Start up: Intel ponders McAfee sale, iPad Pro v Mac, wearables get broader, pizza’s malware topping, and more

No, Britons weren’t all “frantically” Googling “what is the EU” on Friday. Photo by Tjarko Busink on Flickr.

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A selection of 13 links for you. It’s what happens. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Intel weighs sale of cyber security business •

Hannah Kuchler and James Fontanella-Khan:


Intel is looking at options for Intel Security, including potentially selling the antivirus software maker formerly known as McAfee which it bought for $7.7bn almost six years ago.

The Silicon Valley chipmaker has been talking to bankers about the future of its cyber security unit in a deal that would be one of the largest in the sector, according to people close to the discussions.

Intel declined to comment.

Private equity buyers are increasingly interested in cyber security companies, anticipating strong cash flow as corporate customers become increasingly worried about protecting their business from cyber attacks. A group of PE firms might club together to buy Intel Security if it is sold for the same price or higher than the $7.7bn Intel originally paid for it.

Earlier this month, Bain Capital sold Blue Coat Security to Symantec for almost twice what it paid the cyber defence company last year. Vista Equity Partners also bought Ping Identity, an authentication service, which had been planning an initial public offering at the start of June.


Because basically McAfee doesn’t add any value to Intel, six years on.
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Wearables shipments will grow nearly 30% this year: IDC • Twice

John Laposky:


Smart watches: The category is expected to increase from 41% of total wearables shipments in 2016 to 52.1% in 2020. However, not all watches are the same. While smart watches are in the spotlight today, future growth will come from basic watches that provide some sort of fitness/sleep tracking while not being sophisticated enough to run third-party applications on the watch itself. Traditional fashion brands like Fossil and health/fitness companies like Fitbit and Withings will help this segment grow.


That’s along with categories like wristbands, eyewear, clothing and “others”. Notable how they aren’t making specific forecasts for Apple v Android in this space.
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How Google is remaking itself as a “machine learning first” company • Backchannel

Steven Levy:


The example Giannandrea cites to demonstrate machine learning power is Google Photos, a product whose definitive feature is an uncanny — maybe even disturbing — ability to locate an image of something specified by the user. Show me pictures of border collies. “When people see that for the first time they think something different is happening because the computer is not just computing a preference for you or suggesting a video for you to watch,” says Giannandrea. “It’s actually understanding what’s in the picture.” He explains that through the learning process, the computer “knows” what a border collie looks like, and it will find pictures of it when it’s a puppy, when its old, when it’s long-haired, and when it’s been shorn. A person could do that, of course. But no human could sort through a million examples and simultaneously identify ten thousand dog breeds. But a machine learning system can. If it learns one breed, it can use the same technique to identify the other 9999 using the same technique. “That’s really what’s new here,” says Giannandrea. “For those narrow domains, you’re seeing what some people call superhuman performance in these learned systems.”


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After firestorm, Facebook training employees to check political biases • TheHill

David McCabe:


Facebook will train employees to deal with their political biases, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said at an event Wednesday evening.

“We think a lot about diversity at Facebook,” she said. “And we have a managing-bias class that all of our leaders and a lot of our employees have taken that I was part of helping to create, and we’ve focused on racial bias, age bias, gender bias, national bias, and we’re going to add in a scenario now on political bias.”

“So that, as part of [how] we think about helping people understand different points of view and being open to different points of view, we’re dealing with political bias as well going forward.”

Many Silicon Valley companies have turned to unconscious bias training in recent years as they seek to address the tech industry’s lack of diversity in hiring. Among other tactics, they have also started to disclose more about demographics of their workforces.

A spokesperson for Facebook said the training in question is mandatory for all employees.

The decision to include a segment on political biases was sparked by allegations, which Facebook says are unfounded, that editors for the social network’s trending topics feature systematically downplayed news stories and sources popular with conservatives.


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Stop using Google Trends • Medium

Danny Page


Remember, Trends is relative. And we can see this with the most recent Google Trends Freaking Outrage (GTFO):

The British are frantically Googling what the EU is, hours after voting to leave it

The Washington Post [driven by a tweet from Google Trends] notes that searches about the EU tripled. But how many people is that? Are they voters? Are they eligible to vote? Were they Leave or Remain? Trends doesn’t tell us, all it does is give us a nice graph with a huge peak. More likely, it’s a very small number of people, based on this graph that puts it in context with other searches in the region:

(From this tweet).

But it’s giving plenty of people cover to insult the entire country, when it’s likely just a few people searching for something in a way that they always search for something. It makes “The British are frantically Googling what the EU is, hours after voting to leave it” absurdly disingenuous without better numbers.

Remy Smith points out: The peak was merely ~1000 people! It’s ludicrous that so few people get turned into a massive story, but it underscores the need for context.

