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  1. Yesterday
  2. Private tweets sent by users of Twitter's Android app could have been exposed publicly for years. Twitter said it had discovered a security flaw which meant "protected" tweets became public when some changes were made to accounts. Anyone who updated the email address linked to their account between November 2014 and January 2019 could have had messages exposed, it said. Twitter said it had started to let affected users know about the bug.It added that it had turned the protections back on for Android users who had inadvertently switched them off. Twitter said it was also issuing a public notice about the error because it could not confirm the exact number of accounts that had been affected and wanted to reach those it could not identify by an internal investigation. "We're very sorry this happened and we're conducting a full review to help prevent this from happening again," it said. It encouraged users to check their privacy settings to make sure they reflected their preferences. Twitter said it fixed the flaw on 14 January and would share more information if it became available.Anyone who used Twitter via an Apple device or through the web would not have been caught out by the bug.
  3. A 41-year-old man accused of using the hit video game Fortnite to initiate sexual activity with children has been arrested in Florida.Anthony Gene Thomas of Broward County is accused of unlawful sex with a minor and possessing indecent images and videos of at least one victim. According to police, an accomplice used Fortnite's voice chat to meet children and introduce them to Mr Thomas.Police believe there could be up to 20 additional victims. "This case is disturbing not only because it involves child pornography, but also because a popular online game was used to communicate with the victim," said Florida attorney general Ashley Moody in a statement. "Parents need to know that predators will use any means possible to target and exploit a child. I am asking parents and guardians to please make sure you know who your children meet online, and talk to them about sexual predators." Ms Moody has urged any other victims to get in touch with the police. Chat warning Mr Thomas allegedly groomed the 17-year-old victim using cash and gifts, one of which was a mobile phone which allowed him to contact the child. This led to a face-to-face meeting in late August 2018, after which Mr Thomas and his collaborator drove the minor to Mr Thomas's home, where the sexual offences were committed. The parents reported the child missing and police later located and returned the teenager home. The victim remained in contact with Mr Thomas, claims the Florida attorney general, which led police to search Mr Thomas's home and seize his phone. Analysis of the device revealed pornographic pictures and videos of the victim. Fortnite's Battle Royale mode is an online multiplayer game in which 100 players fight for survival, with the winner being the last person standing. Players can also team up with friends or strangers and work together. As in many other online games, players who have joined a squad can talk to one another using unmoderated voice chat. However, the voice chat can also be disabled in the settings menu. In May last year, the NSPCC issued a warning about the chat systems in Fortnite, saying they left children open to being contacted by strangers. It advised parents to turn off the game's voice chat system but warned that the text messaging feature could not be disabled.
  4. The killer gave away scouting missions through technological carelessness. An alleged hitman has learned hard lessons about the the value of GPS data on fitness watches. A Liverpool jury has found Mark Fellows guilty of the 2015 murder of mob boss Paul Massey in part thanks to location info from the accused's Garmin Forerunner. An expert inspecting the watch's info discovered that Fellows had recorded a 35-minute trip that took him to a field just outside Massey's home ahead of the murder. He appeared to be scouting the route he would take later to perform the hit, a claim supported by cell site and CCTV evidence showing Fellows driving his car past Massey's house numerous times in the week before the slaying. Massey's murder had gone unsolved until the 2018 killing of his associate John Kinsella, where surveillance footage showed Fellows biking a similar scouting route before pulling the trigger. That led law enforcement to see if there were any connections to the Massey case. Fellows had a GPS jammer in his car when police investigated in 2018, suggesting that he knew enough to avoid location data at some point -- just not while he was scouting Massey three years earlier. The judge in the case has sentenced Fellows to life in prison. While there likely won't be anyone lamenting Fellows' mistake, his conviction illustrates how many people don't think about the positioning info their devices collect. Whether or not that information reaches the internet (it didn't here), it still creates a record that you might not want to keep.
  5. The belt lets robots know a human is in the area to avoid any collisions. Amazon is using an electric vest to help improve worker safety when dealing with automated systems and robots inside its warehouses, according to a report from TechCrunch. The Robotic Tech Vest, which is really just a pair of suspenders connected to a belt, signals to robots that a human is entering a space to avoid any sort of collision. The way the so-called vest works is by arming human workers with sensors that can communicate with robotic systems. On occasion, a human worker will need to enter an area primarily dominated by automated machines in order to perform maintenance or to pick up items that have fallen to the floor. With the vest on, robots can detect the human presence and adjust their behaviors. The bots will slow down and steer away from humans, allowing work to continue rather than shutting down the operation entirely for a quick fix. Amazon's sensor-filled belt solution comes just one month after a robot-involved accident in one of the company's warehouses resulted in the hospitalization of 24 workers. Reports at the time indicated that one of Amazon's robots managed to puncture a can of bear repellant and release the spray inside the warehouse. More than 50 workers in total were affected by the incident.
  6. You can run but you can't hide from internet price hikes. That's what Sean Barry in Powell River, B.C., learned after leaving his provider, Shaw, following a couple of price increases. He switched to competitor Telus in September only to discover that the cost of his current Telus internet plan is also going up — by $5 a month. "I am choked over the increase so soon," said the 71-year-old Barry, who lives on a fixed income. "Every year it just goes up and up and up." Telus, Bell and Shaw are all raising prices on select internet plans over the next few months. The hikes come on the heels of internet price increases by Telus, Shaw, Bell and Rogers in 2018. Meanwhile, Canadians are living more of their lives online and signing up in record numbers for internet service, driving up revenues for providers. "They can do whatever they want; it's big business," said Barry. "We've just got to suck it up." Price hike roundup Beginning on Feb. 25, Telus will hike rates on internet plans by $2 to $5 a month. On Feb. 1, Bell will raise internet prices by $5 a month for Bell Aliant customers in Atlantic Canada. In Ontario and Quebec, the telco is hiking various internet plans by up to $6 a month as of March 1. "I laughed, because I pretty much knew it was coming," said Christopher Provias, of Welland, Ont., after learning that he's facing a $5 monthly increase on his Bell internet bill. "It's pretty much like clockwork." On April 1, Shaw also plans to raise rates on select internet plans. The telco declined to say by how much prices are going up. Why raise prices? In 2017, home internet was the fastest-growing sector of all telecommunications services. According to the latest Communications Monitoring Report by the CRTC, Canada's telecom regulator, 86 per cent of Canadian households subscribed to home internet service in 2017, up almost four per cent from 2016. Canadians are also demanding faster internet speeds with more data — average monthly data use for high-speed users jumped by a whopping 30 per cent in 2017 compared to 2016. Bell, Telus and Shaw say they have to raise rates to continually improve their networks to accommodate growing demand. Bell said customers' internet usage has increased by more than 500 per cent over the past five years. "Our costs to meet that demand and provide customers with the best experience possible also continue to rise," said spokesperson Nathan Gibson in an email. Industry analyst Dwayne Winseck acknowledges that the big telcos are investing significant amounts in their networks. But he says that's not the only reason customers face higher internet bills. "These price increases are at least as much, if not more, about protecting very high operating profits," says Winseck, a professor at Carleton University's School of Journalism and Communication. According to the CRTC report, residential internet service revenues, including applications, equipment and other related services, totalled $9.1 billion in 2017 — an 8.8 per cent increase over 2017. In a notice sent to customers facing price hikes, Bell said it invested $4 billion in its infrastructure last year. But that's cold comfort for Dennis Fitt, of Truro, N.S., who's facing a monthly increase of $9 come February for his bundled internet, phone and TV service with Bell. "Their profits aren't enough to cover the infastructure — this $4 billion that I have to pay for now?" said Fitt, whose family of six relies on internet for both their TV and phone service. Because the internet has become so important in Canadians' lives, Fitt believes the CRTC should do something to ensure prices don't get out of control. "The CRTC should call [the internet] a necessity, and at that point they should be able to regulate it a lot more than they do now." The telecom regulator is currently exploring an internet code of conduct to address a growing number of complaints from Canadians about their internet service. While there's no mention of price regulation, the CRTC says the code would include measures to make it easier for consumers to switch providers to take advantage of competitive offers. For Canadians planning to make a switch, there are a growing number of independent internet providers such as TekSavvy, Distributel and Start that offer competitive rates. In 2017, only 13 per cent of Canadian internet subscribers were signed up with an independent, according to the CRTC report. Reasons for the modest uptake include the fact that many are unaware of Canada's smaller providers or are fearful of switching to a lesser-known company. Others believe they're better off bundling their internet with other services at a discount with one of the major telcos. Barry in Powell River says because he has a promotional deal with Telus, if he cancelled his internet, he'd likely face a bigger bill for his phone and TV service with the company "They've got you coming and going," he said.
