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Hackers are forcing Hollywood to reevaluate its cybersecurity

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(Bloomberg) — Sony. Netflix. And now, HBO.

While the 2014 hacking at Sony Pictures pushed entertainment giants to take computer security more seriously, recent incidents have exposed weaknesses throughout Hollywood’s food chain. Last week, as HBO investigated a cyberattack on its own systems, an unaired episode of its hit show “Game of Thrones” appeared online following an unrelated breach at a pay-TV partner in India. In April, when 10 episodes of Netflix Inc.’s “Orange Is the New Black” leaked, the incident was traced to a contractor.

Cybercrime is a growing problem for many industries, but Hollywood is especially vulnerable because of the long chain of people who work on a show or movie in post-production, experts say. Studios rely on an army of freelancers for everything from special effects to musical scores, creating a vast network of targets for hackers. Bringing those workers in-house is an option but would be expensive and could limit the talent studios can tap.

“Hollywood will have to recognize this will continue to grow and be an issue,” said Mike Orosz, who studies cyber risk as research director at the University of Southern California’s Information Sciences Institute.

HBO requires employees to have two-factor authentication and strong passwords for their computers. They also undergo security awareness training. But the company works with many post-production freelancers that handle sensitive information on personal email accounts and personal devices, raising security concerns, according to a former employee who asked not to be identified discussing an internal matter.

“Once the content is out of your hands, it’s truly out of your hands,” Orosz said. “The security of the third-party vendor is what you’re relying on.”

 HBO is still investigating how hackers broke into its computer system. They stole episodes of Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Ballers,” a person familiar with the matter said at the time. They also stole an executive’s emails and a summary of an unaired episode of “Game of Thrones,” according to Variety.

After receiving a ransom demand, an HBO executive emailed the hacker on July 27 offering $250,000 as payment for finding a security flaw, according to a copy of the message obtained by Bloomberg. HBO asked the hacker to extend the deadline for a week while the company arranged a payment in bitcoin. That was a stalling effort, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. Variety reported on the email earlier.

The hackers don’t appear to have breached the company’s entire email system, Chief Executive Officer Richard Plepler told staff last week. The network, owned by Time Warner Inc., declined to make any additional comment.

For Hollywood, hackers are threatening both reputations and businesses. A stolen movie that appears online before appearing in theaters loses 19 percent of its box-office revenue on average compared with films that are pirated after they’re released, according to a study by professors at University of Maryland and Carnegie Mellon University. People may not be willing to subscribe to Netflix or HBO if they can watch their favorite shows and movies online for free.

Ransom demands

What’s more, the wave of attacks is forcing media executives to confront a thorny question: Should they pay ransoms to hackers to get their content back?

The FBI says that’s always a bad idea.

“We believe it perpetuates the crime in general,” FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.

There’s also no guarantee paying the ransom will work. In April, Netflix refused to pay a hacker who stole unreleased episodes of “Orange Is the New Black.” Larson Studios, which worked with Netflix, told Variety it paid the ransom, about $50,000, in bitcoin. The hacker, who went by the name TheDarkOverlord, dumped the stolen episodes online anyway.

Larson Studios didn’t respond to a request for comment, while a Netflix official said only that the company is “constantly working to improve our security.”

In another high profile case this year, hackers threatened to leak a stolen copy of Disney’s new “Pirates of the Caribbean” if the company didn’t pay a ransom. The company refused, and Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger said later he believed it was all a hoax.

Even so, with millions of dollars at stake, some companies may decide paying is the best option, said Gary Davis, chief consumer security evangelist at the security firm McAfee Inc.

“If they got access to something like ‘Game of Thrones’ and I can pay them a couple million dollars to get that back, there’s probably a good use case,” he said.

The Sony attack, which embarrassed studio executives after private emails were made public, was linked by the FBI to North Korea, which allegedly was retaliating for “The Interview,” a film about a fictional plot to assassinate leader Kim Jong Un. Some studios have reportedly removed Russian President Vladimir Putin as a character in films because they’re concerned they’ll suffer a similar fate.

Sony has learned from that attack. Michael Lynton, former chief executive officer of Sony Entertainment, started transferring emails off his computer every 10 days.

“To me, that’s the solution,” Lynton said at event hosted by Lerer Hippeau Ventures in May. “Put it in a drawer and lock the drawer.”

This post was originally published by Bloomberg | Quint

Technology News on Bloomberg | Quint

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Windscribe is a VPN on steroids and it’s also an extra 15% off right now

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There’s almost nothing more important than safeguarding your vital personal information online. Of course, the best protection usually comes from the innovators, those who take tried-and-true security methods and improve on them.

