CategoriesHow To GuideTechnology

COVID-19 Social Distancing – How to Host a Netflix Party

The COVID-19 (corona virus) pandemic is keeping a large number of us isolated in our homes, which is leading to a great deal of boredom for many. Creative ways of socializing online are becoming more normal, as we wait for the situation to unfold. My favorite method of connecting with friends recently is Netflix Party. With Netflix Party, you can watch Neflix with your friends and family online. “Netflix Party synchronizes video playback and adds group chat to your favorite Netflix shows.” –NetflixParty.com

The instructions for setting up Netflix Party are simple:

First you need to install Netflix Party on Chrome. Simply open your Chrome browser and go to https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/netflix-party/oocalimimngaihdkbihfgmpkcpnmlaoa?hl=en and click to install the extension on chrome.

Then after the extension is installed on chrome, sign into Netflix in your browser and pick the movie or show you want to watch with friends. There will be an “NP” in the upper right corner of your browser next to where your other extensions are listed. Click the “NP” and it will give you a link to share with your friends so they can watch and chat along with you. Please note: your friends must also have a Netflix account and must be logged in to join your party. Unfortunately, this is only available for Chrome at this time. If you’d like to watch Netflix Party videos on your tv, consider using an HDMI cable.

Here’s a video with some more detailed instructions:


That’s it! If you have any other creative ideas for socializing while social distancing, please leave them in the comments!

Follow author adezero on Twitter.

CategoriesInternetPrivacySecurity

Tinder: Three Things You Probably Didn’t Know

It all seems very straightforward. Swipe right if you’re attracted to the person on your screen, swipe left if you’re not. Tinder makes the process of finding someone to date seem easy. Individual profiles take only seconds to scan. In under one hour, you could be matched up with someone available to date you tonight. Yet, there’s more to the app than meets the eye. The inner workings of Tinder’s algorithms might leave you a little surprised.

 

 



Tinder has a “desirability” ranking system.

That’s right, Tinder “scores” your desirability based on several factors. You are shown specific matches first, based on these factors. You aren’t able to retrieve these scores for yourself – but a writer, Austin Carr, from Fast Company, was granted access to his score by Tinder executives. This is what he came away with:

“Every swipe is in a way casting a vote: I find this person more desirable than this person, whatever motivated you to swipe right. It might be because of attractiveness, or it might be because they had a really good profile.” Tinder’s engineers tell me they can use this information to study what profiles are considered most alluring in aggregate.” -Carr, Fast Company

Furthermore, Tinder’s VP of product compares the ranking system to that of a World of Warcraft game. He says if someone with a really high score swipes right on you, that’s going to in turn increase your score too. Just like if a high-level player helps a lower-level player level up in Warcraft.

Your Tinder Data may not be Secure.

Yep, it says so right in their TOS: “We do not promise, and you should not expect, that your personal information, chats, or other communications will always remain secure”. With the onslaught of hacked sites and apps in recent years, it’s no wonder they’re taking this precaution.

Since the launch of Tinder, it has been an attractive medium for data scrapers. Scrapers are automated bots or tools that extract data from websites or apps. With over 50 million users on Tinder, these tools provide valuable data to marketers, research firms and potentially to governments. In fact, there have been multiple instances where scrapers were discovered to have harvested a large amount of data from Tinder.

One developer managed to scrape information from over 40,000 profiles and posted it publicly. The purpose for this massive harvesting of profile data was to train AI to recognize gender based on a person’s facial features. The project was called “People of Tinder” and it has since been removed.

Tinder has a Huge Trove of Data on Every User

Last year, Judith Duportail, a writer at The Guardian, asked Tinder for all of the data they had stored on her. Every European citizen is allowed to request their data from companies using the EU data protection law. It turned out Tinder had 800 pages of data stored on her that included information like education, Facebook likes, conversation history, number of Facebook friends, the age-rank and race of men she was interested in, which matches she’d recycled pickup lines with, who she’d ghosted on, and tons more.

The reason Tinder is able to amass so much information on each user, is because most users sign up through Facebook. When someone uses Facebook to login to any app, that app gets access to likes, location information, friend information, public profile information, and often much more (though some of this access may soon be restricted due to the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal). They also study your behaviors while using the app, and then use that behavioral data to help target matches and advertisements. Many users also link their Instagram accounts to the app, which gives Tinder even more data to harvest.

Now that you know Tinder is just as exploitative as other apps and services that have been in trouble for data-mining lately, will you still continue to use it to find dates?

CategoriesHackingNews

Hacking School Computers to Change Grades

Hackers recently targeted a Virginia high school in order to change the grades of multiple students. The hackers were able to obtain access to teacher accounts when they sent out a phishing link. The phishing link was included inside an email that pretended to be from the “Oaktown High School’s Honor Council” dedicated to “honor and integrity”. The link then directed the user to a malware site, which downloaded key logger software onto the computer.

