Your WIRED daily briefing. Today, the government has issued new guidelines for the security of internet-connected cars, scientists warn of an increase in weather-related deaths across Europe, a document by a Google employee has highlighted the ongoing issue of sexism in the US tech industry and more.
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The government has announced new cybersecurity guidelines for connected and automated vehicles (Engadget). They include recommendations to limit the transmission of drivers’ personally identifiable data and to secure both local and remote systems against network penetration attempts. Transport Minister Lord Callanan said: “Our cars are becoming smarter and self-driving technology will revolutionise the way in which we travel. Risks of people hacking into the technology might be low, but we must make sure the public is protected. Whether we’re turning vehicles into Wi-Fi connected hotspots or equipping them with millions of lines of code to become fully automated, it is important that they are protected against cyber-attacks”.
A study by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre warns that, if nothing is done to curb emissions or protect against extreme weather events, Europe could see an extra 152,000 climate related deaths every year by 2100 (BBC News). The figure, which is 50 times higher than Europe’s present extreme weather mortality rate, is based on disaster records from 1981 to 2010 and current climate and population change projections. Heat waves are predicted to be the key cause of death, particularly affecting southern Europe, and it’s also anticipated that coastal flooding will have an impact. Study co-author Giovanni Forzieri said: “Unless global warming is curbed as a matter of urgency and appropriate measures are taken, about 350 million Europeans could be exposed to harmful climate extremes on an annual basis by the end of the century”.
The ongoing discourse about troubling levels of sexism and racial discrimination in Silicon Valley has once again come to a head with the leak of a ten-page document, written by an unnamed Google employee, suggesting that equal opportunity policies are “unfair, divisive, and bad for business” (Gizmodo). The document, quoted in full by Gizmodo, was initially published on Google’s internal messaging systems by a software engineer who is reportedly not a senior or influential staff member. While it’s markedly lacking in citations or any visible familiarity with the current state of either brain science or relevant social sciences, the piece has prompted great interest and a range of reactions from within the company, ranging from complaints that it’s creating a distracting and hostile working environment to compliments for the author’s “bravery”. Google is currently under investigation over alleged pay discrimination against women, while the USA has begun work to roll back affirmative action policies that enable women and people from minority ethnic groups to more effectively seek education.
Business Insider has spotted a new patent filing by Amazon that details mobile shipping stations capable of launching delivery drones. The patent describes “intermodal vehicles” that “may be loaded with items and an aerial vehicle, and directed to travel to areas where demand for the items is known or anticipated. The intermodal vehicles may be coupled to locomotives, container ships, road tractors or other vehicles, and equipped with systems for loading one or more items onto the aerial vehicle, and for launching or retrieving the aerial vehicle while the intermodal vehicles are in motion”. Then intermodal vehicles themselves look like shipping containers with an opening top from which drones can launch, and would be designed to be compatible with existing cargo carriers.
The great irony of defending the world against malware is it requires security researchers to, well, mess with malware (WIRED). This often leads them into grey areas, where something they might consider legitimate investigation or essential software development could, in the eyes of the law, be seen as criminal behaviour. This conundrum roiled the security community this week when the FBI arrested British security researcher Marcus Hutchins, who played a key role in shutting down the devastating WannaCry attack in May. But the Justice Department alleges that this white-hat hacker dabbled in more malicious endeavours three years ago, when, authorities say, he created a banking trojan called Kronos and conspired to sell it to criminals. “Security researchers live in fear their contributions will be misinterpreted by the FBI [or] prosecutors,” says Robert Graham, an analyst with the cybersecurity firm Erratasec. “It’s perfectly reasonable to suppose that Hutchins is indeed the author of Kronos, and guilty of whatever they say. At the same time, it’s also reasonable to believe he isn’t. We already have similar cases of people going to jail for a long time because they happened to write code that was later used by evildoers. It concerns people like me, because frequently some of the code I write ends up in viruses”.
From DDoS attacks to data manipulation, new cybersecurity regulations to organised fraud, businesses and consumers alike are faced with ever greater levels of security threats. Get inside knowledge on the developing threat landscape at WIRED Security 2017, returning to London on September 28.
