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  1. Last week
  2. Setting up an Android smartphone or tablet as a WiFi adapter is easy to do. It can be good for a quick solution for a Desktop computer that needs a wireless connection or broken WiFi on a laptop. Be aware not all cell phone Carriers allow for this and may turn off the WiFi forcing you to use your Data plan. How To Use Your Android Phone as a USB WiFi Adapter Tethering No For this reason it is best to use an Android device not setup on a Cell Plan so there is no chance of running up the data. Any old Android Device will work. Even used old Galaxy S2 and S5 will work very well. There is many cheap low cost WiFi dongles for a long term solution but an Android smartphone can be used as a short term quick fix. Below are the steps to follow to use an Android Device as a wireless USB adapter. Some phones and Android version may vary in setup but will be close to the following instructions with no need to Root the phone. Steps To Use Your Android Phone as a USB WiFi Adapter Go to Settings–>Wireless & Networks Connect To the WiFi Connect to a PC with a USB Cable Go to Setting find Mobile HotSpot or Tethering and Enable it 1… Connect the Android Smartphone or Tablet to the WiFi. How To Use Your Android Phone as a USB WiFi Adapter Setup 1 2… Plug in the phone to the computer with a USB cable. How To Use Your Android Phone as a USB WiFi Adapter 1 Sometimes Drivers for the phone will need to be loaded. Usually it is automatically found. 3… Go to Setting and find Mobile HotSpot and Tethering On the new smartphones it is under Connections. How To Use Your Android Phone as a USB WiFi Adapter Tethering On the old Galaxy S1 it is called Tethering and Portable HotSpot. How To Use Your Android Phone as a USB WiFi Adapter Setup 2 4… If a warning box comes up and says the WiFi is being shut off the phone can Not be used as a WiFi Adapter. How To Use Your Android Phone as a USB WiFi Adapter Tethering No If you use a smartphone tied to a Cell Plan and it turns off the WiFi it may run up your bill depending on your Data Plan. 5… After Tethering is turned on it should be ready to use. Summary Usign a Android device and a USB WiFi adapter is easy to do simply be careful if the device is on a cell plan. Many cell phone Carriers will turn off the WiFi and force it to use the Data Plan which can run a bill up. Using a old cell phone with no cell plan is best since there is no chance of it using Cell Data.
  3. The add-on will still use Edge to open untrusted URLs, though. Microsoft has developed and started testing Windows Defender Application Guard extensions for both Chrome and Firefox to better protect enterprise PCs. The feature, which used to be an Edge exclusive, keeps PCs safe by opening web pages not included in administrators' trusted sites in a virtual container. That way, it can prevent attackers from gaining entry into the company's system if the website turns out to be malicious. While the extensions can be downloaded from the browsers' respective stores, Windows Defender for Chrome and Firefox won't work without help from Edge. If it determines that the URL is not in the trusted list, it will open the website in an isolated Edge session. However, any link clicked in the isolated session will still launch in the original browser if it's a trusted website. To use the feature, both the Windows Defender companion application from the Microsoft Store and the browser-specific extension must be installed. Since it's still in preview mode, only Insiders can access it at the moment, though it will eventually have a wide release once it's been tested more thoroughly.
  4. Some even labeled themselves as viruses. It can be wise to secure your Android phone with antivirus software, but which ones can you count on? You can rule out most of them, apparently. AV-Comparatives has tested 250 antivirus apps for Google's platform, and only 80 of them (just under one third) passed the site's basic standards -- that is, they detected more than 30 percent of malicious apps from 2018 and had zero false positives. Some of the apps that fell short would even flag themselves, according to the researchers. In some cases, the failure is a simple one: they're not really scanning app code. AV-Comparatives found that are just using app whitelists or blacklists, and sometimes very broad ones at that. They may allow all apps whose package files start with "com.instagram," but it would be trivial to create rogue apps that used a variant on that name. The apps that passed muster came from familiar security brands, with big names like AVG, Kaspersky, McAfee and Symantec catching everything. Those that fell short had a familiar pattern, however. Many of them were written by amateurs, cookie-cutter apps or from companies that clearly aren't focused on security. Anti-malware apps from 32 of the vendors in the test have vanished in the two months since the test took place in January. It's safe to say this serves as a reminder to stick to antivirus tools from companies with solid track records. However, this also illustrates the challenge Google and other store operators face in screening apps. They can verify that the apps aren't causing harm to users or violating the law, but they can't enforce a baseline level of quality needed to keep your phone safe.
  5. It could be used for broadband, imaging and beyond. Never mind the possibilities opened up by millimeter wave 5G and other many-gigahertz technologies -- the FCC is already thinking about the next generation beyond that. The Commission has voted unanimously in favor of creating a category of experimental licenses that range from 95GHz to a whopping 3THz -- effectively, the limits of usable wireless technology. The Spectrum Horizons order would let companies experiment with this ultra-high frequency tech for as long as 10 years, and would make it easier for them to sell real-world products while they're in that test phase. The measure also sets aside 21.2GHz of spectrum to share for unlicensed devices. The airwaves in question were chosen to minimize possible interference with current "governmental and scientific" uses in those areas, such as space science. These frequencies could lead to extremely fast wireless network data, advanced imaging and very fine-grained sensors, among other purposes. However, you might not want to get your hopes up for a cellphone with terahertz 6G any time soon. Even more so than with millimeter waves, the terahertz range would be limited by short ranges and difficulty penetrating objects. That's what the experiments are for, though -- it could establish uses that aren't even on the radar yet.
