A US appeals court recently ruled that it is illegal for people to share passwords for accounts.

The case in question involved a man who had been convicted of using another person’s login information to access the database of a workplace where he was no longer employed.

pwordA dissenting judge wrote that the legal implications of such a decision could be far wider than those intended for the specific case; people sharing the passwords for their Netflix or Amazon Prime accounts, for example, may now be liable.

The American press has speculated that such a ruling could certainly throw common practices revolving around paid account sharing into question, though another judge who was for the decision stated that the precedent being set in the case in question was more limited than the dissenting judge feared it would be.

The case in question dealt with defendant David Nosal’s decision to use an ex-colleague’s password to gain access to his former recruitment firm Korn/Ferry in 2004. Nosal was hoping to use the information from the Korn/Ferry database to aid him in his work at his new firm. In 2008, Nosal was charged with hacking under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) and ultimately convicted in 2013.

The case found that the company that issued the password must be the authorizing entity for there to be legal access; even if an individual chooses to share his or her password with someone of their own volition, the outside entity who then enters the account is still hacking.

What remains to be determined is whether the password sharing that was deemed to violate federal law in this specific case will then create a precedent for future cases brought to American courts.

According to Judge Reinhardt, who dissented with the majority ruling, the case was “about password sharing” rather than hacking and “the CFAA does not make the millions of people who engage in this ubiquitous, useful, and generally harmless conduct into unwitting federal criminals.”

(GERMANY OUT) Richterhammer auf Computertastatur, Symbolfoto für E-Commerce und Verbraucherschutz  (Photo by Wodicka/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

“The majority does not provide, nor do I see, a workable line which separates the consensual password sharing in this case from the consensual password sharing of millions of legitimate account holders,” Reinhardt added,” which may also be contrary to the policies of system owners… There is simply no limiting principle in the majority’s world of lawful and unlawful password sharing.”

Judge M. Margaret McKwoen wrote the majority opinion and disagreed with Judge Reinhardt’s take on the situation, positing that the case bore “little resemblance to asking a spouse to log in to an email account to print a boarding pass.”

According to Kuan Hon, a consultant lawyer at Pinsent Masons, UK law does not define password sharing as a criminal offence unless the individual is aware that they are not authorized to access the company’s program or data:

“You have to know that the access is unauthorized. If you give your password to your child, they might not necessarily realize that the ultimate service doesn’t warrant it,” she explained. “The question of what is unauthorized or authorized is different under the UK’s Computer Misuse Act.”

The Islamic State and its supporters are having an increasingly difficult time posting their radical ideology on Facebook, Twitter, and other major social media websites that they hope to use for recruiting purposes and to disperse their point of view. As more and more terrorist attacks occur and innocent people are killed and harmed, there’s been public outcry from government officials and private citizens alike regarding tech companies taking a bigger role in removing the terrorist content from their sites. 

isis4IS members aren’t pleased that they can’t use the sites and, after issuing a fair amount of death threats against the Twitter staff, decided to create their own social media platform.

Before we move on to describe the development of CaliphateBook, a quick word on those death threats:

According to Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, he and his employees have been the targets of death threats ever since the IS and its groupies started having issues getting their information posted:

“After we started suspending their accounts, some folks affiliated with the organization used Twitter to declare that employees of Twitter and their management should be assassinated. Obviously that’s a jarring thing for anyone to deal with.”

Twitter is acting in accordance with its policy, which has rules against using Twitter for certain activities including the advocacy of rape, torture, and killing. When Twitter accordingly suspends the accounts of users who do any of these things, they tend to become the targets of the same abuse that they’re trying to silence.

Take for example the string of tweets that one user using the hashtag #The_Concept_Of_Lone_Wolf_Attacks, let loose on Twitter users and staff:

“The time has arrived to respond to Twitter’s management by directly attacking their employees and physically assassinating them!! Those who will carry this out are the sleepers cells of death. Twitter management should know that if they do not stop their campaign in the virtual world, we will the bring the war to them in the real world on the ground. Every Twitter employee in San Francisco in the United States should bear in mind and watch over himself because on his doorstep there might be a lone wolf assassin waiting.”

isis5Jack Dorsey tends to be the recipient of most of the attack threats, as exemplified by one anonymous writer in a Jihad message board:

“Your virtual war on us will cause a real war on you,” the anonymous poster threatened Dorsey.  “You started this failed war. We told you from the beginning it’s not your war, but you didn’t get it and kept closing our accounts on Twitter, but we always come back. But when our lions come and take your breath, you will never come back to life.”

