Chipmaker Nvidia accelerates move into smarter automobiles

Chipmaker Nvidia accelerates move into smarter automobiles

Mon Jan 5, 2015 12:33am EST

(Reuters) – Chipmaker Nvidia on Sunday unveiled a new processor aimed at powering high-end graphics on car dashboards as well as sophisticated auto-pilot systems.

At an event in Las Vegas ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show, Nvidia Chief Executive Jen-Hsun Huang said the Tegra X1 chip would provide enough computing horsepower for automobiles with displays built into mirrors, dashboard, navigation systems and passenger seating.

“The future car is going to have an enormous amount of computational ability,” Huang said. “We imagine the number of displays in your car will grow very rapidly.”

The Tegra X1 has twice the performance of its predecessor, the Tegra K1, and will come out in early 2015, Nvidia said.

An upcoming platform combining two of the X1 chips can process data collected from up to 12 high-definition cameras monitoring traffic, blind spots and other safety conditions in driver assistance systems, Huang said.

Combined with next-generation software, the chips can help detect and read road signs, recognize pedestrians and detect braking vehicles, he said.

Santa Clara, California-based Nvidia in recent years has been expanding beyond its core business of designing high-end graphics chips for personal computers.

After struggling to compete against larger chipmakers like Qualcomm in smartphones and tablets, Nvidia is now increasing its focus on using its Tegra mobile chips in cars and is already supplying companies including Audi, BMW and Tesla.

In the third quarter, revenue from Tegra chips for automobiles and mobile devices jumped 51 percent to $168 million but it remained small compared to Nvidia’s total revenue of $1.225 billion.

(Reporting by Noel Randewich)

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in Uncategorized

30 Years Ago, Warren Buffett Gave Away The Secret To Investing And Correctly Predicted No One Would Listen

30 Years Ago, Warren Buffett Gave Away The Secret To Investing And Correctly Predicted No One Would Listen

Business Insider


warren buffett

REUTERS Warren Buffett. In May 1984, Warren Buffett laid out everything you need to know about his investing philosophy.In a speech at Columbia Business School, later adapted into an essay, Buffett introduced what he called, “The Superinvestors of Graham-and-Doddsville.”

Buffett writes:

“The common intellectual theme of the investors from Graham-and-Doddsville is this: they search for discrepancies between the value of a business and the price of small pieces of that business in that market.”

And that’s pretty much it. Buffett doesn’t think about buying a stock; he thinks about buying a business.

View gallery


benjamin ben graham

AP Benjamin Graham. The name “Graham-and-Doddsville” comes from Benjamin Graham — whom Buffett studied under at Columbia — and Dave Dodd, with whom Graham literally wrote the book on security analysis.In Buffett’s essay, he asks readers to consider a group of investors who outperformed the S&P 500 year in and year out.

“In this group of successful investors that I want to consider,” Buffett writes, “there has been a common intellectual patriarch, Ben Graham … They have gone to different places and bought and sold different stocks and companies, yet they have a combined record that simply can’t be explained by random chance.”

Buffett explains that the investors of Graham-and-Doddsville don’t care when they buy stocks, or worry about a stock’s beta or the “covariance in returns among securities.” He says these investors are businessmen buying pieces of businesses, not traders buying stocks.

And the strategy seems to be working out OK: On Thursday, Class A shares of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway eclipsed $200,000 per share for the first time, and $1,000 invested with Buffett in 1984 would’ve been worth $155,301.

And since 1969, the book value of Berkshire Hathaway — which Buffett acquired in 1964 — has beaten the S&P 500 43 out of 44 years on a five-year rolling basis. Said more simply, the relative value of Berkshire Hathaway shares have been worth more than the S&P 500 collectively every year but one.

Not to mention that Buffett’s personal wealth is estimated by Forbes to be more than $66 billion.

In July, we featured a chapter from Cullen Roche’s new book, “Pragmatic Capitalism,” which debunked the myth that “you too” can be like Buffett.

You can’t, of course. But Roche’s point isn’t that Buffett’s ideas about investing aren’t sound, just misunderstood.

Many think Buffett was a simple “buy and hold” stock investor, but his investing is about way more than that — or way less, depending on how you look at it.

Buffett concludes his essay by writing that some may wonder why he is giving away this basic investment philosophy of a number of investors who have outperformed the market.

Isn’t he just giving away the secret?

