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Suspect arrested for cyber bank heists that amassed $1.2 billion

Europol announced today that the suspected leader of an international bank heist scheme has been arrested. The arrest was a result of an investigation that involved a number of cooperating law enforcement groups including the Spanish National Police, Europol, the FBI and the Romanian, Belarusian and Taiwanese authorities. The person was arrested in Alicante, Spain.

Since the crime group began its cyberattacks in 2013, they’ve hit more than 100 financial institutions in 40 countries around the world. They’re said to have stolen over $1.2 billion. The crime group started with a malware campaign called Anunak, which later led to more sophisticated versions known as Carbanak and, later, Cobalt. The team would send phishing emails with malicious attachments to bank employees, and once the malware was downloaded, it gave the hackers control over the banks’ machines and access to servers that controlled ATMs.

They used three main methods to fraudulently obtain cash. In some cases, they would instruct ATMs to dispense cash at certain times and members of the crime group would wait nearby and grab the cash once it was released. They also took advantage of money transfer systems and in other instances, would inflate bank balances and have money mules withdraw that amount from ATMs. The stolen cash was ultimately laundered with cryptocurrencies.

“This global operation is a significant success for international police cooperation against a top level cybercriminal organisation,” Steven Wilson, head of Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre, said in a statement. “The arrest of the key figure in this crime group illustrates that cybercriminals can no longer hide behind perceived international anonymity. This is another example where the close cooperation between law enforcement agencies on a worldwide scale and trusted private sector partners is having a major impact on top level cybercriminality.”

Via: Reuters

Source: Europol


What we’re playing: ‘Where the Water Tastes Like Wine’

This month, Contributing Editor David Lumb plays Dim Bulb Games’ debut title, ‘Where the Water Tastes Like Wine,’ and discovers one of America’s oldest games: storytelling.

David Lumb

David Lumb
Contributing Editor

Most video games with a focus on conversations put a lot of importance on choices. In titles like Life Is Strange or The Walking Dead, what your character says can decide who lives and dies. But Where the Water Tastes Like Wine, the long-awaited debut from Dim Bulb Games, is focused less on what people say and more on what they mean — the core, the heart, the truth of the message. It’s a story about the stories that spread across America. It’s about what people say when they try to fit everything true about this huge, wild, weird country into words.

In the game, you play a traveler tasked with collecting ‘true’ tales, and you start by spinning events you witness into yarns of your own. These can be traded with notable vagabonds around campfires, and you’ll win them over by telling stories they’re in the mood for. In exchange, they reveal what events put them on the road, which is what you’re really after. Down the line, you’ll hear strangers in distant towns repeat the stories you tell, with embellishments added along the way.

In practice, this bargaining chain is pretty easy to get the hang of. The rest of the game is spent re-encountering your favorite tramps, rogues and heartland folks to glean more of their stories as you ramble across a gorgeous, artsy map of America. Which is to say it has a singular appeal: If you’re looking for more than chatting up a wide cast of oddballs and ruffians, this might not be your bag. But there’s nothing like it in video games. Where else will you experience the power and transience of stories?

For example, by the time you hear the stories you’ve told, strangers have added some strikingly inaccurate details. Even when you try to correct the hearsay, people will prefer the stranger version. Which is only natural. Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is about letting go of your perspective and letting the world refine your message, even if that ultimately changes, too. The added hyperbole puts a little distance between commonfolk and the truths they know intimately: Of misfortune, of heartache, of loss. Given a little outlandish character, these tales can comfort anyone struggling to get by in America, who hear these wild or macabre adventures and find their circumstances less tragic in comparison.

Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is, at its core, about empathy. But unlike most games, you aren’t righting everyone else’s wrongs: It takes the lonelier road of simply having players hear people’s (often sad) stories and bearing witness to what they’ve become. Inaction is, in some ways, more challenging than finding the right thing to say. This further sets the game apart from recent conversation-heavy titles like The Council.

But the game has more for you to witness, something so rare in modern gaming: A positive portrayal of America between the coasts. Last year’s Resident Evil 7 and Outlast 2 present the rural US as a den of uncouth savagery, a retreat of murderous psychopaths — and the upcoming Far Cry 5 looks like it’ll similarly fill its America with backwoods crazies. In contrast, Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is one of the first games in a while that showcases an America that’s full of strange, mundane, but, ultimately, sincere people.

