Categories
Computing

Think it’s time to upgrade your gaming CPU? Read this first

We’re on the edge of a new generation of gaming CPUs — 13th-gen Raptor Lake from Intel and Ryzen 7000 from AMD. If you’re reading this on the day it’s published, in fact, AMD is set to launch it’s next-gen processors tomorrow. But should you care?

AMD and Intel will undoubtedly both come out claiming ownership over the best gaming CPU, but testing consistently shows that gaming CPU upgrades don’t have the biggest impact on your frame rate. There’s a lot going on in the next generation of processors, so I’m going to help break down how to understand your CPU’s role in games and how you can determine when it’s time for an upgrade.

A layman’s guide to CPU bottlenecks

Taylor Frint / Digital Trends

Gaming CPU upgrades all come down to bottlenecks in your PC. A bottleneck is when one component in your PC is limiting the performance of another, and CPUs have a dirty secret when it comes to gaming — they don’t do much. Of course, your CPU is active and critical to playing games, but its main role is to get out of the way of your GPU.

A CPU bottleneck is when your processor is limiting your graphics card, and it’s easy to check if that’s going on with your PC. Load up a demanding game you like to play with Task Manager open in Windows, click More details, and check where your CPU and GPU utilization are at. You have a bottleneck if your CPU utilization is above your GPU utilization.

CPU and GPU usage in Destiny 2.
This is ideally where you want to be, where your GPU has headroom and isn’t waiting on your CPU.

Most systems have bottlenecks at various places, so you’re mainly looking for large discrepancies (like your CPU at 100% while your GPU is at 60%). The goal with most games is to have your GPU running at full 100% utilization regardless of where your CPU is at. Your graphics card is the most important component when playing games, so it should be in use more than your CPU.

There’s some complexity here, though. For starters, 100% GPU utilization doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t need to upgrade your PC. It just means you should upgrade your GPU instead of your CPU, which is especially true if you’re pairing a weaker graphics card with a powerful processor.

The resolution you play at is a determining factor, as well. The Core i5-12600K is about 15% faster than the Core i5-10600K at 1080p, for example, but there’s only around a 3% difference at 4K. The money you would spend upgrading your CPU is better spent on a new graphics card (or maybe even a 4K gaming monitor if you were already planning on upgrading).

Even with that, most of the complexity comes down to the games you play. There isn’t a hard rule for which games use the CPU more, but you can break down the titles you play to understand the role of your processor.

Dispelling gaming CPU myths

Someone holding the Core i9-12900KS processor.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

There are a lot of misguided ideas about gaming CPUs because, frankly, they’re complex. Some say you only need a quad-core CPU for gaming, others say gaming performance is all about frequency, and gaming processors like the Ryzen 7 5800X3D would have you believe gaming performance is all about CPU cache size.

The reality is that core count, frequency, cache, and all the other specs of your CPU matter; it just depends on which of those things is most important. As AMD’s Robert Hallock explained to me, games largely break down into three buckets. A game can be sensitive to frequency, latency, or graphics, and identifying the sensitivities in your favorite games can tell you a lot about what you need out of a new gaming CPU.

In general, competitive multiplayer titles like Rainbow Six Siege and Fortnite are sensitive to latency. The instructions for these games are simple for your CPU to execute, but they’re random and based on player choice. Your CPU gets the instructions finished quickly, but it needs those instructions as quickly as possible. This bucket of games is latency sensitive, which is why the increased cache on the Ryzen 7 5800X3D offers such a big boost in games like Fortnite.

Gaming CPU benchmarks in Fortnite.

Frequency-sensitive games don’t have a lot of random instructions. The games are fairly predictable, but they have a lot of instructions that need to be executed very quickly. You can see an example of that in Red Dead Redemption 2, where the increased core count and clock speed of the Core i9-12900K beats out the boosted cache on the Ryzen 7 5800X3D.

Red Dead Redemption 2 benchmarks for gaming CPUs.

Finally, graphics-sensitive games just aren’t too concerned with your CPU. These games lean heavier on your GPU, so different CPUs won’t provide much of a benefit. Some examples include Cyberpunk 2077 and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, but it’s important to keep bottlenecks in mind with graphics-sensitive games. These games may not see a big boost with clock speed or increased cache, but they’ll see a massive jump if your GPU is being bottlenecked.

