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Kaspersky says it briefly possessed classified NSA files

Earlier this month, reports surfaced that classified NSA documents detailing how US agencies defend their cyber networks and how they breach foreign ones were stolen by Russian hackers in 2015. Those reports noted that the files were spotted through Kaspersky security software used by an NSA contractor who had saved the classified documents on a home computer. Well, Kaspersky has now provided some more information about the incident and it has acknowledged that it did in fact have classified NSA materials in its possession, the Associated Press reports.

The company’s founder, Eugene Kaspersky, said that in 2014, Kaspersky analysts informed him that their software had plucked some classified files from an NSA contractor’s computer. Kaspersky said it was immediately clear what needed to be done — the materials had to be deleted. And so they were. However, whether the files in question were obtained purposefully or as a result of normal functions of the security software is still up in the air.

As Kaspersky tells it, the company was already tracking a team of hackers called the Equation Group, which was later revealed to be part of the NSA. The NSA contractor that exposed the files had run Kaspersky software on his computer after infecting it with a bootleg copy of Microsoft Office and while the software cleaned up the viruses, it was also triggered by the Equation Group materials stored on the contractor’s computer. Those were then sent to Kaspersky headquarters for evaluation and as soon as analysts saw that the files were classified NSA documents, they alerted Eugene Kaspersky and subsequently deleted the files.

Releasing this information is part of Kaspersky Lab’s recent push towards transparency as mistrust in the US has mounted over the past few months. Best Buy pulled Kaspersky software from its shelves last month and the US government banned the software in all federal agencies. Earlier this year, the FBI was reportedly discouraging private companies from using Kaspersky products, which have been a focus in government investigations of late and an interest of both the Senate and House of Representatives. Earlier this week, in order to regain some trust, Kaspersky announced that it would allow its source code to be reviewed by third parties and would open three “transparency centers” around the world.

Jake Williams, a cybersecurity expert and former NSA analyst, told the AP that because Kaspersky was trying to woo US government clients at the time, it made sense that it would have chosen to delete the files. “It makes sense that they pulled those up and looked at the classification marking and then deleted them,” he said. “I can see where it’s so toxic you may not want it on your systems.” However, he added the fact that an NSA employee put classified material on an already compromised home computer was “absolutely wild.”

Source: Associated Press


New Patreon tools help creators connect with backers

Running a Patreon page doesn’t only entail creating for your audience: if you amass a lot of patrons, you’ll also have to deal potentially time-consuming admin tasks. To make it easier to run a membership business, Patreon has introduced new tools called App Directory and Developer Portal. App Directory makes it easy to connect a variety of useful services to your Patreon page. For instance, if you have a WordPress-powered website, you can tie it up with your Patreon account in order to create patron-only posts.

Another service called Zapier gives you a way to connect over 750 applications, including Google Sheets and Twitter, to your page without having to tinker with codes. You can also use App Directory to give patrons instant access to your exclusive Discourse forum or Discord chat room. Later this year, you’ll be able add instant invites for a Slack channel, as well.

If you need something more specialized and have the chops to do it, though, The Developer Portal might be more useful for you. It gives you access to Patreon APIs and documentation so you can create whatever you need, such as Q&A platforms and the like — as long as it doesn’t involve any type of adult content — to offer better perks to your fans.

Source: Patreon


Alto Mail is shutting down now that AOL is part of Oath

AOL (Engadget’s former parent company) launched Alto Mail years ago in a bid to make sense of increasingly cluttered email with a slicker look and organizing features like the Dashboard. However, it’s clear that this approach isn’t alluring enough now that AOL has been absorbed into Verizon’s Oath brand. The Alto team is telling customers that it’s shutting down Alto Mail as it transitions to working on “something new and exciting” under Oath’s umbrella. The mobile apps will no longer be available as of November 9th, and Alto is ending support for all apps on December 10th.

This doesn’t mean that Alto’s influence will vanish. On top of that mysterious project, the developers expect to incorporate their know-how into “current and future products and experiences.” It still means that Alto Mail is going away, though, and it’s clear between this and the AOL Instant Messenger shutdown that Oath isn’t keen on preserving legacy services.

