Changes To Google Images Will Make Image Theft Difficult

Image theft is one of the biggest problems on the internet.  If you’re a photographer, you’ve almost certainly lost money because people find your work online and make a copy of it rather than paying for the right to use it.

Unfortunately, Google has made that incredibly easy to do, but that’s changing.  Until recently, if you did a Google image search, you’d get a list of images that matched your search phrase, and one of the buttons displayed was a “View Image” button that would take you to the image file itself, as opposed to viewing the image in the context of whatever web page it was displayed on.

This, of course, made stealing the image a trivial task.  Content providers have been complaining loudly, and Google listened.  Effective February 15, the “View Image” button is no longer listed.  Of course, it’s still possible to steal the image in question, but users will have to jump through at least a couple more hoops to do so.

A second, smaller and somewhat less impactful change is the fact that Google has also removed the “Search By Image” button that formerly appeared when you navigated straight to an image file.  Savvy users will still be able to drag the image itself to the search bar and accomplish the same thing, but relatively few people are aware of this, which will cut down on its use significantly.  The thinking here is that netizins were making use of this feature to find copies of images that didn’t have a watermark visible.

While these two changes give photographers reason to cheer, it definitely negatively impacts the user experience, as there are a number of perfectly legitimate uses for copyrighted image material.  The bottom line is that if you’re accustomed to the old way of searching for and acquiring images, you’ll have a bit of an adjustment period ahead.

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The Dropbox IPO filing is here

 It’s official, the Dropbox IPO filing is here. Going public is a huge milestone for Dropbox and has been one of the most anticipated tech IPOs for several years now. We knew that it had already filed confidentially, but the company has now unveiled its filing, meaning the actual IPO is likely very soon, probably late March. Read More

2018 Olympics Hit By Malware

Hackers are picky about their victims.  They’ll target just about any group or organization, including the 2018 Olympics.

Cisco’s Talos Group recently identified a new strain of malware they’ve dubbed “Olympic Destroyer” which is wreaking havoc in Pyeong Chang’s computer networks and causing downtime to internal WiFi and television systems. This has impacted the games’ opening ceremonies, and stands an excellent chance of further disrupting the rest of the festivities.

Because the threat was only recently discovered, the Talos team’s initial assessment and report was spotty and short on details, but the group recently amended their initial findings.  The results aren’t pretty, and the malware is seen as being both more dangerous and more advanced than originally thought.

The big three findings in the team’s amended report are as follows:

  • It’s Polymorphic – As the malware spreads, it collects new credentials from each machine it infects, adding these to its binary on the fly. Members of the Talos team had this to say about the behavior: “I have not seen a malware sample modify itself to include harvested creds before and I’ve been doing this stuff longer than I should admit.  Polymorphic malware isn’t a new idea by itself, but I’ve never seen any examples of malware modifying itself to include harvested credentials.”
  • It Spreads Via The EternalRomance Exploit – This bit of information comes to us from the Windows Defender team. The mechanism by which Olympic Destroyer spreads is industrial grade, utilizing an exploit from the NSA leaked by the Shadow Brokers last year.
  • Finally, It Wipes Data – This is perhaps the most significant of the three updates to the Talos report. The malware has a data wiping mechanism built into it that it utilizes at every opportunity in an attempt to delete files on network shares.  Since it only seems to target shared files, it’s not deleting items key to OS functionality. Even so, these shared files are important, and this is what’s causing operational disruptions.

More details will no doubt become available as the various teams researching Olympic Destroyer get a better understanding of what they’re looking at.  The bottom line is, it’s a pretty advanced threat and will likely inspire copycats in the months ahead.

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Microsoft Office Update Available To Only Windows 10 Users

There are big changes coming to MS Office which you need to be aware of, given how widely used “Office” is in most companies.

First, the headline change:  When MS Office 2019 is released, it will only run on Windows 10.  If you’ve still got machines on older operating systems, and you want to keep your productivity suite up to date, then you’ll need to upgrade those older systems.

Also, be aware that when Office 2019 ships, it will only have “Click-to-Run” technology.  No MSI, although Office Server will have an MSI deployment option.

In terms of software support, the company had this to say:

“Office 2019 will provide five years of mainstream support and approximately two years of extended support.  This is an exception to our ‘Fixed Lifecycle Policy’ to align with the support period for Office 2016.  Extended support will end 10/14/2025.”