Ghana’s first satellite, named GhanaSat-1, has been confirmed as fully operational by project manager Richard Damoah, a Ghanaian professor and NASA assistant research (TechCrunch). The cubesat, which was dispatched – along with Nigeria’s first satellite – to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX rocket in June and initially deployed in July, is equipped to monitor Ghana’s coastlines and to communicate with Ghana’s All Nations University’s Space Systems and Technology Laboratory, where it was developed. Damoah says the satellite’s success paves the way for future Ghanaian space projects: “After this launch, we now have the support of the president and cabinet support. We are looking to develop a GhanaSat-2, with high resolution cameras, that could monitor things such as illegal mining, water use, and deforestation in the country”.
From “Theresa May, go away” to “Trump grabs pussy, we grab back,” recent political events have played out to a soundtrack of dissent (WIRED). A new project aims to preserve the sound of protest around the world, by combining audio recordings of political demonstrations in different countries into a global sound map. The Protest and Politics project has been collecting recordings from protests over the last few months and features sounds from 27 different countries. The brief was left deliberately open to cover any kind of protest, and the gathered recordings include demonstrations associated with Brexit, Trump, Black Lives Matter and the G20 summit, as well as more local issues.
German game studio Causa Creations and artist Abdullah Karam have released a 45-minute playable demo of Path Out, “an autobiographical adventure game that allows the players to replay the journey of Abdullah Karam, a young Syrian artist that escaped the civil war in 2014” (Eurogamer). The demo, which merges stylistic elements inspired by classic Japanese RPGs with Syrian art and architecture, follows the early part of Karam’s flight, combining a surprising sense of humour with difficult moral choices of trust and betrayal. Karam tells Eurogamer: “There is a lot of fear and paranoia going around, portraying us as a vile, orthodox-religious and uncivilised bunch that just can’t decide which terrorist outlet to join. In reality, Syria is much closer to the west. Yes, it was never a real democracy, but our daily lives don’t differ much from the average westerner. Yes, we might follow different religions, but in the end, we are faced with the same urgent existential questions: PC or console?” A trailer is also available.
Massively popular car-football action multiplayer hit Rocket League has announced that it will be automatically banning players if they use certain words in chat, including racial slurs (Rock, Paper, Shotgun). The initial ban list of around twenty words – which are not being published – targets harassing language and will be expanded over time. Developer Psyonix writes: “Each word has its own threshold, and once a threshold for any word has been reached, that player will be automatically subject to a ban. These bans will typically start at 24 hours, then escalate to 72 hours, one week, and finally, a permanent ban. Of the thousands of reports we receive every day, the majority are tied to in-game abuse and harassment — typically in the form of abusive language. This new Language Ban system will help us address reports quickly and precisely while we also continue our usual monitoring of Reddit and other social channels for feedback”.
Animated short In a Heartbeat has gone viral on YouTube, clocking up over 20 million views in a week thanks to its expressive Pixar-style 3D animation and touching story (The Guardian). Created by computer animation graduates Beth David and Esteban Bravo, the four-minute film follows a schoolboy with a crush on his classmate and an inordinately cute animated heart that threatens to give away his secret. David told The Guardian: “A friend of ours was pitching ideas to us for potential projects. It was her idea to show a person with their heart popping out of their chest, chasing down a crush. But initially it was about a boy and a girl. It wasn’t until Esteban and I decided to switch it to a same-sex crush that the film started to feel like a personal story that we were invested in. It was the kind of story we wish we had seen as kids”.
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Security researcher Troy Hunt, the man behind data breach tracking blog Have I Been Pwned, has launched a tool for searching through 320 million compromised passwords that have previously been involved in some of this decade’s biggest data dumps (think: LinkedIn, MySpace, and Adobe). He’s also made the hashed passwords available for download as a single 5.3GB file. Essentially, it’s a database of passwords that you should definitely not be using anywhere.
Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant is replacing the web interface with an AI that sells customers whatever they want, whenever they need it. In this issue, WIRED looks at Jeff Bezos’ masterplan and what Amazon’s next move is. You can also read about Korea’s mega bot; the ultimate gear guide; pastry hacks; African architecture; how to disrupt the death industry; lab-grown diamonds and more. Out in print and digital. Subscribe now and save.