Author Archives: Drapiński Piotr

E-Cigarettes, the best way to quit smoking?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Ever since e-cigarettes were introduced to the market and got really popular, there has been a heated debate about their influence on smoker’s health. Although most of the health researchers agree that they are definitely less harmful than regular cigarettes. New research published in the New England Journal of Medicine points out its positive use,  when it comes to quitting smoking in general.

It seems that people who are ‘pro e-smoking’, are winning the battle right now. Research that has been published in New England Journal of Medicine indicates that people, who tried quitting smoking by using e-cigarettes rather than usual nicotine replacements were almost twice more likely to quit smoking. Frankly, I’d say that these results are quite ridiculous (in a good way), but let’s go over how this study was conducted.

Almost 900 smokers that had gone to ‘quit-smoking’ centers were randomly split in half and were treated with two different approaches. The first group was given three months worth of supplies such as nicotine patches or gums, accordingly to their preference. On the other hand, the second group was give a ‘vaper starter kit’, which contained a e-cigarette and some e-juices. Apart from that both of the groups had free weekly counselling in order to make the change in their lifes more likely. Also to truly know, whether they really quit smoking or not, all of the participants had their carbon monoxide level in breathing air, regularly checked.

Just in the first few weeks, there has been a noticeable change in the second group, most of the participants didn’t feel that urge to smoke a cigarette, they also weren’t so irritated and didn’t have any issues with focusing. This are some really good news, as these factors are concerned as hardest for smokers to overcome, when it comes to quitting.

This trial research was conducted for a year and by the end of it, they had some surprising results. It turned out that 10% of people in first group successfully quitted smoking, whereas in the second one the percentage came out to be 18%, which is quite shocking.

Although we can’t just talk about the positives of e-cigarettes. They are still hazardous for our health as they also contain harmful substances that can be found in regular cigarette smoke, but on lower levels. Moreover, in e-juice there are also high levels of nicotine which is really addictive. There was also research done in California, that indicated that average e-smoker consumes more nicotine than regular smokers.

As for now, according to multiple health organisations like FDA (US), e-cigarettes aren’t formally yet the ‘approved’  way to quit smoking. They are not regarded as ‘standard cessation treatment’. Although with other trials in the future like the one described in this article, this can change.

What’s your stance on e-cigarettes ? What do you think about this kind of treatment? 

 

Reference list:

  1. null. (null). What We Know About Electronic Cigarettes. https://smokefree.gov/quit-smoking/ecigs-menthol-dip/ecigs
  2. Richter, L. (2018, October).  Can E-Cigarettes Help You Quit Smoking?. https://www.centeronaddiction.org/e-cigarettes/tobacco-replacement/can-e-cigarettes-help-you-quit-smoking
  3. Cara, E. (2019, January 31). E-Cigarettes Really Can Help You Quit Smoking, Large New Study Finds. https://gizmodo.com/e-cigarettes-really-can-help-you-quit-smoking-large-ne-1832212221
  4. null. (2015, December 22). Using e-cigarettes to stop smoking. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/quit-smoking/using-e-cigarettes-to-stop-smoking/
  5. Freedman, M. and Burke, G.M. (2018, February 1). High-nicotine e-cigarettes lead to more smoking and vaping. http://www.contemporarypediatrics.com/adolescent-medicine/high-nicotine-e-cigarettes-lead-more-smoking-and-vaping

Photos:

  1. https://www.sciencenews.org/article/health-risks-e-cigarettes-emerge
  2. https://www.menstylefashion.com/men-switching-smoking-vaper/

The future of gaming – Teslasuit

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Probably most of you are familiar with VR. Not that long ago, we could see it only in movies, but nowadays thanks to Oculus Rift, it started becoming a more mainstream option of entertainment. Well, now imagine that there’s a device that enables you to not only see everything as if you were there, but also to feel it. That’s what Tesla’s new invention is all about.

