Tech Friday

posted by Brian Thomas - 

  • Twitter's "bot" problem:
    • Twitter has 330 million users, but millions of these accounts are fake
    • A New York Times investigation found that these fake accounts, also known as "bots", are following, tweeting, retweeting and liking tweets to give "influencers" more influence and drive trends
    • In this context, "bot" is short for an automated computer program
    • For example, a Twitter account with 100 followers will have exponentially less influence and reach than an account with 100,000 followers
    • Jennifer Grygiel, a Syracuse University social media professor said "It's kind of like inflating your resume. They were buying status so they can have influence."
    • While Twitter has fueled breaking news and social movements such as #MeToo, it's also provided a place for thousands of anonymous accounts to attack topics or people they dislike, making those items "trend" and get more attention
    • In many cases, "bots" are behind these movements
    • The report in the Times alleged that Devumi sold millions of fake likes, retweets and followers to high-profile Twitter users 
    • Many of the accounts in question appear to be the stolen identities of real people
    • Thus far, Devumi has not responded to questions and Twitter has said it's taking action against the company
    • Attorneys general from New York and Florida plan to investigate Devumi's practices. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has tweeted that "impersonation and deception" are illegal
    • Since these revelations, millions of followers are now disappearing from some popular accounts
    • Twitter has declined to comment on the issue so far
    • University of Southern California professor Emilio Ferrara released a study last year that reported that bots are behind as much as 15 percent of active Twitter accounts
    • Twitter claims that only 5 percent of accounts are bots
  • A Fitness tracking app leaks the location of secret government sites: 
    • A fitness app has inadvertently revealed the location of military bases and government sites around the world
    • The app in question is Strava. According to their website, "If you're active, Strava was made for you. Our mobile app and website enhance the experience of sport and connect millions of athletes from around the world. We're the social network for those who strive. Join us."
    • Strava released a data visualization map in November of 2017 showing the activity tracked by users of its app
    • The heatmap shows more than 3 trillion individual GPS data points collected from users
    • Military analysts discovered the map is detailed enough to potentially disclose sensitive information about military personnel on active duty
    • Nathan Ruser, an analyst with the Institute for United Conflict Analysts, first noted the issue and said "US Bases are clearly identifiable and mappable."
    • “If soldiers use the app like normal people do, by turning it on tracking when they go to do exercise, it could be especially dangerous,” Ruser added, highlighting one particular track that “looks like it logs a regular jogging route.”
    • In some locations such as Afghanistan, Strava users seem to be almost exclusively foreign military, making bases clearly visible
    • In one instance, a base not visible in the satellite views of commercial providers like Google or Apple’s Maps, but can be seen clearly in the Strava heatmap
    • This illustrates the unintended consequences of technology and big data
    • You can view the heatmap here: https://medium.com/strava-engineering/the-global-heatmap-now-6x-hotter-23fc01d301de
  • Bitcoin stumbles, frauds and flaws surface:
    • After a spectacular rise in value, Bitcoin values have plummeted more than 50 percent since the peak in January
    • The past 14 months have been vary volatile. Bitcoin increased in value by more than 1,300% last year to a December high of $20,000. But the valuation has fallen to less than half that on some exchanges in 2018
    • It closed at $7,932 today
    • The volatility has spooked lawmakers and banks. Some banks have banned customers from using their credit cards to buy Bitcoin 
    • Facebook recently announced that it would no longer allow advertisements for virtual currency projects
    • In addition to wild fluctuations in value, there have been other issues plaguing Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies including funds drained by hackers, ponzi schemes and people purchasing cryptocurrencies on credit
    • Additionally, government regulators have found it difficult to keep-up with the rise and fall of cryptocurrencies and have started to take an interest
    • The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) testified before the Senate banking committee this week about their efforts to regulate cyrptocurrency currency markets
    • At the hearing, SEC Chariman Jay Clayton said "fraudsters and other bad actors [preyed] on this enthusiasm" 
    • Two weeks ago, hackers stole $530 million in NEM from a Japanese currency exchange. This is not the first time millions have been stolen
    • Security company ESET wrote "Poloniex is one of the world’s leading cryptocurrency exchanges with more than 100 cryptocurrencies in which to buy and trade,” the researchers said, in a blog. “With all the hype around cryptocurrencies, cyber-criminals are trying to grab whatever new opportunity they can—be it hijacking users’ computing power to mine cryptocurrencies via browsers or by compromising unpatched machines, or various scam schemes utilizing phishing websites and fake apps." 
    • "Cryptocurrencies are almost a perfect vehicle for scams" said Kevin Werbach, a professor at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. "The combination of credulous buyers and low barriers for scammers were bound to lead to a high level of fraud, if and when the money involved got large. The fact that the money got huge almost overnight, before there were good regulatory or even self-regulatory models in place, made the problem acute."
    • Last year a vulnerability found within a popular wallet froze hundreds of millions of dollars of Ethereum
    • There have been some notable frauds, for example, BitConnect which had grown to a $3 billion dollar valuation
    • Securities regulators in Texas and North Carolina issued cease-and-desist orders to BitConnect which had collected hundreds of millions of dollars from people in what many label a ponzi scheme
    • The creators of Proof of Weak Hands Coin, referred to it as a Ponzi scheme on Twitter and use a pyramid as a logo. They raised $800,000 before hackers attacked the system and stole all their funds
    • Cryptocurrencies are fertile grounds for schemes and frauds because they don't require bank accounts, they use "wallets" that don't require any sort of approval
    • Additionally, cryptocurrency transactions cannot be reversed
    • Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) have created quite a stir too
    • In an ICO, entrepreneurs sell cryptocurrencies to raise money. Roughly 890 ICOs raised over $6 billion last year, a 6,000 percent increase over the previous year
    • Tezos, one of the most successful ICOs last year raised over $240 million. The money is frozen in a dispute between the founders of the project and the board they created in Switzerland
    • Beware and do your homework before investing in cryptocurrency
Brian Thomas

Brian Thomas

Based in Cincinnati, OH, the Brian Thomas Morning Show covers news and politics, both local and national, from a conservative point of view. Read more

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