Category Archives: MOVERS & SHAKERS

Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, YouTube up the ante on curbing terrorist propaganda

The companies have furthered their commitment to curb online terrorist content, pumping funds into research and pledging to work with 50 smaller tech players to keep the content away from their platforms.

The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, comprised of Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube, has made a “multimillion-dollar” commitment it said will support research on terrorist abuse of the internet.

In a blog post on Wednesday, Google’s SVP and general counsel Kent Walker said the new commitment focuses on conducting and sharing research about how terrorists use the internet to influence their audiences so the forum can stay one step ahead.

In a bid to better tackle terrorist content on the companies’ respective platforms, Walker told the United Nations in New York on Wednesday that the forum, which formed earlier this year, has now set a goal of working with 50 smaller tech companies to help them curb online terrorist propaganda.

“On Monday, we hosted dozens of companies for a workshop with our partners under the UN Counter Terrorism Executive Directorate,” he said. “There will be a workshop in Brussels in December and another in Indonesia in the coming months. And we are also working to expand the hash-sharing database to smaller companies.”

The forum also hopes to determine how governments, tech companies, and civil society can fight back against online radicalisation. Walker revealed that the third and final pillar of the consortium’s plan is to work together to find “powerful messages and avenues to reach out to those at greatest risk of radicalisation”.

The group of companies announced they would be joining forces last year at the EU Internet Forum to curb terrorist content, specifically promising at the time to build a shared database of unique digital fingerprints — or hashes — for violent terrorist imagery, or terrorist recruitment videos and images, which have been removed from their services.

On Wednesday, Walker said the companies are putting their best talent and technology against the task of removing terrorist content and are “doing a better job of sharing breakthroughs with each other”, pointing to the forum’s hash-sharing database as being an early success.

“We have to deal with these problems at tremendous scale. The haystacks are unimaginably large and the needles are both very small and constantly changing,” he explained.

“In recent months we have more than doubled the number of videos we’ve removed for violent extremism and have located these videos twice as fast.”

Between August 2015 and June 2017, Twitter suspended more than 935,000 accounts for the promotion of terrorism. According to a company blog post, during the first half of 2017, over 95 percent of the accounts it removed were detected using its in-house technology.

Facebook, Walker said, is also leveraging artificial intelligence to root out “terrorist clusters” by mapping out pages, posts, and profiles with terrorist material before shutting them down.

“There is no magic computer program that will eliminate online terrorist content, but we are committed to working with everyone in this room [during his UN address] as we continue to ramp up our own efforts to stop terrorists’ abuse of our services,” Walker added.

Also addressing the UN in New York on Wednesday was Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who said Australia is keen to work with communications companies to crack encrypted messages used by terrorists, and congratulated Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, Google, and YouTube for joining with governments to combat terrorists online.

While Australia supports an open, free, and secure internet, Bishop said encrypted messaging apps used by extremist groups are in the Australian government’s sights.

“Australia is very keen to work constructively with communications service providers to prevent terrorists from using encryption to hide online,” said Bishop, who was expected to hold a bilateral meeting with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates following the UN proceedings.

“This is a significant challenge as encryption is vital for the protection of many legitimate activities including national security ecommerce and personal privacy.”

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Google: Here’s how we’re going to crack down on terrorist propaganda

Google responds to criticism that it and other platforms aren’t doing enough to prevent online indoctrination.

Facebook outlines its AI-driven efforts to fight terrorism

After facing criticism from EU leaders following the string of terrorist attacks in the UK, Facebook is stepping up its efforts to curb extremist content online.

The laws of Australia will trump the laws of mathematics: Turnbull

Despite calling the laws of mathematics “commendable”, the prime minister of Australia told ZDNet the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia when it comes to legislating decryption.

Henry Sapiecha

Telstra launching cybersecurity centres internationally

Telstra is utilising its ‘deep, deep skills in cyber’ by launching security operations centres in Sydney, Melbourne, and across the globe, as well as likely upgrading its existing facility in Canberra.

Telstra will be opening cybersecurity centres internationally following the launch of its security operations centres (SOCs) in Sydney and Melbourne over the next few weeks, CEO Andy Penn has announced.