So now they’ve created their own social media site called CaliphateBook, which is made to look a lot like Facebook. The site struggles to remain online, making actual registration impossible. It does, however, greet site visitors with the following statement:

“We love to die as much as you love to live.”

There’s an article going around the internet that is reporting that Apple could be the next BlackBerry as it gets left behind in the AI arms race. But as Public Enemy said, “don’t believe the hype.” In many respects yes, good is a much better than its competitors. But how exactly does Apple use its AI today. Well for the most part it analyzes how we get places in Maps and other location based platforms within their network. In addition they can recognize faces in Photos. In order to understand what you’re saying with Siri and lets you interact with various apps. This learns what kind of applications you are going to want to use and at what time you do in relation to your location. Its a big part of their platform right now, but what is surprising about this fact is that for the most part they are not very good in this field.

Apple is also in the works of deals to patch over the areas where its AI is weak. Asks Siri. Apple has deals in the works that can hopefully rectify this glaring weakness and hopefully cure their ailing networks. This is all happening in the face of the mounting tech bubble. 

As we know AI became a field in the broadest sense 60 years ago but at that point it was more sci-fi than sci. Ever since that time researchers have tried to achieve human level smarts or better.

“Computers are just starting to be able to hear and starting to being able to see images. Those are tremendous improvements in the field in the last five years. Were doing that by having computers read millions of texts and pages from the web by hooking them up to cameras and moving them around human environments.”

AI is going to be the new normal when we consider the infrastructure  of the future and the way we move through the world, but not in the way you may be thinking. Think more predictive or connection making model based solutions. “Reasoning will be improved as we develop systems that continuously sense and interact with the world, as opposed to learning systems that continuously sense and interact with the world, as opposed to learning systems that passively observe information that others have chose.” 

To put it bluntly if Apple is going to really hedge their bets on AI and their place in the global market is largely dependent on if they can bridge this gap. In may respects Apple has been a company without an identity since the passive of CEO Steve Jobs. Jobs was the person that was able to determine their moon shots and give them an identity not only today for a decade from now. Today however, Cooke does not have that same foresight that Jobs had. They have been able to coast for the last few years but we are in the midst of a trans formative moment in the tech industry and for the large part the world in general.  When we are going to look at what 2020 will look like we can relate it to how it is being engineered today.

Considering many people still haven’t found financial stability after the financial crisis of 2007 hit the American and global economy, rumors that the super star growth of Silicon Valley businesses may be more of a tech bubble than a tech boom are, to say the least, worrying to the general population.

tech bub4Is it a tech bubble? If so, how did it get to the point that it is today? When will the bubble burst, and what will be the consequences? Not all of these answers are widely agreed upon, but there are plenty of highly-esteemed economists and investors who are coming out today and affirming that the tech bubble is indeed a tech bubble. As to when it will burst and what the consequences will be, people have predictions but no one knows for sure. What there’s more tangible information about is how the tech industry got to its current, bubbly circumstances, and what factors can be attributed to where we are today.

It’s difficult to know where to begin in this narrative, but as decent place as any would be when Doug Leone of Sequoia Capital gave a famous presentation titled “R.I.P. Good Times” in 2008, i.e. in the midst of the financial crisis. Leone warned entrepreneurs to save and spend conservatively due to a predicted major recession in venture capitalist funding. While his presentation ended up being defined as overly alarmist as time went on, older industry players are now counseling younger batches of rising entrepreneurs to follow that advice.

