Pwned Barbies Spying On Children? Toytalk CEO Downplays Hacking Reports
Earlier this year Mattel unveiled "Hello Barbie," a $74.99 wi-fi equipped interactive doll. Users press a button on Barbie's belt to start a conversation and the recorded audio is processed over the internet so that the doll can respond appropriately. The doll also remembers the user's likes and dislikes.
Now Security Researcher Matt Jakubowski claims that he has managed to hack the Hello Barbie system to extract wi-fi network names, account IDs and MP3 files, which could be used to track down someone's home. "You can take that information and find out a person's house or business. It's just a matter of time until we are able to replace their servers with ours and have her say anything we want," Jakubowski warned. Mattel partnered with ToyTalk to develop "Hello Barbie." ToyTalk CEO Oren Jacob said: "An enthusiastic researcher has reported finding some device data and called that a hack. While the path that the researcher used to find that data is not obvious and not user-friendly, it is important to note that all that information was already directly available to Hello Barbie customers through the Hello Barbie Companion App. No user data, no Barbie content, and no major security or privacy protections have been compromised to our knowledge." A petition by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood asking Mattel to drop the doll has already been signed by over 6,000 people.
NOTE: The original reporting of this hack appears to have been this NBC-Chicago newscast.
Swarm Robotics Breakthrough Brings Pheromone Communication To AI
An anonymous reader writes:
Computer scientists at the University of Lincoln have invented a reliable, low-cost system which replicates in robots the pheromone-based communication behind insect swarms. Using off-the-shelf equipment including an LCD screen and a USB camera, the team has proposed what they call COS-phi, or Communication System via Pheromone. The artificial pheromone trails are traced visually onto the screen. As soon as a bot picks up on the path, it is forced to follow the leader.
Creator of Relay On BITNET, Predecessor of IRC, Dies
Jeff Kell passed away on November 25 as reported here in the 3000newswire. He was inventor of BITNET Relay, a predecessor of Internet Relay Chat using the REXX programming language.
In 1987 he wrote the following preserved article about RELAY and here is his obituary.. May this early inventor rest in peace.
NASA Prepares To Launch an Orion and 3 Cubesats To Deep Space: 3 Years To Go
As NASA has noted, the space agency and its contractors are working diligently on the first launch of the heavy-lift Space Launch System. The launch, officially called EM-1, or Exploration Mission 1, will loft an unpiloted version of the Orion spacecraft around the moon. NASASpaceFlight.com also noted that a number of secondary payloads, known as CubeSats, will be along for the ride as well. NASA considered EM-1, scheduled for 2018, a crucial step in its Journey to Mars which will, it is hoped, reach its ultimate destination sometime in the 2030s.
Bill Gates To Headline Paris Climate Talks
The NY Times and others report that Bill Gates will announce the creation of a multibillion-dollar clean energy fund on Monday at the opening of the two-week long Paris Climate Change Conference. The climate summit, which will be attended by President Obama and 100+ world leaders, is intended to forge a global accord to cut planet-warming emissions. The pending announcement was first reported by ClimateWire. A spokesman for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation did not respond to a request for comment. Let's hope it goes better than BillG school reform!
What USB Has Replaced (And What it Hasn't)
An anonymous reader writes with a story at Ars Technica about the evolution thus far of USB as an enabling technology:
Like all technology, USB has evolved over time. Despite being a 'Universal' Serial Bus, in its 18-or-so years on the market it has spawned multiple versions with different connection speeds and many, many types of cables. A casual search around the shelves by my desk shows that I've got at least 12 varieties, and that's not even counting serial and PS/2 adapters. What have you replaced with USB?
How Bad of a World Are We Really Living In Right Now?
Slate has a surprisingly relevant article of the state of the world today. A reasonable number of graphs and statistical comparisons show that our world is more peaceful than it has been for a long time. The article tells us that, despite what most news outlets (and political candidates) tell us, The World Is Not Falling Apart. Well, not from violence, at least.
DecryptorMax/CryptInfinite Ransomware Decrypted, No Need To Pay Ransom
An anonymous reader writes:
Emsisoft has launched a new tool capable of decrypting files compromised by the DecryptorMax (CryptInfinite) ransomware. The tool is quite easy to use, and will generate a decryption key. For best results users should compare an encrypted and decrypted file, but the tool can also get the decryption key by comparing an encrypted PNG with a random PNG downloaded off the Internet.
Ask Slashdot: Buy Or Build a High End Gaming PC?
An anonymous reader writes:
Looking at some Black Friday ads, I'm seeing some good deals on Alienware and other gaming rigs that would be cheaper than building them from scratch. If you built or were to build a high end gaming rig, what would you suggest? Or would you just get a prebuilt system and customize it to your needs? I'm not looking for cheap, I want best quality and performance, but not overkill that would rival supercomputers and at the same time break my bank account. It would be a Windows system to keep my family happy, but possibly dual boot with Linux to keep me happy. It will be located in the livingroom hooked up to a regular monitor and the big screen TV, replacing a budget PC that's in there now.