“I can only tell you that the secret has been out for 50 years,” Buffett writes, “…yet I have seen no trend toward value investing in the 35 years I’ve practiced it. There seems to be some perverse human characteristic that likes to make easy things difficult. The academic world, if anything, has actually backed away from the teaching of value investing over the last 30 years. It’s likely to stay that way. Ships will sail around the world but the Flat Earth Society will flourish. There will continue to be wide discrepancies between price and value in the marketplace, and those who read their Graham & Dodd will continue to prosper.”

Indeed, all of the research continues to show that the vast majority of professional andretail investors are underperforming.

Posted in Uncategorized

Special Report: In oil baron’s divorce, company lawyer plays star role

Special Report: In oil baron’s divorce, company lawyer plays star role

OKLAHOMA CITY Wed Nov 5, 2014 11:20pm EST

Harold Hamm, founder and CEO of Continental Resources, enters the courthouse for divorce proceedings with wife Sue Ann Hamm in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in this September 22, 2014 file photo.  REUTERS-Steve Sisney-Files
Sue Ann Hamm stands in the courthouse hall before divorce proceedings with Harold Hamm, founder and CEO of Continental Resources, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in this September 22, 2014 file photo.  REUTERS-Steve Sisney-Files
The Continental Resources headquarters building is seen in downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in this September 22, 2014 file photo.    REUTERS-Steve Sisney-Files

1 OF 3. Harold Hamm, founder and CEO of Continental Resources, enters the courthouse for divorce proceedings with wife Sue Ann Hamm in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in this September 22, 2014 file photo.


(Reuters) – During the divorce trial of oil baron Harold Hamm and wife Sue Ann, an unusual relationship took shape in the Oklahoma courtroom as the marriage was being dismantled.

From the bench, Special Judge Howard Haralson playfully tossed red and white peppermints to a lawyer sitting alone in the jury box who didn’t represent either of the Hamms in the case.

The man, Eric Eissenstat, serves as general counsel, senior vice president, secretary and chief risk officer for Continental Resources, the publicly traded oil company founded and run by Harold. And during a trial that could result in one of the largest divorce judgments in U.S. history, Eissenstat emerged as one of the most important people in the courtroom.

For all but a few hours of testimony in the nine-week trial, the proceedings were closed to the public and to the media – a practice atypical in divorce cases that don’t involve child custody disputes. But interviews with a half-dozen people who were present in the courtroom, and with others familiar with the case, indicate that Eissenstat played an extraordinary role throughout the trial.

It was Eissenstat, the company’s top lawyer, who advocated successfully for the trial to be closed to the public, contending that discussion of Continental’s confidential business information warranted secrecy. Judge Haralson agreed, saying on the first day of trial that he wished to keep “a divorce trial from destroying” Continental, one of America’s most successful oil companies. Although about 95 percent of the trial was closed, Eissenstat was allowed to stay and to participate.

Eissenstat also attended pre-trial hearings, court filings show, and visited frequently with Harold Hamm’s personal divorce attorneys, according to people familiar with the case.

After the trial began, Eissenstat’s role in the case grew. Haralson allowed Eissenstat to interject during the proceedings, to approach the bench, and to attend meetings with the spouses’ lawyers in chambers, according to court filings and interviews with others in the courtroom.


On several occasions, Eissenstat, 56, passed through the judge’s chambers or into a court staff room and engaged the judge and his staff in conversations, said Haralson’s bailiff, Jessica Rodriguez. The conversations were “general chitchat,” Rodriguez said. “We’re all pretty friendly around here.”

In a statement, Continental said Eissenstat “did not speak privately with Judge Haralson in his chambers, and his relationship with Judge Haralson is professional and no different than the other individuals present in his courtroom.”

To at least one witness, Eissenstat, a tall, slim career litigator, was an imposing presence. “Eric positioned himself in a very tactical way in the room, in the jury box, basically right on the witness’s shoulder,” said a former associate of Harold’s who testified in the case. “When the judge looks at the witness, he’s also looking at Eric. It just seems intimidating.”

Reuters interviewed more than a dozen legal experts including family law attorneys, law professors, retired judges and marital dissolution consultants. All said that Eissenstat’s level of involvement in his boss’ divorce trial seemed uncommonly deep. Some said that the role Eissenstat – and by extension, Continental – played at the trial raises questions about whether the company supported the personal agenda of Harold Hamm, the company’s top shareholder, to the detriment of other shareholders.