Speaking during Telstra’s FY17 financial results call, Penn said Australia’s incumbent telecommunications provider is currently looking at locations for international SOCs, but would not disclose the sites.

However, he added that the two new Australian centres will be launching “very soon … in the coming weeks”.

“There’s no doubt that large enterprises and even smaller enterprises today are becoming increasingly concerned by cybersecurity risks that they face,” Penn told ZDNet.

“There’s virtually no technology innovation that’s happening today that isn’t intended to be connected. That means it’s across a network, and what’s critical is those innovations and that technology is protected from a cyber perspective.

“We’ve got deep, deep, deep skills in cyber because of our own need to protect our networks, but also we provide a very significant dynamic service for our enterprise customers, and this is really a significant investment in really building that service for our enterprise customers.”

Penn told ZDNet that Telstra will also likely upgrade its existing SOC in Canberra.

“We have a dynamic product offering which is integrated with some of the best data analytics globally and the best access to data globally, so that’s actually the fundamental offering, and then the security operations themselves actually enable ourselves on behalf of our customers, or our customers, to monitor 24/7 effectively the cyber activity on their networks,” Penn told ZDNet.

“You need the data analytics and you need the artificial intelligence and the machine learning capabilities to process what’s actually happening deeply at the network level, and you need the sensors deep within the network, and that’s the dynamic security offering that is already launched. We’ve already got customers on that who are very pleased with that offering, and then we’re supporting that with the security operations centres.”

Penn said Telstra has the “smartest” network in Australia, with the telco currently also upgrading its fibre-optic network to allow for terabit capacity.

“We have commenced the rollout of our next-gen optical fibre and transmission network; Tasmania was the first state to benefit from this upgrade,” the chief executive said.

“This will increase Telstra’s network capacity to 1 terabit per second, and has already done so on each of Telstra’s two subsea cables running across the Bass Strait. We’re already rolling this out to the rest of the country, and there is future potential to increase the capacity to 100 terabits per second.”

In addition, Penn spruiked the company’s Cat-M1 Internet of Things (IoT) network, built in conjunction with Ericsson and switched on earlier this month on the 4GX network.

“Cat-M1 will give us the platform for the significant growth we expect to see in IoT,” Penn said.

Telstra currently has more than 8,600 mobile towers, 5,000 telephone exchanges, 200,000 switches and routers, 240,000km of optical fibre cable, and 400,000km of submarine cable.

Telstra TV 2

Penn also announced the launch of the Telstra TV 2, saying that Telstra remains “committed to Foxtel” despite its dropping revenue and is in discussions with co-owner News Corp on how best to structure and arrange Foxtel in future.

“We’re about to dial it up again,” Penn said, detailing that the Telstra TV 2 will include all streaming and catch-up TV services along with a linked mobile app, making it “a real Australian first”.

“Access to the best content is critically important to us as demand for media continues to grow. At the same time, the media market is changing with new participants and increased competition,” Telstra added.

Telstra’s media revenue grew by 8.2 percent to AU$935 million thanks to uptake of both the Telstra TV and “Foxtel from Telstra”. Foxtel from Telstra made AU$777 million in revenue, growing by 8.1 percent due to 57,000 additional subscribers, and there are now 827,000 Telstra TV devices in the market.

Underpinning Telstra’s SOCs is its suite of managed security services announced in March and launched in July, Penn said, in addition to the company’s 500 “cybersecurity experts”.

The Telstra TV originally launched in October 2015.

Yahoo hack: Email accounts of Australian politicians, public figures,police and judges compromised in massive breach, dataset has revealed

Yahoo suffers world’s biggest hack with data stolen from ONE BILLION users – including over 150,000 US government and military employees

  • Hackers stole data from more than one billion user accounts in August 2013
  • A different breach from one disclosed in September of 500 million accounts
  • Stolen info includes names, emails, phone numbers and dates of birth
  • The company still doesn’t know how the data from the accounts was stolen

yahoo-ceo-on-stage image www.intelagencies.com

The stolen database contains email addresses,

Key points:

  • Private email addresses, passwords belonging to politicians were obtained by hackers
  • AFP officers, judges and magistrates were also affected
  • Security experts warns the hack has the potential to cause serious embarrassment for officials

Data provided by US security company InfoArmor, which alerted the Department of Defence of the massive data breach last October, reveal more than 3,000 log-in credentials for private Yahoo services were linked to Australian Government email accounts.

