TL;DR: This week, Llama3-V emerges as a cost-effective multimodal AI model, challenging GPT-4 with impressive performance for under $500. The Chalubo malware caused a major router outage, exposing vulnerabilities in IoT security, while a global botnet takedown led to significant criminal arrests. Apple plans to enhance privacy with AI features in iOS 18, though concerns rise over Meta's data usage for AI training. Exciting tools like DrawingPics and LlamaFS revolutionize creative and file management tasks, and the Fitbit Ace LTE aims to keep kids active and safe. NASA's James Webb Space Telescope discovered the most distant galaxy yet, and leaked Google API documents reveal hidden search ranking factors.

Artificial Intelligence

Llama 3-V: The Budget-Friendly Multimodal Model Rivaling GPT-4 (~8 min.) : Llama3-V, the latest release from the Llama series, is designed to challenge GPT-4 in the multimodal AI space. Built on the Llama3 architecture, it integrates visual and textual data processing using the SigLIP model, achieving a 10-20% performance boost over existing state-of-the-art models like Llava. Remarkably, the entire training process is executed for under $500, showcasing significant cost efficiency without compromising performance.


The Pumpkin Eclipse: A Massive Router Outage Caused by Chalubo Malware (~15 min.) : Over 600,000 SOHO routers belonging to a single ISP were rendered inoperable within 72 hours due to the Chalubo malware, leading to a major internet outage. The sophisticated attack, leveraging a RAT known for its stealth and in-memory operation, necessitated hardware replacements for the affected devices. Despite its destructive impact, the attack appears to be the work of cybercriminals rather than nation-states, highlighting significant vulnerabilities in IoT device security.

Global Botnet Takedown: $100M in Profits Used for Luxury Goods as Criminals Rampaged Worldwide (~2 min.) : Chinese national YunHe Wang allegedly ran an international botnet that infected over 19 million IP addresses worldwide, using VPN programs like MaskVPN and DewVPN to spread malware. The botnet, known as 911 S5, was used to commit various crimes such as fraud, child exploitation, harassment, and export violations, with estimated profits of $100 million. Wang faces up to 65 years in prison if convicted on charges including computer fraud and money laundering. The US worked with international partners to dismantle the operation, which compromised computers in almost 200 countries.

Blowing Whistles: How a Toy Hack from the ’60s Left Global Phone Networks Vulnerable for Decades (~2 min.) : The Signalling System 7 (SS7), developed in the 1980s to prevent “phone phreaking,” has become outdated and vulnerable in today’s mobile age. Despite being aware of SS7’s vulnerabilities for over 15 years, experts have been exploited by countries like Russia and the United Arab Emirates to track individuals, intercept data, or send malicious content. The system’s weaknesses pose a significant threat to international phone networks, making it essential to address these security concerns to protect users’ privacy and data.


Unlocking the Future: iOS 18’s AI-Powered Revolution and Apple’s Commitment to Confidential Computing (~4 min.) : Apple is expected to introduce new generative AI features in iOS 18, with a focus on cloud-based processing powered by M2 Ultra and M4 chips. The company plans to utilize its Secure Enclave technology to ensure strong privacy protections for user data, making it difficult for hackers to access even in the event of a breach. This “confidential-computing approach” will also reduce Apple’s burden of handing over personal data to government or law enforcement requests.

Global GPS Hack: How Apple’s Wi-Fi Positioning System Can Track You Anywhere (~2 min.) : Researchers have discovered a privacy threat in Apple’s Wi-Fi-based Positioning System (WPS), which can be exploited to create a global snapshot of Wi-Fi hotspot locations. By analyzing MAC address space, an attacker can learn the precise locations of over 2 billion Wi-Fi access points worldwide, enabling tracking of devices’ movements. This vulnerability allows for tracking of devices in sensitive areas, such as war zones or natural disaster zones, and even enables targeted individual tracking. The researchers provide recommendations to enhance privacy and outline mitigations implemented by Apple and Wi-Fi manufacturers.