“The main thing we’re trying to impress on our CEOs right now is that the market is saying, ‘We want to see growth, we want to see geographic expansion,’ but that may not always be the case.” explains Scott Kupor, a managing partner at Andreessen Horowitz. “Investors change their priorities. Soon, they may be telling you, ‘We want to see profitability even at the expense of growth.’ So you need to think about the levers you can pull in your business to make that happen.”

chichiWhat does this all have to do with the bubble bursting? Kupor’s advice contradicts the logic of a technique that tech moguls like Microsoft and tech startups like Slack have been commonly utilizing for years: seeking the highest possible valuation for their companies. They do this with a number of positive outcomes in mind. High valuations minimize dilution and generates publicity, which then attracts talent, clients, and even more capital. The two-year-old, hugely successful startup Slack famously raised $160 million upon being valued at $2.8 billion, for example. And it’s not just new startups that profit from high (and potentially inflated) valuations. Uber was valued at $50 billion this year and AirBnb at $50 billion. In both cases, the companies were valued at extremely high multiples of their actual revenues. According to investors, this is because their enormous potential makes it illogical to put a ceiling on their growth.

When these overly-valued companies come back to earth (as they must inevitably do as a result of rising interest rates), founders who have overreached must then struggle to defend their valuations. In cases when founders have managed to finagle an extra 10 to 20 percent value to be attributed to their company by granting investors aggressive downside protections (which enable VCs to make reckless bets without risking real consequences), founders can lose control of their businesses all together.

So because so many tech companies have been valued not based on their revenue but on their projected revenue, a fair amount of investors have been conned into pouring money into places that aren’t equipped to generate more.

 

Microsoft has said this week that they want the “Internet of Things” to relate to all things. That is to say that they want the internet to be a fundamental part of the functionality of things as diverse as jet engines, to refrigerators, from factory floors, to child care devices. This is coming in the wake of their partnership announced at the Hannover Messe industrial fair in Germany.

They aim to take advantage of the Microsoft Azure loT suite which will gather data from industrial products and their assembly all the way through when they are disposed of. They hope to find trends and figure out how to improve performance in a big data project on a scale that the world has never seen.

bvbbfbbfTo give some perspective, Rolls-Royce will incorporate these software tools into its total care maintenance package as well as for its aircraft engines. They hope that air traffic control information, and route restrictions and fuel usage can be better understood through this joint venture.

“Our customers are looking for ways to leverage the digital landscape to increase efficiency and improve their operations,” said Tom Palmer of Rolls Royce. He goes on to say that “by working with Microsoft we can really transform our digital services, supporting customers right across engine related aircraft operations to make a real difference to performance.”

It is not obvious to most because you just associate Rolls Royce with their autos, however, their engines power more than 50,000 flights around the world each month and that is really their main source of income.

Jabil is a leading manufacturing company that has unveiled their use of Microsoft Azure Machine Learning platform at their factory mega-site in Malaysia and Mexico. they hope to take this platform worldwide. The hope is that they can know the problems in their manufacturing processes before their people working on them know themselves. Moreover, they want to predict and respond to problems months in advance so they do not have the hiccups of just being slammed by change in an instance. For example by knowing the global prices of their raw materials, to the global weather patterns, all the way though the world socio-political landscape they will have the answers to questions we do not to ask yet. klkjlkjlkjlk;jl;kjlk;j

A Jabil spokesperson says that, “that means ever if there is a mistake made in the first step, they’re able to connect back to the cloud, use machine learning, detect that mistake and correct it before it goes all the way to the end of the production line.”

This is going to be a great tool for their company but we need to wonder what if they data gives up paths to ends that are not themselves the future. What I mean is that we are giving these systems a lot of respect and power, but many times they totally miss the make. For example, when Watson is wrong it is wrong in a way a person would never be, and that is bad when you consider the weight it will have in our world economy here after.

Just yesterday, the Oculus Rift received its first ever (and generally praise-filled) reviews. That said, reviewers were also apt to point out some more obvious flaws with the first generation technology.

The headset display is generally seen as well-crafted and surprisingly durable for the sensitivity of the technology it supports. The well-known drawbacks include its steep costs (US $600) and the fact that its true gaming potential can only be unlocked with those financially blessed enough to host a powerful enough gaming system to really run it.

oculus rift2“Just as with every new technological milestone, it has the potential to change the world. But at this early stage, only a few can afford it,” explained Devindra Hardawar, writer for Engadget.

