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Apex Legends hacker says game developers patched exploit used on streamers | TechCrunch

Last month, a hacker wreaked havoc during an esports tournament of the popular shooter game Apex Legends, hacking two well-known streamers mid-game to make it look like they were using cheats.

A month later, it seems like the hacking saga may have come to a close with the game developers patching the bug exploited by the hacker.

Because of the hack, the organizers had to suspend the tournament on March 17. Two days later, Apex Legends developer Respawn said on its official X account that it had “deployed the first of a layered series of updates to protect the Apex Legends player community.” Then a week later, the company wrote that it had “added another update that is intended to further protect our players and ensure the competitive integrity of Apex Legends.”

Respawn’s posts don’t clearly say that the updates patched the bugs exploited during the tournament. But the hacker behind the cheating scandal told TechCrunch this week that Respawn’s patches fixed the vulnerability that he had exploited to hack the two streamers.

“The exploit I’ve used in [Apex Legends Global Series] is fully patched,” the hacker who goes by Destroyer2009 said in an online chat.

Destroyer2009, who previously told TechCrunch that he had hacked the two streamers “for fun,” said he didn’t want to reveal any technical details of the bug he exploited, even if it is now patched.

“No one likes when severe vulnerabilities in your product are exposed publicly. I asked my friend and we both agreed that we don’t really want to publicly expose what happened from a technical perspective yet,” the hacker said, referring to a friend he worked with to develop the hack.

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Referring to an unrelated botched in-game update by Respawn this week, Destroyer2009 said: “[I] don’t think embarrassing them even more is fair.”

Destroyer2009 said he tested his exploit after Respawn’s announcement of the second update on March 26, although he said it’s possible it was patched sooner because he didn’t have a chance to test it before.

Destroyer2009’s hacks were high-profile, disruptive, and caused a big stir in the Apex Legends community. The two streamers targeted, ImperialHal and Geburten, collectively have 2.5 million followers on the game streaming platform Twitch, and several other Apex Legends players and streamers commented on the news of the hacks on their channels.

Yet, Respawn isn’t being forthcoming about the patches it released. TechCrunch asked Respawn and Electronic Arts, the owners of the development studio, to confirm whether the exploit used by Destroyer2009 is indeed patched, and if so, when it was patched.

But neither Respawn nor Electronic Arts responded to TechCrunch’s multiple requests for comment. The two companies did not respond to requests for comment in the last few weeks either.

Meanwhile, Destroyer2009 said he won’t do any more public hacks for now, because “anything more severe than the [Apex tournament hack] accident will be already considered as a real hacking with all the consequences so [probably] will just play the game until it gets boring as usual.”

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Watch: Google's Gemini Code Assist wants to use AI to help developers

Can AI eat the jobs of the developers who are busy building AI models? The short answer is no, but the longer answer is not yet settled. News this week that Google has a new AI-powered coding tool for developers, straight from the company’s Google Cloud Next 2024 event in Las Vegas, means that competitive pressures between major tech companies to build the best service to help coders write more code, more quickly is still heating up.

Microsoft’s GitHub Copilot service that has similar outlines has been steadily working toward enterprise adoption. Both companies want to eventually build developer-helping tech that can understand a company’s codebase, allowing it to offer up more tailored suggestions and tips.

Startups are in the fight as well, though they tend to focus more tailored solutions than the broader offerings from the largest tech companies; Pythagora, Tusk and Ellipsis from the most recent Y Combinator batch are working on app creation from user prompts, AI agents for bug-squashing and turning GitHub comments into code, respectively.

Everywhere you look, developers are building tools and services to help their own professional cohort.

Developers learning to code today won’t know a world in which they don’t have AI-powered coding helps. Call it the graphic calculator era for software builders. But the risk — or the worry, I suppose — is that in time the AI tools that are ingesting mountains of code to get smarter to help humans do more will eventually be able to do enough that fewer humans are needed to do the work of writing code for companies themselves. And if a company can spend less money and employ fewer people, it will; no job is safe, but some roles are just more difficult to replace at any given moment.

Thankfully, given the complexities of modern software services, ever-present tech debt and an infinite number of edge cases, what big tech and startups are busy building today seem to be very useful coding helps and not something ready to replace or even reduce the number of humans building them. For now. I wouldn’t take the other end of that bet on a multi-decade time frame.

And for those looking for an even deeper dive into what Google revealed this week, you can head here for our complete rundown, including details on exactly how Gemini Code Assist works, and Google’s in-depth developer walkthrough from Cloud Next 2024.