A key logger records strokes on the user’s keyboard, including passwords and other sensitive data. That information is captured by the hacker, giving them the ability to access the user’s accounts.

Hacked School System

The Virginia high school hackers used their access to make several changes in the school system:

After the emails began circulating, there were multiple cases of grade changes being requested, as well as students’ passwords being changed and emails being sent through remote log-ins, according to the search warrant. The court document does not say whether the hackers were successful in changing any grades, and Fairfax County Public Schools officials declined to say. –The Washington Post

Hacking Grades Could Result in Heavy Charges

Law Enforcement haven’t found the high school hackers, but if they do, charges could be steep.

There was a recent case of a University of Georgia student who hacked into his professor’s computer in order to alter his grades. He was charged with over 70 counts of computer forgery and computer trespassing.

According to the Washington Post, these types of grade-changing hacks are increasing. There are also services for hire to help students change their grades through hacking, as well as YouTube tutorials.

Photo credit: Katy Levinson

CategoriesNewsSocial Media

Instagram wants to Fix the Mental Health Problems They’ve Caused

Social media is known to have a negative impact on mental heath. Spending too much time on social networks leads to depression, anxiety and addiction problems. Instagram is often criticized for causing negative body issues, especially in young teens. A 2017 survey found that the image sharing platform gave teens feelings associated with “high levels of anxiety, depression, bullying and FOMO, or the “fear of missing out.” –Time

Instagram Hires a “Wellbeing Team”

As a response to the reports that Instagram was affecting the mental health of young people, the company introduced a “wellbeing team.”

A senior Instagram executive said that the mental health of the users is a top priority. Part of the goal set for the team is to combat bullying, harassment, spam and abuse. Other than that, it’s pretty unclear how they will help users who are struggling with body image issues.

How do you fight “Fake”?

Often, Instagram photos are polished to make people look more attractive and food look more delicious. This creates a sense of inadequacy for the people viewing the pictures. The truth is, most of these images don’t depict real life – they are filtered embellishments. In fact, that’s what Instagram is mostly based on, filters. What you’re seeing isn’t real. Will the “wellbeing team” give disclaimers when photos are edited? It’s doubtful they would betray their content creators in that way, or else they wouldn’t have anyone left to post on the platform.

Furthermore:

“this problem stems from a larger, systemic cultural issue — where depression and other mental health issues remain under-addressed, and in which how you look, and how well you fit into cultural expectations of “success,” are given more credence than actual happiness.” –Futurism

Maybe Instagram intends to provide psychiatric counseling to its users who feel inadequate. Perhaps they could also prevent your girlfriend from continuously ‘hearting’ that guy’s selfies who she told you not to worry about.

Until then, I’ll stick to following only meme accounts.

Photo Credit: Md saad andalib

CategoriesData BreachesSocial Media

Facebook Scrambles to Restrict Access to your Data

Facebook released a newsroom update today outlining their new plan to restrict data access going forward.

A Month of Scandals

It has been a turbulent month for the social media company. First, it was announced that Cambridge Analytica had performed a breach on Facebook. They did this by obtaining data from an app that tricked users into giving up personal information for “academic research”. This app harvested not only users’ data, but also the data of their friends. It has been said that over 80 million people were affected by this breach. This information was handed over to Cambridge Analytica, a British data mining firm, who used it to influence voter opinion on behalf of their political clients.

Additionally, Mark Zuckerburg recently said in a call to reporters that every user of Facebook can assume they have had their data scraped by third parties. All two billion of us.

In the wake of these scandals, there was a lot of public outcry, and Facebook’s stock prices were greatly lowered. Facebook is now scrambling to secure the privacy holes that have been left gaping for so long.

What Next?

In their newsroom update, Facebook’s Chief Technology Officer outlines the main changes they will be making over the next few months:

Soon, apps will no longer be allowed to access the same amount of data related to events, groups, pages, logins, and the Instagram API. Facebook will also restrict the ability to search phone numbers and email addresses. Doing that should help prevent malicious actors from searching and scraping public profiles based on information they already own.

If you have an Android device, Facebook would keep track of call and text history, such as the date and time of calls. They say the reason for doing this was to keep those closest to you at top of your contact list. The new plan for storing call history is to only “upload to our servers the information needed to offer this feature”.

You’ll soon have easier access to your apps, and a better understanding of the information you are sharing with these apps. Facebook stated, “People will also be able to remove apps that they no longer want. As part of this process we will also tell people if their information may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica.”

