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A "Server Misconfiguration" Was Behind the Facebook Outage

Facebook and Instagram were down for about 14 hours earlier this week, and earlier reports suggested that the underlying cause was a BGP routing issue. As time went on without an official explanation, many started to suspect that the outage was related to an attack on the platform. But yesterday, Facebook tweeted that the trouble was a "result of a server configuration change." There's still no mention of the incident in Facebook's official newsroom, and some news outlets are starting to criticize the timeliness of Facebook's response and explanation. One security analyst told the BBC that "Facebook's motto always used to be 'move fast and break things'. That's fine when you're an innovative start-up, but when billions of people are using your site every month it's not a good way to run the business."

Yesterday, as a result of a server configuration change, many people had trouble accessing our apps and services. We've now resolved the issues and our systems are recovering. We're very sorry for the inconvenience and appreciate everyone's patience.

Posted by alphaatlas March 15, 2019 9:00 AM (CDT)

The Biggest Problem with Triple-A, Open-World Games: "They're Boring as Hell"

"I don’t wanna do my video game chores": the alleged monotony of Red Dead Redemption 2 has driven The Outline to publish an opinion piece arguing that many of the latest big-budget, open-world video games are technically impressive, but their scale and grandeur is merely a ruse to hide their shallow, dull gameplay. The author admits repetition is fundamental in gaming but claims RDR2 and other "Real World Games" have taken tediousness to a whole new level, in which players are forced to perform tasks implemented merely to inflate the length of a game.

This is the standard experience of playing a so-called Real World Game, which other than RDR2 includes games like Horizon Zero Dawn (2017), and No Man’s Sky (2016) before the developers actually made it interesting. It’s a genre that prizes size over depth. It’s usually open-world, pretty easy to play, has a medium-length main quest that’s typically bolstered by an endless series of pointless side quests and collecti-quests (Collect every trophy! Capture every animal! Step on every plant!) to bolster its total playtime. A Real World Game also prizes supposed verisimilitude at the expense of fun.

Posted by Megalith March 03, 2019 12:20 PM (CST)

Facebook Is Allegedly Working on Custom Machine Learning Hardware

Nvidia GPUs are the undisputed king of the machine learning hardware market today, but more and more companies are throwing their hat into the AI ring. Google has already introduced their machine learning-focused TPU, and other giants like Amazon and Intel are reportedly following suit, while a number of smaller startups are filling in niches or taking riskier approaches to compete with the bigger players. Last year, various reports surfaced claiming that Facebook was working on their own, custom ASICs, but an EE Times report said that it was "not the equivalent of [Google's] TPU." Now, according to a Bloomberg report published earlier this week, some of Facebook's upcoming custom silicon may focus on machine learning after all. Facebook's chief AI researcher says that "the company is working on a new class of semiconductor that would work very differently than most existing designs," and mentioned that future chips will need radically different architectures.

"We don't want to leave any stone unturned, particularly if no one else is turning them over," he said in an interview ahead of the release Monday of a research paper he authored on the history and future of computer hardware designed to handle artificial intelligence... LeCun said that for the moment, GPUs would remain important for deep learning research, but the chips were ill-suited for running the AI algorithms once they were trained, whether that was in datacenters or on devices like mobile phones or home digital assistants.

Posted by alphaatlas February 20, 2019 9:35 AM (CST)

Hardware Unboxed Calls NVIDIA DLSS "The Biggest RTX Fail of Them All"

Hardware Unboxed has released its newest video where they dissect the image quality of Battlefield V with the new NVIDIA technology called Deep Learning Super Sample (DLSS) enabled. They not only compare the DLSS image quality to the native 4K image; Tim takes it a step further and compares the DLSS image to an 1685p upscaled 78% resolution scale image. They chose 1685p because it performs at a similar frame rate as when DLSS is enabled in-game. In all instances, the DLSS image looks to be a smeared image and the 1685p upscaled 78% resolution scale image is much more pleasing to look at. Tim Schiesser says, "The 1685p image destroys the DLSS image in terms of sharpness, texture quality, clarity; basically everything." He goes on to say, "The 78% scaled image preserves the fine detail on the rocks, the sign, the sandbags, the cloth, the gun; pretty much everywhere. With DLSS everything is blurred to the point where this detail is lost." Resolution scaling has been available to gamers for decades. They hold back no punches and say, "DLSS sucks."

But the real kicker is looking at the visual quality comparisons. We'll start with native 4K versus 4K DLSS. Across all of the scenes that I've tested, there is a severe loss of detail when switching on DLSS. Just look at the trees in this scene. The 4K presentation is just as you'd expect; sharp, clean, high detail on both the foliage and trunk textures. But DLSS is like a strong blur filter has been applied. Texture detail is completely wiped out. In some cases it's like you've loaded a low texture mode. While some of the fine branch detail has been blurred away, or even thickened in some cases. Which makes the game look kinda weird in some situations. Of course this is to be expected. DLSS was never going to supply the same image quality as native 4K while also providing a 37% performance uplift. That would be pretty much black magic. But the quality difference comparing the two is almost laughable at how far away DLSS is from the native presentation in these stressful areas.