  6. In the UK, folks making contactless (NFC) card payments at stores and supermarkets are limited on how much they can ring up at the checkouts. But for a few NatWest customers that limit is set to disappear, as the bank launches a trial for using biometric authentication when making card payments. As in other countries around the world, many stores, service stations and eateries in the UK now cater for contactless payments by card, where a customer waves a chipped card over the top of a reader until a beep sounds and payment is made without having to enter a security code. Such transactions are limited to £30 a pop for security reasons. NatWest has teamed up with digital security company Gemalto, along with Visa and Mastercard, to trial a card that scans a user's fingerprint to verify identity, and then unlocks the per transaction limit that's normally applied. "Using a fingerprint rather than a PIN code to authorize transactions has many advantages, primarily enhanced security and greater convenience," said Gemalto's Howard Berg. "Cardholders can pay quickly and easily with just a simple touch, and they no longer need to worry about the limit on contactless payment transactions." A user's registered fingerprint is stored on the card itself and verification takes place directly on the card too, so retailers won't need to update their point-of-sale technology. The card can be set up at a branch or at home, the latter involving bank customers being sent a special sleeve with their card. Once a fingerprint has been added to a card, it can't be changed. The fingerprint-sensing card trial is due to start in the coming weeks, with NatWest choosing 200 of its customers to take part. The video below gives an idea of how the system might work. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsYyvx6q-xs Source: NatWest (RBS)
  7. To maintain communications during emergencies or in remote areas, Lockheed Martin has come up with a new LTE-over-Satellite system that will allow LTE mobile phones to hook up with satellites to provide 4G connections. Designed to complement satellite phones, the new system produces a pop-up cellular network that can be accessed by commercial phones to connect for voice, SMA, and data transfers at broadband service rates. Mobile phones have become so much a part of our lives that we often forget how fragile mobile networks are compared to old-fashioned landlines. Natural disasters such as hurricanes or earthquakes can knock out vital parts of the cellular communications infrastructure and large numbers of people trying to contact emergency services or making sure that loved ones are safe can overload capacity even if there's no physical damage. It's a situation that can not only make recovery efforts difficult, it can also cause massive economic disruption. Even if human lives are not at risk, modern society is so dependent on wireless communications that disruption can seriously impact commerce to the point where something as simple as buying a cup of coffee can be affected. Lockheed hasn't released too many details about its new LTE-over-Satellite system, but it very likely takes advantage of LTE's increased speed and data capacity as well as its digital signal processing techniques and unique radio spectrum to connect with powerful orbital satellites. The company says that in an emergency the new system can work with hot spots mounted on land vehicles or ships for wider coverage to not only help individuals, but also to help responders remain in contact. In addition, the new system can provide cargo shippers with the ability to exchange location and shipment information, as well as connecting remote locations with no coverage, including remote mining camps, research stations, fishing vessels or agricultural operations. "When disaster strikes, cell phone networks often go down – whether because of the event or because of the sheer volume of traffic," says Maria Demaree, vice president and general manager of Mission Solutions at Lockheed Martin Space. "So, it's important to have new ways to connect families and first responders with people who would be otherwise cut off from contact." Source: Lockheed Martin
  8. Mozilla has made it easy for you to share large files securely and privately with whomever you want, eliminating the need to depend upon less secure free third-party services or file upload tools that burn a hole in your pocket. Mozilla has finally launched its free, end-to-end encrypted file-transfer service, called Firefox Send, to the public, allowing users to securely share large files like video, audio or photo files that can be too big to fit into an email attachment. Firefox Send was initially rolled out by Mozilla to test users way back in August 2017 as part of the company's now-defunct "Test Pilot" experimental program. Firefox Send allows you to send files up to 1GB in size, but if you sign up for a free Firefox account, you can upload files as large as 2.5GB in size. The service uses a browser-based encryption technology that encrypts your files before uploading them to the Mozilla server, which can only be decrypted by the recipients. Unlike popular file storage and sharing services like Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and Box, Firefox Send is not available as desktop software or internally integrated with other products, i.e., Firefox, from its parent company. It's just an online website where you can quickly upload a file → protect it with a password (optional) and set an expiration period → use any medium to share the link it generates with whomever the sender wants. The recipients can then simply download the file just by visiting the shared URL regardless of whether they have a Firefox account or not. Here are the key features of Firefox Send: •End-to-End Encryption — Firefox Send uses 128-bit AES-GCM encryption via the Web Crypto API to encrypt files in the web browser before uploading them to the server. •Set Time Limit — While uploading the file, you can choose a time range between 5 minutes and week after which your file link expires, making it unable to download at the recipient's end. •Limit Number of Downloads — You can also set a number of file downloads (between 1 and 100 downloads) after which the download link automatically expires. •Set a Password — For an extra layer of security, you can also opt to set a password that would be required before a recipient can download a file. "We know there are several cloud sharing solutions out there, but as a continuation of our mission to bring you more private and safer choices, you can trust that your information is safe with Send," Nick Nguyen, Mozilla's Vice President of Firefox Product, said in a blog post. "As with all Firefox apps and services, Send is Private By Design, meaning all of your files are protected, and we stand by our mission to handle your data privately and securely. Unlike other popular file storage services like Dropbox and Google Drive, Firefox Send does not have any paid option for users, which means you can not buy extra space. Firefox Send has launched on the web at send,firefox,com, which you can bookmark to avoid manually entering the address in your web browser every time you want to send files using the service. The service works with any browser. Besides its online portal, Mozilla is also launching a Send Android app in beta later this week, allowing users to share large files with their friends, colleagues, or anybody else using their mobile devices. If you want to take a peek under the hood, you can head over to the GitHub page of the new Firefox Send service. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRHpEn2eHJA
  9. Various cyber criminal groups and individual hackers are still exploiting a recently patched critical code execution vulnerability in WinRAR, a popular Windows file compression application with 500 million users worldwide. Why? Because the WinRAR software doesn't have an auto-update feature, which, unfortunately, leaves millions of its users vulnerable to cyber attacks. The critical vulnerability (CVE-2018-20250) that was patched late last month by the WinRAR team with the release of WinRAR version 5.70 beta 1 impacts all prior versions of WinRAR released over the past 19 years. For those unaware, the vulnerability is "Absolute Path Traversal" bug that resides in the old third-party library UNACEV2.DLL of WinRAR and allows attackers to extract a compressed executable file from the ACE archive to one of the Windows Startup folders, where the malicious file would automatically run on the next reboot. Therefore, to successfully exploit this vulnerability and take full control over the targeted computers, all an attacker needs to do is just convincing users into opening a maliciously-crafted compressed archive file using WinRAR. Immediately after the details and proof-of-concept (PoC) exploit code went public, malicious attackers started exploiting the vulnerability in a malspam email campaign to install malware on users' computers running the vulnerable version of the software. Now, security researchers from McAfee reported that they identified more than "100 unique exploits and counting" in the first week since the vulnerability was publicly disclosed, with most of the initial targets residing in the United States. One recent campaign spotted by the researchers piggybacks on a bootlegged copy of an Ariana Grande's hit album, which is currently being detected as malware by only 11 security products, whereas 53 antivirus products fail to alert their users at the time of writing. The malicious RAR file (Ariana_Grande-thank_u,_next(2019)_[320].rar) detected by McAfee extracts a list of harmless MP3 files to the victim's download folder but also drops a malicious EXE file to the startup folder, which has been designed to infect the targeted computer with malware. "When a vulnerable version of WinRAR is used to extract the contents of this archive, a malicious payload is created in the Startup folder behind the scenes," the researchers explain. "User Access Control (UAC) is bypassed, so no alert is displayed to the user. The next time the system restarts, the malware is run." Unfortunately, such campaigns are still ongoing, and the best way to protect yourself from such attacks is to update your system by installing the latest version of the WinRAR software as soon as possible and avoid opening files received from unknown sources.
