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My first steps into the world of thought leadership • The Register

Voice Of EU



Something for the Weekend “I have just read your profile. Have you ever thought about becoming a real estate agent?”

This is my own fault for blindly accepting every connection request on LinkedIn. My network of professional contacts is in the hundreds but I know only about a dozen of them. The rest? I honestly haven’t a clue who they are. They ask to connect and I accept.

LinkedIn should consider swapping its Accept / Reject Connection Request options for a simple Yeah Whatever button.

[record scratch] [freeze frame] yup thats me. you're probably wondering how i ended up in this situation

[Record scratch] [freeze frame]: Yup. That’s me. You’re probably wondering how I ended up in this situation…

For years I resisted chumming up with the Norbert Spankmonkeys of social media before realizing that LinkedIn was rather dull that way. Its daily feeds became a good deal funnier once I began letting in the more eccentric types.

Probably I ought to have been a little more selective about which industry these people worked in but it’s too late now. Besides, being offered a job selling homes to poor people for inflated prices is hardly the most outlandish to come my way via LinkedIn’s job-matching algorithm.

Not a day goes by without an update dropping into my inbox recommending I apply for one mismatched vacancy after another. Chauffeur, hotel receptionist, electrician, the lot. The professional’s choice for social media also seems alarmingly keen that I should broaden my outlook by moving into the child-minding sector.

One theory put forward by a colleague is that my public profile on the service might be incomplete or misleading, causing the algorithm to charge off in the wrong direction. So I took a quick look at what other people see about me: 30+ years in tech journalism, a bunch of software certifications, some app development, a lot of IT and media training…

“Yup, that’s exactly the kind of baby-sitter we need on Thursday nights!”

Pruning that profile is not an option. A recent tentative call from a prospective client – via LinkedIn, incidentally – asked why I don’t have a website. All I could say was: “It’s all there on LinkedIn. What else do you need?”

Of course, it is not all there but I have a problem. As if updating work histories, CVs, and client lists weren’t tedious enough, sitting down to phrase summaries of how fantastic I am is a chore too far. You see, I am really bad at lying.

According to a study published last month in the International Journal of Psychology & Behavior Analysis, the way to catch out someone who might be lying [PDF] is to distract them with urgent secondary data – for example, ask them to recall a previously memorized fact or get them to hold an awkward object with both hands. Basically, liars gradually get overwhelmed by the cognitive load of maintaining their pretense while those telling the truth don’t have to.

In theory, this means the best bullshitometer test for a job applicant is to conduct the interview while they are driving an automobile. If you are not both wrapped around a tree by the end, give them the job. All I’d need is for someone to ask me to remember a car number plate while recounting my essential skills, and I’d be done for.

Another thing to learn from this study is that you should beware people who are good at multitasking. They are inherent liars.

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My colleague – a social media manager – also pointed out that one’s public profile is just a fraction of the dataset that a platform uses to categorize you. As well as the usual stuff such as Likes, Follows, and Replies, she said, these professional platforms put a great deal of value in what you yourself write in original posts.

I realize this is where I have been going wrong. I don’t write posts on LinkedIn, except to link to my columns on The Reg. You see, throughout my career I have slavishly followed Samuel Johnson’s tenet: “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.” My colleague advises me that if I want to progress my profile, I should become a blockhead like everyone else on LinkedIn.

“Oh no!” I cried, demonstratively (for the purpose of livening up this week’s column). “Must I enter a mindset that will enable me to write daily thought-leader speeches and compose tediously lengthy and needlessly double-spaced humblebrags… every day?”

Not at all, she explained. Just read what others are doing and note their high Comment, Liked, and Shared numbers. No need to reinvent the wheel. Copy what they do, breathe new life into your feed, and watch your interactions accumulate.

What is there to lose? There’s time to bash off a couple of posts… er, I mean breathe life into my feed before lunch. Let’s see what other people are writing this morning… Ah, here’s one: a Thoughtful Leadership Speaker has written 500 words about breaking her favorite coffee mug.

After recounting the gut-wrenching final seconds before the catastrophe, she expresses her deep upset and recounts the history of where she bought it and the many reasons why she was so fond of it (she fails to mention its ability to contain coffee but perhaps that was an unexpected bonus).

