Tech news

iPhone Spyware Flaw Unfolds

Apple’s most recent iOS operating system was found to have software flaws that made it incredibly easy for a hacker to install spyware on a victim’s device. According to security experts, the security breach could be set in motion simply by tricking a target into clicking on a link.

apple2The vulnerability was discovered when a human rights lawyer alerted security researchers that he was receiving unsolicited text messages. The researchers ultimately isolated three previously unknown flaws within the most recent version of Apple’s iOS, a discovery which has already resulted in Apple’s release of a software update that patches the vulnerabilities.

The security researchers were employees of two different firms: Citizen Lab and Lookout. Both firms held back on announcing the discovery until Apple had issued the new update.

The text messages received by human rights lawyer Ahmen Mansoor were sent on August 10th and 11th. The texts promised Mansoor that if he clicked the links, he would be able to access “secrets” regarding people being allegedly held and tortured in the United Arab Emirates’ jails.

According to Citizen Lab, had Mansoor clicked on the links, his iPhone 6 would have become jailbroken and unauthorized software would have been installed on his device.

“Once infected, Mansoor’s phone would have become a digital spy in his pocket, capable of employing his iPhone’s camera and microphone to snoop on activity in the vicinity of the device, recording his WhatsApp and Viber calls, logging messages send in mobile chat apps, and tracking his movements,” Citizen Lab explained. “We are not aware of any previous instance of an iPhone remote jailbreak used in the wild as part of a targeted attack campaign, making this a rare find.”

Lookout called the malware “the most sophisticated spyware package we’ve seen.”

“It takes advantage of how integrated mobile devices are in our lives and the combination of features only available on mobile- always connected (wi-fi, 3G/4G), voice communications, camera, email, messaging, GPS, passwords and contact lists.”

apple3Researchers have attributed the bug’s creation to an Israeli cyber-war company called the NSO Group. NSO then issued a statement confirming that it creates technology to “combat terror and crime” but denying that it was responsible for the spyware.

Previously unknown vulnerabilities that are readily exploitable in a product’s hardware or software are called “zero-day flaws.” According to Professor Alan Woodward, for a zero-day to be found in the software of something so widely used is “rather rare.”

“To have several found at once is even rarer. As can be seen from how these have been exploited to date, it represents a serious threat to the security and privacy of iOS users,” he continued.

“Apple has been remarkably responsive in providing fixes for these issues, so I would encourage any iOS users to update to the latest version of the operating system.”

While the flaw reveals the intimidating reality of sophisticated hackers with political agendas, the response made by the wary target, security researchers and Apple demonstrate the responsibility and capability of people set on countering cyber crime.

The New Twitter ‘140’ Rule Will Apply to Videos

This week, Twitter launched an enhanced video service that enables users to post videos that are longer than ever before- up to a full-fledged 140 seconds. The social media mogul has struggled to retain the kind of growth speeds that make stock brokers happy, and has been struggling to slow its downward inertia through platform reforms.

Twitter also announced that it would be creating a new kind of platform particularly for celebrities and public figures that enables them to share their stories easier and more effectively.

twit5Sports, news, music, and other videos are the most common kinds of material to become viral on Twitter, so the company has expanded the parameters of this content.

“Video is becoming increasingly central to the real-time conversations happening on Twitter video. Tweets on Twitter have increased by over 50 percent since the beginning of 2015,” explained Jeremy Rishel, head of product development for creators and the like.

Considering the previous time limit for videos on Twitter was 30 seconds, this 140-second change is a significant increase from the status quo. Some publishers will even be able to post videos of up to 10 minutes in length using Twitter’s professional publisher tools.

Vine, a twitter-owned video sharing service, will also be expanding the time limits of its videos. Groups of creators will be able to add videos up to 140 seconds long to their Vine, making the original 6-second Vines into trailers for their longer stories.

Vine will also add a Watch More button to the lower right corner of Vines that make it easier for viewers to follow their favorite creators, and for creators to make longer form stories by stacking multiple videos back to front.

This is all part of a greater push from Vine managers and investors to find ways to monetize the service. Vine is working alongside Twitter’s Amplify Open program and Niche, which is open to all creators.