Teslasuit was presented at CES 2019, where influencers and journalists could even try out the prototype version. It is a new generation of smart clothing. Moreover, it is a full body suit, made from waterproof neoprene, filled with multiple censors, which right now add up to 68. Since it’s waterproof, it is fully washable. Just put it into your washing machine and enjoy the fresh smell. Additionaly, Tesla’s spokesperson stated that by the time that they will hit the market, number of censors will be even higher. Although all of this information may not seem as impressive for you at this moment, let me explain briefly what can it do.

This clothing with the use of haptic feedback can simulate the feeling of touch, bumping into a wall and even getting kicked or punched. It seems pretty futuristic, doesn’t it? Of course everything is done with safety measures, so that it doesn’t hurt you. You can even adjust the power of the sensations, if it’s too much for you, but that’s not all. Let’s ignore for a second the ‘less important’ fact that it measures your biometric data like heart rate and how do you feel overall. It actually can make you feel different temperatures.

Now imagine, that you play Call of Duty or some other FPS game and you have a mission located somewhere in Siberia with -30°C, there are plenty of enemies nearby trying to kill you and you can feel it all! The temperature, bullets hitting you, touching the ground, your weapon, simply everything. Of course it won’t be as real as the real pain or temperature, but it definitely will be different and much better than sitting in front of a computer or a TV on your couch.  I don’t know how do you feel about it, but to me it seems amazing. 

 

It provides the sensations, anything from stroke to hard impact … but the hard impact we’ve specifically limited to the own wearer’s strength, not to damage any tissue or anything, to keep it safe.” (Digital Trends).

 

Imagine the possibilities that this equipment creates. In my opinion, it can even help with obesity to some extent. All of the gamers in order to keep playing, will have to burn all of this calories by moving inside of their houses constantly. That’s definitely not something that you can do, while being overweight. Your actual physical abilities will determine, how good you are at certain games.

Although I’m really enthusiastic about this kind of gaming, let’s talk about some other aspects of this technology, since playing games just isn’t for everyone. In future, it may enable us to for example go explore different countries or watch a NBA game, from the comfort of our own house, just for few bucks.  It can even be some form of communication between friend’s and family. Imagine that you are in a long-distance relationship. This technology will enable you to not only talk face-to-face, but feel the presence of your partner. This just blows my mind.

Here you can see a quick video of how people reacted to Teslasuit at CES 2019

It all sounds amazing, but nothing there’s always a catch. Well, the device itself isn’t so cheap. It may cost several thousand of dollars and it’s only wholesaled. The price will probably go down as the interest of the product will go up in future, but it definitely isn’t a product for everyone, as for now. Still, in my opinion it’s totally worth it, if you can lands your hands on it.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments. 

 

Reference list:

1. Miranda, F. (2019, January 13). The Teslasuit could turn Black Mirror’s terrifying ‘Playtest’ into a reality. https://www.digitaltrends.com/gaming/teslasuit-experience-ces-2019/

2. null. (2018, December 31).The TeslaSuit, VR, and Gaming Potential. https://www.gamedesigning.org/gaming/teslasuit/

Tagged , , , , , , ,

An iPhone owner? You better read this.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Security researchers from mobile industry have found more than a dozen iPhone apps that are connected with Golduck. It is a dangerous malware that infects people’s retro games apps.

Apple’s software is usually well-known for its safety. It’s a closed environment, what means that every app that you can download from the Appstore is thoroughly checked by their engineers. Moreover, if you want to download something that the system doesn’t recognise, you will need to give it special permission. This precaution increases the safety of the users, that aren’t that familiar with either tech or internet.

Well so what’s the problem? Why should we worry?

The thing is that, the malware is getting into your device, because the app that you may have used is connected to servers that contain the virus. That basically means, that while you are using it, your phone gets infected. Now, that allows the hacker to do multiple things, one of them would be to f.x. send premium messages. Those micro-transactions can really add up, and in the end cost you a lot of money. The malware has been known in the market for over a year now, but firstly it has been noticed on Google Play Store. It turned out, because of the research of Appthority that over 10 million user’s devices has been infected.

