Tag Archives: hacking

PTJ 219: Blue Skies

Samsung thinks it’s solved the mystery of the exploding Note 7, Sprint grabs a new business partner, SpaceX returns to work and oh, cars might fly soon. On this week’s episode, El Kaiser and J.D. dive into a pile of tech-news headlines before Apple-watcher Don Donofrio drops by to discuss the company’s 2016 efforts.

PTJ 212: Photographs and Memories

After a week off to deal with life during the week of the U.S. elections, El Kaiser and J.D. return to discuss the aftermath of the event and how Facebook and Google have been getting heat over it. Also in the news: Snapchat brings back the concept of camera-integrated glasses, there’s a new app for scanning old photos and Apple has made it easier to make those end-of-year charitable donations. Oh, and Twitter is making more of an effort to deal with abuse and harassment. All this AND MORE on this week’s episode of Pop Tech Jam — roll 212!

Links to This Week’s News Stories

 

PTJ 203 News: Irish Wakeup Call

Nothing like a $14.6 billion bill for back taxes to get your attention, eh? That’s the hefty sum Apple is facing after a European Commission ruling this week found the company’s tax deal with Ireland was illegal under European Union rules. Apple and Ireland are both vowing to appeal the ruling, and in a letter released publicly on its website, Apple stated the ruling would have an impact on investment and job creation in Europe.  The EU is also investigating Amazon and McDonald’s for similar practices.

Apple may have other legal woes brewing on this side of the pond as well. A nationwide class-action lawsuit was filed against the company by plaintiffs who claim that their iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus smartphones suffer from defecting screens that make them unresponsive. The defect was dubbed Touch Disease by the repair site iFixit, who has looked at the issue and found hundreds of ailing iPhones with flickering gray bars on glitchy screens.

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Apple has set the date for its annual Fall Media Monopoly Event. As some predicted, it’ll be early this year — September 7th and at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. New iPhones and an arrival date for iOS 10 are expected to be announced for sure, and updates on macOS Sierra, watchOS, and tvOS could be in the mix, as well as hardware news about Apple Watch, the MacBook Pro laptops, the iPad Pro and other gear. But will there be One More Thing?

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in California tossed out a lawsuit brought by the Federal Trade Commission in 2014 that accused AT&T of bandwidth-throttling customers who still had unlimited data plans after those customers went beyond customary allowances.

Twitter and Facebook may get more if the hate speech headlines, but Microsoft is stepping up its efforts to smack down the extremists and Troll Legions roaming on own online properties. In a post on one of the company blogs, Microsoft’s Chief Online Safety Officer Jacqueline Beauchere, writes, “Today we’re announcing a new dedicated web form for reporting hate speech on our hosted consumer services, and a separate web form for requests to reconsider and reinstate content.”

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Facebook’s Trending Topics section has had its ups and downs this year with charges of political bias in story selection and promotion and last week, Facebook reportedly decided to get rid of the humans who were writing story descriptions for trending list and just have the algorithms start listing popular topics based on what users were sharing. However, a lot of Facebook users were sharing a false story about broadcaster Megyn Kelly getting fired from Fox News for being a liberal — so the fake story made it onto the trending list. Whoopsie!

On to the Department of Democracy Nightmares, the Federal Bureau of Investigation says it has evidence that hackers breached two state election databases this summer. While actual vote-counting systems were not involved YET, foreign-based hackers targeted voter registration databases in Arizona and Illinois. Paper ballots for all this year, please.

While test drones are buzzing around the countryside of merry old England, here in the States, the Federal Aviation Administration just started giving the drone pilot’s-license test this week. More than 3300 people signed up to take the test on the first day. The Wired site has a study guide for wannabe drone jockeys.

In other drone news, Jennifer Youngman, a 65-year-old woman in rural Virginia, took down a drone in one blast from her 20-gauge shotgun earlier this summer. She lives near the actor Robert Duvall. She also chatted with the CBC about the incident.

bangbanglady

In product news, Sonos and Amazon are hooking up with a new strategic partnership. What this means is that people who own both voice-activated Echo speakers and Sonos sound systems will be able to tell the Echo speaker to play music through the Sonos system.

