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Artificial Intelligence

The company pcTattletale, which develops spyware, has announced that it is ceasing operations and shutting down following a data breach

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The creator of the spyware application pcTattletale declared that his company is now defunct and permanently closed due to a recent data breach that occurred over the weekend.

The shutdown occurred shortly after a hacker vandalized the spyware manufacturer’s website and shared links containing substantial quantities of data from pcTattletale’s servers, including databases of customer information and some stolen data from victims.

pcTattletale was a covert surveillance application, commonly referred to as “stalkerware,” due to its capability to monitor individuals without their awareness. This app enabled the user to remotely access screenshots of the target’s Android or Windows device, as well as their confidential information, from any location worldwide. pcTattletale marketed its spyware application as a means to monitor employees while also openly endorsing its capability to surreptitiously observe spouses and domestic partners without their consent, which is a violation of the law.

According to the data breach notification site Have I Been Pwned, the app, which is no longer in operation, had a total of 138,000 customers who had registered to use the service.

The hacker claimed on the vandalized website that pcTattletale’s servers could be manipulated to disclose the private keys for its Amazon Web Services account. These keys were utilized by the spyware manufacturer to store a vast number of screenshots of the devices on which the spyware was installed.

pcTattletale’s website is currently inaccessible

Bryan Fleming, the founder of pcTattletale, informed me via text message on Tuesday that he no longer possesses the ability to access the Amazon Web Services account of the company.

Fleming stated that they deleted all data as a precautionary measure due to the potential risk of a data breach that could have compromised their customers’ information.

Fleming stated that the account has been closed and the servers have been deleted.

An examination of the compromised data reveals that pcTattletale stored over 300 million screenshots of victims’ devices on its Amazon S3 storage server, spanning several years. I verified that there were screenshots from pcTattletale-monitored devices available to the public.

Amazon appears to have taken measures against the manufacturer of spyware. The Amazon S3 storage server pcTattletale previously utilized for storing device screenshots now displays an error code, “AllAccessDisabled,” which is employed by Amazon to restrict all access to a customer’s account. This includes the customer themselves, who can only seek resolution by contacting Amazon for additional support. Nevertheless, Fleming refrained from providing an answer regarding whether AWS had terminated the service, and AWS spokesperson Grant Milne also declined to comment.

Fleming stated that he did not retain a duplicate of the data and did not provide an explanation for the company’s deletion of the data without prior notification to those individuals whose information was compromised in the data breach. He ceased to reply to our inquiries.

The situation at pcTattletale is not exceptional. Spyware applications are widely recognized for their inherent software flaws and are notorious for their tendency to inadvertently disclose or release data. Inadequate security practices have led federal regulators to prohibit stalkerware makers from participating in the surveillance industry in the past.

FTC spokesperson Juliana Gruenwald Henderson declined to provide any information regarding the agency’s investigation into pcTattletale.

Other manufacturers of spyware have ceased operations following comparable security breaches. The Polish-originated espionage software LetMeSpy was terminated in June 2023 due to a cyber attack that compromised its systems and resulted in the deletion of its clients’ data. Additionally, a state of New York investigation resulted in the shutdown of the spyware programs PhoneSpector and Highster.

 

As Editor here at GeekReply, I'm a big fan of all things Geeky. Most of my contributions to the site are technology related, but I'm also a big fan of video games. My genres of choice include RPGs, MMOs, Grand Strategy, and Simulation. If I'm not chasing after the latest gear on my MMO of choice, I'm here at GeekReply reporting on the latest in Geek culture.

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Artificial Intelligence

What a new study says suggests that ChatGPT may have passed the Turing test

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René Descartes, a French philosopher who may or may not have been high on pot, had an interesting thought in 1637: can a machine think? Alan Turing, an English mathematician and computer scientist, gave the answer to this 300-year-old question in 1950: “Who cares?” He said a better question was what would become known as the “Turing test”: if there was a person, a machine, and a human interrogator, could the machine ever trick the human interrogator into thinking it was the person?

Turing changed the question in this way 74 years ago. Now, researchers at the University of California, San Diego, think they have the answer. A new study that had people talk to either different AI systems or another person for five minutes suggests that the answer might be “yes.”

“After a five-minute conversation, participants in our experiment were no better than random at identifying GPT-4. According to the preprint paper, which has not yet undergone peer review, this suggests that current AI systems can deceive people into believing they are human. “These results probably set a lower bound on how likely it is that someone will lie in more naturalistic settings, where people may not be aware of the possibility of lying or only focus on finding it.”

Even though this is a big event that makes headlines, it’s not a milestone that everyone agrees on. The researchers say that Turing first thought of the imitation game as a way to test intelligence, but “many objections have been raised to this idea.” People, for example, are known for being able to humanize almost anything. We want to connect with things, whether they’re people, dogs, or a Roomba with googly eyes on top of it.

Also, it’s interesting that ChatGPT-4 and ChatGPT-3.5, which was also tested, only persuaded humans that it was a person about half of the time, which isn’t much better than random chance. What does this result really mean?

As it turns out, ELIZA was one of the AI systems that the team built into the experiment as a backup plan. She was made at MIT in the mid-1960s and was one of the first programs of her kind. She was impressive for her time, but she doesn’t have much to do with modern large-language model-based systems or LLM-based systems.