You won’t find a game that’s only focused on frequency or only concerned with latency, but it’s good to identify where the games you play lean. If you play a lot of Rainbow Six Siege, for example, you’ll see a benefit from a newer CPU with a larger cache pool, but in a relatively straightforward shooter like Borderlands 3, you only need six cores at most on a fairly recent generation.

Platform features make a difference

Corsair DDR5 RAM inside a PC.
Corsair

AMD Ryzen 7000 and Intel 13th-gen Raptor Lake present a unique hurdle for CPU upgrades. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t recommend you upgrade to a new generation if you’re focused on gaming (assuming you have a balanced PC otherwise). These two generations present the introduction of DDR5 and PCIe 5.0, however.

DDR5 memory isn’t as important as it might seem. I’ll dive deeper into DDR5’s role in gaming in my next column, but it isn’t a reason to upgrade your CPU alone. The more interesting platform feature is PCIe 5.0.

PCIe 5.0 still has a lot of maturing to do, but it was only a couple of generations ago that we were locked to PCIe 3.0. Intel 10th-gen and AMD Ryzen 2000, and older processors, are locked to PCIe 3.0. That means you won’t get the best performance out of features like DirectStorage, and it could be downright disastrous depending on the GPU you have (read my RX 6500 XT review for more on that).

Should you upgrade your gaming CPU?

Core i9-12900KS processor socketed in a motherboard.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

If you should upgrade your gaming CPU comes down to what you have now, what games you plan to play, and what graphics card you’re pairing the CPU with. There’s a lot of advice in this entry for understanding your gaming CPU, but I didn’t want to leave it without offering some buying advice, too.

I went through all major game releases in 2022, and none of them call for more than six cores. Six cores with one of the last three CPU generations is where you want to be. Some games can take advantage of eight cores, like Cyberpunk 2077, but the differences are much smaller once you hit six cores.

Your pairing of CPU and GPU plays a big role as well. My rule of thumb is to have my GPU and CPU within two generations of each other and to balance where they are in the product stack. If you upgraded to a card like the RTX 3060 Ti but are still sitting on a Ryzen 7 1700X, for example, swapping out your CPU will provide a massive uplift in performance. If you already have the newer Ryzen 5 5600X, though, you probably won’t see much of a boost.

There aren’t any hard rules for upgrading your gaming CPU. Ultimately, the best way to avoid unnecessary upgrades is to develop a deeper understanding of the role your CPU plays in games and pay close attention to how your own PC handles them.

This article is part of ReSpec – an ongoing biweekly column that includes discussions, advice, and in-depth reporting on the tech behind PC gaming.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
Security

Go read this: how FAFSA got caught sending personal info to Facebook

If you applied for financial aid through Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in the US in early 2022, there’s a very good chance some personal information was provided to a platform that’s completely irrelevant to the process: Facebook.

This report from The Markup exposed that, as early as January 2022, the US Department of Education sent data from website visitors to Facebook, potentially including information submitted on forms like first and last name, country, phone number, and email address, via the “Meta Pixel” tracking pixel — even if the person didn’t have a Facebook account. The Markup also notes that this data collection began “even before the user logged in to studentaid.gov.”

When asked about this tracking, a spokesperson for the Department of Education initially denied that it was taking place, despite The Markup finding code that clearly indicates otherwise. Federal Student Aid COO Richard Cordray then fessed up, telling the publication that the data gathering was “part of a March 22 advertising campaign,” which had “inadvertently” sent the personal data to Facebook. The data-sharing feature was then turned off. Cordray also said the data “was automatically anonymized and neither FSA nor Facebook used any of it for any purpose,” without explaining how they were able to verify that.

The Markup notes that it’s unknown how much data was pulled in from students. Yet, even though these students didn’t voluntarily agree to Facebook’s privacy policy (namely, because FAFSA didn’t tell them they were being tracked), the publication says this policy allows the company can retain such data for years.

Go read the full report for all of the details and to get a better sense of just how pervasive Facebook’s tracking capabilities across the web (dubbed the “Meta Pixel”) really are.