InfoArmor, an Arizona-based cybersecurity firm which investigates data theft for law enforcement agencies, said the data was stolen from Yahoo in 2013 by a hacker organisation from Eastern Europe.

It said the hacker group then sold the Yahoo accounts to cyber criminals and a suspected foreign intelligence agency for $US300,000 each.

Yahoo revealed late last year that it believed hackers had stolen data from more than 1 billion user accounts in August 2013, in what is thought to be the largest data breach at an email provider.

A Department of Defence spokesperson confirmed key events to the ABC, including:

  • Defence was notified of the breach last October via an intermediary from NSW Police, two months before Yahoo announced the data breach to the public
  • It then notified its own affected employees of the breach

It remains unclear whether affected staff from other Commonwealth agencies have also been notified by their departments.

The stolen database contains email addresses, passwords, recovery accounts, and other personal identifying data belonging to a startling array of senior Australian officials.

Among those affected were Social Services Minister Christian Porter, Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, Liberal MP Andrew Hastie, opposition health spokesperson Catherine King and Liberal senator Cory Bernardi.

It is unclear how many of the accounts are still active.

The ABC was able to identify officials in the dataset because they had used their government emails as backups if they forgot their passwords.

Last week, the ABC approached each of these affected politicians’ offices, as well as some public servants, seeking confirmation of the authenticity of these log-in credentials. Most declined to do so.

The compromised accounts do not exclusively relate to clients of Yahoo’s email service, but also Yahoo-affiliated web services such as the microblogging site Tumblr and the photo sharing site Flickr.

A spokeswoman for Mr Porter said “as far as the Minister is aware he has never used a Flickr account”.

A spokesperson for Senator Bernardi said “to the best of his knowledge, [Senator Bernardi] doesn’t have a Yahoo account.”

One advisor told the ABC it was possible some accounts linked to politicians were set up by former staffers.

Others who did respond confirmed the log-in credentials are accurate.

Do you know more about this story? Email investigations@abc.net.au

Accounts linked to police, judges also compromised

Other government officials compromised include those carrying out sensitive roles such as high-ranking AFP officers, AusTrac money laundering analysts, judges and magistrates, political advisors, and even an employee of the Australian Privacy Commissioner.

“Perhaps records of transactions of purchases, or discussions or things they’ve done. Private conversations that they didn’t want to do on a government server. Perhaps they’ve engaged in some sort of shady activity. Or just expenses for politicians, for example, that they might have tried to keep out of official channels.

“Blackmail information is very valuable to other governments for nudging or persuading people to do things.”

Another challenge facing the Government is how to deal with compromised private accounts belonging to some Australian diplomats and special defence personnel posted overseas. Many of the officials featured in the dataset are employed in roles with security clearances that are intended to be low-profile.

“If I was in a position where my relationship with the government wasn’t to be known by others, then absolutely you shouldn’t be linking a government account to your personal accounts,” Mr MacGibbon said.

Hackers have had years to exploit data

A further problem is the protracted period between the Yahoo data breach itself, which dates back to March 2013, to the eventual public confirmation of Yahoo, over three years later.

Andrew Komarov, InfoArmor’s chief intelligence officer, said malicious hackers would have had literally years to exploit the users’ data.

“The bad actors had enough time to compromise any records they wanted as it’s a pretty significant time frame,” Mr Komarov said.

“That’s why today is pretty hard to figure out what exactly happened and how many employees in government could be compromised.”

According to InfoArmor, the hacker group responsible are an Eastern European cyber-criminal organisation motivated by profit, rather than a state-sponsored entity.

“This group has no presence on any forums or marketplaces. In the past they used two proxies: one for the Russian-speaking underground and another one for the English-speaking,” Mr Komarov said.

“They sell their data indirectly using some trusted channels, contacts and proxies. Not through any marketplaces or forums because of their security measures. They don’t need it.

