OpenAI is working on a new tool to help you spot AI-generated images and protect you from deep fakes

You’ve probably noticed a few AI-generated images sprinkled throughout your different social media feeds – and there are likely a few you’ve probably scrolled right past, that may have slipped your keen eyes. 

For those of us who have been immersed in the world of generative AI, spotting AI images is a little easier, as you develop a mental checklist of what to look out for.

However, as the technology gets better and better, it is going to get a lot harder to tell. To solve this, OpenAI is developing new methods to track AI-generated images and prove what has and has not been artificially generated.

According to a blog post, OpenAI’s new proposed methods will add a tamper-resistant ‘watermark’ that will tag content with invisible ‘stickers.’ So, if an image is generated with OpenAI’s DALL-E generator, the classifier will flag it even if the image is warped or saturated.

The blog post claims the tool will have around a 98% accuracy when spotting images made with DALL-E. However, it will only flag 5-10% of pictures from other generators like Midjourney or Adobe Firefly

So, it’s great for in-house images, but not so great for anything produced outside of OpenAI. While it may not be as impressive as one would hope in some respects, it’s a positive sign that OpenAI is starting to address the flood of AI images that are getting harder and harder to distinguish.

Okay, so this may not seem like a big deal to some, as a lot of instances of AI-generated images are either memes or high-concept art that are pretty harmless. But that said, there’s also a surge of scenarios now where people are creating hyper-realistic fake photos of politicians, celebrities, people in their lives, and more besides, that could lead to misinformation being spread at an incredibly fast pace.

Hopefully, as these kinds of countermeasures get better and better, the accuracy will only improve, and we can have a much more accessible way to double-check the authenticity of the images we come across in our day-to-day life.

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The AI backlash begins: artists could protect against plagiarism with this powerful tool

A team of researchers at the University of Chicago has created a tool aimed to help online artists “fight back against AI companies” by inserting, in essence, poison pills into their original work.

Called Nightshade, after the family of toxic plants, the software is said to introduce poisonous pixels to digital art that messes with the way generative AIs interpret them. The way models like Stable Diffusion work is they scour the internet, picking up as many images as they can to use as training data. What Nightshade does is exploit this “security vulnerability”. As explained by the MIT Technology Review, these “poisoned data samples can manipulate models into learning” the wrong thing. For example, it could see a picture of a dog as a cat or a car as a cow.

Poison tactics

As part of the testing phase, the team fed Stable Diffusion infected content and “then prompted it to create images of dogs”. After being given 50 samples, the AI generated pictures of misshapen dogs with six legs. After 100, you begin to see something resembling a cat. Once it was given 300, dogs became full-fledged cats. Below, you'll see the other trials.

Nightshade tests

(Image credit: University of Chicago/MIT Technology Review)

The report goes on to say Nightshade also affects “tangentially related” ideas because generative AIs are good “at making connections between words”. Messing with the word “dog” jumbles similar concepts like puppy, husky, or wolf. This extends to art styles as well. 

Nightshade's tangentially related samples

(Image credit: University of Chicago/MIT Technology Review)

It is possible for AI companies to remove the toxic pixels. However as the MIT post points out, it is “very difficult to remove them”. Developers would have to “find and delete each corrupted sample.” To give you an idea of how tough this would be, a 1080p image has over two million pixels. If that wasn’t difficult enough, these models “are trained on billions of data samples.” So imagine looking through a sea of pixels to find the handful messing with the AI engine.

At least, that’s the idea. Nightshade is still in the early stages. Currently, the tech “has been submitted for peer review at [the] computer security conference Usenix.” MIT Technology Review managed to get a sneak peek.

Future endeavors

We reached out to team lead, Professor Ben Y. Zhao at the University of Chicago, with several questions. 

He told us they do have plans to “implement and release Nightshade for public use.” It’ll be a part of Glaze as an “optional feature”. Glaze, if you’re not familiar, is another tool Zhao’s team created giving artists the ability to “mask their own personal style” and stop it from being adopted by artificial intelligence. He also hopes to make Nightshade open source, allowing others to make their own venom.