  10. Get paid within seconds, if you don't mind a fee PayPal made it possible for businesses to get paid instantly, but what if you're an individual who just wants funds in a hurry? You might be set after today. The payment service has launched an Instant Transfer option in the US that shuttles money directly to your bank account, not just your debit card. It'll carry a 1 percent transaction fee and isn't worth it in most cases, but it could be vital if you need to pay a bill and would rather wait seconds for your funds instead of hours or days. Businesses will have the option in the weeks ahead. PayPal's Bill Ready told TechCrunch that Instant Transfer for bank accounts is coming to the US through JPMorgan Chase's access to The Clearing House, a platform major banks use for faster payment networks. International availability is in the works, but it would require a significantly different solution. The addition expands the potential audience to people who don't have debit cards. Ready also noted that it could be useful for gig economy workers, freelancers and others who receive irregular pay and may need flexibility in how they receive funds. While this limits the number of people who'll keep their funds in PayPal, it may convince them to use the service where it was too slow before.
  11. It would ban targeted ads and require an 'Eraser Button' for data Some politicians don't believe the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act does enough to protect kids in the modern era, and they're hoping to update it accordingly. Senators Ed Markey and Josh Hawley have introduced a bill that would amend COPPA with stricter controls on kids' data. It would ban ads targeted at kids, and would require an "Eraser Button" that would let kids and parents wipe data. The measure would still ban the collection of personal data for kids under 13 without their parents' consent, but it would also ban collecting data from the 13- to 15-year-old crowd without the user's permission. The bill would also ban the sale of connected toys and other child-oriented devices unless they can meet "robust" security standards, and would require that those devices have a privacy "dashboard" on their packaging that shows how they collect, use and secure data. Companies might also have a tougher time feigning ignorance of underage users: the amendment would change COPPA's requirement for "actual knowledge" of under-13 use to "constructive knowledge." If the bill becomes law, it would give companies a year to implement many of the changes, including a requirement to clearly disclose their data collection. The amendment could have significant ramifications for tech companies. App and website creators would have to create staggered data collection policies, and may need stricter age enforcement verification. You might also see fewer companies making child-focused connected devices, at least not without a better understanding of the risks involved.
  12. Insiders will be able to mirror their phone screens on their PCs thanks to the Your Phone update When Microsoft launched the "Your Phone" app last year, it gave users instant access to their mobile photos and text messages on Windows 10 PCs. And at its Surface launch last fall, it teased at something even better: mirroring and accessing your entire phone via your PC. With this week's Your Phone update, Windows Insiders will finally get to test the "phone screen" mirroring feature. So rather than reach for your phone to respond to a Snap, you'll be able to respond directly from your desktop. There are a few stipulations. You'll need a Windows 10 PC running Windows build 1803 or later and an Android phone running Android version 7.0 or newer. Microsoft specifically says to make sure you've updated to the latest Insider build, and your PC will need to support Bluetooth's low energy peripheral mode. Right now, if you have a Samsung Galaxy S8, S8+, S9, S9+ and a PC that meets the specs, the "phone screen" feature should work. Out of Microsoft's own Surface PCs, the only one that's compatible right now is the Surface Go. Microsoft promises it will update the list of compatible devices as it grows. This is an alternative to running mobile apps on a PC. One of Windows shortcomings as desktop OS has been its lack of touch-friendly apps. If Microsoft can get the "phone screen" feature right, it might make up for this shortcoming. Of course, Microsoft's competitors are working on similar initiatives. Chrome OS has supported Android apps for a few years now, and Apple is making it easier for developers to bring their iOS apps to the Mac.
  13. Disney, Comcast, NBCUniversal, CBS and others want to sell your data to advertisers By now, we're all used to targeted ads on social media. And whether you're comfortable with having your interests shared with advertisers or not, it looks like "addressable advertising" is coming to your smart TV too, sooner rather than later. Several top media companies -- including Disney, Comcast, NBCUniversal, CBS and Discovery -- announced they're teaming up with smart TV company Vizio to develop a new standard that might make commercials feel eerily personal. The companies are calling themselves a consortium, and they've dubbed this "Project OAR," or Open Addressable Ready. Once developed, the new, open standard will make it possible for all connected TV companies to sell targeted ads in scheduled and on-demand programs. While this will theoretically make ads more successful and therefore more valuable, it also means viewers' data will be shared with third parties. That raises the usual data privacy concerns. You may also remember Vizio as the company that got itself in hot water for tracking its customers' viewing histories and selling that data to advertisers -- all without its TV owners' knowledge or permission. The company settled those charges for $2.2 million with the Federal Trade Commission and New Jersey Attorney General in 2017. We can only hope that, after learning that lesson the hard way, Vizio will bake added consent and privacy safeguards into this new standard. According to Adweek, the consortium plans to have a prototype as early as this spring and a working product that can be used by any TV maker by later this year or early next. In the meantime, we're left wondering if targeted television ads will be able to avoid the pitfalls we've seen on social media.
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  15. We bet this doesn't happen often. The Pagani Huarya has a starting price of over $2 million. Most owners wouldn't dare take their cars out in the rain, much less onto a frozen lake. The driver of this Huayra braved the elements, though, and for that we're proud. But things didn't turn out so well for him. The International Concourse of Elegance happened last weekend in the small town of St. Moritz, Switzerland, and a bunch of awesome Italian supercars came out to play. Towards the end of the weekend, temperatures started to rise and the snow started to melt, making traversing the parking area difficult. This Huayra owner quickly got stranded, and it wasn't long before a group of people came to the owner's assistance. After a few tries, the Huayra is eventually freed from its slushy trap, with no visible damage to the car. We suspect the same can't be said for the owner's pride, though. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YwMEzurqPt4
  16. Drones are increasingly used to survey battlefields and spot targets Humans will always make the final decision on whether armed robots can shoot, the US Department of Defense has said. The statement comes as plans emerge for gun platforms that can choose their own targets on the battlefield. The plans seek to upgrade existing aiming systems, using developments in machine intelligence. The US said rules governing armed robots still stood and humans would retain the power to veto their actions. Engage targets The defence department's plans seek to upgrade the current Advanced Targeting and Lethality Automated System (Atlas) used on ground combat vehicles to help human gunners aim. The military is seeking commercial partners to help develop aiming systems to "acquire, identify, and engage targets at least three times faster than the current manual process". And some commentators feared this would mean systems that could choose their own targets and make an autonomous decision to fire. The US Army then updated its proposal, to emphasise the key role of humans in the aiming process. Human involvement It said it remained committed to the rules governing human-robot interaction, known as directive 3000.09, which require a human finger on every trigger. The US Army also said it would issue a series of "talking points" around human-robot interaction to be debated on 12 March, when industry is invited to an open day to explore how Atlas can be updated. The US Army was not putting robots in a position to kill anyone, an official told military news site Defense One. Prof Michael Horowitz, a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania and a senior adjunct fellow at the Center for New American Security, told Defense One: "It is critical that any revisions to the Atlas program... clarify the degree of autonomy and the level of human involvement in the use of force."