“They have pretty serious contacts in the underground and some trusted rounds of various cybercriminals with whom they work.”

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Henry Sapiecha

Tech giants circle over big data as antitrust regulators take note

Wealth and influence in the technology business have always been about gaining the upper hand in software or the machines that software ran on.

Now data – gathered in those immense pools of information that are at the heart of everything from artificial intelligence to online shopping recommendations – is increasingly a focus of technology competition. And academics and some policymakers, especially in Europe, are considering whether big internet companies like Google and Facebook might use their data resources as a barrier to new entrants and innovation.

Google data centre in Oklahoma. image www.intelagencies.com

In recent years, Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft have all been targets of tax evasion, privacy or antitrust investigations. But in the coming years, who controls what data could be the next worldwide regulatory focus as governments strain to understand and sometimes rein in US tech giants.

The European Commission and the British House of Lords both issued reports last year on digital “platform” companies that highlighted the essential role that data collection, analysis and distribution play in creating and shaping markets. And the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development held a meeting in November to explore the subject, “Big Data: Bringing Competition Policy to the Digital Era.”

As government regulators dig into this new era of data competition, they may find that standard antitrust arguments are not so easy to make. Using more and more data to improve a service for users and more accurately target ads for merchants is a clear benefit, for example. And higher prices for consumers are not present with free internet services.

“You certainly don’t want to punish companies because of what they might do,” said Annabelle Gawer, a professor of the digital economy at the University of Surrey in England, who made a presentation at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development meeting. “But you do need to be vigilant. It’s clear that enormous power is in the hands of a few companies.”

Maurice Stucke, a former Justice Department antitrust official and a professor at the University of Tennessee College of Law, who also spoke at the gathering, said one danger was that consumers might be afforded less privacy than they would choose in a more competitive market.

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The competition concerns echo those that gradually emerged in the 1990s about software and Microsoft. The worry is that as the big internet companies attract more users and advertisers, and gather more data, a powerful “network effect” effectively prevents users and advertisers from moving away from a dominant digital platform, like Google in search or Facebook in consumer social networks.

Evidence of the rising importance of data can be seen from the frontiers of artificial intelligence to mainstream business software. And certain data sets can be remarkably valuable for companies working on those technologies.

A prime example is Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn, the business social network, for $US26.2 billion last year. LinkedIn has about 467 million members, and it houses their profiles and maps their connections.

Microsoft is betting LinkedIn, combined with data on how hundreds of millions of workers use its Office 365 online software, and consumer data from search behaviour on Bing, will “power a set of insights that we think is unprecedented,” said James Phillips, vice president for business applications at Microsoft.

In an email to employees, Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, described the LinkedIn deal as a linchpin in the company’s long-term goal to “reinvent productivity and business processes” and to become the digital marketplace that defines “how people find jobs, build skills, sell, market and get work done.”

IBM has also bet heavily on data for its future. Its acquisitions have tended to be in specific industries, like its $US2.6 billion purchase last year of Truven Health, which has data on the cost and treatment of more than 200 million patients, or in specialised data sets useful across several industries, like its $US2 billion acquisition of the digital assets of Weather Co.

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IBM estimates that 70 per cent of the world’s data is not out on the public web, but in private databases, often to protect privacy or trade secrets. IBM’s strategy is to take the data it has acquired, add customer data and use that to train its Watson artificial intelligence software to pursue such tasks as helping medical researchers discover novel disease therapies, or flagging suspect financial transactions for independent auditors.

“Our focus is mainly on non-public data sets and extending that advantage for clients in business and science,” said David Kenny, senior vice president for IBM’s Watson and cloud businesses.

At Google, the company’s drive into cloud-delivered business software is fuelled by data, building on years of work done on its search and other consumer services, and its recent advances in image identification, speech recognition and language translation.

For example, a new Google business offering – still in the test, or alpha, stage – is a software service to improve job finding and recruiting. Its data includes more than 17 million online job postings and the public profiles and résumés of more than 200 million people.

