack happens when an attacker intercepts communication between a user’s browser and a website. These attackers can monitor, record, and see anything that happens during these transactions. When you think of online banking and other financial websites, this becomes a very scary “bug”, but they can also see your Facebook conversations, Gmail, and any other site you might be utilizing at the time.

While these attacks are normally remedied by the SSL/TSL of any particular website, this “bug” allows people to bypass that leaving you as vulnerable as you would be without them. Another scary thing to think about is that this bugged OS release has been in use since September of 2012.

Wondering if you should be worried? Look at it this way. Developers (who truly understand the moving parts of the bug) weren’t even willing to discuss it as they were worried it would give hackers needed information to take full advantage of the “bug”.

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Zeus Banking Trojan Uses Steganography To Hide Crucial Data In A Photo


CNBC Prime – YouTube

Zeus is known for being one of the most effective tools for stealing a person’s banking information as it hacks login details and even masks secret transactions taking place in the background. Zeus VM is the newest variant that downloads a users configuration file that contains the domains of the bank. Then the malware is instructed to intervene during the transaction.

This was first noticed by a French researcher who writes under the name Xylitol. Jerome Segura, security researcher for Malwarebytes wrote “The malware was retrieving a JPG image hosted on the same server as were other malware components.”

Steganography has been used by malicious code writers for quite some time and is nothing new. The embedded code in the file format looks legitimate and is sometimes overlooked by security software. Most webmasters would assume an image that can just be viewed would be harmless. In bitmap mode the suspect image appears to be much larger and the malicious data that has been added and encrypted using Base64 encoding and RC4 and XOR encryption algorithms.

Even Wells Fargo data has been shown to be captured by this malware.

 

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Is Facebook Still Poised To Be The #1 Social Media Platform For The Future? Some Say Yes, Others Say No

In recent weeks a study was released stating that (according to Google trends), Facebook could lose 80% of its users between 2015 and 2017. The research was done comparing the decrease to that similar of a disease, which fades as people become immune.

Everyone remembers their old MySpace accounts and how addicted they were to those. Now, most people either have no MySpace account or have not even logged into that account in years. At the time, everyone thought that nothing could replace their beloved MySpace. Now, there are many contenders for the top spot of “web sharers”. Google+TwitterInstagramPintrest, and that’s just to name a few. While the latter three are not geared as much towards a Facebook style, Google+ is a very powerful and increasingly popular alternate.

The thing about studies is that it all depends on the quality of data that is being analyzed. Garner Marketing research firm director Brian Blau says that the quality of the research seems “suspect.” If the quality of the research is correct, this paints a grim future for Facebook. You can see by the constant rollouts of new features and the ever unpopular changes to their algorithm that Facebook is doing their best to try to remain popular and profitable.

Facebook, in response, also created its own parody study trying to debunk the Princeton study. Data scientist from Facebook, Mike Develin stated that it served as a “fun reminder that not all research is created equal.” Based on similar data showing a decline in the searches for Princeton the Facebook team predicted “will have only half of its current enrollment by 2018, and no students at all by 2021.”

But, all kidding aside. Facebook will need to focus on making their users and brands that use the platform to reach their followers and customers happy to insure a prosperous future for the company and social platform.

 

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