FitBit announced two new exercise trackers this week, the Fitbit Charge 2 and the Fitbit Flex 2. You can even swin with the Flex 2, they say.

russiaAnd finally, the Centauri Dreams blog devoted to deep space exploration noted a radio telescope in Russia (shown here), had picked up “strong signal in the direction of HD164595” last year. HD 164595 is a star with at least planet in the system within the constellation Hercules, all about 95 light years from Earth. The site merely said the signal was interesting and deserved further scrutiny. Astronomers at the SETI Institute have already written a brief paper on the matter.  Seasoned experts around the web were skeptical, with one noting the signal was on the part of the radio spectrum used by the military and another posting, “It’s not our first time at this rodeo, so we know how it works,” on a SETI message board. Sure, the signal may be nothing — but it kind of makes one want to haul out the Contact DVD for some Hollywood science and reinstall the SETI@home software on your current computer, you know?

Opening shot from Contact (1997) from Single Shot Film Festival on Vimeo.

PTJ 201 News: Video Killed the Telephone Call

Google released its previously announced Duo video-calling software this week. Like Microsoft’s Skype app and Facebook Messenger, Duo allows cross-platform video calls between Android and iOS phones. Some have called it No-Frills FaceTime — but with an Android version. However, as of now, Duo users cannot use the spiffy new app to connect to other Google communications software like Hangouts. And speaking of Hangouts, Google is dumping the live-streaming version of it, Google+ Hangouts On Air, on September 12. If you want to live-stream your video on a Google product, so on over to YouTube Live.

In other Google news, the company’s Politics blog has been updated with all kinds of links and information for those who want to participate in this November’s US Presidential election. As the post states, “Whether you’re a first-time voter, a resident in a new state, or your state laws have changed since the last time you voted, you can now come to Google for information on how to vote in the upcoming election.”

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Spotify is changing the notion of what a children’s audio category might be with the relaunch of its Kids category. Instead of the usual children’s music jukebox, the service includes playlists that highlight language-development activities and vocabulary-building.

Twitter, like Facebook, is wading deeper into the live streams with its National Football League deal that will have the service showing its first game on September 15th, but as Mike Isaac writes in The New York Times, the bird-themed microblogging service is talking to Apple about making a Twitter app for the Apple TV set-top box. Twitter also announced this week that it was introducing custom stickers that companies can create on their own to promote their brands. Uh, Pepsimoji, anyone?

If you’ve been waiting for that Oculus Rift edition of Minecraft to arrive, your wait is coming to an end. Microsoft announced this week that it had released a free update to its Minecraft Windows 10 Edition Beta that flips on the VR switch for Oculus users. The Redmond giant is teaming up with Intel to create a virtual reality headset that will work with compatible Windows 10 PCs running the Windows Holographic software scheduled for release next year. Get ready to hear the phrase “mixed reality” a lot.

Hackers gonna hack and sometimes, they’re gonna hack each other, as the security firm Sophos has noted. A blog post on the company site details how some cybercriminals are selling malware to other online crooks  — and the merch is actually malware itself.

And TechCrunch has a big story this week about how a hacking group called The Shadow Brokers have raided a staging server and stolen malware possibly connected to the National Security Agency.  Because of course he has, fugitive former NSA employee Edward Snowden has chimed in on Twitter.

LinkedIn has had just about enough of people who use bots to scrape user profiles from their site. The Microsoft-owned site has now filed lawsuits against 100 individual bot wranglers for illegal data harvesting, citing the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

And finally, let us pause to consider a Pizza ATM. Yes, a machine that dispenses a fresh, fully cooked pizza whenever you want one. Xavier University in Cincinnati has indeed installed what it claims is America’s first hot pizza vending machine in the lobby of one of its dorms.  America, heck yeah!

PTJ 201: In Pod We Trust

Podcasting as we know it has been around for about a dozen years and is now enjoying something of a boom thanks to popular shows that have caught the listening public’s ear and reignited interest in the medium. So, what’s happening in the pod world these days? Audio producer and educator extraordinaire Jocelyn Gonzales joins El Kaiser and J.D. this week to discuss the state of the art and some of the many popular podcasts she currently produces, including Strings and Things, The MashUp Americans and Inside The New York Times Book ReviewListen for the segment right after El Kaiser and J.D. discuss two of Netflix’s recent streamers and the notable tech news of the week. (Two words: Pizza ATM!)