It’s also one of the few to convey the breadth of the country, too. There’s an old piece of advice that visitors to the United States still fail to heed: Don’t assume you can drive from New York City to the Grand Canyon in a day. Where the Water Tastes Like Wine commits to the grand size of the nation, and you might find yourself walking familiar highways you’ve driven in real life, pacing along your own memories. The map might be an artful compromise of the land — tragically, there are no forests — but it gets across a concrete sense of place without resorting to the shorthand of landmarks. You don’t know you’re passing New York because the Statue of Liberty pokes out of the water; When you overhear an immigrant couple lamenting their separation to work until they can afford marriage, that evokes the city better than the pale green queen ever could.

<a data-cke-saved-href="" href="">Where the Water Tastes Like Wine (Original Game Soundtrack) by Ryan Ike</a>

The soundtrack conveys its own truth about the land, albeit one that’s been remixed. Music was central to the game even back when it first surfaced at E3 2015, when Dim Bulb Games founder (and Gone Home alumni) Johnneman Nordhagen reflected on how important the transition and reinvention of songs is to Where the Water Tastes Like Wine: “And that’s one of the major themes of the game — this history of folk culture, of sharing ideas and adding your own take. It’s hard to understand, in our current copyright regime, what sharing music and stories used to look like,” he said. As you roam across America, composer Ryan Ike’s sweet tunes match your steps, along with twanging guitar and half a dozen incredible vocalists. The flagship track ‘Vagrant Song’ will play regularly, and even shifts in style as you wander into different regions, like the standout Southwest version inspired by Mexican folk and sung in Spanish.

Not everyone is going to play this game, and that’s okay. It’s easy to master the simple loop of seeding stories at campfires and expertly plucking them from the citizenry later; If you crave heavier gameplay, there’s no shame in passing on the title. Yet you’d be missing out on a singular experience to engage with the whole of the United States, a land of immigrants, dreamers and bitter survivors. The game leaps for the stars and jettisons mechanics along the way, leaving players only story and fantastic writing to look forward to. But with a song at your back and a keen eye for the stories that make people tick, Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is a unique game to remind you how wild America always was — and will be.

“IRL” is a recurring column in which the Engadget staff run down what they’re buying, using, playing and streaming.


Lynk & Co’s shareable cars launch outside of China in 2020

Volvo’s sister brand Lynk & Co has made a fuss over its connected, shareable cars, but there’s been a catch: they haven’t been available outside of China. You might have a chance to buy one elsewhere, however. Alongside a peek at its new 02 crossover SUV (more on that in a bit), the fledgling auto badge has confirmed that it will start selling cars in Europe in 2020. As before, it’s ditching conventional dealerships in favor of both its website and “Offline Stores” that are really boutiques. The first store will open in Amsterdam, with follow-ups due in Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels and London.

Appropriately, European production will take place at Volvo’s base in Belgium.

As for the 02? Lynk & Co isn’t saying much about the actual specs, but it’s promising a hatchback-style crossover that’s lower, shorter and sportier than the 01. The focus, as always, is more on the business model. It was one of the first brands to offer car subscriptions on top of the usual purchasing options, and you can share your car with others through a mobile app. You could offset the cost of the car by renting it out, or just let friends borrow it without having to give them physical keys.

There’s no word on a timetable for a North American launch yet, but the company has been exploring manufacturing on the continent. Volvo is opening its first US plant in Ridgeville, South Carolina in 2018, and it would be relatively easy for Lynk & Co to piggyback on that factory for a debut in the region.

Source: Lynk & Co


The first Chrome OS tablet comes from Acer

There have been many Chrome OS devices with touchscreens, but there haven’t been pure tablets. You’ve always had an attached keyboard as a fallback — until today, that is. Acer has unveiled the first Chrome OS tablet, the Chromebook Tab 10, and there’s nary a keyboard to be found. The 9.7-inch slate is aimed at squarely at education, where the all-touch input and light weight (1.21 pounds) could make it a better fit for younger students. Appropriately, there’s a bundled battery-free Wacom stylus that lets kids draw and take notes.