(FILES) File photo dated September 11, 2013 shows the logo of the social networking website 'Twitter' displayed on a computer screen in London. The San Francisco company Twitter announced on September 12, 2013, in a tweet, that it has submitted papers for a stock offering, the most hotly anticipated in the tech sector since Facebook's last year. "We've confidentially submitted an S-1 to the SEC for a planned IPO. This Tweet does not constitute an offer of any securities for sale," the company tweeted. Talk of an initial public offering (IPO) has circulated about Twitter for some time, and the Wall Street Journal estimated the company founded in 2006 is worth some $10 billion. Twitter has become one of the fastest-growing and most influential social media services, used widely by celebrities, journalists, politicians and others. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images

“In 2016, no social network can thrive without video, which has become central to both how digital users interact with online content and also how super users and brands communicate optimally with their online audiences” explained Tim Mulligan, senior analyst at Midia Research.

The press for video platforms, more freedom of expression, and more opportunities to monetize services all represent growing pains for Twitter as it struggles to compete with other tech giants.

“The real question is, what does Twitter want to be when it grows up?” pointed out Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research. McGregor explained to a major media source that Twitter was hoping to expand its image in an effort to compete with more dominant media websites like Instagram and Facebook, both of which have more flexibility and thus more room to grow and commercialize than Twitter at the moment.

“Does [Twitter] want to be loyal to its faithful followers?” McGregor continued. “…or become an all-in-one solution that eventually moves beyond its current limits- which it continues to test?”

According to Twitter, users will learn how to share videos in three different ways; they can record, edit or share videos using the apps Twitter for iPhone and Twitter for Android OS 4.1 and higher.

Silicon Valley Debates Gawker Scandal

Last week, the digital media world just about exploded in response to the news that billionaire Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and longtime enemy of Gawker, provided hefty financial assistance to Hulk Hogan in his defamation lawsuit against Gawker Media.

gawkerThe suit was brought to court after Gawker published a sex tape involving ex-WWE superstar “Hulk Hogan” or Terry Bollea. A Florida jury ultimately sided with Bollea to the tune of $140 million in damages.

Thiel is a board member of Facebook and has been a longtime financial supporter of the Committee to Protect Journalists. He confirmed that he provided financial backing for the Hogan case, partly due to Theil’s own concerns regarding Gawker Media’s journalism tactics.

More specifically, Gawker once existed as a site called Valleywag, which outed Thiel as gay in 2007 with a series of articles that also affected the lives of many of Thiel’s friends and family members. Thiel was a wealthy public figure at the time, but the publication of his sexual preferences provoked substantial criticism from media analysts as a violation of the man’s privacy.

As Thiel told The New York Times, Thiel regarded the Hogan case as an opportunity to further deter the media outlet from causing similar damage to people who lacked the financial ability to respond in a legal bid for their privacy. Theil went on to claim that the publication bullied people in an attempt to get attention despite lacking stories with any clear public interest. Accordingly, Thiel provided somewhere around $10 million to help finance Hogan’s legal case.

When Gawker lost the case, Gawker founder Nick Denton was reportedly looking to sell when the court denied the company’s motion to retry the Hogan case and the award amount was allowed to stand.

“We’ve always said we expect to prevail on appeal and we’ve always said we’re exploring contingency plans of various sorts so that’s not new,” said spokesperson Lexi Georgiadis.

hulk hogan“Everyone take a breath. We’ve had bankers engaged for quite some time given the need for contingency planning around Facebook board member Peter Thiel’s revenge campaign– and that’s how the Columbus Nova investment was arranged,” Gawker Media stated regarding its deal to sell a minority stake to Columbus Nova Technology Partners as a way to pay for the Hogan damages. “We recently engaged [Houlihan Lokey Managing Director] Mark Patricof to advise us and that seems to have stirred up some excitement, when the fact is that nothing is new.”

As to whether Thiel’s decision to help fund Hogan’s case was ethical, many are on the fence:

“It’s relatively common for the rich to sue news media just to try to get even, whether or not they have a case,” stated Rick Edmonds, media business analyst at the Poynter Institute. “This is a different twist, finding someone else with a better case and trying to damage the outlet that way. That may be dubious ethically, but I’m pretty sure it’s not illegal nor does it raise a First Amendment issue.”

Perhaps the issue raises another issue, which is that funding is the principal factor in civil cases as opposed to whether the rights of one party were infringed on by another.