On Thursday, the day after Continental releases its quarterly earnings, analysts will have a chance to ask about the divorce case during a conference call the company is hosting.

“It sounds like the corporation is part of the divorce case,” said Arnold Rutkin, a lawyer at Rutkin Oldham in Connecticut. Rutkin represented the wife of Gary Wendt, a former chief executive at the General Electric Capital unit of GE, in one of the biggest U.S. divorces of the 1990s. “There are only two parties in a divorce: husband and wife.”

In that case, Rutkin said he did not recall GE Capital’s attorneys playing anything close to the role that Eissenstat is playing in the Hamm divorce. A key difference in the cases is that although Wendt was a top executive, he wasn’t a major owner of GE. Hamm owns about two-thirds of Continental.

Haralson did not respond to questions from Reuters. His bailiff said the judge would not speak publicly about the case before ruling.


Continental, in its statement, said it “did not seek to participate in the divorce case.” It was compelled to by Sue Ann, it said.

In a court filing last month, Continental said the extent of its involvement in the case may be unprecedented. It contends it has been required to turn over more documents and data than any company “has ever been forced to produce in divorce proceedings in Oklahoma and possibly the nation.”

Hamm started Continental in 1967, and about 68 percent of the firm’s shares are in his name. His stake was worth more than $18 billion when the trial started in August. It’s worth around $14 billion today. Since the couple wed in 1988, Continental has grown from a smalltime driller worth less than $50 million into a $20 billion behemoth and one of Oklahoma’s largest companies.

Because Harold owned his shares before he and Sue Ann were married, they belong to him. But under Oklahoma law, their “active” appreciation since 1988 is subject to “equitable distribution” with Sue Ann, a former executive at Continental who filed for divorce from Harold in 2012.

Her legal team contends that the amount of marital wealth the court should divide is more than $17 billion, a sum that included most of Harold’s stake in Continental a few months before the trial began. Court filings show that his attorneys argued that the couple’s shared wealth is a tiny fraction of that amount. The couple never signed a prenuptial agreement.

Harold Hamm’s leadership at Continental is central to the case.

In court, his lawyers attributed most of Continental’s success not to Hamm’s business savvy but to factors beyond his control. If Haralson accepts the argument – that market factors such as rising oil prices, or decisions made prior to marriage caused Continental’s growth – the award to Sue Ann could be much smaller.

The trial ended on Oct. 9, and Haralson is poring over thousands of pages of evidence before he issues a judgment in the coming weeks, or the two sides settle. Last week, Haralson denied a motion by Reuters to intervene in the case to have trial transcripts and other records unsealed. The Oklahoma Supreme Court, which heard the Reuters request to unseal the records this week, has not yet ruled.

In a filing before those hearings, Continental said it opposed opening court records because the documents contain confidential business information, including strategic plans, board minutes, and highly sensitive information on its oil reserves, among other things.

“A corporate counsel would have a legitimate role in trying to keep confidential information about the company from being disseminated,” said Ilan Hirschfeld, head of the marital dissolution practice at the consultancy firm Marcum LLP in New Jersey.

Continental may also have a significant interest in the outcome of the trial.

If Sue Ann, 58, wins a multi-billion dollar award, a judgment that size could prompt Harold to sell Continental shares, a move that could lead to a change in control of the company. In one court filing, Continental dismissed that possibility as “unfounded speculation.”

Eissenstat, appointed as Continental’s general counsel in 2010, previously had represented Continental and Harold Hamm personally during 27 years in private practice. As recently as 2010, he served as Harold’s personal lawyer in a case involving Oklahoma oil and gas wells. Continental was not a party in that case.

As of Feb. 22, Eissenstat also owned shares in Continental valued at more than $7 million, SEC filings show.

Months before the Hamm divorce trial, Continental expanded Eissenstat’s role at the firm, naming him its chief risk officer. The new responsibilities put Eissenstat in charge of keeping Continental out of corporate governance trouble and guarding against conflicts of interest and reputational damage – duties that would give Eissenstat reason to be concerned about the divorce trial.

In court filings, Continental said it was brought into the case by Sue Ann Hamm’s broad and “abusive” demands for evidence from the company, and because dozens of its current or former employees were subpoenaed. “Continental doesn’t like being here,” Eissenstat said at a pre-trial hearing, according to a transcript. Eissenstat told the judge he was only present in court to protect the firm’s interests, not Harold’s.

