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  1. Last week
  2. Users of Showbox will no doubt be aware that the popular streaming tool has been under fire recently, targeted by lawsuits that shut down various websites and the app itself. The Internet is now buzzing with news of a return along with the inevitable question "But is it safe?" It's a difficult, if not impossible, question to answer. As first the popular streaming application Showbox hit turbulent times recently. In May it was revealed that a group of independent movie studios (Dallas Buyers Club, Cobbler Nevada, Bodyguard Productions, and others) were targeting sites and individuals said to be behind or offering Showbox. Back in September, a DMCA subpoena filed by the same companies ordered Cloudflare to expose the people linked to various sites offering the application. It is important to know that the companies behind this request are known serial litigants and have been involved in many “copyright trolling” cases against BitTorrent users in the US and elsewhere. Last month it was reported that two websites connected to Showbox had settled their legal dispute with the companies previously mentioned. The terms of the settlement were not made public and the sites in question now display an ominous warning. Showbox warning While some will undoubtedly view these messages as scaremongering, it’s surprising that former Showbox users want anything to do with the application moving forward, given recent history. Nevertheless, dozens of threads online feature users asking whether new versions of Showbox popping up here and there are ‘safe’ to use. First of all, many of the individuals who previously used the app don’t even seem to know where they downloaded it from. This means they could’ve been using the original version or a modified variant from an unknown developer, with both options raising security issues but for different reasons. It appears that the original app is in trouble and as for the clones, who knows what their motivations are? And, with known copyright trolls heavily in the mix here, alarm bells of all kinds should be going off. That said, people clearly want their movies and TV shows for free and are happy to carry on doing that as long as someone says “yeah, this version is safe.” At this point, it might interest readers to learn that several times in the past few months we’ve been asked by random emailers to ‘update’ our old Showbox (and indeed TerrariumTV) articles with new links to what they claimed to be the original apps. There seems little doubt that this was an attempt to misdirect, so unlike some other news outlets who did change their links, we ignored the requests. We don’t know whether this was simply an attempt to drive more traffic to ‘safe’ clones, websites offering the original, or whether something more sinister was at play. It is something to think about, however. There are so many variables at play here (including what happens to data gathered from Showbox users’ machines, plus IP addresses etc) that to recommend a certain variant of Showbox as ‘safe’ would be pretty irresponsible. There’s also the fact that Showbox not only uses file-hosting links but also torrents, which are inherently ‘unsafe’ unless people use a VPN. Admittedly, certain versions and updates of Showbox may be completely benign but short of having a detailed analysis done on each app, plus having access to what happens behind the scenes, it’s a potential minefield that users will have to walk through at their own risk. Some seem very happy to do that, others are less keen. Only time will tell who made the ‘safe’ decision.
  3. The popular 'Kodi No Limits' channel, filled with hundreds of 'educational' videos about Kodi, was removed by YouTube recently. The video streaming service states that it received multiple third-party claims of copyright infringement, likely for videos that promoted third-party 'piracy' tools. While all videos and more than 600,000 subscribers are gone, Kodi No Limits is not backing down. YouTube has opened the door for millions of people to share knowledge and information with the rest of the world. This is also true for piracy-related topics. While YouTube itself doesn’t allow users to post copyright-infringing movies or TV-shows, there are many videos on the platform that demonstrate how to get this content elsewhere. A lot of these ‘tutorials’ center around Kodi media player. While Kodi itself is perfectly legal, there are numerous third-party add-ons that turn it into a piracy platform. To achieve this, there are dozens of high profile YouTubers who are willing to offer a helping hand. A search for “Kodi addon guide” on YouTube reveals a treasure trove of options. Many of these feature Kodi addons that clearly display pirated movies while showing users how to access them. This has been going on for years, but there are more and more reports of videos and YouTube accounts being flagged. Several Kodi-piracy related YouTubers have lost their videos or have found themselves demonetized. This is also what happened to “Kodi No Limits” a few days ago. The popular channel with over 600,000 subscribers was removed by YouTube following multiple takedown requests from copyright holders. “This account has been terminated because we received multiple third-party claims of copyright infringement regarding material the user posted,” a message on the channel reads now. It’s unknown which videos were found to be infringing. As far as we know, the account didn’t post any pirated videos or TV-shows, so we assume that copyright holders reported several ‘tutorials’ as copyright infringement. The Kodi No Limits website remains online. It still features several Kodi-related guides, including how to install the “No Limits Magic” build. However, none of the embedded videos are showing up as they still point to the terminated YouTube account. There is a chance that these may be updated in due course though. While losing 600,000 subscribers is a severe blow, Kodi No Limits is not backing down. Its Twitter account and other social media are still active, including Instagram where the channel shutdown was confirmed. The message also teased a new channel. And indeed, recent posts on social media now link to new video content which appears on a newly registered ‘No Limits’ YouTube account. The question remains how long that will stay up of course. YouTuber Doc Squiffy rightfully points out that many others who operate in the same niche have had videos taken down or entire channels demonetized by YouTube recently. That also brings us back to an article we wrote a few months ago. This suggested that YouTube won’t put up with blatant piracy tutorials forever. This appears to be the case indeed, especially when copyright holders are actively targeting them with takedown requests. Update: The new channel is gone too….
  4. There are plenty of ways to fall off a bicycle. Here’s one scenario: a city rider hits an open car door and goes flying. Another? A mountain biker bumps into a rock at a bad angle, wipes out, and smashes their noggin on the trail. While these types of crashes are different, they share a stark similarity: both have the potential to knock you unconscious, or even kill you. It’s accidents like these that a new sensor system from bike company Specialized is designed to detect. The gadget is roughly 1 by 1.5 inches in size, weighs less than an ounce, and attaches to the back of the helmet. If the onboard accelerometer and gyroscope detect a fall—maybe the whiplash of that car door impact, or the linear and rotational forces of a head strike on the ground—it uses its Bluetooth connection to your smartphone to initiate an alarm. If you don’t respond in time, it can email and text your emergency contacts, and will even give them a link to the location where you might be on the ground. Then, it’s up to those recipients to do something with that information. “Hopefully they like you enough to take action on your behalf,” says Chris Zenthoefer, head of Specialized digital. The sensor system, called ANGI, is in line with a larger trend: tech that watches out for you, and can take action for you if needed. A clear cousin of the helmet sensor is the latest Apple Watch, which packs in a “fall detection” feature. That wearable device also uses its onboard accelerometer and gyroscope, and the software is designed to notice if someone falls and becomes unresponsive while walking around their home, for example. Rather than just informing your emergency contacts, the Apple Watch goes one step further and contacts emergency services directly. In both cases, the idea is that the technology is passive until you need it. With the Specialized helmet sensor, Zenthoefer says they wanted to make it simple to use. Safety is something of a “taboo subject in cycling,” he says, as people don’t want to think about the idea of being slammed by a car, or wiping out hard in the mountains. “The goal is to set up a lot of automated safety systems, so the rider doesn’t really have to think about it.” After all, if a safety feature is too annoying to engage—or worse, produces false positives too frequently—people just won’t use them. The Specialized system is designed to capture three kinds of events that can happen to a cyclist’s head: one is a straightforward, linear impact—to imagine that type of force, picture an object dropped straight down on a helmet, as unlikely as that sounds. The second is a more common kind of impact, involving linear forces as well as rotational ones when you hit your head after falling off your bike—an issue that a helmet technology called MIPS is designed to mitigate. And the third is the whiplash of a crash where the head doesn’t even hit the ground. While Apple designed the fall detection feature for its watches by gathering data from actual tumbles that happened to people who had the wearable on their wrists, Specialized developed the ANGI tech in a laboratory setting. Later, the bike company used field testers on cycles to ensure the system didn’t have false positives—they didn’t want the system to think a fall had happened when one hadn’ Garmin also offers a crash detection feature not on a helmet, but on some of their cycling computers, like the Edge 520. They call it “incident detection” and the sensor powering it is an accelerometer that can notice a change in speed. The Specialized sensor comes on helmets from the bike company, and the companion app for the smartphone requires a $30 subscription after the first year; to engage the safety feature, a cyclist does have to fire up their smartphone app before the ride to let it know to keep an eye on them. Now if only people in parked cars would keep an eye out for cyclists before opening their doors. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YamAsuCn4Og
