Updates from August, 2016 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Geebo 10:02 am on August 17, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    New ransomware knows you by name and address 

    New ransomware knows you by name and address

    Ransomware is a nasty bit of malware that can lock you out of your computer or network and will hold your files ransom until you pay a bad actor to release them. One of the more infamous ransomware incidents involved a hospital in Kansas that paid the ransom in order to regain access to their patients’ records. One of the main ways ransomware infects a computer network is when a user either opens a strange email attachment or goes to an infected website.

    Now the BBC is reporting a new type of ransomware that tricks you into infecting your computer with your own name and address. In this case the scammers will send you an email that appears to be a large bill that you owe. Normally scam emails like this are generic in their presentation however this new type of attack makes the email look more official by having your name and address listed. Like any other phishing email, it tries to trick you into clicking on to an infected website. Once your computer or network is infected and your locked out from your files, the ransowmware will not only detail instructions on how to pay the ransom with Bitcoin, but it will also give you a timer that shows you how much the ransom increases the longer you wait. There has been no word yet how the attackers have been able to match up the names and addresses to the email addresses. While the malware has only been reported so far in the UK, it’s probably only a matter of time before it shows up in the US.

    The best protection against ransomware is to not click on unknown email attachments or strange websites these emails ask you to click on. It also helps to make multiple back ups of all your important files. According to Wired, if you do become infected, disconnect any infected computer from the network and try to use anti-malwarwe tools to remove the infection from the computer. They recommend only paying the ransom as a last resort as paying the ransom only propagates the attacks.

  • Geebo 10:11 am on August 16, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Hillary Clinton,   

    Sorry Facebook pundits, you’re not convincing anyone 

    Sorry Facebook pundits, you're not convincing anyone

    Even long before the nominees were determined for each party during this presidential election season, many people were posting their political punditry on Facebook. Whether it be the Donald Trump memes or the ‘lies’ of Hillary Clinton or even lamenting the fact that Bernie Sanders was not nominated, virtually no one is having their political views changed on Facebook.

    According to survey of 10,000 Facebook users, over 90% of respondents have not had their minds changed on a political issue due to anything posted on Facebook. However the political postings have had some effect as 13% of respondents say they’ve unfriended someone on Facebook because of a political post.

    It used to be said that in polite company you should never talk about sex, politics and religion. Since Facebook it’s now so ubiquitous in our lives should those same courtesies be extended to Facebook, or is Facebook more akin to a graffiti laden restroom wall? Maybe we would be more united as a country if we used Facebook as a forum of discussion rather than a series of megaphones projecting a cacophony of political clamor.

  • Geebo 10:04 am on August 15, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , elephants, etsy, , wildlife   

    Online retailers vow to stop illegal wildlife trade 

    Online retailers vow to stop illegal wildlife trade

    Many online retailers, including giants Ebay and Etsy, have banded together, and have vowed to stop the illegal sale of wildlife parts on their sites. This new initiative was announced this past Friday which coincided with World Elephant day and is a collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and TRAFFIC.

    Believe it or not the trade of illegal ivory from elephant tusks is still happening. Elephants are still being poached and slaughtered for their tusks to make jewelry, carvings and other items. While most of the demand for ivory comes from eastern Asia, the United States is also one of the top countries where people buy ivory.

    There is an international ban against ivory trading that was instituted in 1989. However, in 2007, countries that had stockpiles of seized ivory were allowed to sell their ivory inventory. This allowed for illegal ivory to work its way back into the international market. Unfortunately there are a number of ivory consumers who are unaware that ivory can only be harnessed from the elephants by killing them.

    The suppliers of illegal ivory will only be shut down when there is no longer any demand and hopefully this initiative goes a long way in helping to achieve that goal.

  • Geebo 9:54 am on August 12, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , chat bot,   

    Student builds app to help homeless find homes 

    Student builds app to help homeless find homes

    When we think of smart phone apps we usually think of social apps like Twitter or game apps like Pokemon Go. We rarely think of them as tools for social change. If a 19-year-old Stanford student has his way that may change.