“ELIZA could only give pre-written answers, which greatly limited what it could do. Live Science talked to Nell Watson, an AI researcher at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), about how it might fool someone for five minutes but soon show its flaws. “Language models are completely adaptable; they can put together answers to a lot of different topics, speak in specific languages or sociolects, and show who they are by displaying personality and values that are based on their characters.” a significant improvement over something that a person, no matter how intelligent and careful they were, programmed by hand.

She was perfect for the experiment because she was the same as everyone else. How do you explain test subjects who are lazy and pick between “human” and “machine” at random? If ELIZA gets the same score as chance, then the test is probably not being taken seriously because she’s not that good. In what way can you tell how much of the effect is just people giving things human traits? How much did ELIZA get them to change their minds? That much is probably how much it is.

In fact, ELIZA got only 22%, which is just over 1 in 5 people believing she was human. It’s more likely that ChatGPT has passed the Turing test now that test subjects could reliably tell the difference between some computers and people, but not ChatGPT, the researchers write.

So, does this mean we’re entering a new era of AI that acts like humans? Are computers smarter than people now? Maybe, but we probably shouldn’t make our decisions too quickly.

The researchers say, “In the end, it seems unlikely that the Turing test provides either necessary or sufficient evidence for intelligence. At best, it provides probabilistic support.” The people who took part weren’t even looking for what you might call “intelligence”; the paper says they “were more focused on linguistic style and socio-emotional factors than more traditional notions of intelligence such as knowledge and reasoning.” This “could reflect interrogators’ latent assumption that social intelligence has become the human trait that is most difficult for machines to copy.”

Which brings up a scary question: is the fall of humans the bigger problem than the rise of machines?

“Real humans were actually more successful, convincing interrogators that they were human two-thirds of the time,” the paper’s co-author, Cameron Jones, told Tech Xplore. “Our results suggest that in the real world, people might not be able to reliably tell if they’re talking to a human or an AI system.”

“In the real world, people might not be as aware that they’re talking to an AI system, so the rate of lying might be even higher,” he warned. “This makes me wonder what AI systems will be used for in the future, whether they are used to do bots, do customer service jobs, or spread fake news or fraud.”

There is a draft of the study on arXiv, but it has not yet been reviewed by other scientists.

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Artificial Intelligence

Threads’s API for developers is now live

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Meta finally put out its long-awaited API for Threads today, so developers can start making games and apps that use it. Third-party developers will be able to create new experiences around

Mark Zuckerberg also posted about the launch of the API, saying, “The Threads API is now widely available and will be coming to more of you soon.”

Engineer for Threads Jesse Chen wrote in a blog post that developers can now use the new API to publish posts, get their own content, and set up reply management tools. In other words, developers can let users hide or show replies or reply to certain ones.

It will also have analytics that let developers see things like the number of views, likes, replies, reposts, and quotes at the media and account level, the company said.

Adam Mosseri, the CEO of Instagram, first talked about the company’s work on the Threads API in October 2023. The API was first released in a closed beta with partners like Techmeme, Sprinklr, Sprout Social, Social News Desk, Hootsuite, and a few other developers. Chen said at that time that Meta planned to let many developers use the API in June. As promised, the company kept its word.

Along with the launch of the new API, the company also put out an open-source reference app on GitHub so developers can play with it.

In 2023, it was hard for third-party developers who made tools for social networks because social networks like Twitter (now X) and Reddit limited or shut down API access at different levels. This is because decentralized social networks like Mastodon and Bluesky are more open to developers. With more than 150 million users, Meta’s Threads is the most popular new social network. Since Threads now works with the fediverse and has an API, third-party developers can make some great social media experiences.

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Artificial Intelligence

Apple has officially announced its intention to collaborate with Google’s Gemini platform in the future

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After delivering a keynote presentation at WWDC 2024, which unveiled Apple Intelligence and announced a collaboration with OpenAI to integrate ChatGPT into Siri, Senior Vice President Craig Federighi confirmed the intention to collaborate with more third-party models. The initial instance provided by the executive was one of the companies that Apple was considering for a potential partnership.

“In the future, we are excited about the prospect of integrating with other models, such as Google Gemini,” Federighi expressed during a post-keynote discussion. He promptly stated that the company currently has no announcements to make, but that is the overall direction they are heading in.

OpenAI’s ChatGPT is set to become the first external model to be integrated at a later date this year. Apple announces that users will have the ability to access the system without the requirement of creating an account or paying for premium services. Regarding the integration of that platform with the updated iOS 18 version of Siri, Federighi confirmed that the voice assistant will notify users before utilizing its own internal models.

“Now you can accomplish this task directly using Siri, without the need for any additional tools,” stated the Apple executive. “Siri, it is crucial to ascertain whether you will inquire before proceeding to ChatGPT.” Subsequently, you can engage in a dialogue with ChatGPT. Subsequently, if there is any pertinent data mentioned in your inquiry that you wish to provide to ChatGPT, we will inquire, ‘Would you like to transmit this photograph?’ From a privacy standpoint, you always maintain control and have complete visibility.

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