The Office 2019 bundle will include the following apps:

  • Word
  • Excel
  • PowerPoint
  • Outlook
  • Skype for Business

Additionally, server versions of SharePoint and Exchange will be available.

In conjunction with the announcement above, the company also announced service extensions for Windows 10, and changes to the system requirements for people who use Office 365 ProPlus, the company’s online office suite.

Beginning on January 14, 2020, Office 365 ProPlus will no longer be supported on Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2016, or any Windows 10 LTSC (Long Term Servicing Channel) release.  Windows 10 support (versions 1511, 1607, 1703, and 1709) will get an additional six months of support for both enterprise and education customers.

Although these changes will no doubt inconvenience some users, overall, they have to be judged as a positive.  Microsoft has been taking a number of meaningful steps in recent years to streamline and simplify their product support, and these latest changes are very much in keeping with that.

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Teampay raises $4m so you don’t have to steal your CEO’s credit card anymore

 Few problems are as much of a headache for the modern corporate worker as buying things on the company’s dime. Companies are loathe to hand out credit cards to everyone in the building, but they also want their employees to do your job without having to fill out six forms in triplicate to requisition a pencil. They also want to control spending and track who bought that $2,000 bottle… Read More buys Komfo from Sitecore as social media management consolidates, a startup out of Denmark that helps businesses manage their presence across social media and messaging platforms, has acquired a competitor in a wider trend of consolidation in the market for such services. It is buying Komfo from customer experience software developer Sitecore, which itself was majority acquired by EQT for $1.1 billion in 2016. is not disclosing the terms… Read More

Feature Labs launches out of MIT to accelerate the development of machine learning algorithms

 Feature Labs, a startup with roots in research begun at MIT, officially launched today with a set of tools to help data scientists build machine learning algorithms more quickly. Co-founder and CEO Max Kanter says the company has developed a way to automate “feature engineering,” which is often a time consuming and manual process for data scientists. “Feature Labs helps… Read More

Indigo Fair raises $12M to connect wholesalers with smaller retail outlets with a smarter service

 Max Rhodes was walking around that weird little parklet in Hayes Valley in San Francisco after taking a break from a five-year stint at Square to figure out what he wanted to do next — and he kept seeing Square registers everywhere. It made him think about the connections between the average product maker and those retailers. That’s what prompted him to start Indigo Fair. Read More

Customer service bot startup Agent IQ announces $6.3 million Series A led by Sierra Ventures

 If you’ve tried to deal with a bot before you can speak to a human customer service rep, you know how frustrating that process can sometimes be. Sure, there are basic tasks that can free up a human rep to handle the more difficult matters, but it can be exasperating when there is no easy way to talk to a person. Agent IQ, a startup that has developed customer service bots, acknowledges… Read More

Smart TV’s May Be Tracking You And Vulnerable To Hacks

Do you own a smart TV?  More than half of all television sales in the US last year were smart TVs, so chances are decent that you own one.  If you do, be aware that it may be collecting far more data about you than you think.

Recall that last year, Samsung, (one of the top smart TV manufacturers) found itself in hot water when it was revealed that the TV could listen in on conversations, record them (for better voice recognition) and save them on a Samsung server.

Those issues still persist to varying degrees, but a recent Consumer Reports study underscores something most people in the tech business have known all along.  Smart devices really aren’t all that smart, at least when it comes to security.

The Consumer Reports study concluded that most smart TVs and associated technologies like the Roku have only the most rudimentary of security features and can easily be hacked, giving the hackers total control of your TV. This includes the ability to turn it off, on, change the channel, and monitor your viewing habits.  Given that, these TVs can also be voice-controlled. Once a hacker is in control of your set, he could monitor any conversations that take place near it without your knowledge.

In addition, the most recent smart TVs come with a feature called Content Recognition.  For example, if you watch the latest episode of the Walking Dead (whether on AMC or Amazon Prime or some other streaming service), the next time you pull up a web page on your PC or smart phone, you’ll start seeing advertising related to the Walking Dead.

This, of course, gives any would-be hacker a much deeper view into your viewing habits and history.

The upside is that most of these features can be deactivated if you have the patience to sift through the television’s menu system. Of course, if you do that, then it’s no longer a smart TV, and thus, not worth the extra money you spent on it.

As ever, the bottom line is this:  These kinds of risks aren’t going to go away on their own.  Until and unless smart device makers start taking security more seriously, we’re going to keep hearing about potential or actual abuses.


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