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ABC logoJust before before Easter, Microsoft let their youth-targeted chatbot named Tay loose on Twitter and other social networks — and it was a disaster.

Tay was meant to hold conversations with Americans aged 18 to 24, which is why it’s named after Taylor Swift. But the project was terminated after just 16 hours, because the bot started tweeting abuse at people, and even went full neo-Nazi, declaring that “Hitler was right I hate the jews.”

Art Technica reported some analysis of what went wrong. Davi Ottenheimer summarised the problem as “weak intelligence weakened by weakness”, and pointed me to more detailed research by Russell Cameron Thomas.

I spoke about this disaster with Robbie Buck on ABC 702 Sydney, debunking some aspects of the mainstream news stories along the way.

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This audio is ©2016 Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

ABC logoLast Sunday, Telstra gave free data to all its mobile customers in an attempt to make up for a major screw-up in the previous week. That triggered a conversation…

As a variety of news outlets reported, one guy managed to download more than 420GB of stuff. Telstra’s mobile network was reported to be pretty slow as many other selfish pigs pigged out.

On Wednesday, I told Vanessa Mills on ABC Kimberley in Western Australia how people could reduce their mobile data usage and increase their battery like. This is the resulting nine-minute conversation.

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This audio is ©2016 Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The ABC also turned this into a news story, Simple tricks to double your phone’s battery life and halve your data usage, posted Thursday morning.

ABC logoEarlier this month I was in Melbourne to speak at Pause Fest, as well as talk to the media about some of the issues surrounding digital surveillance and privacy.

Here’s the 19-minute conversation I had with Lindy Burns on ABC 774 Melbourne on Wednesday 10 February. As usual, we rambled all over the landscape of the topic, but I think you’ll find it interesting.

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This audio is ©2016 Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

[Note: Yes, I’m catching up on my blog posts, I should have them all caught up within the next 24 hours.]

ABC logoEven though it’s a year old, the website that crashes an iPhone is back in the news this week — presumably because knowledge of the trick “went viral”, as they say.

This story piqued the interest of Fiona Willey, presenter of ABC Radio’s Statewide Drive in NSW, and we spoke on-air earlier this evening.

This is the full nine-minute interview, including a bit about the story from September 2015 when malware-infected apps made their way into the offical Apple App Store in China.

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The audio is ©2016 Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

ABC logoIt was a week for extended radio conversations about the darker side of the internet, it seems.

Not only did I speak about Anonymous on ABC 774 Melbourne, on Friday night I spoke about that ill-defined phenomenon known as the “dark web” on ABC 891 Adelaide with evening presenter Deb Tribe. And here is that conversation.

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This audio is ©2015 Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

ABC logoAnonymous was back in the news last week following their declaration of war against Islamic State, and the declaration of last Friday as a day of trolling against IS.

On Tuesday night, I spoke about the “organisation” and its history with ABC 774 Melbourne evening presenter Lindy Burns.

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The audio is ©2015 Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Kinderling logoWhile I’d heard of Kinderling, I hadn’t really known what it was about — until this Wednesday, when I did a spot on this new digital radio station in Sydney.

Kinderling grew from the Australian independent music and arts community with a vision to create contemporary children’s radio that is grounded in Australian culture, society and natural habitat.

With over a decade of radio experience (and ten kids!) between them, the Kinderling team has developed a program schedule that soundtracks your day with kids.

The trigger for this conversation was of course this week’s news of the VTech hack and data breach. Here’s my 10-minute conversation with Kinderling Conversation presenter Shevonne Hunt.

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You can check to see if you were caught up in this data breach at Troy Hunt’s Have I Been Pwned.

The audio is ©2015 Kinderling. You can also listen at their website.

ABC logoFollowing last week’s news of the security issues relating to Wi-Fi Hello Barbie, the weekend saw the disclosure of a data breach at toymaker VTech which revealed the details of children and their parents.

I’ve just spoken about this with Emma Griffiths on ABC 612 Brisbane.

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If you think you might have been affected, search for your email addresses at Have I Been Pwned.

The audio is ©2015 Australian Broadcasting Corporation. I daresay I’ll be talking about this some more in the coming days.

Recording Future Tense narration in ABC Radio studio E46

ABC logoIt has been my very great pleasure this week to produce an entire episode of ABC Radio National’s Future Tense, titled Bug bounties and pentesting: the Wild West of online security.

Here’s how the ABC has introduced this documentary:

Online information security is estimated to be worth more than $75 billion annually. And that figure is certain to grow as more and more of our everyday devices are given internet connectivity.

So why are our cyber-networks still being hacked on an industrial scale? Despite all that we’ve learnt about online fraud and malicious attacks, why is the digital world still so fragile?

In this edition of Future Tense, technology writer and commentator Stilgherrian talks ‘bug bounties’ and ‘pentesting’ as he introduces us to those at the coal-face of the security challenge.

Here’s the full half-hour documentary, featuring Alastair MacGibbon, Children’s eSafety Commissioner for the Australian Government; Casey Ellis, founder and CEO of Bugcrowd; Associate Professor Asha Rao, information security expert from RMIT University; Fatemah Beydoun, Chief Awesome at Security Code Warrior and a former IT security auditor; Joe Franzi, Assistant Secretary, Cyber Security, Australian Signals Directorate; John McCormack, CEO of Raytheon|Websense; Nathaniel Wakelam, professional penetration tester/hacker; and a snippet from Alan Dupont, Professor of International Security at the University of New South Wales.

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The program is ©2015 Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and it’s served here directly from the ABC website, where you can also read a transcript.

Both the ABC and I are pleased with how this went, and I’ve been invited to pitch further story ideas in the new year.

[Photo: Recording my Future Tense narration in ABC Radio studio E46 in Sydney, on Monday 23 November 2015. This environment was overkill. I wasn’t using any of the studio gear, just my own Sennheiser e835 microphone, Zoom H6, and MacBook Pro — so basically the three items in the foreground — but I needed a proper quiet room.]

ABC logoThe news that a Wi-Fi enabled Hello Barbie doll had been released got plenty of media interest at the end of the working week, especially since the security and privacy risks weren’t just theoretical.

Hello Barbie was soon hacked.

I was interviewed by journalist Penny Timms about these security risks by ABC Radio’s national current affairs program PM.

The makers of one of the world’s most famous dolls are due to roll out their latest edition. Forget Malibu Barbie, because wifi Barbie could be on shelves by Christmas. The technology means the doll can hold conversations with her owner. But security experts warn there are serious flaws, with suggestions the technology has already been hacked.

Somehow I managed to include some paranoid ideas for using Hello Barbie for psychological warfare.

ABC News also posted a written story, which uses some different quotes. But here’s the radio story.

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The audio is ©2015 Australian Broadcasting Corporation. It’s being served from the ABC website, where you can also read a transcript.

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