TikTok is ‘Fundamentally Parasitic’, Says Reddit CEO

TikTok is one of the hottest social media platforms but the CEO of Reddit had some harsh words for the popular app, calling it “fundamentally parasitic” at an event this week. From a report: The comments from Reddit CEO and co-founder Steve Huffman were some of the more controversial offered up during a panel discussion with former public policy executive Elliot Schrage and former Facebook VP of Product Sam Lessin. During a brief conversation about the feature innovations of TikTok, Huffman pushed back hard on the notion that Silicon Valley startups had something to learn from the app. “Maybe I’m going to regret this, but I can’t even get to that level of thinking with them,” Huffman said. “Because I look at that app as so fundamentally parasitic, that it’s always listening, the fingerprinting technology they use is truly terrifying, and I could not bring myself to install an app like that on my phone. I actively tell people, ‘Don’t install that spyware on your phone,'” he later added. Worth mentioning: Reddit is heavily backed by Chinese tech giant Tencent, which competes aggressively with TikTok’s parent firm ByteDance.

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Ars Technicast special edition, part 3: Putting AI to work defending your stuff

Artist's impression of adversarial AI being adversarial.

Enlarge / Artist’s impression of adversarial AI being adversarial. (credit: Grassetto / Getty Images)

In the third and final installation of our podcast miniseries on artificial intelligence, produced in association with Darktrace, we delve into the realm of AI fighting AI—or what researchers refer to as “adversarial AI.”

Adversarial artificial intelligence can take many forms—as a tool for hacking through AI-powered security of other systems, for example, or deceiving another algorithm with input that causes a specific, fake result. Ars editors Sean Gallagher and Lee Hutchinson spoke with the leader of the winning team from the 2016 Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Cyber Grand Challenge, ForAllSecure CEO David Brumley, about advancements in AI-driven hacking. Lujo Bauer, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Institute for Software Research at Carnegie Mellon, joined Lee and Sean to talk about his research into ways to use AI to defeat technologies such as facial recognition. And Max Heinemeyer, director of threat hunting at Darktrace, discussed research already being done into how to stop AI-driven attacks on computer networks.

This special edition of the Ars Technicast podcast can be accessed in the following places:

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15-Million-Year-Old Crater On Earth Reveals Clues About Mars’ Watery Past

Iwastheone shares a report from Space.com: Ries Crater, or Nordlinger Ries, is located in western Bavaria, Germany, and formed roughly 15 million years ago, when a meteorite struck. This site has incredibly well-preserved rocks and minerals that bear similarities to the Martian surface. Therefore, samples from this impact site on Earth may shed light on Mars’ past, according to a new study. Today, Mars is too cold to host liquid water on its surface, which is a requirement for life as we know it on Earth. However, 4 billion years ago, Mars may have been warm enough for surface oceans and, possibly, life, according to the study.

The researchers studied rock samples from Ries Crater, which was once a body of water. Their findings show that the samples have a high pH based on the ratio of nitrogen isotopes, as well as a high alkalinity, which indicates an imbalanced pH level, according to the study. NASA’s Mars 2020 rover is planned to land in a similar, well-preserved ancient crater that is believed to have also contained liquid water in its past. The findings suggest that the Martian crater will have a chemical composition comparable to that of Ries Crater. Therefore, studying the alkalinity, pH and nitrogen content of samples from the Ries Crater could help the researchers better understand the properties of ancient water on Mars and, in turn, determine the amount of carbon dioxide that was in the planet’s atmosphere billions of years ago. Although complex life is unlikely, simpler microorganisms could have survived if water on Mars had a neutral pH level and was highly alkaline, the researchers said in the statement. These conditions would indicate that the atmosphere had enough carbon dioxide to warm the planet and make liquid water possible, the scientists added.

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Drivers of Expensive Cars Less Likely To Yield For Pedestrians, Study Finds

ClickOnThis writes: Many of us know the old joke about BMWs and hemorrhoids. Now it seems that science can back it up. In a study perhaps deserving of an Ig Nobel, scientists found that the likelihood a driver will stop for a pedestrian is inversely proportional to the value of their vehicle. CNN reports: “A new study has found that drivers of flashy vehicles are less likely to stop and allow pedestrians to cross the road — with the likelihood they’ll slow down decreasing by 3% for every extra $1,000 that their vehicle is worth. Researchers from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas speculated that the expensive car owners ‘felt a sense of superiority over other road users’ and were less able to empathize with lowly sidewalk-dwellers.