  17. Wireless spectrum is the name for the invisible electromagnetic bands that allow wireless devices to talk to each other What's happening? Starting at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Ottawa is auctioning off wireless spectrum in the 600 megahertz range to a dozen companies that will bid on the rights to use airwaves for the next 20 years. The bidders are major wireless firms like Bell, Rogers and Telus, along with nine other smaller companies, all of which are listed on Industry Canada's website. One name noticeably absent from the list is Montreal-based Cogeco Inc., which says it won't be in the running but maintains it is still interested in expanding its wireless service. What is spectrum? Spectrum is the term used to describe electromagnetic waves that travel within a certain wavelength. Spectrum is the invisible signal that allows wireless service providers to transmit data across long distances to cellphones and other internet-connected devices. AM and FM radio travels over a certain part of the wireless spectrum. So do television signals. The band up for grabs on Tuesday is in the 600 megahertz range. Why are companies bidding on it? A quality wireless network runs on a number of different bands, so your device can always get a signal if one of the spectrum bands is temporarily unavailable where you are — in a remote rural area, or several metres below the ground in a downtown parking garage, for example. A reliable network has a good mix of low and high megahertz, because, broadly speaking, the lower the number, the better it is at travelling over long distances and into hard-to-reach places. The higher the number, the better it is at moving large amounts of data. Relatively low-frequency spectrum in the 600 megahertz band is useful for filling in existing network gaps. With more and more internet-connected devices, networks need more and more spectrum to keep that data flowing, no matter where you are. How does the auction work? Starting at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, companies involved in the auction will bid for the rights to use seven blocks of spectrum, in 16 different areas across the country — 112 different blocks in total. Bids will be anonymous, and work on what's called a "combinatorial clock" format. You can read more about the complicated rules here but the gist is that it makes sure winning bidders pay more than the second-place bidders would have paid, but nothing beyond that. It also makes sure companies get multiple blocks of spectrum to ensure they have a big enough network. Similar to previous ones, the auction has been set up, as best as possible, to ensure that incumbents don't gobble up all the spectrum. In this case, three out of the seven spectrum blocks up for grabs in each market have been set aside for new players — meaning Bell, Rogers and Telus can't buy them. That's done to encourage other companies to offer services to compete with them. The rules also stipulate that those newcomers can't turn around and sell their spectrum to the Big Three, at least for the first five years. There are minimum bids in every block up for grabs, too. The minimum bid for a block to service Nunavut and Yukon, for example, is $48,000. But a block of that same spectrum in southern Ontario will cost at least $85,302,000 — because a winning bidder could use that spectrum to sell services to so many more people, thus recouping their investment. When will we know who won? Probably not for a while. To avoid gaming the system — having companies put in bids they don't want, just to drive up the price for a rival — Ottawa is going to stay completely silent about how the process is going until five days after the bidding has ended. Analyst Vince Valentini at TD Bank said in a research note last month he expects the process could take a month or two. In keeping with the slow pace, he also doesn't expect feverish bidding, as some of the big companies will likely be saving their money for higher-band spectrum that's coming down the line. So, why should I care? Well, your wireless service is likely to improve, once bidders start deploying their newfangled spectrum. That means if you're already a wireless customer, you should expect fewer coverage dead zones and dropped calls, even as companies roll out even faster 5G networks. And theoretically, it could give you more options of companies to choose from. A similar auction in 2008 led to the birth of companies like Wind, Public Mobile and Mobilicity. But don't expect your cellphone bill to come down — at least in the short term. Analysts say telecom companies are likely to spend at least $2 billion on this auction, and an outlay like that isn't generally what prompts them to turn around and cut their prices. "It takes a while for this spectrum to be used," says Laura Tribe, executive director of consumer-focused telecom watchdog OpenMedia, but says prices will likely go up before long. Tribe cites recent stories of incumbent players raising their prices on big-data plans, which they launched in late 2017. Companies justified those moves when they were reported because they said they were investing in and updating their infrastructure to give customers better service. "This is a really clear example of what that looks like," Tribe says. She says the auction could be good news for consumers if it manages to get the spectrum in the hands of new companies that can truly shake up the industry. But TD's Vince Valentini says he doesn't expect any new names to step up in a big way. A 2014 auction in which companies spent an average of $2.32 per megahertz pop — an industry metric referring to the amount of bandwidth passing one person in the coverage area in a spectrum licence — raised more than $5 billion. The next year, in 2015, an auction of so-called AWS-3 spectrum, in which Rogers didn't even buy, raised $2.1 billion, or an average of $1.49 per megahertz pop. Valentini doesn't expect the per person price tag for this batch to go up. "We would be shocked and disappointed if anyone coveted this 600 spectrum to the point of paying $3 or more per megahertz pop," he said. "And we see very low odds of new entrants trying to disrupt the bidding outside of their current wireless footprints."
  18. Do you always think twice before installing Windows updates worrying that it could crash your system or leave it non-working the day after Patch Tuesdays? Don't worry. Microsoft has addressed this issue by adding a safety measure that would from now onwards automatically uninstall buggy software updates installed on your system if Windows 10 detects a startup failure, which could be due to incompatibility or issues in new software. A new document published by Microsoft on Monday, a day before this month's Patch Tuesday, says just like Windows "automatically installs updates to keep your device secure and running at peak efficiency," the OS will now run another automatic process to uninstall problematic updates. From now on, if you receive the following notification on your device, that means your Windows 10 computer has recently been recovered from a startup failure. "We removed some recently installed updates to recover your device from a startup failure." If Windows 10 detects this, the operating system will try to resolve the failure by uninstalling recently installed Windows updates, which is only done when all automatic recovery attempts fail. Besides this, if such issues happen, Windows 10 will automatically block installation of the problematic updates for the next 30 days to ensure that your system can start up and continue running just fine. Also in the meantime, Microsoft and its partners can investigate the issue and fix it before the update is delivered to the user again after 30 days. For Windows 10 users who believe that the updates in question should not have been uninstalled, Microsoft allows them to manually install driver or quality updates. However, the tech giant noted that if those updates manage to stop your system from starting up properly even after automatic or manual installation, Windows will uninstall them again. At last, Microsoft also asked Windows users to share their feedbacks using the Feedback Hub so that the company can diagnose and remediate the issues with these updates and work on a fix accordingly. This new safety measure, which comes in action as of today, would definitely help a lot of Windows users deal with problematic updates and associated issues. Let's see how this new system goes as Microsoft is set to roll out the March Patch Tuesday security updates in just a few hours.
