Big Tech &
Apple AirTags tracking tags leaked in Apple’s own video (2 minute read)
Apple's AirTags trackers were mentioned on a recent Apple Support video. The tracking tags will bring Find My iPhone-style location service to other items, such as keys. Apple's ability to create tailored hardware could make a huge impact on the tracking industry. The video has since been removed. It is not yet known when AirTags will be released. A link to a copy of the video is available in the article.
Facebook Messenger desktop app launches for Windows and Mac (1 minute read)
Facebook has launched a desktop app for Messenger on the Microsoft Store and the Mac App Store. It allows users to message friends and start video calls, and it has a dark mode. A desktop app puts Facebook Messenger into the increasingly important pool of videoconferencing tools. Many people are turning to video chat apps as they practice social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Zoom has recently faced backlash for its privacy and security issues.
Machines Beat Humans on a Reading Test. But Do They Understand? (17 minute read)
Computers have become decent at translation and sentiment analysis, but this doesn't mean they have human-level reading comprehension yet. The General Language Understanding Evaluation was developed in 2018. It was designed to represent challenges that the research community thought were interesting. At first, machines failed miserably on the test, but then newer algorithms started to perform well. Despite performing well on the GLUE, machines probably aren't really understanding language. A new test called SuperGLUE has been developed to challenge newer systems.
The coronavirus test that might exempt you from social distancing—if you pass (6 minute read)
Antibody tests are being developed to see if people develop immunity to COVID-19. These tests may one day have a significant impact on travel and freedom. There is not enough data at the moment to determine whether humans develop immunity to the coronavirus. People who eventually develop immunity may be more suited to roles where they could be exposed to the virus. Antibody tests are fast and cheap. Some companies are already trying to sell them. However, we still don't know enough about the disease to know if the presence of antibodies means that a person is immune to the virus or that they won't be an asymptomatic carrier. Even if humans develop immunity, it is unknown how long that immunity will last.
Programming, Design & Data Science
How to SSH Properly (13 minute read)
SSH is the de facto tool for *nix server administration. It is secure and there is a lot of support to make it easy to use. There are different levels of security in SSH. Using SSH certificates is more secure than using a password or SSH keys, and they can be configured with just a few extra steps. A bastion host is a server which is specifically designed to be the only gateway for access to your infrastructure. Using SSH certificates, bastion hosts, and 2-factor authentication, you can easily improve the security of your SSH infrastructure while giving users the flexibility to keep using the tools that they're familiar with.
Webcam Hacking (16 minute read)
Bug hunting is about finding assumptions in software and violating those assumptions to see what happens. iOS and macOS requires each app to be granted camera/microphone permissions explicitly, but Apple grants its own apps these permissions for free. Other new web technologies allow websites to use Safari's permission to use the camera directly. Safari tracks permission settings on a per-website basis so that websites can access sensitive content such as GPS location or the camera without always asking for permission. Once these vulnerabilities are known, it is possible to test out obscure cases until the browser shows weird behaviors, and then eventually these exploits can be chained together to gain access to a user's webcam.
Jeff Bezos’ space company is pressuring employees to launch a tourist rocket during the pandemic (8 minute read)
Senior leadership at Blue Origin is pressuring workers to conduct a test launch of the company's New Shepard rocket during the current pandemic. The rocket is designed to take wealthy tourists into space. Employees fear that traveling to the test sites might expose them to the novel coronavirus or spread the virus to others. Blue Origin originally planned the test launch for April 10, but new self-quarantine rules mean that the company has to delay the test, and it is still deciding on a new launch date. Employees feel that New Shepard is not a critical vehicle and that it doesn't need to be tested at this time.
Leaked Amazon Memo Details Plan to Smear Fired Warehouse Organizer: ‘He’s Not Smart or Articulate’ (4 minute read)
A leaked internal memo from Amazon company executives detailed a plan to set up an employee as the head of a union movement so that the company would be in a stronger PR positioning in refusing workers from unionizing. The worker was fired after he led a walkout at a distribution warehouse on Monday. Amazon claims that the worker was fired for violating a company-imposed 14-day quarantine after coming into contact with a coworker who later tested positive for the coronavirus. Other employees were not fired for breaking their quarantines. Amazon plans to produce and stockpile PPE for its workers.