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ExtraBITS for 22 May 2017

In ExtraBITS this week, Apple has spent $200 million to buy a company whose engineering skills could improve Siri, Panic’s source code was stolen as a result of the HandBrake-carried malware, HomeKit support may be coming to Belkin’s Wemo line of home automation products, and the WannaCry ransomware pandemic has justified Apple’s fight with the FBI over user privacy.

Apple Spends $200 Million on Lattice Data to Improve Siri -- Apple’s Siri was the first voice-driven assistant of its kind on the market, but in some ways, it is being overshadowed by Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant, and Microsoft’s Cortana. To boost Siri’s capabilities, Apple has acquired artificial intelligence company Lattice Data for $200 million, largely for the expertise of its 20 engineers. Lattice Data converts so-called “dark data” like free-form text and images into structured data that computers can understand and use in Siri’s responses.

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HandBrake Exploit Leads to Stolen Panic Source Code -- Panic co-founder Steven Frank has posted an embarrassing confession: after he inadvertently downloaded and installed a compromised version of HandBrake, hackers were able to steal source code to Panic’s apps. There’s no evidence that customer information, sync data, or Panic’s Web site were compromised. However, you should avoid downloading any Panic app that doesn’t come directly from Panic’s Web site or the Mac App Store, and Steven is asking users to report any unofficial versions that people see in the wild. Kudos to Panic for being so open about this and handling it quickly, and take this as a real-world lesson in why it’s important to stay alert when it comes to online security.

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Belkin Adding HomeKit Support to Wemo -- Last year, Belkin, which makes the popular Wemo line of home automation accessories, rejected adding HomeKit support because it would require new hardware. Now Belkin has reversed course, telling 9to5Mac, “Wemo is committed to bringing HomeKit support to our line of smart home solutions and will be providing more details soon.” Belkin didn’t say what caused the change of heart, but it’s possible that Apple will announce loosened HomeKit restrictions at WWDC.

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WannaCry Ransomware Vindicates Apple’s Battle with the FBI -- Last year, Apple CEO Tim Cook came under fire from the FBI for not providing a custom, vulnerable version of iOS so the agency could hack into the iPhone 5c used by one of the San Bernardino mass shooters. Cook refused, on the grounds that it would be impossible to keep any such back door out of the hands of criminals and other intelligence agencies. His stance has now been vindicated, as stolen NSA exploits released by the Shadow Brokers hacking group were used to spread the WannaCry ransomware throughout the world. WannaCry dominated headlines briefly by infecting more than 230,000 Windows-based computers in 150 countries in 24 hours, affecting major companies and even Britain’s National Health Service.

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