At unnecessary length she recalls how she eventually realized that she had another mug in the cupboard and that there is a deep metaphorical significance here from which we can all learn. She reinvents the word “mug” as an acronym meaning “Magnificence, Uniqueness, and Greatness” – and she still has 230 words to go. She reminds us that everybody has these qualities (we are all mugs?) and that we should feel free to use an alternative mug if the circumstances permit.

I can do that. Here goes:

The top sheet from my stack of printouts fell onto the floor yesterday.

It was my own fault as I had thoughtlessly left a window open, allowing a breeze to catch a corner that had slightly curled since cooling after its long and arduous Dante-esque journey through my laser printer.

I stared at the lonely piece of paper on the floor and the tears simply flooded out from me as I recalled all the wonderful times we had spent together since I printed it out half an hour earlier.

What was I to do?

Where would I go?

Is there someone I could speak to?

But then I realized.

I didn’t have to stoop to pick it up.

I could just print it again!

So I did – another 200 times!

And so can you!

Great, that’s one in the bag. Let’s look for more ideas… Found one. What do you think of this?

A Builder of Powerful Brands has written a post to say that she is 21 and drinks at the weekend, eats hash browns on the sofa while watching Netflix, laughs with friends in the kitchen (what are they doing there?) and sleeps late on Sunday mornings – and yet is still good at her job. She reveals a hitherto principle known only to the initiates of brand builders that may rock us to our existential core: you don’t need to work until 3am.

1 percent inspiration, 99 percent plagiarism – that’s my motto. This is my version:

I am 57 and am drunk most of the time.

I eat chili nachos and fart on the sofa while watching the rugby and can down at least 10 pints in a session.

And yet I am still fucking ace at my work, whatever it is, and despite HR who are always banging on about something or other.

Oh and everyone at work fancies me.

There, I reckon I’ve mastered this inspirational thought leadership bollocks. I certainly feel I have breathed enough life into my feed for one day. By this time next week, the comments will be pouring in.

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Alistair Dabbs

Alistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling tech journalism, training and digital publishing. He apologizes to LinkedIn for making it the butt of these anecdotes. He thinks it would have been a better idea to invent a fake name for an imaginary social media platform, but they had all gone. More at Autosave is for Wimps and @alidabbs.

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US offers $10m reward for info on five Conti ransomware members

Voice Of EU



Rewards for Justice shared a photo of someone it claims to be an associate of the ransomware gang and is offering a reward to identify him and four others.

The US Department of State is offering a $10m reward for any information on five malicious cyber actors who are believed to be high-ranking members of the Conti ransomware gang.

The US has been offering rewards for information on this ransomware gang since May, including a $5m reward for any intel that leads to the arrest of anyone conspiring or attempting to participate in a Conti attack.

Yesterday (11 August), the department’s Rewards for Justice programme shared an alleged photo of an associate of the ransomware gang. The department said on Twitter that it is “trying to put a name to the face” and believes the individual is the hacker known as “Target”.

Illustration showing an image of a man with four figures next to it. A reward offer for information on the Conti ransomware gang.

A request for information by the Rewards for Justice programme. Image: US Department of State/Rewards for Justice

Conti, also known as Wizard Spider, has been linked to a group believed to be based near St Petersburg, Russia. The US has labelled it a “Russian government-linked ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) group”.

The group’s malware is believed to be responsible for more than 1,000 ransomware operations targeting critical infrastructure around the world, from law enforcement agencies to emergency medical services and dispatch centres.

In May 2021, the Conti group was behind the HSE ransomware incident that saw more than 80pc of the IT infrastructure of healthcare services across Ireland impacted. It was said to be the most serious cyberattack ever to hit the State’s critical infrastructure.

The US Department of State previously said the Conti ransomware variant is the “costliest strain of ransomware” ever documented. The FBI estimates that, as of January 2022, there had been more than 1,000 victims of attacks associated with Conti ransomware, with victim payouts exceeding $150m.

When Russia began its invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, the Conti group declared its allegiance to the Russian government. Shortly after, a Ukrainian researcher took the cybersecurity world by storm after publishing more than 60,000 internal messages of the ransomware gang.