I’m disappointed that this is how data is being used, and really drives home the need for people to understand the data before they use it incorrectly. Google Trends is an interesting tool, but please do a bit more research before using it.


I considered linking fully to the Washington Post article but felt somehow that it just wasn’t right. People surely weren’t madly asking Google what the EU was/is. Not after years of subliminal coverage and months of upfront coverage from every media outlet. But I couldn’t quite see what was wrong – until this. It’s spot on.
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Headphone industry market share statistics • Statistic Brain

Wired headphones 69%, wireless 31% (by sales). The teen buying intention is quite remarkable, as is the device they get connected to – out of MP3 player, computer, smartphone, home theatre and tablet, which would you expect to be the leader and the laggard in terms of which one people connect to?
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Slicing into a point-of-sale botnet • Krebs on Security

Brian Krebs:


Over the weekend, I heard from a source who said that since November 2015 he’s been tracking a collection of hacked cash registers. This point-of-sale botnet currently includes more than 100 infected systems, and according to the administrative panel for this crime machine at least half of the compromised systems are running a malicious Microsoft Windows process called cicipos.exe.

The admin panel shows the Internet address of a number of infected point-of-sale devices as of June 4, 2016. Many of these appear to be at Cici’s Pizza locations.

KrebsOnSecurity has not been able to conclusively tie the botnet to CiCi’s. Neither CiCi’s nor its outside public relations firm have responded to multiple requests for comment. However, the control panel for this botnet includes the full credit card number and name attached to the card, and several individuals whose names appeared in the botnet control panel confirmed having eaten at CiCi’s Pizza locations on the same date that their credit card data was siphoned by this botnet.

Among those was Richard Higgins of Prattville, Ala., whose card data was recorded in the botnet logs on June 4, 2016. Reached via phone, Higgins confirmed that he used his debit card to pay for a meal he and his family enjoyed at a CiCi’s location in Prattville on that same date.


Of course, if they used chip/PIN.. then probably the PINs would get stolen too. 🤔
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Thoughts on the sociology of Brexit • Political Economy Research Centre

Will Davies:


One of the most insightful things I saw in the run-up to the referendum was this video produced by openDemocracy’s Adam Ramsey and Anthony Barnett discussing their visit to Doncaster, another Labour heartland. They chose Doncaster because it looked set to be a strong pro-Leave location, and wanted to understand what was at work in this.

Crucially, they observed that – in strong contrast to the Scottish ‘Yes’ movement – Brexit was not fuelled by hope for a different future. On the contrary, many Leavers believed that withdrawing from the EU wouldn’t really change things one way or the other, but they still wanted to do it. I’ve long suspected that, on some unconscious level, things could be even stranger than this: the self-harm inflicted by Brexit could potentially be part of its appeal. It is now being reported that many Leave voters are aghast at what they’ve done, as if they never really intended for their actions to yield results.

This taps into a much broader cultural and political malaise, that also appears to be driving the rise of Donald Trump in the US. Amongst people who have utterly given up on the future, political movements don’t need to promise any desirable and realistic change. If anything, they are more comforting and trustworthy if predicated on the notion that the future is beyond rescue, for that chimes more closely with people’s private experiences.

The discovery of the ‘Deaton effect’ in the US (unexpected rising mortality rates amongst white working classes) is linked to rising alcohol and opiate abuse and to rising suicide rates. It has also been shown to correlate closely to geographic areas with the greatest support for Trump. I don’t know of any direct equivalent to this in the UK, but it seems clear that – beyond the rhetoric of ‘Great Britain’ and ‘democracy’ – Brexit was never really articulated as a viable policy, and only ever as a destructive urge, which some no doubt now feel guilty for giving way to…

…The Remain campaign continued to rely on forecasts, warnings and predictions, in the hope that eventually people would be dissuaded from ‘risking it’. But to those that have given up on the future already, this is all just more political rhetoric. In any case, the entire practice of modelling the future in terms of ‘risk’ has lost credibility, as evidenced by the now terminal decline of opinion polling as a tool for political control.


Excellent analysis. Read it too for its take on “facts” v “data” and the claims in the campaign.
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An iPad Pro is not a Mac •

Notorious traveller Wes Miller:


I needed something smaller. Lighter. More efficient.

I’m not a developer. So I don’t need Xcode. I don’t work with Mac versions of most legacy multimedia software from Apple, Adobe, or others. I don’t even play games on my computers. But I work in Microsoft Office every single day. And there are things that I need there. There is the mobile version of the Office applications, and I have an E3 subscription that entitles me to using them.