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Categories
Game

Netflix’s Video Game Platform Fails to Read the Room

The dream of a “Netflix of gaming” has long been the most exciting prospect in the industry, and now Netflix itself has finally entered the gaming space with its own games service. At this point, we’ve already seen some of the biggest companies in the world try and enter the gaming space — and universally fail. Even companies that are focused on games, such as Sony, haven’t fully cracked the nut that is a successful game streaming platform.

Netflix is the gold standard for movie and TV streaming, so from the outside it makes sense that it would know how to make a great streaming service for games as well. However, streaming a game and streaming a movie are two completely different beasts. More than that, though, making an appealing game service is not at all similar to making an appealing TV and movie service. Looking at how the platform has rolled out, plus the context of Netflix’s business as a whole, it reads like a desperate move on Netflix’s part to differentiate itself from its competition — companies that have already eaten its lunch.

Read the room

There are plenty of examples of why gaming, streaming or otherwise, is not a space companies can just slide into easilyGoogle Stadia and Amazon Luna had the might of two of the biggest companies in the world behind them and both services have struggled to take off. I’m sure Netflix isn’t short on cash, but throwing a war chest of money at a gaming service won’t magically make it work.

Even if it did, Netflix has yet to show how much it’s willing to invest into gaming. The service launched with five mobile games, and Netflix has only made one power play by acquiring Oxenfree developer Night School Studios. The streaming giant is merely dipping its toe in the waters when it comes to content.

The problem is that non-gaming companies try to fit gaming — both the consumption and creation — into their own structures. Netflix may have a great pipeline for getting series and films made, but that won’t apply to making a game. Google was so poor at managing its own game studio that it shut it down before it even produced a single title.

Half measures

TV and film streaming used to be Netflix’s game, and no one else could even compete. Now, there’s tons of options out there, each with exclusive content that has helped them peel back Netflix’s death grip on an industry it built. We’ve seen reports that it’s quickly losing subscribers and the pivot to gaming seems like a way to address that. It seems like an easy power play on paper. Just throw some games on the service people already use, right? Who wouldn’t subscribe to Netflix if they got all the TV and movies, plus free games? Its idealistic, but doesn’t inherently work in practice.

A reactive move into gaming can be destined to fail, especially if Netflix’s gaming launch is any indication of how it plans to continue this service. The five games, which is already a slim offering, are all small mobile games that have, at best, middling reviews. A service with bad games, or even just OK ones, isn’t going to appeal to many players. Unlike TV and movies, people won’t simply binge a game that’s boring.

Games aren’t passive. They aren’t something you can just throw on in the background and half pay attention to. Netflix is the king of dumping tons of content on users. Some of it is bad, some good, and once in a while there’s a gem that really takes off. Games don’t work that way. It’ll take time and work to develop and offer a quality library of games. There won’t be those hits to find otherwise.

Netflix, at least in its initial rollout, hasn’t shown that it’s terribly serious about games. It made two games based on Stranger Things, but both are small-scale, seemingly low-budget titles. It owns one studio, which has barely had time to start working on a game for the service. Nothing about the lead-up to the rollout indicates that Netflix is really dedicated to games as a core branch of its business yet — and you can’t be successful in games with half measures.

Who cares?

Netflix's "Stranger Things" games on mobile.

The final, and most important, aspect that Netflix seems to have failed to grasp is that simply having games won’t make people care. Again, we can return to Stadia and Luna as prime examples. Neither cloud gaming service has offered players the kind of “platform seller” that pushes players to adopt platforms. Exclusives are an obvious draw, but even just having strong games from third parties could work. Shooting Hoops and Card Blast aren’t exactly head-turning games. If a launch lineup isn’t remotely exciting, why should potential players buy in?

Having games on a service alone isn’t a selling point. Cereal boxes have games on them. You can play games on the back of an airplane seat. It’s hard to be in a situation where you can’t play a game these days, so long as you’re near anything with a screen. The difference is quality, not quantity. At the moment, Netflix provides no reason to draw people away from playing on console, PC, or even other mobile games. Until it scores some big, quality games, I’d rather do the maze and word search on the back of a Lucky Charms box.