Its machine-learning algorithms distilled that to about 4 million unique job titles, ranked the most common ones and identified specific skills. The job sites CareerBuilder and Dice are using the Google technology to show job seekers more relevant openings. And FedEx, the giant package shipper, is adding the service to its recruiting site.

That is just one case, said Diane Greene, senior vice president for Google’s cloud business, of what is becoming increasingly possible – using the tools of artificial intelligence, notably machine learning, to sift through huge quantities of data to provide machine-curated data services.

“You can turn this technology to whatever field you want, from manufacturing to medicine,” Greene said.

Fei-Fei Li, director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, is taking a sabbatical to become chief scientist for artificial intelligence at Google’s cloud unit. She sees working at Google as one path to pursue her career ambition to “democratise AI,” now that the software and data ingredients are ripe.

“We wouldn’t have the current era of AI without the big data revolution,” Li said. “It’s the digital gold.”

In the AI race, better software algorithms can put you ahead for a year or so, but probably no more, said Andrew Ng, a former Google scientist and adjunct professor at Stanford. He is now chief scientist at Baidu, the Chinese internet search giant, and a leading figure in artificial intelligence research.

Rivals, he added, cannot unlock or simulate your data. “Data is the defensible barrier, not algorithms,” Ng said.

New York Times

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Henry Sapiecha

Tech giants circle over big data as antitrust regulators take note

Wealth and influence in the technology business have always been about gaining the upper hand in software or the machines that software ran on.

Now data – gathered in those immense pools of information that are at the heart of everything from artificial intelligence to online shopping recommendations – is increasingly a focus of technology competition. And academics and some policymakers, especially in Europe, are considering whether big internet companies like Google and Facebook might use their data resources as a barrier to new entrants and innovation.

google-data-centre-in-oklahoma-image-www-intelagencies-com

In recent years, Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft have all been targets of tax evasion, privacy or antitrust investigations. But in the coming years, who controls what data could be the next worldwide regulatory focus as governments strain to understand and sometimes rein in US tech giants.

The European Commission and the British House of Lords both issued reports last year on digital “platform” companies that highlighted the essential role that data collection, analysis and distribution play in creating and shaping markets. And the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development held a meeting in November to explore the subject, “Big Data: Bringing Competition Policy to the Digital Era.”

As government regulators dig into this new era of data competition, they may find that standard antitrust arguments are not so easy to make. Using more and more data to improve a service for users and more accurately target ads for merchants is a clear benefit, for example. And higher prices for consumers are not present with free internet services.

“You certainly don’t want to punish companies because of what they might do,” said Annabelle Gawer, a professor of the digital economy at the University of Surrey in England, who made a presentation at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development meeting. “But you do need to be vigilant. It’s clear that enormous power is in the hands of a few companies.”

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Maurice Stucke, a former Justice Department antitrust official and a professor at the University of Tennessee College of Law, who also spoke at the gathering, said one danger was that consumers might be afforded less privacy than they would choose in a more competitive market.

The competition concerns echo those that gradually emerged in the 1990s about software and Microsoft. The worry is that as the big internet companies attract more users and advertisers, and gather more data, a powerful “network effect” effectively prevents users and advertisers from moving away from a dominant digital platform, like Google in search or Facebook in consumer social networks.

Evidence of the rising importance of data can be seen from the frontiers of artificial intelligence to mainstream business software. And certain data sets can be remarkably valuable for companies working on those technologies.

A prime example is Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn, the business social network, for $US26.2 billion last year. LinkedIn has about 467 million members, and it houses their profiles and maps their connections.

Microsoft is betting LinkedIn, combined with data on how hundreds of millions of workers use its Office 365 online software, and consumer data from search behaviour on Bing, will “power a set of insights that we think is unprecedented,” said James Phillips, vice president for business applications at Microsoft.

In an email to employees, Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, described the LinkedIn deal as a linchpin in the company’s long-term goal to “reinvent productivity and business processes” and to become the digital marketplace that defines “how people find jobs, build skills, sell, market and get work done.”

IBM has also bet heavily on data for its future. Its acquisitions have tended to be in specific industries, like its $US2.6 billion purchase last year of Truven Health, which has data on the cost and treatment of more than 200 million patients, or in specialised data sets useful across several industries, like its $US2 billion acquisition of the digital assets of Weather Co.

