Posts tagged "Facebook"

Google, Microsoft and Michelle Obama want to meet this 10-year-old coder

April 30, 2019 Posted by News, Programming 0 thoughts on “Google, Microsoft and Michelle Obama want to meet this 10-year-old coder”

Scroll through Samaira Mehta’s Instagram and you’ll see that she is a lot like other kids her age. She posts about having a lemonade stand, going swimming and doing the “In My Feelings” dance challenge.

But she also stands out from other 10-year-olds — Mehta is CEO, founder and inventor of CoderBunnyz, a board game that teaches players as young as 4 basic coding concepts. Players draw and move their bunny piece along the board with the goal of eating carrots and hopping to their final destination.

“CoderBunnyz will basically teach you all the concepts you ever need in computer programming,” Mehta tells CNBC Make It. “There’s the very basic concepts like sequencing and conditionals to more advanced concepts like loops, functions, stack, queue, lists, parallelism, inheritance and many others.”

Mehta says she first conceptualized the board game when she was “about 6½, maybe 7,” after her father, an engineer who serves as an official advisor for the company, started teaching her how to code. As she researched learning materials for first-time coders, Mehta noticed there was an opening in the market for a product that helped young people pick up programming.

She started by sketching how she wanted the game to be designed. Then, with the help of her family, she connected with graphic designers and game manufacturers in China and New Zealand. After exchanging dozens of emails, Mehta settled on a product that she says she’s very proud of.

“My family is very much involved in my business,” she says. Her mother oversees marketing and social media for CoderBunnyz and her little brother tests the games.

Since inventing CoderBunnyz, Mehta also invented a second game called CoderMindz, a coding-based artificial intelligence board game that teachers basic AI concepts using the Java programming language.

“I’m really passionate about coding,” says the budding entrepreneur. “I want the kids to be the same way, because coding is the future and coding is what the world will depend on in the next 10 to 15 years. So if kids learn to code now, [when] they grow up they can think of coding maybe as a career option.”

So far, Mehta says her company has generated about $200,000 in revenue since April 2018 and sold about 6,000 games. She says she is reinvesting that money in the company, saving for college and donating to charities that address homelessness in her community.

At first, Mehta sold the board games through her website and stored the games in her garage.

“We used to pack every order we got,” she says. “And when it started building up, and we started getting more orders, we were not able to fulfill that many, so we were seeing if we could get it on Amazon, and luckily within almost just the first year, we got it on Amazon.”

Today, Mehta has a team that helps package the games and Amazon helps fulfill shipping.

The business venture has taken Mehta to schools, libraries and companies like Facebook, Microsoft and Intel, where she has held workshops for employers and their kids about how to get young people involved with coding.

But it was her trip to Google, and the opportunity to meet Google’s chief cultural officer, Stacy Sullivan, that left the strongest impression on the 10-year-old. “She said if I grew up I could probably work at Google if I like. And then she also said ‘Oh but you’ll probably have your own company by then,’” says Mehta. “She inspired me to work harder and it was just a great moment in my life.”

Mehta has also gotten words of encouragement from former first lady Michelle Obama, who wrote the girl a letter in 2016 offering her words of support. “It was really cool receiving a letter from her,” says Mehta. “She just told me to keep working harder and that I’m an inspiration to all.”

For now, Mehta is focused on making CoderBunnyz a success and doing well in school. She says her dream college is Stanford University, and that her dream job is being an entrepreneur.

“I would say I already have it now, because I am an entrepreneur,” she says. “But I want to expand on that and I want to become an entrepreneur that helps people and does good for the community.”

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Facebook Security Woes Hint At a Deeper Issue with Devs and Security

March 22, 2019 Posted by Programming 0 thoughts on “Facebook Security Woes Hint At a Deeper Issue with Devs and Security”

The world of web development officially has a problem when it comes to securing passwords. There was a study that we referenced a week ago and the title for that article was: “programmers will take the easy way out and not implement proper password security.”  When we shared that post on Reddit, skeptics thought that the study was flawed since the population mostly consisted of freelancers who were derided as amateurs. False assumption aside, it is sort of understandable to take for granted that those not working under a professional corporation may not hold themselves to the strictest of standards. Nor might they have the elite programming skills that top tech companies look for in developers.

