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Amazon is finally offering a simple way for its cloud services customers to lock down data stored at its Simple Storage Service (S3) with one fell swoop. This change should help companies in the Fortune 500 and mom-and-pops down the street avoid embarrassing breaches of data.
Customers of Amazon Web Services (AWS) routinely leave private files available for public consumption. That’s led to routine, sometimes costly situations for companies that find hackers or security researchers have retrieved customer information, databases containing user passwords, or even proprietary company secrets.
That includes the global consulting and management firm Accenture, which in October 2017 left four of its S3 storage areas, known as “buckets,” open to public examination and download. Over 137 gigabytes of data could have been retrieved, including 40,000 unencrypted passwords. Accenture’s cloud platform, hosted on Amazon’s services, include 92 of the Fortune Global 100 and three-quarters of the Fortune Global 500. A security researcher discovered the public data and informed Accenture.
In August 2018, a researcher discovered that a company that sells surveillance software it markets for parents, Spyfone, left an Amazon S3 bucket publicly available, and intimate and personal data extracted from thousands of people its customers were monitoring were exposed, according to Motherboard. This included several terabytes of camera photos.
Last November, Amazon released a change that gave system administrators better notification about any storage buckets set to public access, using an orange label in its file-browsing dashboard.
The change released on Nov. 16, however, allows top-down control for an entire storage area, including disabling overrides for individual folders or files within it. This will prevent companies from leaving data open for global snooping—if they’re attentive enough to know about the new feature and enable it.
The number of security breaches due to customer settings at Amazon S3 has been so high that articles at tech sites devote themselves to listing them all.
Notable breaches include Uber, which exposed personal data of about 57 million customers in October 2016, and didn’t disclose the matter [until November 2017](Dara Khosrowshahi), after it had hired a new CEO; Deep Root Analytics, which exposed personal data on 198 million American voters; and the WWE wrestling entertainment firm, which exposed personal details of 3 million of its fans.
Look, we won’t waste your time here. There are more important things going on in the world. But if you use any of Google’s G Suite products, you’ll be glad you read this.
You know how every time you want to create a new Google doc or spreadsheet, you have to go into Google Drive, and then click New, and the click on what kind of file you need, and the whole time you’re just thinking about all the other, better things you could be doing with the six seconds it takes to click those clicks? Good news: You don’t have to do that anymore. Instead, just type in doc.new, or sheet.new, or slide.new, or form.new if you’re an edge case, or whatever. And behold! A new file will unfold before you.
It’s not just those! Variants also work, like sheets.new or spreadsheets.new. And yes, it’s a very small advance. But these days, even the little wins are worth celebrating.
There’s no real magic to this; Google’s just taking advantage of the “.new” top level domain registry, which it has operated since 2014 through its Charleston Road Registry subsidiary. (A TLD is the part of the URL that comes after the dot.) In its application at the time, the company said potential uses “may include but are not limited to applications such as media (tv show.new, author name.new) and marketing campaigns (cheerios.new, shampoo.new).”
“The .new gTLD will provide a new mechanism whereby businesses and individuals can differentiate their content by signifying that their offerings are ‘new,’” the application later continues. A little on the nose, but useful!
In one sense, using .new as a shortcut for G Suite files also serves as something of an advertisement; the company said in a very brief blog post that it plans to open up its fancy TLD to everyone next year. Which is to say, as useful as the Google Docs shortcut is, brace yourself for the shampoo ad sites to come.
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I’ve put time, effort and money into my Fortnite: Battle Royale account, linked to my PS4. I’ve got the John Wick skin with the Glider to match. I’ve got Raven, Lightshow, Super Striker and a few more premium skins. I’ve got a fully-levelled Carbide and I’ll have The Visitor as soon as some people land in Snobby Shores so I can kill them. I have a little home in the game, a locker where all my past achievements and indulgences sit in a nice little stack. When season 5 starts, however, I’m packing it in. I’ll start a new account on my Xbox One and go from there. I’ll do the same for all other games going forward.
Last week, Sony put its foot in it and has, after some apparent consideration, decided to leave it there. Epic Games released Fortnite: Battle Royale on Switch to expected fanfare, giving people who want to play the game on the go a much more accurate option than the excellent if lacking mobile port. The dream was clear: I could play Fortnite on PS4 at home, and then use my Switch when I was on the road or just out of the house. But that’s not how Sony saw its dream, and it’s locked my account out of ever playing on Switch. The company hasn’t exactly been supportive of crossplay in the past, but this is the first time it’s caused it any serious trouble.
With this looking hostility to crossplay lurking in the background, it leaves me wondering if I’ll get left behind in other games if I start my account on PS4 if and when a Switch port appears. The Switch won’t get every major game, but it will get some, and it doesn’t appear that Sony has any intention of letting its platform play nice any time soon–it’s also just easier to keep these things all in one place. The Xbox One works just fine, thank you very much, and I may as well just play here: watch the free market at work.
