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Update: Apple mentions a second check on the server, and a specialist computer vision company has outlined one possibility of what this might be – described below under ‘How the second check might work.’

An early version of the Apple CSAM system has effectively been tricked into flagging an innocent image, after a developer reverse-engineered part of it. Apple, however, says that it has additional protections to guard against this happening in real-life use.

Background

All CSAM systems work by importing a database of known child sexual abuse material from organizations like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). This database is provided in the form of hashes, or digital fingerprints, derived from the images.

While most tech giants scan uploaded photos in the cloud, Apple uses a NeuralHash algorithm on a customer’s iPhone to generate hashes of the photos stored and then compare this against a downloaded copy of the CSAM hashes.

A developer yesterday claimed to have reverse-engineered Apple’s algorithm, posting the code to GitHub – a claim that Apple effectively confirmed.

Apple CSAM system tricked

Within hours of the GitHib posting, researchers succeeded in using the algorithm to create a deliberate false positive – two completely different images that generated the same hash value. This is known as a collision.

Collisions are always a risk with such systems as the hash is of course a greatly simplified representation of the image, but surprise was expressed that someone was able to generate one so quickly.

The collision deliberately created here is simply a proof of concept. Developers have no access to the CSAM hash database, which would be required to create a false positive in the live system, but it does prove that collision attacks are relatively easy in principle.

Apple says it has two protections against this

Apple effectively confirmed that the algorithm was the basis for its own system, but told Motherboard that it is not the final version. The company also said it was never intended to be secret.

The company went on to say there are two further steps: a secondary (secret) matching system run on its own servers, and a manual review.

How the second check might work

I was curious about how these images look to a similar, but different neural feature extractor, OpenAI’s CLIP. CLIP works in a similar way to NeuralHash; it takes an image and uses a neural network to produce a set of feature vectors that map to the image’s contents.

But OpenAI’s network is different in that it is a general purpose model that can map between images and text. This means we can use it to extract human-understandable information about images.

I ran the two colliding images above through CLIP to see if it was also fooled. The short answer is: it was not. This means that Apple should be able to apply a second feature-extractor network like CLIP to detected CSAM images to determine whether they are real or fake. It would be much harder to generate an image that simultaneously fools both networks.

Human review

Finally, as previously discussed, there is a human review of the images to confirm that they are CSAM.

The only real risk, says one security researcher, is that anyone who wanted to mess with Apple could flood the human reviewers with false-positives.

“Apple actually designed this system so the hash function doesn’t need to remain secret, as the only thing you can do with ‘non-CSAM that hashes as CSAM’ is annoy Apple’s response team with some garbage images until they implement a filter to eliminate those garbage false positives in their analysis pipeline,” Nicholas Weaver, senior researcher at the International Computer Science Institute at UC Berkeley, told Motherboard in an online chat.

You can read more about the Apple CSAM system, and the concerns being raised, in our guide.

Photo: Alex Chumak/Unsplash

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How To Turn On Profile Picture Guard For Facebook.

If you are looking for a way to prevent people from downloading your Facebook profile pictures, it’s now possible thanks to Facebook’s long overdue Profile Picture Guard option. A new feature of Facebook that lets you disable all possible download profile picture options. Though there is one loophole that can’t seem to be addressed. Either way, this is a great deterrent. 

Related: How to block or filter keywords from your Facebook timeline.

Stolen profile pictures and fake accounts have always been one of the most annoying and seemingly unavoidable parts of social media. Stealing a profile picture is as simple as visiting a person’s page, viewing their profile picture and selecting the save image option. After more than a decade Facebook has finally added a feature that seems so simple it should have been something years ago, Profile Picture Guard.  

With Profile Picture Gaurd enabled, it becomes impossible to quickly and easily download your Facebook profile picture. The only possible option left to acquire a profile picture with PPG enabled is to load the image, take a screenshot of the image, then crop out all the junk attached with the screenshot. For most people looking to steal a profile picture, this is far too much work so they’ll generally skip your profile and move to an easier target.

As is typical for social media platforms… This feature is being rolled out slowly, region by region, so you may not yet have access to it when you follow the steps shown below. However, it shouldn’t be all that far away. Well let’s hope so, it could end up like the famous no show of dark mode for Facebook…. 

Quicksteps for turning on Profile Picture Guard on Facebook:

Make sure Facebook is up to date.

Open Facebook on your device.

Tap the Hamburger menu icon.

Go to your profile picture.

Tap and hold the image until you see a menu appear.

Enable Profile Picture Guard and you’re done.