So, when the study concluded that programmers don’t have a strong conception of what constitutes a secure password, it seemed easy to shrug that study off. Yet, KrebOnSecurity, a security investigation company, discovered that Facebook developers have stored millions of plain text passwords, some dating back to 2012, in company servers. This wasn’t done maliciously–it was a security oversight that developers didn’t take into consideration when building apps that took in user credentials. Instead of encrypting these passwords, the apps would simply store these passwords as plain text.

200 – 600 million Facebook users have their passwords exposed to 20, 000 Facebook employees.  According to the Facebook insider who contacted Kreb, “some 2,000 engineers or developers made approximately nine million internal queries for data elements that contained plain text user passwords. ”

Facebook’s response to the exposure suggests that tens of thousands of Instagram accounts have been comprised as well, along with tens of millions of Facebook Lite users. A majority of the plain text passwords appear to belong to Facebook users.

Though Facebook hasn’t provided any solid explanations as lawyers are continuing their investigation, we can surmise that this security gaff wasn’t a rookie mistake. Whereas the programmers in the study we mentioned earlier  didn’t have the knowledge necessary to correctly implement proper encryption, we can assume through basic code reviews that Facebook developers did implement some form of salted hash encryption. An “Authentication 101” class would teach you that much. What the engineers may have overlooked was a logging problem, according to many of those in the hacking community(dev hacking, mind you). What happens when users delete and reset their passwords?

A Hacker News user explains what may have happened:

“It’s probably a bit more complicated than that. Usually the things that I encounter have to do with how HTTP requests are logged.

For example, putting sensitive information in a URL that’s loaded over HTTPS is considered insecure because many companies have policies where they log every URL that their employees visit. (Think of a password reset link.)

A lot of inexperienced programmers don’t realize this, because they don’t realize that you can man-in-the-middle yourself, and that most corporate computers come preconfigured to allow the employer to man-in-the-middle everyone.

So, if a password reset link never expires, it means that some guy in IT can own an account that was reset on a corporate computer.

(This, basically, is how they catch people viewing porn on their work computers.)

Anyway, my point is that the problem is probably something where a junior programmer transmitted a password in a way that they didn’t realize was being logged.”

 

You can jump down the rabbit hole of possibilities in the Hacker News discussion page dedicated to the news piece. The community does a great job of interpreting exactly what certain quotes in the Kreb article means towards any possibility of wrong action on the part of Facebook employees. For example, Kreb mentions, that “access logs showed some 2,000 engineers or developers made approximately nine million internal queries for data elements that contained plain text user passwords.”

On the face of the quote, it appears that 2,000 engineers were actually using these passwords. But, technically, API requests bring with them a series of information in whatever format that the developer prefers. It could be that these were not specific requests that filtered out passwords.

GitHub and Twitter, according to Kreb’s report, have also been victims of this sort of data exposure, which also suggests that Facebook latest security blunder wasn’t simply a result of boneheadedness.

The problem that led to million of plain text passwords swimming in Facebook’s servers may truly be a complex one. At the same time, companies like Facebook make too much money to be lax with security measures. The Hacker News community alone came up with a series of solutions that could have curtailed the problem. At the scale Facebook is at, serving over a billion users, mistakes such as these are on par with freelance devs thinking MD5 is the same as Bcrypt.

 

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What Elizabeth Warren’s Big Tech Agenda Fails To Consider

March 8, 2019 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “What Elizabeth Warren’s Big Tech Agenda Fails To Consider”

It’s safe to say that most folks in the tech industry now know that Elizabeth Warren plans to break up big tech companies. That piece of news has created a firestorm within the tech industry. But the issue of big tech monopolies is nothing new. In 1998, around the time Microsoft was busy burying Netscape, the US Department of Justice filed an antitrust suit against Bill Gates, then the richest man in the world, and the richest tech company in the world in a case that is known as U.S. v. Microsoft.

Since Microsoft had such a dominant control over operating systems, the suit alleged that Microsoft was using its advantage to push its Internet Explorer browser in front of every PC user. In the end, the DOJ won the case. Though Netscape never recovered, we do now have Firefox and Chrome thanks to the open browser market.  There’s a great New York Times opinion piece that talks about a world where Microsoft was allowed to monopolize the tech industry. It’s a frightening one, if you know how buggy Microsoft’s products tend to be.