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Google launches Code Assist, its latest challenger to GitHub's Copilot | TechCrunch

At its Cloud Next conference, Google on Tuesday unveiled Gemini Code Assist, its enterprise-focused AI code completion and assistance tool.

If this sounds familiar, that’s likely because Google previously offered a similar service under the now-defunct Duet AI branding. That one became generally available in late 2023, but even then, Google already hinted that it would move the service away from its Codey model to Gemini in the near future. Code Assist is both a rebrand of the older service as well as a major update.

Code Assist, which Google Cloud demoed at its 30,000-attendee conference in Las Vegas, will be available through plug-ins for popular editors like VS Code and JetBrains.

Even more so than the Duet AI version, Code Assist is also a direct competitor to GitHub’s Copilot Enterprise and not so much the basic version of Copilot. That’s because of a few Google-specific twists.

Among those is support for Gemini 1.5 Pro, which famously has a million-token context window, allowing Google’s tool to pull in a lot more context than its competitors. Google says this means more-accurate code suggestions, for example, but also the ability to reason over and change large chunks of code.

“This upgrade brings a massive 1 million-token context window, which is the largest in the industry. This allows customers to perform large-scale changes across your entire code base, enabling AI-assisted code transformations that were not possible before,” Brad Calder, Google’s VP and GM for its cloud platform and technical infrastructure, explained in a press conference ahead of Tuesday’s announcement.

Image Credits: Google

Like GitHub Enterprise, Code Assist can also be fine-tuned based on a company’s internal code base.

“Code customization using RAG with Gemini Code Assist significantly increased the quality of Gemini’s assistance for our developers in terms of code completion and generation,” said Kai Du, Director of Engineering and Head of Generative AI at Turing. “With code customization in place, we are expecting a big increase in the overall code-acceptance rate.”

This functionality is currently in preview.

Image Credits: Frederic Lardinois/TechCrunch

Another feature that makes Code Assist stand out is its ability to support codebases that sit on-premises, in GitLab, GitHub and Atlassian’s BitBucket, for example, as well as those that may be split between different services. That’s something Google’s most popular competitors in this space don’t currently offer.

Google is also partnering with a number of developer-centric companies to bring their knowledge bases to Gemini. Stack Overflow already announced its partnership with Google Cloud earlier this year. Datadog, Datastax, Elastic, HashiCorp, Neo4j, Pinecone, Redis, Singlestore and Snyk are now also partnering with Google through similar partnerships.

The real test, of course, is how developers will react to Code Assist and how useful its suggestions are to them. Google is making the right moves here by supporting a variety of code repositories and offering a massive context window, but if the latency is too high or the results simply aren’t that good, none of those features matter. And if it’s not significantly better than Copilot, which had quite a headstart, it may end up suffering the fate of AWS’ CodeWhisperer, which seems to have close to zero momentum.

It’s worth noting that in addition to Code Assist, Google today also announced the launch of CodeGemma, a new open model in its Gemma family that was fine-tuned for code generation and assistance. CodeGemma is now available through Vertex AI.

Image Credits: Frederic Lardinois/TechCrunch

Cloud Assist

In addition to Code Assist, Google also today announced Gemini Cloud Assist to help “cloud teams design, operate, and optimize their application lifecycle.” The tool can generate architecture configuration that are tailored to a company’s needs, for example, based on a description of the desired design outcome. It can also help diagnose issues and find their root causes, as well as optimize a company’s cloud usage to reduce cost or improve performance.

Cloud Assist will be available through a chat interface and embedded directly into a number of Google Cloud products.

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Meta's X competitor Threads invites developers to sign up for API access, publishes docs | TechCrunch

After opening its developer API to select companies for testing in March, Meta’s Twitter/X competitor Threads is now introducing developer documentation and a sign-up sheet for interested parties ahead of the API’s public launch, planned for June.

The new documentation details the API’s current limitations and its endpoints, among other things, which could help developers get started on their Threads-connected apps and any other projects that integrate with the new social network.

For instance, those who want to track analytics around Threads’ posts can use an Insights API to retrieve things like views, likes, replies, reposts, and quotes. There are also details on how to publish posts and media via the API, retrieve replies, and a series of troubleshooting tips.

The documentation indicates that Threads accounts are limited to 250 API-published posts within a 24-hour period and 1,000 replies — a measure to counteract spam or other excessive use. It also offers the image and video specifications for media uploaded with users’ posts and notes that Threads’ text post character counts have a hard limit of 500 characters — longer than old Twitter’s 280 characters, but far less than the 25,000 characters X offers to paid subscribers or the now 100,000 characters it permits in articles posted directly to its platform.