They came to this conclusion after asking volunteers to cross a sidewalk hundreds of times, filming and analyzing the responses by car drivers. Researchers used one white and one black man, and one white and one black woman — also finding that cars were more likely to yield for the white and female participants. Vehicles stopped 31% of the time for both women and white participants, compared with 24% of the time for men and 25% of the time for black volunteers. But the best predictor of whether a car would stop was its cost, researchers discovered. ‘Disengagement and a lower ability to interpret thoughts and feelings of others along with feelings of entitlement and narcissism may lead to a lack of empathy for pedestrians’ among costly car owners, they theorized in the study.” The research has been published in the Journal of Transport and Health.

The research “backed up a Finnish study published last month that found that men who own flashy vehicles are more likely to be ‘argumentative, stubborn, disagreeable and unempathetic,'” adds CNN.

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Flaw in billions of Wi-Fi devices left communications open to eavesdropping

Flaw in billions of Wi-Fi devices left communications open to eavesdropping

Flaw in billions of Wi-Fi devices left communications open to eavesdropping

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SAN FRANCISCO — Billions of devices—many of them already patched—are affected by a Wi-Fi vulnerability that allows nearby attackers to decrypt sensitive data sent over the air, researchers said on Wednesday at the RSA security conference.

The vulnerability exists in Wi-Fi chips made by Cypress Semiconductor and Broadcom, the latter whose Wi-Fi business was acquired by Cypress in 2016. The affected devices include iPhones, iPads, Macs, Amazon Echos and Kindles, Android devices, Raspberry Pi 3’s, and Wi-Fi routers from Asus and Huawei. Eset, the security company that discovered the vulnerability, said the flaw primarily affects Cyperess’ and Broadcom’s FullMAC WLAN chips, which are used in billions of devices. Eset has named the vulnerability Kr00k, and it is tracked as CVE-2019-15126.

Manufacturers have made patches available for most or all of the affected devices, but it’s not clear how many devices have installed the patches. Of greatest concern are vulnerable wireless routers, which often go unpatched indefinitely.

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Amazon made a bigger camera-spying store—so we tried to steal its fruit

Amazon made a bigger camera-spying store—so we tried to steal its fruit

Amazon Go Grocery's first location in the Seattle neighborhood of Capitol Hill.

Enlarge / Amazon Go Grocery’s first location in the Seattle neighborhood of Capitol Hill. (credit: Sam Machkovech)

SEATTLE—For how far and wide Amazon’s digital footprint reaches, the company clearly wants to advance into real-world space as much as possible. And to that end, Amazon runs some of its most ambitious experiments in its headquarters’ city before rolling them out nationwide.

As our staff’s sole Seattle resident, I pull the short straw of testing these by default.

In 2015, I shopped at Amazon’s first stab at a brick-and-mortar bookstore (you know, those old things Amazon has been accused of putting out of business in the first place) before that chain’s eventual nationwide launch. In 2016, I delivered Amazon packages as a gig-economy driver, before this kind of contract employee became a commonplace part of the nationwide Amazon Prime Now network. And in 2018, I picked through the first “cashierless,” camera-filled Amazon Go convenience store before the same concept landed in other major metropolitan centers.

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Firefox turns encrypted DNS on by default to thwart snooping ISPs

Firefox turns encrypted DNS on by default to thwart snooping ISPs

The Firefox logo.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Anadolu Agency)

Firefox will start switching browser users to Cloudflare’s encrypted-DNS service today and roll out the change across the United States in the coming weeks.

“Today, Firefox began the rollout of encrypted DNS over HTTPS (DoH) by default for US-based users,” Firefox maker Mozilla said in an announcement scheduled to go live at this link Tuesday morning. “The rollout will continue over the next few weeks to confirm no major issues are discovered as this new protocol is enabled for Firefox’s US-based users.”