The rest of the specs won’t blow you away. There’s a Chrome OS-oriented six-core, Rockchip-made OP1 processor, 4GB of RAM, 32GB of expandable storage, a 2-megapixel front camera and a 5-megapixel rear shooter. The most cutting-edge feature is a USB-C port that can charge other devices in addition to the tablet itself. Instead, the real allure is Chrome OS itself: it gives schools a secure, Google-centric tablet that runs Android apps and can be easily managed.

Acer will ship the Chromebook Tab 10 to North America in April for $329, and to Europe, the Middle East and Africa in May for €329. Don’t expect to buy one yourself, though. Acer is only making the tablet available to commercial and education customers For now, at least, this is more about competing for classroom share that would normally go to basic Android tablets or iPads.

Source: Acer


Cambridge Analytica accused of violating US election laws

Cambridge Analytica’s Facebook data harvesting hasn’t just prompted lawsuits over the privacy violations — it’s now sparking a legal battle over its role in US elections. ABC News has learned that watchdog group Common Cause has filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission and Justice Department alleging that Cambridge Analytica broke federal election laws barring foreigners from participating in the strategies of US political campaigns. According to Common Cause, the UK firm ignored warnings to avoid involvement in American political committees and provided its Facebook user data to help target campaign efforts that included the presidential runs of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz as well as a John Bolton super PAC.

In particular, the complaint references a New York Times story documenting an attorney’s July 22, 2014 memo to Steve Bannon, GOP donor Rebekah Mercer and Cambridge Analytica chief Alexander Nix warning against foreign involvement in strategy. They could collect and process data, but US citizens had to interpret that data — and Nix was told to recuse himself from management of US clients to be safe. Nix reportedly ignored that advice, making key decisions around US clients for both the 2014 and 2016 elections.

Cambridge Analytica hasn’t commented on the election complaints, but has denied doing anything illegal by using an app billed as an academic tool to collect user data for over 50 million people without their consent. It won’t be surprising if the company fights this as well — it’s being accused of nothing less than interfering in the US electoral process. We’d expect it to contend that it had only limited involvement with the data despite Nix’s management.

Source: ABC News


Twitter will ban most cryptocurrency ads

It’s not just the likes of Facebook and Google who are clamping down on cryptocurrency ads. Twitter has confirmed an earlier rumor by announcing plans to ban most cryptocurrency-related ads in the near future. The restrictions will cover initial coin offerings, crypto wallets and token sales, as well as most crypto exchanges (with “limited exceptions,” according to Reuters). There’s no timetable for the ban at the ban at this stage.

The company had previously said it was preventing cryptocurrency accounts from interacting “in a deceptive manner,” but hadn’t gone so far as to institute a ban.

It’s not shocking that Twitter would crack down on these ads. Many initial coin offerings are speculative and dodgy, and in extreme circumstances are outright scams from fraudsters who spend contributors’ money on themselves. Tokens, wallets and exchanges often tend to be volatile, too. As with Facebook and Google, Twitter likely doesn’t want to risk either the bad public image associated with flaky cryptocurrency ventures or the possibility of enabling financial crimes. You may not see the social site allow most ads until there’s a stronger set of rules protecting would-be investors.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Reuters


A viral photo of Parkland survivor Emma Gonzalez is the latest fake news

Seventeen-year-old Parkland shooting survivor Emma González (@Emma4Change) has become a national spokesperson for the movement against gun violence. At the March For Our Lives this weekend, the teenager spent a poignant and powerful six minutes and twenty seconds — the amount of time the Parkland gunman spent murdering seventeen of her classmates and teachers — on stage in complete silence. Now, BuzzFeed News reports that people are sharing a fake photograph of González ripping up the Constitution.

The original picture is real enough — it’s from a Teen Vogue photo shoot, in which González is ripping up a bullseye target like someone would use at a gun range. Someone deliberately altered the image to ensure this kind of fake, malicious campaign against a teenager went viral.

