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  1. 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.
  2. 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….
  3. 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
  4. 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."
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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."
  8. 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
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.