DNS over HTTPS helps keep eavesdroppers from seeing what DNS lookups your browser is making, potentially making it more difficult for Internet service providers or other third parties to monitor what websites you visit. As we’ve previously written, Mozilla’s embrace of DNS over HTTPS is fueled in part by concerns about ISPs monitoring customers’ Web usage. Mobile broadband providers were caught selling their customers’ real-time location data to third parties, and Internet providers can use browsing history to deliver targeted ads.

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Petnet goes offline for a week, can’t answer customers at all

Petnet goes offline for a week, can’t answer customers at all

This pup will stare at you balefully until someone—or something—feeds it already.

Enlarge / This pup will stare at you balefully until someone—or something—feeds it already. (credit: Petnet)

Automated or otherwise mechanized pet feeders aren’t particularly new; you can find analog models dating back to 1939 at least. But the 21st century being what it is, of course there are now app-driven, cloud-connected “smart” feeders that you control from your phone. And when some mysterious outage takes out that system for a full week, you and your furry friend may end up deeply annoyed.

The Petnet smartfeeder is one such system, and it did indeed recently suffer one such outage, as spotted by TechCrunch. Systems do occasionally go offline, it is true—but Petnet’s outage seems emblematic of the difficulties consumers face with customer service in the app-driven economy. Namely, can you actually reach someone to complain?

Petnet began posting messages on Twitter on February 14 advising customers that some of its SmartFeeders “will appear offline,” although they still would nominally work to dispense food. Of course, when something doesn’t work, most people will try to turn it off and back on again, as that’s the first-line repair for basically everything with a power switch. That, alas, was not the solution here, and Petnet explicitly advised against turning feeders off or on, adding, “We will continue to provide updates on this matter.”

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California man arrested on charges his DDoSes took down candidate’s website

California man arrested on charges his DDoSes took down candidate’s website

California man arrested on charges his DDoSes took down candidate’s website

Enlarge (credit: US Air Force)

A California man has been arrested on charges he used distributed denial-of-service attacks to take down the website of a Congressional candidate whose rival employed his wife.

Arthur Jan Dam, 32, of Santa Monica, was arrested by FBI agents on Thursday. According to a criminal complaint filed in Los Angeles federal court, Dam DDoSed the website of a candidate that The Intercept reported was running against Katie Hill in the 2018 primary election. Hill won by fewer than 3,000 votes and went on to flip a Republican-held seat in the general election. Hill later resigned after nude photos of her were published without her consent.

Dam, who The Intercept reported was married to Hill fundraiser Kelsey O’Hara, allegedly staged four attacks that took down the website of Bryan Caforio, Hill’s rival candidate in the primary. The candidate spent from $27,000 to $30,000 in response to the 21-hour outages and also experienced a reduction of campaign contributions. Rolling Stone reported on the attacks in the September 2018 election. The FBI has not uncovered any evidence that either Hill or Dam’s wife had any involvement in the attacks, prosecutors said in a release. Friday’s complaint didn’t identify either the candidates or Dam’s wife.

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A weed dealer’s $59M lesson: Don’t hide Bitcoin keys with a fishing rod

A weed dealer’s $59M lesson: Don’t hide Bitcoin keys with a fishing rod

If only it were this easy to catch lost Bitcoin credentials.

Enlarge / If only it were this easy to catch lost Bitcoin credentials. (credit: Cravetiger / Getty Images)

In a world where various mass breaches dictate the use of strong, randomized passwords more than ever, reliable and secure credentials management is paramount in 2020. One Irish drug dealer has evidently learned this lesson the hard way.

This week, the Irish Times reported the sad tale of Clifton Collins, a 49-year-old cannabis grower from Dublin. Collins quietly grew and sold his product for 12 years, and he amassed a small fortune by using some of that revenue to buy bitcoins around 2011 and 2012 before the price of the cryptocurrency soared. But in 2017, state authorities on a routine overnight patrol spotted and then arrested Collins with an estimated $2,171 of cannabis in his car. The man quickly earned himself a five-year jail sentence.

According to the Times: as part of authorities’ investigation, Ireland’s Criminal Assets Bureau discovered and confiscated 12 Bitcoin wallets belonging to Collins totaling nearly $59 million (reportedly the biggest financial case in CAB’s 25-year history). There was only one problem—CAB couldn’t access the accounts because Collins had lost the keys.

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