Editors’ Choice




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Security

Go read this report about the horrifying leaks coming from school ransomware attacks

Ransomware has been a hot-button topic in 2021 due to its impact on critical infrastructure, hospitals, and computer manufacturers. However, a recent report from NBC News may be one of the more heartbreaking accounts of the effects hackers can have: it details how data leaks from attacks on schools can put student’s most sensitive information out onto the internet, available to anyone who knows how to find it and is willing to pay. It’s a story that’s well worth a read for all the details it goes into and edge cases it explores.

According to NBC’s report, one school district had an Excel sheet called “Basic student information” posted to the dark web after it refused to pay a ransom, according to the FBI’s instructions. The article’s author, Kevin Collier, breaks down the shocking information it contains:

It lists students by name and includes entries for their date of birth, race, Social Security number and gender, as well as whether they’re an immigrant, homeless, marked as economically disadvantaged and if they’ve been flagged as potentially dyslexic.

The school knew about the attack and informed parents about it — making it potentially one of the better scenarios. Insurance covered identity theft protection for staff, but it’s unclear whether that benefit extends to students even after getting lawyers involved. In other cases, when NBC News asked some schools about their leaks, they seemed “unaware of the problem.”

It’s hard even to comprehend how it could affect a student’s social life if their grades, medical info, or free or reduced-price lunch benefit status leaked online. What’s easier to understand is the impact of having their SSNs, birthdays, and names sold to unscrupulous people: NBC tells the story of a student whose info was used in attempts to get a credit card and car loan.

I know firsthand the hell that can come from having your credit wrecked before you even get out of high school, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. The report cites Eva Velasquez from the Identity Theft Resource Center, who tells parents to freeze their kid’s credit to keep them safe from identity theft. Parents already have enough concerns — dealing with kids who are learning remotely or figuring out how to get kids physically to school, all the while worrying that they could catch COVID while they’re there. It’s hard to accept that parents should also become the data security and privacy experts that school systems are missing.

As an expert at a non-profit for protecting school’s IT systems told NBC, “it is a solemn responsibility that schools have to care for kids, so they collect a lot of data with that.” Clearly, many schools (the report mentions that 1,200 schools’ info had been published by ransomware attackers this year) aren’t up to the task of keeping that data safe — though doing so is easier said than done, especially while working with budgets that don’t allow for the level of corporate security attackers are bypassing daily.

It’s incredibly sad to imagine students having to simultaneously worry about their school using FBI-grade tech to steal personal data and hackers stealing information for their school and selling it to criminals. While it may be hard to think about, it’s even more difficult to push for change if we don’t know what’s happening, which makes reports like NBC’s so essential and worth the read.



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Categories
AI

Apple’s Live Text is going to read all the text in all your photos with AI

Apple has announced a new feature called Live Text, which will digitize the text in all your photos. This unlocks a slew of handy functions, from turning handwritten notes into emails and messages to searching your camera roll for receipts or recipes you’ve photographed.

This is certainly not a new feature for smartphones, and we’ve seen companies like Samsung and Google offer similar tools in the past. But Apple’s implementation does look typically smooth. With Live Text, for example, you can tap on the text in any photo in your camera roll or viewfinder and immediately take action from it. You can copy and paste that text, search for it on the web, or — if it’s a phone number — call that number.

Apple says the feature is enabled using “deep neural networks” and “on-device intelligence,” with the latter being the company’s preferred phrasing for machine learning. (It stresses Apple’s privacy-heavy approach to AI, which focuses on processing data on-device rather than sending it to the cloud.)

Apple’s Live Text feature brings OCR to the camera app.
Image: Apple

Live Text works across iPhones, iPads, and Mac computers and supports seven languages: English, Chinese (both simplified and traditional), French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. It also integrates with Apple’s Spotlight search feature on iOS, allowing you to search your camera roll based on the text in images.

In addition to extracting text from photos, iOS 15 will also allow users to search visually — a feature that sounds exactly the same as Google Lens and that Apple calls Visual Look Up.

Apple didn’t go into much detail about this feature during its presentation at WWDC, but it said the new tool would recognize “art, books, nature, pets, and landmarks” in photos. We’ll have to test it out in person to see exactly how well it performs, but it sounds like Apple is doing much more to apply AI to users’ photos and make that information useful.