The cost will of course come down as the technology becomes more familiar and more VR systems enter the market with competitive pricing. The quality will also undoubtedly improve as the years go by, though how developers will react to VR’s issue of bulky hardware remains to be seen.

“When you first put on a Rift, you are all too aware of the headset. It’s somewhat comfortable, but the way it envelops your head can make it feel like a helmet,” described Peter Brown, writer for Gamespot.

“Not every VR game is going to be an instant hit,” continued Brown. Other reviewers also wrote of being unimpressed by the first wave of VR games programmed for the Rift. That said, Mario Aguilar of Gizmodo stated that the games made for the finished hardware were actually fun and far superior to the early development builds released months back.

“These issues can’t take away from the fact that Rift delivers on its promise to enable more immersive and personal gaming experiences than we’ve ever seen before,” said Brown after reexamining his complaints regarding the games themselves. After all, the first wave of games are more of an experiment than a proof of concept.

Early buyers of the Oculus Rift will have to make due with a headset and a single Xbox controller, while a motion-supported controller is still undergoing development. Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, warned that an upgrade may be necessary for VR aficionados to access a truly immersive experience:

joculus rift“It plays best with two external cameras and two VR controllers. It ships with one external camera and an Xbox controller, which cripples the experience… This will get fixed later in the year with a more expensive version.”

And of course there’s the issue of the Rift’s raw youth in terms of its technology and its brand; it will take years for the company to receive accurate and complete data regarding that people hope to do with the technology and how best to use it.

The final common complaint involves the fact that gamers must remain tethered to their computers during gaming sessions, limiting the VR experience.

“Once this connects with gaming systems designed for it and with 2D treadmills, this will likely change,” continued Enderle.

“Folks are also recognizing that the idea of being able to actually integrate the room, like with Micosoft’s HoloLens, might be a really good idea now.”

Facebook‘s Mark Zuckerberg has been a major investor in the Rift and is hoping it will unlock the door to entirely new communication systems.

The encryption battle between Apple and the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation shows no signs of letting up; the FBI’s attempts to compel Apple to write software that would unlock an iPhone belonging to one of the deceased San Bernardino terrorists under the authority of the 18th century All Writ’s Law has caused controversy throughout the tech world. The role of social media and tech companies in the fight against terrorism continues to be the subject of debate.

encryptCraig Federighi, Apple’s SVP of engineering, recently stated in an op-ed piece published yesterday in The Washington Post that the FBI’s efforts actually threatened to weaken national security.

According to Federighi, terrorists and other malintended criminals could launch attacks on the infrastructure vital to our every day life through access “to just one person’s smartphone.” He went on to describe encryption on smartphones as “a critical line of defense.”

Federighi also criticized law enforcement officials over their request that Apple return to the safeguards created for iOS 7. These safeguards “have since been breached by hackers,” wrote Federghi. “Further, hacker kits to attack iOS 7 weaknesses are available to less-skilled attackers.”

“Yesterday’s best defenses cannot fend off the attacks of today or tomorrow,” stated Federighi. He believes there’s no going back in the security game, which is more of “an endless race” against hackers than a constant proliferation of relevant safeguards.

Federighi’s op-ed prompted over 800 responses for and against his position.

“Arguing that only bad actors need worry about government intrusions is specious since the data analytics that sifts through metadata and associated content to establish networks of associations… is hardly foolproof,” wrote one user under the name Code Ferret.

Joan Ashley stated her worry that “The FBI could abuse the power obtained under a favorable court ruling.”

However, Rbobbin disagreed, stating that encryption is too sweeping.

Even among the security committee, opinions vary.

“Compelling Apple to build a backdoor for its own product actually undermines the security and personal safety of millions of Americans and others around the world, especially those living under authoritarian regimes,” stated staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation Sophia Cope. She continues on to state that this occurs “by creating the legal precedent, by weakening the trust users have in software updates supposedly authorized by companies, and by building the technology itself.”

encrypt2Ebba Blitz, CEO of Alertsec, stated her opinion on the matter rather concisely: “Walking backwards into the future is never a clever way… It’s not only weakening encryption for individuals and companies; it’s also weakening encryption for the American government… by creating the possibility of brute force attacks, we are paving the way for anyone, including terrorists, to hack into our data easily.”