3 Tech Companies Ready Soar

Today it seems that if you didn’t get in at least 6 years ago in certain tech investments then you are likely out of luck and that ship may have sailed. Luckily for you that is the sentiment that almost everyone has, so much so that it is seen a truism of the market that does not get questioned. However, this is markedly wrong, and there is still huge earning potential for burgeoning tech services and products that if you get in your portfolio now will most likely account for huge gains within the next year.

If you put on the news at any time it seems a constant circus of Facebook, Apple, and Google whose stocks are anywhere from $100-$700 a share! There are still a handful of tech companies trading for a fraction of the trace that can that pack a lot more earning for individual investments. Now, of course, these cheaper stocks are more risky and do not necisarily provide such a steady divided yield as the industry leaders would have you assume. Now these days the cheaper stocks are as always considered a more risky bet and it is really going to be feast or famine considering how they do and what to expect. But nonetheless, tech stocks that are trending between $10 a share could offer the buyer the opportunity for gains of 35%-50% even all the way up to 100%. And these days not a day goes by when there is not a stock trading below this threshold.

First up on my safe bets for 2016 is the radio streaming service SiriusXM stands alone as the top dog, or possibly the only dog in the race in the satellite radio arena. This stock has been one the the markets most substantial gainers over the last several years and has posted an earning to date of 7,820% and gain after bottoming out at 0.05 a share in early 2009.

For the year of 2015 we saw that SiriusXM reported record revenue of 4.58 billion all the way up to 9% record which was adjusted to the tune of $1.66 billion up 13% and earning of $510 million up 3%. this trading at just 24 times forward earning and given the company’s ability to scale its subscriber base and generate new revenue streams. This could spell trouble for anyone on the outside looking in, but if you can make the appropriate moves to going after such an important trend then now is the time, if you miss it now you can effectively say bye-bye to ever hoping on this money train. The reason being has to do with meteoric yet stifled growth potential. What I mean by that is there is definitely a quick buck to be made, and it will come very quickly but once it has reached it described growth potential in this quarter you can be sure that it will not continue to experience growth in this regard. Think about it as a kind of bottle rocket stock, and you gotta get in while the getting is good, and get out before it all comes crashing in on your face.

Will AI Render Code Obsolete?

In our current age, knowing how to code is like being part of a new, elite, tech-based class with the power to “change the world” or at least make a whole lot of money trying. This change in culture has encouraged many schools to begin teaching coding in earlier and earlier grades, and for coding seminars and college classes to be appreciated as spring boards into excellent career options and reliable success.

“If you control the code, you control the world,” wrote futurist Marc Goodman. Or as Paul Ford put it, “If coders don’t run the world, they run the things that run the world.”

machine l2However, despite societal trends that seem to say otherwise, now might not be the time to learn how to code. Big tech moguls in Silicon Valley have been aggressively pursuing a new approach to computing that may render coding unnecessary for anyone but the most prominent and influential coders. This approach is called machine learning, and it allow creators to sidestep the brunt work of traditional programming, a process that requires that an engineer write explicit, step-by-step instructions for the computer to follow.

Machine learning would allow programmers to skip encoding the computers with instructions and instead allow them to train the computers to perform specific tasks. What’s the difference? Say you want a computer to recognize a cat. Instead of programming it to look for whiskers, ears, fur, eyes, a tail, etc., you simply show the computer thousands and thousands of pictures of a cat, so that the computer eventually creates its own standard understanding of a cat that enables it to recognize them in the future. If the computer has some hiccups at first (for example, it continuously recognizes foxes as cats) you just keep showing it pictures and honing its understanding of what exactly defines a cat, without ever actually programming in that definition.

Machine learning has been around for decades, but it has recently become immensely more effective and powerful, chiefly due to the ability to create deep neural networks and computers that can work with Big Data or enormous, layered data sets. And if you’re wondering what deep neural networks are, they can be loosely defined as massively distributed computational systems that mimic the multilayered connections of neurons in the brain.

machine learningMachine learning is currently used by tech giants to provide many services that are commonplace in the average internet-user’s life. It’s used to determine which stories show up in your new feed, Google Photos uses it to identify people, and self-driving cars will use machine learning to avoid accidents.