    UK native Joshua Browder, has developed a chat bot that is helping the homeless in UK find homes. The bot asks the user a series of questions then crafts a letter that the user can send to the government to request housing. In the UK, housing is a right guaranteed by the government. Browder would like to see his app help homeless in the US be he says because of all the different homeless laws in the different cities and states makes it incredibly difficult.

    As hard as it is for the needy to navigate through the bureaucracy to obtain the services they need, more apps like this could go a long way in assisting those who need help the most.

  • Geebo 2:13 pm on August 11, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: cpap machine, , sleep apnea   

    It’s dangerous to buy secondhand CPAP machines online 

    It's dangerous to buy secondhand CPAP machines online

    Here’s a little fact you may not have known. It’s actually against the law to sell a used CPAP machine online. Those are the machines that assist sleep apnea patients with their breathing at night. In case you were unaware, sleep apnea is a condition that affects numerous people where they stop breathing during the night while they sleep. It can be a potentially fatal condition so it’s important that sufferers have their own CPAP machines. Unfortunately the machines can be quite expensive and many people look to purchase a used one online. There are two problems with the scenario. The first is, as I mentioned, it’s illegal to sell a CPAP machine online because you need a doctor’s prescription to purchase one. The second problem is that the machine you’re buying online may not match your prescription and could exacerbate your condition.

    If you do find yourself in need of a CPAP machine but you may nit have the funds to purchase a brand new unit you can look to the CPAP Assistance Program and they may be able to assist you as they sell refurbished CPAP machines at a deep discount.

    This shows a much bigger problem in our country though where life saving medical care has been priced out of reach of those who may need it most.

  • Geebo 9:43 am on August 10, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ad blockers, ,   

    Facebook attempts to block ad blockers 

    Facebook attempts to block ad blockers

    Desktop ad blockers were born out of necessity during a time when not everyone had broadband internet at home. Some websites would be so laden with ads that they would load at a snail’s pace. It didn’t help that often times the ads were obtrusive and irrelevant. To make matters even worse some advertisers would have their ads inject malware into unprotected systems, so the use of ad blockers has had some justification. The problem with them is they’re akin to killing a fly with a shotgun. Most websites use advertising as a way to make money so they can continue to stay in business. Due to a number of abusers all advertisers have been painted as the enemy by some. However, if users continue to block ads, your favorite website could lose revenue forcing them to shut down.

    Within recent years, many websites have been fighting back against ad blockers. Some websites will ask you to disable your ad blocker if you enjoy their content. Others will try to get you to sign up for a paid version of their website that is ad free. Another way websites are fighting back is to disable some of their functionality while an ad blocker is enabled. Now, a major player in the web space has brought the ad blocker wars to a brand new level.

    Facebook recently announced that their new ads will start bypassing ad blockers. While this may be met with controversy by some users, Facebook says it will be offering tools to their users to make the experience more pleasant.

    Facebook is debuting a new ad preferences tool that will make it easier to see how you’re being targeted. You’ll be able to specify your interests, opt out of those Facebook has incorrectly associated you with, and see which advertisers have your details on a customer list.

    Unfortunately when Facebook usually sets out new tools for its users, they have a history of being overly complicated and confusing, such as their privacy tools. However this battle may just be one of attrition since most users access Facebook through their mobile app where the ads can not be blocked. Mobile is where Facebook makes most of its money. With the number of desktop users dwindling, is it worth it to go through all this trouble to get a few more dollars out of a dying breed? Facebook seems to think so.

  • Geebo 10:02 am on August 9, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , thermostat   

    Hackers Hijack Heater and Hold it Hostage 

    Hackers Hijack Heater and Hold it Hostage

    Have you thought about purchasing a smart thermostat that you can control from your smart phone or do you already have one? You may want to rethink that purchase after what a couple of security experts were able to do to one recently. At the security conference known as DefCon two security experts were able to remotely hijack one of these smart thermostats and crank the temperature up to 99F. In theory a malicious actor could hold your thermostat hostage until you pay them money to have them release control, much like any other ransomware that could infect your computer.

