The I-10 Freeway Fire May Have Been Caused by Exploding Hand Sanitizer

Shortly after a massive fire under the Interstate 10 freeway in downtown Los Angeles last weekend closed a 1-mile stretch normally traversed by 300,000 vehicles daily, California’s fire marshal announced that it was being investigated as possible arson.

Some locals have been eager to blame the homeless encampments that are common under California’s freeway overpasses, despite LA mayor Karen Bass saying this week that “there is no reason to assume that the reason this fire happened was because there were unhoused individuals nearby.”

Now there’s evidence that excess pandemic hand sanitizer may have contributed to the blaze. The Los Angeles Times reported this week that unnamed sources said that hand sanitizer, which is highly flammable, stored under the freeway may have worsened the I-10 destruction. The owner of a company subleasing storage space under the overpass tells WIRED he was storing half a pallet of hand sanitizer that had been left unsold after pandemic restrictions lifted.

If hand sanitizer is confirmed to have contributed to the I-10 disaster, it could be added to a growing list of tragic fires fueled by surplus sanitizer from the pandemic.

California authorities have so far released little information about the cause of the fire, citing the ongoing investigation. They have said that the space under the freeway was leased out by California’s transportation department to an entity that Governor Gavin Newsom called a “bad actor,” and who allowed many items to be stored under the overpass.

An attorney for Calabasas-based Apex Development sent out a news release Wednesday night objecting to being called a “bad actor.” In September, the state had filed a lawsuit alleging that Apex had stopped paying rent for the past year while subleasing the property out to at least five other businesses. Google Street View imagery of the stretch that burned shows plenty of boxes and wooden pallets under the freeway, leaving little room for any large encampments.

Apex Development’s CEO Anthony Nowaid has not yet returned messages from WIRED. The news release that Apex Development’s attorney sent out Wednesday night blames the fire on “public safety issues caused by the unhoused.”

Rudy Serafin, who owns one of the businesses that had been subleasing the space, tells WIRED that he did not notice any homeless people near the site the day before the fire, other than some cars parked along one street that he assumed belonged to people living in them. Serafin said he was using his lot to store the hand sanitizer he had been unable to sell after demand for it during the pandemic dropped. He estimates that he had between 100 and 125 bottles under the overpass.

via Wired Top Stories

November 16, 2023 at 09:45AM

A Spy Agency Leaked People’s Data Online—Then the Data Was Stolen

The list of data is long. Names, professions, blood groups, parents’ names, phone numbers, the length of calls, vehicle registrations, passport details, fingerprint photos. But this isn’t a typical database leak, the kind that happens all the time—these categories of information are all linked to a database held by an intelligence agency.

For months, the National Telecommunication Monitoring Center (NTMC), an intelligence body in Bangladesh that’s involved in collecting people’s cell phone and internet activity, has published people’s personal information through an unsecured database linked to its systems. And this past week, anonymous hackers attacked the exposed database, wiping details from the system and claiming to have stolen the trove of information.

WIRED has verified a sample of real-world names, phone numbers, email addresses, locations, and exam results included in the data. However, the exact nature and purpose of the amassed information is unclear, with some entries appearing to be test information, incorrect, or partial records. The NTMC and other officials in Bangladesh have not responded to requests for comment.

The disclosure, which appears to have been unintentional, provides a tiny glimpse into the highly secretive world of signals intelligence and how communications may be intercepted. “I wouldn’t be expecting this to happen for any intelligence service, even if it’s not really something that sensitive,” says Viktor Markopoulos, a security researcher for CloudDefense.AI who discovered the unsecured database. “Even if many data are test data, they still reveal the structure that they’re using, or what exactly it is that they are intercepting or plan to intercept.”

After Markopoulos discovered the exposed database, he linked it back to the NTMC and login pages for a Bangladeshi national intelligence platform. Markopoulos believes the database was likely exposed due to a misconfiguration. Within the database, there are more than 120 indexes of data, with different logs stored in each. The indexes include names such as “sat-phone,” “sms,” “birth registration,” “pids_prisoners_list_search,” “driving_licence_temp,” and “Twitter.” Some of those files contain a handful of entries each, while others contain tens of thousands.

The vast majority of the data exposed in the NTMC database is metadata—the extremely powerful “who, what, how, and when” of everyone’s communications. Phone call audio isn’t exposed, but metadata shows which numbers may have called others and how long each call lasted. This kind of metadata can be used broadly to show patterns in people’s behavior and whom they interact with.

via Wired Top Stories

November 16, 2023 at 05:03AM

YouTube’s first AI-generated music tools can clone artist voices and turn hums into melodies

YouTube on Thursday unveiled some new experimental AI services, including a feature called Dream Track in YouTube Shorts. It creates up to 30-second soundtracks using AI-generation versions of artists’ voices. Though musicians have mostly pushed back on AI (and their voices being used for training models without permission or compensation), YouTube got nine big names from the music industry to participate, including John Legend, Troye Sivan, CharliXCX and T-Pain. The company hoped to announce the feature at its Made on YouTube event in September, but it’s been tied up in negotiations with recording companies over rights and payments.

Users can access Dream Track by typing an idea into the creation prompt and choosing from one of the participating artists. It uses Google DeepMind’s Lyria — a new, powerful music generation model designed specifically for creating high-quality vocals and instrumentals while giving the user more control over the final product. Any content Lyria produces will also have a SynthID watermark, denoting it as such. 

Charlie Puth and T-Pain created sample Dream Tracks, which YouTube has shared as inspiration. However, many of the artists involved expressed their apprehension about AI but hoped that collaborative work could create positive, non-exploitative opportunities. "When I was first approached by YouTube I was cautious and still am, AI is going to transform the world and the music industry in ways we do not yet fully understand," singer CharliXCX said. "This experiment will offer a small insight into the creative opportunities that could be possible and I’m interested to see what comes out of it." 

Music AI Tools are also coming to YouTube, in collaboration with its Music AI Incubator. These tools can create guitar riffs from a hummed melody or turn a pop track into a reggaeton anthem. Producer and songwriter, Louis Bell, created a sample video to showcase it. 

YouTube is walking a fine line as it navigates the careful balance of introducing AI tools and protecting against misuse. The video platform recently announced new policies for labeling videos made using AI and letting public figures, such as musicians, report deepfakes. 

Dream Track is currently only available to a select group of creators and artists, whereas participants of the Music AI Incubator should be able to test the tools out later this year. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

via Engadget

November 16, 2023 at 07:24AM