How do you turn on Profile Picture Guard on Facebook? Block Facebook profile picture downloading.

To enable profile picture guard on your Facebook account, you’ll need to do the following. First, make sure your Facebook app is fully up to date. Now that your app is up to date proceed.   

Open Facebook on your device, then tap the Hamburger icon (3 horizontal lines) to open Facebook Settings. 

Next, tap your profile picture in the top left-hand corner (or wherever it is on your device) 

This will take you to your profile, with your profile picture at the top of the screen. Now tap and hold your profile picture until you see a new menu appear. This may take a couple of seconds. 

Finally, select the Profile Picture Guard option from the bottom of the list. You’ll see another screen that explains what this feature does showing the following information:

Other people cannot download or share your profile photo on Facebook.

Only you and your Facebook friends can tag your profile picture

The shield icon shows people that they should respect your profile picture

As we mentioned above, there are a few shortcomings of this feature, The first is that screenshotting will totally override any profile picture protection. The second is that this feature is only available from the mobile versions of Facebook. So if someone wants to copy your picture than can easily do so from the web version… 

Determination, Hard Work Drive Men’s Basketball Star Guard

Determination, Hard Work Drive Men’s Basketball Star Guard Cedric Hankerson rises above series of injuries to finish out BU career

Men’s basketball guard Cedric Hankerson (Questrom’16, MET’18) credits his overcoming several injuries during his college career for making him the man he is today. Photo by Jackie Ricciardi

Keeping track of BU guard Cedric Hankerson on a basketball court can be hard work: he seems to be everywhere.

During a recent game against Colgate, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Hankerson (Questrom’16, MET’18) dove headfirst onto the baseline to rescue the basketball. He missed getting it, but swiftly jumped back up, even before teammate Tyler Scanlon (CAS’20) could make his way to lend a hand. About 90 seconds later, number 21 again found himself on the floor, this time crashing past the sidelines in pursuit of his own missed free throw.

“I honestly just see myself and everyone on the court as doing whatever we can individually to help the team win,” Hankerson says. “We just need everybody to focus on their best selves, being great teammates and giving 100 percent of energy and effort for us to win.”

Men’s basketball head coach Joe Jones says that work ethic has defined Hankerson throughout his BU career. “He played very hard, even as a freshman. Upperclassmen like D. J. Irving (MET’14) would tell me how hard he played, even in pickup games. He competes. He’s just a competitor.”

In the Colgate game, Hankerson co-led the Terriers (11-10, 7-3 Patriot League) with 14 points and two steals off the bench, all the more remarkable given that he’d had to sit out the prior game with a minor groin injury. So far this season, he’s averaged a career-best 14.7 points in conference play. Few would have predicted three years ago that he’d be playing this well, or at all for that matter.

In spring 2024, Hankerson was coming off a personally successful season, with a team that had been grinding through a difficult year and ended with a 13-17 record. But Hankerson, a Patriot League All-Conference Rookie Team honoree as a freshman, had led the senior-less Terriers with 15.9 points per game and was en route to an All-Conference Second Team appearance.

At an April pickup session with current and former players, Hankerson leaped for a layup, with Dom Morris (MET’14) protecting the rim. He finished the layup, but landed wrong. He muscled through the rest of the session, but soon realized something was seriously wrong.

Hankerson had suffered an ACL and meniscus tear of the right knee, which required surgery and sidelined him for the next eight months.

“When there’s an injury like that, it’s shocking. I immediately felt so sad for him,” Jones says. “He was just coming off a great sophomore year, ready to whip it up the next season, and he went down with a major injury.”

Hankerson worked almost maniacally in rehab. “Almost every day, he was probably in the training room or the weight room depending on the stage that he was at,” says teammate Will Goff (Questrom’17, MET’19). “He had the mentality of trying to get back as early as he could, which is what he ended up doing.”

In fact, he returned to play in an early December 2024 game against UMass, a month ahead of schedule. But at practice later that week, 6-foot-8, 230-pound forward Justin Alston (CGS’14, SHA’16, MET’17) took a charge and fell backwards, crashing into Hankerson’s legs.

Result: another meniscus tear to the same knee, effectively ending his season. A medical redshirt for the injury enabled his current, fifth season.

“The second time was just, you know, all right, it just wasn’t there this season,” Hankerson says philosophically. “But I never gave up hope and I always knew that with my work ethic, with all of the amazing support system I have around here, I’d be able to come back even better and stronger.”

“Developing boys into men”

At the start of the 2024–2024 season, he was back, but he seemed more tentative on the court. After a sophomore season that had seen him with the ninth most free throw attempts in the country, he shot more than 80 percent of his field goal attempts from the three-point line.

