Are Smart TV Designs Taking Home Security for Granted?

2018.02.19 02

Millions of smart TVs from Samsung and some streaming devices from Roku recently were found to be vulnerable to cyberattacks, allowing intruders to take control and remotely change channels and volume settings, among other things, according to Consumer Reports research.

Vulnerabilities were discovered not only in Samsung televisions, but also in TVs from TCL and other brands that sell sets compatible with the Roku TV smart-TV platform and streaming video devices such as Roku Ultra, according to the report.

Further, the affected televisions and devices collect a wide range of personal data, Consumer Reports noted, and users who choose to limit that data collection would risk limiting the functionality of the TV.

The report is based on a wide ranging security and privacy review of major brands, including Vizio, LG and Sony.

“For many years, there was no reason to hack a television or a smart streaming media player,” he told TechNewsWorld.

It was only with the advent of subscription-based video services and transactional video that you started to see financial data, like credit card numbers, get stored online, Sappington noted.

Are Smart TV Designs Taking Home Security for Granted?

Intel’s Smart Peepers Look Smart, Too

2018.02.13 01

Intel has designed a pair of smart glasses that won’t make you look like a hopeless geek.

Called “Vaunt,” the peepers, which are still in the prototype phase, look like ordinary glasses, save for a faint, red glimmer that occasionally appears on the right lens.

Information sent to the glasses appear to be displayed on a screen but in reality is beamed to the retina of a wearer’s eye.

“The prototypes I wore in December also felt virtually indistinguishable from regular glasses,” Dieter Bohn wrote in a hands-on review published Monday in The Verge.

“They come in several styles, work with prescriptions, and can be worn comfortably all day,” he added.

Intel’s Smart Peepers Look Smart, Too

Privacy-Minded Smart Speaker May Struggle to Get to Know You

2018.02.01 01

Mycroft AI earlier this week announced that its Mark II smart speaker achieved full funding on Kickstarter in just 6.5 hours. As of Wednesday, pledges reached more than three times its US$50K goal — with 23 days remaining in the campaign.

The Mark II is positioned as an open source alternative to the dominant Amazon Echo line of smart speakers and its main challenger, the Google Home device.

One of the main draws of the Mark II is its emphasis on maintaining user privacy, an increasing concern as the market for smart home devices has exploded.

The Mark II offers sophisticated voice control technology with a built-in screen, an optional camera, and a state-of-the-art microphone array, the company said. It protects user privacy by automatically deleting user queries and utilizing open data sets.

The Mark II is the first commercial device that uses Deep Speech to understand commands in English, according to Mozilla. Its Persona technology recognizes contextual speech, which enables the virtual assistant to discern whether a user’s speech is sarcastic or serious, for example.

Privacy-Minded Smart Speaker May Struggle to Get to Know You

Alexa Now Can Dash Off Text Messages to Android Phones

2016.06.13 01

Amazon on Tuesday introduced new functionality that enables its Alexa virtual assistant to send and receive SMS messages on devices running Android 5.0 or higher. Carrier charges may apply.

Alexa, the software that powers the Echo line of smart speakers, can play and send personalized messages from contacts for users who have set up voice profiles.

Users will hear a chime when they have a new SMS message, and see a yellow light ring on their Echo device. They’ll also be notified in the Alexa App.

The SMS feature isn’t available for iOS because Apple doesn’t share its messaging API with third parties, Amazon said.

The feature currently is available only in the United States.

Text-to-911, group messages, and MMS are not supported.

Alexa’s new SMS capability is being over hyped, contended Michael Jude, research manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.

“Accessing the feature for most will be more trouble than it’s worth, since Alexa interactions are still kind of clunky,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Alexa “works for simple instructions — but for more complicated interactions like this, most people will not bother,” Jude predicted. “It’s far easier simply to use the SMS functionality on the smartphone.”

The SMS feature “will add to the perceived utility of the Amazon offering, but will ultimately be of limited use unless it’s improved over time,” he said. “The Jude rule is, people evaluate a purchase on the basis of all the features they get, but then only use 10 percent of them.”

Alexa Now Can Dash Off Text Messages to Android Phones

New Open Source Mobile OS Puts Privacy Front and Center

2018.01.29 02

A renowned Linux innovator has developed a new mobile operating system, called “Project eelo,” in an effort to provide a level of data privacy that traditional Android and iOS devices fail to offer.

The new eelo system will allow mobile phone users to regain control over their personal information at a price they can afford, said Gael Duval, who created Mandrake Linux back in 1998.

Apple has become too expensive, too boring and is “going crazy with its products,” he said, while Google has “become too big” and is capturing too much information about what we do.