Posted by cageymaru February 18, 2019 4:28 PM (CST)

Chinese Telecommunications Hardware Is About to Be Banned by Executive Order

The United States is gearing up for the widespread installation of 5G networks, but Chinese hardware may have no part in it: there is chatter an executive order will soon be issued banning such for upgrades of cellular networks. "As contracts for the installation of 5G networks are in the works, the White House is looking to send a message that security must not be compromised for the next generation of wireless connectivity."

The order is part of a series of announcements leading up to Mobile World Congress designed to showcase what the United States is doing to prevent cyber attacks from being harmful to the nation. Huawei has been under great scrutiny in recent times, but remember that ZTE was also heavily put under the microscope not long before. Accusations against the Chinese telecom companies have ranged from theft of trade secrets to violations of trade embargoes. As charges mount against Huawei executives, there is compelling reason to believe that the United States will not be awarding any contracts to Chinese businesses.

Posted by Megalith February 10, 2019 1:40 PM (CST)

Scammers Blackmail YouTubers with Copyright Claims

Motherboard reports that some scammers are using YouTube's "three strikes" takedown policy to extort money from legitimate YouTube channels. While the larger profile of popular channels might offer some protection, smaller channels seem to be particularly exposed. The ~8000-subscriber "ObbyRaidz" and "Kenzo" gaming channels, for example, were hit with 2 strikes by someone calling themselves "VengefulFlame, and were threatened with a potentially damaging 3rd strike if they didn't pay a Bitcoin or PayPal ransom. While "suspicious" copyright violation claims supposedly have to be verified by human YouTube staff, apparently, VengefulFlame "complied with the company's request, and YouTube wrongly took down the videos."

Automatic scans and manual takedown requests on YouTube often demonetize videos that use a second or two of copyrighted content in compliance with fair use laws, meaning money a creator would've made on the video is taken away, or diverted to the claimant. Sometimes, the video in question might contain no copyrighted material at all. Worse, creators say trying to get in touch with an actual human at the company to reverse the decision can be a nightmare. "I'm legitimately surprised it took this long" for scammers to start extorting channels, Katharine Trendacosta, a policy analyst at digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Motherboard. "The system is set up to incentivize false reports, and it is so bad at catching them and punishing people for making false reports."

Posted by alphaatlas February 08, 2019 8:37 AM (CST)

Google Uses TensorFlow to Fight Spam Emails

Google has announced that it uses TensorFlow, an open-source machine learning (ML) framework developed by Google, to block 99.9% of spam, phishing, and malware before it reaches Google's 1.5 billion Gmail customers each month. New improvements to protections powered by TensorFlow allow Google to detect and block an additional 100 million spam messages every day. The additional spam messages come from sources such as image-based messages, hidden embedded content, and newly created domains that seek to hide low volume spam campaigns behind legitimate traffic.

ML makes catching spam possible by helping us identify patterns in large data sets that humans who create the rules might not catch; it makes it easy for us to adapt quickly to ever-changing spam attempts. By complementing our existing ML models with TensorFlow, we're able to refine these models even further, while allowing the team to focus less on the underlying ML framework, and more on solving the problem: ridding your inbox of spam!

Posted by cageymaru February 06, 2019 1:26 PM (CST)

Ubisoft Apologizes for The Division 2 Email Promising "A Real Government Shutdown"

In what is becoming a weekly tradition, Ubisoft apologized for another misstep Thursday, this time for sending out a marketing email for The Division 2 with the subject line "Come see what a real government shutdown looks like in the Private Beta." Recipients were evidently offended by the French publisher/developer making light of the ongoing furlough, as it quickly renounced the message just hours later.

Not long after the email was issued, the publisher sent a retraction. "A marketing email promoting Tom Clancy's The Division 2 was sent in error today. This was a grave breakdown in process and we apologize for this error and the offensive subject line of the email. "We recognize the very real impact of the United States government shut down on thousands of people and did not intend to make light of the situation."

Posted by Megalith February 02, 2019 1:40 PM (CST)

New Data Dump Contains Billions of Email and Password Pairs

Following the leak of 773 million records from what security researchers call "Collection #1" earlier this month, experts are now saying that Collections #2 - #5" contain even more information. The Hasso Plattner Institute says that "around 2.2 billion e-mail addresses and the associated passwords circulate through Collections # 1 to # 5," and Naked Security claims the newly uncovered collections represent about 845GB of data covering 25 billion records. Needless to say, if you happen to have an email account, checking to see if other services tied to that account have been compromised with identity checking websites like Have I Been Pwned or HPI's tool is probably a good idea. It's quick and painless, and I just found several compromised accounts across 2 of my email addresses, which is a testament to why you should never re-use passwords. Thanks to schtask for the tip.