“We, the youth of the United States, have built a new movement to denounce gun violence and call for safety in all of our communities. This is only the beginning.” @Emma4Change pens a searing op-ed on this generation’s plans to make change: #NeverAgain

— Teen Vogue (@TeenVogue) March 23, 2018

The bottom line is that in an era when many people have easy access to image manipulation tools and can use the power of social media to launch a self-propelling smear campaign, it’s easy to make an image like this go viral to further an agenda. And the trouble is that the people who want to believe that this image is real won’t be deterred by the poor quality of the image manipulation. It’s just another example of how malicious fake news can spread incredibly quickly.

Source: BuzzFeed News


An AR app returns stolen Gardner paintings to their frames

In the early hours of March 18th, 1990, two men dressed as police officers pulled up to a side entrance of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. They claimed that they were responding to a report of a disturbance. A guard let them in, and 81 minutes later, the two thieves had absconded with thirteen works of art valued at over $500 million, cutting priceless paintings out of their frames.

The “Gardner heist,” as it’s come to be known, is one of the most famous art thefts in history. It’s also the biggest one that remains unsolved. Decades later, it still captures the public’s attention every time it’s in the news. Multiple books have been written about the case over the years; a true crime podcast called “Empty Frames” launched in February that aims to take a fresh look at all the evidence and perhaps eventually solve the case.

The empty frames still hang on the walls of the Gardner Museum, a potent and haunting reminder of what was lost in this theft. But now, a firm called Cuseum is using AR to restore these priceless pieces of art to the walls of the Gardner Museum — at least, digitally.

Cuseum works to make museums and other cultural institutions more accessible through the use of cutting-edge technology. One example is the ability to digitally guide visitors through spaces without a language barrier. “Imagine if museums could clone their best guide or docent, have them available 24/7, and with the ability to speak multiple languages,” Brendan Ciecko, the founder of Cuseum, explained to Engadget. “Our platform empowers museums to do that.”

Ciecko’s team had long been fascinated by the Gardner heist. “Recently, after testing some new prototypes at a local museum and showing my team the results, one of my colleagues suggested the idea of putting the stolen art back in the frames at the Gardner,” Ciecko said. “I was psyched to explore this concept further — the opportunity to explore something new, the technological challenge, and the idea of returning something to its rightful home. Additionally, Isabella Stewart Gardner was a true innovator of her time, and what better way to celebrate her pioneering spirit, and return her beloved collection back to its original state, even if only through a digital lens.”

“Hacking the Heist” is an independent passion project for the team at Cuseum. It wasn’t paid for by and is not affiliated with the Gardner Museum. The app that was developed using Apple’s ARKit. “Once Apple’s ARKit was released it marked a new chapter for app developers,” Ciecko explained. “Compared to other frameworks, the quality and stability was incredibly promising right from the start. With the latest release, ARKit 1.5, Apple introduced vertical surface detection and on-device image recognition, which were key components needed to make this project possible.”

The app isn’t publicly available yet — the Cuseum team is waiting for iOS 11.3, which supports this type of AR, to be released. Once it is, though, visitors to the museum with iOS devices will be able to download the app. Once they’ve pulled it up, they can aim their smartphone or tablet at the empty frames where these priceless paintings once hung. Through an imaginative use of AR, the app will fill in the blanks — quite literally. People will be able to see what the missing paintings looked like hanging on the walls of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

The app currently only covers two of the most popular missing paintings: “A Lady and Gentleman in Black” and “Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee,” which were both painted by Rembrandt. The latter is his only known seascape. However, the team at Cuseum hopes to add more of the missing art in the future.

“Hacking the Heist” isn’t the only augmented reality project that Cuseum is working on, either. The company is developing more AR tools with multiple museums across North America to enhance visitor experiences. At the Perez Art Museum in Miami, the team at Cuseum recently helped launch both the first instance of ARKit in a museum, as well as the “world’s first fully AR-powered museum exhibition.” It features the works of Miami-based artist Felice Grodin and contains four digital works that examine the relationship between the mental and the physical.

It’s clear that augmented reality can affect and enhance the way we interact with museums and cultural institutions. With the Gardner Museum in particular, AR can educate visitors about the theft and help complete their experiences by “filling in” the paintings that are missing. “We hope people feel a deeper connection with the works that would have otherwise been hanging in the empty frames,” Ciecko concluded. “Many visitors are either unaware of the heist and its magnitude, or don’t know what the stolen masterpieces even looked like. We also hope this inspires people to think about the ways in which technology can show us things that no longer exist and transform the experience we have at those moments.”