Here’s the list of the applications, that have been found during the research. If you had downloaded them, please delete it as fast as possible:

  1. Commando Metal: Classic Contra
  2. Super Pentron Adventure: Super Hard
  3. Classic Tank vs Super Bomber
  4. Super Adventure of Maritron
  5. Roy Adventure Troll Game
  6. Trap Dungeons : Super Adventure
  7. Bounce Classic Legend
  8. Block game
  9. Classic Bomber: Super Legend
  10. Brain It On: Stickman Physics
  11. Bomber Game : Classic Bomberman
  12. Classic Brick – Retro Block
  13. The Climber Brick
  14. Chicken Shoot Galaxy Invaders

So how does it actually work?

When you use a free application on your smartphone it most of the time has a lot of ads, so that the creator can earn some revenue from it, instead of making the app itself pay-to-use. What the researchers noticed is the fact that the games mentioned above display icons, which when clicked connect your device with Golduck command and control server. It doesn’t sound that harmful, but it really can cause some serious damage to your wallet.

“The apps themselves are technically not compromised; while they do not contain any malicious code, the backdoor they open presents a risk for exposure that our customers do not want to take.

“A hacker could easily use the secondary advertisement space to display a link that redirects the user and dupes them into installing a provisioning profile or a new certificate that ultimately allows for a more malicious app to be installed,” said the research team from Wandera – a company that focuses on mobile security.

It was estimated by Sensor Tower, that these apps were installed over a million times since their release. That’s a really scary number in my opinion. Let’s say, that each user had unintentionally sent a premium message just with a worth of 10$, that’s already 10 million dollars stolen from innocent people.

Although, you have to keep in mind with all of this knowledge, that every app can be ‘compromised’ this way. That’s a good point to keep going forward with our lives, because on average a smartphone user has 90 apps on their mobile device. The funny fact is that you use only 10% of them daily and 30% during the whole month. Our phones are trashed with all kinds of software that can potentially harm us. No matter whether you use Android or iOS, there’s always a way to get through the security systems and you should always be careful, when using internet.

Reference list:

  1. Whittaker, Z. (2019-01-05). Security researchers find over a dozen iPhone apps linked to Golduck malware. https://techcrunch.com/2019/01/05/dozen-iphone-apps-linked-to-golduck-malware/
  2. Perez, S. (2017).Report: Smartphone owners are using 9 apps per day, 30 per month
    https://techcrunch.com/2017/05/04/report-smartphone-owners-are-using-9-apps-per-day-30-per-month/
  3. Apple. (null).null. https://www.apple.com/shop/accessories/all-accessories
  4. Complex(null).null. https://static.complex.com/region.html
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Just before Christmas, New York Times surprised us with a ‘wonderful’ gift. A report that clearly shows that Facebook has been sharing our private conversations with major companies like Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Spotify, Netflix, Yahoo and many more.

Discovered report included information of over 200 pages of leaked documents, which contained the data about secret partnerships with third-party companies, that enabled them to allegedly read, compose or even delete the messages. Regarding them as ‘partners’, allowed them to not be controlled with usual privacy regulations. The number of companies that was discovered, when it comes to that level of clearance was estimated to be over 150.

“The deals, the oldest of which date to 2010, were all active in 2017,” The Times reported. “Some were still in effect this year.”

Major companies that were included in the document started addressing the issue after the controversy bursted out. Moreover, all of the companies are trying to separate themselves from the scandal.

Let’s start with something ‘less dramatic’. I will give you a simple example of how it worked. In the report, New York Times stated that Facebook gave Apple access user’s contacts and calendar, even if the sharing option was switched off. This way they could access the useful data that they wouldn’t have otherwise. Apple publicly denied these allegations and declared that they had never requested that kind access and never used it.

What also probably will warm your heart is the fact, that one the biggest company in the world, Amazon, is also connected with this controversy. They retrieved user’s name’s and contact information from Facebook database. Organisation confirmed getting it all, but didn’t reveal why and what for they used the data.