IBM estimates that 70 per cent of the world’s data is not out on the public web, but in private databases, often to protect privacy or trade secrets. IBM’s strategy is to take the data it has acquired, add customer data and use that to train its Watson artificial intelligence software to pursue such tasks as helping medical researchers discover novel disease therapies, or flagging suspect financial transactions for independent auditors.

“Our focus is mainly on non-public data sets and extending that advantage for clients in business and science,” said David Kenny, senior vice president for IBM’s Watson and cloud businesses.

At Google, the company’s drive into cloud-delivered business software is fuelled by data, building on years of work done on its search and other consumer services, and its recent advances in image identification, speech recognition and language translation.

For example, a new Google business offering – still in the test, or alpha, stage – is a software service to improve job finding and recruiting. Its data includes more than 17 million online job postings and the public profiles and résumés of more than 200 million people.

Its machine-learning algorithms distilled that to about 4 million unique job titles, ranked the most common ones and identified specific skills. The job sites CareerBuilder and Dice are using the Google technology to show job seekers more relevant openings. And FedEx, the giant package shipper, is adding the service to its recruiting site.

That is just one case, said Diane Greene, senior vice president for Google’s cloud business, of what is becoming increasingly possible – using the tools of artificial intelligence, notably machine learning, to sift through huge quantities of data to provide machine-curated data services.

“You can turn this technology to whatever field you want, from manufacturing to medicine,” Greene said.

Fei-Fei Li, director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, is taking a sabbatical to become chief scientist for artificial intelligence at Google’s cloud unit. She sees working at Google as one path to pursue her career ambition to “democratise AI,” now that the software and data ingredients are ripe.

“We wouldn’t have the current era of AI without the big data revolution,” Li said. “It’s the digital gold.”

In the AI race, better software algorithms can put you ahead for a year or so, but probably no more, said Andrew Ng, a former Google scientist and adjunct professor at Stanford. He is now chief scientist at Baidu, the Chinese internet search giant, and a leading figure in artificial intelligence research.

Rivals, he added, cannot unlock or simulate your data. “Data is the defensible barrier, not algorithms,” Ng said.

New York Times

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Henry Sapiecha

 

Microsoft’s great achievement: AI that’s better than humans at listening… on phone devices

Microsoft’s latest speech-recognition record means pro human transcribers may be the first to lose their jobs to artificial intelligence. AI.

microsoftcortana770x449 image www.intelagencies.com

Microsoft’s speech-recognition AI could eventually be used to enhance Cortana’s accessibility features, say, for deaf people. Image: Microsoft

Microsoft researchers have evolved a system that recognizes speech as accurately as a professional human transcriptionist.

Researchers and engineers from Microsoft’s Artificial Intelligence and Research group have set a new record in speech recognition, achieving a word error rate of 5.9 percent, down from the 6.3 percent reported a month ago.

The word error rate is the percentage of times in a conversation that a system, in this case a combination of neural networks, mishears different words. Microsoft’s system performed as well as humans who were asked to listen to the same conversations.

Microsoft sized its machines up against professional transcribers who were tasked with listening to the same evaluation data over the phone, which included two-way conversation data and a separate set where friends and family have open-ended conversations.

Humans and Microsoft’s automated systems scored 5.9 percent and 11.3 percent error rates, for the respective test data.

The scores are an umbrella figure for the results of three tests, comparing how many times Microsoft’s system and the human transcribers wrongly substituted sounds, dropped a word from a sentence, and or inserted the wrong word.

As Microsoft notes in the paper, humans and the automated system mostly fumbled over the same sounds in the tests, with the exception of “uh-huh” and “uh”.

Microsoft’s system was confused by the sounds “uh-huh”, which can be a verbal nod for someone to go ahead speaking, and “uh”, used as a hesitation in speech. The utterances sound the same but have opposite meanings, which humans had far fewer problems identifying than Microsoft.

chatimity-team-freshdesk image www.intelagencies.com

Freshdesk makes sixth acquisition to build enterprise AI chatbots

Customer engagement software provider Freshdesk has acquired social chat platform Chatimity to strengthen its AI chatbot capabilities.