Image: Cuseum


FCC aims to block purchases from non-US firms posing ‘security threat’

The FCC announced a proposal today that aims to more fully shut out companies “that pose a national security threat to United States communications networks or the communications supply chain.” If approved, an upcoming Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will seek to disallow the use of the FCC’s Universal Service Fund — which subsidizes those that bring broadband internet to rural regions of the US — for purchasing equipment and services from certain companies based abroad. “The money in the Universal Service Fund comes from fees paid by the American people, and I believe that the FCC has the responsibility to ensure that this money is not spent on equipment or services that pose a threat to national security,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement today.

According to Wall Street Journal sources, the proposal is meant to limit the amount of equipment and services purchased from Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE. Huawei in particular has been a focus of the US government. Earlier this year, Congress proposed a bill that would prohibit any government agency from engaging with Huawei and ZTE. And while in January, AT&T did an about face and decided it wouldn’t sell Huawei smartphones, reports later surfaced that Congress had pressured AT&T into dropping its rumored plans to carry Huawei products. Since then, Verizon also decided to cancel plans to sell Huawei-manufactured devices while Best Buy announced it would stop ordering them and phase them out.

In February, CNBC reported that six top intelligence chiefs, including those that head the FBI, CIA and NSA, warned US citizens against purchasing Huawei products with FBI Director Christopher Wray telling the Senate Intelligence Committee, “We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments … to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks.”

The pushback from the US government stems from a belief that Huawei and other China-based firms might be influenced by or could work alongside the Chinese government, exposing the US to state-sponsored cyberattacks or data breaches. Huawei, however, has maintained that it’s independent of the country’s government and doesn’t pose a cybersecurity risk to the US or any other country.

“Threats to national security posed by certain communications equipment providers are a matter of bipartisan concern. Hidden ‘back doors’ to our networks in routers, switches — and virtually any other type of telecommunications equipment — can provide an avenue for hostile governments to inject viruses, launch denial-of-service attacks, steal data, and more,” Pai said in his statement today, which didn’t go so far as to name either Huawei or ZTE. “Although the FCC alone can’t safeguard the integrity of our communications supply chain, we must and will play our part in a government- and industry-wide effort to protect the security of our networks.”

If accepted, the proposed rule would largely affect small, rural-based wireless and broadband providers in the US. The proposal will go up for a vote during the FCC’s April 17th meeting.

Source: FCC


Adobe Announces Discontinuation of ‘Muse’ Website Building Software

Adobe today announced that it is discontinuing its website building software “Adobe Muse” for Mac and PC. The shutdown process begins today with the final feature release of Muse, although technical support for Creative Cloud customers will remain ongoing through May 20, 2019. After that date, Adobe will officially end new feature development for the software.

Adobe Muse launched in 2012, offering users the ability to design websites without having to write any code. Adobe said that while it has been “deeply committed to the Muse vision,” trends in recent years have caused the company to evolve its strategies related to website creation.

Now, Adobe is thanking Muse users while hoping a “smooth transition” can be made into other Adobe programs that will be sticking around:

If you are building complex websites and applications, you can now use Adobe XD. Although XD does not generate web-ready code as Adobe Muse did, XD is an all-in-one solution that allows users to design, prototype and collaborate with stakeholders and developers to bring their websites to life.

If you are building a website to showcase your creative work, you can use Adobe Portfolio to create beautiful portfolio websites that can also be connected to the Behance platform.

If you are building one-page websites, such as photo stories, newsletters, or landing pages, you can use Adobe Spark Page to create beautiful responsive web pages with your own unique brand.

Adobe explained that users will still be able to open Muse on their Mac or Windows computers, as well as edit or create new websites in the app. But, after May 20, 2019, there will no longer be any compatibility updates or fixes to bugs that could appear when users publish a Muse-created website.

For more details about the Adobe Muse discontinuation, be sure to visit the company’s FAQ page on the topic.

Tag: Adobe
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