“The hardest part is mental,” Hankerson says. “It’s just trusting in yourself, the part you injured, and the work that you put in, so you don’t fear the unpredictability of the game. That was kind of the biggest hurdle for me—trusting the fact that if I make this move, my knee will be fine. If I get hit like this, my knee will be fine.”

He and his coaches agreed to shift his role from a primary scorer to a two-way wing who contributes on both ends.

Growing up in Coral Reef, a small neighborhood in South Miami, it was perhaps inevitable that Hankerson would become a basketball player. His father, Charles, was an accomplished player at Hampton University and has more than 20 years of coaching experience, and his brother, Charles, Jr., played college basketball at Alabama and Wyoming before a professional stint in Italy.

“It was good to have that kind of foundation,” Hankerson says, “one that I feel like a lot of the kids who want to play basketball don’t have.”

Under his family’s tutelage, Hankerson became Coral Reef High School’s star basketball player while just a sophomore—a feat he would repeat four years later at BU. By senior year, the three-star prospect had garnered numerous offers from major programs like Minnesota and Oklahoma State, but Hankerson chose BU, drawn as much by the school’s academic reputation as by its basketball program.

“Education has been one of my main values ever since I can remember, so my main goal with basketball was to be able to study business,” he says. As determined off the court as he is on, he earned an undergraduate degree in finance in just three years, and this spring will complete a master’s in innovation and technology.

“It was more than basketball here,” he says. “It was developing boys into men.”

“Off the court, he really helps guys mature,” says Scanlon. “He knows how to navigate college, and he knows how to help guys if they have questions about classes—just campus life in general.”

“He was able to graduate in three years, and I wanted to do the same,” Goff says. “I did, and I did it by kind of emulating what he did—the classes he took and how he did, how he studied, and how he approached the task.”

Hankerson says that when it comes to the future, he’s keeping his options open. A possible professional career will depend largely on his physical condition at the end of the season.

“I’m not really stressed about that part too much,” he says. “I want to take it one day at a time and focus on the season right now and figure everything else out and cross that bridge when we get there.”

As he ponders what’s next, Hankerson says he’s learned an important lesson from the injuries he’s had to overcome. “You have to live your life fearlessly. If something’s meant to happen, it’s going to happen, so you might as well treat it like it’s your last day—like it’s your last game,” he says.

“It’s just been a complete blessing to be able to develop and grow into the young man I am today, and I wouldn’t change a thing about my entire experience here.”

Jonathan Chang can be reached at [email protected].

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Do Sec Claims Against Coinbase ‘Crypto

The United States Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), served Coinbase with what is known as a “Wells Notice,” for its “Lend” program. Due to this, “Lend” is now off the market “indefinitely.” In a recent blogpost, Coinbase CLO Paul Grewal expressed surprise at the notice, stating,

“The SEC told us they consider Lend to involve a security, but wouldn’t say why or how they’d reached that conclusion.”

As per the SEC regulations, “security” includes an “investment contract.” Though more clarity is needed on how Coinbase fits the bill, there are certain hints in its official offering. “Lend” offered a 4% interest or annual percentage yield for lending USDC stablecoin to borrowers. Amy Lynch, a former SEC regulator and president of FrontLine Compliance, explained,

“When does a crypto asset become a security? When you start lending it out.”

It is noteworthy that a lending contract is being looked at as securitization of an asset by some experts. Even if cryptocurrency is not considered a security in itself. In this context, the SEC website states that the “Howey test” applies to any “contract, scheme, or transaction, regardless of whether it has any of the characteristics of typical securities.”  And, the regulator makes it clear that any securities product would require registration or exemption under the federal securities laws. 

” ‘Yield’ products are securities. They differ in no material respect from an unsecured bond. They just don’t use the name.”

In contrast, Grewal specified that the “Lend program doesn’t qualify as a security.” On the back of diverse views, SEC chief Gary Gensler has been calling for tighter crypto regulations lately. And, the new regulatory crackdown may set precedent for the industry which suffers from an unclear framework. Not so long ago, BlockFi was also underwater in three U.S. states for violating state securities law. It offered a similar interest-bearing product as Coinbase.

Therefore, when exchanges argue against categorization as securities, it creates another problem. Coinbase promoted “Lend” as high-yield savings accounts that offer more than the national average. However, it later clarified that “Coinbase is not a bank” and loaned crypto is not protected by the federal agencies.

It only further complicates the case for Coinbase if the Federal Reserve decides to get involved to enforce banking regulations. However, proponents want regulations that give breathing space to innovation in the US.  

