Categories
Computing

Malware-as-a-service lets hackers steal your data for $10

A new (and cheap) service that offers hackers a straightforward method to set up a base where they manage and perform their cyber crimes has been discovered — and it’s gaining traction.

As reported by Bleeping Computer, security researchers unearthed a program called Dark Utilities, effectively providing a command and control (C2) center.

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The service supports payloads for Windows, Linux, and Python. It also saves hackers from initiating and setting up a C2 communication channel. For reference, a C2 server is the central hub in managing the distribution of malware.

It also allows threat actors to administer commands, configurations/new payloads, and, most importantly, extract data from systems that have been breached.

The Dark Utilities platform operates as a “C2-as-a-service” (C2aaS). It’s presented as an anonymous C2 infrastructure, with prices starting as low as 9.99 euros, or a little over $10.

It’s certainly starting to gain momentum among underground hacking services, with Cisco Talos confirming it already boasts 3,000 active subscribers. As a result, whoever is behind the operation is netting around 30,000 euros in revenue.

Word of Dark Utilities’ existence materialized in the opening stages of 2022. It delivers a fully fledged C2 system that is compatible with both the famed Tor network and regular browsers. Payloads are found within the Interplanetary File System (IPFS), which acts as a decentralized network system that stores and shares data.

Researchers from Cisco Talos confirmed that after an operating system is chosen by the threat actor, it produces a command string that “threat actors are typically embedding into PowerShell or Bash scripts to facilitate the retrieval and execution of the payload on victim machines.”

The report also adds how the administrative panel for Dark Utilities features various options for different attacks, ranging from the standard distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) operations and crypto-jacking.

Bleeping Computer stresses that when considering the popularity it has attained within the span of a few months, coupled with an attractive price point, Dark Utilities is all but set to become an even more in-demand platform, especially for hackers who don’t have a lot of experience in cybercriminal activity.

The amount of activity related to hacking throughout 2022 is unprecedented, to say the least. With hackers constantly changing their methods and moving faster than ever when it comes to scanning possible vulnerabilities, it’s no surprise that cyberattacks have nearly doubled since last year.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
Game

Twitch’s latest test lets you preview channels without watching ads

Twitch has begun testing a new feature that could introduce you to great streamers you haven’t seen before. Channel Switcher shows random channels as a carousel at the bottom of the screen. When you click on any of them, you’ll be able to watch a one-minute preview of the streamer’s content, enough to give you an idea of what they offer. The previews have no ads either, so you can channel surf undisturbed until you find something to watch. As Twitch explains, the feature will make it easier to figure out if you like a specific channel before committing.

A Twitch spokesperson told The Verge that “only a small percentage of [randomly selected] users who are logged in” will get the chance to test out the feature. The company plans to end the test in July and then analyze its results. While it’s unclear if Channel Switcher will get a wide release at this point, the spokesperson told the publication that Twitch intends to roll out future iterations and is thinking of offering it as an opt-in discovery solution. 

Alongside Channel Switcher, Twitch also launched Guest Star, which allows up to five guests to join a host in a stream. It works similar to Clubhouse in that streamers can include other streamers and viewers in their broadcast, but it of course supports video and not just audio conversations. 

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Categories
Security

1Password now lets you securely share files and documents with just a link

1Password will now let you securely share files and documents with anyone using just a link. The password manager previously started supporting secure password sharing with links last year, and this feature is now being expanded to include documents and files that are stored in 1Password.

Sharing a document or file is as easy as sharing a password from 1Password, and the recipient doesn’t need to even use 1Password to access files. You can share a file with anyone through a link, and you can set an expiry date on the link or even restrict it so people have to verify their email address with a one-time code to view the file.

1Password users can share files, documents, passwords, or just sensitive data.
Image: 1Password

The shared item or file will be displayed on 1Password’s site, and recipients can copy fields, download files, or even save items into their own 1Password account if they have one. Sharing 1Password items is similar to how you’d invite someone to a Google Drive file, but without a link that lasts forever and improved control over who can view the item.