Related:

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Categories
AI

Go read this story on how Facebook’s focus on growth stopped its AI team from fighting misinformation

Facebook has always been a company focused on growth above all else. More users and more engagement equals more revenue. The cost of that single-mindedness is spelled out clearly in this brilliant story from MIT Technology Review. It details how attempts to tackle misinformation by the company’s AI team using machine learning were apparently stymied by Facebook’s unwillingness to limit user engagement.

“If a model reduces engagement too much, it’s discarded. Otherwise, it’s deployed and continually monitored,” writes author Karen Hao of Facebook’s machine learning models. “But this approach soon caused issues. The models that maximize engagement also favor controversy, misinformation, and extremism: put simply, people just like outrageous stuff.”

On Twitter, Hao noted that the article is not about “corrupt people [doing] corrupt things.” Instead, she says, “It’s about good people genuinely trying to do the right thing. But they’re trapped in a rotten system, trying their best to push the status quo that won’t budge.”

The story also adds more evidence to the accusation that Facebook’s desire to placate conservatives during Donald Trump’s presidency led to it turning a blind eye to right-wing misinformation. This seems to have happened at least in part due to the influence of Joel Kaplan, a former member of George W. Bush’s administration who is now Facebook’s vice president of global public policy and “its highest-ranking Republican.” As Hao writes:

All Facebook users have some 200 “traits” attached to their profile. These include various dimensions submitted by users or estimated by machine-learning models, such as race, political and religious leanings, socioeconomic class, and level of education. Kaplan’s team began using the traits to assemble custom user segments that reflected largely conservative interests: users who engaged with conservative content, groups, and pages, for example. Then they’d run special analyses to see how content-moderation decisions would affect posts from those segments, according to a former researcher whose work was subject to those reviews.

The Fairness Flow documentation, which the Responsible AI team wrote later, includes a case study on how to use the tool in such a situation. When deciding whether a misinformation model is fair with respect to political ideology, the team wrote, “fairness” does not mean the model should affect conservative and liberal users equally. If conservatives are posting a greater fraction of misinformation, as judged by public consensus, then the model should flag a greater fraction of conservative content. If liberals are posting more misinformation, it should flag their content more often too.

But members of Kaplan’s team followed exactly the opposite approach: they took “fairness” to mean that these models should not affect conservatives more than liberals. When a model did so, they would stop its deployment and demand a change. Once, they blocked a medical-misinformation detector that had noticeably reduced the reach of anti-vaccine campaigns, the former researcher told me. They told the researchers that the model could not be deployed until the team fixed this discrepancy. But that effectively made the model meaningless. “There’s no point, then,” the researcher says. A model modified in that way “would have literally no impact on the actual problem” of misinformation.

The story also says that the work by Facebook’s AI researchers on the problem of algorithmic bias, in which machine learning models unintentionally discriminate against certain groups of users, has been undertaken, at least in part to preempt these same accusations of anti-conservative sentiment and forestall potential regulation by the US government. But pouring more resources into bias has meant ignoring problems involving misinformation and hate speech. Despite the company’s lip service to AI fairness, the guiding principle, says Hao, is still the same as ever: growth, growth, growth.

[T]esting algorithms for fairness is still largely optional at Facebook. None of the teams that work directly on Facebook’s news feed, ad service, or other products are required to do it. Pay incentives are still tied to engagement and growth metrics. And while there are guidelines about which fairness definition to use in any given situation, they aren’t enforced.

You can read Hao’s full story at MIT Technology Review here.



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Categories
Security

Go read this story about the rise and fall of a $77 million game cheating empire

Free-to-play games are hugely successful (in 2020, PUBG Mobile reportedly made $2.8 billion in China alone), but that success attracts unscrupulous developers who earn their own small fortunes helping players cheat.

If you’ve ever wanted a peek inside that kind of operation before it implodes, Motherboard’s feature on the rise and fall of an infamous game cheating ring for PUBG Mobile which authorities call Chicken Drumstick is worth a read. It features a rare account from “Catfish,” the software engineer who claims to be behind the $77 million business — and who ultimately decided to bring it to an end.

