The Mac Observer's CES 2020 coverage sponsored by:

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  • CES 2020

CES 2020: Apple Privacy Chief Defends Company Stance on Encryption and Backdoors

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Apple’s senior director for global privacy, Jane Horvath, spoke on a panel at CES. She used the opportunity to defend the company’s stance on user privacy, speaking out in favor of encryption and preventing software backdoors, according to MacRumors.

Jane Horvath, Apple’s senior director for global privacy, joined an all-female panel consisting of representatives from Facebook, Procter & Gamble and the Federal Trade Commission. During the discussion, Horvath defended Apple’s use of encryption to protect customer data on mobile devices.  “Our phones are relatively small and they get lost and stolen,” Horvath said. “If we’re going to be able to rely on our health data and finance data on our devices, we need to make sure that if you misplace that device, you’re not losing your sensitive data.” Apple has held a consistent position regarding its use of encryption, even if that means it has limited ability to help law enforcement access data on devices involved in criminal investigations.

Apple Wins Patent for Variable Illumination System for Keyboards

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Apple has been granted a patent for a variable internal illumination color system, according to Patently Apple. Such a system could be used in keyboards and other devices.

Apple’s granted patent covers devices, systems and methods that implement variable internal illumination of input devices of electronic equipment. Input devices include keys of computer keyboards, contact areas on a contact pad (trackpad), buttons on instrument control panels, buttons on a computer mouse, and the like. Rather than having a fixed tone (such as a perceived “warmth” or “coolness”, and/or a particular color component such as a hue) or color for the light emitted by the internal illumination, user experience can be improved by using variable internal illumination, i.e., internal illumination that can be varied dynamically during operation of the electronic device.

Texas Sees Surge in Iranian Cyber Attacks

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Texas officials say they’ve seen an increase in Iranian cyber attacks. Over the past two days as many as “10,000 probes…per minute” came from the country.

Speaking after a meeting of the Texas Domestic Terrorism Task Force, of which she’s a member, Crawford of the state information resources agency said as far as she knows, none of the attempted cyberattacks on state government networks originating in Iran have been successful.

Here’s What Data is Accessible With Cloud Forensics

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When a company like Cellebrite or GrayKey use their devices to break into your iPhone, it’s not just your local data that can be accessed. Using various types of “cloud forensics” or cloud extraction technology, they can get your data in the cloud as well. It’s a long read but worth it.

Cellebrite’s UFED Cloud Analyzer, for example, uses login credentials that can be extracted from the device to then pull a history of searches, visited pages, voice search recording and translations from Google web history and view text searches conducted with Chrome and Safari on iOS devices backed-up iCloud.

Travelex Infected With Sodinokibi Ransomware, Attacker Wants $3M

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A cyber attack infected international foreign currency exchange Travelex with Sodinokibi ransomware. The attackers are demanding US$3 million.

The attack occurred on December 31 and affected some Travelex services. This prompted the company to take offline all its computer systems, a precaution meant “to protect data and prevent the spread of the virus.”

We were told that they deleted the backup files and that the ransom demanded was $3 million; if not paid in seven days (countdown likely started on December 31), the attackers said they will publish the data they stole.

MoneyWiz 3 Personal Finance: $19.99

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We have a deal on MoneyWiz 3, a personal finance app for the Mac, with 4.4 stars out of 5 on the Mac App Store. You can enter transactions manually, import bank statements or connect to your bank for automatic updates. It also features budgets and its own cloud syncing service. This app is $19.99 through our deal, and it includes and license for the Standard Version (normally $49.99) that includes multi-device sync but excludes online banking access.

Facebook to Ban Deepfakes, But Misinformation Remains

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Facebook HQ

Facebook banned “deepfakes” on Monday. However, as The Guardian reported, its updated policy left plenty of loopholes for misinformation to get through.

The policy explicitly covers only misinformation produced using AI, meaning “shallow fakes” – videos made using conventional editing tools – though frequently just as misleading, are still allowed on the platform. The new policy, announced on Monday by Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management, will result in the removal of misleading video from Facebook and Instagram if it meets two criteria: It has been edited or synthesised … in ways that aren’t apparent to an average person and would likely mislead someone into thinking that a subject of the video said words that they did not actually say. […] It is the product of artificial intelligence or machine learning that merges, replaces or superimposes content onto a video, making it appear to be authentic.

