Monthly Archives: October 2014

You search for a website on your phone and assume that your internet provider is the only one who knows where you visit. Turns out if you have Verizon, you were wrong. Recently it has been discovered that for at least the past two years the communications provider has been selling the data it collects from its mobile internet users and sells the information to marketing companies. Verizon refers to the process as a Unique Identifier Header (UIDH) which inserts unique numbers and letters into users’ web requests. Paying advertisers can then use these distinctive web addresses to identify which you tend to visit and can closely tailor their ads to your searches. The UIDH system alters the addresses through Verizon’s network so deleting saved cookies will have no effect on the advertisers’ ability to view your tendencies and history. Even more troubling to many people hearing about the tactics is that the company’s opt-out function does not stop the process. Verizon and its advertising clients won’t use your searches for personalized ads; however, it will continue to collect all of the information that it did before you opted-out. Bit of a head scratcher, yes? Providers including AT&T and Sprint are now also being questioned if they employ tactics similar to Verizon. Be careful for what websites you visit on your phone; Big Brother is not only watching but keeping track of where you go…

UPDATE: AT&T confirms to use of similar program: http://wp.me/p2NUsr-5X

Verizon UIDH

You snap a pic, send it to a specific user, and assume that it will be automatically deleted once it is viewed on the user’s Snapchat account. PLOT TWIST. Turns out that it isn’t this simple and unfortunately for some, thousands of these photos have been released on the internet. The Snapchat application itself was not hacked but third-party applications that store saved shots. Applications and websites like SnapSaved.com allow users to save otherwise “expired” photos so that users can return to them for viewing in the future. Though the images were taken using the application, Snapchat is admitting no fault because “Snapchatters were victimized by their use of third-party apps to send and receive Snaps, a practice that we expressly prohibit in our Terms of Use precisely because they compromise our users’ security.” Regardless of how the images were accessed or how they were initially shared, this event is yet another obvious reminder that what happens in technology does not stay hidden no matter what is promised.

Several of the applications being accused of hosting the leaked images claim that they do not store usernames and passwords, yet usernames are indeed attached to the approximately 90,000 images. Worst yet, many viewers of the released images have reported they contain child pornography. Many sites are now claiming that the Snappening is a hoax because the releaser cannot create a searchable database but the evidence stands: images were released without the users’ permission. As with all similar photo releases, we advise all readers refrain from searching for these images and to be more cognizant of what you share on the internet. It’s not as safe a place as you may have been led to believe.

Snapchat Snappening SnapSaved.com

Today if you walk into a computer programming or computer science class on nearly any college campus, the room will be filled with primarily young adult males. Does this shock you? It shouldn’t. Yet this hasn’t always been the case. Does this shock you? How about the fact that women were some of the frontrunners in computer programming? It should based on how history has been told.

Science and mathematics have long been regarded as masculine studies because that’s what the media consistently reports. If women were involved it was reported that they simply assisted, even when their work shows they were co-contributors with their male colleagues. Considered the first computer programmer, Ada Lovelace was tutored almost exclusively in mathematics and worked on Charles’ Babbage’s analytical engine. Despite reports of Babbage himself saying that Lovelace understood the computations and calculations of the machine better than he did, Babbage is credited as the sole inventor of the machine. When computers really took off in the 1940s, leaders such as Gertrude Blanch, Adele Goldstine, and Grace Hopper made monumental contributions to the industry, yet aren’t recognized today by most programmers or programming students. While female programmers were the minority for most of the 20th century, it was a mere 60-40 split with their male counterparts. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are modern-day examples of programming geniuses but women had been dominating the role long before Apple or Microsoft ever existed.

Many believe that women are underrepresented in technology because there aren’t ample, prevalent role models for them to look up to which since the 1980s has sadly been true. When Steve Jobs and Bill Gates broke into fame, they were the image of the classic computer programmer. Women in the industry shifted from 40% at the time to now closer to 17% according to various studies. This 17% have recently been pushing young girls to remember that they do have role models to look to and they shouldn’t be afraid to become programmers.

