News Roundup: Uber did another bad thing

News Roundup: Uber did another bad thing

A roundup of the week’s tech news including Net Neutrality, John McAfee, and anti-scam bots.


Uber the next to suffer a big security breach

Firefox now lets users know when they’re visiting a site that’s been hacked. But given the sheer number of companies suffering breaches these days it might just be easier to say which ones haven’t. This week’s big hack victim: Uber.

Bloomberg reported that the ride-hailing startup lost the personal data of 57 million customers and drivers in a 2016 breach – including names, email addresses, phone numbers, and the license numbers of drivers – kept it quiet until this week, and also paid the hackers $100,000.

Uber admitted the breach, and has released a statement on its site and claims there has been no evidence of fraud happening as a result of the breach.

“None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it,” said new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.

According to a new study from Egress and CitizenMe, half of users are considering deleting Uber and switching to another ride-hailing service as a result of recent headlines.

In other cases of companies having a bad time with security and privacy, Google was found to be collecting user location information even when location tracking was turned off; vulnerabilities in Intel’s Management Engine could affect millions of devices; and hundreds of companies have been found to be keylogging everything you do while visiting their websites. Poor show.


Net Neutrality rears its head again

Forces in the US are moving to kill Net Neutrality again. The FCC this week announced a December 14 vote that Chairman Pai claims would ‘restore internet freedom and eliminate heavy-handed internet regulations’. Obviously, it would only make the internet freer for internet providers, and much more expensive for actual users.

Concern about the proposed gutting of neutrality was voiced by a number of tech companies as well as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Kim Dotcom took the opportunity to remind people he was still around and working on a new kind of internet. 

And, as TechDirt points out, those images about the internet in the US ending up like Portugal are taken out of context as those are closer to extensions of your data plan once you run out of your standard – and neutral - data allowance.

Meanwhile in the UK, companies are being told to end misleading claims about broadband speeds.


Security headlines

    • Chinese officials say foreign technology firms won’t be forced to hand over company secrets in order to do business in the country.
    • Kaspersky is still being accused of foul play, this time by UK Intelligence. WikiLeaks’ claims that the CIA can spoof Kaspersky certificates makes such claims more difficult to verify, however.
    • Microsoft’s Brad Smith has updated his call for a Digital Geneva Convention with the addition of a ‘cyber Red Cross’.
    • Apple has been handed a warrant for the context of the Sutherland Springs Shooter’s phone, but the FBI is unlikely to fight another drawn out legal battle.
    • Freedom House claims at least 18 countries have had their elections manipulated via social media in the last year.
    • New Zealand-based online safety organisation Netsafe has created a bot that will reply to online scammers on your behalf until they get bored and give up.


Chinese tech giant Tencent this week saw its value overtake Facebook and become the first $500 billion company in Asia.

Mavell has snapped up Cavium, Apple has acquired both InVisage and VRvana, Amazon’s China partner Beijing Sinnet Technology Co. has bought AWS’s Chinese Public Cloud unit, Microsoft has purchased Swing Technologies, Cloudflare has gobbled up Neumob, Line now owns TemanJalan, Lyft has acquihired Kamcord, Airbnb has made a double swoop for Accomable and AdBasis, Tesla has got its hands on Perbix, Proofpoint has snaffled Cloudmark, and Symantec has splashed out for SurfEasy.

Qualcomm has rejected Broadcomm’s $103 billion acquisition offer, but another offer could be tabled soon. Security startup root9B has shut up shop. Huawei tried to acquire entrants to DARPA’s Cyber Grand Challenge.


GDPR & Ransomware

Ransomware now generates $2 billion a year for cyber-criminals, and GDPR could see that figure rise even higher. F-Secure’s Mikko Hypponen says a by-product of the new legislation could see criminals asking for more money after successful attacks.

Where currently ransom requests are fairly arbitrary because it’s hard to determine the value of the data to the company, GDPR will give criminals a ‘price point’ – i.e. something in line with the GDPR fine of 4% of global annual turnover or €20 million (depending on which is greater).


New stuff

Apple is working on an Augmented Reality headset, for sure! It won’t be out until 2020. The rumours seemed to be backed up by the company’s acquisition of AR headset maker VRvana this week.