The more frightening case is with SpotifyNetflix and The Royal Bank of Canada. They have been granted a full access to user’s information and even private conversations. Furthermore, these companies were allegedly able to read, compose and even delete messages. All of the organisations stated that they were not aware of this kind of ‘unique’ access and they were not involved in this matter.

“Over the years we have tried various ways to make Netflix more social,” a Netflix spokesperson told Business Insider. “One example of this was a feature we launched in 2014 that enabled members to recommend TV shows and movies to their Facebook friends via Messenger or Netflix. It was never that popular so we shut the feature down in 2015. At no time did we access people’s private messages on Facebook, or ask for the ability to do so.” —Netflix (@netflix ; Twitter)

“Spotify’s integration with Facebook has always been about sharing and discovering music and podcasts,” Spotify told Business Insider in an emailed statement. “Spotify cannot read users’ private Facebook inbox messages across any of our current integrations. Previously, when users shared music from Spotify, they could add on text that was visible to Spotify. This has since been discontinued. We have no evidence that Spotify ever accessed users’ private Facebook messages.” – Spotify (@Spotify ; Twitter)

The Royal Bank of Canada “disputed that the bank had any such access,” The Times wrote.

The problem lies in the law, because according to the 2011 Federal Trade Commission consent decree, Facebook isn’t violating any laws. Why you may ask? Well they do not need your permission to share your information to other companies, because they are partners, so they are sort of ‘cooperating’. This is a major issue and we can see that in many areas of law with many other cases. Countries and their regulations just can’t keep up with the growth of technological world. The whole process of creating new rules is just too slow. That’s something we should focus on looking forward.

As a result of this controversy, Facebook tried to defend themselves.

“Facebook’s partners don’t get to ignore people’s privacy settings, and it’s wrong to suggest that they do,” Steve Satterfield, Facebook’s director of privacy and public policy, said in their statement for Business Insider. “Over the years, we’ve partnered with other companies so people can use Facebook on devices and platforms that we don’t support ourselves. Unlike a game, streaming music service, or other third-party app, which offer experiences that are independent of Facebook, these partners can only offer specific Facebook features and are unable to use information for independent purposes.”

Facebook has encountered a lot of controversies lately, especially when it comes to the sensitive data they have been gathering from years from their users. They had many leaks, breaches, even the CEO, Mark Zuckerberg had to testify to USA Congress earlier this year.  Taking all of that into consideration, do you still want to use Facebook? 

Reference list:

  1. Gray, S. (2018, December 19). Bombshell report shows Facebook let companies like Spotify and Netflix read private messages. https://www.businessinsider.com/facebook-let-major-tech-companies-feast-on-user-data-2018-12?IR=T
  2. Keach, S. (2018, December 19). Facebook secretly let Netflix and Spotify read your PRIVATE messages – as tech giants rocked by bombshell report. https://www.thesun.co.uk/tech/8013861/facebook-netflix-spotify-private-messages-data-scandal/
  3. Muskit, S. (2015, July 14). What Does Happiness Mean To Mark Zuckerberg?. https://lifebeyondnumbers.com/happiness-mark-zuckerberg/
  4. Zuver, J. (2018, July 26). Drew And Mike – July 26, 2018. https://drewandmikepodcast.com/drew-and-mike-july-26-2018/

Facebook shares our private conversations with other companies?

Tagged , , , , ,

The new, best way to deal with cyber-attacks?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Darktrace autonomous AI-system finds out about any digital threats, before they get severe.

Information leaks happen almost every day in the Internet. Meanwhile most of the engineers try to find a way to prevent hackers from getting into the digital systems, some of them noticed that it might be better to do it the other way around. In 2013 with that idea in mind, Darktrace has been created.

A group of former MI5 agents joined forces with Cambridge mathematicians with a mission in mind to develop a new tool to fight cyber-attacks. Interestingly enough, they decided to use AI to make that happen. As their philosophy states ‘Pit the machines against the machines to keep your data safe.‘.

So how does it really work and why is it effective? Frankly, it is quite simple. Darktrace connects their software with company’s system. From that moment, the AI starts monitoring all the activities that occur within the digital infrastructure. Furthermore, it is learning how does the company operate.