Catfish became interested in making cheats for PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) on PC after dealing with cheaters himself, Motherboard’s Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai writes. When the PUBG Corporation released the mobile version of the game, Catfish made a cheat for it that he and his business partner eventually sold. The cheat was very popular — “it sold thousands of copies within a few days,” Catfish told Motherboard — but also started a “cat-and-mouse game.” PUBG Corporation would patch the game; Catfish and his partner would adapt the cheats so players could still see through walls or aim perfectly.

The group — actually called Sharpshooter and then Cheat Ninja, but referred to by police as Chicken Drumstick — would grow into a business that authorities claim earned tens of millions of dollars, even though in China, the sale of these sorts of cheats is considered a hacking crime. Tencent, which is a partial owner of PUBG, ultimately reported Cheat Ninja to authorities in 2020, prompting an investigation, and the arrest of the group’s lead salespeople.

Catfish went into hiding earlier this year, and ultimately decided to shut down the multi-layered, international cheating operation he had spent years building. The reason why is worth reading Motherboard’s feature to find out.

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Categories
AI

Project Gucciberg offers classic audiobooks read by an AI deepfake of Gucci Mane

Ever wanted to have Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina or Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis read to you by trap god Gucci Mane, creator of such hits as “Lemonade” and “Wasted”? Well, a) that’s an awfully specific desire, and b) it’s your lucky day.

Project Gucciberg is the latest drop from viral factory MSCHF, and it does exactly that. Using machine learning, MSCHF created an audio deepfake of Gucci Mane reading a selection of classic texts from Little Women to Beowulf. They’re all free to listen to and come with book covers that blend in perfectly with the artwork of Gucci Mane’s prolific discography.

The what of Project Gucciberg is luridly straightforward, but the why is harder to answer. If you’re not familiar with MSCHF, I recommend our profile of the outfit from last year. Essentially, they’re a group of VC-funded creators who make weird things designed to go viral online, like squeaky chicken bongs and Air Max 97 sneakers filled with water from the River Jordan, some of which are sold for a nominal fee. Then they ??? and profit (presumably by selling their services to companies who want things they made to go viral online).

Speaking to The Verge, MSCHF’s Dan Greenberg didn’t go into the motivation behind Project Gucciberg but was more than happy to talk about the mechanics. Audio deepfakes are now pretty common (listen to this clone of Joe Rogan for a good example), to the point where they’ve been used to commit fraud. To make one, you just need a lot of sample data of your target speaking and the right neural networks to learn and copy their mannerisms.

Greenberg says MSCHF collected around six hours of audio of Gucci Mane talking from podcasts, interviews, and the like. They then created transcriptions of the clips to help with the text-to-speech (TTS) process. This required creating a “Gucci pronunciation key/dictionary to better capture the idiosyncrasies of Gucci Mane’s particular argot.”

The redesigned book covers of Project Gucciberg are a delight to behold.

“Gucci’s pronunciation follows a very particular cadence — he uses a much greater variety of vowel sounds, for instance, than your average TTS reader would,” says Greenberg. “The dictionary breaks words up into phonemes (discrete vocal gestures) that our model then uses as building blocks … So for a simple example, we need our model to know what syllables to elide, or flow into each other across words: it needs to know to say “talm ‘bout” not ‘talking about,’ and the Gucci dictionary { T AH1 L M B AW1 T } gets us there where the written words ‘talking about’ do not.”

The results are impressive: the deepfake certainly sounds like the man himself, though the results are not always totally coherent or of the greatest quality. “Our fake Gucci Mane often sounds like he’s speaking through a bad mic, or over a low-quality internet stream, and part of this is because in the training data he often is doing exactly that,” says Greenberg.

Exactly why Gucci was chosen for this project came down to two factors, says Greenberg: one, the rapper has a distinctive voice, and two, the Project Gucciberg pun was too delicious to ignore.

Greenberg adds that MSCHF didn’t approach Gucci to ask for permission to use his voice. As a disclaimer on the site slyly points out, the whole project raises interesting questions about copyright in the age of AI fakes. ”We didn’t write the books, and we deepfaked the voice,” it says. “Is this copyright infringement? Is it identity theft? All of the training data (recordings) used to make Project Gucciberg were publicly available on the web. Gucciberg lives in that lovely grey area where everything’s new and anything goes.” It certainly is! The Verge has attempted to reach out to Gucci Mane via his record label for a response, and we’ll update this story if we hear back.