  7. Last week
  8. You Locked Yourself Out of Your Phone, Now What? Other than remembering your PIN a little better next time. The lock on your phone is designed to keep unwelcome visitors from taking a peek at your texts, photos, and banking apps, but the same security measures can sometimes lock you out of your own phone. Don't panic, because there are ways to regain access. Here's what you need to do. The bad news: Wiping your phone There’s no magic combination to get back in or to reset the timer for how long until you try the code again. Otherwise, that lock wouldn't be much use in the first place. Unfortunately, without the aid of military-grade forensics software, the only way to get back control of your device is to wipe it and start over from the original factory settings. Your phone will be back in the state it was when you first bought it. What to do next For an iPhone, connect it to a computer running iTunes — if you don’t have one, you can go to an Apple Store and use one there. Once connected, force restart the iPhone. For iPhone 8 and X or later, press and release Volume Up, then press and release Volume Down, then hold Sleep/Wake until the phone says that it’s in recovery mode. For the iPhone 7, press and hold Sleep/Wake and Volume Down until you see it go into recovery mode. For the iPhone 6 and earlier, hold the Home Button on the bottom, and Sleep/Wake. The computer will ask if you want to Restore or Update. Choose Restore. On stock Android and most Android phones, turn off the device, then press and hold the Volume Down and Power (Sleep/Wake) buttons simultaneously to reboot the phone into a special diagnostics mode. Tap Volume Down to highlight Recovery Mode option, then Power to select it. When it starts to robot, press and hold Power and tap Volume Up. Highlight the Wipe Data/Factory Reset option, then press Power to confirm. Press Volume Down to choose Yes. Once the phone has been wiped, press Power to reboot the phone. The process varies slightly between Android phone manufacturers so if you get stuck, look up the method for your specific model. From here, you can set the phone up as new, or restore it from a backup (both Google and Apple have official guides). We recommend setting up as new. This gets rid of old software, and starting with the latest versions of the apps you use will help it run better. What to do in the future Don't be put off protecting your phone with a PIN or pattern in the future — it's all that's standing between your personal data and apps and someone who might pick up your phone after you've dropped it on the street. Just make sure you backup everything in case you forget the code. If your phone has the option, switch on a biometric alternative, like a fingerprint or face scan. You’ll still need a core password to secure the phone, but it makes unlocking faster. On iPhones, this is under the Passcode section of Settings. On Android, it’s under the Security section of Settings. Android also features a useful feature called Smart Lock, which you can find under the same Security menu in Settings. You can have the PIN code (or fingerprint requirement) disabled when your phone is in a trusted location (like your home) or connected to a trusted Bluetooth device (like your Amazon Echo). The most recent versions of Android have added on-body detection, so your device isn't locked when it's on you (based on its movement), and voice detection, so you can unlock your phone by talking to it. Some of these Smart Lock options could give you an alternative option to unlock your phone in a pinch, but they could also mean you'll be typing in your PIN less and making you more liable to forget it. So maybe write it down, too.
  9. Got a new laptop and ready to get to work? You're going to need a few things first. Ignore the hate from YouTuber critics and tech reviewers. The latest MacBooks are incredible machines and still an easy recommendation for anyone who needs a great, reliable computer. It is true, though, that some of the quirks—especially a lack of ports—make the machines a little trickier to use. So to get the most out of your MacBook, you'll need a few core accessories. A Do-Anything Adapter (The Dongle): Satechi V2 The biggest difference/inconvenience of modern MacBooks is that the only ports are USB-C (and a 3.5mm headphone jack). No SD card slot, no regular USB-A port, no HDMI video output. Someday, everything will be either wireless, or work with a USB-C plug. But that day is not today. To work with cameras, Ethernet internet connections and networking, or projecting your laptop onto big displays via HDMI requires an adapter. Problem is, USB-C is a complicated technology, and there’s a lot of junk out there. Satechi’s, however, hasn’t failed us yet. And unlike other adapters, it has a USB-C port. Sounds ridiculous, but for the plain MacBook with only one port, that means you can charge the laptop while using the adapter. A Protective Sleeve: Incase Classic A basic sleeve will help protect from drops and scratches and is worth having even if your shoulder bag has a dedicated laptop slot. Incase is a regular favorite for nailing the fit around every model MacBook, sturdy YKK zippers, and slim but protective padding around all sides. A Backup Battery: Mophie Powerstation AC If you work with video or otherwise wear down your MacBook battery and don’t have access to outlets, this big battery will give you extra hours of use. It charges via USB-C, so you can use the same plug and cable that you use on the MacBook to charge the Sherpa. Be warned, though: for MacBook Pros, anything less than wall power will have a hard time doing more than keeping the power level at the same percentage. Portable power works best if you are on the move and charge the laptop while it’s closed and asleep. Wireless Headphones: Jabra Move Style A recent update to our go-to over-ear headphones means longer battery life and more colors. But even the regular Move headphones are great. These sound and fit way better than anything around the $100 mark should, and are a great value for anyone who needs a pair of wireless headphones. A Monitor: Acer H277HU This is actually a more difficult decision than you’d expect. Mac compatibility, especially with USB-C-only cable connections, can be difficult. Dell monitors, for example, have had issues with resolution when we’ve tested them. Acer’s 27-inch USB-C model, however, works well with MacBooks and can use USB-C, so you need only one wire for data and to keep your laptop charged. Its performance will satisfy almost all users, but anyone editing video should spend a few hundred bucks more for LG’s UltraFine series. A Keyboard: Logitech K380 Among the complaints about the newest MacBooks: that shallow keyboard. The Logitech will last forever (we have a Logitech K811 at the office that’s going on seven years), you can use it with multiple devices, and it’ll last for weeks without needing a charge. A Mouse: Apple Magic Trackpad 2 If you’re accustomed to the swipe and drag gestures to go between desktops and apps, this is the way to keep up with that interface. If you want a traditional mouse, skip Apple’s model and go for the Logitech MX Master. It’s fully customizable and more comfortable to use for long periods than just about any other traditional mouse.
  10. The conscious uncoupling begins in the latest test build. Microsoft is splitting up search and voice assistant Cortana in Windows 10, giving each their own spot on the taskbar in the latest build for Windows Insiders testers. The change should go live for everyone in the next major update to Windows 10, which is planned for April. The move, according to Microsoft, should improve both functions as it "will enable each experience to innovate independently to best serve their target audiences and use cases." The search box will be solely for text queries, while Cortana will of course handle voice queries. Microsoft has placed more focus on improving search lately. It merged the function across Windows 10, Bing, Office and Edge, and released a more powerful search tool in the Office app. Elsewhere in the latest preview build, you'll be able to install font files simply by dragging them onto the fonts settings page, while Microsoft is changing how the Start menu works. It will run on its own process, so if it's affected by any problems, they should have a smaller impact on other parts of your system.
  11. You bought your parents / grandparents / other relatives a new computer, set it up, and showed them all of its nifty new features. You’ve gone home, knowing that you’ve made them very happy. But, deep down, you know that this isn’t the end of the story. It’s not going to be long before that dreaded call comes in asking for support. “I can’t find the draft of the email I started!” “Why can’t I make a Skype call?” “My speaker / mouse / keyboard isn’t working!” They’re going to want you to come over as soon as possible to fix the problem or to talk them through a fix, and both of those activities are probably going to take several hours out of your day. But there is a solution. If both you and your troubled relative use the Chrome browser (or own a Chromebook), you can use the Chrome Remote app to easily gain temporary control of their computer to either fix the issue or show them what to do. It’s available for PCs, Macs, Linux systems, and Chromebooks; there are also separate apps for iOS and Android. Sharing via another computer To take control of a client computer using another computer, you first need to download the Chrome Remote Desktop app from the Chrome Web Store. Once it’s installed, click on the app. A pop-up window gives you three choices: Chrome Remote Desktop•Share this computer for another user to see and control (accompanied by an easy-to-see green button labeled “Share”) •See and control a shared computer (accompanied by a slightly less obvious button labeled “Access” •Access your own computer from anywhere (accompanied by a button labeled “Get started”) If you’re helping a less technically inclined friend or relative, it’s the first two (which appear under the subhead “Remote Assistance”) that you’ll need. Assuming you were smart enough to install Chrome Remote Desktop on their system before you gifted it to them, get on the phone and tell them to press the big green “Share” button. (If this is the initial time they are using it, they will first be directed to download the Chrome Remote Desktop Host Installer. However, that is a one-time process.) Chrome Remote Desktop generated code When they click on the green “Share” button, they will get a 12-digit randomly generated numerical code. That’s your cue to click on the “Access” button. Have your friend or relative call or text you the code, and type it into the pop-up box. The other person will get a box that asks “Would you like to allow to see and control your computer?” They have the choice to Share or Cancel. Assuming they’ve selected Share, you will now have control of their computer. The other person never loses control, but you can do anything they can from your computer, including showing them how to set up Skype or finding the email they accidentally deleted. Chrome Remote Desktop sharing screen As long as the screen is being shared, there will be a small box reminding both you and the other person of that fact. And after a few minutes, there will be a “timeout” warning on the client system, which will have to be clicked on or the connection will be lost. This is a safety feature, although it can become irritating if you’re in for a long session. There is a way around that, but it will only work in some cases. Remember that “Access your own computer from anywhere link” on the first Remote Desktop window? Click on that “Get started” button. You’ll be asked to enable remote connections and to provide a PIN for security. Once that’s done, you can then use Remote Desktop from another computer by simply going to Remote Access, finding the system on the list of My Computers, clicking on it, and entering the PIN. Then, there will be no timeouts. However, there is one major caveat: you must be using the same Google account on both systems. Making it mobile The mobile versions of Chrome Remote Desktop also work fairly smoothly once you’ve downloaded the appropriate app. However, keep in mind that you will not be able to see the entire client screen on your phone; you will have to scroll around the display, which may make things a bit difficult. Admittedly, the interface for Remote Desktop could be better. Google may finally be getting that message — there is apparently a beta version in the works — but for now, the above directions are the best way to go. Chrome Remote Desktop isn’t the only remote access software available. For example, Windows has its own Remote Desktop app, and Macs offer a Screen Sharing feature. There are also a number of other apps out there. However, Chrome Remote Desktop makes it simple for people to share screens cross-platform with very little effort.