As it stands, Alto Mail faced an uphill battle in the market. Many email apps have cleaned up their designs, and it’s harder to argue in favor of Alto when there are higher-profile rivals (like Google’s Inbox) that also make sense of your messages. The main issue is arguably the loss of yet another alternative email client, at least for now. Like it or not, the field has been consolidating around official apps.


Daimler unveils its electric truck weeks ahead of Tesla’s big debut

We’ve known for awhile that Tesla was set to unveil its electric truck this fall; it’s currently set for November 16th, after a few delays. But Daimler AG has stolen its thunder by announcing a new heavy-duty electric truck today, another indication that Daimler is increasingly seeing Tesla as one of its main rivals.

The truck is called the E-Fuso Vision One. Bloomberg reports that it can carry up to 11 tons a distance of 220 miles before it needs a recharge. This model is just a prototype, but the company says it can have the truck on sale within four years in the US, Japan and Europe. It’s ideal for shorter trips between cities, rather than cross-country hauling.

Tesla was set to unveil its truck tomorrow, October 26th, but the company delayed the announcement because of Model 3 production issues. It’s worth mentioning that even that date was delayed, as the original reveal was targeted for September. You can bet that Elon Musk is not thrilled with Daimler AG today.

Source: Bloomberg


US-UK plan would share tech companies’ data with both governments

Companies like Microsoft and Google store some of their data overseas and when US agencies want access to that data, during a criminal case, for example, they often have a fight on their hands. That’s because current laws don’t require these companies to provide that data, just as they don’t require these companies to hand over data stored in the US to foreign agencies. This has posed a problem on both sides because it can slow down investigations being conducted by US or other countries’ officials and it puts tech companies in a sort of legal limbo as they’ve typically chosen to protect users’ privacy since there are no laws compelling them to do otherwise.

However, as the Financial Times reports, the US and the UK are currently hashing out an agreement that would require tech companies based in either country to provide information requested by law enforcement agencies in both the US and the UK. The UK Home Office told the Financial Times, “Since 2015, the UK has been working with the US government, and representatives from US technology companies, on a proposed UK-US bilateral data access agreement that would allow companies in one country to comply with lawful orders for electronic communications from the other.” It added, “This agreement would help law enforcement and security agencies protect the public through accessing data stored or controlled by companies in each others’ countries in support of serious crime and terrorism investigations, and would include strong safeguards and maintain rigorous privacy protections for citizens.”

This data-sharing plan would hinge on laws being changed in the US. Currently the laws governing these situations are around three decades old and were drafted well before email and social media were a way of life. And people from all sides have called for updated regulations. A group of senators have proposed new legislation and tech companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon have voiced their support for changes in the law through a letter to senators, an amicus brief and speeches. Companies such as Microsoft, Google and Yahoo have all butted heads with the government in court over access to data.

The White House’s National Security Council told the Financial Times that the administration supports this agreement and that it could be extended to other countries in the future.

Source: Financial Times


Slack screen sharing will let your coworkers control your computer

Virtual-office app Slack is adding one of its most requested features: screen sharing. And more than just simply letting a coworker look at what’s on your display, you can grant control so that they can add a few lines of code, or values to a cell in a spread sheet. Everyone will have their own cursor for typing and clicking around, which almost makes it sound like Slack is turning your screen into a Google Doc. All thanks to the magic of the internet. Not into relinquishing full control of your machine? Your call participants can still interact, but they’ll be limited to drawing on things. Still, that’s pretty cool.

Facebook recently added screen sharing to its Workplace desktop app, so Slack is just a touch late to this party. However, Workplace is still in a limited beta and doesn’t quite have the user base that Slack does.

There’s also that whole deal where Slack is basically becoming the last work chat app you’ll need. What with it adding integrations and features that used to require myriad logins to various disparate services like Join.Me for sharing a screen with multiple remote people, and all. That’s to say nothing of how consistently easy it is to use the new collaboration tools.

If you’re just using the app to chat with friends on a private channel, the new functionality won’t be available to you; a post on Medium says that you’ll need to be a paid subscriber to access it.

