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Popular chat app ToTok is reportedly secret United Arab Emirates spying tool – The Verge

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A report from The New York Times has revealed that messaging app ToTok, popular in the United Arab Emirates, is in fact a government spy tool, created for the benefit of UAE intelligence officials and used to track citizens’ conversations and movements.

ToTok launched earlier this year and has been downloaded by millions in the UAE, a nation where Western messaging apps like WhatsApp and Skype are partially blocked. It promised “fast, free, and secure” messages and calls, and attracted users across the Middle East and beyond, even becoming one of the most downloaded social apps in the US last week.

But, citing classified briefings from US intelligence officials and its own analysis, the NYT reports that ToTok is really a way for the UAE government to spy directly on its people. Citizens who used the app were sharing messages, pictures and videos, and even their location (supposedly being tracked to provide weather updates) with Emirati intelligence.

The Times notes that this is something of a new development in the history of digital spying by authoritarian regimes. Although many governments routinely hack citizens’ phones, not many set up an ostensibly legitimate app and simply ask for access to their data.

“There is a beauty in this approach,” security researcher Patrick Wardle, who conducted an independent forensic analysis of ToTok, told the Times. “You don’t need to hack people to spy on them if you can get people to willingly download this app to their phone. By uploading contacts, video chats, location, what more intelligence do you need?”

The Times reports that the company that runs ToTok, Breej Holding, is most likely a front for Abu Dhabi-based cybersecurity firm DarkMatter. The app is also connected to UAE data-mining firm Pax AI, which shares offices with the Emirates’ signals intelligence agency.

Breej Holding, DarkMatter, and the UAE government have yet to comment on the Times report, but both Google and Apple have removed ToTok from the Play Store and App Store. The FBI also refused to comment, but a spokesperson for the bureau told the Times: “[W]hile the FBI does not comment on specific apps, we always want to make sure to make users aware of the potential risks and vulnerabilities that these mechanisms can pose.”

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U.S. lawmakers urge speedy action on U.S semiconductor chips funding

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A bipartisan group of 38 U.S. House lawmakers on Thursday urged leaders in Congress to immediately set a path to advance legislation providing $52 billion for U.S. semiconductor production including $2 billion in support for chips used by the automotive industry.

The  U.S. Senate voted 68-32 in June to approve a sweeping package of legislation intended to boost the country’s ability to compete with Chinese technology, including providing $52 billion for chips, but the measure has stalled in the House.

The House lawmakers in a letter warned of the “dire consequences the automotive industry as a whole—and the nation—faces if we fail to advance legislation soon.”

 

(Reporting by David Shepardson)

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MacBook Pro's M1 Max GPU is Over 3x Faster Than M1 in First Metal Benchmark – MacRumors

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Multiple benchmarks have already given us a general estimate of the CPU performance of the M1 Max chip, but we’ve had little insight into GPU performance. The ‌M1‌ Max is equipped with up to 32 graphics cores, marking a vast improvement over the 8-core GPU of the ‌M1‌, which was Apple’s first chip.


The first Metal benchmark for the ‌M1‌ Max surfaced this afternoon, with the chip earning a score of 68870. Comparatively, the ‌M1‌ chip in the 13-inch MacBook Pro has a Metal score of 20581, and the Radeon Pro 5600M, which was the highest-end GPU option for the prior Intel-based 16-inch model, has a Metal score of 42510.

Compared to the fastest chip available in Apple’s previous-generation 16-inch MacBook Pro, the ‌M1‌ Max is 62 percent faster, and it’s 3x faster than the ‌M1‌ chip in the 13-inch MacBook Pro, based on the Metal score we have so far.

It’s not clear if this ‌M1‌ Max chip is the 24-core variant or the 32-core variant. This is also just one result, so we should be able to get a better picture of the graphics performance when additional benchmarks are available.

According to Apple, the 32-core GPU in the ‌M1‌ Max is up to 4x faster than the ‌M1‌. Apple has said that the chip delivers performance “comparable to a high-end GPU in a compact pro PC laptop” while consuming up to 40 percent less power.

Since we last shared CPU benchmarks for the ‌M1‌ Max/Pro chip, several additional results have surfaced. Comparing multiple benchmarks, the ‌M1‌ Max/Pro earns an average single-core score 1742 and an average multi-core score of 12135.

The chip has the highest single-core score of any Mac to date, and it is only beaten in multi-core performance by the 16, 18, 24, and 28-core Intel Xeon chips used in the higher-end iMac Pro and Mac Pro models.

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U.S. safety board says driver, passenger seats occupied during fatal Tesla crash

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National Transportation Safety Board(NTSB) said on Thursday that both the driver and passenger seats were occupied during an April 17 fatal crash of a Tesla Model S in Spring, Texas.

Local police previously said witness statements indicated there was nobody in the driver’s seat of the Model S when it crashed into a tree. The NTSB said a review of vehicle data show “both the driver and the passenger seats were occupied, and that the seat belts were buckled when the (event data recorder) recorded the crash.”

 

(Reporting by David Shepardson)

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