  12. Consumer advocates and the data-hungry technology industry are drawing early battle lines in advance of an expected fight this year over what kind of federal privacy law the U.S. should have. On Thursday, more than a dozen privacy organizations unveiled a plan that would create a new federal data-protection agency focused on regulating the way businesses and other organizations collect and make use of personal data, even if aggregated or anonymized. The proposal would sideline the Federal Trade Commission, which has limited powers and a mixed record of holding companies to account for privacy problems. On the other side, a think tank backed by Google, Amazon, Microsoft and other major tech companies proposed changes that would still give the industry broad authority to collect and use customer data. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation called for national legislation that would repeal and replace existing privacy laws with a "common set of protections" intended to encourage innovation while also quashing tougher state laws. The U.S. has no overarching national law governing data collection and privacy. Instead, it has a patchwork of federal laws that protect specific types of data, such as consumer health and financial information and the personal data generated by younger children. States have also started to pass their own tougher restrictions. A California measure set to take effect next year, for instance, will let consumers request the data collected from them and to opt out of future collection. Calls for a national privacy law gained force after Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal last year, in which the social media giant was forced to admit that onetime political consultants for the 2016 Trump campaign had improperly accessed the personal information of as many as 87 million users. Continuing revelations of data missteps at Facebook and other big tech companies have bolstered a U.S. reform movement. Its advocates take heart from recent developments in Europe, which last year enacted sweeping privacy regulations that, among other things, require companies to obtain permission before collecting most data. Several U.S. senators — including Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, and Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican — have already introduced draft privacy legislation. "Privacy advocates are fed up with the FTC and with Washington failing to reign in the immense power the big data giants hold," said Jeffrey Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, which helped author the reform proposal. 'Baseline' protections Their proposal would set limits on what data companies can collect and would require firms to consider correcting or deleting personal data upon request. It would also prevent companies from giving customer data to the government unless criminal investigations necessitated it. By contrast, the ITIF report calls for a "grand bargain" that would accept a national privacy law long opposed by industry. In the foundation's proposal, however, this law would establish "baseline" privacy protections across all industries — and would prevent states from enacting stronger measures. "A lot of privacy activists are entrenched in creating ever more complicated rules," Daniel Castro, a co-author of the ITIF report's, said by email. "The only way to simplify these rules is to rewrite them." Privacy experts say the baseline protections in the ITIF proposal still leave consumers at the mercy of big corporations. For instance, its "limited" consumer protections would require individuals to track the companies that collect their data in order to request access or corrections, rather than shifting that burden to companies themselves, said Eric Null, senior policy counsel at the New America think tank's Open Technology Institute. The ITIF proposal would also prevent individual lawsuits against companies accused of misrepresenting or misusing their data, primarily to shield corporations from legal risk. Instead, only government would be empowered to protect individual rights. "A federal privacy law should include the power of a private individual to bring legal action," said Adam Schwartz, a lawyer with the Electronic Freedom Foundation, a digital-rights advocacy group. ITIF's plan could potentially start a conversation in Congress over repealing existing federal privacy laws, Null said, but several Democratic lawmakers strongly oppose that. "We should build upon — not dismantle — existing safeguards," said Sen. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, in an emailed statement from his office. Chris Hoofnagle, another privacy researcher at the University of California at Berkeley, called the ITIF offer "laughable," noting that it falls short of the voluntary privacy commitments companies such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon have already made.
  13. Drones would also be allowed to fly overhead and will be further integrated into national airspace. Right on the heels of Canada introducing new, stricter regulations for drone operations, the US Department of Transportation proposed a new set of rules for drones that would allow the unmanned vehicles to fly over populated areas and operate at night. The proposal also includes a pilot program for drone traffic management that would help to integrate the aircrafts into the nation's airspace. Under the proposed rules, the Federal Aviation Administration would no longer require drone operators to get waivers to operate at night. Instead, it would require drones flying after twilight to have an anti-collision light that would make it visible for at least three miles. Pilots operating a drone at night would also have to undergo knowledge testing and training before being cleared to fly. According to the FAA, requests to operate at night are the most common type of waiver it receives. The agency has granted 1,233 waivers and has not recorded any reports of accidents. The new rules would also loosen the restrictions on allowing drones to operate over people. The proposal suggests that unmanned aircrafts weighing less than 0.55 pounds could fly over populated areas without restrictions. Drones weighing more than that would require proof from a manufacturer that a malfunction wouldn't cause severe injury if the drone crashed into a person. Larger drones also would not be allowed to fly overhead if they have exposed rotating parts or if they have any known safety defects. Finally, the FAA announced plans to go forward with a pilot program to further integrate drones into the national airspace shared by airplane traffic. The project will run through September 2019 and will focus on flight planning, communications, aircraft separation and weather services. The program, first developed as a research project by NASA and operated as a joint effort between that agency and the FAA, will be used primarily to gather information that will help set future rules
  14. The bill dictates that public info released by federal agencies should be "machine-readable." POTUS has signed a bill into law that includes the OPEN Government Data Act, following approvals (and amendments) from the Senate and Congress. The sweeping legislation is aimed at making public data released by the government easier to access via smartphones and other electronic devices. It essentially requires that federal agencies publish any "non-sensitive" info in a "machine-readable" format (meaning in a file type that a phone or laptop can process, rather than a raw data dump). The White House announced on Monday that the the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (H.R. 4174) was now the law of the land, title II of which is the OPEN Government Data Act. The Center for Data Innovation think tank hailed the step as "a major bipartisan victory for open data," adding that "the United States has established itself as one of the global leaders in open data." "The government-wide law will transform the way the government collects, publishes, and uses non-sensitive public information," said Sarah Joy Hays, acting executive director of the Data Coalition, a membership-based trade association that worked on Title II. "The OPEN Government Data Act...sets a presumption that all government information should be open data by default: machine-readable and freely-reusable. Our Coalition celebrates the congressional and Executive Branch allies, as well as the open data advocates, who made this possible."
  15. All logins are equal, regardless of whether they're a passcode or a biometric unlock. Authorities can't force people to unlock devices with their faces, fingers or irises, a magistrate judge from California has ruled. Forbes has uncovered a nine-page order denying the search warrant for an investigation looking into a Facebook extortion crime. While the judge admits that investigators were able to establish probable cause for the warrant, she called their request to unlock any phone on the premises with biometrics "overbroad." The request wasn't limited to a particular person or device, and authorities would've been able to get everyone in the house to open their devices. Magistrate judge Kandis Westmore stressed that law enforcement doesn't have the right to force people to unlock their phones even with a warrant, thereby declaring that biometrics are equal to passcodes. Courts commonly allow biometric unlocks, because judges don't consider body parts "testimonial." The reason being, people have to give up passwords and passcodes verbally and willingly, so they're covered under the Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination. Westmore wrote in her ruling: "If a person cannot be compelled to provide a passcode because it is a testimonial communication, a person cannot be compelled to provide one's finger, thumb, iris, face, or other biometric feature to unlock that same device. The undersigned finds that a biometric feature is analogous to the 20 nonverbal, physiological responses elicited during a polygraph test, which are used to determine guilt or innocence, and are considered testimonial." Westmore noted that "technology is outpacing the law" and that the government has other means to solve the case. In this particular instance, investigators can obtain Messenger communications from Facebook itself with a proper warrant under the Stored Communications Act. According to Forbes, Facebook had been willing to hand over messages to authorities for a significant number of previous cases, so there's really no reason investigators can't go that route. While Westmore's decision is out of the norm and can still be overturned, EFF senior staff attorney Andrew Crocker said it's worth noting that "courts are beginning to look at these issues on their own terms."