1Password has also improved its sharing process, alongside the file and documents support. Recipients can now see shared items in their preferred language, and senders can share items with an entire company’s email domain and still require recipients to verify their individual email address. Other improvements include new icons, and lots of customization options for 1Password admins.

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Categories
Computing

WhatsApp now lets you control who can see your profile

WhatsApp is now letting you decide who gets to view certain aspects of your profile.

This week, Meta’s popular messaging and calling app announced via a tweet that it is offering new privacy options for its users, including the ability to choose “who from your contact list can see your Profile Photo, About, and Last Seen status.

🔒 To further protect your privacy online, we’re rolling out new options to your privacy control settings 🔒

Now you can select who from your contact list can see your Profile Photo, About, and Last Seen status. For more information follow this link: https://t.co/UGMCx2n70h

— WhatsApp (@WhatsApp) June 15, 2022

According to a WhatsApp’s Help Center page on the matter, your privacy settings, unless they are reconfigured, allow the following: All users can add you to groups. Contacts can view your status updates. All users can view your read receipts, profile picture, Last Seen, and About information.

But if you choose to configure WhatsApp’s new privacy settings, you’ll have more control over who can view the aforementioned profile information. Profile information such as your photo, Last Seen, About, and status can all be adjusted to one of four privacy options: Everyone, My Contacts, My Contacts Except, and Nobody. Essentially all of these options let you choose the visibility of your profile information based on the audience you’d like to have access to it.

It is worth noting, however, that these new privacy settings do come with some caveats: Not sharing your Last Seen means you can’t see the Last Seen of others. WhatsApp does not offer a way to adjust “who can see when you’re online or typing …”

In addition to selecting who can view your profile information, WhatsApp also lets you decide who can can view your read receipts and who can add you to groups. Not sharing read receipts also results in you not being able to view others’ read receipts. Group chats still offer read receipts regardless of your settings. If one of your friends doesn’t have read receipts enabled, that also stops you from seeing “if they’ve viewed your status updates.”

On Android and iOS, you can access these settings by navigating to Settings > Account > Privacy.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
AI

A Meta prototype lets you build virtual worlds by describing them

Meta is testing an artificial intelligence system that lets people build parts of virtual worlds by describing them, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg showed off a prototype at a live event today. Proof of the concept, called Builder Bot, could eventually draw more people into Meta’s Horizon “metaverse” virtual reality experiences. It could also advance creative AI tech that powers machine-generated art.

In a prerecorded demo video, Zuckerberg walked viewers through the process of making a virtual space with Builder Bot, starting with commands like “let’s go to the beach,” which prompts the bot to create a cartoonish 3D landscape of sand and water around him. (Zuckerberg describes this as “all AI-generated.”) Later commands range from broad demands like creating an island to extremely specific requests like adding altocumulus clouds and — in a joke poking fun at himself — a model of a hydrofoil. They also include playing sound effects like “tropical music,” which Zuckerberg suggests is coming from a boombox that Builder Bot created, although it could also have been general background audio. The video doesn’t specify whether Builder Bot draws on a limited library of human-created models or if the AI plays a role in generating the designs.

Several AI projects have demonstrated image generation based on text descriptions, including OpenAI’s DALL-E, Nvidia’s GauGAN2, and VQGAN+CLIP, as well as more accessible applications like Dream by Wombo. But these well-known projects involve creating 2D images (sometimes very surreal ones) without interactive components, although some researchers are working on 3D object generation.

As described by Meta and shown in the demo, Builder Bot appears to be using voice input to add 3D objects that users can walk around, and Meta is aiming for more ambitious interactions. “You’ll be able to create nuanced worlds to explore and share experiences with others with just your voice,” Zuckerberg promised during the event keynote. Meta made several other AI announcements during the event, including plans for a universal language translator, a new version of a conversational AI system, and an initiative to build new translation models for languages without large written data sets.