Feels slightly surreal to watch bad cryptocurrency policy drive innovation out of the US.

For all of our flaws, I really do think of the US as the best country in the world for building the future.

Hope this is not a sign of a trend.

— Sam Altman (@sama) September 9, 2023

Bringing attention to a conflicting school of thought, Livni argued in the aforementioned podcast interview, that the “government is not just there to promote industries, but also there to protect consumers.” Further, she stated, 

Shifting focus to a similar lending product, another Canadian exchange is reportedly in discussions with the Ontario Securities Commission around crypto lending. Earlier, it claimed to have strengthened its case by procuring the required securities’ trading license.

If the Canadian regulator looks at the offering as a security, the exchange might have an upper hand in this case. In the U.S., if the regulator is looking at crypto lending as an investment vehicle, further clarity is required from the SEC in the coming days.

Tesla On Offensive Against Nhtsa Gag

Tesla on offensive against NHTSA gag-order allegations

Tesla has come out fighting against reports that the automaker is trying to cover up car safety issues, and prevent owners from discussing them with federal safety agencies. The accusations came following a report of a broken suspension system in an out-of-warranty Model S, which Tesla offered to help pay for repairs on as part of what the company says now was a “goodwill gesture” to the owner.

Part of that gesture, however, the owner told the Daily Kaban, was signing what was described as a “non-disclosure agreement” that, according to their interpretation, was intended to prevent any discussion of potential suspension component flaws with regulators such as the NHTSA.

The NHTSA relies on owner reports to build out its complaint database and flag up any issues which could have broader implications. If sufficient reports are found, the automaker is required to provide a no-cost fix.

According to Tesla, in a blog post today, the reality of the agreement is that it’s designed to protect them in court, not from safety investigators. The goodwill agreement’s terms that owners “will not commence, participate or voluntarily aid in any action at law or in equity or any legal proceeding against Tesla or related persons or entities based upon facts related to the claims or incidents leading to or related to this Goodwill” is intended to indemnify the company’s offer from being “used against us in court for further gain.”

Of course, though the agreement makes no specific mention of the NHTSA or any other agency, it also doesn’t make clear that Tesla doesn’t consider them to fall under the contract’s scope. That’s something the NHTSA has voiced concerns about in a statement, and something the automaker says it will be looking at improving:

“We will take a look at this situation and will work with NHTSA to see if we can handle it differently, but one thing is clear: this agreement never even comes close to mentioning NHTSA or the government and it has nothing to do with trying to stop someone from communicating with NHTSA or the government about our cars” Tesla Motors

What it insists does not need improving, however, is the suspension system itself. Referring to the specific vehicle in question, Tesla concluded that it had “experienced very abnormal rust” as a result of 70,000 miles of heavy usage including “down such a long dirt road that it required two tow trucks to retrieve the car” from the owner’s home.

Contrary to initial reports that the NHTSA had opened an investigation, Tesla says that during a “routine screening” the safety agency had requested more suspension information from the company, later concluding that no further data was required.

Tesla goes on to suggest that the initial report of the problem, and speculation about non-disclosure agreements, could have been motivated by hopes to short the company’s stock, or by a writer with an axe to grind against the automaker.

With the greater attention in recent months on car recalls and safety updates, fueled by broader issues across the industry such as the Takata airbag problem, the role of the car-owning public in flagging issues to the NHTSA has never been more under scrutiny.

Right now, that involves filing a report at chúng tôi which is also where owners can check – using their car’s VIN, the unique identification number each is assigned – if any outstanding recalls apply to their vehicle.

Just how many drivers actually know about the site is questionable, however, not to mention the role individuals play in logging claims, and the implications of those reports.

Given that the sort of flaws the NHTSA is instrumental in catching and getting fixed are only going to become more important – the FBI warned earlier this year that subpar auto electronics could leave doors open to hackers remotely damaging vehicles – it seems like it could be time to make the safety defect reporting process more user-friendly.

SOURCE Tesla

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Developing A New Weapon Against Hiv

Developing a New Weapon Against HIV MED prof: plant-grown antibodies could hold key

MED’s Deborah Anderson is working to create a cheap and powerful new weapon against AIDS, with a $13 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

The latest news on AIDS is sobering. In 2009, 2.6 million people became infected with HIV, according to data released in November by UNAIDS. That’s down from 3.1 million in 1999, but still amounts to 7,000 new infections and nearly 5,000 deaths every day.