  16. Set your devices free The smartphone revolution put an amazing amount of computing power into out pockets. But that iPhone you tote around will only what Apple and your carrier allow it to do. You play by their rules. You can download whatever apps you want from the App Store, but you can't download third-party apps Apple hasn't approved. You can tweak the settings menu to your heart's content, but you can't change the rules of Apple's operating system. The desire to defeat these restrictions gave birth to the idea of“jailbreaking”—the process of setting a phone free from the cage that companies build around it. Today, people are still doing it for just about every consumer electronics device there is. Here’s what you need to know. What is jailbreaking, really? One way to think about how a device works from a software security standpoint is to imagine it as a castle. Anyone can do the stuff outside the moat—say, open the internet browser app. The person who owns the phone can get inside the moat—they can download and install apps—and they can even get inside the castle walls, which might be going into settings and making some configurations. But somewhere, in the highest tower, is stuff that only the people who made the device get access to. This is the inner sanctum where the foundational code that determines how the device works lives. When you jailbreak a phone, you’re passing yourself off as someone who can get into every room in the castle, even if you’re just a peasant. That’s why you’ll also hear jailbreaking called “privilege escalation.” Any other names? When it comes to Android devices, you’ll usually hear “rooting” rather than “jailbreaking,” but functionally it's pretty much the same thing. So it’s not just iPhones that can be jailbroken? Nope. You can jailbreak Android phones, too, and pretty much any consumer device you might want to use in a way not intended by its manufacturer. People jailbreak Amazon Firesticks and Roku streaming boxes to run media software they prefer to the built-in apps, and Nintendo Switches to run emulated games. So you can make a jailbroken device run other software? Yes: because you can give a device features it doesn’t have according to the manufacturer’s spec. Take the iPhone. You can add the ability to tether–use the phone’s cellular collection to create a Wi-Fi network other devices can hop on—even if your device and plan don’t allow it. You can install apps that Apple doesn’t allow. You can redesign the look and feel of the OS. Is this legal? If it were up to the manufacturers, it probably wouldn’t be legal. But courts have affirmed that consumers have the right to jailbreak their devices—in the U.S., anyway (make sure to check the laws the cover where you live). That said, if you jailbreak your device, you’ve probably voided the warranty. So is it safe? By circumventing the manufacturer’s software, you’ve also circumvented the manufacturer’s security. You could be opening yourself up to malware and other issues like hacking or privacy violations. Whether or not to jailbreak is really a caveat emptor proposition, and certainly not something for casual or novice users. You're opening Pandora's Box not only for you to play in, but also for anyone else who can gain access to your phone. Also, jailbreaking some devices runs the risk of bricking them if you do it wrong, that is to say completely destroying your device permanently. So be aware of the risks. OK. How do I actually do it? It varies from device to device, but generally speaking: You download a jailbreaking software package, then follow its instructions to get its code implemented on your device. Note that this also varies with each new OS release for your device. Apple, for example, updates its security protocols with each update to iOS, so there’s always a bit of a time lag before there’s new jailbreaking software available, and there's no guarantee that a given device can be jailbroken, but the hackers usually find a way. Just be patient, and of course, be careful.
  17. Earlier
  18. There are plenty of counter-drone weapons to choose from, but all of them have shortcomings. For the second time in less than a month, flights at a major London airport have been halted by drone activity. On Monday evening, departures from Heathrow Airport were stopped for about an hour after a drone sighting nearby with the British military investigating the situation. But at a time when the number of drones—hobbyist and commercial—will only increase, is there anything airports and governments can do to safeguard against delays, and, in the worst circumstances, fatal collisions? It's no secret that a collision between an airliner and a drone could be catastrophic. Even though it's small, these "mechanical geese from hell" pose big threats to a plane's exterior and its engines. Yesterday's disruption at Heathrow has been minor compared to the holiday mess at Gatwick Airport, which shut down after an airport security officer spotted two drones flying over a perimeter road. Over 140,000 passengers had their flights diverted or delayed. Airport operations at Gatwick did not resume until 36 hours after the original incident. Geofencing restrictions built into consumer drones are supposed to stop them from operating in prohibited areas but those safety measures can easily be hacked. New UK laws prohibiting drone use near airports may stop hobbyists, but are clearly not enough to stop malicious users, such as criminals, terrorists, or activists bent on stopping flights. That leaves the use of force. The “military capability” brought in at Gatwick was withdrawn on January 3 and is now at Heathrow. The Ministry of Defence refuses to comment exactly what they are using, but we can gather a pretty good idea of what it is and what it does. There are currently six different ways to take down a drone, and some more plausible than others. Detect, Identify, and Jam Small drones are elusive. Despite 93 credible sightings by witnesses at Gatwick Airport, there was no good video of the drone in action, and drones are just as difficult to spot on radar. Radar to spot and track aircraft is designed to filter out small, slow objects, which were previously most likely to be birds, so special sensors are needed for drones. According to Aviation Week Magazine, the system used at Gatwick was the $6 million Anti-UAV [Unmanned Aerial Vehicle] Defence System or AUDS. This combines a radar sensor from Blighter, a Hawkeye video tracker and thermal imager which can track and classify a drone, and a radio jammer from Enterprise Control Systems. Jammers work by interfering with communications between the operator and the drone. This is fairly easy with commercial drones, which operate on known wavelengths and have no resistance to interference. When a drone loses the radio link, it will attempt to fly back towards the operator to re-establish a connection. If GPS navigation is also jammed, it will usually land on the spot There are many similar drone detection and jamming systems. According to The Times of Israel, the British used the Drone Dome system from Israeli company Rafael at Gatwick, another one combining specialist sensors and jammers. This is certainly possible given that the UK purchased a system earlier in 2018. However, this type of defense works only with consumer drones, which often rely on radio signals. More advanced drones can work on their own; for example, the new Skyraider from Aeryon has a "Dark Mode" for covert operations, flying autonomously with no operator link, while DARPA’s Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment shows how whole swarms of drones can work together when both communications and GPS are jammed. And this capability is only going to spread. Shoot ‘Em Down Police considered trying to shoot down drones at Gatwick, but even that is not as easy as it sounds. While drones have been knocked down with thrown sticks, beer bottles, or by shotgun-wielding neighbors, these are usually slow or stationary drones hovering at short distance. Police at Gatwick were pictured armed with shotguns, which present less of a safety hazard than rifles but are only effective at close range. At an altitude of several hundred feet, and moving at 30 mph, a drone is an extremely challenging target. The U.S. Army’s guidance on tackling small, low, slow drones advises that rather than individual soldiers trying to shoot at the drone, the entire platoon should fire their rifles and machine guns at a fixed point in the sky in the drone’s flight path so it runs into a wall of lead. However, every bullet has to land somewhere, and bullets can be dangerous more than a mile away. Massed firing into the sky in densely populated southern England would be likely to end up with unacceptable collateral damage. Even one broken window would draw unfavorable media attention. Call In R2-D2 Maybe something more advanced than manually aimed bullets is needed. The Phalanx CIWS fitted to U.S. warships is a computer-controlled, radar-guided cannon with an awesome rate of fire. Affectionately known as R2-D2 (and "the Dalek" to UK Royal Navy crews), it spits out 70 20mm rounds a second and can shoot down sea-skimming missiles at the last second before they reach a ship. A modified version, C-RAM, defends U.S. bases from rockets and mortar rounds. CIWS looks ideal for taking out small drones with shells designed to “explode at a certain altitude so as to reduce injuries on the ground.” But any duds would leave an area littered with unexploded ordnance, something that's happened to London before. During World War II, falling anti-aircraft shells sometimes did more damage than the bombers they were supposed to shoot down. For the meantime though, these systems are simply not built to deal with small, slow threats at low levels. Rockets and mortar rounds come in on a high trajectory where they show up well on radar, whereas drones can stay close to the ground. Phalanx would need to be integrated with a new radar/sensor system to cope with the threat, and protecting a major airport like Gatwick would be an expensive proposition. Tangled Up in Nets Nets are safer than bullets or missiles with no risk of collateral damage to the surrounding area. Skywall made by UK company Liteye is a bazooka-like device, which fires a net to entangle a drone and parachute it safely to the ground. There is no danger to anyone underneath and the drone is captured intact for forensic analysis. Other net projectiles range from Skynet 12-gauge shotgun cartridges to 40mm cannon rounds. But high-velocity rounds are dangerous projectiles. Skywall is launched with compressed air, which ensures that it is safe but means that range is limited to about a hundred meters, which would have been of little use to security personnel at Gatwick. Getting a Bit Sci-Fi On its surface, lasers look like the ideal way to counter drone weapons. They are precise enough to hit small, agile targets a mile away, and there is no risk to people or property on the ground. Israeli aerospace outfit Rafael, who make the Drone Dome system allegedly deployed at Gatwick, can also supply a laser "hard kill" anti-drone module. There are a vast number of other counter-drone lasers jostling for room in the marketplace, from the U.S. Army’s own version, to systems from makers like Raytheon and Lockheed Martin and European firms BAE Systems and Rheinmetall. Not to mention similar systems in China and Russia. Lasers have been shooting down drones on test range since 1973, but have not yet been used in action because of a key issue known as "dwell time." Rather than being instantaneous like a bullet, the beam has to stay focused on the drone for a period of time to melt or burn it enough to bring it down. Drones in tests fly in convenient straight lines, an unlikely path for a real target. Military lasers also work on specific, known wavelengths, so operators could coat their drones in protective material to reflect that specific frequency and degrade the laser’s effectiveness. Fighting Fire With Fire In the end, the best way to bring down a drone may be with another drone. An event known as DroneClash, organized in 2018 by Delft University of Technology, challenges developers and engineers to find creative ways to counter threat drones without any risk to bystanders. In last year's competition, teams armed their drones with entangling devices and dart guns or reinforced them for ramming. Dogfighting drones are a cheap, long-range solution which can be directed with high precision. The military has also done something similar. In June 2018, the U.S. Marine Corps fielded a mobile defense system called GBAD with an array of sensors, jammers, and missiles, along with a pod of interceptor drones. These are based on Raytheon’s Coyote drone and are armed with high-explosive warheads. Unlike missiles, the interceptor drones should not present a hazard if they fail to find a target and may even be reusable. No Easy Solution The motives of the drone operators at Gatwick and Heathrow are not known, but another drone incident looks like a near certainty. None of the existing solutions is likely to work on its own. In the future, airports are likely to rely on a variety of drone detection and tracking sensors, backed up by jammers and other systems such as interceptor drones. Cost will be an issue. While big airports like Gatwick and Heathrow may be able to afford several million for drone protection, smaller operators will not have that luxury, simply shifting the problem to the places that are less able to deal with it. Any failure is likely to lead to another shutdown, and at worst, a malicious drone could bring disaster.