The point is that Warren has a point. There was something insidious about Facebook being able to tank Snapchat’s growth after the upstart company refused to bought out. One may call that a free market, but when Facebook has such a long arm in that market, it creates a ceiling for aspiring entrepreneurs.  The problem with Elizabeth Warren’s platform is not its goal, but the means by which she wants to achieve this goal. She wants to break up mergers without outlining the nuances between them and the economic ramifications of breaking up parts of a company.

Current antitrust laws empower federal regulators to break up mergers that reduce competition. I will appoint regulators who are committed to using existing tools to unwind anti-competitive mergers, including:

  • Amazon: Whole Foods; Zappos
  • Facebook: WhatsApp; Instagram
  • Google: Waze; Nest; DoubleClick

Unwinding these mergers will promote healthy competition in the market — which will put pressure on big tech companies to be more responsive to user concerns, including about privacy.

 

A major question that would have to be asked is, what type of merger occurred between company X and company Y? And how integrated have these companies become? In the tech world, it’s not uncommon for companies to acquire the talent and abandon the company they acquired. According to Alastair Rimmer, a writer for strategy+business, “Unlike other M&A cases, deals in which an incumbent acquires a tech startup are less about cost cutting and more about leveraging the target’s technical expertise and know-how.”

If that is the case, Facebook itself has now benefited from the talented know-how they acquired from WhatsApp and Instagram. Though Facebook claimed it would give the companies it acquired autonomy, the founders of WhatsApp and Instagram, to their dismay, found out that Facebook reneged on their promise of autonomy and began taking ownership off the app, pushing their product ideas onto them. For example, they started monetizing WhatsApp by placing ads, though WhatsApp’s founder, Brian Acton, vehemently disapproved. This led to him leaving Facebook.

However wrong this practice may be, it proves that Facebook has become more and more dependent on monetizing its acquisitions to remain highly profitable. Simply divesting the company of all of its acquisitions, may put it in a free fall that it may not be able to recover from. A Facebook in dire straits will be in no position to promote privacy, because it may have to lay off an entire division of R&D workers whose job is to research ways of improving privacy.

 Warren’s platform fails to consider the consequence of disrupting companies that are at the forefront of innovation. The money these companies are able to spend on researchers and highly skilled developers gives the development ecosystem at large the opportunity to use their well-crafted APIs. How many small dev shops have benefited from open source technology released by many of the big tech companies like Google? We have to remember that  U.S. v. Microsoft laid out practices that were evident of a monopoly.

Microsoft owned one of the few Operating Systems in town and had significant market share at the time. With that market share, they were able to create a high barrier of entry for Netscape’s Navigator by encouraging others to market Internet Explorer and by bundling it along with their OS free of charge. Article V, section E of the Facts and Findings says,

 136.In addition to improving the quality of Internet Explorer, Microsoft sought to increase the product’s share of browser usage by giving it away for free. In many cases, Microsoft also gave other firms things of value (at substantial cost to Microsoft) in exchange for their commitment to distribute and promote Internet Explorer, sometimes explicitly at Navigator’s expense.

While Microsoft might have bundled Internet Explorer with Windows at no additional charge even absent its determination to preserve the applications barrier to entry, that determination was the main force driving its decision to price the product at zero.

Furthermore, Microsoft would not have given Internet Explorer away to IAPs, ISVs, and Apple, nor would it have taken on the high cost of enlisting firms in its campaign to maximize Internet Explorer’s usage share and limit Navigator’s, had it not been focused on protecting the applications barrier.

137. In early 1995, personnel developing Internet Explorer at Microsoft contemplated charging OEMs and others for the product when it was released. Internet Explorer would have been included in a bundle of software that would have been sold as an add-on, or “frosting,” to Windows 95.

Indeed, Microsoft knew by the middle of 1995, if not earlier, that Netscape charged customers to license Navigator, and that Netscape derived a significant portion of its revenue from selling browser licenses.