Whether or not Meta will ultimately favor certain kinds of apps over others remains to be seen.

So far, Threads API beta testers have included social tool makers like Sprinklr, Sprout Social, Social News Desk, Hootsuite, and tech news board Techmeme.

Although Threads has begun its integration with the wider fediverse — the network of interconnected social networking services that includes Mastodon and others — it doesn’t appear that fediverse sharing can be enabled or disabled through the API itself. Instead, users still have to visit their settings in the Threads app to publish to the fediverse.

Meta says the new documentation will be updated over time as it gathers feedback from developers. In addition, anyone interested in building with the new API and providing feedback can now request access via a sign-up page — something that could also help Meta track the apps that are preparing to go live alongside the API’s public launch.

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The AltStore, an alternative app store coming to the EU, will offer Patreon-backed apps | TechCrunch

Apple’s chokehold on the App Store ecosystem for iPhone apps stifles competition, according to the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), so it’s now forcing the tech giant to open up to new rivals. As a result, we’re beginning to see what an app store ecosystem could look like when other developers are allowed to compete with the default iPhone App Store.

One notable case in point is the AltStore, an alternative app store that’s preparing to take advantage of the DMA to launch an updated version of its app marketplace in the EU, with plans to support Patreon-backed apps.

To comply with the new European law, Apple is introducing APIs and frameworks that allow developers to distribute apps independently of the App Store. The AltStore was quick to capitalize on this possibility, and last week, AltStore developer Riley Testut shared screenshots of the up-and-coming version of his app store that will be offered in the EU.

Instead of relying only on ads, paid downloads or in-app purchases to monetize, the AltStore will allow developers to use its custom Patreon integration to market their apps directly to consumers.


Post by @rileytestut
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The store — which has offered sideloading apps like the video game emulator Delta, also from Testut — will initially launch in the EU with just two apps, the developer says. Delta will be available for free and the AltStore’s own clipboard manager Clip will require a pledge of $1 or more on the crowdfunding platform Patreon. The AltStore plans to add the beta versions of both Delta and Clip soon after, which will require a $3 per month Patreon pledge to use.

This unique business model for monetizing apps is similar in some ways to Apple’s in-app subscriptions but comes without the traditional 15% to 30% commission on sales that the tech giant currently takes. With Apple’s DMA rules, alternative app stores can opt to pay €0.50 for each first annual install per year over a 1 million threshold — a new scheme to tap into the revenue of larger apps, which Apple calls its Core Technology Fee. (Whether Apple’s fee will remain is uncertain, as the EU is investigating the tech giant for non-compliance with its competition law.)

As Testut explains, after the AltStore launches and is working properly, the plan is to then allow other developers to also distribute their apps through the storefront by establishing their own sources.

“They’ll also be able to use the same Patreon integration we use to distribute ‘paid’ apps,” Testut told TechCrunch. This integration will create a new business model for apps that wouldn’t be permitted without the DMA coming into effect.

“One thing @altstore does that should really get you thinking about alternative payment systems that Apple never would have considered: it has Patreon integration, and can tie access to apps to your Patreon pledge — which gives you an entirely different, personal relationship with your users, and lets you use the same reward system you use for videos, blog posts, merch, etc,” wrote iOS developer Steve Troughton-Smith in a post on Mastodon. “Alternative app stores don’t just have to recreate Apple’s model,” he added.

Plus, he pointed out how the AltStore will provide users with a “granular view” of the entitlements — or extra permissions — that an app has, before you install it.

Beyond offering developers a new way to make money, Testus claims that the EU version of the AltStore will be “dramatically simpler” to use compared with the current version.

Today, users who want to sideload apps via the AltStore without jailbreaking their iPhone have to use a Mac or PC, provide the AltStore with their Apple ID and password, and then refresh the apps every seven days. That process not only raises security concerns, but is also complex. However, the EU version of AltStore won’t require these steps.

“It all works virtually the same as the App Store now,” Testut says.

In the screenshots he shared, the AltStore looks much like a modern-day app store, with categories like Games, Lifestyle and Utilities, as well as buttons to download its free apps, as on Apple’s App Store. However, the user interface will be slightly different, as Apple requires developers to insert an additional confirmation screen after the user clicks to install an app. This screen warns consumers that updates and purchases will be managed by the AltStore, as opposed to Apple.

Testut also notes that the AltStore apps have to be notarized by Apple in order to be installed, so it won’t be able to install just any sideloaded app available as an .ipa file.

The new AltStore is ready to launch now, but Testut says he’s waiting on final approval from Apple.

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