  5. What happens when you cross a blimp with a plane, and give it a few helicopter features? A lighter-than-air plimp-hybrid airship is born, according to a Seattle-based company looking for investors. For $4 million plus overages (paid out over four years), investors can buy their own Model J — a 169-foot-long (51 meters) aircraft that can carry up to 10 people (eight passengers and two pilots), or about 2,000 lbs. (907 kilograms) through the air, thanks to its helium-filled blimp-like body, gas-electric hybrid engines and rotational wings with propellers. But don't call it a plimp outright. That word is trademarked and meant to be used as an adjective, said James Egan, a Seattle-based attorney who is the CEO of Egan Airships, maker of the plimp-hybrid aircraft. [In Images: Vertical-Flight Military Planes Take Off The idea came to Egan in childhood, as he was playing with helium balloons and balsa-wood gliders. He noticed that these wooden gliders had a slower descent when he tied helium balloons to the planes' wings and tails. "I became convinced there could be another form of aircraft if only you could put wings on a partial-lift balloon," Egan told Live Science. He kept his eye on emerging technologies, such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner plane, which uses lightweight carbon-fiber composites to make aircraft lighter and more fuel-efficient. Finally, he and his twin brother, Joel, approached Daniel Raymer, an engineer who agreed to take their concept of a half-helium-filled aircraft and turn it into a flyable design. The helium in the blimp part of the plimp-hybrid aircraft is key, Egan said. "That decreases your unpowered descent rate to that of a parachutist," he said. "You start with a design safety feature that no other aircraft has, which places you safely back on the ground if, for some reason, the engines fail." [The Hindenburg Wasn't Alone: Here's a Look at 23 Intriguing Airship Adventures] The plimp-hybrid airship is actually faster and safer than a blimp, which has to offgas during unpowered descent, Egan said. The newly designed airships are also different than the Hindenburg — the airship that met a fiery end when its lighter-than-air hydrogen gas leaked and mixed with oxygen, making a flammable mixture that quickly ignited. (In contrast, the plimp aircraft uses helium, which isn't flammable.) How does it work? When the Model J is full — carrying the aforementioned 2,000 lbs. — it should be able to cruise at 86 mph (138 km/h) for 3 hours, or a distance of 260 miles (418 km). When empty (for instance, when acting as a flying billboard), it can travel a whopping 1,300 miles (about 2,100 km), a distance equal to a trip from Los Angeles to Dallas. But whether or not it's occupied, the Model J will take off in the same way: vertically, like a helicopter. "The pilot tips the wings and nacelles [the engine housing] up to a vertical position and adds power," Raymer, the chief designer of the plimp airship and president of Conceptual Research Corp., told Live Science in an email. "The vehicle lifts off vertically, upon which the pilot slowly brings the wings and nacelles down to the horizontal position, while the vehicle accelerates into forward climbing flight." [In Photos: Building the World’s Largest Airship (Airlander 10)] To land, the pilot would reduce the power, allowing the Model J to descend and slow down. Once the vehicle nears its landing spot — be it a beach, platform or the water — the pilot would reduce power and allow the aircraft to settle to the ground, Raymer said. The aircraft will have its perks: Unlike a helicopter, the Model J will be quiet and relatively easy to maintain, and unlike a blimp, it could travel quickly, Egan noted. The Model J is being designed to handle moderate wind better than a regular blimp, "because only half of the vehicle weight is carried by the helium lift," Raymer said. However, it wouldn't fare well in heavy wind, bad storms or icy conditions, he said. While the Model J is still in the works (it needs approval from the Federal Aviation Administration), the company already debuted its drone airship — a 28-foot-long (8.5 m) plimp-hybrid aircraft that can cruise at 30 mph (48 km/h) for 1 hour — at the InterDrone exposition in 2017. The drone could be used for advertising, as well as for land and agriculture surveys, search and rescues and surveillance, Egan said. Egan expects the Model J will be useful to the U.S. armed forces to ferry personnel and equipment, as well as to companies and people who want an easy way to get from point A to B. "Imagine getting off an aircraft in New York and maybe going to a different part of the airport, getting onto one of these [plimp] aircrafts that lift smoothly and carry you the distances to islands and other semi-regional places that otherwise would take hours by car, ferry or train," Egan said. Flying machines The plimp airships are part of a growing trend in the aviation industry, with many companies designing small aircraft that can transport just a handful of people. There are even other blimp-like aircraft in the works, including Lockheed Martin's 280-foot-long LMH-1 hybrid airship and the U.K.-based Hybrid Air Vehicles' Airlander (although the Airlander 10 crashed in 2017). As for the Model J, it appears to be a good way to carry people and cargo, said Kristi Morgansen, interim chair of the Aeronautics and Astronautics Department at the University of Washington, who is not affiliated with Egan Airships. "There's a long history of using lighter-than-air vehicles to transport people and goods," Morgansen told Live Science. However, given that there are so many personal air-transportation vehicles like Egan Airships popping up, there could be challenges down the road as to how air-traffic control will deal with all of them, she said. In addition, Morgansen asked, How are you going to house the vehicle? Where are you going to park them and maintain them?" (The answer is that is an outdoor storage area, or a hangar, Raymer said.) "It's an absolute game changer," Egan said. "This is a brand-new form of aircraft."
  6. Computers, like humans, all eventually become old and slow. That inevitable truth won't help you fix the problem though. And even if you don't want to actually go out and buy new hardware—a new computer, a bigger hard drive, additional RAM, etc—there are a few things you can do that will get results. First, do all the stuff you probably already know you should do: Close a few of those browser tabs. Stop saving everything to your desktop. Try offloading some of your files to an external hard drive or the cloud to give your computer a little room to breath. It’s not always apparent, but your computer is indeed a machine that needs certain physical care to operate properly. The biggest culprit when it comes to low performance is dust. Your computer has fans to keep it cool, and they suck that stuff up. Too much dust leads to too much heat leads to low performance. A can of compressed air (never a vacuum) is your weapon of choice. If you have a laptop (and let's be real, you probably do), pay close attention to where you put it when you use it. Some laptops have fans that subtly vent out of the bottom or side of the case, and so placing your laptop on anything other than a hard, flat surface can block the intake or exhaust. Both Windows and macOS allow you to set some programs to automatically start up when you login. It’s handy when they are programs that you use every time you use your machine. But it’s a plague when programs you don't want or need are booting up every time you turn on your computer. Fortunately it is easy to remedy this by going to settings and reOn a Mac, go to System Preferences > Users and Groups > Login Items. Select any you don’t need running all the time and knock them off the list. The equivalent dialogue in Windows is called “Startup” and lives in the Task Manager. Clean Up Your Hard Drive Over time, you accumulate a lot of applications and files you no longer use. It’s wise to occasionally take a moment to prune the main folders on your computer. Don’t forget to check the downloads folder—it fills up faster than you’d imagine, and the files there can be quite large. Also make sure to empty the Trash/Recycling Bin. But here’s the thing: Even if you do that, there are plenty of other files you don’t use that you can’t really keep track of—either because over time even the most fastidious person loses track of where they’ve saved everything, or because your computer squirrels away a lot of temporary files in places you can’t or don’t look at. So your best bet is to get an app. For Mac, CleanMyMac is the leader for Apple computers. It costs $40/year, but you can get a free trial from its website. Newer versions of Windows have pretty good utilities for this built in. Storage Sense is an automated tool that lets Windows manage things for you; Disk Cleanup gives you a bit more control. Both are very, very useful.
  7. Earlier
  8. Experts warn data posted online could one day influence kids' future job prospects, credit ratings On average, parents will post more than 1,000 images of their children online before they're old enough to have their own social media accounts, according to a new report on the digital lives of kids. And by 18, those kids will have created upward of 70,000 posts themselves. But the unknown consequences of such an unprecedented "digital footprint" — which may start even before a child is born, with proud parents-to-be posting ultrasounds online — means there's a generation of youth serving as the proverbial "canary in the coalmine" for wider society when it comes to the issue of mass personal data management. Children are being "datafied" from birth, the report explains, and it's not just via social media or online. It's also happening in their homes and out in public. "We simply do not know what the consequences of all this information about our children will be," said Anne Longfield, the children's commissioner of England, whose office published the report. The report — entitled Who knows what about me? — raises red flags about the amount of personal data children and their parents are giving away, warning that this collection of data could one day influence everything from which universities people are accepted to, the success of their job applications, and even their access to credit or ability to get a mortgage. Children's apps violate privacy laws According to Matthew Johnson, director of education for MediaSmarts, which develops digital and media literacy programs, there are a number of reasons to be particularly concerned about data collection and children. Johnson points to a recent study that found a majority of free children's apps in the Google Play store violated U.S. privacy laws if their default settings were left unchanged. On top of the vast amount of data being collected on social media and through kids' apps, the report also warns that children's data is collected through search engines, smart speakers, connected toys and connected baby monitors. Just because a product is designed to be baby-proof doesn't mean that it has been designed to protect the data of that child. Another consideration is all of the information that is tracked outside of the home. The U.K. report warns that children's data is routinely being collected through location-tracking devices, school databases and classroom apps, even things as seemingly innocuous as retail loyalty programs and transit passes. While there may be advantages that come from sharing personal information with public-sector organizations — for the purpose of health care or education, for example — the report cautions that there are "growing concerns in the academic and policy communities that our trust in public services with respect to children's data is misplaced." There is no necessary reason, it argues, to believe public-sector bodies are "any better or worse than commercial organizations in terms of the standards they adhere to when handling children's data." Informed choices Short of dumping our devices in the lake and moving to a remote, off-grid island, what are concerned parents to do? The big takeaway is the need to make sure children can make informed choices about the data they are giving away. And with younger children, who might not be old enough to make an informed choice, or even be the ones posting online, it's of equal importance that parents are fully aware of the repercussions of their actions. "Because most people have a fairly poor understanding of how the data economy works, parents don't generally have the information they need to genuinely consent to the terms of service," said Johnson. "And of course, the longer data brokers have to build a profile of you, the more influence it will have throughout your life." Things could be changing. A 2018 study entitled "The Digital Well-Being of Canadian Families" found that while roughly four in 10 Canadian parents post photos of their children once or month or more, one quarter say they never post photos of their children and one-third say they hardly ever do. As the recent Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal demonstrated, all the distinct crumbs of data we leave behind can be pieced together to form alarmingly accurate profiles. It revealed that seemingly inane data, such as whether someone had "liked" Facebook pages for Hello Kitty, pizza, or The Daily Show, can sketch a profile that can then be targeted with tailored messages, potentially manipulating people's political decisions. And what it further demonstrates is that it's vital that all of us — particularly young people — learn more about "how we pay for services with our data, how that data is used to profile and advertise to us, and how our lives are increasingly being shaped both online and offline by algorithms," said Johnson. After all, if such comprehensive profiles can be stitched together based on the data collected over a mere decade of social media use, what happens when the same kind of data collection has been in place for someone's entire life? Or, in the case of in-utero scans posted online, from six months before they're even born.