PTJ 199: Conventional Wisdom

Forget those grainy old newsreels of Republicans and Democrats putting on large hats and gathering every four years to nominate a candidate for president. Thanks to YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and various other social platforms, wonks and watchers alike have instant access to high-definition video right from the arena floor, plus ongoing commentary from viewers around the world. Will this massive wall of easily accessible data make for a more informed body politic — or just lead to more online body slams? And what about those the hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee that some say were courtesy of Russian operatives trying to influence the results of November? Journalist Laura M. Holson drops by PTJ HQ with her observations on it all.

And, after a week off so J.D. could work on her monitor tan, she and El Kaiser are back behind the mic with a summary of the week’s tech news, including Verizon’s purchase of Yahoo and summer projects from Microsoft and Google. Pour yourself a cool, refreshing beverage and settle on in for a listen!

PTJ 199 News: Areas of Interest

No real surprises here: Verizon won the bidding war for Yahoo’s operating business. In an apparent quest to scoop up Yahoo’s reported one billion monthly active users (while reliving those halcyon dial-up days of  The 1990s), the telecom giant agreed to pay $4.8 billion in cash for the fading purple web pioneer.  Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is still onboard Yahoo and has said she wants to stay, even if it means losing her golden parachute severance deal of about $55 million  if she’s terminated as part of the acquisition. One thing not included in the sale: Yahoo’s stake in Alibaba.

strangerIn case you’ve been holed up binging on the new Netflix series Stranger Things, even stranger things have been happening in Cleveland and Philadelphia this month as the American political party conventions came and went. There’s already been a bit of Cold War intrigue surrounding the hacked and leaked emails of the Democratic National Committee, possibly by Russians. Given the timing of the emails’ release, some are now theorizing that Russia is trying to influence the US election by swaying voters to Republican candidate Donald Trump (who seems to be just fine with Hillary Clinton getting hacked). Whatever the case, the FBI is investigating and it’s clear that cyberwarfare is on the rise. Perhaps in a related development, The White House announced this week that it now has a new scale of classifying cyberattacks.

Speaking of security, thousands of people voluntarily gave up their Twitter passwords last week to the pop star Jack Johnson, who nicely asked his four million followers to send him their login information. Kids, it’s all feels and fame until someone gets majorly hacked. Just ask the IT department of the DNC.

trollOn the topic of Twitter, the bird-themed  is launching a new marketing campaign where it will attempt to explain why it’s a unique delivery mechanism for breaking news and gossip. However, do not expect any mention of the colossal amount of troll poop that clogs the best of timelines.

Does two-factor authentication  via SMS make you feel safer?  TechCrunch and a few other sites are reporting that the National Institute for Standards and Technology is concerned that SMS is not suitably secure and is circulating a document called the Digital Authentication Guideline while accepting comments on the GitHub site.

In international Unmanned Aviation Vehicle news, Amazon is stepping up its testing of delivery drones in Britain. The übermegaeverything store is even partnering with the UK government to expand the experiments, which are scheduled to begin immediately.  Tea drones ay five o’clock!

teadrone

Microsoft’s free Windows 10 upgrade offer for Windows 7 and 8.1 users ends this month, so if you didn’t get it before July 29th, you probably didn’t want Windows 10 in the first place and fought hard to avoid it. If you did install Windows 10 (or bought a new computer that already had it), look out on August 2nd for the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, the biggest upgrade heave since last November.

Microsoft also announced updates to its Office 365 suite, including a new Researcher service for Microsoft Word that helps you find, fit in and format reliable and legitimate resources to cite in your academic papers. Word has also been updated with a virtual cloud-based writing assistant called Editor that provides better document proofreading and analysis of your writing, which might make it less painful for you to compose and others to read.

Microsoft has added a new feature called Zoom to PowerPoint as well. Zoom can easily create interactive non-linear presentations for those who really don’t care about slide order and want to go freestyle.

The Outlook mail app also got a Gmail-like “Priority Inbox” update that helps weed out distracting fluff in your mailbox.  Microsoft calls its version  “Focused Inbox” instead.