Additionally, we asked Professor Zhao if there are plans to create a Nightshade for video and literature. Right now, multiple literary authors are suing OpenAI claiming the program is “using their copyrighted works without permission.” He states developing toxic software for other works will be a big endeavor “since those domains are quite different from static images. The team has “no plans to tackle those, yet.” Hopefully someday soon.

So far, initial reactions to Nightshade are positive. Junfeng Yang, a computer science professor at Columbia University, told Technology Review this could make AI developers “respect artists’ rights more”. Maybe even be willing to pay out royalties.

If you're interested in picking up illustration as a hobby, be sure to check out TechRadar's list of the best digital art and drawing software in 2023.

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YouTube hatches plan to protect your favorite musicians from AI copycats

YouTube announced that it’s working with Universal Music Group (UMG) to create a new program that would ensure artists and rights holders would be properly compensated for AI music.

The program, called YouTube’s Music AI Incubator, will create a partnership with music industry talent like artists, songwriters, and producers to decide on how to proceed with the advent of AI music. According to YouTube, “In 2023 alone, there have been more than 1.7 billion views of videos related to AI tools on YouTube.” And the video hosting and streaming site is interested in harnessing that level of viewership.

UMG was most likely chosen as the first partner for this problem because of its reservations toward AI, most likely due to the issue of music being fed into algorithms to train it and then recreated into new songs without compensating any of the artists involved. 

And while UMG cracked down on AI music on Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube through copyright strikes, pulling songs, and filtering out AI tracks, it also entered a partnership with artificial intelligence music company Endel earlier in 2023 to create AI-assisted music. This shows that it does have a willingness to work with AI, but on its terms.

AI

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Balancing rights with progress

According to Rolling Stone, UMG repeatedly stated that there’s potential for AI to assist artists in the song-making process. Music industry stakeholders, however, should draw a hard line on practices that infringe on artists' intellectual property and draw ears away from ‘real’ human-produced music.

It seems that YouTube also understands that desire to both use AI as a tool to assist artists, as well as set up structures that would guarantee permission and compensation for any music used to train these AI models. The official blog post discusses how YouTube has balanced protecting the rights of copyright holders with users over the years, as well as its content ID that “ensures rights holders get paid for use of their content and has generated billions for the industry over the years.”

YouTube also noted its existing policies that protect against “technically manipulated content” that could be used to mislead users or make false claims. And it’ll work to apply new standards to make sure AI isn’t used for “trademark and copyright abuse, misinformation, spam, and more.”

YouTube CEO Neal Mohan stated that “I’m incredibly excited about the opportunity of AI to supercharge creativity around the world, but recognize that YouTube and the promise of AI will only be successful if our partners are successful.” We’ll see how much that statement holds true, depending on the success of this program.

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Microsoft Excel is making a big change to protect against malware

Excel 4.0 (XLM) macros are now disabled by default, Microsoft has confirmed. In a Tech Community blog post, the company revealed that the change has been made to better protect users against “related security threats” coming through spreadsheets.

Back in July 2021, the company released a new Excel Trust Center setting option, allowing administrators to restrict the usage of Excel 4.0 (XLM) macros. It has now made this option default for everyone.

Administrators can use existing Microsoft 365 applications policy control to configure this setting, the announcement reads. The Group Policy setting “Macro Notification Settings” for Excel can be found in the following path and registry key:

Group Policy Path: User configuration > Administrative templates > Microsoft Excel 2016 > Excel Options > Security > Trust Center.

Registry Key Path: Computer\HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Office.0\excel\security

Malicious actors often abuse macros

Furthermore, administrators can manage this policy setting with both cloud policies, and ADMX policies. They can also completely block all XLM macro usage, including in new user-created files, by enabling the Group Policy, “Prevent Excel from running XLM macros”, Microsoft added. 

Excel 4.0 (XLM) macros were the default format until 1993, and even though they’ve since been discontinued, they can still be run by the latest versions of the Office program. That makes them ideal for threat actors, who’ve been abusing them to push malware such as TrickBot, Zloader, Qbot, Dridex, ransomware, and many other malicious programs, BleepingComputer reminds. 