So as I winnowed down my device options, I was seriously looking at the large iPad Pro. While I’m all thumbs when it comes to drawing (or hand-writing), the Smart Keyboard and iPad Pro make an acceptable (although compromising) combination.

In particular, as I pondered life with the iPad Pro, several caveats came up with the hardware, before I’d even considered the software capabilities.


“Lappability” is infrequently used, but deserves more consideration.
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Why LaCroix sparkling water is suddenly everywhere – Vox

Libby Nelson and Javier Zarracina:


Over the past decade, Americans have done something that would have once seemed downright un-American: They’ve given up soda [sugared carbonated drinks such as Coke]. And when you’re craving a can of pop, LaCroix is a decent substitute. Unlike tap water, it has carbonation and a little flavor. Unlike a countertop SodaStream, it’s cheap, readily available, and portable. Close your eyes, wrap your hand around the perspiring aluminum can, and you could be holding a Coca-Cola. LaCroix is succeeding as methadone for the soda addict.

LaCroix isn’t the only brand to benefit from the sparkling water boom. But it’s the one that’s risen to the coveted status of lifestyle brand, not just generating loyalty but becoming part of how we define ourselves. The secret behind LaCroix’s rise is a mix of old-fashioned business strategy and cutting-edge social marketing. When Americans wanted carbonated water, LaCroix was positioned to give them them fizzy water. Then, sometimes by accident, LaCroix developed fans among mommy bloggers, Paleo eaters, and Los Angeles writers who together pushed LaCroix into the zeitgeist.


This article is suddenly everywhere, so I’m just helping out. If Americans are drinking less Coke/Pepsi/7Up/etc, then that’s good. Finally.
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Tech support scams target victims via their ISP • BBC News

Jane Wakefield, on a new wrinkle on the depressingly old “tech support” scam, which used to just involve cold-calling, but now includes audio messages which identify your ISP and say your machine is infected – which would scare the willies out of most non-techie people:


How do scammers know your ISP?
In the case of cold calls it may just be a lucky case of guessing a common ISP but in the case of pop-ups, there is an altogether cleverer way for fraudsters to glean information that can help them.

How it works
• Big ad networks allow users to win ad space on websites by bidding at a particular price
• Criminals are taking advantage of this to place adverts which are infected with a single “bad” pixel
• This pixel can redirect users and infect them in the background when they are browsing on a perfectly legitimate site – they do not even need to click on the ad
• The malware in the ad redirects users to a website in the background – invisible to the user – which checks their computer and discovers their IP address
• From the IP address it is easy to find out which ISP owns which IP address
• Victims will be served a pop-up tailored for their specific ISP which warns them their computer is infected and gives them a number to call

Fraudsters do still use cold-calling but their methods here have also become more sophisticated – instead of a vague description of themselves as a Windows Support agent, many are now claiming to represent legitimate ISPs, with very believable answers when they are challenged.


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794 Ways in Which BuzzFeed Reminds Us of Impending Death •

Heather Havrilesky:


the more time you spend on BuzzFeed, the more the boundaries between “win” and “fail” seem to blur. After a while, it’s impossible not to slip into a disassociative trance, in which you surrender to the allure of some perpetual, trivial nowhereland, nestled somewhere between “15 Cats That You Don’t Want to Mess With” and the “44 Hong Kong Movie Subtitles Gone Wrong.”

The past is reduced to a slide show. The future is a YouTube video that won’t load. And the present is a jumble of jaunty yellow buttons blurting “omg” and “awww” and “tl;dr.”


And then Havrilesky really hits her stride and the piece runs away into brilliance.
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Why we should expect algorithms to be biased • Technology Review

Nanette Byrnes:


Fred Benenson, Kickstarter’s former data chief, calls [this] “mathwashing”: our tendency to idolize programs like Facebook’s as entirely objective because they have mathematics at their core.

One area of potential bias comes from the fact that so many of the programmers creating these programs, especially machine-learning experts, are male. In a recent Bloomberg article, Margaret Mitchell, a researcher at Microsoft, is quoted lamenting the dangers of a “sea of dudes” asking the questions central to creating these programs.

Concern has been building over this issue for some time, as studies found evidence of bias in online advertising, recruiting, and pricing strategies driven by presumably neutral algorithms.

In one study, Harvard professor Latanya Sweeney looked at the Google AdSense ads that came up during searches of names associated with white babies (Geoffrey, Jill, Emma) and names associated with black babies (DeShawn, Darnell, Jermaine). She found that ads containing the word “arrest” were shown next to more than 80% of “black” name searches but fewer than 30% of “white” name searches.

Sweeney worries that the ways Google’s advertising technology perpetuates racial bias could undermine a black person’s chances in a competition, whether it’s for an award, a date, or a job.


Perennial topic, and worth keeping an eye on.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

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