  19. A cybersecurity researcher who last month warned of a creative phishing campaign has now shared details of a new but similar attack campaign with The Hacker News that has specifically been designed to target mobile users. Just like the previous campaign, the new phishing attack is also based on the idea that a malicious web page could mimic look and feel of the browser window to trick even the most vigilant users into giving away their login credentials to attackers. Antoine Vincent Jebara, co-founder and CEO of password managing software Myki, shared a new video with The Hacker News, demonstrating how attackers can reproduce native iOS behavior, browser URL bar and tab switching animation effects of Safari in a very realistic manner on a web-page to present fake login pages, without actually opening or redirecting users to a new tab. New Phishing Attack Mimics Mobile Browser Animation and Design As you can see in the video, a malicious website that looks like Airbnb prompts users to authenticate using Facebook login, but upon clicking, the page displays a fake tab switching animation video aimed to trick users into thinking that their browsers are behaving normally. "The Facebook login page is also definitely fake and is an overlay over the current page that makes it look like an authentic Facebook page," Jebara said. "From the moment a user accesses the malicious website, they are manipulated into performing actions that seem legitimate, all with the purpose of building up their confidence to submit their Facebook password at the final stage of the attack." If users are not very attentive to details and fail to spot minor differences, they would eventually end up filling the username and password fields on the phishing page, resulting in giving away their social media credentials to the attackers. "This attack is poorly implemented and contains multiple flaws from both a process and design point of view. Login with Facebook prompts are presented as an external window in Safari, not as an additional tab that the user is switched to, as the origin URL still appears in minimized form over the fake Facebook navigation bar," Jebara said. "Although hackers would probably implement this campaign in a more realistic manner, in its current form, a majority of users would fall for this attack, as the details that give it away are relatively subtle, and more importantly, the user is shown specific 'familiar' actions that seem to turn off the part of the brain that doubts the legitimacy of the page." How to Protect Against Such New Form of Phishing Scams It should be noted that such advanced phishing attacks are not limited to Facebook, Safari browser or just to iOS mobile users only, but could very easily be adapted to target Android devices or any other social media site as well. Cybercriminals can target different platforms by creating a website that automatically serves different versions of phishing pages based upon what browser app and mobile device operating system victims use. Since there are no clear guidelines to spot such creative phishing attacks, users are highly recommended to: •Use password managers that only auto-fill credentials on legit domains, helping you avoid giving away credentials to fake websites. •Enable two-factor authentication, wherever available, preventing hackers from accessing your online accounts even if they somehow manage to steal your credentials. Besides this, Jebara also suggests users ask themselves "Why am I asked to log in?" Or "Am I not already logged in to this?" when hackers try to mimic the logins of popular websites for which you already have an app on your smartphone. Phishing is still one of the most severe threats to users as well as companies, and hackers continue to try new and creative ways to trick you into providing them with your sensitive and financial details that they could later use to steal your money or hack into your online accounts. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWZKUOyz2bg
  20. The system was introduced in 2016, and only recently disclosed The New York City Police Department is using a new software system called Patternizr, which helps officers search through “hundreds of thousands” of case files. The software was developed in house, and allows analysts to search across a wide range of files to look for patterns or similar crimes. Previously, they would have had to have gone through physical files. In one example, officers used the system to connect two crimes — a man who used a syringe to steal a drill in two different Home Depots in New York City. Rebecca Shutt, the crime analyst who solved the case explained to the Post that the system “brought back complaints from other precincts that I wouldn’t have known.” This isn’t a Minority Report-like system that seeks to predict where crimes will occur, nor is it a system that uses AI to parse through CCTV footage. Rather, it’s a system that searches through the NYPD’s databases for patterns, allowing detectives to search from a much wider pool of data in the course of an investigation. The system can help bring in additional sources of information from across the NYPD, making it difficult to see patterns for crimes that might have occurred elsewhere. The NYPD says the department rolled out the software in 2016, but first revealed its existence in an issue of INFORMS Journal on Applied Analytics. According to NYPD assistant commissioner of data analytics Evan Levine, the, and former director of analytics Alex Chohlas-Wood, the department spent two years developing the software, and claim that the NYPD is the first to use such a system in the US. Chohlas-Wood and Levine tell Post that they used 10 years of previously-identified patterns to train the system, and in testing, it “accurately re-created old crime patterns one-third of the time and returned parts of patterns 80 percent of the time.” The Post says that the system doesn’t take a suspect’s race into account in the course of its search, as a precaution against racial biases. The result appears to be one that helps reduce some of the work that’s required for investigators, partially automating a process that has up until now been accomplished manually.
  21. Authorities have arrested one leader of a cryptocurrency project called OneCoin, which prosecutors allege was in fact a pyramid scheme rather than a functional currency. Konstantin Ignatov was arrested on a wire fraud conspiracy charge, while his older sister, Ruja Ignatova, has been indicted for money laundering, and wire and securities fraud, in a document unsealed yesterday. Ignatova is currently at large. OneCoin, a Bulgaria-based company, was founded in 2014 and still has operations running today, according to the indictment. The company gave users a commission if they could convince others to buy OneCoin cryptocurrency, taking the familiar shape of a multi-level marketing scheme. It claimed to have over 3 million members worldwide, despite having no functional blockchain or public ledger. Manhattan attorney Geoffrey Berman says in a government press release that the OneCoin leaders created a multibillion-dollar company “based completely on lies and deceit.” In a brief period between 2014 and 2016, OneCoin made €3.353 billion (roughly $3.7 billion) in revenue. Take the money and run Prosecutors allege that the leaders lied to investors to inflate the value of a OneCoin from half a euro ($0.56) to almost 30 euros ($33.65) as of January this year. In reality, the leaders of the project emailed each other saying that they planned to “take the money and run and blame someone else for this.” “These defendants executed an old-school pyramid scheme on a new-school platform,” New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in a statement. US authorities found in their investigation that OneCoin claimed to have a digital ledger for recording cryptocurrency transactions, but there wasn’t a public one that could be verified. In 2015, Ignatova started to give members of her project fake OneCoin tokens to sell, aptly calling them “fake coins.” “If you are here to cash out ... you don’t understand what this project is about” When members of OneCoin recently asked Ignatov when they would be able to cash out on their tokens, he allegedly responded, “if you are here to cash out, leave this room now, because you don’t understand what this project is about.” OneCoin is known to be potentially fraudulent in various countries, including in the UK, Germany, Finland, India, China, and Bulgaria, as noted by CoinDesk. Many authorities have warned about its behaviors and even attempted to halt the company’s operations. Mark Scott, another person who assisted in the OneCoin project, was indicted last summer and faces a maximum of 20 years in prison. Ignatov also faces 20 years in prison, while Ignatova faces five separate charges, which could add to up a maximum of 85 years in prison if she’s found guilty on all counts.