Allegations by Sue Ann’s team that Continental meddled in the case to help Harold have been a sore point between the spouses.

In one court filing, his divorce attorneys wrote that the divorce is a matter of “common interest for Mr. Eissenstat,” citing his duty to “all shareholders to oversee any litigation impacting the company.” They added: “Harold Hamm and his counsel are frankly insulted by Petitioner’s veiled suggestion of some collusion between them and (Continental) against her interests.”

Although Continental says it hasn’t taken sides in the divorce, the company has taken unusual steps that could help Harold’s case. In September, Reuters reported that the company revised its corporate history in ways that diminish the part Hamm played in its success. In downplaying the CEO’s role, the firm recently deleted, added or revised at least 18 items on its website or in corporate filings, Reuters found. (

In addition, Continental has weighed in against Sue Ann. In one of the company’s many filings in the case, a “friend-of-the-court” brief in February, Continental urged the judge to deny Sue Ann additional time to prepare for the trial.

“To say the least, it’s highly unusual for a company to file a friend-of-the court brief in its CEO’s closed-door divorce proceeding to oppose his wife’s request for more trial preparation time,” said appellate attorney Lawrence Ebner, a Washington-based partner at law firm McKenna Long & Aldridge.

Court records show that Haralson denied Sue Ann Hamm’s request for another five months of trial preparation. Being hurried to trial could hurt her case, her lawyers contended in court filings, because they were racing to examine about 700,000 pages of uncategorized Continental documents that Eissenstat had delivered to them in response to evidence requests.


A spokeswoman for Continental, Kristin Miskovsky, has repeatedly said the divorce has had no effect on the company. “Mr. Hamm’s divorce proceeding is a private matter and has not and is not anticipated to impact Continental Resources’ business or operations,” the company said.

In one court filing, however, the company says its role in the case has come at “enormous expense.” Eissenstat and his in-house team handled discovery requests in the case. They have filed more than 40 briefs, objections or motions in the divorce case.

“Mr. Hamm has an interest in winning, and Continental should not have an interest in Hamm winning per se,” said Paula Dalley, a professor of corporate law at Oklahoma City University Law School. “That’s where a conflict of interest could arise. The outcome for Hamm personally shouldn’t matter to the corporation.”

Former Continental employees who were deposed or called as witnesses told Reuters that the oil company paid for lawyers to represent them. The employees requested anonymity after signing agreements not to discuss their depositions or testimony.

It is not unusual for company lawyers to represent employees who will testify in legal cases about their work. But Judith Maute, a law professor at the University of Oklahoma, said that if Eissenstat and Continental used company resources to help Harold, it could draw the ire of other shareholders.

A general counsel’s duty is to his corporation, not to the CEO’s personal interests, she said. “If the general counsel is spending lots of time or company money to save the assets of the person, then he may be in breach of fiduciary duties to shareholders.”

Eissenstat’s role and Continental’s costly involvement in the marital dispute have not been disclosed in detail to the firm’s shareholders. How much the company’s board knows about Continental’s participation in the Hamms’ divorce isn’t clear. Continental declined to address the question of whether it plans to bill Harold Hamm for the costs it’s incurring related to the divorce case.

What is apparent is the trust the company has put in its top lawyer. Asked about Continental’s involvement in the case, David Boren, the powerful Oklahoma politician who sits on Continental’s board and testified in the divorce trial, had little to say.

“I have a policy not to make separate statements as a board member,” Boren said. “If you have any questions, please contact Eric Eissenstat.”

(This story has been refiled to restore the paragraphs that were dropped from some versions of this story)

(Reporting By Joshua Schneyer in Oklahoma City and Brian Grow in Atlanta. Editing by Blake Morrison and Michael Williams)