  19. Canadian privacy laws mean they first have to ask Bell wants to do tailored marketing that customizes advertising based on people's service usage patterns, similar to the ways that companies like Google and others have been doing for some time. Canada's largest telecommunications group is getting mixed reviews for its plan to follow the lead of companies like Google and Facebook in collecting massive amounts of information about the activities and preferences of its customers. Bell Canada began asking its customers in December for permission to track everything they do with their home and mobile phones, internet, television, apps or any other services they get through Bell or its affiliates. In return, Bell says it will provide advertising and promotions that are more "tailored" to their needs and preferences. "Tailored marketing means Bell will be able to customize advertising based on participant account information and service usage patterns, similar to the ways that companies like Google and others have been doing for some time," the company says in recent notices to customers. Giving away valuable information If given permission, Bell will collect information about its customers' age, gender, billing addresses, and the specific tablet, television or other devices used to access Bell services. It will also collect the "number of messages sent and received, voice minutes, user data consumption and type of connectivity when downloading or streaming." Here's a company that's taking every shred of personal information about me, from all kinds of activities that I engage in, and they're monetizing it. What do I get in return? "Bell's marketing partners will not receive the personal information of program participants; we just deliver the offers relevant to the program participants on their behalf," the company assures customers. Teresa Scassa, who teaches law at the University of Ottawa and holds the Canada Research Chair in Information Law and Policy, says Bell has done a good job of explaining what it wants to do. But Scassa says Bell customers who opt into Bell's new program could be giving away commercially valuable personal information with little to no compensation for increased risks to their privacy and security. "Here's a company that's taking every shred of personal information about me, from all kinds of activities that I engage in, and they're monetizing it. What do I get in return? Better ads? Really? That's it? What about better prices?" Toronto-based consultant Charlie Wilton, whose firm has advised Bell and Rogers in the past, says there's "tonnes" of evidence that consumers are increasingly aware of how valuable their personal information can be. Privacy and security concerns "I mean, in a perfect world, they would give you discounts or they would give you points or things that consumers would more tangibly want, rather than just the elimination of a pain point — which is what they're offering right now," Wilton says. Scassa says there are also privacy and security concerns to consider. At the macro level, Bell's data security could be breached by hackers. At the micro level, she adds, there's the potential for family friction if everybody starts getting ads based on one person's activities. Ads for pornography, birth control or services for victims of abuse could trigger confrontations, for instance. "Some families are open and sharing. Others are fraught with tension and violence," Scassa says. Wilton says a company in Bell's position also runs the risk that customers will feel betrayed if their information is leaked or the advertising they receive is inappropriate. In the age of social media, he says, "one leak or one transgression gets amplified a million times." For its part, Bell spokesman Nathan Gibson notes in an email that its customers aren't required to opt into its new marketing program and they can opt out later by adjusting their instructions to the company. Ads that are relevant to customers "Bell is responsible for delivering the advertising we believe would be most relevant to customers who opt in to the program, rather than the random online ads they would receive otherwise," Gibson says. "Customer information is always protected, enforced by our strict privacy policy and in accordance with all Canadian privacy regulations." Gibson noted that "international competitors like Google or Facebook, who deliver targeted marketing services in this country, are not subject to the rules that we as a Canadian company must and do follow." A spokeswoman for the federal privacy commissioner says that it hasn't received any complaints about Bell's new program. However, Tobi Cohen noted that Bell withdrew and replaced its earlier Relevant Ads Program for its mobile service after the commission concluded in 2015 that dissatisfied consumers shouldn't be required to take the initiative to opt out. Numerous requirements "Following further consultations and discussions with our office, Bell did make improvements and relaunched the program with opt-in consent in 2016," Cohen says. She added that the privacy commission hasn't scrutinized the new "tailored" marketing program but added that the federal privacy law governing private-sector organizations has numerous requirements. Among other things, organizations "need to explain what risks of harm may come to the individual from the collection, use or disclosure of the various information."
  20. The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) asked Canada's Government to require ISPs and other large companies to maintain a Whois database of IP-addresses and numbers. The database, which is already in place, covers recipients of large blocks of IP-numbers, not individuals. This helps to track down copyright infringers but, according to ARIN, its future is at risk. ARIN may not be well known to the wider public, but it provides a crucial service which affects the Internet at large. One of the main tasks of the non-profit organization is to distribute crucial Internet number resources, including IPv4 addresses, IPv6 addresses, and AS numbers. These numbers are not directly allocated to individual end-users. They typically go to large companies including Google and Amazon, Internet registrars, as well as ISPs such as AT&T, Comcast, Bell, and Rogers. For several decades these companies have maintained a voluntary Whois database, keeping track of customers assigned a large block of IP-numbers. Not the average Joe’s Internet connection, but a large university, or a hosting provider, for example. In a letter sent to the Canadian Government as part of the Statutory Review of the Copyright Act, ARIN stresses that the Whois database is an important copyright enforcement tool. “When copyright infringing material or other illicit content is found online, Whois is often the first point of investigation of the source,” ARIN writes. “Law enforcement agencies and private parties with a legal interest can access the Whois database either in accordance with the registrar’s policies, or under judicial order.” Until recently, this Whois database was kept in place by ARIN through a “carrot” and “stick” approach. Companies would regularly come back to request new IP-addresses (carrot), and ARIN would only allocate this if the Whois database was properly maintained (stick). This has worked fine for over thirty years, but the American non-profit fears that their “stick” may no longer be as effective now things are moving to IPv6. Since the IPv4 address pool is exhausted, companies are moving to IPv6 addresses, which are widely available. This means that these companies may not have to return to ARIN for years. Without this pressure, these companies may neglect the Whois database, the organization fears. “ISPs and others will be able to request large blocks IPv6 numbers and may not need to return to ARIN for replenishment for several years. As a result, ARIN will no longer have a mechanism to require compliance with maintaining up to date records of IP dispersals,” the organization writes. “As no other regulatory or other mechanisms exist that would require this information be updated and preserved, it is likely that many organizations will rarely or never do so.” ARIN fears that without a proper Whois database, rogue players could “wreak havoc.” That will make it harder to investigate and stop copyright infringement, as well as other illegal activity. As such, the organization is asking the Canadian Government to “require” companies and ISPs that receive large blocks of numbers to “maintain an up-to-date registry of the assignment of internet numbers.” In addition, the Government shoulds take legislative or regulatory action to ensure that companies which can assign internet numbers to third parties have a legal duty to keep the Whois database up to date. ARIN recommendations This is the first time we’ve seen ARIN getting involved in copyright enforcement discussions at this level. It will be interesting to see how their request will be received. Whether all 5,896 ARIN members stand behind the request is doubtful. Milton Mueller, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology School of Public Policy and a former ARIN advisory committee member, believes that it’s a bad idea to fragment these kinds of policies on a country-to-country basis. Mueller also questions whether most ARIN members stand behind the submission, which was apparently sent in without consulting the organization’s broader base. “I think ARIN’s community would be shocked to see its staff inviting national governments to regulate them without any discussion or vetting of this idea within the community,” he informed The Wire Report. Copyright holders in the United States and abroad will likely welcome the proposal though. For them, Whois data has been a hot topic over the past several months. In addition to the IP-address allocation data, rightsholders are also concerned about the domain name Whois data, which many companies obscured following the implementation of the GDPR, the EU’s new privacy regulation. Update: ARIN’s CEO John Curran rejected the recommendations, which he never approved, according to a follow-up from The Wire Report. Update 2: ARIN states that it will “seek to amend” the submission “to accurately reflect ARIN’s position.”