Despite the opportunity to make a substantial amount of revenue from the sale of Internet Explorer, and with the knowledge that the dominant browser product on the market, Navigator, was being licensed at a price, senior executives at Microsoft decided that Microsoft needed to give its browser away in furtherance of the larger strategic goal of accelerating Internet Explorer’s acquisition of browser usage share. Consequently, Microsoft decided not to charge an increment in price when it included Internet Explorer in Windows for the first time, and it has continued this policy ever since.

In addition, Microsoft has never charged for an Internet Explorer license when it is distributed separately from Windows.

 

Microsoft’s practise of leveraging its current market advantage while undercutting its competition with the intention of gaining dominance in a new market was brazen enough to warrant Microsoft’s defeat in court. Yet, Microsoft wasn’t dismantled. The fight that will ensue if you threaten a company’s life by calling for its break up will take years to resolve.

You only need to look at U.S. v. IBM to realize how futile breaking up all of these big tech companies within two terms of office may be. According to a New York Times article written in 1981,the DOJ charged IBM with “monopolizing interstate trade and commerce in general-purpose digital computers.” The complaint was filed in 1969, went to trial in 1975, and ended in 1982 because the government withdrew the suit.

The tech industry is unlike any other industry in that time is counted in dog years. What proprietary piece of software did Facebook embed into Instagram’s code to make it more efficient and how has that software been iterated over the years? Does Waze even exist anymore? Do the developers there consider themselves fully-fledged Google employees? What will these companies look like after being broken up?

Questions like these and much more is something that Warren’s campaign must address. For now, the proposals just seem like a knee jerk reaction to the Facebook drama that has made for interesting water-cooler talk over the years.

 

 

 

 

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Facebook Introduced a Way for Mobile App Developers to Be Verified

December 13, 2018 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “Facebook Introduced a Way for Mobile App Developers to Be Verified”

Facebook announced a verification process for individual developers that aren’t associated with specific businesses but still wish to build on the social network’s platform and continue using its application-programming interfaces.

Prior to this change, developers were required to connect to accounts in Business Manager and provide business details and documentation.

Individual developers that submit applications for review and have those apps pass the review process will receive requests for further verification, where they can select “verify as an individual.”

 

At that point, they must enter an email address where they can be contacted and upload an approved verification document—such as a passport, driver’s license or government-issued photo ID—which will be reviewed. Developers that are approved will be notified via email.

 

Developers that are granted individual verification will have full access to events, groups, Live video, the Facebook Marketing API and Messenger Platform, along with limited access to Facebook Login and pages, with page public content access unavailable to them and end-users only being able to access up to three pages using those developers’ apps.

Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, who works on products and partnerships for Facebook, wrote in a blog post, “We’ve heard from many developers who aren’t associated with a business and want to build on the Facebook platform … Individual verification is part of our continuing efforts to improve Facebook app review and support our Facebook developers as they build on the Facebook platform.”

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Facebook opens Audience Network SDK beta program for developers, publishers

October 16, 2018 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “Facebook opens Audience Network SDK beta program for developers, publishers”

Facebook’s Audience Network platform allows brands and advertisers to push their Facebook ad campaigns beyond the social media platform. Having early access to an Audience Network SDK Beta program gives publishers and developers a head-start to using the new tool — it will offer them a chance to provide feedback on how the SDK can be improved before its launch.

“The input we receive from our developers and publishers is a valuable part in building and improving our solutions,” wrote Facebook on its Developer blog announcing the beta program. Facebook says input from users helps its team determine issues and create new features.

According to Facebook, Audience Network SDK beta users will have first-look access to the platform’s latest ad formats and tools, and will be able to use them immediately from the app. Among some of the features in the latest beta version, 5.0, are a reporting flow for Native Ads, multi-process support for Interstitial and Rewarded Video formats, a new Interstitial design for Mobile App Install ads.

Facebook has launched the beta program approximately one month prior to the official roll out.

More on the Audience Network SDK beta program

  • For publishers and developers interested in applying to the beta program, Facebook shared a link to its Business Manager site.
  • Those accepted into the beta program can earn Facebook advertising credits and connect with other beta testers in a closed developer community.
  • Facebook expects the official roll out for the SDK to happen around mid-November.
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