Fresh Cambridge Analytica Leaks Reveal Scope of Manipulation

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A fresh wave of Cambridge Analytica leaks is being disseminated by the press, and it reveals that its misinformation and manipulation reached at least 65 countries.

Platforms whose profiteering purpose is to track and target people at global scale — which function by leveraging an asymmetrical ‘attention economy’ — have zero incentive to change or have change imposed upon them. Not when the propaganda-as-a-service business remains in such high demand…

This campaign is still going, because Cambridge Analytica shut down and renamed itself as Emerdata.

PDF Expert: $29.99

· · TMO Deals

We have a deal on PDF Expert for Mac from Readdle. You can create and edit PDFs, work with large PDFs smoothly, and it allows you to annotate PDFs, merge them, and much more. This PDF editor also has a nice list of distinctions, including being 2015 App of the Year in the Mac App Store and Top Paid App in the Mac App Store. It’s $29.99 through our deal.

The 20th Anniversary of Internet Explorer 5 For Mac, And The Difficulty of Dealing With Steve Jobs

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Internet Explorer 5 Mac

Sunday, January 5th, marked the 20th anniversary of the release of Internet Explorer 5 for Mac. One of the developers on the project, Jimmy Grewal, recalled releasing the product, and the difficulty of dealing with Steve Jobs.

I was 22 years old and I was thrown into the deep end of the browser wars, the Microsoft anti-trust trial, and the love/hate relationship between Microsoft and Apple. I don’t want to delve into the details of what made MacIE 5 special because my friend Tantek Çelik has already documented that on his blog. Rather I want to focus on the inside story of how and why it was developed, and some of the people and personalities that shaped it’s success and eventual demise.

Wi-Fi 6 Will Get 6 GHz Capabilities Under Name ‘Wi-Fi 6E’

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The Wi-Fi Alliance is extending Wi-Fi 6 into the 6 GHz band for faster performance, faster data rates, and lower latency. It’s called Wi-Fi 6E.

Wi-Fi 6E devices are expected to become available quickly following 6 GHz regulatory approvals, utilizing this additional spectrum capacity to deliver continuous Wi-Fi innovation and valuable contributions to consumers, businesses and economies.

Wi-Fi Alliance: “We’re moving away from 802.11.xx because that’s too confusing.”

Also Wi-Fi Alliance: “Welcome to Wi-Fi 6E.”

How Pokémon Go Changes People's Lives

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Pokémon Go may not be as high profile as it once was, but it remains hugely popular. The geo-location based game has also helped many people, including those with disabilities, as BBC News discovered.

Matthew Gibson, the proud collector of more than 500 Pikachu soft toys, “didn’t want to go out much” before Pokémon Go launched. “I was like, ‘mum it’s a bit windy,’… or, ‘mum it’s a bit rainy,’… I didn’t even want to go out in the sun because there was nothing to do,” said 26-year-old Mr Gibson, who has cerebral palsy and autism. But he was “fantastically excited” when the game was released and says it has led him to places he would never have explored otherwise. “I’ve [found] things in my neighbourhood that I didn’t know were there. I even go to places like the parks and the castles so I can do Pokémon while mum and dad are looking around.”

The Anki Vector Robot is Coming Back

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Anki built little companion robots like Vector and Cosmo. But in early 2019 the company ran out of money and shut down. But the CEO of Digital Dream Labs announced it had purchased Anki’s assets and will continue to develop the Anki Vector robot.

1)  We will develop an “Escape Pod”.  This will, safely, expose settings and allow the user to move and set endpoints, and by doing so, remove the need for the cloud server.

2)  We will develop a “Dev Vector”.  Many users have asked us for open source and the ability to do more with their Vector even to the point of hosting him on their own servers.  With this feature, developers will be able to customize their robot through a bootloader we will develop.

A DNA Computer Just Computed Square Root of 900

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DNA strand

Researchers at the University of Rochester created a computer that uses 32 DNA strands to store and process information. It can calculate the square root of square numbers 1, 4, 9, 16, 25 and so on up to 900.

To start, the team encodes a number onto the DNA using a combination of ten building blocks. Each combination represents a different number up to 900, and is attached to a fluorescence marker.