Zuckerberg acknowledged that sophisticated interactivity, including the kinds of usable virtual objects many VR users take for granted, poses major challenges. AI generation can pose unique moderation problems if users ask for offensive content or the AI’s training reproduces human biases and stereotypes about the world. And we don’t know the limits of the current system. So for now, you shouldn’t expect to see Builder Bot pop up in Meta’s social VR platform — but you can get a taste of Meta’s plans for its AI future.

Update 12:50PM ET: Added details about later event announcements from Meta.

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Categories
Computing

Barking Mad? The DogPhone Lets A Canine Call Its Owner

The idea of a dog using a special ball to video call its owner may sound barking mad, but researchers at the University of Glasgow in Scotland recently went ahead and built such a device.

The so-called “DogPhone” comprises a small ball fitted with a sensor. When the dog moves the ball, the sensor initiates a video call via a nearby laptop. The owner can also call the dog, but the pet has to move the ball to answer.

Research leader Dr Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas said she was prompted to create the DogPhone after realizing there were plenty of devices that let owners check on their home-alone pets, but none that let the animals initiate interaction with their master.

“I’ve been building devices for my dog and many other dogs for quite a while now,” Hirskyj-Douglas said in a video discussing the DogPhone. “I think a lot of these devices are really important to give dogs choices or options to do things for enrichment reasons.”

Hirskyj-Douglas tested the DogPhone with her 10-year-old labrador, Zack. The test period lasted several weeks, with the ball left out for Zack every time she went out of the house.

Sure enough, Zack soon moved the ball across the floor, causing the laptop to video call Hirskyj-Douglas.

A screenshot from one of Zack’s video calls, with the pet shown holding the sensor-equipped DogPhone ball in his mouth. University of Glasgow

“It was very exciting to get calls from him initially,” the researcher said.

But she added that toward the end of the test period, she actually started to experience a sense of unease when Zack failed to make a call.

“It became a bit more anxious for me near the end because sometimes I wouldn’t get a video call or he wouldn’t ring me through the day, and I would be thinking, ‘Oh, he usually rings me at this time.’”

As for Zack, it’s not clear if he ever came to realize that moving the ball would cause his owner’s face to pop up on a laptop display, or if the calls were just placed at random whenever he played with the ball.

Hirskyj-Douglas appeared happy with the results of the experiment, saying that it demonstrated “we can really form technology very differently for animals. Animals can be active users of technology, they can control technology, we just really need to reshape our thinking about how we see the future of dog technology.”

An article on the team’s research, titled Forming the Dog Internet: Prototyping a Dog-to-Human Video Call Device, was published this month and presented at the ACM Interactive Surfaces and Spaces Conference in Łódź, Poland earlier this week.

There are no plans to commercialize the DogPhone, though we imagine there are plenty of owners out there who rather like the idea of their pet calling them up when they’re out, even if the conversation turns out to be a bit one way.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
Game

Stadia lets you join a friend’s game without an invite

Google is gradually bringing more and more useful features to Stadia, many of which probably should have been available from the outset. It’s still ridiculous how long it took to add a search function to the store, for one thing. Shortly after the arrival of free trials for some more titles, Google is rolling out an option to join a friend’s game without an invite.

A support page spotted by 9to5Google notes that the option is available in select games, including Far Cry 6. You can switch it on by going to the privacy tab of the Stadia settings. In the Current Game section, there’s an option called Join your current game, which you can enable to let others join a multiplayer game without an invitation. You can set this to friends, your friends and their friends, all players or no one.

This is a welcome update that brings Stadia a little more in line with other gaming platforms. It could encourage groups of friends to pick up the same games since it’ll be a little easier for them to play together.