  21. Following reports that Sony has 'banned' Kodi from its newer TVs, the company has stated that a technical problem is to blame. The electronics giant says it will fix the issue in its next software update. The Kodi team, however, remain skeptical over Sony's explanation. Millions of Internet video consumers favor the open source media player Kodi for its long history and unparalleled flexibility. While perfectly at home playing legitimate content, the tool can also be configured, via third-party addons, to act as a powerful piracy tool. This has led to Kodi being dragged into all kinds of controversies, none of which the official development team encourage or relish. Nevertheless, when a headline features the word ‘Kodi’ these days, trouble is rarely far behind. The latest installment raised its head during the past few days, when the official Kodi team took to Twitter to berate electronics giant Sony. Owners of some of Sony’s latest Android-based TVs had complained of installation issues when attempting to deploy Kodi on their hardware and the feeling was that Sony wasn’t playing fair. After various tests, the Kodi team felt that Android Oreo wasn’t playing a part, since the NVIDIA SHIELD runs on the same Android variant. Only adding to the suspicions were tests carried out by Kodi enthusiasts that suggested that Sony might be blocking Kodi’s Package ID. Indeed, more detailed testing this week seemed to back up that claim, after members of the Kodi team ‘faked’ their Package ID and found that overcame the problem on Sony’s hardware. Sony explained that they do not curate apps and does not have the ability to block them. Since the statement was fairly vague we followed up with more questions and although they still weren’t directly addressed, the company has now provided an explanation. “Thank you for bringing this to our attention,” Sony Electronics said. “After looking into the issue further, we’ve discovered a software issue on our end that is incorrectly classifying Kodi as a kernel object (‘ko’). We are working on a fix for this issue to include in our next software update,” the company added. Kodi development team appeared skeptical of Sony’s explanation and have asked for additional details on the company’s “classification” algorithm. “The real fun thing is: Just changing the PACKAGE_ID is proven to be enough [to solve the issue], so that this ‘classification’ won’t happen anymore,” says Peter Frühberger. “Furthermore, the Fun-Fact: As we have shown, creating a different APK, not Kodi-related, but with the very same PACKAGE_ID Kodi had, causes the same issue. “To be honest – as someone that did PHD studies with pattern classifications and data mining, this sounds really, really odd. I doubt this explanation, but if it’s true – their classificator most likely sucks,” Frühberger added. While there will probably be much additional debate over Sony’s explanation, it does appear that Kodi won’t be blocked forever on the company’s smart TVs, which is probably the end result both the Kodi team and its users had hoped for.
  22. There’s an American flag affixed to a hatch on the International Space Station, circling about 250 miles above the planet. The crew of the first space shuttle mission, STS-1, carried that very flag in 1981. The final shuttle flight, in 2011, left the flag behind in orbit to be claimed by the next crew to fly into space from U.S. soil. After years of radical invention, aerospace design, political feuding, and faith in ingenuity—and eight years since the shuttle retirement—the United States is on the cusp of recapturing the ability to reach space from U.S. soil. Two companies, Boeing and SpaceX, are assembling hardware for testing capsule launches, a dress rehearsal for future crewed flights. It's a big moment for the U.S. For one, the launches represent a break from renting Russian hardware to launch astronauts. With recent feats by China in orbit and on the moon, the impulse among many Americans will be extreme pride verging on jingoism, and the return of the U.S. flag, stranded in orbit for the past eight years, will be a useful symbol. The flights planned from Florida in 2019 will change the way the world approaches human spaceflight. Of course, some pride is warranted. After all, the modern NASA space program is doing something uniquely American—unleashing the private sector by opening space to commercial interests. Instead of owning the spacecraft and rockets, NASA pays for their development and enables companies to sell rides to anyone who wants a ticket. But it's crucial that this achievement not be lost amid the flag-waving. There’s more at stake with these human launches than feeling good about the U.S. The flights planned from Florida in 2019 will change the way the world approaches human spaceflight. Observers and space freaks flocked to Kennedy Space Center yesterday to see the most tangible, dramatic sign of NASA’s commercial crew program progress yet. Shrouded in fog, SpaceX brought its Falcon 9 rocket, mated with the Dragon 2 capsule, to launch pad 39A for prelaunch testing. The capsule’s flight is scheduled for December 17, 2019. Boeing will get its turn in March when its Starliner spacecraft will launch on an Atlas V rocket. These empty capsules will travel to orbit, rendezvous with the ISS, dock, detach, and return for splash-down in the Atlantic. The second demonstration flights will have two test pilot astronauts each. NASA astronauts Robert Behnken, Eric Boe, Douglas Hurley, and Sunita Williams have been preparing for the missions for years, while also developing the capsules and training procedures for the operational missions. This return to flight will likely happen this summer, around the time that the U.S. celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo lunar landing. Although reminiscent of the Cold War, these launches will be a declaration of independence from the Soyuz capsule. A space program is still seen as a qualification of a true global superpower, but these manned space missions have an inflated importance when it comes to geopolitical perceptions. In terms of immediate economic impact and national security, CubeSats in low-Earth orbit are more important than any crewed spaceship. But that will change as space programs mature and the exploration and industrialization of space begins. To see the full, dramatic impact of 2019’s flights requires looking at spaceflight on a longer timeline. One of the things that becomes clear—looking past the contract to deliver astronauts to ISS—is that American spacecraft will also enable other nations to access space. The customer base for these spacecraft will extend to Europe, South America, Asia, and Africa. The Dragon 2 and Starliner will fly Americans at first, but the whole point is to sell them on the open market. The American space program could even help geopolitical foes, particularly if export laws are relaxed. John Lodgson, founder of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, once listed some potential customers in an interview with Popular Mechanics. “Thinking off the top of my head, the United Arab Emirates,” Lodgson says when prodded to name for possible customers. “Nigeria? Iran always wanted a human spaceflight program.” He also said that China’s program could benefit. “China has said that its space station is open to non-Chinese visitors,” he said. “So where does that fit in to the future of human spaceflight?” Entering a New Spacefaring Future In the grand scheme of humanity's exploration of space, the commercial crew achievement in Florida seems less like an American victory and more like a global moment. It’s a major transition away from government control, and while this hopefully will have major economic and national security advantages, it’s hard to see NASA’s outsourcing as the pinnacle of government success. Even with delays and engineering snafus, the coming success of this program should put an end to the debate over whether private businesses can be trusted with crewed spaceflight. NASA has adopted the model that the Commercial Crew program will create a new generation of lunar landers. If these work as planned, the NASA-sponsored landers will be touching down to start planning a lunar outpost, around the same time as other nations are doing the same. The Final Frontier There are many red flags surrounding the American timelines for human missions to the moon and Mars. Administrations change, budgets shift, and missions are killed off with spreadsheet keystrokes. But if—or when—Uncle Sam cuts exploration funds, the private companies who created the hardware will still be in the race, using the moon equipment originally designed for NASA. The space industry could finally have what it always needed and something the Chinese already enjoy—a steadily funded space program with unchanging destinations and an immunization from political point-scoring. The private sector may be the way to keep some continuity in human space exploration. That is, if there’s money to be made. 2019: A New Era So be proud of the American victory we will witness in Florida this year. Be happy that the Soyuz contracts will be replaced by something better. Be relieved that the space hardware will no longer be a political football between Moscow and Washington, DC. Be inspired by the engineering on display and the political courage inside and out of NASA to loosen their grip. But don’t wave the flag too hard. If you do, you might just miss the bigger picture—2019 is the year humanity democratized spaceflight and created a reliable gateway to a new frontier for future generations.
  23. The 2020 Ford Police Interceptor Utility Ford has been making police cars for years, and it's just announced its newest one: the 2020 Police Interceptor Utility. This time around, it comes with standard hybrid power and all-wheel drive. It's aimed at keeping officers up to date with the newest tech, while also keeping them safe and saving taxpayers money. Plus, it looks cool as hell. The biggest news is the addition of an all-new hybrid powertrain. It uses a 3.3-liter V6 paired with a lithium-ion battery and a 10-speed automatic transmission, able to produce a total of 318 horsepower (14 horsepower more than the 3.7-liter V6 model it replaces). Designed to combat all the time police spend idling, it can shut off the engine for long periods of time so the car doesn't have to burn gas powering things like lighting, radios, and computers. It gets an EPA-estimated rating of 24 mpg combined, which, according to Ford, is a 41 percent improvement over the last-gen 3.7-liter. It's also quicker. Michigan State Police tested the hybrid Interceptor in 0-100 mph acceleration, fastest lap, fastest average lap, and highest top speed (137 mph, if you were curious). It clocked a 0-60 mph time of 6.9 seconds, and a top speed of 137 mph. It was able to beat all of its competitive models, save for its more powerful sibling, the 3.0-liter twin-turbo Ecoboost Interceptor. That car now puts out 400-horsepower and 416 lb.-ft. of torque. Like the hybrid model, power is sent to all four wheels via a 10-speed automatic. In addition to those two powertrains, there is a third, budget option. Buyers can opt for the 3.3-liter V6 without hybrid assistance, in case departments want to save money. Like the other two powertrains, it gets all-wheel drive and a 10-speed automatic gearbox. Ford has yet to release acceleration times for both this variant and the twin-turbo Ecoboost model. All Police Interceptors get things like heavy-duty wheels, suspension, and brakes built to withstand all of the extra stress from police-related driving. There's also extra cooling to counter the rigors of high-load engine situations. As far as real-world toughness goes, Ford's done the testing: The Interceptor can withstand an eight-inch curb impact, a railroad crossing at 30 mph, as well as water fording as high as 18 inches. The Police Interceptor is one of America's best-selling law enforcement cars, and judging by this latest version, we bet it'll only get more popular from here.