Am I certain to run into crossplay or cross-progression problems if I’m playing a game on PS4? No, I’m not. Crossplay is a relatively new phenomenon in the industry and not all that widespread. But Fortnite is instructive about how things can go wrong even if you didn’t necessarily expect them to: when I first started playing I just booted it up on PS4 like I usually do, and it was fun when I found I could move my progression to mobile or PC. But I had grown accustomed to his, and so when I wanted to play on Switch I was pretty annoyed to find out I’d have to start my Battle Pass all the way over. It’s not the worst problem, but it’s one place where the Xbox One now has a clear, inarguable advantage. As a multiplatform player with the choice to migrate it feels like the only natural move.
Going forward, it just seems silly to invest time into levelling an account on Sony if crossplay might be in the cards sometime in the future, and I have to imagine some other multiplatform players are feeling the same way.
Right now, this isn’t such a bee in Sony’s bonnet. I already have a PS4 Pro, and so the company loses out on a small amount of PSN percentages if I buy my V-Bucks on Xbox Live. But that’s now. If this continues to be a problem, this could be the reason that people choose to buy the next Xbox over the next PlayStation in what appears to be an increasingly crossplay friendly future. And that’s not just a bee in Sony’s bonnet, it’s a hornet in its hat.
Until recently, Korean company Samsung was said to behind its competitors in terms of researching and developing artificial intelligence (AI) technology, but the company’s recent strategy suggests that it’s committed to closing the gap and even competing for the top spot. Since 70 percent of the world’s data is produced and stored on Samsung’s products, the company is the leading provider of data storage products in the world. By revenue, Samsung is the largest consumer electronics company in the world—yes, it has even overtaken Apple and sells 500 million connected devices a year. From industry events to setting goals with AI at the forefront to updating products to use artificial intelligence, Samsung seems to have gone full throttle in preparing for the 4th industrial revolution.
Bringing innovators together
Samsung started 2018 with intention to be an artificial intelligence leader by organizing the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Summit and brought together 300 university students, technical experts and leading academics to explore ways to accelerate AI research and to develop the best commercial applications of AI.
Samsung has Dr. Larry Heck, world-renowned AI and voice recognition leader, on their AI research team. At the summit, Dr. Heck emphasized the need for collaboration within the AI industry so that there would be a higher level of confidence and adoption by consumers and to allow AI to flourish. Samsung announced plans to host more AI-related events as well as the creation of a new AI Research Center dedicated to AI research and development. The research center will bolster Samsung’s expertise in artificial intelligence.
Bixby: Samsung’s AI Assistant
Bixby, Samsung’s artificial intelligence system designed to make device interaction easier, debuted with the Samsung Galaxy S8. The latest version, 2.0, is a “fundamental leap forward for digital assistants.” Bixby 2.0 allows the AI system to be available on all devices including TVs, refrigerators, washers, smartphones and other connected devices. It’s also open to developers so that it will be more likely to integrate with other products and services.
Bixby is contextually aware and understands natural language to help users interact with increasingly complex devices. Samsung plans to introduce a Bixby speaker to compete with Google Home and Amazon Alexa.
I know what you’re thinking. I must be crazy right? What can be wrong with taking advantage of employee connections to find your next hire? After all, studies have found that referral hiring saves money, takes less time, lowers employee turnover rates, and is rising in popularity.
While none of these things are untrue, referral hiring isn’t just this perfect strategy with no strings attached. In fact, a lot can go wrong with using referrals, and it can often lead to terribly regrettable hiring decisions. Here’s how:
1. It encourages laziness.
Referral hiring can potentially make it so easy to hire a candidate that companies become complacent. In other words: too much of a good thing is actually a bad thing.
Part of what makes referral hiring so appealing is that it gives companies the ability to outright skip parts of the recruitment process. Once you get a good number of potential referrals, you simply identify which among them will be your best bets. There’s no longer the need to go through thousands of resumes and job applications to find the perfect candidate. No need to go to job fairs or to advertise on social media. Perhaps you also skip the phone interview stage and jump straight to on-site interviews.
The result? You save time and you save money, just like what studies claim. But as a consequence, your talent pool is significantly smaller and your screening process isn’t as comprehensive as what it should have been.
2. It forces biased decision-making.
Alright, so maybe it doesn’t necessarily force you to be biased about your hiring decisions, but it’s definitely a very real concern and something that’s very difficult to avoid. In fact, companies don’t avoid biased decision-making. They embrace it. This is why referral hiring is so popular to begin with and why referral candidates have their applications placed right on top of the pile. What else would explain why referred candidates are so much more likely to be hired than your average applicant. It’s why business connections are so important in the first place.
