Google’s diversity memo shakes the internet, Walt Disney is leaving Netflix and researchers have successfully infected a computer with DNA! — Issue #21

Gregory B.
Aug 14, 2017 · 6 min read

Google’s diversity memo shakes the internet, Walt Disney is leaving Netflix and researchers have successfully infected a computer with a strand of DNA!


🌍 Around the web

Google fires engineer who “crossed the line” with diversity memo

Unless you live on another planet, you’ll have heard about that Google engineer who wrote a controversial essay arguing that the company has gone overboard in its attempts to promote diversity. Well he got fired and everybody has an opinion about it.

“At Google, we’re regularly told that implicit (unconscious) and explicit biases are holding women back in tech and leadership,” Damore wrote in an internal posting that went viral within the company over the weekend. (…)
Biology is partly responsible for differences between men and women, Damore wrote, and “these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership.”
Google condemned the post after it became public on Saturday. Danielle Brown, Google’s vice president of diversity, integrity, and governance, wrote in a response to Google employees that it “advanced incorrect assumptions about gender” and is “not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes, or encourages.”

The Marcus Hutchins Case Could Set a Dangerous Precedent For White Hat Hackers

Whitehat hackers navigate in gray areas where something they might consider legitimate investigation or essential software development could, in the eyes of the law, be seen as criminal behavior.

Security experts who have read the federal indictment and those familiar with Hutchins’ work expressed skepticism at the suggestion that he intentionally created and distributed a malicious tool. Many security researchers consider the case a stark reminder that those who do not understand the nature or context of their work might question their intentions.
“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.

Microsoft Chatbot Trolls Shoppers for Online Sex

Finally a useful non-marketing related chatbot that makes sense!

The chatbot, tested recently in Seattle, Atlanta, and Washington, lurks behind fake online ads for sex posted by nonprofits working to combat human trafficking, and responds to text messages sent to the number listed. The software initially pretends to be the person in the ad, and can converse about its purported age, body, fetish services, and pricing. But if a would-be buyer signals an intent to purchase sex, the bot pivots sharply into a stern message.

The Walt Disney Company to Acquire Majority Ownership of BAMTech

Sad day: Walt Disney will be dropping their distribution agreement with Netflix in 2019.

The Walt Disney Company announced today that it has agreed to acquire majority ownership of BAMTech, LLC and will launch its ESPN-branded multi-sport video streaming service in early 2018, followed by a new Disney-branded direct-to-consumer streaming service in 2019. (…) Disney will pay $1.58 billion to acquire an additional 42% stake in BAMTech — a global leader in direct-to-consumer streaming technology and marketing services, data analytics, and commerce management — from MLBAM, the interactive media and Internet company of Major League Baseball.

To Protect Voting, Use Open-Source Software

Very interesting perspective on how to make elections more secure.

Since the debacle of the 2000 election (remember hanging chads?) American election machinery has been improved to reduce the chances of mis-tallying votes, outright fraud and attacks by hackers. These improvements brought with them a new concern: lack of software security. Most voting machines’ software can now be easily hacked. This is in large part because the current voting systems use proprietary software based on Microsoft’s operating system. (…)
Open-source systems are tried and tested. A majority of supercomputers use them. The Defense Department, NASA and the United States Air Force all use open-source systems, because they know this provides far more security. Every step in our voting process should use software that follows these examples.

And if you’re interested, see How the Vote Hacking Was Done at DefCon25.


🤖 Technology / AI / Blockchain

Malicious code into DNA infects the computer that reads it

Mind blowing: a team of biologists and security researchers have successfully infected a computer with a strand of DNA!

Accordingly, they made the leap plenty of sci-fi writers have made in the past, and that we are currently exploring via tools like CRISPR: DNA is basically life’s file system. The analysis programs are reading a DNA strand’s bases (cytosine, thymine etc, the A, T, G, and C we all know) and turning them into binary data. (…)
All you really need to know about the transcription application is that it reads the raw data coming from the transcription process and sorts through it, looking for patterns and converting the base sequences it finds into binary code.

Russia’s ‘Fancy Bear’ Hackers Used Leaked NSA Tool ‘Eternal Blue” to Target Hotel Guests

Eternal Blue strikes again. This time it’s Russian hackers using it to capture high-value hotel guests’ data.

FireEye says those hackers (…)have begun to use EternalBlue, the leaked NSA hacking tool, as one technique to broaden their control of hotel networks after gaining an initial foothold via phishing or other techniques. Disturbingly, once those hackers take control of hotels’ Wi-Fi, they’re using that access to harvest victim computers’ usernames and passwords silently, with a trick that doesn’t even require users to actively type them when signed onto the hotel network.

DeepMind and Blizzard open StarCraft II as an AI research environment

Very curious to see what will get out of this!

Along with our partner Blizzard Entertainment, we are excited to announce the release of the Starcraft II Learning Environment (SC2LE), a suite of tools that we hope will accelerate AI research in the real-time strategy game and make it easier for researchers to focus on the frontiers of our field.

Meet ‘Spoofy’. How a Single entity dominates the price of Bitcoin.

Regulation is necessary before Bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies) can be used as part of a real financial system.

This story is about a trader, or a group of traders, or possibly even Bitfinex themselves manipulates the price of Bitcoin. The past few months I’ve slowly collected screenshots of a trader I like to call ‘Spoofy’. You’ll see evidence of spoofing, wash trading, a sketchy scheme associated closely with Bitfinex known as ‘Tether’ among other shenanigans.
Spoofy makes the price go up when he wants it to go up, and Spoofy makes the price go down when he wants it to go down, and he’s got the coin… both USD, and Bitcoin of course to pull it off, and with impunity on Bitfinex.

Fortunately some people are working on it and I’m happy to see that Coinbase just raised $100M in their mission to create an open financial system for the world.

Also despite S.E.C. Warning, Wave of Initial Coin Offerings keeps growing and Filecoin Suspends ICO After Raising $186 Million in One Hour Clogs the System.


⚙️ Development / Design / DIY projects

Compression Decompressed

The basics of data compression and how Youtube, Netflix and Spotify stream your stuff.

Bootstrap 4 Beta is out

Apparently the most popular HTML, CSS, and JS framework in the world (not my word, theirs) has a new version out. Looks great!

wtfjs: A list of funny and tricky JavaScript examples

We all know how messed up Javascript can get sometimes. Here is a list of funny and tricky JavaScript examples.

To go or not to go React Native

Everything you need to keep in mind before you decide to go (or not go) with React Native.

UX brutalism

Amazing! A brutalist framework for every step of your UX design process.

Learn regex the easy way

Learn regex the easy way, seriously!


Gregory B.

Written by

Web strategist with a conscience.

The Aspiring Nerd

Weekly curated articles at the crossroads of web marketing, development and technology.

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