The area of major confusion and concern, however, is that when a computer is using machine learning, its engineer never understands exactly how the computer is accomplishing its tasks. The neural network’s operations are opaque and inscrutable, involving patterns that are laid out over immense trains of otherwise unrelated data. Now instead of the relationship between man and computer being like creator and created, the relationship would change to that between man and domesticated dog; you’re not quite sure how your control works.

LIM Reaching the Limits of Human Achievement

The innovators at LIM have all the pieces that add up to a cliche startup: it was found by a pair of surfer bros in 2012, the company has its headquarters in San Francisco, they have free yoga in addition to all the other tech stereotypes you hope to find when considering a tech startup of our age. However, LIM isn’t making something utterly useless and darning on the productivity of society like Snapchat or Facebook (or about 70% of anyone doing business in the silicon valley to be honest). What LIM is doing may actually be of benefit to society, and the fact that they have a physical tangible product that fills a real world vacuum with a physical product just goes against everything the tech industry stands for. that is, you need to create something that is totally useless and kind of works, create and identity around the success of said product, get investors, open an office, get a foosball table, make the operation of your beta work slightly better, get a billion dollar valuation, then cash out.

What LIM has been working on for the past 5 years has been to make the ultimate wearable, that is to say: a prosthetic socket that is soft, adjustable and modular. Its difficult for people to grasp that this is in fact a tech company given their real world use and benefit to society but their founder Jeff McKutchen ensures us they are just that, a tech company. Their products are entirely 3D printed. dfagdfgdfgdsfg

It is very hard for people who do not wear prosthetic legs to understand the impact such a high tech prosthetic will have of the world, and the people it serves but the initial tests are extremely positive.

For decades, sockets have been made in very much the same way: the patient sees a prosthetic, a plaster mold is made, and in a few weeks you have a sturdy carbon fiber socket that does little more than serve as an aesthetic component. When adjustments were needed, the whole process began all over again and you were left with the decision as to whether or not you should live with the inconvenience or pay the exorbitant amount of money to get it slightly better. Another consideration of the old way of doing things was the fact that people change, and what fits someone at the beginning of the holiday season might not fit them at the end of it if you know what I mean.

LIM accounted for all of that and is the first wearable that you don’t adjust, it adjusts itself to be in the optimal operation for you. You can still adjust it if you want it different, but in almost every initial trial no wearer opted to manually adjust and found them quite comfortable. wowowoebfb

“if you look at the R&D of prostheses, companies have invested heavily in feet and knees and ankles” said BeTH co-founder, “but a lot of advancements don’t reach a significant portion of the amputee population… if you take 1.5 million amputees in the US you have to look at the percentage of people who are actually going to get the most advance technology versus those who just need anything that can help them walk.”

We are on the beginning of a great change in our country when it comes to assessing the range of able bodied vs. disabled. LIM is doing some great work, and to them I say “break a leg” when these come to market.

Tech Is Positioned to Disrupt Law Practices

Tech has infiltrated every facet of human existence today. From our transportation systems to our banking infrastructure, healthcare there really isn’t anything that isn’t in the cross hairs of tech that can really resist its implementation in some sense. That said for some reason there is one industry that involves massive amounts of data analysis which has all the halmarks of an industry ready for tech take over, yet has remained largely unchanged for a century. What I am refereeing to is the field of law. Here is a quote that accentuates these barriers and asserting “the lawyers business itself is set up in a way that resists efforts to move fast and break things.”dgsfgsdgh

This all makes sense for why the law industry has remained largely unchanged is that we do not want a law system, something that when we think of law as being unchanged and absolute we do not want it susceptible to change everything there is the possibility for it to take place. We want consistency of law and thus we expect a consistency of  practice. Whether or not this is hard headed and dogmatic, or just plane fear of change, there are several reasons why the legal field is due for a tech revolution in the coming future that I will outline now. We are rethinking what it means for something to have value. 

First law firms are being the supreme standard of representative justice will not the case for ever. That is to say, the fact that the majority of legal work is conducted by law firms, which are not capitalized or share profits with non-lawyers, makes them resistant to investments. The freelance workforce increased to a decades high in recent months, and the industry of law is not protected from this present trend. Tech that enables lawyers to conduct business remotely and independently enables the virtual office to be an industry inevitability. This means the old path of whatlawused to be the way you get ahead in law by getting started at a firm and working your way up to becoming a partner may not bode well in the future. With the huge saturation of the law market and a huge amount of talent with little opportunity out there we are likely to see pop up law firms that exist exclusively online.

