Tech News

School Employee Allegedly Framed a Principal With Racist Deepfake Rant

Controversial gunshot-detection company ShotSpotter has deployed more than 25,000 microphones across 170 cities worldwide. This week, WIRED and South Side Weekly revealed the company may continue to provide gunshot data to police in cities even after contracts have ended. Internal emails seen by the publications suggest ShotSpotter sensors may have stayed online despite law enforcement deals having expired, raising questions about what will happen to 2,500 microphones in Chicago when its contract runs out at the end of the year.

Elsewhere, Change Healthcare finally admitted to paying a ransom to the AlphV hackers, also known as BlackCat, that extorted the medical company. Weeks ago, WIRED revealed the attackers were paid $22 million, one of the largest ransomware payments ever. However, in a statement this week the company admitted for the first time that it paid the ransom as part of its effort “to do all it could to protect patient data from disclosure.” Some of that data still found its way onto the dark web.

In another successful grift, researchers have found animators in North Korea creating artwork for major Hollywood studios. A misconfigured North Korea cloud server, discovered at the end of last year, contained thousands of animation files, notes, and working documents for productions of shows that stream on Amazon Prime Video and Max. The companies likely didn’t know workers from the Hermit Kingdom were creating the artwork, but it’s another example of how North Korea is using skilled workers to circumvent sanctions and make the regime money.

Meanwhile, Cisco revealed this week that some of its devices, called Adaptive Security Appliances, have been targeted by state-sponsored hackers who exploited two zero-day vulnerabilities in the systems. The attack, dubbed ArcaneDoor, is believed to have had an espionage focus and sources suspect China’s state-backed hackers may be the culprits.

The November presidential elections may still be months away, but the next US president will have increased surveillance capabilities. This week Joe Biden signed a controversial bill extending and enhancing Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. FISA allows spy agencies to collect Americans’ calls, emails, and more when pursuing foreign intelligence. Critics say the changes are “a gift to any president who may wish to spy on political enemies.”

Police reports, the Banner says, indicate that the audio clip had a “profound” impact on the school principal. “It not only led to Eiswert’s temporary removal from the school but also triggered a wave of hate-filled messages on social media and numerous calls to the school,” police reports said.

Voice-cloning technology, which can fall under the broader banner of deepfake technology, has rapidly improved within the last year. Cloning tools can recreate someone’s voice to a relatively realistic level using just a few seconds of real audio. The systems have increasingly been used to impersonate politicians and scam people over the phone.

General Motors Stops Driving Surveillance, Following Privacy Complaints

Your car knows a lot about you—from where and how you drive, to your weight and how you sit. This week, following a series of revelations from New York Times reporter Kashmir Hill, General Motors announced it will end its “Smart Driver” program and unenroll all customers. Until the reports from the Times, GM was sharing data with data brokers LexisNexis and Verisk, which shared it with insurers and led to high payments for some people. The OnStar Smart Driver program had been designed to promote safer driving, GM said. However, many people were not aware they had been enrolled in the system. Ten lawsuits have been filed so far about the Smart Driver program and how it shared data.

Google Delays Killing Cookies—Again

In January 2020, Google said it would remove third-party cookies from Chrome within two years—following Safari, Brave, Firefox, and other browsers in eradicating the tracking technology. It’s now April 2024 and the company has delayed the change for a third time, saying it’ll happen in 2025. Google’s proposed cookie replacement has faced scrutiny from competition and privacy regulators in the UK, with critics saying cookies are just being replaced by another form of tracking and suggesting the changes could further benefit Google’s ad business.

Samourai Wallet Founders Arrested Over $2 Billion Unlawful Transactions

Keonne Rodriguez and William Lonergan Hill, the founders of crypto-mixing service Samourai Wallet, were charged by US prosecutors this week for running an unlicensed money transfer business and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The company processed $2 billion in “unlawful transactions” and “facilitated more than $100 million in money laundering,” according to Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and other investigators. The charges can carry a maximum of 20 years each. The move comes as US prosecutors try to clampdown on crypto mixing services that may be used to hide funds or allow illicit behavior. Mixers Bitcoin Fog, Helix, and Tornado Cash have all faced action in recent years.

Chinese Keyboard Vulnerabilities Could Reveal Typing

New research from the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab this week revealed vulnerabilities in eight Chinese keyboard apps that, if exploited, could allow everything typed to be intercepted. Up to a billion people may be impacted, the researchers say. They tested apps from major technology companies and phone makers, including Baidu, Honor, Huawei, Samsung and Tencent. “Most of the vulnerable apps can be exploited by an entirely passive network eavesdropper,” they researchers write, adding that most of the impacted companies fixed the vulnerabilities when they were reported.