The obvious measure of these breaches is how much new data they represent, that which has not already been added to databases such as those amassed by HIBP or HPI. Have I Been Pwned? estimated the unique data in Collection #1 at around 140 million email addresses and at least 11 million unique passwords. HPI, meanwhile, estimates the number of new credentials at 750 million (it isn’t yet clear how many new passwords this includes)... When faced with these sorts of numbers, it's tempting to shrug one's shoulders and move on - most of these data breaches are old, so what harm might they be doing now? Initially, breached credentials are probably traded to give attackers access to the account on the service from which they were stolen. After that, they are quickly traded again to use as fuel for the epidemic of credential stuffing attacks. Credential stuffing thrives on our habit of reusing passwords - credentials for one service will often give a criminal access to other websites too. Remember that while plaintext passwords are pay-dirt for criminals, usernames and email addresses are also valuable because they give them something to aim at when trying a brute-force attack.

Posted by alphaatlas February 01, 2019 10:07 AM (CST)

Second Apple Hardware Engineer Charged with Stealing Trade Secrets for China

An Apple hardware engineer working in the top secret "Project Titan" autonomous vehicle division has been arrested for stealing trade secrets. A fellow Apple employee witnessed Jizhong Chen taking unauthorized pictures of the vehicle. He also neglected to tell Apple that he had been hired by an autonomous vehicle company in China. He was caught when he tried to board a flight to China. When confronted, he admitted to backing up 2,000 files containing manuals and schematics from the project to his personal hard drive. This is the second Apple engineer caught trying to board a plane to China with Apple autonomous vehicle trade secrets. Thanks @TheCommander !

Apple said disclosure of the data taken by Chen would be "enormously damaging," according to prosecutors. Among the photos seized by the government: an image stamped Dec. 19 diagramming Apple's autonomous driving architecture. Another from June 2018 depicts an assembly drawing of a wire harness for an autonomous vehicle. The engineer later told Apple he intended to travel to China to visit his ill father, but was arrested last week before he could board his direct flight. He was released from federal custody after posting $500,000 in cash and property on Jan. 25.

Posted by cageymaru January 30, 2019 5:30 PM (CST)

Hardware Unboxed Considers Ending Day One GeForce Coverage

RTX 2060 reviews are up across the web, or at least they are on sites that signed Nvidia's NDA. But Steve Walton of Hardware Unboxed, who also writes some of Techspot's hardware reviews, just posted an update to their RTX 2060 coverage. Apparently, Hardware Unboxed still hasn't received the RTX 2060 they were promised, and Steve suspects that's because Techspot's previous RTX review scores were slightly less than perfect. I'm not going to put any more words into his mouth, so you should check out his reasoning in the video below:

In his latest Hardware Unboxed video however he's inevitably feeling a little cranky. We'll let him explain in his own words, but long story short TechSpot/HUB did not receive an RTX 2060 graphics card for review like most other outlets. In fact, while following the regular process to get early access to the new hardware, we were left out in the cold, without prior knowledge the 2060 reviews would go live right after CEO Jensen Huang's keynote. Considering we're one of the few teams doing the kind of in-depth benchmarking and day one coverage on things such as ray tracing and DLSS, as well as our long history of reviewing Nvidia products... that may be more than enough reason to feel overly frustrated about this. Perhaps, Nvidia was feeling a little frustrated themselves when we didn't give their RTX hardware the warm reception they expected (see our top GPU picks here), but we'll stick to our methods and continue to provide the most honest reviews we can.

Thanks to cageymaru for the tip. Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas January 09, 2019 8:43 AM (CST)

Sextortion Scammers Sent Organizations Bomb Scare Emails Demanding Bitcoin

Sextortion scammers sent multiple organizations emails containing bomb threats yesterday. The perpetrators threatened to injure multitudes of people in the buildings where the emails were opened, if their demands for a $20,000 Bitcoin payment were not met. Previously these sextortion emails would threaten to dump acid on the victim, expose a dark secret, release an explicit video of them or physically beat them up. Cisco Talos says that none of the companies that were sent bomb scares paid the extortionists.

So far, all of the samples Talos has found to be associated with the bomb threat attack were sent from IP addresses belonging to the domain registrar and hosting company, suggesting that the attackers in this case may have compromised credentials for domains that are hosted at this particular domain registrar. Multiple IPs involved in sending these bomb threats also sent various types of sextortion email that we saw in the previous campaign. In those cases, the attackers sent out emails claiming to have compromising videos of the victim and will release them to the public unless the attacker receives a Bitcoin payment.

Posted by cageymaru December 14, 2018 5:45 PM (CST)