Next, we see that at the end of the day the clients, the source of all revenue in this industry are demanding innovation and expect change to occur. Whether or not the big dogs want to step up the plate today does not matter. It is only a matter of time where some industrious young start up listens to the demand of the market and answers the call. It could be done so simply too, that is the biggest thing. If someone can market themselves as the internet lawyers you can rest assured that they can make themselves a go to quick small claims department that gains a reputation fast. When this begins to happen and starts to chip away at the large firms they will undoubtedly follow suit.

Tech Giants Seek Policy Influence

President Barack Obama is getting the rolling at the annual South by Southwest conference in Austin Texas. His aim is to spark a conversation as to how government agencies and technologists can work together to solve some of the greatest problems facing Americans. Obama in many ways wanted to put himself forward as someone who embraced technology, this was done as a kind of cementing of a tech-laden legacy. In so doing, he also wants the incumbent president to follow his lead and make tech a vital tool in his or her administration.8621f1c116bfc0c036eaca7d461099a1obama01c32828

That said, according to a poll taken of those who attended South by Southwest, many people have doubts in regards to what they actually think an elected official can accomplish. On one occasion, the online survey that was conducted in February took the opinion of nearly 900 interactive attendees and found that nearly 61 percent of those who responded proclaimed that it was their opinion that the tech industry is better handled to find the solutions to societal ills than the government. That’s a pretty big percentage.

More than 20 percent stated that neither political party is “equipped to leverage technology”. That is why it is not surprising when we see tech giants such as Mark Zuckerburg attempt to go around government with massive social contributions and programs targeting social progress like heath care and education. In fact, over the past couple of decades the Silicon Valley has become an incredibly powerful political force. This is reflective of the oddly libertarian streak that runs in the Silicon Valley.

The South by Southwest interactive community identifies overwhelmingly as Democrats according the the survey. But even they do not come out in wide spread support that the issue of guns or online hate speech can be adequately handled by the government. With such a wide swath being democratic at this event even they are skeptical as to whether or not the government has the best talent to be at the apex of internet superiority. They are certainly 1a but the gap from 1 to 1a is vast. The reason being that the benefits in the silicon valley are way better than anything the government is providing.

smart2This dovetails nicely into the story emerging this week where Elon Musk, Tim Cook and several other tech giants meet last week to discuss the potential for stopping Donald Trump. But the hot button issue at this conference and one that is close to Obama’s heart is that of gun control. people believe that technologists are better positioned to address gun violence and weapon regulation. not insofar as enacting actual policy, rather to the extent that they are able to enact a better means to developing what is refereed to as “smart guns” which are software encrypted guns that are primarily finger print encrypted as or locked by other means from keeping anyone but the registered owner from using it. This would be huge considering the huge amount of accidental and wrongfully used gun related violence. In the autumn of Obama’s candidacy it appears that he is not holding back on anything and speaking his mind the way we all thought he would when elected.

Tech Giants Take the Reigns

Google may like to portray itself has a garage-based startup that took flight through non-conformist work ethics and an altruistic devotion to the spreading of knowledge. To some extent, the company has certainly contributed to the wealth of technological advancements the have changed the lives of the underprivileged.

That said, the company has started to become somewhat all-powerful, and it’s worrying a lot of citizens during an election cycle focused on the unjust campaign finance systems that make our democracy feel a lot like an oligarchy, as Bernie Sanders says.

The Center for Responsive Politics recently released that Google spent more money on federal lobbying than any other company since 2012, and that 34 senators and 128 members of the House of Representatives had received a total of almost $300,000 in campaign contributions from the wealthy tech mogul.

tech g2A civil society organization known as Public Citizen warned last November that Google was “amazing greater political power than ever,” after it opened a White-House-sized office in Washington D.C. According to PC, Google ranked first among all corporations in lobbying spending over the first three quarters of 2014 and invested a whopping $18.2 million on federal lobbying in 2015, meaning it invested even more than the powerful trade association of the pharmaceutical industry.

