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:
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!
A Teenager Becomes a Millionaire Through White Hat Hacking:
Hacking often refers to the breaching of information without a person’s consent or knowledge. It basically is the unauthorized intrusion into a computer or a network. It can be used to alter or change a system for different purposes or goals. Hacking can also mean the involvement of unusual or improvised alterations to equipment or processes.
A hacker has expertise in computer skills, and will know their way around systems and security features. They are often skilled programmers who use their technical knowledge to exploit bugs in order to break into computer systems.
The above-mentioned information is a very generic definition of hacking, It is what most people associate with “hacking” or “hackers”. They’re often used in a negative connotation, giving us the same feeling whenever we come across these words. However, it is very important to clarify that hacking is not only used in a negative sense. In fact, “ethical hacking” is on the rise.
“Ethical hacking” is also known as penetration testing. By definition, it is an act of intruding/penetrating into system or networks to find the threats and vulnerabilities in those systems which a malicious attacker may find and exploit, causing loss of data, These vulnerabilities could also lead to financial loss or other major damages. Ethical hacking or “white hat” hacking is different from intrusive or “black hat” hacking, in that its purpose is to increase and improve the security of the networks or systems. It does this by fixing the vulnerabilities found during testing. The tools and methods of ethical hackers might be similar or even the same at times, but the intentions and reasoning behind the act are totally different.
Recently, a teenager named Santiago Lopez made millions of dollars utilizing ethical hacking on HackerOne.
HackerOne is the number 1 ranked platform that helps organizations find and fix critical vulnerabilities that have the potential of destroying or exploiting your information in any sense. HackerOne is well known and has partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense, General Motors, Google, Twitter, GitHub, Nintendo, Lufthansa, Panasonic Avionics, Qualcomm, Starbucks, Dropbox, Intel, the CERT Coordination Center and over 1,200 other organizations in order to find and protect them against all kinds of vulnerabilities.
Like most of the hackers, Lopez is also self-taught. His specialty and expertise lies in finding Insecure Direct Object Reference (IDOR) vulnerabilities.
Lopez first gained interest in this field from watching a movie about hacking. His interest grew in this area, and then he started watching and learning to hack from online tutorials and by reading blogs. At the age of 16 he signed up for HackerOne, not knowing what he was getting into. He knew that he had to hack into company databases and he kept his name @try_to_hack in order to motivate himself further. He still goes by this name. Once he had signed up for HackerOne, he earned his first fifty dollars in a few months and that’s what motivated him further and showed him a path that he could do it.
Lopez continued making the internet a better place for many people who are associated with and have put their entire trust in HackerOne. Lopez choose ethical hacking because; “To me, this achievement represents that companies and the people that trust them are becoming more secure than they were before, and that is incredible.”
So this is how Lopez, a 19-year-old teenager worked his way up in the hacker community and proved himself by earning the first million dollars of his life. His story is a textbook definition of how practice, enthusiasm and talent matters – and is needed to get the top spot in any field.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The NSA does not always disclose the zero day vulnerabilities it finds to unprotected vendors. Some security flaws are kept secret “when they can be used to serve a clear national security or law enforcement need” (Wired).
The US National Security Agency (NSA) was hacked by a suspected Russian hacker group and many of their exploits and hacking tools were archived. Leaked information was made public that showed the NSA collects exploits and does not always disclose them to vulnerable vendors. When vulnerabilities are not disclosed, problems do not get fixed. The NSA appears to operate “on the premise that secrets will never get out. That no one will ever discover the same bug. That no one will ever use the same bug. That there will never be a leak” (Business Insider).
Unfortunately, as we are currently witnessing with this recent leak, other types of hackers are able to find the same bugs and those hackers could have more malicious intent than the NSA. When hackers obtain a trove of U.S. secrets, that could put the government and corporations worldwide in a susceptible position. For example, the leaked data includes information on breaching popular commercial firewalls. Emergency service providers, governments, financial systems and many businesses all rely on these firewall technologies.
Global networking company, Cisco Systems, confirmed last week that the NSA exploited an undetected severe vulnerability that allows remote attackers “who have already gained a foothold in a targeted network to gain full control over a firewall” (Ars Technica). The NSA knew about this vulnerability since 2013 and did nothing to stop it. Now that the data is leaked, Cisco fears that the information “could be used to breach its Adaptive Security Appliance (ASA) software used in its firewalls. An exploit could allow the attacker to execute arbitrary code and obtain full control of the system or to cause a reload of the affected system”. It can be argued that these exploits would have been patched had the NSA disclosed the vulnerabilities instead of collecting them for their own use.
(Watch – Snowden discusses NSA hack, Cisco to cut 5,500 jobs, NASA preps an asteroid rocket):
Smart phone and tablet developers will need to put better security measures in place to keep hackers and governments out of their devices. Many newer generation devices implement fingerprint readers in place of passcodes, which are often promoted as a stronger security feature. However, as we learned in recent news, authorities can force you to use your fingerprint to unlock your phone (but you can still invoke your 5th amendment right to withhold your numeral passcode from them). Gesture analysis could come next.
Free-form gestures have been said to be the next step in passwords. It is very difficult to simulate a complex gesture as opposed to guessing a numerical combination. Jailbroken iPhones got this feature awhile back (called Stride2), you can see how it works here:
In addition to using gestures to set your passwords, your touch-screen device could continuously verify your identity while you’re using it. It would do this by interpreting your gestures with mathematical algorithms. According to Motherboard, “the basic idea is to observe a user’s movements on a touchscreen device for some period of time and to come up with a gestural profile unique to that individual.” Every person makes unique gestures when they use a device and those all add up to make a personal profile. Ideally, if hijackers or authorities have access to your unlocked device, they wouldn’t be able to use it for long. If they did, the device would recognize that the user is not you since the gestures would not fit the profile. Yet as we see from the Motherboard article, robots were able to recreate user biometrics pretty easily.