The team then controls hybridisation in such a way that it changes the overall fluorescent signal so that it corresponds to the square root of the original number. The number can then be deduced from the colour.

Over 90% of Postpaid Phones Sold are Apple and Samsung

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Over 90% of the postpaid phones sold at the Big Four carrier stores in the U.S. are either iPhones or Samsung phones.

Apple and Samsung together sold 94 percent of phones at Verizon stores, 95 percent at AT&T stores, 94 percent at Sprint stores, and 91 percent at T-Mobile stores, according to the report. The most popular phone at all four carriers in December was the iPhone 11, the firm says. The top-selling Samsung Phone was the Galaxy S10.

I’d say it’s probably because the price of most iPhones and Samsungs are high enough to where the stores can make money off them.

10-Foot MFi-Certified Braided Lightning Cables 3-Pack: $15

· · TMO Deals

We have a deal on a 3-pack of 10-foot MFi-Certified braided Lightning cables. The sheathing is braided nylon, and they’re available in Black, White, Silver, Pink, and Gold. You’ll find an option for a 6-pack of cables in the deal listing, too. The 3-pack is $15 through our deal.

New iPhone Displays Could be Thinner And More Power Efficient

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Reports coming from Korea, picked up MacRumors, indicate that the 2020 iPhone will likely have thinner displays. They could also be more power-efficient too.

This mirrors a recent report from Korean website ETNews, which claimed that so-called iPhone 12 Pro models will adopt a technology that allows touchscreen circuitry to be directly patterned on the OLED panel without the need for a separate layer, resulting in a thinner display and lower production costs. ETNews said a lower-cost 6.1-inch model, presumably the iPhone 12, will stick with a traditional film-based display. It is unclear if thinner displays would translate to thinner iPhones as a whole this year.

Former Top Google Exec Gives Devastating Explanation of Why he Quit

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Google has faced internal staff protests and criticism in recent times over its approach to human rights both at home and abroad. The firm’s former head of international relations, Ross LaJeunesse, revealed on Thursday his concerns in this area prompted him to quit.

Each time I recommended a Human Rights Program, senior executives came up with an excuse to say no. At first, they said human rights issues were better handled within the product teams, rather than starting a separate program. But the product teams weren’t trained to address human rights as part of their work. When I went back to senior executives to again argue for a program, they then claimed to be worried about increasing the company’s legal liability. We provided the opinion of outside experts who re-confirmed that these fears were unfounded. At this point, a colleague was suddenly re-assigned to lead the policy team discussions for Dragonfly. As someone who had consistently advocated for a human rights-based approach, I was being sidelined from the on-going conversations on whether to launch Dragonfly. I then realized that the company had never intended to incorporate human rights principles into its business and product decisions. Just when Google needed to double down on a commitment to human rights, it decided to instead chase bigger profits and an even higher stock price.

Inside Big Tech’s Manipulation of AI Ethics Research

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It’s a long read, but Rodrigo Ochigame, former AI researcher at MIT’s Media Lab, examined Big Tech’s negative role in AI ethics research.

MIT lent credibility to the idea that big tech could police its own use of artificial intelligence at a time when the industry faced increasing criticism and calls for legal regulation…Meanwhile, corporations have tried to shift the discussion to focus on voluntary “ethical principles,” “responsible practices,” and technical adjustments or “safeguards” framed in terms of “bias” and “fairness” (e.g., requiring or encouraging police to adopt “unbiased” or “fair” facial recognition).

Techno Artist Curtis Wallen Created a ‘Clandestine Communication Network’

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Dramatic interpretation of a hacker plying his trade

Curtis Wallen’s latest project, called Proposition For An On Demand Clandestine Communication Network, tells people how to avoid surveillance and make a secret phone call.

This is not easy, of course. In fact, it’s really, comically hard. “If the CIA can’t even keep from getting betrayed by their cell phones, what chance do we have?” he says. Still, Wallen believes PropCom could theoretically keep users’ activities hidden. It’s hard, he emphasizes, but not impossible.

He basically uses a prepaid burner phone, a Faraday bag, and an encrypted phone number. I hope he bought the phone from a place that doesn’t use cameras or facial recognition, because that could help trace him.