PC states that Google has hired or retained 102 lobbyists since 2014, 81 of which previously held government jobs.

“Meanwhile, a steady stream of Google employees has been appointed to high-ranking government jobs- an individuation of the company’s growing influence in national affairs.”

The revolving door between Google and the US Government is certainly concerning. “Where Google stops and the government starts is hard to tell. They’re backers of Barack Obama and it’s well known in Washington how it’s done,” an antitrust lawyer based in Washington commented. “I’ve heard instances of Google calling the White House to say they’re unhappy about appointments. They don’t just buy off politicians; they buy off the ecosystem, including advocacy groups and think tanks.” Obama famously appointed Megan Smith as chief technology officer last year; Smith is a former vice-president of Google.

According to the Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division’s research director Taylor Lincoln, “Google has essentially responded to concerns about its practices by saying, ‘Just trust us.’ But Google is gaining so much power that regulators may find it difficult to act if it turns out that the public’s trust has been misplaced.”

google v euA lot of controversy regarding Google’s role in the US government boiled over in reaction to the Guardian’s revelation that Google pressured a number of senators and House of Rep members to discourage prominent MEPs in Europe from moving forward in their considerations to break up Google’s online business into separate companies.

Court said of this year’s election: “Google leant their analytics and voter reach to Obama and they’re doing the same to Hillary Clinton. When you control the greatest technology on earth to reach people, Democrats want to be your friends.”

Google’s offering of unrivaled campaigning technology led Precursor president of research Scott Cleland to make the following statement: “The Google influence machine is one we’ve never seen before. It’s the first dominant company in the internet age.”


3D Printing Changes the Game

Many believe that 3D printing is more of a fringe tech-enthusiast’s game than a real industry disrupter… and they’re completely wrong.

A variety of car manufacturers have begun to 3D print small, specialized car parts, and it’s only a matter of time before 3D printing technology advances to the point that larger objects can be built for cheaper.

“In the coming year, we are going to see 3D metal parts being flight-tester in real applications, not just trivial parts, e.g., brackets, hinges, flanges, attached to noncritical components,” stated Tim Simpson, professor of mechanical engineering at Penn State.

Simpson isn’t alone in noticing that additive manufacturing-manufacturing in which parts are created through layering of materials- is actually less faster and less expensive that the more conventional subtractive manufacturing in which a product is made by cutting or pressing it out of a material.

“Meanwhile, companies that don’t get into the game will start to lose employees to those that are readily using AM, which will create a further divide between companies that want to do AM and those that can do AM,” Simpson continued. “Buying a machine is the easier part; learning how to run it well is challenging.”

3d print2Clearly the technology is quickening its pace to the point that companies will soon be competing for mastery over it. But why?

“The use of 3D printing brings professionals from different areas to collaborate, and innovation is a side effect of these collaborations,” explained M. Zuniga. “The main benefits are low cost, speed, versatility and innovation.”

And 3D printing has something to offer to more than the manufacturing world.

“Industries leveraging 3D printing in a sizable way today include dental; smoother medical, such as hearing aids and surgical models; some limited and specific aerospace applications; and then the widely applicable consumer space for education, design and customization of collectibles,” listed Michael Raphael, CEO of Direct Dimensions.

“I look for applications where the design is essentially consistent yet where each of them is unique for some reason… Dental and medical are obvious. Teeth are essentially the same, but each is different. 3D printing shines for these applications because no tooling is required, and you can make them each unique just as easy as you can make them all the same,” he explained.

3d print3“Following this paradigm, I look for adoption in other human body-related products. Medical devices provide a good case, such as orthotics, braces and splints. Other extractions would include protective gear, sports and performance gear, and footwear.”

Raphael did indeed strike gold with the medical field. As Steven J. Hausman, president of Hausman Technology Presentations explained, “Patients have already received 3D-printed jaws, ribs, sternum, teeth, tracheas and skulls… there will be no part of the body that will not be duplicated int he future, ranging from inexpensive customized prosthetics to bioprinted organs using the patient’s own stem cells so that tissue rejection will not be an issue.”

Soon even the gastronomic market will be flooded with 3D printed products: “3D printing has gained traction in the food industry, wherein pasta, candy and other foods can already be printed,” confided Chinh Pham, co-leader of the Greenberg Traurig.