Raj Samani, chief scientist at cybersecurity firm Rapid7, said the latest reward offer is just “the tip of the iceberg as enforcement agencies make “considerable strides” through public-private collaboration to hold cybercriminals to account.

“Announcing a reward and revealing the details of Conti members sends a message to would-be criminals that cybercrime is anything but risk-free,” said Samani.

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.

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Meditation app Calm sacks one-fifth of staff | Meditation

Voice Of EU



The US-based meditation app Calm has laid off 20% of its workforce, becoming the latest US tech startup to announce job cuts.

The firm’s boss, David Ko, said the company, which has now axed about 90 people from its 400-person staff, was “not immune” to the economic climate. “In building out our strategic and financial plan, we revisited the investment thesis behind every project and it became clear that we need to make changes,” he said in a memo to staff.

“I can assure you that this was not an easy decision, but it is especially difficult for a company like ours whose mission is focused on workplace mental health and wellness.”

The Calm app, founded in 2012, offers guided meditation and bedtime stories for people of all ages. It received a surge of downloads triggered by the 2020 Covid lockdowns. By the end of that year, the software company said the app had been downloaded more than 100 million times globally and had amassed over 4 million paying subscribers.

Investors valued the firm, which said it had been profitable since 2016, at $2bn.

In the memo, Ko went on: “We did not come to this decision lightly, but are confident that these changes will help us prioritize the future, focus on growth and become a more efficient organization.”

More than 500 startups have laid off staff this year, according to, a website that tracks such announcements.

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Let there be ambient light sensing, without data theft • The Register

Voice Of EU



Six years after web security and privacy concerns surfaced about ambient light sensors in mobile phones and notebooks, browser boffins have finally implemented defenses.

The W3C, everyone’s favorite web standards body, began formulating an Ambient Light Events API specification back in 2012 to define how web browsers should handle data and events from ambient light sensors (ALS). Section 4 of the draft spec, “Security and privacy considerations,” was blank. It was a more carefree time.

Come 2015, the spec evolved to include acknowledgement of the possibility that ALS might allow data correlation and device fingerprinting, to the detriment of people’s privacy. And it suggested that browser makers might consider event rate limiting as a potential mitigation.

By 2016, it became clear that allowing web code to interact with device light sensors entailed privacy and security risks beyond fingerprinting. Dr Lukasz Olejnik, an independent privacy researcher and consultant, explored the possibilities in a 2016 blog post.

Olejnik cited a number of ways in which ambient light sensor readings might be abused, including data leakage, profiling, behavioral analysis, and various forms of cross-device communication.

He described a few proof-of-concept attacks, devised with the help of security researcher Artur Janc, in a 2017 post and delved into more detail in a 2020 paper [PDF].

“The attack we devised was a side-channel leak, conceptually very simple, taking advantage of the optical properties of human skin and its reflective properties,” Olejnik explained in his paper.

“Skin reflectance only accounts for the 4-7 percent emitted light but modern display screens emit light with significant luminance. We exploited these facts of nature to craft an attack that reasoned about the website content via information encoded in the light level and conveyed via the user skin, back to the browsing context tracking the light sensor readings.”

It was this technique that enabled the proof-of-concept attacks like stealing web history through inferences made from CSS changes and stealing cross origin resources, such as images or the contents of iframes.

Snail-like speed

Browser vendors responded in various ways. In May 2018, with the release of Firefox 60, Mozilla moved access to the W3C proximity and ambient light APIs behind flags, and applied further limitations in subsequent Firefox releases.

Apple simply declined to implement the API in WebKit, along with a number of other capabilities. Both Apple and Mozilla currently oppose a proposal for a generic sensor API.

Google took what Olejnik described his paper as a “more nuanced” approach, limiting the precision of sensor data.

But those working on the W3C specification and on the browsers implementing the spec recognized that such privacy protections should be formalized, to increase the likelihood the API will be widely adopted and used.

So they voted to make the imprecision of ALS data normative (standard for browsers) and to require the camera access permission as part of the ALS spec.

Those changes finally landed in the ALS spec this week. As a result, Google and perhaps other browser makers may choose to make the ALS API available by default rather than hiding it behind a flag or ignoring it entirely. ®

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