Posted in Uncategorized

Obama’s tan suit buzzed around the world

Obama’s tan suit buzzed around the world

In this Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 file photo, President Barack Obama smiles as he takes questions about the economy, Iraq, and Ukraine, in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, before convening a meeting with his national security team on the militant threat in Syria and Iraq. Obama´s summer fashion choice, not unprecedented among presidents – himself included – was the talk of social media, Thursday. Other presidents who have taken on tan include Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush and Dwight Eisenhower. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, file)
In this Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 file photo, President Barack Obama smiles as he takes questions about the economy, Iraq, and Ukraine, in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, before convening a meeting with his national security team on the militant threat in Syria and Iraq. Obama’s summer fashion choice, not unprecedented among presidents – himself included – was the talk of social media, Thursday. Other presidents who have taken on tan include Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush and Dwight Eisenhower. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, file)
In this Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 file photo, President Barack Obama smiles as he takes questions about the economy, Iraq, and Ukraine, in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, before convening a meeting with his national security team on the militant threat in Syria and Iraq. Obama´s summer fashion choice, not unprecedented among presidents – himself included – was the talk of social media, Thursday. Other presidents who have taken on tan include Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush and Dwight Eisenhower. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, file) GALLERY: Obama’s tan suit buzzed around the world

POSTED: Friday, August 29, 2014, 8:00 PM

NEW YORK (AP) – Quick! What exactly did President Barack Obama say from the White House briefing room about Syria, Iraq and Ukraine while dressed in the tan suit buzzed ’round the world?

Precisely. If you get all your news from social media.

Obama’s summer fashion choice, not unprecedented among presidents – himself included – was the talk of social media Thursday. It was both defended as a perfectly appropriate seasonal look and criticized as too big and wholly unpresidential for such serious subject matter.

The Twitter jeers flew: “Taupe and change,” one said. Another tweeter riffed off the title of his book with “The audacity of taupe.”

While Obama usually dresses in traditional power dark suits, he did don tan for Easter this year. But not while discussing possible U.S. military intervention in the Middle East.

Other presidents who have taken on tan include Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush and Dwight Eisenhower. In fact, George W. Bush had a suit that his staff called Big Brown. As in, “Oh, no, he’s wearing Big Brown today.”

In keeping with his times, Franklin D. Roosevelt was fond of white.

Obama’s suit accompanied his telling reporters “we don’t have a strategy yet” on U.S. military action in Syria against the Islamic State, a violent militant group seeking to establish dominance in the Middle East. He spoke shortly before he met with security advisers.

“The power persona? Gone in that suit,” said Los Angeles image consultant Patsy Cisneros, who has worked with U.S. senators, governors and corporate executives. (She has yet to snag a president or a presidential candidate).

“Everything below his neck was blah. That’s not conducive to him being listened to,” she said Friday.

One person who didn’t take issue with Obama’s light tan suit: Steve Schmidt, the Republican strategist who helped lead Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. That would be the same campaign where the Republican National Committee spent thousands on Sarah Palin’s clothes and look.

“I think it was a nice-looking suit,” the blunt-talking Schmidt bellowed into the phone Friday from Park City, Utah. “Ronald Reagan used to wear brown, tan and khaki suits with some frequency, and I think he looked fine.”

Of the social media flap, Schmidt added: “It just means that the director of the movie ‘Idiocracy’ is a genius with great foresight. As the Russians invade Ukraine and ISIS storms across the Middle East … we’re focused on the president’s suit.”

Obama offered a tongue-in-cheek defense of his wardrobe during a fundraiser Friday in Rhode Island.

“I kinda liked that suit yesterday,” he said. “You cling to every last bit of summer that you can.”

It wasn’t the first fashion flurry for Obama. Granted he’s the first president who’s spent his entire two terms in the grips of fast-moving social media. Back in 2009, before Twitter, Facebook and other platforms were the meme beasts they are today, Obama was panned for wearing “mom jeans” when he threw the first pitch at the All-Star Game.

The message of the suit, Cisneros said, was that of the “everyman, more at the bottom of the totem pole, more of, ‘I’m a team player, not the leader.'”

In Washington, Cisneros said, power is perception, vitality, presence. For a social occasion or a vacation, the light tan suit would have been perfect for the president, she added.

“Wear your beige suit in the Hamptons. It’s summer time. It’s your vacation,” she said. “If it’s a social event, lovely. We’re not listening to you. We’re looking at how nice you look.”


Associated Press reporter Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.


Posted in Uncategorized

How to Use Your Cat to Hack Your Neighbor’s Wi-Fi

How to Use Your Cat to Hack Your Neighbor’s Wi-Fi

Coco, modeling the WarKitteh collar.

Late last month, a Siamese cat named Coco went wandering in his suburban Washington, DC neighborhood. He spent three hours exploring nearby backyards. He killed a mouse, whose carcass he thoughtfully brought home to his octogenarian owner, Nancy. And while he was out, Coco mapped dozens of his neighbors’ Wi-Fi networks, identifying four routers that used an old, easily-broken form of encryption and another four that were left entirely unprotected.