  9. Recreational pot has been legal in Canada for just over a month but the pressure on cannabis producers to improve their yields and profits is already growing. And one factor that will influence their fate is the technology that keeps their plants healthy and improves harvests. "Nobody can manage a million square feet by themselves the old way, which is to look, see, smell," says Michael Kadonoff, the founder and CEO of the cannabis technology firm Braingrid. "You need bionic eyes. You need more nerve endings." Cannabis is one of the best examples of where Canada's actually leading the world. Braingrid's high-tech sensors help growers get that feel for their plants. Encased in white plastic and about the size of a computer tablet, they're strategically positioned inside growing facilities. The system then feeds data — temperature, moisture, pH and more — to the cultivator. "The data is online in just a few minutes," says Kadonoff. There are at least 13 cannabis technology companies from Canada trading on North American stock exchanges, serving producers like WeedMD, Viridium, Leaf and Beleave. Braingrid got into the business in 2016. The Toronto-based firm started out in 2012 selling sensors to the solar power industry. "We had to pivot into what we believe is centre stage for Canada. Globally speaking, cannabis is one of the best examples of where Canada's actually leading the world," says Kadonoff, who plans to take the company public by the end of the year. It's going to be a dog-eat-dog market. Other companies serve different aspects of the industry. Calgary-based FluroTech tests cannabis samples for potency and chemical composition, watching for pesticides and other contamination. BlockStrain, in Vancouver, has developed a platform that registers and tracks intellectual property in the industry. Another Vancouver company, Cannvas MedTech, has a program that matches people with specific pot products and strains, based on information the user submits about their health and the effect they're seeking. The success of these companies will, naturally, be closely tied to that of their clients; their new best friends. And the clients need that technology because pot is a demanding plant, explains Chad Rigby, the cultivation manager at Beleave in Burlington, Ont. "It doesn't stop growing and you kind of need to work on its schedule and its schedule is 24 hours a day, seven days a week." Beleave is a small operation, but Rigby still has to manage five different strains and multiple rooms packed with plants. The right tech, he says, "makes the grower's life a lot easier." The savings on labour, for example, "frees up growers to do other tasks, like propagating new crops, doing plant maintenance in other rooms," he says. He's convinced technology will play a make-or-break role in the industry. "As companies are scaling up, there's going to be a lot of automation and a lot of environmental monitoring coming online," he says. "You want to make sure your entire facility is working at a 100 per cent. It's going to be a dog-eat-dog market out there, and the guys who produce the best product are the ones who will be coming out on top." There are 130 licensed cannabis producers in Canada; each striving to improve quality, increase production and reduce cost. "The conventional wisdom is that the price of cannabis at wholesale is going down to the $2 per gram range," says Brad Poulos, who teaches a class called the Business of Cannabis at Ryerson University in Toronto. The pressure on producers to grow at that price puts the weed tech companies who help them in an excellent position, one that echoes the past of an iconic Canadian industry. "If you go back 100 and some years to the gold rush, the people who made the money were the people who sold the picks and the shovels and the axes and the pans, not so much the people who were scouring for gold," says Poulos. The analogy isn't perfect but Braingrid and other weed tech companies are betting on the idea that serving the needs of pot producers will pay off. Monitoring plants is one thing, but being part of the industry's pace of growth doesn't leave Kadonoff with much time to reflect. "It shows no signs of relenting," he says. "It's hard to keep track of how much is going on."
  10. Navies of the future could use technology to allow sailors to work remotely. Technologies such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality would allow some crew members to work from shore, operating key sections of ships from thousands of miles away. The result could be semi-autonomous warships that sail with smaller crews, putting fewer in harm’s way. The Telegraph reports that the Royal Navy could use AI and VR tech in the future to reduce the size of ship’s crews. The principle is similar to that used by unmanned aerial vehicle operators who control drones flying thousands of miles away. Sailors who can do their jobs remotely, such as operating sensors or weapons, could do so from bases on land where they are safe from enemy fire. Even ship captains could remain on shore, commanding their ships from naval bases on land. According to The Telegraph, BAE Systems has been pitching the concept as something useful to the UK Royal Navy. “Unlike on-board control rooms where officers are usually seated, in case the ship is struck by an enemy munition that would knock them off their feet, in an on-land control room officers could be allowed to walk freely around the room,” the newspaper quoted a BAE representative as stating. Aircraft were logically the first weapon systems to be remotely operated. Airplanes typically fly with small crews of two or less, fly short missions that don’t require maintenance, and are relatively disposable. Ships on the other hand are operated by crews numbering in the dozens to manage hundreds of tasks, remain at sea for months on end, require maintenance by trained personnel often while hundreds of miles from shore, and can easily cost a half billion dollars or more. The complexity involved with operating warships is a tall order for AI and VR-equipped sailors or land. Another problem with some ship personnel working from shore: Navies need to assume that their warships will be jammed or forced to operate without emitting radar and communications signals that enemy forces could use to locate them. Warships could also be jammed by the enemy or sustain damage that knocks out power or communications. If the link between ship and shore goes down, those jobs outsourced to land-based personnel don’t get done, at the worst possible time. In the meantime, BAE Systems is experimenting with augmented reality onboard the ship, allowing an “Officer of the Watch, responsible for the ship’s safety, to work outside of the operations room and still be able to see tactical data and other vital information.” The technology will use Microsoft’s Hololens and will debut at the Royal Navy’s Information Warrior 19 exercises in 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfqXP42DZmc
  11. It may look legit, but keep your guard up anyway. You may have heard you should look for the padlock symbol at the top of a website before entering your password or credit card information into an online form. It's well-meaning advice, but new data shows it isn't enough to keep your sensitive information secure. As it turns out, fraudsters got wise and started adding the padlock, which until recently was a bright green in most browsers, to their websites too. That means a padlock is no guarantee that a website is safe. That's according to data from cybersecurity firm PhishLabs, first reported by security writer Brian Krebs, which shows that almost half of all fraudulent pages have a padlock -- meant to indicate that the site is secure -- next to the URLs of their websites. The upshot is that there's no one trick to protect you from the dark side of the internet. You have to be savvier than ever to avoid scammers and check for more than one sign that a website is legitimate. That means making sure the website's URL is correct and, whenever possible, typing the URL into the browser instead of following a link from an email. Tools like password managers and security software can also help: To stop you from being fooled by an extra convincing scam website, they'll warn you when a URL doesn't match the legitimate website or stop you from opening a scammy site to begin with. "Awareness really is key," said Adam Kujawa, director of the research arm of cybersecurity company Malwarebytes. "It's up to the user to say, is this actually legit?" What the padlock really means The padlock has always been an imperfect symbol. It's there to tell you something that's specific, and also pretty technical, and that's hard to get across with a simple image. The lock is supposed to tell you that a website sends and receives information from your web browser over a secure, encrypted connection. Websites with secure connections start with the letters https, not http, and these days they use an encryption standard called TLS. The secure connection makes it so nobody can read your web traffic as it travels through the internet's vast, global infrastructure. The lock doesn't tell you anything about the legitimacy of the site. PhishLabs CTO John LaCour Here's why that's a good thing: it makes sure that sensitive information like passwords and credit card numbers gets scrambled up so that only the website intended to receive it can read it. That's really important for things like online shopping or signing on to your bank's website. That's also why it's still true that you should never enter your information if a website doesn't have a secure connection. For many people, though, the padlock just means a website is generally safe. That's not true for a lot of reasons. Criminals can use security features too Scammers who want to trick you into entering sensitive information can put a green padlock on their websites too, and they're doing it more and more. When PhishLabs began collecting data in early 2015, less than half a percent of phishing websites sported a padlock. The number climbed quickly, up to about 24 percent in late 2017 and now more than 49 percent in the final quarter of 2018. It makes sense that scammers would be using the padlock more and more, said PhishLabs Chief Technology Officer John LaCour. That's because it's gotten easier and cheaper for website creators to use an encrypted connection, thanks to pushes from cybersecurity experts at Google, Electronic Frontier Foundation and other tech heavyweights. Criminals can now easily obtain certificates that enable the padlock to show up and encryption to take place, and they can do it without revealing very much about who they are. What's more, changes at major browsers like Chrome and Firefox have made sites without TLS encryption look much more dangerous to users, with a very visible warning that the site isn't secure. That provided extra motivation for criminals to show the padlock on their websites, LaCour said, and avoid looking obviously shady. "The lock doesn't tell you anything about the legitimacy of the site," he said. "It only tells you that your data is encrypted as it's sent over the internet." It's not all bad news It's probably for the best that scammers are using encryption on their phishing websites, said Nick Sullivan, head of cryptography at Cloudflare, a company that, among other things, helps organizations encrypt their websites. That's because sending valuable information that anyone could intercept and read is always a bad idea, even if your immediate problem is that you've just sent off your bank account information to a scammer in another country. "There's nothing bad about phishing sites having encryption," Sullivan said.