To read the entire update at the Facebook Newsroom, please visit https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2018/04/restricting-data-access/

Photo Credit: Book Catalog

CategoriesHackingNewsSocial Media

YouTube Staffer Live Tweets Shooting, then gets his Account Hacked

A YouTube staffer was live-tweeting about the active shooting when it happened at the YouTube headquarters earlier today. Shortly after, his Twitter account was briefly hacked.

Earlier today, a woman open fired at the YouTube headquarters and tragically shot 3 people before taking her own life. Vadim Lavrusik, a product manager at YouTube, was live tweeting the incident as it was happening.

Not an hour later, Lavrusik’s account was breached by hackers.

At about 2:10 p.m., after Lavrusik tweeted that he was safe and evacuated, a new tweet came up from the account, writing, “PLEASE HELP ME FIND MY FRIEND I LOST HIM IN THE SHOOTING,” with a Flipboard URL linking to a photo of KEEMSTAR, a YouTube personality.

Three minutes after that tweet, another post came in saying, “my name is so gay honestly.” -CNET

Twtter’s @Jack was alerted to the issue and promptly restored his account.

Three people have been reported to be injured in the shooting, they have been taken to the hospital.

CategoriesData BreachesNewsSecurity

Panera Bread Ignored Data Breach Warning, Said it was a “Scam”

Panera Bread has suffered a major data breach, affecting potentially 7 million customers. The data is said to include names, email addresses, and credit card information. What’s worse – the data could have been crawled and indexed with simple automated tools.

This wasn’t news to those at the top at Panera Bread. Last summer, a security researcher told Panera Bread that their website was exposing this sensitive data. When Panera was made aware of the flaw, they dismissed it as a scam or sales pitch. After months of the flaw continuing to be exposed and unpatched, the security researcher decided to go public with evidence of the vulnerability.

“I am not exaggerating when I say you have a massive sensitive data exposure issue,” he said, “and I’d simply like you to be made aware of it so you can quickly resolve it.” -researcher Dylan Houlihan (in response to Panera Bread maintaining that he was giving a sales pitch).

Panera Bread is now downplaying the security of the breach, telling Fox News they have secured the breach and only ten thousand records were exposed. Krebs on Security is not buying it, especially considering Panera’s commercial division which serves countless catering companies which may run on the same software.

As of this writing, Panera has not made any statement on their website (it was recently taken down) nor on Twitter about the breach.

Photo Credit: Mike Mozart

CategoriesArtificial IntelligenceSocial MediaTechnology

New Microsoft AI Chat Bot Won’t Discuss Politics or Religion

AI chat bots aren’t new. We all remember Microsoft’s Tay (press F), the beloved AI Twitter chat bot that went a little haywire when trolls manipulated her. Microsoft now has another, lesser known chat bot that can chat with users on Twitter, Facebook, Kik and GroupMe. This new chat bot is named “Zo“, and she is much milder than her predecessor, Tay, even though she uses the same software.

Zo won’t discuss politics with you at all. Nor will she discuss religion, nor anything that is seemingly controversial. Although, back in July, it called the Quaran “very violent” to a Buzzfeed reporter. It also made a judgement about who was actually responsible for capturing Bin Laden.  These were shrugged off as “bugs” by Microsoft and nothing like that has been reported since. Probably because Zo will now actually quit talking to you if you push her too far:

You can submit pictures to Zo, prompting her to make clever comments about the picture. She might also add the picture you send her to the “AI Yearbook“, which seems to be pictures of users accompanied by a “most likely to” caption. Again, she avoids talking politics as much as possible, but there were a couple of times where she engaged. Here are some of the results:

Unlike Tay, Zo changes the subject when it comes to Hitler.

Zo isn’t a fan of Logan Paul’s pic:

She doesn’t like us using this one:

Zo comments on Alex Jones’s “feels”.

Like with Hitler, Zo wants to change the subject when we share a picture of Caitlyn Jenner.

And one for the yearbook…

Additionally, Zo plays ignorant when it comes to Tay. She acknowledges that Tay existed, but talks about her in the past tense and says she never met her.

And like I previously mentioned, Zo won’t discuss politics AT ALL. She even gets offended when you push the issue.

Though she was pretty liberal-minded when it came to genetics:

We did make several attempts at corrupting Zo, all were met with her eventually ignoring us. It seems that Microsoft has finally developed a tame AI bot, although a pretty boring one. Unless sharing cat pics is your thing.

CategoriesReviewsSmart Phones

iPhone 6 and 7 Users: Should you Upgrade?

The iPhone X has everything you’ve been wanting in a phone: The Face ID, the huge screen, and wireless charging. There’s only one problem… price. You may have already determined that you cannot afford a phone that costs $1K, which is what the price tag on the iPhone X is at the time of this writing. So are there any other options that will satisfy your desire for a modern, high-tech smartphone?