Is Project Gucciberg anything more than a quick click and a lol? Well, not really. But that’s MSCHF’s business, and they’re very good at it. While listening to more than a few minutes of the resulting audio is a little disorientating, Greenberg suggests there may be unique benefits to the coming world of on-demand deepfake celebrity audiobooks.

“Every once in a while … the extreme casualness of Gucci Mane’s narration really does put the text in a new light,” he says, speaking about the benefits of listening to the deepfake version of Kafka’s Metamorphosis. “Gregor Samsa really comes across as just another guy who doesn’t want to get out of bed, you know?”

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Categories
Security

Go read this feature on the 2011 RSA hack that redefined cybersecurity

Wired has published an in-depth feature on the 2011 hack of security company RSA, in which hackers stole the so-called “crown jewels of cybersecurity,” the secret keys forming a “crucial ingredient” of its SecurID two-factor authentication devices. It would go on to “redefine the cybersecurity landscape” with huge implications for not just RSA, but also the organizations that relied on its devices for their own security.

Wired’s Andy Greenberg describes the moment RSA analyst Todd Leetham discovered that hackers had accessed one of RSA’s most important pieces of data:

With a growing sense of dread, Leetham had finally traced the intruders’ footprints to their final targets: the secret keys known as “seeds,” a collection of numbers that represented a foundational layer of the security promises RSA made to its customers, including tens of millions of users in government and military agencies, defense contractors, banks, and countless corporations around the world.

One of the most interesting sections of the report describes how the hack affected the psychology of RSA’s employees, making them intensely paranoid. The company switched phone networks, started holding meetings in person, and shared documents on paper. The building was swept for bugs, and some office windows were covered in paper to prevent surveillance.

Paranoia was beginning to take hold in the company. The first night after the announcement, [RSA’s head of North American sales] remembers walking by a wiring closet and seeing an absurd number of people walking out of it, far more than he imagined could have ever fit. “Who are those people?” he asked another nearby executive. “That’s the government,” the executive responded vaguely.

The RSA hack was not only blamed for a subsequent hack of “at least one” US defense contractor, but it opened much of the world’s eyes to the danger of supply chain attacks. Rather than attacking a target directly, a supply chain attack sees hackers infiltrating one of their target’s suppliers to get behind their defenses, like what we saw with last year’s SolarWinds hack.

After 10 years of rampant state-sponsored hacking and supply chain hijacks, the RSA breach can now be seen as the herald of our current era of digital insecurity—and a lesson about how a determined adversary can undermine the things we trust most.

Wired’s feature is well worth a read.

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Tech News

Google I/O 2021 this week: When to watch, where to read

This week Google I/O 2021 is scheduled to deliver new news about Google, Android, Chrome, and everything in-between. In less than 24 hours from the moment this article is set to be published, Google I/O 2021 will begin, starting with a keynote address. This year, Google suggests they’ll focus on their mission to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

There’ll be a 9:40AM PT “pre-show” on the 18th, followed by the actual keynote at 10AM PT. This will last a full two hours, from 10AM PT until 12 noon PT. If you’re in the Central Time Zone, you’re talking noon until 2PM central time. If you live in New York, you’ll start watching at 1PM, and it’ll be over at 3PM.

At approximately 12:15 PT the Google I/O 2021 Developer Keynote will begin. This is far more important for developers of apps and software and such than it will be to the general public. The first keynote of the day will be more applicable to everyone – that’s the one basically anyone who uses any sort of Google hardware or software will be interested to see and/or hear.

There’ll be a “What’s new in Android” talk at 3:30PM PT on Day 1 (the 18th of May) as well. At 4:15PM PT there’ll be a chat on “what’s new for the web platform.” We recommend you also take a peek at the May 19th, 11AM talk “What’s new in Machine Learning” talk, too.

You can also take a peek at the full event schedule for Google I/O 2021 if you’re unsure of what you’d like to watch. There are three full days of talks and sessions for the masses.

If you want the most vital and/or interesting information from the event, SlashGear will be covering the whole lot. All the most important and interesting news from the event will be available to read about in our main news feed. Stick around as we cover all the best bits.

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