Google has done some updating of its own this week and has released updates to Google Maps for desktop, Android and iOS. The company tweaked the color scheme and design of the maps to make them cleaner, sharper and easier to read. Google Maps also has new orange-shaded “areas of interest” that show algorithmically selected pods of restaurants, bars and other attractions nearby.  According to the Android Police blog, Google Maps is rolling out notifications for mass-transit delays and a Wi-Fi only mode to help you keep your data allowance under control, too.

Nexus and Android Phone users are getting a nice gift from the Google phone app – a warning that an incoming call may be spam. If you do get a spam call, the app makes it easy to block and report the offender.

And finally, Pokémon Go dating was only a matter of time and yes, now it’s a thing. A company name RazorGo will be coming out with a site and app for Pokémon Go players to chat with their teams or privately. And you know that tune…

Love soft as an easy chair
Love fresh as the morning air
One love that is shared by two
I’ve found thanks to Pikachu

pika

PTJ 197 News: Eyes on the Road Ahead

It was bound to happen sooner or later. There has now been a reported fatality with one of Tesla’s Model S sedans in self-driving mode. A man in Florida was killed last month using his car in the Autopilot setting while reportedly watching a Harry Potter movie when his Tesla vehicle slammed into a truck at high speed. In a post on the company blog, the Tesla team explained why the software failed, but the incident is also a good reminder to always pay attention to your surroundings, even when the car is driving itself.

As reported in Wired, Google has added settings for its search users that ask if they want to see tailored ads based on age, gender, and search history to show up now on third-party sites as the ads currently do on Google sites. By opting in, users can edit and block ads they don’t like across any device logged in with a Google account. This compares to other ad networks, which require users to opt out of such personalization. Google has also reworked the history page where it hoards all of the old searches and viewing history you’ve previously done on Google and Google-owned sites. The new data locker is called  My Activity and it allows you to log in and delete specific entries out of your search and viewing history. In case you need to.

Android N has a full name now: Android Nougat. (Hungry for a Snickers now?)

noughat

Rumor has it Apple is pondering the purchase of Jay-Z’s Tidal streaming music service. Apple also got into a punch-up with Spotify last week. It came down to Spotify saying Apple won’t approve the new Spotify app for its App Store because it wants to cut competition for the aforementioned Apple Music and Apple saying the app was rejected because Spotify disobeyed the App Store developer guidelines for in-app purchases.

bblinkIs Big Brother 2016 watching you? Those free Wi-Fi kiosks with the video ads and phone-charging ports that are popping up around New York City streets the past few months, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union and other privacy advocates who say the kiosks can be used to spy on and collect information from people passing by them. As reported by the ReCode site after obtaining documents through public-records laws, Alphabet, parent company of Google, “wants to monitor pedestrian, bike and car traffic, track passing wireless devices, listen to street noise and use the kiosks’ built-in video cameras to identify abandoned packages.” Sidewalk Labs, the company behind the kiosks, said all data is anonymized, not sold to third parties and the cameras haven’t even been turned on. Still, the kiosks have found dedicated fans on the city streets: The New York Post reported some of the city’s homeless population was using the stations to watch free porn until the city remembered it had to put in URL filters.

The hacking of social media accounts has been in the news since a Mr. Mark Zuckerberg got jacked recently, and if you’re worried about your own Twitter account, BuzzFeed has an article up with tips on how to see if your account is vulnerable from third-party applications.

The Chicago man who hacked several celebrity iCloud and Gmail accounts in 2014 (and made actress Jennifer Lawrence extremely angry) is going to plead guilty. Edward Majerczyk could get up to five years in prison, a felony violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act after stealing user names and password through phishing.

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Facebook announced last week that it is adding a new multilingual composer for users to write one post, but have it appear in multiple languages. Sounds like there could be some good machine-translation memes coming soon.

Comcast and Netflix have made nice and come to an agreement that will allow Netflix’s streaming video service on to Comcast’s set-top boxes. Netflix’s long march to be on every type of screen available continues.

According to Securities and Exchange Commission filings, Linkedin also was courting Google and Salesforce as potential suitors, but Microsoft’s all-cash deal won out. Let’s hope this one turns out better than the Nokia acquisition.

bbclassicedBlackBerry (remember them?) announced this week that it would no longer make the BlackBerry Classic smartphone and said earlier this year that it was ditching its own BlackBerry 10 operating system in favor of Android. Some member of the United States Congress will likely be very upset by this, as there are still some lawmakers holding on to the once-dominant platform, even though it got toasted by Android and iOS devices in the late 2000s. Without BlackBerry updates, the Senate’s IT department sent out a memo saying Senate staffers would no longer be issued official BlackBerry smartphones for office use. While the 600 BlackBerry models currently in circulation will still get tech support, for the time being. Guv’ment business and all.