Ask yourself this though. Does having a pre-established connection with someone make this someone a better fit for the job? Are they somehow smarter, harder working, more creative, more driven, or more likely to do a better job than the next guy?
From what I can tell, the answer is “no,” and that’s what makes referral hiring so dangerous. Referred candidates have a way, way higher chance at getting the job, yet when you look at their actual credentials and work experience, they’re often no more qualified than everyone else applying.
3. It doesn’t find you the best talent.
Isn’t the whole point of the hiring process to find top talent? I’m not talking about good talent or good cultural fit. I’m talking about the very best of the best. The elite. The cream of the crop. Now what are the chances this person just so happens to be someone your employees already know? Not very likely from my guess. The point is, finding the best person for the job should be a lot harder than simply going through a list of your employees’ existing connections.
Look. I’m not advocating for you to eradicate referral hiring from your arsenal of hiring strategies. I’d be lying to you if I said I don’t use referral hiring myself. However, it’s important to consider some of the possible ramifications when using it.
While referral hiring does have its merits, it also has its fair share of issues as well. It can shrink your talent pool and cause you to make suboptimal hiring decisions.
Chinese customs officers have arrested smugglers who attempted to drop millions of dollars worth of iPhones from drones into China.
Twenty-six suspects were arrested in China recently after they tried to use drones to fly two 660-foot cables from Hong Kong to Shenzhen, according to Reuters. Those cables were going to be used to lift iPhones worth 500 million yuan ($ 79.6 million) to the mainland, where they could be sold via the black market for a hefty profit, according to the report. A local Chinese report from the Legal Daily said it was the first time drones were employed to smuggle phones.
The operation was set to go off at night, where smugglers would pack small bags with approximately 10 iPhones and attach them to the drones. Those drones would then fly from Hong Kong to the mainland in just a matter of seconds. According to Reuters, the smugglers had the ability to transport up to 15,000 iPhones each night.
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Smuggling of high-value products—like iPhones, jewelry, and luxury products—is nothing new in China. In fact, the government has been working hard to crackdown on the practice and do a better job of breaking up what has become an increasingly powerful black market.
Smuggling gangs often steal devices or buy them at a deeply reduced rate and sell them for a higher price in China. They’re careful, however, to keep their prices below the going rate for those who purchase products legitimately. The result is a profitable business for smugglers and an opportunity for Chinese consumers to get authentic goods at a cheaper price.
Despite breaking up the drone attempt, Shenzhen officials warned that smuggling would continue. According to Reuters, the customs officers are planning to use several types of equipment to thwart other attempts by the smugglers.
BEIJING (Reuters) – Customs officers in southern China’s technology hub Shenzhen busted a group of criminals using drones to smuggle 500 million yuan ($ 79.8 million) worth of smartphones from Hong Kong to Shenzhen, the official Legal Daily reported on Friday.
Authorities arrested 26 suspects who used drones to fly two 200-meter (660-feet) cables between Hong Kong and the mainland to transport refurbished iPhones with a total value of 500 million yuan, the paper said in a report on the crackdown by Shenzhen and Hong Kong customs.
“It’s the first case found in China that drones were being used in cross-border smuggling crimes,” the Legal Daily reported, citing a news conference held by Shenzhen customs on Thursday.
The smugglers usually operated after midnight and only needed seconds to transport small bags holding more than 10 iPhones using the drones, the report quoted customs as saying. The gang could smuggle as many as 15,000 phones across the border in one night, it said.
Regulating the use of drones has become an important task for China, the world’s largest manufacturer of consumer drones.
China published strict rules last year to tackle incidents of drones straying into aircraft flight paths, including requiring owners of civilian drones to register craft up to a certain weight under their real names.
Shenzhen customs was quoted by the Legal Daily as saying it would closely monitor new types of smuggling with high-tech devices and enhance their capability with technical equipment, including drones and high-resolution monitors, to detect smuggling activity.
Reporting by Lusha Zhang and Se Young Lee; Editing by Paul Tait
If you’re an Apple iPhone user who also enjoys Twitter, listen up.
Pranksters on the social media service have been sharing a character from the Indian Telugu language that causes iPhones to crash, according to Mashable. The offending users have been putting the character into their Twitter usernames and tweets and encouraging people to share them with their friends. If the character lands in a user’s Twitter feed, it will cause the social app to crash. The app will continue to crash after users try to boot it back up, ultimately stopping victims from accessing the service on their iPhones.
Last week, reports surfaced saying that a single Telugu character was enough to wreak havoc on iPhones. When the character is sent via any messaging or social networking app, the affected user’s app will crash. While it’s an obscure bug that only affects Apple’s iOS 11, it’s one that pranksters and those trying to cause harm are exploiting across the Internet. Worst of all, there’s no fix at the moment and unsuspecting victims needn’t do anything to be affected.