Air Force Hires Civilian Drone Pilots For Combat Patrols
For the first time, civilian pilots and crews now operate what the Air Force calls "combat air patrols," daily round-the-clock flights above areas of military operations to provide video and collect other sensitive intelligence. Civilians are not allowed to pinpoint targets with lasers or fire missiles. They operate only Reapers that provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, known as ISR, said Air Force Gen. Herbert "Hawk" Carlisle, head of Air Combat Command.
Peter Thiel: We Need a New Atomic Age
Peter Thiel writes in the NYT that what's especially strange about the failed push for renewables is that we already had a practical plan back in the 1960s to become fully carbon-free without any need of wind or solar: nuclear power. "But after years of cost overruns, technical challenges and the bizarre coincidence of an accident at Three Mile Island and the 1979 release of the Hollywood horror movie "The China Syndrome," about a hundred proposed reactors were canceled," says Thiel. "If we had kept building, our power grid could have been carbon-free years ago. Instead, we went in reverse."
According to Thiel, a new generation of American nuclear scientists has produced designs for better reactors. Crucially, these new designs may finally overcome the most fundamental obstacle to the success of nuclear power: high cost. Designs using molten salt, alternative fuels and small modular reactors have all attracted interest not just from academics but also from entrepreneurs and venture capitalists like me ready to put money behind nuclear power. However, none of these new designs can benefit the real world without a path to regulatory approval, and today's regulations are tailored for traditional reactors, making it almost impossible to commercialize new ones. "Both the right's fear of government and the left's fear of technology have jointly stunted our nuclear energy policy," concludes Thiel. "supporting nuclear power with more than words is the litmus test for seriousness about climate change. Like Nixon's going to China, this is something only Mr. Obama can do. If this president clears the path for a new atomic age, American scientists are ready to build it."
Parts of Falcon 9 Launcher Wash Ashore In England
RockDoctor writes with news as reported by the BBC that parts of a Falcon 9 launcher have
washed ashore on the
Scilly Islands off the SW coast of Britain. Early impressions are that the pieces are from the failed Falcon 9 ISS launch which
exploded after take-off in June. That's not the only possibility, though; according to the article,
However Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said many experts believed, due to the size and markings which have now been revealed, it was from a different mission. "All the geeks have been getting together and looking at fine details, and we're pretty sure it's a launch from September 2014 that successfully sent a cargo mission to the space station. "It didn't look like an exploded rocket to me, it looked like a fairly normal piece of space junk when the lower stage of a rocket falls from a hundred miles up and hits the ocean. Large sections can remain in tact and it's really quite normal," he said.
C.H.I.P. vs Pi Zero: Which Sub-$10 Computer Is Better?
Make Magazine weighs in on a issue that's suddenly relevant in a world where less thn $10 can buy a new, (nominally) complete computer. Which one makes most sense? Both the $9 C.H.I.P and the newest, stripped-down Raspberry Pi model have plusses and minuses, but to make either one actually useful takes some additional hardware; at their low prices, it's not surprising that neither one comes with so much as a case. The two make different trade-offs, despite being just a few dollars apart in ticket price. C.H.I.P. comes with built-in storage that rPi lacks, for instance, but the newest Pi, like its forebears, has built in HDMI output. Make's upshot?
The cost of owning either a C.H.I.P. or a Pi is a bit more money than the retail cost of the boards. Peripherals such as a power cable, keyboard, mouse, and monitor are necessary to accomplish any computer task on either of the devices. But it turns out the $5 Raspberry Pi Zero costs significantly more to operate than the Next Thing Co. C.H.I.P.
Hacker Cracks Lumia Bootloader, Offers Tool For Root Access and Custom ROMs
Microsoft and Nokia have worked hard making Lumia smartphones difficult to break into at a low-level, but software hacker Heathcliff has just proven that it's not impossible. He's just released a solid-looking tool called Windows Phone Internals, and it can do everything from unlocking the bootloader to replacing the phone's ROM. WP Internals is a completely free download, though Heathcliff welcomes donations by those who've found the tool useful. According to the "Getting Started" section of the tool, supported models include Lumia 520, 521, 525, 620, 625, 720, 820, 920, 925, 928, 1020, and 1320. If your model is not on the list, the developer has said that he hopes to add more models in the near future.
Finnish IT Retailer Reveals Most Returned Products
The largest computer gear retailer in Finland, Verkkokauppa.com, has unveiled top 20 lists of most returned and most serviced equipment in 2015 (Google translation). To offer an alternative to Black Friday, the company is going with a theme called "Sustainable Christmas". They want to guide shoppers to make good choices, as product returns always create extra burden for the distribution chain. Is there anything that catches your eye in the lists, or something else that you would like to warn about?