The publication also reminds that in October 2019, Microsoft added a new Group Policy, allowing administrators to block Excel users from opening untrusted Microsoft query files with IQY, OQY, DQY and RQY extensions. It claims that these files have been weaponized in “numerous malicious attacks”, to deliver remote access Trojans and malware, for years. 

XLM is disabled by default in version 16.0.14527.20000+, current Channel builds 2110 or greater, monthly Enterprise Channel builds 2110 or greater, semi-annual Enterprise Channel (Preview) builds 2201 or greater, and semi-annual Enterprise Channel builds 2201 or greater (coming this July).

Via: BleepingComputer

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Facebook Protect and 2FA is about to become the rule for some accounts

Facebook is finally making 2-Factor Authentication (2FA) the rule for some of its most-at-risk accounts.

It’s a smart move, protecting venerable Facebook users, especially those who are looked to for responsible and accurate information – think journalists, politicians, celebrities, and you'll get the idea. Someone gaining access to any one of these accounts and masquerading as it could have wide-reaching, damaging effects. The company made the announcement on Thursday, pre-briefing some reporters and then directing them to a full story on Wired.

Why I wonder has this taken so long?

Stories of people, in all stations of life, who’ve had critical accounts hacked are all too commonplace. I usually find out when someone sends me a separate email or text exclaiming, “Help! I’ve been hacked!” Worse yet is when they don’t know and I spot the bizarre activity on their Facebook account and send a private note through other channels: “Hey, I think your Facebook’s been hacked.’

2-Factor Authentication is a simple idea that few people adopt because they see it as annoying or overly complicated. Put simply, whenever you log into a system, you have to prove it’s really you through a secondary device or system, one that can give you a code to apply to that first system. 

Some 2FA systems use SMS texts to your phone (or a voice call), others use proprietary hardware that spits out unique, time-sensitive codes that also get entered into the original system.

For most people, the primary device handling 2FA is their smartphone. Most security system managers figure that if you have your phone with your SIM and unique phone number on it, that’s about as good as it needs to get for verification. Looked at another way, how likely is it that someone trying to use your email and maybe a password they found on the Dark Web to log into your Facebook will also have your phone in their hands?

Inside Facebook Protect: What's new?

The system in question, known as Facebook Protect, was designed originally as an opt-in for political figures. In addition to 2FA, there’s a Page publishing authentication system to ensure that nobody publishes offensive material on a candidate’s pages, and the requirement that Page managers use real names.

The new plan takes Facebook Protect further, with Facebook proactively identifying at-risk users or groups of users and targeting them to enroll in Facebook Protect. Personally, I’d like to see Facebook follow Google’s plan and require 2FA for all users.

It’s not a perfect system, and there are reports of phone scammers convincing unsuspecting service users (banks, cryptocurrency wallets, Venmo, PayPal, and other accounts that also use 2FA) to share the 2FA SMS codes. Still, it’s better than a single, poorly crafted password, or one that’s being passed around on the Dark Web like so much gossip.

Facebook’s plan, which sounds small and almost tentative, might still be a rude awakening for at-risk users who missed the memo and, after ignoring multiple prompts to enable 2FA, may find themselves locked out of their own accounts.

Facebook's Head of Security Policy Nathaniel Gleicher, however, told me via Twitter that the “Number of warnings will vary by country/context — we're adjusting to make sure people have the time they need. So far, we've seen the overwhelming majority (90%+) enroll on time w/out trouble!”

Getting locked out of Facebook would not be a great situation. But it's definitely better than a hacker or prankster taking over and posting things in your account that no one wants to see.

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How does Norton 360 for Gamers protect your device?

Norton 360 for Gamers is a version of the Norton 360 security suite which is specifically aimed at you guessed it – gamers!

But if all you're doing is playing games in the comfort of your own home, why should you need an antivirus tool? In this article, we break down in detail exactly how Norton 360 for Gamers helps to protect your PC, and what additional defenses are present for gamers in particular.

Core antivirus protection

Norton 360 for Gamers gives you the same core defenses against malware as the vanilla Norton 360 internet security suite. To be precise, you receive everything that subscribers to Norton 360 Deluxe get, plus the gaming extras we’ll come onto in the next section.