  12. Click fraud mobile apps Cheetah Mobile—a prominent Chinese app company, known for its popular utility apps like Clean Master and Battery Doctor—and one of its subsidiary Kika Tech have allegedly been caught up in an Android ad fraud scheme that stole millions of dollars from advertisers. According to app analytics firm Kochava, 7 Android apps developed by Cheetah Mobile and 1 from Kika Tech with a total 2 billion downloads on Google Play Store have been accused of falsely claiming the credits for driving the installation of new apps in order to claim a fee or bounty. Many mobile application developers generate revenue by promoting and recommending the installation of other apps inside their apps for a fee or a bounty that typically ranges from $0.50 to $3.00. To know which advertisement recommended the app and should get the credit, the newly installed app does a "lookback" immediately after it is opened for the first time to see from where the last click was originated and attribute the installation accordingly. However, Kochava found that Cheetah Mobile and Kika Tech apps are misusing user permissions to track when users download new apps and are apparently exploiting this data to hijack app-install bounties for even apps installed from other referrals, according to Buzzfeed News. "This is theft — no other way to say it," Grant Simmons, the head of client analytics for Kochava, told the publication. "These are real companies doing it — at scale — not some random person in their basement." Here's the list of seven Cheetah Mobile apps and one Kika app, which received an investment from Cheetah Mobile in 2016, caught participating in the fraudulent ad scheme: •Clean Master (with 1 billion users) •Security Master (with 540 million users) •CM Launcher 3D (with 225 million users) •Battery Doctor (with 200 million users) •Cheetah Keyboard (with 105 million users) •CM Locker (with 105 million users) •CM File Manager (with 65 million users) •Kika Keyboard (owned by Kika Tech with 205 million users) So, if you have any of the above-listed apps installed on your Android device, you are recommended to uninstall them immediately. These apps inappropriately claim credits for having caused the app downloads even when they played no role in the installations. The bounties, in this case, range in the millions of dollars. Android click ad-fraud Kika Tech responded to the allegations, claiming the company "has no intentions of engaging in fraudulent practices," and it "will do everything to quickly and fully rectify the situation and take action against those involved." However, Cheetah Mobile blamed third-party SDKs (software development kits) or ad networks for the click injection, but when Kochava pointed out the SDK involved in the click fraud activity is actually owned and developed by Cheetah Mobile itself, and not by third parties, Cheetah denied that its SDKs were involved in ad fraud. When contacted, Google told the publication that the company is still investigating Cheetah Mobile and Kika Tech apps for any fraudulent activity reported by the app analytic firm.
  13. US companies have successfully lobbied and litigated extensively for pirate site blockades around the world. On their home turf, the issue was categorically avoided following the SOPA outrage several years ago. It now appears that this position is slowly beginning to change. At the start of this decade, US lawmakers drafted several controversial bills to make it easier for copyright holders to enforce their rights online. These proposals, including SOPA and PIPA, were met with fierce resistance from the public as well as major technology companies. They feared that the plans, which included pirate site-blocking measures, went too far. The public protests columnated in a massive Internet blackout. This had the desired effect, as the bills were eventually shelved early 2012. In the many years that followed, the “site blocking” issue was avoided like the plague. The aversion was mostly limited to the US, as website blocking became more and more common abroad, where it’s one of the entertainment industries’ preferred anti-piracy tools. Emboldened by these foreign successes, it appears that rightsholders in the US are now confident enough to bring the subject up again, albeit very gently. Most recently the site-blocking option was mentioned in a joint letter from the RIAA and the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA), which contained recommendations to the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) Vishal Amin. The IPEC requested input from the public on the new version of its Joint Strategic Plan for Intellectual Property Enforcement. According to the music industry groups, website blocking should be reconsidered an anti-piracy tool. “There are several changes that should be made legislatively to help legal authorities and third parties better protect intellectual property rights,” the music groups write. “These include fixing the DMCA, making it a felony to knowingly engage in unauthorized streaming of copyrighted works, and investigating the positive impact that website blocking of foreign sites has in other jurisdictions and whether U.S. law should be revised accordingly.” The RIAA and NMPA choose their words carefully, realizing that it’s a sensitive issue. In a single sentence, however, they hint at bringing back SOPA-like blocking powers, including criminalizing online streaming. A lot has changed in recent years though. The music groups point out that site-blocking has proven to be an effective enforcement tool abroad which has helped to decrease piracy and boost legal consumption. According to the music industry groups, there is a pressing need for additional tools to stop pirate sites which increasingly use foreign domain names and bulletproof hosting. Blocking could be the right answer. As such, now could be a good time to put the issue on the political agenda again. “As website blocking has had a positive impact in other countries without significant unintended consequences, the U.S. should reconsider adding this to its anti-piracy tool box,” the RIAA and NMPA write. From the RIAA/NMPA submission The RIAA and NMPA are not the only ones to hint at these measures. The Copyright Alliance, which describes itself as the “unified voice of the copyright community,” also references site-blocking. Again, very subtly. The group notes that IPEC may want to “observe how other countries are enforcing copyright laws, and whether those enforcement efforts are effective.” There’s only one suggestion that’s specifically mentioned in this regard, and that’s site-blocking. The Copyright Alliance points out that this has been rather effective abroad and that the US could learn from these efforts. “In addition to learning what remedies are effective, much can be learned from other countries in ensuring such remedies are proportionate and do not result in overblocking or other unwanted consequences,” they write. The submissions suggest that after seven years copyright holders are gearing up to call for US blocking proposals again. While these will undoubtedly be met with protests, a full comeback is inevitable. In recent years US rightsholders have lobbied and litigated for site blocking measures in dozens of countries, while the issue was left untouched on their home soil. This is now starting to change, very slowly.