Unbeknownst to Coco, he’d been fitted with a collar created by Nancy’s granddaughter’s husband, security researcher Gene Bransfield. And Bransfield had built into that collar a Spark Core chip loaded with his custom-coded firmware, a Wi-Fi card, a tiny GPS module and a battery—everything necessary to map all the networks in the neighborhood that would be vulnerable to any intruder or Wi-Fi mooch with, at most, some simple crypto-cracking tools.

In the 1980s, hackers used a technique called “wardialing,” cycling through numbers with their modems to find unprotected computers far across the internet. The advent of Wi-Fi brought “wardriving,” putting an antenna in a car and cruising a city to suss out weak and unprotected Wi-Fi networks. This weekend at the DefCon hacker conference in Las Vegas, Bransfield will debut the next logical step: The “WarKitteh” collar, a device he built for less than $100 that turns any outdoor cat into a Wifi-sniffing hacker accomplice.

Skitzy the cat.

Despite the title of his DefCon talk—”How To Weaponize Your Pets”–Bransfield admits WarKitteh doesn’t represent a substantial security threat. Rather, it’s the sort of goofy hack designed to entertain the con’s hacker audience. Still, he was surprised by just how many networks tracked by his data-collecting cat used WEP, a form of wireless encryption known for more than ten years to be easily broken. “My intent was not to show people where to get free Wi-Fi. I put some technology on a cat and let it roam around because the idea amused me,” says Bransfield, who works for the security consultancy Tenacity. “But the result of this cat research was that there were a lot more open and WEP-encrypted hot spots out there than there should be in 2014.”

In his DefCon talk, Bransfield plans to explain how anyone can replicate the WarKitteh collar to create their own Wifi-spying cat, a feat that’s only become easier in the past months as the collar’s Spark Core chip has become easier to program. Bransfield came up with the idea of feline-powered Wi-Fi reconnaissance when someone attending one of his security briefings showed him a GPS collar designed to let people locate their pets by sending a text message. “All it needed was a Wi-Fi sniffer,” he says. “I thought the idea was hilarious, and I decided to make it.”

His first experiment involved hiding an HTC Wildfire smartphone in the pocket of a dog jacket worn by his coworker’s tabby, Skitzy. Skitzy quickly managed to worm out of the jacket, however, losing Bransfield’s gear. “It was a disaster,” he says. “That cat still owes me a phone.”

The WarKitteh collar.

Bransfield spent the next months painstakingly creating the WarKitteh, using Spark’s Arduino-compatible open source hardware and enlisting Nancy to sew it into a strip of cloth. When he finally tested it on Skitzy, however, he was disappointed to find the cat spent the device’s entire battery life sitting on his coworker’s front porch.

Coco turned out to be a better spy. Over three hours, he revealed 23 Wi-Fi hotspots, more than a third of which were open to snoops or used crackable WEP instead of the more modern WPA encryption. Bransfield mapped those networks in a program created by an Internet collaborator that uses Google Earth’s API, shown in a video below. The number of vulnerable access points surprised Bransfield; He says that several of the WEP connections were Verizon FiOS routers left with their default settings unchanged.


Though he admits his cat stunt was mostly intended to entertain himself, he hopes it might make more users aware of privacy lessons those in the security community have long taken for granted. “Cats are more interesting to people than information security,” Bransfield says. “If people realize that a cat can pick up on their open Wi-Fi hotspot, maybe that’s a good thing.”

Homepage image: Moyan_Brenn/Flickr

Tagged with: ,
Posted in Data Security, Encryption, Jonathan Kine

Yahoo to join Google to create spy-free email systems: WSJ

Yahoo to join Google to create spy-free email systems: WSJ

Thu Aug 7, 2014 9:24pm EDT

Updated by Endah 
A Yahoo logo is pictured in front of a building in Rolle, 30 km (19 miles) east of Geneva, in this file picture taken December 12, 2012.    REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/Files

A Yahoo logo is pictured in front of a building in Rolle, 30 km (19 miles) east of Geneva, in this file picture taken December 12, 2012.


(Reuters) – Yahoo Inc said it will join Google Inc to create a secure email system by next year that could make it nearly impossible for hackers or government officials to read users’ messages, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The move comes as large technology companies unite to beef up their defenses against government intrusion and hacking, most notably after Edward Snowden exposed last year the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance programs.