Blitz went on to consider the outcome that the law could potentially drive the U.S. tech industry overseas.

“Everything from health data to financial data to conversations with and about our kids is protected because of encryption,” stated Jake Ward, president and CEO of the Application Developers Alliance. “Why would we want to go back to iOS 7?”

He says that purposefully degrading encryption “just for the good guys” is not actually a possibility. “You can’t secure your home while leaving a window open for the police, hoping bad guys don’t find and use it.”

 

Einstein predicted their existence over a century ago, and physicists have been on the hunt for gravitational waves ever since. It’s just been made official that they found then, too.

According to researchers at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory or LIGO, a month or so of round-the-clock testing has confirmed that a gravitational wave was sensed.

g wavesThe posible wave was observed on September 14th, 2015, around 5:51 am ET by both of the LIGO detectors, who were located in Livingston, Louisiana and Hanford, Washington at the time. The source of the findings was a supermassive hole collision that took place about 1.3 billion ears ago and, when it happened, converted three times the mass of the sun into energy in a fraction of a second.

The discovery’s publication was accepted by Physical Review Letters.

So what is a gravitational wave? They’re ripples in the universe caused by extremely energetic cosmic events that can range from exploding stars to supermassive black hole mergers. As they propagate through space and time, these waves can cause tiny tremors in atoms that make up matter.

Einstein predicted their existence in his theory of general relativity in 1916 and their existence was indirectly proven in the 1980’s, but this is the first time that the hunt for spacetime ripples actually came up with a real life occurrence.

The LIGO detector was created for this very purpose in 2002, but it took ten years to make the instrument sensitive enough to sense the minuscule gravitational waves and atomic jitters that would hit our world after two black holes collide in a distant galaxy. LIGO uses high powered lasers to measure tiny changes in distance between these two objects, but possible signals can be made from all kinds of outside factors like a train lumbering by, an earthquake, or a storm.

LIGO underwent a series of upgrades and has been functioning as its current version since 2015. Its powerful lasers and improved isolation system made its prospects of detecting the first gravitational waves better than ever before. A few scientists seen predicted that we’d have our first positive detection in 2016, though few saw reason to believe them.

LIGO apparently saw gravitational waves almost immediately after its most recent version came on. The hold up has been waiting for the team of scientists associated with the project to exhaustively investigate potential instrumental disturbances to confirm that the signal was indeed real.

greevityAccording to those scientists, the two black holes that collided were 29x and 36x times the mass of the sun, respectively. During the most powerful moments of their collision, LIGO estimates that their power output was about 50 times that of the entire visible universe.

“The description of this observation is beautifully described in the Einstein theory of general relativity formulated 100 years ago and comprises the first test of the theory in strong gravitation,” commented Rainer Weiss, the first proposer of LIGO. “It would have been wonderful to watch Einstein’s face had we been able to tell him.”

The discovery is said to open a new chapter in our exploration of space and time, especially since gravitational waves can now be used to probe mysterious celestial objects that do not emit light.

“There’s a lot of rich information encoded in gravitational waves,” said MIT astrophysicist Scott Hughes. “As an astronomer, I try to think about how to go from the ‘sound’ of the waveform that LIGO measures, to the parameters that produce that waveform.”

The internet may have been around for decades, but it’s only now that many of us are learning out how navigate it’s intensely overstimulating array of information with any aptitude whatsoever. Here are some tips to get you started on a journey through the internet prepared and aware.

1. You can log out of Facebook remotely.

….which is definitely a good idea if you’re addicted and have to check it at work, at friends’ houses, at libraries, internet cafes, whatever. Log in on whatever device you want, go to “Settings” using the upper right dropdown menu, choose “Security” and then “When you’re logged in.” You should be shown a screen that displays on which devices you’re logged in and gives you the option of ending sessions accordingly.

2. Search phrases you can’t even remember.

If you’re ever trying to remember a quote, proverb or lyric, you can google whatever fragment you got and likely find what you’re looking for. If you’re really blanking, put quotes at the beginning and end of the phrase, add in whatever you can remember, and if there are missing words, just replace them with an asterisk.