  14. The federal watchdog that handles customer complaints about telecommunications and television services in Canada saw a 57 per cent spike in complaints in 2017-2018, most of them involving wireless providers. The Commission for Complaints for Telecom-Television Services said Tuesday that it also expects to see complaints rise this year. For the first time, the federal watchdog is also investigating complaints about television. But most of what it heard in the year to September 2018 were the same issues that the CCTS has been dealing with for the past 10 years — non-disclosure of information and bill surprises by wireless operators. "Customers will communicate with their service provider and then find out that the reality of what they get is not what they expected to get. This results in billing issues, in charges people don't expect, on limitation on bandwidth or data," said CCTS Commissioner Howard Maker. "It's a mismatch of customer expectations and what their service provider delivers." Maker said the complaints come despite a revised Wireless Code, which is meant to protect consumers. It came into effect in December 2017. The CCTS handled 14,272 complaints from consumers in 2017-2018. Of that, 41.5 per cent of them were about wireless service and 29.2 per cent were about internet service. Complaints about television made up only 10.6 per cent of the total. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission held hearings into the telcos' sales practices earlier this year and is due to present the findings in February. Consumer advocates speaking at the hearings complained that the telcos are misleading seniors and low-income people with high-pressure sales tactics. They called for a sales code of conduct and a "cooling off" period to allow consumers to back out of contracts that are not suitable to their needs. John Lawford of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre said it's a positive sign that consumers are complaining more because it means government might listen. "It's about time we started increasing complaints in Canada. I'm glad to see people are starting to complain actively now," he said. He called for policies that would promote more competition in the telecom industry and "maybe bust out the major players' stranglehold on the market." Lawford suggested rules on wholesale pricing that will encourage competition from smaller players. "There needs to be some threat to the big guys, so they can't just do what they want," he said. Maker says there is lots of opportunity for the telecom providers to do better. "We see a lot of complaints that customers bring to us that have no business getting as far as the CCTS. Small complaints where the provider's own evidence indicates that the customer has merit, that the story the customer is telling is true, and yet they're not resolved at the frontline, presumably because nobody looked at the records," he said. Maker said media coverage of the CRTC hearing with its focus on sales practices may have made more consumers aware of the CCTS and its complaints process. But he also called on the telcos — especially Bell, Rogers and Telus, the biggest players who account for half of all complaints — to improve their practices. "Where there's opportunity for improvement is around the disclosure factor — making sure all the necessary information that customers need to really understand what they're getting is complete," Maker said. Documents should be clear, complete and written in accessible language. Consumers should be educated about "all the ins and outs they need to know to make sure they're getting what they think they're getting," he said. The CCTS noted an increase of complaints about internet service, which have grown by 170 per cent in the last five years to 8,987 complaints. Among the issues are billing and disclosure issues, but also quality of service such as internet speeds, internet outages and bandwidth overuse surcharges. Consumers also complained about installations — especially technicians who don't show up on time. "Consumer protections are in place to TV and wireless, where there are codes. But in the internet business there is no code, so it looks like the CRTC wants to plug that gap," Maker said. "This would level the playing field in terms of everyone understanding the rights of the consumers and the providers." The CCTS says it resolved 92 per cent of the consumer complaints it handled. Among them were: A customer from Laval, Que., agreed to obtain a bundle of home phone, internet and TV services for $111 per month, but was then was billed $131 per month. The provider told her that she was not eligible for the offer priced at $111 per month. CCTS was able to secure the lower price for her for a 12-month period. A customer from Langley, B.C. received an offer from her service provider of a new mobile device, which included a device protection plan. The customer paid $280 for the device and believed she was on a month-to-month agreement. The device broke and she received a refurbished replacement. When she reported her dissatisfaction, she ws told she was locked into a 24-month plan with a $500 cancellation fee. CCTS found the provider had failed to inform the customer that by accepting the new device, she was consenting to a 24-month contract and that it had not sent her a copy of the contract as mandated by the Wireless Code. A customer from Saskatchewan subscribed to internet service delivered through a satellite system. The service functioned properly for a few days until the internet speed decreased, particularly when used for gaming or watching Netflix. The provider said a new plan would be necessary to get those speeds. When the CCTS became involved, the provider offered an upgrade to new infrastructure without an installation fee and with a credit for the customer. The telcos' record in 2017-18 The provider most cited was Bell, the biggest telecom provider in Canada, with 4,734 or a 45.8 per cent increase in complaints.There was a sharp increase in complaints about incorrect monthly pricing and non-disclosure issues. Bell pointed to the increase in complaints for nearly all providers. "Overall complaints about communications providers have increased each year as both the CCTS's mandate and consumer awareness of its services continue to grow," the company said in a statement. It said its investments in front-line service teams and support systems are having a "positive impact on our customer service performance." Rogers, which had 1,449 complaints, sent an email statement from Eric Agius, senior vice-president of customer care: "One complaint is one too many and we always take customer feedback to continuously improve." Telus issued a press statement saying it received the fewest complaints of any national provider, accounting for only 6.6 per cent of complaints. "Of Telus's 901 complaints that were concluded prior to the 2017-18 report cut-off date, 757, or 84 per cent, were resolved at the pre-investigation stage," the statement said.
  15. Three people paralyzed from the neck down have been able to use unmodified computer tablets to text friends, browse the internet and stream music, thanks to an electrode array system called BrainGate2. The findings could have a major impact on the lives of those affected by neurologic disease, injury, or limb loss. The system uses an array of micro-electrodes implanted into the brain which decode, in real time, the neural signals associated with the intention to move a limb. The three people involved in the trial had electrode grids implanted over part of their motor cortex -- the area of the brain that helps control movement -- which picked up neural activity indicating they were thinking about moving a cursor on the screen. Those patterns were then sent to a virtual mouse that was wirelessly paired to the tablet. Using only their intentions, the participants were able to perform a range of common digital tasks including web browsing and sending email. One participant ordered groceries online and played a digital piano. "The tablet became second nature to me, very intuitive," she told the researchers when asked about her experience, according to the study. The system even allowed two of the participants to chat with each other in real time. Of course, brain-computer interface technology has been around for a few years now. What's remarkable about this study, though, is that BrainGate2 allows users to navigate completely unmodified, off-the-shelf devices, with no special features or modifications. And a few basic tweaks could make the system even more accessible to users. According to the study report, "Participants navigated the user interface comfortably despite not having access to all of the gestures commonly used on a tablet (e.g., click and drag, multitouch). This precluded certain functions such as scrolling up and down on the tablet web browser. Some of these limitations would have been overcome by enabling accessibility features found in the Android OS or third-party programs. Additionally, modifying the Android OS keyboard layout as we have done in prior reports would have likely increased typing rates." Nonetheless, the findings demonstrate how communication, mobility and independence can be partially restored to those with otherwise limited control over their environment, and without the need for expensive or specialist equipment -- a major development that will have a hugely positive impact on the lives of people around the world.
  16. What do you do when your cable box is more useful for telling the time than delivering movies and TV? A decade-plus after Netflix added streaming video the internet is ready to take over for cable and satellite, offering more options and lower rates. Now that you're ready to pull the plug, there's a lot to consider, like who has what, what works where and how much everything costs. Internet & TV vs. Internet The question of "when does it make sense?" can easily be rephrased as "how much money can I save?" and one of the biggest factors will be the price difference between combined internet and TV service or just internet. These are also the options that vary the most widely based on where you live, and the availability of promotions or contracts that can keep prices down for a short time. As cord-cutting has picked up steam, many cable companies are offering their own "skinny bundle" packages with internet and a few channels for less. It seems counterintuitive, but in 2018, "cutting the cord" can still mean sticking with your current cable company. The important thing when comparing these services is to look at the contract requirements and extra fees. Even if a service price looks the same as many all-streaming packages, if you need to tack on an extra TV box or two the monthly fees will add up quickly. Figuring out which streaming service to use also depends on what hardware you have available. If you already have a game console like the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, then apps like YouTube TV, Sling TV, Hulu and PlayStation Vue will be easily available, as well as subscriptions for specific channels or services like Netflix, HBO Go and more. The same goes for streaming dongles like the Fire TV family, Chromecast or Roku Streaming Stick. Set-top boxes from Roku or Apple have a long list of apps built-in, but might cost a little more to plug in for every room. Fortunately, these days even value-priced smart TVs come with apps like Roku or Fire TV included without adding anything extra. But beware -- there are a few missing gaps when it comes to support. Many devices have the Hulu or YouTube app, for example, but not all of them support live TV viewing. The PS4 is missing both, as well as Sling TV. DirecTV Now doesn't work with game consoles at all, and of course PlayStation Vue won't stretch to include the Xbox One. Amazon Prime apps work across most devices, but the company's feud with Google keeps Android TV and Chromecast on the sideline. Another thing to consider is if you can set up antenna TV to catch local channels. While it might not work for everyone or everywhere, if there's a network TV show you just have to see live then this is the cheapest option. Digital TV antennas are easy to find with designs ready for home and apartments -- check out our guide for more info on how to choose the right one. Plus, devices like AirTV or a computer set up with a tuner card and software like Plex can bring antenna channels to any of your other devices with very little setup required. Amazon is mixing things up with its Fire TV Recast, a "headless" box that can deliver live or DVR'd local TV to other screens in your house. The device launched November 14th, and the promise of Alexa-controlled viewing that stretches from your Fire TV stick, to an Echo Show, to iOS and Android phones running a Fire TV app, is a tantalizing one. Features Here's the good news: Switching to streaming no longer means giving up creature comforts like a DVR. In addition to on-demand streaming access to your favorite shows, services like YouTube, PlayStation, Hulu, DirecTV and Sling can all store recordings in the cloud. Keeping recordings on a server has its benefits, like making them available on different devices or a backup when your connection (or the service itself) fails, but it can also complicate things. Sling TV adds an extra $5 for DVR access, and on certain services you'll find that recording doesn't work with channels like HBO. Some YouTube TV customers have complained that the system points them to video on-demand copies of shows that include unskippable ads instead of their recordings, so read the fine print and check user reviews first. Price Even when it comes to internet TV, it seems like some things never change. Similar to the cost creep we've seen on cable packages, cheap introductory rates from internet TV provides have recently crept higher. Sling, PlayStation, DirecTV and YouTube have all instituted recent price hikes, as they're not immune from the same bundling and price pressure from networks that pushes prices up on traditional TV. If you're opting for streaming you have a lot more control about your choices. While a service like PlayStation Vue brings packages that are cable-like with more channels as they grow in price, Sling TV starts lower at $25, and offers more flexibility in what you can choose to add. If you only need a few channels, picking the right provider will be everything, and without contracts, you can swap services in and out as necessary. Pick up CBS All Access with its free introductory month to catch up on Star Trek, then jump over to HBO Now to binge Game of Thrones while you wait for the next season. If you are looking for a straight cable replacement, there are several calculators to help you figure things out -- Untangle, NoCable and CordCutting, all make the math very easy to figure out. At least, until the prices change again. Sports One of the hardest things to catch without a cable package is still sports, but it's getting better. Local market restrictions can still impact options for NFL, NBA and MLB fans, but if you want to watch a UFC fight or MLS, they're all easily available, and with ESPN launching a streaming option there are even more choices. Still, if you're a fan of big time sports, then your best bet is to live in a different market and pick up the league's streaming package. An antenna can help a little for big events like the Super Bowl, but most sports are stuck to pay TV networks.
