Day: September 15, 2018

BMW’s autonomous concept car of the future was cool, I guess

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As I approached San Francisco International Airport, my expectations for BMW’s new concept car were as big as the looming Boeing 777F Lufthansa cargo jet waiting for me. 

I had surrendered my cellphone and everything in my purse but my drivers license to see BMW’s iNext vehicle. Its tour started in Munich a few days earlier; it came to the Bay Area after a stop at New York’s JFK airport, and was scheduled to continue on to Beijing. Talk about precious cargo.

After passing a final security check, I climbed up the rickety staircase with fellow media members and entered the cavernous aircraft. We had been told very little about what we were going to see, except it was not only the “car of the future” but the “idea of the future.” Read more…

More about Electric, Bmw, Autonomous, Concept Car, and Tech

Twitter now puts live broadcasts at the top of your timeline

Twitter will now put live streams and broadcasts started by accounts you follow at the top of your timeline, making it easier to see what they’re doing in realtime.

In a tweet, Twitter said that that the new feature will include breaking news, personalities and sports.

The social networking giant included the new feature in its iOS and Android apps, updated this week. Among the updates, Twitter said it’s now also supporting audio-only live broadcasts, as well as through its sister broadcast service Periscope.

Last month, Twitter discontinued its app for iOS 9 and lower versions, which according to Apple’s own data still harbors some 5 percent of all iPhone and iPad users.

North Korea skirts US sanctions by secretly selling software around the globe

Fake social media profiles are useful for more than just sowing political discord among foreign adversaries, as it turns out. A group linked to the North Korean government has been able to duck existing sanctions on the country by concealing its true identity and developing software for clients abroad.

This week, the US Treasury issued sanctions against two tech companies accused of running cash-generating front operations for North Korea: Yanbian Silverstar Network Technology or “China Silver Star,” based near Shenyang, China, and a Russian sister company called Volasys Silver Star. The Treasury also sanctioned China Silver Star’s North Korean CEO Jong Song Hwa.

“These actions are intended to stop the flow of illicit revenue to North Korea from overseas information technology workers disguising their true identities and hiding behind front companies, aliases, and third-party nationals,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said of the sanctions.

As the Wall Street Journal reported in a follow-up story, North Korean operatives advertised with Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, solicited business with Freelance.com and Upwork, crafted software using Github, communicated over Slack and accepted compensation with Paypal. The country appears to be encountering little resistance putting tech platforms built by US companies to work building software including “mobile games, apps, [and] bots” for unwitting clients abroad.

The US Treasury issued its first warnings of secret North Korean software development scheme in July, though did not provide many details at the time. The Wall Street Journal was able to identify “tens of thousands” of dollars stemming from the Chinese front company, though that’s only a representative sample. The company worked as a middleman, contracting its work out to software developers around the globe and then denying payment for their services.

Facebook suspended many suspicious accounts linked to the scheme after they were identified by the Wall Street Journal, including one for “Everyday-Dude.com”:

“A Facebook page for Everyday-Dude.com, showing packages with hundreds of programs, was taken down minutes later as a reporter was viewing it. Pages of some of the account’s more than 1,000 Facebook friends also subsequently disappeared…

“[Facebook] suspended numerous North Korea-linked accounts identified by the Journal, including one that Facebook said appeared not to belong to a real person. After it closed that account, another profile, with identical friends and photos, soon popped up.”

Linkedin and Upwork similarly removed accounts linked to the North Korean operations.

Beyond the consequences for international relations, software surreptitiously sold by the North Korean government poses considerable security risks. According to the Treasury, the North Korean government makes money off of a “range of IT services and products abroad” including “website and app development, security software, and biometric identification software that have military and law enforcement applications.” For companies unwittingly buying North Korea-made software, the potential for malware that could give the isolated nation eyes and ears beyond its borders is high, particularly given that the country has already demonstrated its offensive cyber capabilities.

Between that and sanctions against doing business with the country, Mnuchin urges the information technology industry and other businesses to exercise awareness of the ongoing scheme to avoid accidentally contracting with North Korea on tech-related projects.

Little Baby Bum has billions of views on YouTube — and just sold for millions

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Did you know that a near hour-long collection of children’s nursery rhymes set to 3D animation is the 20th most popular YouTube video ever?

The video, with over 2 billion views and counting on the site, was created by the YouTube channel Little Baby Bum

And the husband-and-wife duo behind the popular channel just sold Little Baby Bum, likely for millions of dollars.

The exact sale price is confidential, but a social media marketing firm told Bloomberg that the London couple likely made between £6 million to £8.5 million ($7.8 million to $11.1 million).

More about Youtube, Children, Acquisition, Youtube Kids, and Tech