That includes real-time protection to keep malware off your PC, on-demand scans, heuristics to detect freshly released threats, and dedicated anti-ransomware tech. As we found in our full Norton antivirus review, these combine to provide a very solid level of core protection.

Norton 360 for Gamers

(Image credit: NortonLifeLock)

Norton puts its antivirus money where its mouth is, with the firm’s ‘virus protection promise’ that gives the customer their money back if a device is hit by malware which Norton’s experts can’t remove.

Further protection is provided by some high-quality URL filtering to keep your web browsing safer, and Norton also implements an intelligent firewall. The latter is a very informative firewall that can help you make decisions on untrusted programs which are trying to use your internet connection – this is a pleasingly fresh and useful approach to firewall execution.

Extras, extras…

Those are the main defenses, then, but Norton 360 for Gamers also delivers the security suite extras found in Norton 360 Deluxe. That includes a backup facility with 50GB of cloud storage space, which could come in very handy if things go awry (always back up your important files, no matter how confident you are in the security of your PC). There’s also a password manager and webcam protection.

Another nifty feature is a built-in VPN, which is far from standard with security suites. To be precise, this is Norton Secure VPN and while it might be a relatively basic VPN service, it’s solid enough and a great bundled inclusion adding to the value proposition here.

Using a VPN for gaming helps to protect your privacy and anonymity online, with other benefits such as geo-blocking. That enables you to, say, stream content you wouldn’t otherwise be able to access. A VPN can also help you avoid the likes of DDoS attacks, which can be aimed at you to bog down your internet connection and ruin an online gaming session.

DDoS attack alert showing on a screen

(Image credit: FrameStockFootages / Shutterstock)

Dark Web Monitoring keeps an eye out for any of your personal details or data being involved in a data breach, because the knowledge that something has been spilled online can enable you to react quickly and keep your accounts secure.

Finally, those with children will appreciate the parental control system. This is a seriously good package to protect kids when they’re online, with all manner of content filtering and the ability to set time limits on device usage, as well as thorough location tracking facilities to keep tabs on your offspring not just online, but in the real world via GPS too.

Gaming goodies

On top of all the above, Norton 360 for Gamers offers a number of extras targeted specifically at those who enjoy PC gaming. We’ve already touched on the Dark Web Monitoring feature, which with the gaming suite is extended to also cover gamer tags and accounts, helping to keep these safe from exploits by nefarious types who may come across your leaked details.

Gamers running Windows also get the benefit of fewer notifications from Norton, with the suite able to detect when you’re running full-screen apps like games, only interrupting you if something critical happens like your PC being actively under attack.

The biggest gaming-related feature though, is the Game Optimizer. This allows Norton 360 for Gamers to intelligently allocate CPU resources to the game you’re playing in Windows to get better performance.

The caveat is that it doesn’t work with every game, but supports titles run via the Epic Games Store and Steam, plus game launchers from Bethesda, Blizzard, EA (Origin), Rockstar, and Ubisoft (Uplay). And bear in mind that you’ll need a quad-core CPU to use this feature, but most gamers these days will have one of those in their gaming PC.

Norton 360 for Gamers

(Image credit: NortonLifeLock)

How does Norton 360 for Gamers protect your device?

As we’ve seen, Norton 360 for Gamers delivers a whole raft of protection. From its core anti-malware measures (and specialized ransomware and web protection), through to security features like an intelligent firewall and integrated VPN.

That VPN can help defend against the likes of DDoS attacks aimed at gamers (or even the terrible practice of ‘swatting’, which is trying to call in a SWAT team or similar tactical response unit on false pretences), and the Dark Web Monitoring is a great extra to keep all your gaming accounts more secure.

Overall, Norton 360 for Gamers provides a commendable level of all-round protection and some nifty gaming-related extras for Windows users, particularly as Norton claims that its optimization feature can help some games run faster.

It’s well worth considering as a security package for those keen on gaming, with the main compromise compared to Norton 360 Deluxe being that Norton 360 for Gamers only supports three devices, rather than five. Both offerings are pitched at around the same price typically, and at the time of writing, Norton 360 for Gamers is a touch cheaper.

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