  22. The test can detect a person's risk for the disease decades before symptoms start showing up. Previous attempts to find a cure for Alzheimer's ended up in failure, but a new study out of IBM Research has the potential to spark a major breakthrough. A group of IBM researchers have harnessed the powers of machine learning to figure out a way to detect a biological marker associated with the disease -- a peptide called amyloid-beta -- with a simple blood test. The solution they came up with can even detect an individual's risk for Alzheimer's earlier than a brain scan can and way before symptoms start showing up. It can arm doctors with the ammo they need to be able to take better care of their patients. According to a study published in 2017, the concentration of amyloid-beta in a person's spinal fluid starts changing decades before the first signs of the disease show up. People already experiencing mild cognitive impairment with an abnormal concentration of the peptide in their spinal fluid are apparently 2.5 times more likely to develop the illness. Unfortunately, harvesting spinal fluid for testing is highly invasive, expensive and not ideal for an early detection procedure. What the IBM scientists did was use machine learning to identify the proteins in blood that can predict the concentration of the biomarker in spinal fluid. The company said it's the first time the technology is used for that specific purpose, though we'll likely keep hearing about machine learning in the context of neurodegenerative diseases: IBM aims to continue using AI to help scientists better understand conditions like Alzheimer's. While testing actual spinal fluid will obviously be more accurate, IBM believes its blood test can help predict Alzheimer's risk with an accuracy of up to 77 percent. The method is still in the very early stages of testing, but in the future, scientists could also use it to find appropriate subjects for programs developing a cure. One reason why scientists have yet to find one is because most trial subjects' brains are usually too far gone upon detection. This test can find people in the very early stages of the condition when there's still a chance to slow it down.
  23. Dark mode can make software easier on the eye, give you a refreshing change from the norm, and even save on battery life if you’re using an OLED display—here are all the apps and platforms offering the option of a dark mode right now, and how to enable it in each case. Windows You can enable dark mode on Windows 10 by clicking the cog icon on the Start menu, then choosing Personalization, Colors, and then Dark from the drop-down menu at the top. Pick Custom from the list instead, and you can control dark mode independently at both the OS and app level (if you want Windows itself but not your apps to use it, for instance). Windows apps Some programs on Windows have their own dark modes which you can control on their own. In Mail, for instance, click the cog icon down in the lower left-hand corner, then choose Personalization and tick the Dark mode box. You’ll see there’s another option, Use my Windows mode, which follows whatever the current Windows OS setting is. Open up Microsoft Edge and you’ll find there’s a dark mode here too: Open the app menu (three dots, top right) then choose Settings and pick Dark under Choose a theme. In Microsoft Office, meanwhile, you can open any file in the suite then select File, Options, General and choose either Dark Gray or Black under the Office Theme heading. macOS To turn on dark mode across the whole of macOS Mojave, open up the Apple menu and choose System Preferences. Pick General, then choose Dark from the two options at the top of the dialog box (you can still set accent colors separately). As on Windows, not all programs will necessarily follow your dark mode directive, but the Apple ones will at least. macOS apps You’ve got a few options when it comes to controlling dark mode in individual Apple apps for macOS too. In Mail, for instance, it’s possible to keep the background of messages light independently of the system-wide setting: Choose Mail and Preferences, open up the Viewing tab, and untick the box that’s labeled Use dark backgrounds for messages. It’s the same with Notes—if you don’t like the dark backgrounds dark mode introduces, you can switch back this element via Notes, Preferences, and Use dark backgrounds for note content. In Apple Maps on macOS, meanwhile, you can choose View then untick Use Dark Map to keep using a light map even while the rest of the OS is set to dark mode. Android Android comes in many forms of course, but on the stock, Google-approved Android 9.x Pie you can enable dark mode by going to Settings then choosing Display, Advanced, Device theme and Dark. Unfortunately, individual apps are under no obligation to follow the lead of Android, but some elements (like the quick settings pane) will turn darker. Samsung has its own approach, as you might expect—if you go to Settings on a phone with the latest One UI installed, you can pick Display then Night theme to enable Samsung’s take on the dark mode, which at the moment is more comprehensive in its changes than Google’s own effort. You can add a toggle switch for it to the quick settings pane too. iOS As yet, iOS doesn’t have an official dark mode. The nearest you can get is the invert colors feature, which you can find from Settings by tapping General, Accessibility, then Display Accommodations and Invert Colors—choose Smart Invert to exclude images, media, and dark apps from the inversion, or Classic Invert to invert everything on screen. Facebook Messenger Facebook Messenger just started testing out a dark mode for its mobiles app. You may have noticed it’s hidden at the moment—hidden until you send someone, anyone a crescent emoji. Tap the confirmation dialog that appears to turn on dark mode. Facebook says it’ll be fully rolled out and added to the Settings menu in the coming weeks. YouTube You can enable YouTube’s dark mode on the web (for the current browser only) by clicking your avatar, then Dark theme. In the apps for Android and iOS, you need to go to the Settings pane (tap your avatar to find it), then toggle the Dark theme switch to on. On Android, there’s an extra General screen to tap into before you find the toggle switch. Twitter For Twitter on the web, just click your avatar picture and then Night mode and you’re in. On the mobile apps, you can either tap your avatar then the crescent moon icon (bottom left), or you can choose Settings and privacy, Display and sound, and turn the Night mode toggle switch to on. Apparently more dark mode color options might be on the way. Google Chrome Chrome doesn’t have a dark mode per se, but it does have an official Just Black theme. From Settings on the desktop, choose Open Chrome Web Store under Themes then pick Just Black from the gallery. For now, you can’t do the same trick in Chrome for Android or iOS, but dark mode support has been spotted in early beta versions of the mobile browser. Mozilla Firefox Firefox uses themes like Chrome: Choose Add-ons then Themes from the program menu on the desktop, and you can click Enable next to the one you want to use. There’s also an official Enable Night Mode option available on the app menu for Firefox on iOS, but not as yet for Android (you can still install third-party dark themes on Firefox for Android). Wikipedia Wikipedia is one of those apps where you might be doing a lot of reading, and a dark mode can help: From the app Settings screen on Android, tap App theme to choose between Light, Dark, and Black; on iOS, from Settings tap Reading preferences to choose Default, Sepia, Dark, or Black. For the time being there’s no such option available on the web. Slack Slack introduced a dark mode in the beta for Android and iOS over the weekend (Windows and macOS users are still out of luck). It’s relatively easy to set up but could take a little while longer to activate than any of the modes above. First, you’ll have to join Slack’s beta program. You can do so by going here for iOS, and here for Android. It can take from a few minutes to a few hours for Slack to note you’ve joined the beta, at which point you’ll find a new version of Slack available to download. Update the app and then navigate Settings and make certain Dark Mode is enabled. And the rest... We can’t go through every single app for Android and iOS with a dark mode, but those are the main ones. Have a dig into the apps you’ve got set up—more of them have the option than you might think. More developers are embracing dark mode all the time as well: It’s even rumored to be on the way for WhatsApp.