  17. Two websites promoting the 'pirate' video streaming app Showbox have settled their legal dispute with a group of movie companies. The terms of the settlements are private and the site owners remain anonymous. However, the sites in question now display a scary warning, telling visitors that they are being watched too. The popular Android-based app Showbox is used by millions of people. It allows users to stream movies and TV shows via torrents and direct sources, all through a Netflix-style interface. Many of these videos are pirated. This is a thorn in the side of the movie industry, and some companies are doing everything in their power to contain the problem. Earlier this year a large coalition of independent movie studios, including the makers of Dallas Buyers Club, filed lawsuits against several websites that distributed Showbox. In one case, they obtained a subpoena ordering Cloudflare to reveal the identities of the operators behind Showboxbuzz.com, Showbox.software, Rawapk.com, Popcorn-time.to, Popcorntime.sh, YTS.ag, and YTS.gg. In a related case, GoDaddy was ordered to reveal the identity of the domain registrant of Showboxappdownload.com. These requests for information triggered a response from the operators. On the same day last month, the Showboxappdownload.com operator and the person who uploaded the app to Rawapk asked the court to quash the subpoena, so they could proceed under a pseudonym. Before the courts ruled on the matter, both defendants, who could be one and the same, settled their cases. As a result, both cases were dismissed last week without revealing their identities. The terms of the settlements are not public. However, if we look at the sites in question they no longer link to the Showbox app. The Showbox file was removed from Rawapk and showboxappdownload.com now shows a warning. The message, which is likely part of the settlement, makes it clear that Showbox can be used for infringing purposes. In addition, it warns users that they may be tracked. “Show Box is NOT a legitimate software platform for viewing Copyright protected movies. If you use ShowBoxApp to view copyrighted movies, the movie studios may be able to see your IP address and your viewing history,” it begins. While it’s hard for copyright holders to track pirating users who use Showbox to stream from central servers, those who use torrents can indeed get in trouble. The warning makes that pretty clear as well. “Movie studios are cracking down on illegal downloading and are filing lawsuits against users of ShowBox app. Websites that promote and/or distribute ShowBox are also being pursued by the movie studios for promoting illegal activity,” it adds. The message is obviously meant to deter visitors from using the app, but there’s some truth to it. The plaintiffs involved in these case include Bodyguard Productions, Cobbler Nevada, Criminal Productions, Dallas Buyers Club, and Venice PI, which have all sued individual BitTorrent users. The warning message is not limited to Showboxdownload.com either. A similarly worded notice appears on Showboxbuzz.com, which was also targeted in the Cloudflare subpoena earlier. With the settlements, the cases against two defendants are now over. However, the aforementioned movie companies are not done with Showbox yet. They filed an amended complaint which lists the Indian company Galbatross Technologies as one of the main targets. The movie companies allege that Galbatros, which describes itself as a “performance driven digital marketing agency,” is a driving force behind the showboxappdownload.co site that remains online today. Based on information provided by hosting company Digital Ocean, the movie studios learned that Galbatross operates the website showbox.co, which shared a virtual server with showboxappdownload.co. In addition, one of the defendants also admitted that he worked with Galbatros on the site in question. “Defendant Himanshu Saxena has admitted that Defendants Galbatross, Gaurav Jaggi and he owned, hosted and were involved with showboxappdownload.co in an email communication,” the amended complaint reads. The site itself lists Mark Willow as owner and Andy Crow as the supposed founder of Showbox. The movie companies believe that these persons do not exist, at least not to the extent the website describes. There are no records of the associated corporation Showbox Inc, they add, noting that the California address doesn’t exist either. The complaint further lists the website show-box.en.uptodown.com/android as well as several other named defendants, who are all accused of copyright infringement through their involvement with the Showbox app. The movie companies hope that the lawsuit will put a dent in Showbox’s popularity. They want the sites to shut down and hope to recoup some of the claimed damages as well. And perhaps they’ll put up more warnings too.
  18. Third-party add-ons for the popular Kodi platform are perhaps best well-known for their ability to provide free access to otherwise premium movies and TV shows. However, according to Denuvo-owner Irdeto, a Kodi add-on that provides access to legally paid-for subscription content is also copyright-infringing and must be taken down. Long before the famous Kodi media player became synonymous with illegal streaming, the totally legal platform was used by millions of happy users to access content from a central point. Kodi fans have long used the software to organize their private content libraries. Indeed, plenty of add-ons allow users to consume premium content that they’ve already paid for, utilizing Kodi as a media player rather than the default access point offered by the provider. Over the years, this has led to the development of add-ons dedicated to providing access to Netflix, Spotify, and BBC iPlayer, not to mention services like YouTube and SoundCloud that can be accessed free of charge and entirely legally. Now, however, an interesting situation has raised its head over a Kodi add-on that wasn’t designed to break any laws and never provided illegal access to premium content. Showmax is an online video subscription service launched in South African back in 2015 as a competitor to Netflix and Amazon Video. Interestingly, it is owned by Naspers, the company that owns anti-piracy outfit Irdeto and by extension, Denuvo. Like all similar services, Showmax can be accessed by systems provided by the company. However, for some time the company has been lobbied by customers to provide a Kodi add-on, something it was considering in the not-too-distant past, as this screenshot from Facebook suggests. In the absence of Showmax delivering a Kodi add-on of its own, during August this year an independent developer did the work for them. New Zealand-based coder Matt Huisman released his Showmax Kodi Add-on, which he promoted on the official Kodi forum. It’s important to note that the add-on does not allow users to access Showmax content for free and that a valid Showmax subscription is required, as the official release notes clearly state. But now, according to anti-piracy Irdeto (acting on behalf of Showmax), Huisman’s add-on is illegal. The add-on has already been taken down from Huisman’s blog and Irdeto has filed a DMCA takedown notice with Github to have the software removed from its official repo. “Showmax is an online subscription video on demand service,” the notice reads. “The identified content provides an interface for these Applications to be used via the ‘KODI’ Application, which is not authorized by Naspers.” As mentioned earlier, Naspers owns Showmax, Irdeto, and by extension, Denuvo. The notice provides no additional information as to why the Kodi add-on is illegal under the DMCA. Indeed, this type of takedown is usually reserved for software that allows users to access content such as that belonging to Showmax, but without having to pay for it. That’s not the case here. In common with all such takedowns, Huisman could file a counter-notice with Github to challenge the claims of Irdeto and Showmax. However, that could trigger a legal battle, one that would cost Huisman large sums of money to see through to its conclusion.Huisman says that’s not going to happen. “I spent quite a bit of time developing the Showmax add-on. I don’t personally even use them, it was just a request from a few of their customers,” he explains. “I guess it comes down to – can an API be copyrighted? They seem to think so, and I don’t have the time or money to fight it.” All that said, perhaps the most interesting aspect of this takedown is how it could affect other third-party add-ons that provide similar access to legal services. These are generally considered to be legal by the official Kodi team (they ban ‘illegal’ add-ons from their site) and other repositories that offer similar add-ons in the belief they’re staying on the right side of the law. Without such add-ons, Kodi could be rendered much less useful, so this is an area to watch, should the trend continue.