Source: Slack HQ (Medium)


Netflix’s DVD queue app is available on Android

Earlier this year, Netflix released a new app that allows users to manage their DVD queues. That feature had previously been available on Netflix apps until an update in 2011 removed it, but surprisingly the now separate DVD portion of Netflix is still profitable and used by around four million people. So while it may have seemed like a “why now” sort of move, it apparently made sense with so many people still choosing to rent DVDs. However, that app was released in January and only for iOS and it has taken until now for the company to release an Android version.

Phandroid reports today that the DVD Netflix app is now available for Android, nearly 10 months after iOS users got theirs. The app allows customers to manage their queues and provides notifications when returned discs have been received by Netflix and when new ones have been sent out. It also lets users browse and search for new rentals and provides recommendations. It’s available now from the Google Play Store.

Via: Phandroid

Source: Google Play Store


Apple May Have Acquired Camera Sensor Company InVisage Earlier This Year

Apple has reportedly acquired or at least hired some talent away from InVisage, according to the blog Image Sensors World. The report, citing two unnamed sources, claims the deal was closed in July of this year.

Beyond the sources familiar with the matter, there are only subtle clues that Apple may have scooped up InVisage.

Image Sensors World, for example, highlighted that InVisage is no longer listed as a current investment in the portfolios of venture capital firms Nokia Growth Partners and InterWest Partners.

InVisage also removed a news page and a list of employee profiles from its website, compared to an archived version from February. Many companies acquired by Apple in the past have simplified or even removed their websites.

LinkedIn lists at least six Apple employees who previously worked at InVisage, although only two joined the company this year. One of them, Nail Khaliullin, appears to have joined Apple as a hardware engineer in July.

InVisage also filed to register a manufacturing subsidiary in June with the state of California, where the company is headquartered, but it later surrendered the request and the entity was legally dissolved in early October.

InVisage, founded in 2006 and based out of Newark, California, has developed new image sensor architecture with a dedicated QuantumFilm layer that can maximize a smartphone camera’s light sensing capability.

The company’s website says QuantumFilm pixels have over three times higher dynamic range, allowing users to capture “supremely detailed images in almost any lighting condition where there is bright sky.”

QuantumFilm is a photosensitive layer that relies on InVisage’s newly invented class of materials to absorb light; specifically, the new material is made up of quantum dots, nanoparticles that can be dispersed to form a grid once they are synthesized. Just like paint, this dispersion of solid materials can be coated onto a substrate and allowed to dry.

InVisage’s technologies could certainly be implemented as part of annual improvements to iPhone and iPad cameras.

Apple did not immediately respond to our request for comment, but we’ll update this article if the company confirms the deal.

Tags: Apple acquisition, InVisage
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Angela Ahrendts’ Makeover of Apple Retail Outlined in New Profile

A new profile of Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts has been posted today by BuzzFeed News, providing a look into Ahrendts’ move from Burberry, the inspiration for her approach to retail from late Apple CEO Steve Jobs, and her partnership with Apple design chief Jony Ive. Ahrendts has been in the spotlight lately following her presentation during the iPhone X keynote event in September, where she explained Apple’s new retail initiative, Today at Apple, and provided a sneak peek into upcoming locations around the world.

Ahrendts said that her approach to the new retail strategy began with an inspiration from Steve Jobs, comparing the brick-and-mortar locations as the retail team’s “hardware” and the inner workings of the store — like Today at Apple programs — as the “software.”

Image captured by Hoss Ghertassi via BuzzFeed News

Ahrendts’s approach to retail harkens back to the late founder Steve Jobs’ insistence on building “the whole widget” — in other words, constructing the look and feel of a device, as well as making the operating system and the processor that runs it, in order to fully optimize — and control — the entire user experience.

“This is our hardware,” she said, pointing to the Indianapolis store’s glass doors and indoor ficuses. ”Then you say, ‘What’s the software of the store? How do we turn it on?’ Because this unto itself is magnificent, but it’s not just what it is, it’s what it does,” referring to the new Today at Apple program, under which locations host events like photography workshops and coding classes.