And finally, NASA announced last week that nine missions by far-traveling spacecraft are getting extended because the hardware has lived beyond the original estimates. The New Horizons craft that already completed the Pluto flyby job got extended, as did the Dawn mission to Ceres. And NASA’s Juno probe, launched in 2011, has reached its destination after a five-year journey. After a 130,000-mile-an-hour trip through radiation belts and planetary clouds slowed by a 35-minute engine burn, Juno dropped into Jupiter’s orbit on July 4th to start observing the solar system’s largest planet while searching for its origins. As one of the principal members of the Juno team said, “This is the hardest thing NASA has ever done.” That’s really saying something, because when you look at the History of NASA, they’ve done some pretty darn hard and impressive things since the agency was created in 1958. You go, NASA!

Stuff We Saw on TV: Phone Hacking on “60 Minutes”

How fast can someone hack a mobile phone? As 60 Minutes correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi found out, the answer is: Not very long at all — especially if you have a room full of experts on the job. Speaking of security issues, the videos below are unfortunately in the dreaded Adobe Flash format and useless for most mobile devices, but here’s the segment called “Hacking Your Phone” that ran last weekend, plus the additional web-based 60 Minutes Overtime segment. (You can always check them out, plus the transcriptions, on the 60 Minutes website yourself if the embed here is problematic.)

Scary? Yes.
Consciousness raised? Through the roof.

PTJ 182 News: Tales from the Encrypt

What’s up, WhatsApp?  As The New York Times reported last weekend, government officials are said to be privately debating about what to do in their similar ongoing squabble with WhatsApp. The program’s encryption is mucking up the Justice Department’s ability to peek at messages, even though it has a judge’s wiretap order to investigate. In a related story, The Guardian of London reports that Facebook, Google and Snapchat plan to step up their encryption to protect the data of their customers.

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Apple is due to appear in a federal court in Riverside, California, on March 22 to fight the order that started this most recent squabble over privacy vs. security. Perhaps not so incidentally, the company has confirmed its next Apple Event to Reveal New Products to be on March 21st, just as the Apple-watching blogs predicted. But as the legal battles rage, Adam Segal and Alex Grigsby of the Council on Foreign Relations have an essay in The Los Angeles Times that lays out what they call three realistic solutions to prevent further fights over encryption. Will anybody try them out?

The South By Southwest festival has been going on the past week, but some outlets like CNBC are reporting a diminished interest in the interactive side of the event, which could explain the relatively low-key media coverage. Or perhaps the media is just preoccupied with a certain 2016 Presidential election.

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In happier news, Microsoft announced this week that the Xbox One will soon support cross-network gameplay, meaning people using Xbox Live with their Xboxes or Windows 10 hardware could, in theory, be able to frag players using other hardware like the Sony PlayStation 4. Microsoft has also just updated the web version of Skype. and if you’re not paying attention, the company will update your Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 computer to Windows 10.

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Adobe’s Experience Design CC is now out in preview for Mac users. The program was specifically created for user-experience designers who make mock-ups for interfaces and whatnot. The preview has that nice price of free.

Amazon has filed a patent that lets people pay by selfie. Smile for the cashier, please.

Google is inviting interested parties to hack its Chromebooks. Few have shown interest in doing so, but to sweeten the pot, they’ve upped the top reward for major bug discovery to $100,000.

Could robots replace salespeople in retail stores? Researchers as Osaka University in Japan have been studying and testing real-life jobs for robots and found that people react  well when the robots are used for things like foreign-language practice, or as retail associates because they don’t nag the human to do more — or buy more .

And finally, speaking of artificial intelligence, Google’s DeepMind AlphaGo computer, which we mentioned a few weeks ago on the show, has defeated the Korean grandmaster Lee Sedol in a best-of-five series of the ancient game of Go. Artificial intelligence has already kicked human butt in chess and on Jeopardy, but how will AI do at Cards Against Humanity?

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