  19. The Google Home Max is a powerful smart speaker, but it works basically the same as the entry-level models when it comes to Assistant features. Smart speakers are cheap now. In fact, it’s not out of the ordinary to find low-end models like the Google Home Mini and the Amazon Echo Dot for as low as $25. You can barely get dinner for two at Chipotle for that price (especially if you want guac), so they seem like a no-brainer. But, getting the most out of a digital assistant takes a little setup. So, here are some steps to follow in order to get your smart speaker up and running as a music player, a smart home boss, and more. Download the appropriate app before you get started While the idea of a smart speaker is to yell your questions and demands instead of using your phone, setup and operation require an app to get going. Luckily, the apps typically make the setup process a lot easier. If you’re starting up a Google Home device, for instance, the app can help you automatically detect and connect to your speaker. Some smart speakers, like Apple’s HomePod can automatically get information like the login for your wireless network directly from a mobile device, but others will require that you enter your network password, so it’s worth having handy before you get going. Sign up for the newsletters that give you feature updates It’s hard to know when digital assistants pick up new features—and it can even be kind of confusing. Google and Amazon both have newsletter updates you can receive via email about new features as they happen. The app is also a good place to keep track of this. For instance, the Google Home app has a whole section dedicated to answering the question, “What can you do?” Setup different voices if you’re using Google Home The Google Assistant has the unique ability to tell different voices apart so multiple users can request information and get answers specific to them. So, if you and your wife both want to be able to ask about your calendars, setting up multiple voices in the device will help keep things separate. Tie in your music services Listening to music is by far the most common use for a smart speakers and you’ll need a streaming music service to do it. If you’re not already signed up for a service, check the compatibility of your device to pick the one that works best. If you already have a subscription, cross your fingers and hope it plays nice with your new speaker. For instance, the HomePod only streams music from Apple Music. Echo and Google Home devices are more agnostic, but they still prefer that you use native Amazon and Google services, respectively. Spotify is one of the most flexible options and works with most of the platforms, so it’s a down-the-middle choice if you can’t decide or you’re afraid to commit. Set up some routines Both Alexa and Google Assistant allow you to create routines, which are multi-part actions that you can accomplish with a single command. These become a lot more important when you start adding smart home gadgets to the equation, but it’s good to explore them early so when you do add new devices, you know you have options. Know that whatever you say to your smart speaker will be recorded and stored Smart speakers aren’t as scary as they may seem from a security standpoint, but it’s worth knowing that everything you say to your smart speaker (or after you’ve accidentally activated it) will stay on the company’s server until you go and delete it. You can go find that data using information from this link. Don’t put it too close to the TV Alexa and Google Assistant should be able to tell when a commercial says their name so they don’t activate. In practice, however, that’s a lot of nonsense and I’ve unplugged smart speakers for constantly replying to the stupid TV. For now,
  20. The U.S.P.S. is an independent agency of the American federal government responsible for providing postal service in the United States and is one of the few government agencies explicitly authorized by the United States Constitution. The vulnerability is tied to an authentication weakness in an application programming interface (API) for the USPS "Informed Visibility" program designed to help business customers track mail in real-time. 60 Million USPS Users' Data Exposed According to the cybersecurity researcher, who has not disclosed his identity, the API was programmed to accept any number of "wildcard" search parameters, enabling anyone logged in to usps.com to query the system for account details belonging to any other user. In other words, the attacker could have pulled off email addresses, usernames, user IDs, account numbers, street addresses, phone numbers, authorized users and mailing campaign data from as many as 60 million USPS customer accounts. "APIs are turning out to be a double-edged sword when it comes to internet scale B2B connectivity and security. APIs, when insecure, break down the very premise of uber connectivity they have helped establish," Setu Kulkarni, VP of strategy and business development at WhiteHat Security told The Hacker News. "To avoid similar flaws, government agencies and companies must be proactive, not just reactive, in regards to application security. Every business that handles consumer data needs to make security a consistent, top-of-mind concern with an obligation to perform the strictest security tests against vulnerable avenues: APIs, network connections, mobile apps, websites, and databases. Organizations that rely on digital platforms need to educate and empower developers to code using security best practices throughout the entire software lifecycle (SLC), with proper security training and certifications." What's More Worrisome? The API authentication vulnerability also allowed any USPS user to request account changes for other users, such as their email addresses, phone numbers or other key details. The worst part of the whole incident was the USPS handling of responsible vulnerability disclosure. The unnamed researcher reportedly discovered and responsibly reported this vulnerability last year to the Postal Service, who ignored it and left its users’ data exposed until last week when a journalist contacted USPS on behalf of the researcher. And then, the Portal Service addressed the issue within just 48 hours, journalist Brian Krebs said. "While we're not sure whether anyone actually took advantage of the vulnerability, it did reportedly exist for a whole year, so we should assume the worst," Paul Bischoff, privacy advocate with Comparitech says. USPS Responds by Saying: "We currently have no information that this vulnerability was leveraged to exploit customer records." "Out of an abundance of caution, the Postal Service is further investigating to ensure that anyone who may have sought to access our systems inappropriately is pursued to the fullest extent of the law."
  21. Part of what makes carcinoma cells, the most common kind of cancer cell, so potent and deadly is the helping hand they receive from their neighbors. Known as cancer-associated fibroblasts, these nearby cells aid and abet the sinister machinations of the mutating cancer cells by shielding them from the body's immune system. Scientists have now developed a pioneering two-pronged virus that can target both, a new tool they describe as the first of its kind. Among the several promising aspects of this new research is the fact that it is based on a virus already in use in clinical trials. Called enadenotucirev, the virus has been bred to infect only cancer cells and leave healthy cells untouched as a way of treating carcinomas, and promising early results suggest it may give the body's natural immune response a boost along the way. Scientists at the University of Oxford looked to equip enadenotucirev with more cancer-fighting potential by making some alterations. Their modified version of the virus include genetic instructions that prompt infected cancer calls to produce a special type of protein called a bispecific T-cell engager. This protein is what joins the dots, literally binding to the cancer-associated fibroblasts at one end and powerful immune T-cells at the other. This marriage quickly achieves results as the T-cells go about killing off the attached fibroblasts. "We hijacked the virus's machinery so the T-cell engager would be made only in infected cancer cells and nowhere else in the body," says Dr Joshua Freedman, from the Department of Oncology at the University of Oxford, first author on the study. "The T-cell engager molecule is so powerful that it can activate immune cells inside the tumor, which are being suppressed by the cancer, to attack the fibroblasts." The scientists say this marks the first time that cancer-associated fibroblasts within solid tumors have been targeted in this way, but it is still early days for the promising technology. Their work so far has only demonstrated its cancer-killing properties in mice and in human cancer cell samples in the lab, and when it comes to translating those results to the human body there are a lot of unknowns. For example, therapies that have been developed to target the cancer-associated fibroblasts also carry the risk of killing other innocent fibroblasts around the body. Though there are plenty of other uncertainties around how the human body would respond to the treatment, the scientists say there a some positive signs regarding this particular side effect. Their experiments put the virus to work against solid prostate cancer tumor samples along with healthy bone marrow, and they found that it caused no toxicity or unwanted T-cell activation in healthy regions. And given that enadenotucirev is already undergoing trials in humans, there is hope that their modified version could also reach clinical trials as soon as next year. "Even when most of the cancer cells in a carcinoma are killed, fibroblasts can protect the residual cancer cells and help them to recover and flourish," says Dr Kerry Fisher, from the Department of Oncology at the University of Oxford. "Until now, there has not been any way to kill both cancer cells and the fibroblasts protecting them at the same time, without harming the rest of the body. Our new technique to simultaneously target the fibroblasts while killing cancer cells with the virus could be an important step towards reducing immune system suppression within carcinomas and should kick-start the normal immune process." The team's research was been published in the journal Cancer Research. Source: Medical Research Council