  24. A race is on to build a fleet of solar-powered drones that beam internet down to the Earth beneath them, and the tech titans are dominating this chase—or so we thought. But now that Google and Facebook both have dashed their plans for roaming unmanned internet planes, a lesser known company is partnering with NASA to bring the project closer to reality, according to an IEEE Spectrum report. It is the Hawk 30, a massive 10-engine drone in the vein of previous UAVs made by Airbus and the solar-powered Odysseus plane that can fly for months on end. The product of Japanese tech giant SoftBank and U.S. drone manufacturer AeroEnvironment, the Hawk could soon embark on test flights, with a launch from NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center potentially slated for this week. The Hawk, though part of a new $65 million partnership between the two companies, is part of the same family as previous UAVs AeroEnvironment built for NASA. One of those was the Helios prototype, which crashed in 2003 during a high-altitude test. The Hawk mirrors its ill-fated predecessor in both ambition and design. In 2001, the Helios reached the highest altitude of any winged horizontal aircraft when it ascended to 93,000 feet. The milestone set a new precedent for high-altitude, solar aircraft. While it may be years from commercial readiness, the Hawk 30 has big implications for the broadening of wireless connectivity in remote regions, if indeed it can succeed where others have failed: Facebook made a splashy foray into the internet-beaming drone race by announcing Aquila, a solar-powered UAV the size of a Boeing 737's wingspan that used propellers to ply air. (The project was abandoned in 2017 after the drones were damaged in landings). Google too began vetting its sky-born internet capabilities in 2015, but later scrapped drones in favor of Project Loon, which uses high-altitude balloons to beam down internet. The Hawk will still have to fend off competition from the likes of Airbus, but its prospects are lifted by AeroEnvironments connections with NASA. IEEE Spectrum reports the company is contracted with the space agency for three flight tests that will take the drone up to 10,000 feet, with the intention go much higher if initial tests are successful: AeroVironment is paying NASA nearly $800,000 to supervise and provide ground support for the upcoming low altitude tests, which are scheduled to continue until the end of June. If those are successful, the company will go higher in its next round. There's currently no word on the Hawk's communications payload capacity, but its creators certainly hope that it helps expand wireless internet access across the globe. First, though, it will have to make it out of testing unscathed. Source: IEEE Spectrum
  25. Today, Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren published a post on Medium in which she detailed why she wants to break up large Internet companies such as Facebook, Amazon and Google. In her post, she accuses these companies of using their vast resources to shape the playing field and buy up potential competition. Warren has two proposals to counter the influence of these companies. First would be designating large tech platforms as "platform utilities." "These companies would be prohibited from owning both the platform utility and any participants on that platform," Warren says in the Medium post. Second, Warren proposes focusing on the reversal of tech mergers that she calls anti-competitive. The examples she provides are reversing Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods and Facebook's purchase of Instagram, among others. These mergers and acquisitions, Warren posits, illegally undermined competition. These changes would better allow small businesses to compete with Amazon by selling their goods on the company's marketplace, but without the fear that the company would drive them out of business. It would also encourage Facebook to respect its users' privacy, and would prevent Google from downranking competitors' search results. All of this comes at a time when privacy is in the headlines on a daily basis and the Democratic field is wide open. Voters are looking to these potential candidates to see how they'll handle (or remain conspicuously silent) on the issues of these tech giants, which are increasingly dominating our everyday lives and internet experiences. As The New York Times notes, Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar have both made comments about limiting these tech companies, while Kamala Harris has expressed privacy concerns but hasn't spoken on specifically curbing influence. Cory Booker, meanwhile, is more comfortable with these large tech companies.
  26. From left, UNB engineering students Amy Andrews, Kaitlin MacIsaac, Phoenix Bard-Cavers and Bridget McCloskey. MacIsaac is holding the tracking device the team built Engineering students at UNB are developing a smart life jacket they believe could save lives by automatically sending a signal from someone who has gone overboard to nearby vessels and the Coast Guard. Amy Andrews and Bridget McCloskey are both from Charlottetown while their teammates Phoenix Bard-Cavers and Caitlin MacIsaac are from Nova Scotia. "Since we're all from coastal communities ... we all have close ties to the fishing industry," said Andrews from her home in Fredericton. "And we see a lot of accidents unfortunately in that industry, and we don't really see a lot being done to lessen that." 'More efficient finding people' The women are in a technology management and entrepreneurship program at UNB that asks students to design and manufacture what could be a commercially viable product. "The four of us are friends outside of class and we decided we'd give it a shot and see how we could help," Andrews said. They came up with an inflatable life vest with a built-in tracking device — they call it the LifeTrack Outlast life jacket. A lot of people have probably thought 'Oh that would be great to have' but no one's really moved forward with it. "Basically if you fall off a vessel and hit the water, the life jacket will inflate," said McCloskey. "If you're in a safe area, you have 30 seconds to cancel the message, so if someone's pulling you out you can cancel it. "But if you don't cancel that message it'll send out an emergency distress message over marine radio. So that'll be able to be received by nearby vessels or the Coast Guard as well." The distress signal will include the person's GPS location. "It would just ... make it so much more efficient finding people," Andrews added. 'Increase their chances of survival' They are aiming their product primarily at the commercial fishing industry. "A lot of people don't wear life jackets when they're on the water unfortunately. So we're trying to find a way to make a more comfortable life jacket that people will wear but will also give them added features to increase their chances of survival if they happen to be in an emergency situation overboard," Andrews said. With that in mind, the group surveyed some Maritime fishermen and asked them what would make them more likely to wear a life vest, as well as to safety associations. "Unfortunately you run into the problem of a fisherman who has been fishing for ages and don't see the need to wear one which is pretty hard to change their mind," Andrews said. Other factors were that life jackets can limit mobility or get snagged on equipment — plus, they can be hot in summer. 'Hopefully more people will use them' "We're trying to make it that easy to keep people safe though, so hopefully more people will use them," Andrews said. They're planning to make them from soft, stretchy neoprene fabric with the idea that fishermen would wear them over their gear, Andrews said, so it shouldn't obstruct movements when working on a boat. It would inflate automatically if a fisherman went overboard. They don't have a final prototype yet, but are working toward having a draft version in the next few weeks so they can present it at UNB's annual Engineering Design Symposium April 4 at the Fredericton Convention Centre. That's where final-year engineering students demonstrate their designs and prototypes to the community. 'Huge value-added feature' They don't have a price finalized for the smart life jackets, but Andrews said they're looking at about $400, which is just slightly more than some other self-inflatable vests. "People are paying for those with just the inflatable life jacket — that doesn't include anything for communications systems at all. So it would be a huge value-added feature," said Andrews. Andrews said fishermen have encouraged them to develop the product. "They all seem very optimistic, they are very excited that there was an option," said Andrews. Initial response from the Maritime Fishermen's Union, which has 1,300 members in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, was positive. "Anything that is going to save lives in the fishing industry is really really important," said the union's Ruth Inniss. "Last year we had an abysmal amount of accidents, deaths ... and that's really unacceptable." Fishermen are required by law to wear life jackets in Nova Scotia but not on P.E.I. or New Brunswick. The team will soon be at a crucial point: they're all in their final year of studies, but they could continue to develop the life jacket through a UNB summer program and possibly through a special master's program next year. "I think it would be very exciting to move forward with it because I think it would be a really important piece of technology for people to have," said Andrews. "It's one of those ideas that I think a lot of people have probably thought 'Oh that would be great to have' but no one's really moved forward with it. It would be pretty cool to be part of that." If this design is successful, Andrews said they could look at designs for the recreational boating market as well. "This is just our first prototype hopefully," she said.