VPNs are one of the most battle-tested means of protecting yourself from theft and other web dangers. However, Windscribe is offering VPN security that’s more than just a VPN, which is why you should seriously consider this lifetime pro subscription for just $49 (over 90 percent off) from TNW Deals. Also, get an additional 15% off for a limited time with coupon code: VPN15.

On the surface, Windscribe handles all the stuff a VPN is supposed to do, including lightning-fast connection speeds, free access to geo-locked content worldwide and, of course, total anonymity. Your identity stays concealed with all your web traffic running through Windscribe’s fully-encrypted web access. It keeps malicious web forces out, while everything you do remains cloaked. Even Windscribe itself doesn’t keep logs of where you’ve been.

The next level — and the truly trailblazing feature of Windscribe service — is their additional desktop app and browser extension, offering extra layers of security. In addition to a VPN, Windscribe packages anti-tracking tools, an ad blocker, secure link generators and firewall protection in one easy-to-understand, easy-to-use bundle.

Your subscription allows you to enjoy Windscribe protection across all your devices so you’re protected anywhere and everywhere. Plus, if you get in on the limited time VPN sale by entering VPN15 at checkout, you can score an additional 15 percent off.

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DNA techniques could transform facial recognition technology

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When police in London recently trialled a new facial recognition system, they made a worrying and embarrassing mistake. At the Notting Hill Carnival, the technology made roughly 35 false matches between known suspects and members of the crowd, with one person “erroneously” arrested.

Camera-based visual surveillance systems were supposed to deliver a safer and more secure society. But despite decades of development, they are generally not able to handle real-life situations. During the 2011 London riots, for example, facial recognition software contributed to just one arrest out of the 4,962 that took place.

The failure of this technology means visual surveillance still relies mainly on people sitting in dark rooms watching hours of camera footage, which is totally inadequate to protect people in a city. But recent research suggests video analysis software could be dramatically improved thanks to software advances made in a completely different field: DNA sequence analysis. By treating video as a scene that evolves in the same way DNA does, these software tools and techniques could transform automated visual surveillance.

Since the Metropolitan Police installed the first CCTV cameras in London in 1960, up to 6m of them have now been deployed in the UK. And body-worn cameras are now being issued to frontline officers, creating not only even more video footage to analyse, but also more complex data due to constant camera motion.

Yet automated visual surveillance remains mostly limited to tasks in relatively controlled environments. Detecting trespass on a specific property, counting people passing through a given gate, or number-plate recognition can be completed quite accurately. But analysing footage of groups of people or identifying individuals in a public street is unreliable because outdoor scenes vary and change so much.

In order to improve automated video analysis, we need software that can deal with this variability rather than treating it as an inconvenience – a fundamental change. And one area that is used to dealing with large amounts of very variable data is genomics.

Finding faces in the crowd.
Shutterstock

Since the three billion DNA characters of the first human genome (the entire set of genetic data in a human) were sequenced in 2001, the production of this kind of genomic data has increased at an exponential rate. The sheer amount of this data and the degree to which it can vary means vast amounts of money and resources have been needed to develop specialised software and computing facilities to handle it.

Today it’s possible for scientists to relatively easily access genome analysis services to study all sorts of things, from how to combat diseases and design personalised medical services, to the mysteries of human history.

Genomic analysis includes the study of the evolution of genes over time by investigating the mutations which have occurred. This is surprisingly similar to the challenge in visual surveillance, which relies on interpreting the evolution of a scene over time to detect and track moving pedestrians. By treating differences between the images that make up a video as mutations, we can apply the techniques developed for genomic analysis to video.

Early tests of this “vide-omics” principle have already demonstrated its potential. My research group at Kingston University has, for the first time, shown that videos could be analysed even when captured by a freely moving camera. By identifying camera motion as mutations, they can be compensated so that a scene appears as if filmed by a fixed camera.

Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Verona have demonstrated that image processing tasks can be encoded in such a way that standard genomics tools could be exploited. This is particularly important since such an approach reduces significantly the cost and time of software development.

The ConversationCombining this with our strategy could eventually deliver the visual surveillance revolution that was promised many years ago. If the “vide-omics” principle were to be adopted, the coming decade could deliver much smarter cameras. In which case, we had better get used to being spotted on video far more often.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Data is the name of the game, as Intel Capital puts $60M in 15 startups, $566M in 2017 overall

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Intel Capital, the investment arm of the processor giant, is today announcing its latest tranche of investments, a total of nearly $60 million going in to 15 startups that are working on solving different problems in the bigger area of big data (with a full rundown below). The investments come on the back of a big year for the group: In 2017 so far, Intel says that it’s invested $566 million in startups in its portfolio.

