#WhatTheTech 19

Written by:
Leah Johnston
Date Posted:
6 September 2019

We’ve handpicked some tech/security-related news stories from the past week, in case you missed them.

Facebook Number Leak
The Facebook privacy saga continues as millions of phone numbers tied to users accounts have been exposed online.

More than 419 million records, spread across several databases, were found by a security researcher. Due to an unsecured server that lacked password protection, the database was accessible by anyone. Each record consisted of a user’s Facebook ID and the listed phone number. Alarmingly, some of the records also revealed the user’s name, location, and gender. 

Facebook spokesperson Jay Nancarrow commented, “The data set has been taken down and we have seen no evidence that Facebook accounts were compromised.”

As another security breach to add to Facebook’s ever-growing list, it is still unclear as to who gathered the data, when, and why.  

What next for the social network?

Get a RoomMe
New sensor technology from personalised automation company, Intellithings, will now adjust the lighting, temperature, or music depending on who is present in a room at any given time. 

The technology works by pairing a minimum of two sensors with the smartphones of the residents. The sensors are installed above the entrance to each room you’d like personalised automation in. 

There is even a prioritisation system to avoid clashing requests between family members; Room Master, Parent, and Child. A Room Master sits at the top of the hierarchy, overriding even a parent if the child is established as the Room Master of their own bedroom. The person who enters the room first is given preference if there are multiple people in one room at the same ranking.

Is this laziness amplified, or the next smart move in automation?

Minecraft Mate 
An Artificial Intelligence (AI) assistant to help Minecraft players has been developed by Facebook researchers.

Players can control the assistant by typing commands in standard language. Such commands are then carried out by an avatar in the game, of which players are able to communicate with. 

An early version of the assistant is now available, and video demonstrations have been released. The footage shows the AI being told to build a circle out of wooden blocks whilst being asked questions by the player about what it is doing.

Aiming for a more ‘realistic’ approach to AI, the research team wrote in a research paper, “Instead of superhuman performance on a single difficult task, we are interested in competency across a large number of simpler tasks, specified (perhaps poorly) by humans”

The project focuses on the understanding of typed commands, which includes the use of ambiguous language. The AI is also able to learn from its mistakes when interpreting such commands, meaning it is constantly improving its performance, just as a human would. 

Perhaps this less “superhuman” outlook on AI could help the development of other programs using human interaction.

Twitter Disables Text Tweeting
The ability to tweet via text has been “temporarily” turned off following the hacking of Twitter’s CEO’s account. 

The SMS feature was used for malicious activity on Jack Dorsey’s account, where hackers tweeted a racial slur, bomb threat, and other crude messages.

Nowadays the SMS feature is barely used, due to reliance on the smartphone app. However, the feature still exists – you can text a number which will in turn post the message as a tweet to your account. 

SMS tweeting becomes vulnerable when someone’s phone number is stolen. Sadly, this is how hackers gained access to Dorsey’s account, by using text messages to post under his username, without even technically ‘logging in’.

Twitter commented on the incident across two tweets, “We’re temporarily turning off the ability to Tweet via SMS, or text message, to protect people’s accounts. We’re taking this step because of vulnerabilities that need to be addressed by mobile carriers and our reliance on having a linked phone number for two-factor authentication (we’re working on improving this).”

It seems tweeting via SMS will be disabled for the foreseeable future.

Watch our tech news roundup here!

We’ll be back next week with more tech news!

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