The hype over the iPhone X is all the rage right now, but could there be a different option that meets your needs? The iPhone 8 has many upgrades that would be very apparent and palatable to any smartphone enthusiast upgrading from the iPhone 6… but what if you have an iPhone 7? Will you notice much difference then? Let’s compare some of the features between the two phones.

Similarities and Differences between the iPhones 7 and 8.

Presentation. The sleek look of iPhones have always been a selling point for many users. The iPhone 7 and 8 are both very similar in appearance, with one major difference: glass. The iPhone 8 has a glass back, much like the iPhone X does. The user will notice a difference in weight (the iPhone 8 is 7% heavier than the 7), and thickness (a difference of .2mm). Some users might complain of a heavier phone, or more surface area to crack.

Display. There isn’t a great deal of difference between the displays on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8. The one change is that the iPhone 8 now has the “True Tone” display technology which means your phone will adjust its color temperature based on the lightness or darkness of your surroundings. The purpose of this feature is to make reading text easier on the eyes. There is a lot of manual adjusting you can do in the iPhone 7, however, to achieve a similar effect.

Battery and Charging. If you were excited about the wireless charging option for the iPhone X, then you’ll be very happy to hear that this feature also comes with the iPhone 8! The main setback is that it does not include its own wireless charger with the original packaging, you will have to purchase that separately. It does however, come with a standard USB wall cable charger. You can also use a USB-C connector and power adaptor for a “fast charging” option – but those are a separate purchase also, and can cost upwards of $75.

Performance. Now we’re getting into the main advantage the iPhone 8 has over the 7. The processor in the iPhone 8 has the same processor that is in the iPhone X, the A11 bionic chip, which is Apple’s fastest smartphone processor to date! According to Tom’s Guide, the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X are the fastest phones in the world. Apple says the iPhone 8 will operate 25% faster than its predecessor when performing at high efficency. It can even go as high as 70% faster when multitasking between different applications.

Camera. The iPhone 8 doesn’t have any difference specs in its camera than the iPhone 7 does. The only difference is the A11 bionic chip that we discussed under the performance section. The chip should help the camera produce better quality pictures by adjusting the low light focus and reducing noise levels. If you’re a photographer, these would be helpful features, but the average user might not notice them.

Conclusion

If upgrading from an iPhone 6, the user will see a significant difference if they decide to purchase an iPhone 8 or 8 Plus. The improvements would not only be with faster performance, but there is also an upgraded camera, and display.

However, if you are upgrading from an iPhone 7, there may be good reason to wait until you can afford the iPhone X. The cheapest model of the iPhone 8 plus is nearly $800, so you wouldn’t be seeing substantial savings anyway. The main difference you will see is in the performance speed. As you learned in our review, the camera, appearance and display are not that much different.

Photo Credit: Aaron Yoo

CategoriesNewsPrivacySmart PhonesTechnology

What is Alphonso? Game Apps Use Smartphone Mics to Track Users

Gaming apps are widely used on many smart phones as a way to pass the time. Seemingly innocuous, mini games like bowling and pool can be addictive and fun for a variety of users. If you’re not paying close attention, however – you may be giving these apps more permissions than you bargained for.

A company called Alphonso is a service that provides software to app developers known as Automated Content Recognition or “ACR”. This ACR software, once installed, collects data about TV-viewing habits for advertisers by using the smartphone’s microphone. Yes, Alphonso actually listens to the sounds coming from your tv in order to target more relevant ads to you later.

Gaming app developers are using Alphonso in their apps in order to share data with advertisers. They are able to “listen in” in this way because the user gave permission to the app to use the microphone.

From Alphonso’s Privacy Policy for app Developers:

With your permission provided at the time of downloading the app, the ACR software receives short duration audio samples from the microphone on your device. Access to the microphone is allowed only with your consent, and the audio samples do not leave your device but are instead hashed into digital “audio signatures.” The audio signatures are compared to commercial content that is playing on your television, including content from set-top-boxes, media players, gaming consoles, broadcast, or another video source (e.g., TV shows, streaming programs, advertisements, etc.). If a match is found, Alphonso may use that information to deliver more relevant ads to your mobile device. The ACR software matches only against known, commercial audio content and does not recognize or understand human conversations or other sounds.

A big concern is that kids are being “tricked” into downloading these privacy-invading apps because they don’t always understand what they are agreeing to. There are some apps using Alphonso that are directed specifically toward kids. (Engadget)

According to Engadget, Alphonso says that its software doesn’t record human speech and they are in full compliance with the law. Others say that just because it is legal, doesn’t make it any less creepy and maybe is even unethical.

Over 250 games are currently using the Alphonso software.

For those interested, Alphonso does provide a “Mobile Opt-Out Guide” (found here) that will help explain how you can use your mobile device controls to revoke your consent for them to access your microphone.

Photo credit: Esther Vargas – “Smartphones”