Ahrendts has tweaked parts of Apple’s retail “software” by changing employee t-shirts to a softer material, and removing lanyards so employees “make a human connection” with customers. One former Apple Genius said that while removing lanyards made uniforms “cleaner,” the high amount of customers visiting Apple every day is a “reality of retail” that made connecting with every customer difficult.

When she was creating her strategy, Ahrendts discussed the design and look of the new Apple locations with Jony Ive, who was said to have told Ahrendts, “Don’t mess with the tables,” referring to the iconic wooden tables that line every Apple store. Ive further described these tables as “sacred.”

Before embarking on the redesign, Ahrendts consulted creative chief Ive, whom Steve Jobs once called his “spiritual partner.” “In one of those very early conversations,” Ahrendts recalled, Ive “said, ‘Don’t mess with the tables. They’re the same tables we used in our design studio and I love that it goes from the studio to the stores.’ He said, ‘They’re sacred.’”

Ahrendts also recalled the company’s expansion into China, where she asked all United States retail employees if they would be interested to move overseas and assist in running new stores in China. The executive said she was expecting 100 or 200 responses, but ended up with 2,000, half of which ended up moving overseas with plans to stay for between 1 and 5 years. Those who remain in the U.S. said that under Ahrendts’ leadership, worker benefits have improved.

Image captured by Hoss Ghertassi via BuzzFeed News

All of the employees who spoke to BuzzFeed News agree that Ahrendts improved their benefits soon after she joined in May 2014. For example, Ahrendts introduced restricted stock units, or gifted Apple stock (which could previously be purchased at a discount), that vests every three years. She also extended school tuition reimbursement to part-time workers. Most said they were happy with their pay, which ranges from $17 to $20 an hour for non-Genius roles and up to $30 an hour for Geniuses.

Still, some employees have described their work as starting to feel “increasingly corporate” under Ahrendts. One technical specialist stated that Apple retail “now feels more like a Circuit City, a Best Buy” because of increased micromanagement, rising repair prices, a focus on moving customers in and out of the store as fast as possible, and an “emphasis” on attracting business accounts.

The rest of the profile on Ahrendts covers much of the same ground as BuzzFeed’s iPhone 8 launch video about Apple’s “war room,” as well as an interview with CEO Tim Cook and Ahrendts posted yesterday. In that interview, Ahrendts said it was “fake news…silly” that she was being groomed as future Apple CEO. Cook then said, “I see my role as CEO to prepare as many people as I can to be CEO, and that’s what I’m doing.”

Check out the full BuzzFeed News article on Angela Ahrendts here.

Tags: Angela Ahrendts, Apple retail
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Apple Wants to Produce Comedies and Dramas That Are Viewer Friendly Enough for Apple Stores

Apple’s reported $1 billion push into original content will include comedies and emotional dramas with broad appeal, according to Bloomberg.

The report claims Apple wants every show it produces to be suitable enough for an Apple Store, as opposed to content with nudity, raw language, and violence. Hollywood producers that have pitched edgier content, such as an eight-part series produced by filmmaker Alfonso Cuarónto, have allegedly been turned away.

Apple wants to have a small slate of shows ready for release in 2019, a timeframe previously reported. Unlike Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke: The Series, however, its new shows will supposedly no longer be placed on Apple Music, which in turn will be limited to music-related videos and documentaries.

Carpool Karaoke itself was supposed to launch in April, but its debut was delayed until August due to some coarse content.

Days before Apple Inc. planned to celebrate the release of its first TV show last spring at a Hollywood hotel, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook told his deputies the fun had to wait. Foul language and references to vaginal hygiene had to be cut from some episodes of Carpool Karaoke, a show featuring celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Alba, Blake Shelton, and Chelsea Handler cracking jokes while driving around Los Angeles.

While the delay of Carpool Karaoke was widely reported last April, the reasons never were. Edits were made, additional episodes were shot, and Apple shifted resources to another show. When Carpool Karaoke was released in August, it didn’t make much of a splash.

Apple has aggressively hired as it pushes into the content arena. In June, the company hired Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, two Sony Pictures Television executives, to lead its video programming efforts. Apple has also hired Matt Cherniss, Morgan Wandell, Jay Hunt, and several other industry executives.

Tags:, Apple’s Hollywood ambitions
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