Deborah Anderson is working to reverse this trend. Armed with a five-year, $13.3 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the School of Medicine professor of obstetrics and gynecology and microbiology is developing an innovative approach to AIDS prevention, supplementing the body’s own immune system with novel antibodies grown in tobacco plants. If it works, her system will offer not only a cheap and powerful new weapon against AIDS, but also insights into stopping the spread of viruses from the common cold to the deadly Ebola virus.

The key to Anderson’s strategy is mucus, that lowly, slippery fluid that coats the nose, protects the eyes, and guards women’s reproductive systems from infection. An expert on mucosal immunology and HIV, Anderson has been studying these subjects for decades. For her PhD research at the University of Texas, she investigated the immunology of pregnancy, examining why a mother’s immune system doesn’t reject a fetus and why some women develop an immune response to their partner’s sperm. She garnered a deep understanding of immunology and gynecology, two subjects that became critically important when the AIDS epidemic burst onto the scene.

In the 1980s, a friend at the National Institutes of Health suggested that Anderson study the sexual transmission of HIV/AIDS, which at the time was just beginning to be understood. “I got involved when the epidemic was getting started,” she says. Since then she has specialized in genital tract immunology, examining how the body’s own immune system responds to HIV, herpes simplex virus (HSV), and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Which bring us back to mucus, a secretion that protects cells and wards off infection. Human mucus is made of long molecules called mucins; there’s some evidence that antibodies may tether themselves to mucins and also enter and remain inside skin cells lining the mucus membranes. Anderson is creating a microbicide that a woman can insert in her genital tract via an easy-to-use ring, gel, or film. The microbicide will contain two antibodies that attack different parts of the HIV virus and a third antibody that neutralizes HSV. If the technology works, in the future it could include antibodies that protect against other STDs as well.

“We could keep adding antibodies because the body makes a whole host of them,” says Anderson, pointing out that human secretions are already brimming with antibodies. “The beauty of this system is that we’re just helping Mother Nature.”

Despite the worldwide epidemic, HIV is actually a fragile virus. “It doesn’t infect very easily,” Anderson says. “If a woman has unprotected sex with an infected man, there’s only about a one in 1,000 chance of getting infected with HIV.” However, other factors can raise the risk, she adds. Genital herpes, for instance, causes inflammation and sores that allow HIV to more easily breach the body’s natural defenses, so Anderson’s microbicide is designed to guard against both HSV and HIV. She hopes this approach will tackle one of the recurring problems with microbicides and spermicides: they work, but people don’t use them. “Take condoms,” she says. “They’re very effective, but people don’t use them correctly.” She expects that the new microbicide will be easy to use and hopes it will provide protection from HIV/HSV for up to a month.

To develop the particular antibodies to be used in the microbicide, Anderson is working with biophysicist Kevin Whaley, a longtime collaborator and founder of Mapp Biopharmaceuticals, in San Diego. Mapp is a leader in the production of “plantibodies,” antibodies (in this case, HIV-specific antibodies) grown in plants. Plantibodies can be manufactured in huge amounts quickly and cheaply compared to growing similar antibodies in animals or cell cultures. “The technology has been around for over 10 years, but now it has gelled,” says Anderson. “They have been able to ramp up production and lower costs.” Tobacco in particular is easy to grow and harvest and offers great promise for fast, low-cost antibody production. The current cost of antibodies grown in mammals is about $50 a dose, while the cost of tobacco-grown antibodies will likely be much less—somewhere between 20 cents and $1 a dose.

Anderson’s grant comes from the NIH’s Integrated Preclinical/Clinical Program for HIV Topical Microbicides, created to foster collaboration between industry and academia. Anderson will oversee 6 projects at 10 institutions that will test new antibody formulations, grow the plants, harvest the antibodies, and build and test the application devices. The grant is the largest she’s ever received, and overseeing groups in both academia and industry is new for her. “This one is challenging because all the paperwork is different in working with industry,” she says.

Anderson’s first goal over the grant’s five years is to determine which configuration of antibodies works best when mixed with mucus or applied to mucosal skin cells, a process that will take about a year. Then her team will grow large batches of the chosen antibodies in tobacco plants and will test the antibodies in monkeys to see if they prevent the transmission of HIV. The grant will also include preclinical human trials to make sure the antibodies don’t cause irritation or inflammation and to see how long they remain active in the body.

“Our dream is to put plantibodies on the map for preventing transmission of STDs,” says Anderson. If the technology works, it could have far broader implications. Many other infections enter the body through mucus membranes in the nose, eyes, and lungs. If Anderson’s plantibodies work, they may offer a new weapon for preventing the spread of tuberculosis, influenza, and even that universal annoyance, the common cold.

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