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Apple acknowledged the Telugu bug last week and has promised a fix. The company hasn’t yet delivered, though, and it’s impossible to say when it’ll be released.
According to Mashable, which tested the bug on Twitter, the only way for affected users to regain access to the app is to log in via Safari and block the person that shared the character. At that point, the character won’t show up in their feeds and Twitter will be accessible.
Is there anything more satisfying than finder a quicker way to your destination? You might be in a car, or on foot, or you’re building a software product or a company culture and suddenly—Jeez, that was easier.
Sometimes, it works. As transportation editor Alex Davies reported this week, companies building self-driving cars have found that it’s important—necessary, even—to use remote drivers, sitting behind screens miles away, if they want to get their less-than-perfect tech on the road. Sweet. Alex also took a look at Nuro, a brand new self-driving mini-truck startup that wants to deliver your snacks to you, so you never have to leave your block again. Also sweet.
Sometimes, however, shortcuts are a bad idea. Uber bought an ex-Waymo engineer’s autonomous truck startup because it thought the engineer’s company could give it a tech boost. But Waymo sued, and the two tech giants are set to face off in court next week. State governments thought they could go green quickly by buying “recycled” pavement—but they might not be saving money, or the environment, in the long run. Pick your timesavers carefully, kiddos.
Plus, news about an Alphabet company’s new effort to organize cities’ travel data, a Pax Britannica among tech companies for the purpose of building safer streets (and protecting their business models), and a place to find everything you have ever wanted to know about autonomous vehicles. Let’s get you caught up.
Stories you might have missed from WIRED this week
A blockbuster trade secrets lawsuit between Waymo and Uber is set to kick off Monday. Here’s what you need to know about the self-driving tech dispute—and why you really, really must pay attention.
Alex uncovers a secret fact about the growing autonomous vehicle sector: Almost every tech developer is leaning on remote drivers, who can guide cars through problem spots from miles away. Self-driving…to a point. For safety’s sake, of course.
Ford looks out into the horizon and sees the sunset of the personal automobile—in cities, at least. So it’s building a cloud platform, an operating system for the city of the future.
Sidewalk Labs, Alphabet’s urban solutions company, is doing something similar, trying to put all public and private city transportation data in one, accessible, shareable space. Say hello to its new spin-off company, Coord.
Fifteen tech companies came together to sign onto ten new, very nice-sounding “commandments” for livable cities. They include open data, equity, and a zero-emission future. But don’t give anyone too much credit. Those companies still have to make actual changes to the way cities operate, writer Jack Stewart warns.
A new report suggests American public transit needs to adapt to meet the future—and can’t blame all its problems, or pin all its hopes, on mobility companies like Uber and Lyft.
In a vague-ish announcement, Waymo says it’s purchasing “thousands” of new Chrysler Pacificas that will operate without a driver at the wheel.
Hello to Nuro, a new self-driving delivery truck startup from fancy Google alums. The company is betting it can deliver stuff sans humans in three to five years.
I take a deep dive into the science of “green” pavement. If done wrong, pavement could hurt the local ecosystem; if done right, that black and grey stuff beneath your feet could do its part to save the world.
Need to get up to speed on what self-driving cars even mean? Check out WIRED’s new guide, a constantly updated deep dive.
Car-Table Hybrid of the Week
The world is a wide and wondrous place, so of course you can plunk down some undetermined sum of money to buy a car frozen into a table, à la Han Solo Chez Jabba. The specially commissioned, 10-car/table collection is from the chrome nerds at Discommon.
News from elsewhere on the internet.
- Because Uber and Waymo shouldn’t have all the fun, this week the beseiged electric car company Faraday Future filed suit against its former CFO’s new startup—for trade secret theft.
- Joby Aviation, which has raised $ 130 million in funding, unveils its new flying car cough electric plane-drone hybrid cough. The company wants to operate its own airborne ride-hailing service.
- Self-driving vehicle startup Phantom AI gets into a scary crash while operating semiautonomous features—and while TechCrunch reporters were inside.
- Uber teams up with electric bicycle-sharing company Jump for a San Francisco pilot project. Users will be able to track down a bike and and pay for a ride within Uber’s app.
- California startup Udelv staged an autonomous vehicle grocery delivery in the Bay Area this week. It wants dozens more of its orange robots on the roads soon.
- If you’re the type of car nerd who watches the Super Bowl for the commercials, here’s everything you need to know before the game.
- Is this German man a hero or a villain?
In the Rearview
Essential Stories from WIRED’s canon
India’s Silicon Valley nearly doubled in population in less than two decades. But it turns out you can’t take shortcuts to economic development without caring for the natural resources. Last May, Samanth Subramanian explored why Bangalore, once land of hundreds of lakes, is now dying of thirst.