“They want to know us as much as possible to sell advertising,” Duval wrote in a post introducing eelo’s Kickstarter campaign, which has more than doubled its goal with 14 days remaining.

“Information is currency, and people are going to want more control over who has information on their behaviors and habits on a mobile device,” said Ryan Spanier, director of research at Kudelski Security.

“Eelo is focused on maintaining privacy,” he told LinuxInsider, “preventing tracking and monetization of your actions without your consent.”

New Open Source Mobile OS Puts Privacy Front and Center

Google Device Bug Chokes Home WiFi Networks

2018.01.29 01

A bug in the software used by Google Cast devices such as Chromecast and Home can slow down or crash WiFi networks.

The problem — initially believed to be isolated to a particular router model made by TP-Link — appears to affect models made by other manufacturers, including Asus, Linksys, Netgear and Synology.

The Cast feature on Google’s home devices is the culprit behind the WiFi problems, according to a post on the TP-Link website. Cast sends MDNS multicast discovery packets in order to discover and keep a live connection with Google products such as Home. These packets normally are sent in 20-second intervals.

However, after a device wakes up from sleep mode, it sometimes broadcasts a large amount of the packets — more than 100,000 on some occasions — at a very high speed in a short amount of time. The longer the device is asleep, the larger the packet burst will be.

Google Device Bug Chokes Home WiFi Networks

Apple’s HomePod Set to Barge Into Hot Speaker Market

2018.01.26 01

HomePod, Apple’s long-awaited entry into the torrid smart speaker market, will be available Feb. 9, the company announced Tuesday.

The HomePod, which is not quite 7 inches tall, will be offered in white and space gray. It can be pre-ordered at Apple’s website for US$349 starting Friday.

Unlike other smart speakers, which support a variety of music services out of the gate, HomePod will support the Apple Music subscription service exclusively.

Although Apple Music has a catalog of 45 million songs, that limitation could curb initial sales of the product, noted Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research.

Apple’s HomePod Set to Barge Into Hot Speaker Market

The Man Who Wrote Those Password Rules Has a New Tip: N3v$r M1^d!

2017.08.08 01

The man who wrote the book on password management has a confession to make: He blew it.

Back in 2003, as a midlevel manager at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Bill Burr was the author of “NIST Special Publication 800-63. Appendix A.” The 8-page primer advised people to protect their accounts by inventing awkward new words rife with obscure characters, capital letters and numbers—and to change them regularly.

The problem is the advice ended up largely incorrect, Mr. Burr says. Change your password every 90 days? Most people make minor changes that are easy to guess, he laments. Changing Pa55word!1 to Pa55word!2 doesn’t keep the hackers at bay.

The Man Who Wrote Those Password Rules Has a New Tip: N3v$r M1^d!

What you need to know about the massive hack that hit the British health-care system and elsewhere

2017.05.13 06

It was first reported in England — hackers gained access to the National Health Service computers, effectively shuttering the entire system. Patients were told to stay home; doctors and nurses were unable to access email or medical records and had to take notes by hand. The hackers demanded a ransom, to be paid in bitcoin.

By Friday afternoon, though, it was clear that this was not a limited attack. Businesses in at least 11 other countries reported similar cyberattacks. Many were paralyzed.

According to Britain’s Independent newspaper, these attacks may stretch around the globe, from Portugal to Turkey, Indonesia, Vietnam, Japan, Germany and Russia. It “is much larger than just the NHS,” Travis Farral, director of security strategy for cybersecurity firm Anomali Labs, told the Independent. “It appears to be a giant campaign that has hit Spain and Russia the hardest.”

If you run a business, back up every computer in your office and have a plan for what to do if your system goes down for a while. Be smart about setting up your network, so that most users don’t have complete access to the system. This makes it harder for a ransomware attack to infect everything. And make sure your users are educated about the common kinds of attacks.

What you need to know about the massive hack that hit the British health-care system and elsewhere

How to stream your video collection to any device

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As great as Netflix is, movies and shows don’t stick around on the service forever. As licensing deals renew or expire, Netflix loses old videos and gains new ones—which means that, on any given day, you might look up your favorite TV show only to find it’s gone.

For a more reliable option, you could buy your favorite digital content from portals like iTunes or Google Play. But there is another solution: Set up your own version of Netflix. Simply store the videos you own on your home computer, and from there, you can stream that content to other devices around the house.

In proper technical parlance, you’re actually turning your computer into a server, something that “serves up” content for other devices, or “clients.” A client might be anything from your phone to the PlayStation 4 connected to your living room TV.

A few years ago, you pretty much needed a degree in IT to get everything connected. Today, the Windows and Mac operating systems, as well as third-party apps, make it relatively easy to set up your own streaming service from the comfort of home.

How to stream your video collection to any device