    This is the second bit of bad news for the smart thermostat market in so many months.This past winter, the leading brand of smart thermostats failed after a buggy firmware update left many houses dangerously cold.

    Your best bet in either of these situations is to just get an old school thermostat from your local hardware store that you should be able to hook up in minutes. Sometimes the most secure solutions are the most simple ones.

  • Geebo 4:03 pm on August 8, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    Comcast wants to charge for privacy 

    Comcast wants to charge for privacy

    If there’s one inherent truth to the internet it’s that someone is selling your data. I’m not talking about malicious hackers selling your personal information to identity thieves, but the Facebooks and Googles who sell your browsing habits to advertisers. They do this, they say, in order to show you advertising tailored more to your likes. Now, one of the country’s largest internet providers wants to charge you extra to not sell your data.

    Comcast has petitioned the FCC to allow ISPs to charge their customers extra for not selling their browsing habits. If Comcast had its way the ISPs could charge you an extra fee to not sell your data to advertisers. That sounds a lot like a protection racket from an old black and white gangster movie with Comcast playing the heavy that says “That’s some real nice privacy you’ve got here. It’d be a shame if something happened to it.”

    What’s worse is that Comcast acts like they’re doing customers a favor…

    Comcast said in its filing that “such a prohibition would harm consumers by, among other things, depriving them of lower-priced offerings, and as FTC Commissioner [Maureen] Ohlhausen points out, ‘such a ban may prohibit ad-supported broadband services and thereby eliminate a way to increase broadband adoption.’

    What’s really depriving consumers of lower-priced offerings for broadband is the lack of competition between ISPs. In most markets you can either choose the cable company or the phone company for internet service. A duopoly doesn’t encourage much competition and without competition prices not only stagnate, but they tend to rise because who else are you going to use? If you’ve ever been in an area that offers the upstart Google Fiber you’ll see the incumbent providers start slashing their prices in order to compete.

    So instead of trying to extort customers over their privacy, maybe the ISPs should start offering better services in order to make more money.

  • Geebo 9:35 am on August 5, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , newsfeed   

    Facebook to clamp down on clickbait 

    Facebook to clamp down on clickbait

    Facebook just became a little less annoying. No, they haven’t stopped your relatives from saying wildly inappropriate things. No, they haven’t stopped your friend from going on their latest ill-informed political diatribe. What they have done is to limit the amount of clickbait in your news feed. While you may not know the term ‘clickbait’ you’ve definitely seen it on Facebook. They’re the articles that have phrases in their headlines like “You won’t believe what happens next” or “This will shock you”. In a nutshell clickbait is any article that purposely withholds information in order to get you to click on the link.

    Entire websites have been built around Facebook clickbait and now they’ll have to rethink their strategies in order to get views from the social media giant. Hopefully their new strategy will be to write engaging content but I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for it. Shady publishers and content mills will always be looking for the next way to try to fool Facebook users to click on the web content version of fast food and your friends and family will continue to clog your news feed with them.

  • Geebo 10:02 am on August 4, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: moon, Moon Express, NASA,   

    US company receives government approval for moon landing 

    US company receives government approval for moon landing

    It’s been 47 years since the world was first glued to their TVs watching Neil Armstrong taking the first human steps on the moon while uttering his famous phrase. It’s been 44 years since the Apollo 17 mission was the last manned mission to Earth’s closest neighbor in space. Due to political and financial reasons we haven;t been back to the moon since.

    Now for the first time ever, the US government has given approval to a private company to land on the moon. Moon Express is a private company financed by some Silicon Valley bigwigs, that is looking to land on the moon in 2017. Will it bring back the excitement of 1969? Probably not since it won’t be a manned flight. Moon Express plans on sending a robotic lander to the moon in order to win the Google X Lunar Prize which promises $20 million to the first private company that can reach a lander on the moon and have it return.

    It’s far from a guarantee, but if Moon Express could complete a successful trip to the moon it could start a whole new industry of commercial space flight. Then maybe we’ll be able to have our imaginations captured by space flight once again like it was with Apollo Missions. Or, in Silicon Valley terms, will it be just another startup that will fail to launch?

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