The transcriptionists, for some reason, frequently dropped the letter ‘I’ from two-way conversations, and did so far more often than Microsoft’s AI.

Overall, Microsoft notes, humans had a lower substitution rate, and higher deletion rate, while both humans and machine produced a low number of insertions.

“The relatively higher deletion rate might reflect a human bias to avoid outputting uncertain information, or the productivity demands on a professional transcriber,” Microsoft speculates.

Still, to achieve parity with a human in this test was an “historic achievement”, said Xuedong Huang, Microsoft’s chief speech scientist.

Improved automated speech-recognition systems could be used in speech-to-text transcription services and enhance Cortana’s accessibility features, say, for deaf people. However, that prospect still appears to be some way off.

Microsoft used 2,000 hours of training data to equip its neural networks for the task. It claims that by parallelizing the data with its AI Computational Network Toolkit on a Linux-based multi-GPU server farm, it was able to cut down training times from months to under three weeks.

Despite the milestone, Microsoft admits it’s still a long way from achieving speech recognition that works well in real-life settings with lots of background noise.

For example, as a live transcription service it’s not yet possible to identify and assign names to multiple speakers who may have different accents, ages, and backgrounds. However, the company says it’s working on the technology, which could open up a whole set of possibilities.

Read more about speech recognition

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Henry Sapiecha

Yahoo data hacked – At risk are 500 million stolen account details

yahoo-logo image www.intelagencies.com

Yahoo is the latest company to be embroiled in what is thought to be one of the largest cybersecurity breaches ever.

As data becomes more precious, especially to brands and publishers who are constantly trying to sift through the information to find pertinent monetisation strategies and more personalised user advertising, data security and privacy fears are already at an all time high.

Which is why a recent investigation by Yahoo, which confirmed that a copy of certain user account information was stolen from the company’s network in late 2014 by a “state-sponsored actor”, is nothing short of a PR nightmare.

It is becoming harder for brands and publishers to stay ahead of the ever-evolving online threats.

Based on the ongoing investigation, Yahoo say it believes that information associated with at least 500 million user accounts was stolen and the investigation has found no evidence that the state-sponsored actor is ‘currently’ in Yahoo’s network.

It’s working closely with law enforcement on this matter and the account information may have included names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords (the vast majority with bcrypt) and, in some cases, encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers.

“The ongoing investigation suggests that stolen information did not include unprotected passwords, payment card data, or bank account information; payment card data and bank account information are not stored in the system that the investigation has found to be affected,” a Yahoo spokesperson says.

It says it is notifying potentially affected users and is asking those who may be affected to change their passwords and adopt alternate means of account verification.

It recommends that all users who haven’t changed their passwords since 2014 to do this immediately and consider using Yahoo Account Key – an authentication tool that eliminates the need to use a password altogether.

“An increasingly connected world has come with increasingly sophisticated threats. Industry, government and users are constantly in the crosshairs of adversaries,” a Yahoo spokesperson says.

“Through strategic proactive detection initiatives and active response to unauthorised access of accounts, Yahoo will continue to strive to stay ahead of these ever-evolving online threats and to keep our users and our platforms secure.”

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Henry Sapiecha

Intel snaps up Movidius to create future computer vision, virtual reality tech

The deal may propel Intel further into next-generation technologies including VR, drones and artificial intelligence.

intel & mividius ceos together image www.intelagencies.com

Intel

Intel has announced the acquisition of Movidius, a chip manufacturer focusing on developing next-generation computer sensing and vision technology.

San Mateo, California-based Movidius, which already counts Google and Lenovo as customers, develops sight capabilities for machines and PCs.

The company’s vision processing unit (VPU), the main shunt of the company, is a platform for on-device vision processing which works in tandem with Intel RealSense technology to give computer systems the capability to view 3D images, understand surroundings and objects, and then react accordingly.

This technology can be found within drones, security cameras, artificial intelligence and virtual reality, and as these industries develop, the potential use for such inventions will also increase.

