DoNotPay bot launches a cheap airline ticket that automates the nearly impossible business of getting refunds when prices fall

The DoNotPay bot (previously) is a versatile consumer advocacy chatbot created by UK-born Stanford computer science undergrad Joshua Browder, with its origins in a bot to beat malformed and improper traffic tickets, helping its users step through the process of finding ways to invalidate the tickets and saving its users millions in the process. Read the rest

Exiled Cambodian opposition leader sues Facebook in California over allegations of collusion with Cambodia's dictator

Cambodian dictator Hun Sen has ruled since 1998, and when an opposition leader used Facebook to challenge his election in 2013, Hun Sen teamed up with a fake news outlet called Fresh News to deploy a Facebook-based strategy to consolidate his control and neutralize democratic opposition. Read the rest

The latest IoT botnet displays evidence of a halfway clever botmaster

The amazing and frightening thing about the Mirai botnet's reign of terror wasn't that it was a super-sophisticated cyberweapon: rather, it was a clumsy, amateurish fuggly hack that turned out to have been produced by a couple of dum-dums with a Minecraft racket. Read the rest

New York Times profiles a sleazy Twitter follower-farm, the sleazy serial liar who made millions on it, and the celebs, politicians, sports figures and "influencers" who paid him

Devumi is a sleazy Twitter-bot farm founded by German Calas, a serial liar who buys wholesale Twitter bots from even scummier bottom-feeders than him, and pays a series of low-waged patsies to direct them to follow people who want to seem more popular and influential than their actual Twitter follower-count suggests. Read the rest

Research report explains how adtech supercharges political deceit, allowing even bumblers to be master propagandists

A new report from the New America Foundation uses the current fear that Russian government elements manipulated the 2016 US election to explore the relationship between advertising technology, surveillance capitalism, and "precision propaganda," showing how the toolsuite developed for the advertising industry is readily repurposable by even modestly competent actors to spread disinformation campaigns. Read the rest

Neither Huxleyed, nor Orwelled: living in the Phildickian dystopia

Political scientist and sf fan Henry Farrell (previously) argues persuasively that the dystopian elements of our everyday life are best viewed through the lens of Philip K Dick (whose books repeatedly depicted a world of constructed realities, whose true nature was obscured by totalitarians, conspiracies, and broken computers) and not Orwell or Huxley, whose computers and systems worked altogether too well to be good parallels for today's janky dystopia. Read the rest

Paradise Papers reveal cozy relationship between Stubhub and Canadian botmaster/scalper kingpin

The Paradise Papers continue to expose the economically useless activity that late-stage capitalism rewards with titanic sums of money: today, it's the story of Julien Lavallée, a botmaster ticket-scalper who has harvested the lion's share of concert tickets from all over the world, laundering them for millions through a secret "top seller" program that Stubhub offers to anyone who can move more than $50,000 worth of tickets per year. Read the rest

Botcheck.me: a plugin that predicts whether a Twitter user is a bot

Ash Bhat and Rohan Phadte are 20 year old UC Berkeley students who turned a machine learning class assignment into a browser plugin that tries to guess whether a given Twitter profile is associated with a bot or a human, and assigns a probability score that takes into account the possibility that a bot has human pilots who can take over at key junctures. Read the rest

The Tories' failed £1.2m social smear ads reveal callouses on our attention’s tender spots

The UK election didn't deliver the increased majority that PM Theresa May was seeking, but it wasn't for lack of trying: the UK Conservative party spent £1.2m on social media smear ads that painted Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as a terrorist sympathiser, a useful idiot for Scottish separatism, and an incompetent.

A twitterbot that turns Trump's tweets into official presidential statements is usefully jarring

I'm skeptical of the project to keep Trump "not normal" -- not because he's not abnormal, but because the human psyche is a relentless normalizer, able to make everything from extermination camps to death row to slavery "normal" and trying not to adapt to stimulus is a hard target to shoot for. Read the rest

Floods of WordPress attacks traced to easily hackable, ISP-supplied routers

Wordfence, a security research company, discovered that the reason Algeria is the country most often seen in attacks on WordPress blogs is that the country's largest ISP distributes home routers that are locked in an insecure state, with an open port that lets attackers seize control of them and use them to stage attacks on higher-value targets. Read the rest

The Internet of Things will host devastating, unstoppable botnets

Bruce Schneier takes to the pages of Technology Review to remind us all that while botnets have been around for a long time, the Internet of Things is supercharging them, thanks to insecurity by design. Read the rest

A year later, no action from Chinese company whose insecure PVRs threaten all internet users

It's been more than a year since RSA's Rotem Kerner published his research on the insecurities in a PVR that was "white labeled" by TVT, a Chinese company and sold under over 70 brand-names around the world. In the intervening year, tens of thousands of these devices have been hijacked into botnets used by criminals in denial of service attacks, and TVT is still MIA, having done nothing to repair them. Read the rest

Amnesty reveals gigantic Mexican Twitter troll-bot mob that threatens journalists, hawks products, and hoaxes trending topics

Amnesty International has published a damning report on the organized networks of Mexican Twitter trolls and botmasters for hire who orchestrate massive harassment campaigns against investigative journalists, including death threats and misinformation/slander; they also hawk products and fake out Twitter's trending topic algorithm, operating with relative impunity -- thanks, in part, to Twitter's underinvestment in Spanish-speaking anti-harassment staff. Read the rest

Researchers discover hundreds of thousands of unsuspected, Star Wars-themed twitterbots hiding in plain sight

Twitter is a great place for bots. Botherders like Shardcore produce amazing, politics, artistic bots that mine Twitter, inject useful information into Twitter, or just frolic on Twitter, making it a better place. Twitterbots produce entries in imaginary grimoires, conduct sociological research, produce virtual model railroads, alert the public when governments try to make bad news disappear, and much, much more. Read the rest

Revealing the cover and first excerpt of Autonomous, Annalee Newitz's long-awaited debut novel

We've followed Annalee Newitz's career here for more than a decade, from her science writing fellowship to her work as an EFF staffer to her founding of IO9 and her move to Ars Technica and the 2013 publication of her first book, nonfiction guidance on surviving the end of the world and rebooting civilization: now, I'm pleased to present an exclusive excerpt from Autonomous, her debut novel, which Tor will publish in September 2017, along with the first look at her cover, designed by the incomparable Will Staehle. As her editor, Liz Gorinsky, notes, "Autonomous takes an action-packed chase narrative and adds Annalee's well-honed insight into issues of AI autonomy, pharmaceutical piracy, and maker culture to make a book that's accessible, entertaining, and ridiculously smart." I'm three quarters of the way through an early copy, and I heartily agree.

The clumsy, amateurish IoT botnet has now infected devices in virtually all of the world's countries

Mirai, the clumsily written Internet of Things virus that harnessed so many devices in an attack on journalist Brian Krebs that it overloaded Akamai, has now spread to devices in either 164 or 177 countries -- that is, pretty much everywhere with reliable electricity and internet access.

Imperva, a company that provides protection to websites against Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, is among the ones who have been busy investigating Mirai. According to their tally, the botnet made of Mirai-infected devices has reached a total of 164 countries. A pseudonymous researcher that goes by the name MalwareTech has also been mapping Mirai, and according to his tally, the total is even higher, at 177 countries.

Internet of Things Malware Has Apparently Reached Almost All Countries on Earth [Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai/Motherboard] Read the rest

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