Google, Microsoft and Facebook Inc moved to encrypt internal traffic after revelations by Snowden that the spy agency hacked into their connections overseas. The companies have also smaller adjustments that together make sweeping collection more difficult.

Yahoo has altered its email process so users adopting encryption type messages in a separate window, preventing even Yahoo from reading the messages as they are typed, the Journal said.

Yahoo officials could not be reached immediately for comment.

Earlier Thursday, Google said it was encouraging website developers to make their sites secure for visitors by using site encryption as one of the factors to determine search ranking.

(Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan in Bangalore; Editing by Leslie Adler)


Tagged with:
Posted in Data Security, Google, Jonathan Kine

Eavesdropping with a camera and potted plants

Eavesdropping with a camera and potted plants

Heather Kelly, CNN
A visual image of a houseplant might be all it takes to record your conversations, researchers say.
A visual image of a houseplant might be all it takes to record your conversations, researchers say.

  • Researchers have found a way to re-create audio from silent videos
  • They translate the small vibrations in common objects into audio files
  • The technology could be used for law enforcement, space research and more

(CNN) — Before you spill your deepest darkest secrets, or plans for world domination, look around you. Is there a gossipy potato chip bag or leafy green houseplant nearby picking up your conversation?

Researchers at MIT, Microsoft and Adobe have developed a way to turn regular objects into visual microphones. They have re-created audio from silent video recordings by analyzing the subtle movements of a leaf or empty Coke can that are created by soundwaves traveling through the air.

“We weren’t sure at first that this was possible, since those vibrations are so subtle, so we took a loudspeaker and blasted some objects with sounds while filming them with a high-speed camera, and quickly realized that the signal was there, and that we could use our processing techniques to pick it up,” said Michael Rubinstein of Microsoft Research, who worked on the project.

The technique they came up with is based on video processing algorithms developed to analyze the tiniest movements in videos, which the researchers previously used for magnifying the tiny movements, much like a microscope

In one experiment, they played the notes to “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on a loud speaker near a potted plant. They used a custom processing algorithm on a high speed video of the plant, shot without audio, to detect movements not visible to the naked eye. They then translated those movements into a sound file, which recreated the song.

In another experiment, they picked up spoken words from an empty potato chip bag recorded through sound proof glass. They even used the popular app Shazam to correctly identify a recovered version of Queen’s “Under Pressure” based on the movements of a pair of earbuds.

“We spent a lot of time talking and yelling at objects … . It was a fun project,” said Rubinstein.

The technology is just in the proof of concept phase, but the potential practical uses are fascinating. Law enforcement immediately comes to mind. Detectives might use video cameras as an alternative to wiretaps or sound amplifiers. Investigators could mine soundless surveillance videos for a whole new layer of helpful information.

The researchers are thinking bigger than just fighting crime.

“Perhaps we could take a video of a concert hall or a recording studio and determine their acoustic properties by seeing how the sound propagates through them,” said Rubinstein. “Maybe we could use this with telescopes to recover sounds across space, where sound cannot travel.”

The technology is different from laser microphones, which require actively shining a laser light onto a scene in order to measure sound. The MIT researchers are starting with regular video shot in natural light — what they call a passive technique.

The young technology does have limitations. The quality of the audio is better when the video captures more frames per second, though researchers also had some luck with information gathered from a regular camera.

Not every object registers subtle sound well. The most successful visual eavesdroppers are light and rigid objects such as plastic bags, foam cups and tinfoil, according to Rubinstein. Water and plants are OK at picking up audio and solid, but heavy items like bricks are too heavy to register average vibrations.

Next, the researchers want to explore what else they can do with the recovered information. They are already looking into new processing algorithms and techniques to make the data even more useful. Even when they can’t recreate words or notes exactly, there is interesting data lurking in the video.

“We showed that we can determine pretty reliably the gender of a speaker from low-quality sound we managed to recover from a tissue box, where it was completely unclear what the person was saying,” said Rubinstein.  

Re-creating audio from visual information could pose privacy concerns. But, at least for now, Rubinstein doesn’t see these types of visual microphones posing any greater threat to privacy than the existing technology that’s already out there.

“I don’t think people need to start hiding their bags of chips just yet,” he said.

Posted in Uncategorized

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Follow me on Twitter