The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Remi El-Ouazzane, CEO of Movidius said in a blog post that Movidius will continue to focus on the “mission to give the power of sight to machines,” but the deal will give the firm’s development teams more resources to boost research and execute at scale.

The executive also revealed that Movidius has recently begun to focus on granting “sight” to low-power hardware, a complex task considering the use of sophisticated algorithms at the device level. At Intel, this challenge will continue, but cloud computing and networking will also be included in the project.

“When computers can see, they can become autonomous and that’s just the beginning,” El-Ouazzane commented. “We’re on the cusp of big breakthroughs in artificial intelligence. In the years ahead, we’ll see new types of autonomous machines with more advanced capabilities as we make progress on one of the most difficult challenges of AI: getting our devices not just to see, but also to think.”

In August, Intel revealed Project Alloy, a virtual reality headset which combines RealSense technology with battery power, allowing users to experience what Intel CEO Brian Krzanich called a “merged reality.”

Considering Movidius’ specialisation in power-limited devices and VR, the combination of both companies’ technology appears to be a solid fit — and that may only scrape the surface of what Intel plans for the new acquisition.

“We see massive potential for Movidius to accelerate our initiatives in new and emerging technologies,” said Josh Walden, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Intel’s New Technology Group. “The ability to track, navigate, map and recognize both scenes and objects using Movidius’ low power and high-performance SoCs opens up opportunities in areas where heat, battery life and form factors are key.”

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Henry Sapiecha

 

Russian internet giant Rambler.ru hacked, leaking a massive 98 million accounts

The internet giant stored passwords in unencrypted plaintext.

glowing-keyboard-hacker-security-620x465 image www.intelagencies.com

Russian internet portal and email provider Rambler.ru has become the latest victim in a growing list of historical hacks.

Breach notification site LeakedSource.com, which obtained a copy of an internal customer database, said the attack dates back to February 17, 2012.

More than 98.1 million accounts were in the database, including usernames, email addresses, social account data, and passwords, the group said in a blog post. Unlike other major breaches, those passwords were stored in unencrypted plaintext, meaning anyone at the company could easily see passwords.

The last time a breach on this scale was found using plaintext password storage was Russian social networking site VK.com, which saw 171 million accounts taken in the breach.

Rambler.ru now joins the hacked ranks of LinkedIn and Last.fm in 2012, and MySpace and Tumblr in 2013.

LeakedSource said it had verified the breach, and has added the cache into its searchable database.

Rambler.ru is one of the largest websites in the world, and one of the most visited in Russia. Founded in 1996, the company provides search, news, email, and advertising, making it a powerhouse of the Russian internet. The company competes with Yandex, and Mail.ru (which also owns VK.com) which made headlines for a second time this year for suffering at the hands of hackers again.

We reached out to Rambler.ru prior to publication, but did not hear back. If that changes, we’ll update the piece.

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Henry Sapiecha

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Ubuntu Forums hack exposes 2 million site users

An anonymous hacker grabbed usernames, email addresses, then salted and hashed passwords.

ubuntu-forum-form image www.intelagencies.com

The company that builds Ubuntu, a popular Linux distribution, has said its forums were hacked Thursday.

Canonical, which develops the operating system, said in a statement on Friday that two million usernames, email addresses, and IP addresses associated with the Ubuntu Forums were taken by an unnamed attacker

The attacker was able to exploit an SQL injection vulnerability in an add-on used by older vBulletin forum software.

That gave the attacker access to the forum’s databases, but the company said that only limited user data was accessed and downloaded.

The statement stressed that no code or repository data was accessed, and the attacker couldn’t write data to the database or gain shell access. The attacker also didn’t gain access to any other Canonical or Ubuntu service.

Since the breach, the servers were wiped, rebuilt, and hardened, passwords were changed, and the forum software was fully patched.

The statement added that although the forums relied on Ubuntu’s single sign-on service, the passwords were hashed and salted, turning them into randomized strings of data. But the statement did not say which hashing algorithm was used — some algorithms, like MD5, are still in use but are deprecated, as they can be easily cracked.

A spokesperson for the company did not immediately respond to a question about the hashing algorithm.

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Henry Sapiecha