  24. The number of piracy lawsuits filed against alleged file-sharing pirates hit a record high in 2018. In total, more than 3,300 new cases were filed against BitTorrent users. A closer look at the data shows that just two companies are responsible for more than half of all copyright-related cases filed in US courts. Since the turn of the last decade, numerous people have been accused in US courts of illegal file-sharing. Initially, these lawsuits targeted hundreds or thousands of BitTorrent users per case, but this practice has since been rooted out. Now, most file-sharing cases target a single person, up to a dozen or two at most. This means that the number of “Doe” defendants have gone down, but the same can’t be said for the number of cases that are on the dockets. In fact, the number of file-sharing cases filed last year was higher than ever. Data collected from court records all over the country show that in the first half of the year, more than 3,300 separate lawsuits were filed. The majority of these cases list a single ‘John Doe’ defendant. This is more than triple the number of lawsuits in the year before, when 1,019 file-sharing cases were filed according to Lex Machina. And it’s also more than the old 2,887 record that was set in 2015. Pretty much all of this activity can be attributed to two adult industry companies – Malibu Media and Strike 3 Holdings. Malibu Media, the Los Angeles based company behind the ‘X-Art’ adult movies, has been one of the most active copyright trolls for years. According to data from court records, it filed 1,231 cases in 2017. The most active filer last year, Strike 3 Holdings, is a relative newcomer. The company, which distributes its adult videos via the Blacked, Tushy, and Vixen websites, has filed 2,092 cases over the past twelve months. Strike 3’s cases are similar to those filed by Malibu Media. This is no surprise since they are handled by former Malibu lawyer Emilie Kennedy, who now works as in-house counsel at Strike 3. Together, both companies are good for more than 3,300 new cases last year. In terms of numbers, there’s a gaping hole behind these two, with Bodyguard Productions coming in third place with 70 cases. To the best of our knowledge, those three are the only filers of lawsuits that targeted alleged BitTorrent pirates last year. With thousands of new cases, these companies are good for more than half of all copyright lawsuits in the US. According to Justia, there were a little over 6,000 cases in total. This wave of file-sharing legal action is something that hasn’t gone unnoticed to courts around the country, some of which have become more skeptical. A high-profile order at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals a few months ago proves to be a particularly significant roadblock. Referencing the decision, federal courts in districts across the US are now demanding “something more” than an IP-address alone. For now, however, new lawsuits continue to be filed, also in 2019. In the months to come the wider impact of the appeal court ruling will be felt and whether this will affect the number of new cases this year.
  25. The team behind the open source Kodi media player has sarcastically accused Sony Electronics of being “grown up” following its alleged banning of Kodi installations on its newer Android TVs. According to people familiar with the issues, Sony appears to have blocked Kodi’s package IDs since switching to Amazon’s ID solves the issue. With millions of users around the world, Kodi is one of the most popular media players. Available on a number of hardware formats, the open source player has also proven one of the most durable. As most people will be aware by now, Kodi can also be augmented with third-party addons, some of which are able to turn the player into a formidable piracy tool. This behavior isn’t condoned by the official development team, of course, but that doesn’t stop Kodi from stumbling into seemingly endless controversies. The latest issue came to light during the past few weeks, with owners of some of Sony’s latest Android-based TVs complaining of installation issues when attempting to deploy Kodi on their hardware. “I’m trying to install Kodi on my SONY AF9 w/ Oreo via Play Store, but the installation fails with error -506. Interestingly enough, if I then restart the TV, Kodi appears under ‘Apps’, but can’t be started,” a post on the official Kodi forums reads. “I’ve tried a complete Factory Reset and then install[ed] Kodi 17.6 immediately after OOBE, but fails with the same error code. I also tried installing the current nightlies, but these failed as well.” While incompatibility issues between hardware and software is hardly a new phenomenon, subsequent posts revealed various points of interest. Firstly, the issue of Kodi being incompatible with Oreo in general was dismissed by a member of Team Kodi. “Kodi works on an NVIDIA SHIELD which is also Oreo. If Kodi doesn’t work on a Sony TV then Sony fucked it up. Android remains Android on whatever device it runs. It’s just the driver layer underneath that’s different,” Martijn responded. So what could be the issue – screw up or deliberate ‘sabotage’? As usual, creative minds got to work in an effort to find some kind of workaround. One wasn’t long in coming. A user called ‘chrisyu’ said that he’d found a solution after noting Sony may be blocking the Kodi application’s package ID. After switching it for a less controversial one, things came back to life. “I think Sony blocked Kodi’s package id. Me and some users tested, both Kodi 18 64bit and 32bit cannot be installed. I compiled Kodo 32bit, changed its package id to com.amazon.aiv.eu. Kodi [got] installed and runs just fine,” he wrote. With other Kodi users reporting that this fix helped them get around the Sony TV installation issues, it does seem possible that Sony is attempting to prevent Kodi from running on newer firmware. With Sony TV users reporting similar issues on Sony’s forum and elsewhere, Team Kodi has now taken to Twitter to berate the electronics company for its actions. “Well done @SonyElectronics for actively preventing users from installing Kodi on their newer Android TVs. How grown up of you. Even their firmware in the TVs is broken. Guess we will suggest users to just buy something else that does work,” Team Kodi wrote. Back in October 2018, we reported how Sony was actively promoting Kodi on its website. In the screenshot below, published in the original article, we can see the company placing Kodi in the number one spot for Android TV apps while highlighting that “community-created addons” can be used to “provide access to popular internet streaming media services.” Now, however, we can see that Sony has removed Kodi from its list of recommended apps. The screenshot below shows how the page has been edited, promoting Plex and VLC to the top of the list in place of the controversial media player which is now completely absent. We’ll update this article should we get a response from Sony but in the meantime users can plug any number of Android dongles and devices into their Sony TVs in order to use Kodi. Of course, many would prefer not to do that but given Sony’s track record of restrictive behavior, it may be the only solution moving forward. Update: After publication of this article a Sony PR representative said that the company does not curate recommended apps. The representative added that Kodi is just one of several thousands of apps on the Google Play store and Sony has no ability to block these apps and does not do so. We’re seeking further clarification.
  26. Disney and WarnerMedia are each launching their own streaming services in 2019 in a challenge to Netflix's dominance. Netflix viewers will no longer be able to watch hit movies such as Black Panther or Moana, which will soon reside on Disney's subscription service. WarnerMedia, a unit of AT&T, will also soon have its own service to showcase its library of blockbuster films and HBO series. Families will have to decide between paying more each month or losing access to some of their favourite dramas, comedies, musicals and action flicks. "There's definitely a lot of change coming," said Paul Verna at eMarketer, a digital research company. "People will have more choices of what to stream, but at the same time the market is already fragmented and intimidating and it is only going to get more so." Media companies are seeking to capitalize on the popularity and profitability of streaming. But by fragmenting the market, they're also narrowing the once wide selection that fuelled the rise of internet-based video. About 55 percent of U.S. households now subscribe to paid streaming video services, up from just 10 percent in 2009, according to research firm Deloitte. Just as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime tempted people to "cut the cord" by cancelling traditional cable TV packages, the newer services are looking to dismember those more-inclusive options. Disney Plus, WarnerMedia and others set to launch Disney Plus is set to launch late next year with new Marvel and Star Wars programming, along with its library of animated and live-action movies and shows. It hasn't announced pricing yet, but Disney CEO Bob Iger said in an August call with analysts that it will likely be less than Netflix, which runs $8 to $14 US a month, since its library will be smaller. AT&T plans a three-tier offering from WarnerMedia, with a slate of new and library content centred around the existing HBO streaming app. No word on pricing yet. Individual channels, such as Fox, ESPN, CBS and Showtime, are also getting into the act. Research group TDG predicts that every major TV network will launch a direct-to-consumer streaming service in the next five years. Netflix and others have invested heavily in original movies and TV shows to keep their customers loyal. Netflix, for instance, said Wednesday that 45 million subscriber accounts worldwide watched the Sandra Bullock thriller Bird Box during its first seven days on the service, the biggest first-week success of any movie made for the company's nearly 12-year-old streaming service. Netflix said 45 million subscriber accounts worldwide watched the Sandra Bullock thriller Bird Box during its first seven days on the service, the biggest first-week success of any movie made for the company's nearly 12-year-old streaming service. (Merrick Morton/Netflix via The Associated Press) That first-week audience means nearly a third of Netflix's 137 million subscribers watched the movie from Dec. 21 through Dec. 27 — a holiday-season stretch when many people aren't working and have more free time. But Netflix, Hulu and others may soon have to do without programs and movies licensed from their soon-to-be rivals. In December, Netflix paid a reported $100 million to continue licensing Friends from WarnerMedia. Data and dollars Why are media companies looking to get in? Data and dollars. Sure, they get money when they sell their programs to other services like Netflix. But starting their own service allows networks and studios access to valuable data about who is bingeing on their shows. For services with ad-based options, that data translates into more dollars from advertisers. And services that rely only on subscription revenues, media companies can use the data to better tailor their offerings for individual tastes, helping to draw in more subscribers. "I think all media companies are coming to grips with the reality that you better establish a relationship directly with your audiences," said AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson at an analyst conference earlier this month. The business model that some networks and content companies are currently using, distributing their TV shows and movies only by licensing them to streaming platforms, is getting "disrupted aggressively" as more companies launch their own services, said Stephenson, whose company acquired WarnerMedia in June. Forrester analyst Jim Nail compares this moment to the "Cambrian explosion," a historic era when plant and animal species rapidly multiplied after Ice Age glaciers receded. "Big brands like Disney have to evaluate: Are we only going to access this market by licensing our content to Netflix, Hulu and others?" he said. "Or, can we go direct to the consumer with our own service?" But a multiplicity of streaming services could easily overwhelm or confuse consumers. To get a full slate of programming, TV watchers may soon have to subscribe to several services instead of just one or two. Tiered services to become more common Among those options will be services like Netflix and Hulu that offer a wide range of video from a variety of sources; cable-like "skinny bundles" such as FuboTV, Sling and YouTube TV that offer a variety of live channels; and channel- or network-specific services like Disney Plus. Consider just AT&T's plan to launch a three-tiered service this year centred on HBO. An entry-level bundle will offer mostly movies; a second, slightly more expensive tier will include original programming and newer movies. A third and still more expensive offering would add more WarnerMedia entertainment such as Friends. The cost of multiple streaming services could quickly approach the average cost of a cable bill — not counting the cost of internet service. That's around $107 per month, according to Leichtman Research Group. "It's unlikely any of the services individually can charge more than $10 per month," Forrester's Nail said. "The great unknown is how many individual streaming services people are willing to sign up for." Companies are already trying to tame this chaos by bundling multiple streaming services together. Amazon Prime customers can add-on subscriptions to HBO, Showtime or Starz. Roku and Chromecast viewers can access their different services from a central place; Roku said Wednesday it will start selling in-app access to Showtime, Starz and other channels as well. How should consumers deal with all the coming change? "Be patient," said Michael Greeson, president of research group TDG. "We're in a time of dramatic change for the TV and video business. There'll be great benefits, and question marks and consequences."