  22. We've already heard about "microneedle" patches that near-painlessly deliver medication through the skin. Well, scientists at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore have now taken the same approach to treating eye diseases. They've developed a tiny patch laden with even tinier needles, which get poked into the eyeball. While eye drops are the most frequently-used means of delivering medication to the eye, they have a problem – much of the medication simply gets washed out of the eye by tears. One alternative involves using hypodermic needles to inject medication right into the inside of the eye, although patients have to go to a clinic for each injection, plus of course it's not a pleasant procedure. Additionally, it can cause infections. The NTU Singapore patch reportedly combines the painlessness and ease-of-use of eye drops with the effectiveness of injections. Developed by a team led by Prof. Chen Peng, it's made of hyaluronic acid, which is naturally found in the eye. The device measures 2 by 2 mm in its current configuration (a larger version is in the works, see photo below), and its underside contains nine tiny needles that can be loaded with medication. Each needle is thinner than a human hair, and is pyramid-shaped for optimal tissue penetration. The patch simply gets pressed once against the cornea (the surface of the eye) and then withdrawn, apparently causing very little discomfort. When it's pulled away, however, the microneedles break off and remain in the outer layer of the cornea. They then proceed to slowly dissolve, gradually dispensing their payload of medication into the eye as they do so. In lab tests, the technology has been used to deliver an antibody known as DC101 to mice with corneal vascularisation – this is a condition in which blindness can result from blood vessels growing into the cornea. After just a single 1-microgram dose, there was a 90-percent reduction in the area of blood vessels within the animals' corneas. By contrast, in a group of mice that received a single and much larger 10-microgram dose of the medication in drop form, there was no significant reduction. Additionally, one week after treatment with the patch, no puncture wounds were visible on the surface of the eyes. "The microneedles are made of a substance found naturally in the body, and we have shown in lab tests on mice that they are painless and minimally invasive," says Peng. "If we successfully replicate the same results in human trials, the patch could become a good option for eye diseases that require long-term management at home, such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy." A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Nature Communications. Source: Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
  23. Driving a stock Lamborghini will already cause you to stand out on the road, but what if you really want to make a statement? Well, how about driving a Lambo that's the only one of its kind? That's just what the SC18 Alston is, and it was made for one deep-pocketed customer. The car was designed by Lamborghini Squadra Corse (which is the Italian automaker's motorsports division) in collaboration with the client and the Centro Stile Lamborghini design studio. It's the first one-off vehicle to ever be produced by Squadra Corse. Although it is street-legal, the SC18 is intended primarily for track use. To that end, the car incorporates aerodynamic elements such as air intakes on the front hood inspired by those on the Huracán GT3 EVO; side and rear fenders, fins and airscoops inspired by those on the Huracán Super Trofeo EVO; and a carbon fiber rear wing that can be mechanically set to three configurations, "able to generate the optimal downforce on any circuit." Additionally, there are 12 air intakes on the rear hood that increase heat exchange and improve the cooling of the engine – it's a technology that has reportedly already proven successful in endurance racing. Speaking of the engine, the SC18's powertrain consists of an aspirated 6498 cm3 V12 delivering 770 hp at 8,500 rpm and a torque of 720 Nm (531 ft lb) at 6,750 rpm. It's all handled via an ISR (Independent Shifting Rod)-optimized seven-speed gearbox. Adding to the car's performance is a lightweight carbon fiber body (it has a ground clearance of just 109 mm), with all aspects of that performance being monitored by an onboard telemetry system. The cockpit features carbon fiber bucket seats, and is upholstered in black Alcantara microfiber material with red cross-stitching. Likewise, the car's grey exterior features red accents. Adding to its distinctive looks are single-nut wheels measuring 20 inches in the front and 21 in the rear, clad in specially-developed Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires. And finally, if one-of-a-kind looks aren't enough, the exhaust system is also custom-designed, producing a sound that's unique to the SC18 Alston. Source: Lamborghini Squadra Corse
  24. There have been a number of electric motorcycles that have broken away from the traditional designs of their gas-powered brethren, including the Rocsie and Zeus. But what would happen if a moto was specifically designed for Fused Filament Fabrication printing? Germany's BigRep has debuted a number of automotive and e-mobility prototypes at this year's formnext additive manufacturing exhibition, including the world's first 3D-printed working electric motorcycle. The 190 x 90 x 55 cm (74.8 x 35.4 x 21.6 in) Nera bike was designed by Marco Mattia Cristofori with Maximilian Sedlak from the company's Nowlab innovation consultancy and printed on BigRep's own large-scale 3D printers using ProHT, ProFLEX, PETH and PLA filaments through a 0.6 - 1 mm nozzle at a layer height of 0.4 - 0.6 mm. "The Nera combines several innovations developed by Nowlab, such as the airless tire, functional integration and embedded sensor technology," said Nowlab's Daniel Büning. "This bike and our other prototypes push the limits of engineering creativity and will reshape AM technology as we know it." Everything except the electrical components has been produced on a 3D printer – that includes the tires (with custom tread), rhomboid wheel rims, frame, fork and seat. The Nera bike also rocks flexible bumpers to replace the traditional suspension found in other motos. Sadly, you won't see any Nera motorcycles zooming down a street near you, as this is just a design study. As such, we've no details about the drivetrain, range or performance. Other prototypes on show in Frankfurt recently included the Omni Platform – which can serve as an automated carrier capable of hauling up to 200 kg (440 lb) of cargo around a manufacturing plant or as transport for industry machinery like robots – and an Adaptive Robot Gripper design inspired by geckos. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4p59wk_0R4 Source: BigRep Nowlab
  25. While many people enjoy dirt-biking, they often can't afford the truck or trailer necessary to transport the things. That's why Stanford University aerospace engineering grad Dak Steiert created the Comanche. It's a gas or electric-powered recumbent trike that fits in the back of a hatchback or SUV. Plans actually call for there to be four versions of the Comanche – gas and electric off-road models, along with gas and electric street-legal moped models. As compared to traditional motorbikes, all four are claimed to be not only more easily transported, but are also said to offer greater stability (there are a set of outrigger wheels in the back, to keep the trikes from tipping over) and better cargo-carrying capacity via an optional package that includes dual rear boxes and a rack. The gas off-road model features a 6.5-hp engine that takes it to a top speed of 45 mph (72 km/h) although optional upgrades to beefier engines boost that figure, maxing out with a 450cc engine that delivers about 70 mph (112 km/h). The electric off-road version, on the other hand, has a 5-kilowatt motor powered by a 24-Ah battery pack. It also tops out at 45 mph, and has a claimed range of 70 miles (112 km) per 5 to 8-hour charge. Both of the off-road models have 11 inches of rear suspension travel, with 8 inches of front suspension available as an upgrade. For really serious obstacle-climbing, there's also a 14-inch independent front suspension option. The gas moped model has a 50cc engine that puts out roughly 1.5 hp, while the electric moped has a 3-kilowatt motor and a 14-Ah battery pack, delivering a range of about 40 miles (64 km) per charge. In order to stay street-legal, both versions are limited to a top speed of approximately 20 to 25 mph (32 to 40 km/h). And no, they don't have pedals. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tC5vBl4a1vU Source: Indiegogo
  26. Commercial supersonic flight has left the drawing board with Lockheed Martin announcing fabrication of the X-59 Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) aircraft has begun. Milling the first part of the test aircraft has commenced at the company's famous Skunk Works, setting the project on course for its maiden flight scheduled for 2021. Being developed in partnership with NASA, the purpose of the QueSST X-plane is to test technologies to make commercial supersonic aircraft quiet enough to fly over populated areas. So far, all of the work has been dedicated to computer modeling, design, and wind tunnel testing, but now the project is moving to the manufacture of an actual aircraft. Once the QueSST takes to the air, NASA plans to use it to collect data on both the engineering level and from the general public to eventually produce a supersonic airliner that can fly over land while quiet enough to be acceptable to the public. In addition, the information will be used for the revision of current environmental regulations that were drafted in the late 1960s and were often deliberately prejudiced against supersonic flight. When completed, the X-59 QueSST will be able to cruise at an altitude of 55,000 ft (17,000 m) at a speed of Mach 1.27 (940 mph, 1,512 km/h), yet produce a sonic boom of only 75 Perceived Level decibel (PLdB) – about as loud as a car door closing. "The start of manufacturing on the project marks a great leap forward for the X-59 and the future of quiet supersonic commercial travel," says Peter Iosifidis, Low Boom Flight Demonstrator program manager Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. "The long, slender design of the aircraft is the key to achieving a low sonic boom. As we enter into the manufacturing phase, the aircraft structure begins to take shape, bringing us one step closer to enabling supersonic travel for passengers around the world." Source: Lockheed Martin
  27. It's not quite a plane. The Odysseus is a high-altitude pseudo-satellite (HAPS), according to its creator, Aurora Flight Sciences. Aurora, a Boeing subsidiary, has developed a solar-powered, autonomous high-altitude aircraft that its claims "can effectively fly indefinitely." The Odysseus has a wingspan of 243 feet, a payload capacity of 55 pounds, and can offer 250 watts of continuous power to a payload it might be carrying, such as a satellite. Flying in the stratosphere, the Odysseus can go year-round and "maintain its position in any stratospheric conditions," according to the company's website. For Aurora's CEO John Langford, the completion of Odysseus represents a personal journey. In the 1980s, Langford was a student at MIT whose interest in rocketry expanded to the concept of human-powered flight. Working with an eclectic group that included other engineers and Greek Olympic cyclist Kanellos Kanellopoulos, their group known as Dadelus '88 set the world record for human-powered flight distance that still stands. “Aurora was founded by the idea that technology and innovation can provide powerful solutions to tough problems that affect all of humankind. Odysseus was an idea born out of Daedalus that is now a real solution to advancing the important research around climate change and other atmospheric chemistry problems. Odysseus offers persistence like no other solar aircraft of its kind, which is why it is such a capable and necessary platform for researchers. Odysseus will indeed change the world.” It's a bold claim for the Virginia-based company, which is advertising Odysseus with qualities like the ability to "measure vegetation, ice coverage and flow rates, and even ground moisture." The company also mentions intelligence as a possible use of Odysseus, noting that it doesn't need an operator on the ground to collect information. The company says the Odysseus will be ready for its first flight in 2019—and hopes that its travels won't be as troublesome as those of its namesake Greek hero. Source: Aviation Week https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eErLcDqINyE
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