3. Soft block frenemies.

On Twitter there’s the mute button and on Facebook you can always uncheck the box that says “Show in News Feed” when you run your curser over an unwanted post, or simply uncheck “Following” when you hover over the friend’s name.

This is a great way to avoid the bombardment of information coming certain kinds of internet users without making as bold a statement as unfriending them or blocking them. After all, they might post about it if they notice you did it.

4. Browse stress free with incognito mode.

All major browsers have incognito mode, a type of window you can open that doesn’t store your search history. This is great for looking at dumb stuff on the internet at work, watching explicit stuff you don’t want your spouse or partner to know about, or even just searching for a gift for something that also uses the computer. Just keep in mind that ISPs will know what sites you visited; get Tor if you want to avoid that.

5. Mute email threads.

Thank god, if only they had this for group messaging. Using Gmail, all you have to do is click on the “More” tab and then choose the mute option. You should stop receiving notifications as people chime in.

6. Emoji wherever possible.

Stop copy pasting from getemoji.com. If you have a Mac, all you have to do to add in an emoji to a text box that doesn’t have its own emoji dropdown menu is simultaneously press the command, control and space bar at the same time. With Windows, go to task bar>toolbar>touch keyboard and pick the smiley key.

7. Check out Gchat.

Gchat’s fun, but make it even more fun by typing in /ponystream. You’ll see.

8. Play YouTube videos in slow motion.

Just press the space key as you’re watching!

9. Go Cold Turkey.

Need to be more productive and less distracted? Download Cold Turkey onto your browser to keep you from visiting some sites instead of others. You can lock certain sites and applications on a timer to make sure you stay away from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, whatever.

Recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernadina, California have created a new debate regarding the role tech companies should play in the fight against radical jihadists.

Hillary Clinton hosted a press conference after the tragedy in Paris unfolded weeks ago, asserting the role that tech companies must play in crisis of our modern age:

“We need to put the great disruptors at work at disrupting ISIS… Resolve means depriving the jihadists of virtual territory just as we work to deprive them of actual territory… They are using websites, social media, chat rooms, and other platforms to celebrate beheadings, recruit future terrorists, and call for attacks.”

The great disruptors aren’t so sure about their necessary role. Tech giants like Apple and Google have actively been fighting the government’s claims that the encryption services they provide for their clients is an unnecessary and dangerous hindrance of national surveillance efforts.

eric schmidtGoogle Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in which he stated that tech companies’ more rightful interference in terrorist affairs should involve keeping social media from becoming a tool to spread hatred or violence.

“We should build tools to help de-escalate tensions on social media, sort of like spell checkers, but for hate and harassment,” he recommended. He believed that social networks should figure out which accounts are held by terrorists and monitor them to make sure that they cannot disseminate violent videos or terrorist propaganda.

According to the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy, ISIS supporters used more than 46,000 Twitter accounts (potentially as many as 70,000) between September and December 2014.

Facebook spokesperson Jodi Seth stated that Facebook “shares the government’s goal” of keeping terrorist activity on its site to a minimum. “Facebook has zero tolerance for terrorists, terror propaganda or the praising of terror activity and we work aggressively to remove it as soon as we become aware of it,” she continued.

Seth explained that Facebook has a terrorist policy that involves passing on information to law enforcement as soon as it becomes aware of any planned attack  or threat of imminent harm and sees fit to follow through with that policy on a daily basis.

“This is a developing cancer, and there’s a good chance that the answers today may need to be transformed as the nature of these exploits, propaganda techniques and heinous actions evolve.”

Not everyone believes that a share of the responsibility for managing the country’s safety should be put in tech companies’ hands.

danny obrienDanny Obrien, international director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, stated that “Social media companies shouldn’t take on the job of censoring speech on behalf of any government, and they certainly shouldn’t do so voluntarily.”

“Numerous circumstances would be problematic, to say the least,” he continued. “For example, would Facebook take down a post from a group that the Russian, Saudi, Syrian or Israeli government claimed were terrorists?”

“An issue of transparency remains on the table. Some social media groups have been more transparent than others about government requests to take down an account or remove content.”