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Categories
Game

Sony test lets some PS5 owners quickly share screenshots and clips via mobile

Sony has tweeted that it’s testing a beta that will let PS5 players share screenshots and clips via smartphone using the PlayStation app. That will match functionality the Xbox has offered for a while now, though so far, Sony is only testing it in a limited release. 

One you turn it on, the new feature will automatically upload captures to the cloud. You’ll then be able to access them on the PlayStation app for 14 days to save on your camera roll, share on social media, or send to PSN friends and parties. It should be less clunky than the current system of direct sharing from the console. 

On top of screenshots taken from the Create Menu or Create button shortcuts, you can share gameplay videos under three minutes in length up to 1080p (not 4K). For screenshots and videos to be auto-uploaded, make sure you’ve linked your PS5 console to the PlayStation app. It also needs to be left in rest mode and have the “Stay Connected to the Internet” setting enabled. For more details, check Sony’s (region-locked) article.  

The update is now available in Canada and Japan only, and as with other beta features, “may not make it into the final version or may see significant changes,” Sony notes. However, it seems as likely as any new feature to come out of beta, so hopefully it will be released to everyone soon. 

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Categories
Game

The new Assassin’s Creed educational tour lets you explore the Viking Age

Assassin’s Creed Discovery Tours can offer valuable educational insights into historical periods, and that may be particularly true for the latest instalment. Ubisoft has released a Discovery Tour: Viking Age update for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla that gives you the chance to explore Viking-era England and Norway without the usual conflicts. There’s a new format, however. Rather than go on guided tours and visit exhibits, you assume the roles of four Anglo-Saxon and Viking characters (such as Anglo-Saxon king Alfred the Great and a Viking merchant) as they undertake eight quests that illustrate their daily lives.

You can also study period artifacts from museums in the UK, France and Denmark. And yes, there are rewards to unlock in the main Valhalla game for Eivor and his longship.

The Discovery Tour update is free for Valhalla players on all platforms, and you can buy the $20 stand-alone version for PCs through either Ubisoft’s store or the Epic Games Store. Console and streaming players will have to wait until 2022 for a stand-alone release. However you get a copy, it could be a worthwhile experience if you’ve wanted to dispel the myths surrounding Vikings and their conquests.

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Categories
Game

PUBG’s latest free-to-play promo lets you really sink your teeth in

PUBG is rather unique among battle royale titles, perhaps because it sparked the whole frenzy that led to rise of games like Fortnite and Apex Legends. While many battle royale games are free-to-play, PUBG actually asks for money upfront, potentially prompting some battle royale fans to give it a pass. This week, the developers behind PUBG are giving those holdouts a chance to try the game without plopping down cash first.

PUBG has gone free-to-play for the next week, giving (mostly) complete access to the game to anyone who wants it. Normally, PUBG runs $30, but from now until August 16th, it costs nothing to download and play. Krafton, the studio that makes PUBG, is even giving players some rewards for trying the game out during this promotion.

In a post to Steam, Kraton reveals several missions that will grant players a collection of in-game items upon completion. Most of these quests are ones that will be completed just by playing the game. For instance, one of the quests has you traveling 600m total in a parachute, while another tasks you with looting 300 items in total across all of your matches. Additionally, Krafton says that players who create a Global Account through the PUBG website and then link it to their Steam accounts during the free PUBG week will also get a free in-game item: Traditional Glasses (Round).

During this free-play week, all rewards – whether those are Pass, Mission, XP, or BP rewards – can be collected normally. In addition, mission progress and gameplay statistics will be recorded and put toward achievement progress if players wind up buying the full game. It seems that the store won’t be available to free players, but it will unlock as soon as those free players purchase the game.

Sadly, it doesn’t seem like there’s a sale associated with this free-play week, as PUBG is still listed at its normal price. The weeklong promotion is only available on Steam, which means console players will have to sit this one out. PUBG‘s free-play week wraps up on August 16th at 2 PM PDT/5 PM EDT.

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