Well, you may now ask yourself a question why is it all for? With all of the data accumulated, Dartktrace’s software can now easily detect any instances of unusual activities or deviations. This is called unsupervised learning, a very rare type of machine learning, that doesn’t require any information from us humans, to know what to look for.  This really revolutionized the market, because before that we used supervised learning, which is quite the opposite. In that case we had to provide data to the AI in order to allow it to learn about the threats and problems that may occur. Although it works fine in most of the cases, it has its flaws too. The main problem is that it is useless when unknown threats appear. That’s where Darktrace has the advantage.

Darktrace software here just neutralized an anomalous, dangerous behaviour

For example, in 2017 the software was introduced to one of the Las Vegas casinos. Although the company states, that their AI usually is not really useful within first days of working due to its learning process taking at least a week, just after its start, it registered some unusual activities. It turned out, that their recently installed fish tank, which had electronic sensors connected to the servicing company, had transferred over 10GB of data to an external device, which did not belong to the company. After some digging they have found the hacker all the way in Finland.

As Dawn Song, a cybersecurity and machine-learning expert at the University of California, Berkeley stated “the whole system is as secure as its weakest link” and that is the great example of that.

An example of how Darktrace interface looks like.

What also accumulates to their superiority over the market is the accessibility. Their software is really easy to use and to see through. They also provide consultations, if anyone from the IT department encounters any problems with the software. Although co-chief executive Poppy Gustafsson said that they do not want to focus on that part of service “We don’t do consulting” she said “Our tech is not just about detecting cyber threat but also to autonomously respond.”.

Also interesting is the fact that the whole idea was inspired by human body. In one of the interviews, the co-CEO of the company, Nicole Eagan said “It’s very much like the human body’s own immune system,” and moreover  “As complex as it is, it has this innate sense of what’s self and not self. And when it finds something that doesn’t belong—that’s not self—it has an extremely precise and rapid response.”

This start-up has been performing incredibly ever since it was created. In March 2015 they were evaluated at 80M dollars. Only three years later in September 2018 they are valued at over 1,65 billion dollars. This rapid growth is was mainly accelerated by Mike Lynch and his Venture Fund, Invoke Capital. He owns right now over 40% of the company making him the shareholder with the highest ownership.

Although right now it may seem for you, as if this is a perfect software and solution to cyber-crime, it has its flaws too. Some IT workers had reported that this AI-based system, continuously reports multiple deviations throughout the day, to the point when they had to stop checking the alerts, just because it was a waste of their time. Furthermore, Darktrace’s plans for their customer are not cheap at all, which can make them less desirable.

Frankly, I would say that even though it will help bigger companies to eliminate some threats, especially from the inside, it is nowhere near the perfect solution yet.

What do you think about this start-up? Are AI-based systems the solution to our problem with cyber-crime? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

Reference list:

  1. Leslie, I. (2018, June 15). You used to build a wall to keep them out, but now hackers are destroying you from the inside.
    https://www.wired.co.uk/article/darktrace-insider-threats-hackers-security
  2. Ram, A. (2018, October 10). Inside Darktrace, the UK’s $1.65bn cyber security start-up.
    https://www.ft.com/content/2fa5bade-cb09-11e8-9fe5-24ad351828ab
  3. null. (null). Cyber-Security SEIM | IDS. https://msp-partner.com/darktrace/
  4. Clifford, A. (2018, August 7). How billion-dollar start-up Darktrace is fighting cybercrime with A.I. .
    https://www.cnbc.com/2018/08/07/billion-dollar-start-up-darktrace-is-fighting-cybercrime-with-ai.html
  5. Hao, K. (2018, November 16). The rare form of machine learning that can spot hackers who have already broken in.
    https://www.technologyreview.com/s/612427/the-rare-form-of-machine-learning-that-can-spot-hackers-who-have-already-broken-in/
  6. Darktrace. (null). Company Overview. https://www.darktrace.com/en/overview/

 

Tagged , , ,