Camera-maker Olympus is getting back into the smartglasses game (after an attempt around the turn of the millennium) and releasing the Olympus Eyetrek E-10. It will run Android and developers will be able to create their own apps for the hardware.

Logitech is releasing a new SDK designed to place physical keyboards within Virtual Reality environments.

“During our initial explorations of VR, we were struck by the fact that keyboard use and text entry were necessary but not natural — and we’ve heard similar complaints from others,” the company wrote in a statement. “We believe that a physical keyboard should be present, as it delivers essential tactile feedback and a universal experience that people value.”

A company called Looking Glass this week announced the development kit for a new holographic device around the size of the laptop. The Holoplayer One lets users interact with 3D holograms without the need for headgear.

Vodafone is jumping on the Internet of Things bandwagon. V by Vodafone includes a camera, and tracking devices for your child, tag, and car.

Baidu has revealed its Raven series of smart speakers. And I must say, they look pretty swish.


Open Source

Google has open sourced a few projects and tools recently: Tangent for debugging, Container-Diff to compare container images, and Sling to parse natural language. Google is also looking to run Swift code within its new Fuchsia Operating System.

Facebook has open sourced Open/R, its network routing platform. Uber has released a Deep Learning programming language called Pyro, and IBM has open sourced a font.

Apple has actually shared some of its AI research! The Cupertino company shared a paper around image detection and proposes uses a new learning approach called "VoxelNet" for helping computers detect 3D objects.


Bitcoin hyperinflation

In recent weeks Bitcoin’s value hit a record $8,000, dropped back to below $7,000, then hit another new record of $8,200. Standpoint Research analyst Ronnie Moas says it could reach $14,000 in 2018. Perfectly normal financial movements.

Bitcoin electricity consumption is now higher than almost a whole continent. According to Digiconomist’s Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index, the cryptocurrency’s energy consumption is on par with that of Oman, and higher than most African countries.

God is an AI

Otto co-founder Anthony Levandowski has opened up about the fact he’s founded a church that worships Artificial Intelligence. Way of the Future says it focuses on “the realization, acceptance, and worship of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) developed through computer hardware and software.”

“What is going to be created will effectively be a god,” Levandowski told Wired. “It’s not a god in the sense that it makes lightning or causes hurricanes. But if there is something a billion times smarter than the smartest human, what else are you going to call it?”


McAfee vs Belize & the Cartel

Cyber-security veteran and all-round eccentric John McAfee is in the news again. The founder of the eponymous anti-virus company claims Belize’s cartel are making attempts to kidnap him after he hacked the Belize government and found evidence of ‘massive state corruption’.

The tale involves hacking, plots by his wife, shooting at hidden figures in the basement, barricaded compounds and more.

The Belize government denies all of McAfee’s claims. Whether its real or not it’s a great read and insight into the man’s crazy world. – Enterprise Edition

Black Eyed Peas frontman doesn’t have a great record with his technology ventures. The Puls smartwatch was terrible. The Dial follow up failed to sell well. His smartphone cases aren’t on sale anymore. Nothing was ever heard about that 3D printer he did with Coca-Cola and 3D Systems.

But you can’t keep a good pea down. His startup recently raised $117 million and announced a move into the enterprise space. Its first produce, Omega, is a chatboat/AI-based customer experience platform. Omega claims “advanced Natural Language Understanding capabilities, contextual deep learning, a conversational engine, automatic speech recognition, and text to speech technologies.”

Part of the funding came from Salesforce – Omega was announced at the recent Dreamforce conference – and its first customer is Deutsche Telekom.



Ever wanted to be cut off from the outside world but at the same time suffocated by the smell of fried chicken? KFC has you covered. The KFC internet escape pod is a stainless-steel mesh cage (complete with foam colonel) designed to block out internet signals. It’s a snip at $10,000. It seems to not be a prank.


Flippin’ robots

Robots can do BACKFLIPS. This is the start of the end, people.


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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect. Writes about all manner of tech from driverless cars, AI, and Green IT to Cloudy stuff, security, and IoT. Dislikes autoplay ads/videos and garbage written about 'milliennials'.  

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