  27. Did you get a smart speaker over the holiday season? If so, you're certainly not alone. Consumer surveys published in the waning months of 2018 suggest the tiny, internet-connected, table-top speakers have finally gone mainstream. Google Home and Amazon Echo are the two most popular brands of small, table-top speakers. What makes them smart is the included voice assistants — Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa — which you can ask questions or give commands. Want to know the weather? Listen to the news? Set a timer? Buy a book? Just ask. Other companies, like Sonos and JBL, make smart speakers that now come with at least one of these voice assistants baked in. A few even come with Microsoft's own virtual assistant Cortana. Apple also makes a speaker primarily aimed at music lovers called Home Pod, which features Siri. If you thought smart speakers were just another fad, think again. In August, an Adobe Analytics survey found 32 per cent of U.S. adults owned at least one smart speaker. RBC Capital Markets estimated ownership of smart speakers has nearly doubled in the past year. And in Canada, eMarketer predicts there will be 5.8 million smart speakers in use in 2019. No doubt those numbers have been boosted by the holiday season. Adobe's research says that 79 per cent of smart speaker purchases are made in the fourth quarter of the year, which encompasses both Black Friday and Christmas holiday spending — unsurprising, perhaps, given the deep discounts Google and Amazon give their devices around that time of year. Amazon, in fact, just told the Verge that more than 100 million Alexa-capable devices have been sold to date. How are people using their speakers? Last fall, Adobe Analytics surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. consumers to better understand how people are using their smart speakers. The company found that the most common uses, by far, were playing music (70 per cent of smart speaker owners surveyed) and checking the weather (64 per cent). Just under half of respondents used their speakers to set alarms and reminders, check the news, and perform online searches, while about a third used their speaker to control their smart devices and order things online. In short, the ways that people are using the assistants that come with their speakers is still pretty basic. More complex actions like shopping and food delivery, communicating with friends and family, and research are among the still-emerging trends. Amazon sells one of the most popular smart speakers on the market today, but Google and Apple also include their voice assistants on the millions of smartphones they sell each month, giving them larger reach overall when it comes to voice interaction. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters) What can we expect in 2019? Although smart speakers get their smarts from their built-in voice assistant, you don't necessarily need a smart speaker to talk with a voice assistant. Most recent smartphones, televisions, and even cars have some sort of voice assistant capability — and this year you can expect to find them in even more corners of your home, a continuation of a trend that truly took off last year. In the fall, Amazon announced a range of Alexa-enabled products — otherwise utilitarian objects like wall clocks and microwaves that included microphones and voice assistant capabilities. These join a slew of products from third-party manufacturers — such as doorbells, security cameras, washing machines, fridges, appliances, robot vacuums, mirrors, shower heads, the list goes on — that have been imbued with Alexa, Google Assistant, and other niche voice assistants in recent months. Expect this spread of voice assistants into household products and appliances to accelerate this year, starting with the annual consumer products tradeshow CES, which is set to kick off in Las Vegas this week. What about the privacy concerns? Privacy is a perennial concern, and it certainly doesn't help when technical glitches, infrequent as they may be, can give a total stranger access to your voice assistant's recordings. There are privacy tradeoffs that come with any smart speaker or voice-assisted device, and it's ultimately up to you to decide if the added convenience of playing music or turning off the lights with your voice is worth it. By design, these devices are always listening — but only leap into action in response to specific wake words such as "OK Google" or "Hey Siri." No recordings are sent to Apple, Google, or Amazon's servers until then, and that initial recognition process happens locally on the device. But there have been cases where voice assistants think they hear their wake word, resulting in unintended recordings, which is a possibility to consider if you put one in your home. Speakers and other devices that use Amazon and Google's voice assistants keep a record of all the things you say. The companies say this is to help them improve their products and make the speech recognition more accurate. You can view (and delete) this history from your account on their respective websites. Yet there's lots we don't know about how this information is actually used in practice, or how it may be monetized in the future. Apple has taken a bit of a different approach. Though it also stores user conversations with Siri, Apple says those conversations are anonymized and that your recording history isn't tied to your account.
  28. Neuroscientists are teaching computers to read words straight out of people's brains. Kelly Servick, writing for Science, reported this week on three papers posted to the preprint server bioRxiv in which three different teams of researchers demonstrated that they could decode speech from recordings of neurons firing. In each study, electrodes placed directly on the brain recorded neural activity while brain-surgery patients listened to speech or read words out loud. Then, researchers tried to figure out what the patients were hearing or saying. In each case, researchers were able to convert the brain's electrical activity into at least somewhat-intelligible sound files. The first paper, posted to bioRxiv on Oct. 10, 2018, describes an experiment in which researchers played recordings of speech to patients with epilepsy who were in the middle of brain surgery. (The neural recordings taken in the experiment had to be very detailed to be interpreted. And that level of detail is available only during the rare circumstances when a brain is exposed to the air and electrodes are placed on it directly, such as in brain surgery.) [3D Images: Exploring the Human Brain] As the patients listened to the sound files, the researchers recorded neurons firing in the parts of the patients' brains that process sound. The scientists tried a number of different methods for turning that neuronal firing data into speech and found that "deep learning" — in which a computer tries to solve a problem more or less unsupervised — worked best. When they played the results through a vocoder, which synthesizes human voices, for a group of 11 listeners, those individuals were able to correctly interpret the words 75 percent of the time. The second paper, posted Nov. 27, 2018, relied on neural recordings from people undergoing surgery to remove brain tumors. As the patients read single-syllable words out loud, the researchers recorded both the sounds coming out of the participants' mouths and the neurons firing in the speech-producing regions of their brains. Instead of training computers deeply on each patient, these researchers taught an artificial neural network to convert the neural recordings into audio, showing that the results were at least reasonably intelligible and similar to the recordings made by the microphones. (The audio from this experiment is here but has to be downloaded as a zip file.) The third paper, posted Aug. 9, 2018, relied on recording the part of the brain that converts specific words that a person decides to speak into muscle movements. While no recording from this experiment is available online, the researchers reported that they were able to reconstruct entire sentences (also recorded during brain surgery on patients with epilepsy) and that people who listened to the sentences were able to correctly interpret them on a multiple choice test (out of 10 choices) 83 percent of the time. That experiment's method relied on identifying the patterns involved in producing individual syllables, rather than whole words. The goal in all of these experiments is to one day make it possible for people who've lost the ability to speak (due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or similar conditions) to speak through a computer-to-brain interface. However, the science for that application isn't there yet. Interpreting the neural patterns of a person just imagining speech is more complicated than interpreting the patterns of someone listening to or producing speech, Science reported. (However, the authors of the second paper said that interpreting the brain activity of someone imagining speech may be possible.) It's also important to keep in mind that these are small studies. The first paper relied on data taken from just five patients, while the second looked at six patients and the third only three. And none of the neural recordings lasted more than an hour. Still, the science is moving forward, and artificial-speech devices hooked up directly to the brain seem like a real possibility at some point down the road.
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