  27. The murky world of social media influencers is providing an outlet for weed companies to advertise their products and services Every industry has its influencers. There are beauty influencers, wellness influencers – and weed influencers. Weed influencers use social media to post about anything weed-adjacent. Sometimes that’s discussing specific strains, recommending stores in their areas to get paraphernalia or products from, or reviewing equipment or edibles. They tend to be young women and mainly post on YouTube and Instagram. “They appear to be getting products for free from various shops, and doing reviews and giveaways,” says James Lange, a researcher at San Diego State University who has been following drug use in online videos for several years. “But when you look at the style of videos and the types of people who are doing well, they fit into what you’d expect from just about any other similar content: young, attractive and upbeat.” Some weed influencers post confessional videos, like talking about their breakup while smoking a joint, while others offer more straightforward reviews, such as comparing different pipes. Some advocate for more lenient laws and talk about incarceration rates. There are even recorded “potcasts”. Much like in the influencer-friendly world of beauty, some in the scene are starting to offer their own subscription boxes, where you can get a box of cannabis-related products delivered to your door once or twice a month. The Hippie Butler, one of earliest producers of such services, offers boxes containing grinders, gifts and snacks for munchies. Others have Patreon accounts where fans can sponsor them directly. One reason weed influencers are on the up is the difficulty of marketing cannabis even in places it has been legalised, including Canada and certain US states. (In the UK, cannabis remains illegal except for specific medical purposes.) In the US, cannabis agencies and companies can’t advertise on TV in states where more than 30 per cent of the population is likely to be under 21. In Canada, adult use products have to be sold in plain packaging, and can’t suggest the promise of a glamorous or dangerous lifestyle. Social media platforms also have their own restrictions on advertising. “Traditional media and paid advertising are completely out of the picture – no Facebook, no Instagram, no Google ads,” says Jared Mirsky, who runs marketing for Wick and Mortar, a cannabis branding agency. “The laws are continually changing. So there is no one distinct set of challenges which we face, but dozens – so cannabis is one of the most difficult legal products in the world to market.” Not being able to advertise directly means cannabis companies need to be more creative. “We have to think outside the box, and come up with campaigns that won’t get flagged or negative attention – so staying really smart and educational,” says Olivia Mannix from the advertising agency Cannabrand. “We use influencers with tens of thousands of followers to those with millions of followers, so the brand would pay to have their product in an Instagram post or story, to make it very organic. People don’t like to be advertised to, so when they’re seeing something that an influencer is using, they’re going to want to have that.” Jonathan, a Canadian influencer who posts on Instagram under @weedstagram416, says that he used to post just about the products he loved but that brands then started coming to him. “As I grew my page towards medical home growing and education, it opened many new doors for brands to come along with me,” he says. “They felt comfortable with knowing exactly what I would deliver, content-wise.” But it’s not like influencers get a free pass. After the federal cannabis act passed in Canada in October, which came with specific restrictions on advertising, Jonathan says he stopped taking payment, just to be on the safe side. Additionally, Facebook and Instagram don’t allow cannabis products to be featured in paid sponsored posts, and posting content which appears to promote drug use is still against the sites’ terms of service, even for posts that aren’t advertisements. That doesn’t mean it never happens, however, and some complain that these regulations are unevenly enforced. Bess Byers, who posts at @imcannabess on Instagram, also works in the cannabis industry as a photographer and consultant. She had her account with 90,000 followers initially deactivated on August 1, 2018. A timeline on her blog details the numerous reactivations and deletions since, which now number eight. “Instagram has been on this weird kind of purge which they’ve always had, but it’s picked up steam in the last few months,” she says. Instagram says that its community operations team reviews millions of reports a week, and that if a mistake is made, they work quickly to rectify the error. The company also says that buying or selling illegal or prescription drugs on Instagram is prohibited, and that it encourages anyone who comes across content like this to report it. Lange says that some of the earliest content came from YouTubers in US states that had legalised medical cannabis. Many of those users took care to ensure that they were using medical terms to avoid the perception that they were selling cannabis, although they may have been doing so indirectly. “As legalisation of adult non-medical use started to spread, the language around medical use dropped for some,” says Lange. “But it’s also clear that some of the channels have been quashed by YouTube.” On YouTube, weed YouTubers have said they would wake up to find that their friends’ accounts, and eventually their own, deleted overnight, often having videos from two or three years ago flagged up as violating the site’s terms of service. As a result, some YouTubers got together to form The Weed Tube, a video streaming platform that has videos of people using cannabis and doing popular challenges with a cannabis twist. Other influencers have come up with ways to try to avoid falling foul of restrictions, such as putting “adult only” disclaimers on their profile. In response, YouTube said, "We prohibit content offering the sale of certain highly regulated substances, like marijuana. When we’re made aware of this type of content, we remove it." For marketing agencies and companies selling cannabis products, influencers have been a boon – a creative way to get around regulations, with the added impression of authenticity. Typically, the more people that are looking at your product, or your posts, the better. But as public and legal attitudes to cannabis have shifted, the subcultures immersed in it are being subject to more scrutiny than before. For some, that could cause a huge dent – from revenue, to followers, to brand recognition. But cannabis influencers have taken on educational roles too, giving people information about how to avoid sketchy companies, or how to best ease into trying different products or strains. That information is often difficult to find elsewhere – government guidance barely scratches the surface of what the regular consumer wants to know. If the purges of cannabis influencers continue for much longer, that could be bad news for the rest of us.
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