The focus on big data in this latest group of startups comes out of a new turn for Intel and how it’s been making strategic investments in recent times.

Intel Capital is one of the bigger names when it comes corporate tech investing. In total, it has invested $12.2 billion in 1,500 companies since 1991. But the operation went through a rocky patch in 2016 — where its parent considered selling its portfolio for $1 billion in 2016, yet instead opted instead to restructure.

Part of the outcome of that has been a lot more strategic focus for Intel Capital, where the investments are made to fit more closely with how Intel would like to position its wider business. And as Intel looks for new areas of business like connected cars and healthcare where it can carve out a position for its chipmaking operations, data is one of the pervasive themes.

“The world is undergoing a data explosion,” said Wendell Brooks, Intel SVP and president of Intel Capital, in a statement. “By 2020, every autonomous vehicle on the road will create 4 TB of data per day. A million self-driving cars will create the same amount of data every day as 3 billion people. As Intel transitions to a data company, Intel Capital is actively investing in startups across the technology spectrum that can help expand the data ecosystem and pathfind important new technologies,” Brooks said. (If you’re wondering about “pathfind” — this might help).

Another outcome has been a push for more diversity: Intel says that now 10 percent of its portfolio is led by women and other underrepresented groups in the tech industry. The cohort today meanwhile hails from the United States, Canada, China, Israel and Japan.

There have been other recent announcements that point to Intel’s more focused investing approach. For example, in September the company announced that it had invested over $1 billion in AI companies.

Intel’s making a bigger presentation about the investments in its CEO Showcase today. You can watch that event here. Here’s a rundown of the companies, and we have reached out to Intel to get an idea of the full size of the round for each, although generally Intel doesn’t break out its own individual investments. We’ll update as and when we learn more:

Amenity Analytics (New York, U.S.): text analytics platform to identify actionable signals from unstructured data using machine learning, sentiment analysis and predictive analytics.

Bigstream (Mountain View, California, U.S.): “hyper-acceleration technology” for performance gains on Apache Spark using hardware and software accelerators. Uses advanced compiler technology and transparent support for FPGAs. “Unlike other approaches, Bigstream requires no application code changes or special APIs.”

LeapMind (Tokyo, Japan): focused on improving the accuracy of neural network models and is researching and developing innovative algorithms to reduce the computational complexity of deep learning and original chip architectures for use in small computing environments.

Synthego (Redwood City, California, U.S.): genome engineering solutions. Products include software and synthetic RNA kits designed for CRISPR genome editing and research.  

AdHawk Microsystems (Kitchener, Ontario, Canada): focuses on human-computer interaction using a camera-free eye tracking system, aimed to be used in AR/VR experiences.

Trace (Los Angeles, U.S.): sports AI startup currently focused on soccer, mountain sports and water sports using sensors, video and AI to make performance insights and video highlights.

Bossa Nova Robotics (San Francisco, U.S.): autonomous service robots for the global retail industry.

EchoPixel (Mountain View, California, U.S.): 3D medical visualization software that allows medical professionals to interact with organs and tissues in a 3D space. Its product True 3D is in use at UC San Francisco, Stanford, Cleveland Clinic, Lahey Clinic and Hershey Medical Center.

Horizon Robotics (Beijing, China): integrated and open embedded AI solutions, designing “robot brains” for 1,000 categories of devices.

Reniac (Mountain View, California, U.S.): IO bottleneck solutions. Its Distributed Data Engine “is architected to benefit databases, file systems, networking and storage solutions while freeing more CPU resources to creating business value.”

TileDB Inc. (Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.): manages the TileDB project created at the Intel Science and Technology Center for Big Data, a collaboration between Intel Labs and MIT, focused on “managing massive, multidimensional array data that frequently arise from scientific applications.”

Alcide (Tel Aviv, Israel): network security platform for any combination of container, VM and bare metal data centers operated by multiple orchestration systems, aimed at cyberattacks. Startup is in stealth mode.

Eclypsium (Portland, Oregon, U.S.): technology for organizations to defend their systems against firmware, hardware and supply chain attacks, offering visibility for monitoring systems in their infrastructure for firmware threats and supply chain compromise.

Intezer (Tel Aviv, Israel): cybersecurity solutions for biological immune system concepts, applying a “DNA approach to code.” The world’s first “Code Genome Database” that maps “billions of small fragments of malicious and trusted software.”

Synack (Redwood City, California, U.S.): scalable, continuous, “hacker-powered” testing platform for uncovering security vulnerabilities. It’s hitting a lot of other buzzwords…. Its “on-demand crowdsourced” security platform offers practical insights, analytics and actionable data.
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