 

Grace Hopper, electronic computer automatic programmer

Grace Hopper, electronic computer automatic programmer

Using a USB is no longer one of the safest ways to transfer files between computers. Why? Because two researchers (Karsten Noll and Jakob Lell of SRLabs) have discovered a way to reprogram the device’s firmware to attack the computer to which it is attached. As if this weren’t bad enough, the reverse engineered USB can affect the computer in such way that any USB device that is plugged into it will be corrupted as well. Think that connecting an anti-virus device will solve the problem? Think again. The infected computer will self-replicate the malware onto the newly attached device’s controller to make it a BadUSB as well.

Because this new attack isn’t a normal virus, security measures like McAfee or Norton will not stop the attack. These systems scan files and program codes to identify malicious behavior and attributes. This BadUSB as the creators have dubbed it is unique because it is run through the controller of the USB, not in the memory. Thus, the connected computer will not be able to recognize the malware. The device identifies itself as a USB to the computer once connected but is able to redefine itself as another device such as a keyboard. This may not seem useful at first but once defined as a keyboard, the malware can then enter strokes that command the computer to do tasks such as download Trojans or log into accounts, giving the USB needed usernames and passwords.

Unfortunately once a computer has been infected, there is nothing even the savviest tech can do to remove the malware. Noll explained that the only valid defense for this breach is for the device creators to “make it so the firmware can’t be reprogrammed.” Even an unopened USB drive fresh from the store can already have been infected at the factory so planning to replace all old devices with new ones doesn’t ensure security. Until the way USB controllers are made and programmed differently at production, this new threat is a reality that we should all be on the lookout for.

SRLabs

Building computers is just for adults? Not anymore. Kano Computing has recently shipped its first batch of computer kits after receiving more than 13,000 requests on its Kickstarter account. The kits include step-by-step instructions for not only building the computer but learning how to code as well. The younger generation has grown up playing with Gameboys instead of games in their backyards and know more about buying apps on Mom and Dad’s tablet than about buying playing cards. Kano’s goal is to capitalize on this by not only getting kids interested in their product but interested in building the product as well. Users cannot simply take the computer out of its packaging and start it up onsite. They have to get to know the pieces, carefully read what wire connects to what port, and type out the code in a very specific order. The Kano computer kits get users involved in the whole process of the computer, not just in its use.

Kano plans to grow very organically in an attempt to encourage customers to invest “not just in the product itself but in the … experience as well,” according to co-founder Alex Klein. With this grassroots goal, the company will strive to sell future units globally through its own website with the help of new COO Thomas Enraght-Moony, who was formerly the CEO of Match.com. With attention-grabbing colors and catchy phrases as “Lego simple, Raspberry Pi powerful, and hugely fun” Kano is on its way to accomplishing success in a DIY, technological world.

Kano Computer Kits come with step-by-step instructions not only for the hardware but software as well

Kano Computer Kits come with step-by-step instructions not only for the hardware but software as well

…and then there was 10; Windows 10, that is. At a press conference Microsoft revealed that it has been working on a new operating system that will be released publicly mid-2015. The company’s goal is for the OS to work on phones and computers, touchscreens and mouse-and-keyboard systems, personal laptops and company networks. Operating systems chief for Microsoft Terry Myerson confidently stated, “Windows 10 will deliver the right experience at the right time on the right device.” Seeing as Windows 8 was fraught with user interface nightmares, we’re happy to hear that Microsoft has plans to improve the OS beyond its attempts with 8.1.

The newest OS from Microsoft will still utilize its predecessor’s tile system but the much-lamented Start Menu will be returned. Its absence was an attempt to launch Microsoft touchscreen devices into popularity with simplicity at the helm but this translated into chaos for the traditional devices. Listening to upset customers, Microsoft plans for Windows 10 to combine the best of both worlds by using the touchscreen-friendly tiles and the classic device-friendly start menu. The company recognizes that Windows 7 is still the most-used operating system (despite the end of mainstream support looming in early 2015) and have thus looked to it for inspiration for this next project. Beta users starting today will be testing the new OS so that the company can correct issues and perfect the overall program before its release first to businesses and then to the public.

Widnows 10

Microsoft will reintroduce the Start Menu with the release of Windows 10, set to debut in mid to late 2015.

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