Phones and tablets could end up having multiple layers of authentication (fingerprint, gesture analysis and codes) but many users would find that to be too much of a hassle. Facial recognition could be another alternative to passwords, but that might not protect you from authorities either. Voice recognition would probably be protected under the 5th amendment, but isn’t a convenient way to work with your phone in quiet places. Research into better security features is at the forefront of developers minds right now. Hopefully we will see better solutions in the near future.
In the UK, Snapchat users could face trouble if they take screen shots of their friend’s photos without permission and share them with others.
The Government’s culture minister has stated that “anyone who who screenshotted a Snapchat message and shared it with others could be sued by its original sender – and face a prison sentence.” –The Independent
For those not fully familiar with how Snapchat works, it is a social messaging service where users send photos to one another, typically with added text, emoji, filters and other features. The appeal of Snapchat to most people, is that messages will disappear in 10 or so seconds after having been viewed. However, users are able to take screenshots of the picture messages before they disappear and a notice is given to the person on the other end that their friend has taken a screenshot of their photo.
One problem Snapchat has faced in the past was during “The Snappening”, when a third party app “allowed users to save and access their snaps online, without the sender’s knowledge and circumventing Snapchat’s “instant deletion” feature”. -(Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, Mashable) This lead Snapchat to eventually shut down third party access. Some say they can still take snaps with a jailbroken phone, however Snapchat has been trying to crack down on that. (idownloadblog)
Now that users will mostly be notified when a screen shot is taken, Snapchat still “advises users to avoid sending messages which they would not want to be saved or shared.” But UK’s culture minister still warns that “Under UK copyright law, it would be unlawful for a Snapchat user to copy an image and make it available to the public without the consent of the image owner.” Additionally, “The image owner would be able to sue anyone who does this for copyright infringement.” Those who infringe copyright could face up to 10 years in prison and a “unlimited” fine.
Furthermore, UK law states that disclosing sexual photographs of others without consent is strictly against the law and if convicted, violators could face up to two years in prison.
UK readers, should taking a screenshot of a photo someone sent to you be considered unlawful? Should the person who took the photo assume that they have given up rights to the photo once it’s sent? Should snaps fall under fair use or should users be protected by the government when it comes to others saving and distributing their photos?
Yesterday, New York City unveiled it’s first WiFi kiosk outside of a Starbucks, a hub that will allow passerby’s to access free WiFi service that will be funded by advertising.
CityBridge plans to replace all payphones with these hubs which will also include USB charging ports. This phasing-out of payphones is supposed to take around 12 years to complete and they are expected to install a minimum of 7500 kiosks.
Privacy advocates are already expressing concerns about these free wireless hubs.
The WiFi spots will have a range of about 150 feet and will have speeds relatively close to that of Google Fiber. The new kiosk is currently in it’s testing phase and should be ready for public use in a few weeks. Still need to make a regular phone call? The kiosks will offer free voice calls in place of the payphones.
“Moreover, the booths also feature some other interesting services. For example, you can use the wi-fi booth in order to place a free voice-call. The developers even managed to throw in a headphone jack, in order to be able to ensure the user’s privacy.” –Brandi McCants – Gadget Gestures
There are many dangers associated with organ transplants. The organ has to match the body. If not, the body could reject the organ making a very dangerous situation for the patient. What if you could just print it? What if you could just pop in the specifications for an organ in a machine and it will make one for you using the patient’s very own cells? This is printing 3D organs.
How 3D Printers Work
A 3D printer is a machine capable of creating things from basic building blocks of material. It can use plastic, glass, metal and biological materials such as living cells. The first patent for technology dates back to 1980 by a Japanese doctor. 3D printing is an extension of Rapid Prototyping (RP) technologies. Originally, 3D printers were used to create prototypes in fields of engineering. However, as the technology progressed, people began to be able to use it for other applications.
Understanding Organ Transplants
To fully understand how 3D printers can print tissues and organs, you first have to understand organ transplants. Blood types and even sizes have to fit before a transplant can take place. To add to this, there is a time limit on how long an organ can stay outside the human body. Normally, there is a four hour time window. From the moment the organ leaves the body, doctors have four hours to find a match and perform the operation. On top of this, there is guarantee the organ will not be rejected even if all the characteristics match.
At first, doctors began to look at growing organs in the laboratory. While they were able to successfully create heart cells, creating a whole operational heart is a different matter. Heart and lung organs are complex and not easily created even with today’s technology. Doctors began to look for other solutions to this problem.
How 3D Printing will Aid in Organ Transplants
Organs have two major parts. One is the cells that occupy the organ. The other part is the tissue or ECM scaffolding that the cells rest on. Through a process called decellularization a detergent is used to clear off all the cells that reside on that scaffolding. From there, doctors are able to grow the recipient’s cells on the scaffolding. Once the cells grow on the scaffolding, doctors will have an organ that has less of a chance of being rejected by the body because the patients own cells are in the organ.
Before 3D printing the scaffolding still had to come from a human body, meaning doctors still had to wait for an organ to become available. With 3D printing, scaffolding can be produced . This increases the rate at which organs become available for transplant.
3D Printing in the Future
As of right now, 3D printing is on the rise and is becoming more and more available. In fact, small 3D printers can be bought for just a few hundred dollars on Amazon. Organ 3D printing is growing in research and development. It is gaining more attention and recognition as a viable option. In fact, in 2011 a successful transplant was done that saved the life of new born baby Kaiba Gionfreddo who needed a splint in order to live. 3D printed organs are the future.