Meta’s AI Plans Spark Privacy Concerns: Users’ Posts and Photos to Train AI, Opt-Out Process Raises Red Flags (~3 min.) : Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has announced plans to use users’ posts and photos to train its Artificial Intelligence (AI) products and services. This move has raised concerns among privacy experts and advocates, as users are automatically opted-in to consent to this data collection unless they manually opt-out through a lengthy process. According to legal experts, Meta’s reliance on “legitimate interests” as the basis for collecting sensitive personal data may not be compliant with GDPR legislation, particularly when it comes to processing data that falls under Article 9. As a result, some are calling for the Data Protection Commissioner to intervene in the matter.


DrawingPics: Where Creativity Meets Code - A Revolutionary Image-Generation Tool Born from Indie Passion (~2 min.) : DrawingPics is an image-to-image and sketch-to-image generator that allows users to draw their drafts directly on a canvas. The tool uses Miniconda, Diffusers, Electron, and Excalidraw technologies to run the AI model and generate images in real-time. The creator of DrawingPics spent 4 months developing the project and has made numerous improvements based on user feedback, with 80% of the project available for free use. A lifetime license is required for the remaining 20%, currently only available for Mac users, with Windows support to be added later.

LlamaFS: The Self-Organizing File Manager That Learns to Name Your Files for You! (~3 min.) : LlamaFS is a self-organizing file manager that automatically renames and organizes files based on their contents and well-known conventions. It runs in two modes: batch mode, which processes files in bulk, and watch mode, which continuously monitors a directory for changes. LlamaFS uses a Python backend with the Llama3 model to summarize file content and structure, ensuring privacy in “incognito mode” by routing requests through Ollama. The tool is designed to be fast, low-friction, and immediately useful for managing messy file systems.

Streamlining Transcription: Introducing Transcription Stream Community Edition - A Turnkey, Self-Hosted Diarization Service for Offline Audio Processing (~4 min.) : Transcription Stream is a self-hosted diarization service that works offline and includes features like drag-and-drop file upload, web interface for reviewing and downloading files, summarization with Ollama and Mistral, and full-text search via Meilisearch. The service can be accessed through a web interface or SSH drop zones, making it easy to integrate into workflows. With the ability to process audio files and provide summaries, Transcription Stream is a powerful tool for transcription and analysis tasks. Note that the service requires an NVIDIA GPU and has some limitations in terms of memory usage.


Introducing: the Fitbit Ace LTE (~15 min.) : The new Fitbit Ace LTE is now available for pre-order, offering kids a fun and engaging way to stay active. This connected smartwatch tracks various physical activities, celebrates achievements with a unique ‘Noodle’ activity ring, and ensures safety with features like real-time location sharing, calling, and messaging. Priced at $229 with an additional $9.99/month data plan, the Fitbit Ace LTE comes in two vibrant color options and is available on Google and Amazon stores.

Everything Else

Galactic Dawn: NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Discovers Most Distant Known Galaxy at Cosmic Dawn, Shattering Records and Revealing Early Universe Secrets! (~7 min.) : Scientists have used NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (Webb) to study galaxies that existed just 290 million years after the Big Bang, during a period known as Cosmic Dawn. The telescope has observed a galaxy, JADES-GS-z14-0, at a record-breaking redshift of 14.32, making it the most distant known galaxy. This galaxy is incredibly bright and massive, with stars emitting light that is reddened by dust. Astrise Hel and

Leaked Google API Docs Unveil Hidden Ranking Factors (~27 min.) : An anonymous source shared over 2,500 pages of internal Google API documentation, shedding light on previously undisclosed ranking factors and processes. Key revelations include the use of “NavBoost” for tracking user behavior, the importance of click data from Chrome browsers, and whitelists for certain sensitive search queries. The documents suggest that clickstream data and user engagement play a significant role in Google’s search rankings, challenging long-held public denials by the company. This leak could have profound implications for the SEO industry, emphasizing the need for transparency and accountability from Google.

Thank you for joining me in this week’s exploration of the tech universe. Amidst the endless stream of information, I strive to bring you news that is not only relevant but also thought-provoking. Your thoughts and feedback are always welcome. Don’t forget to spread the word about the Friday Tech Focus Newsletter and stay tuned for more curated insights next week!