Technology

HUMMINGBAD MALWARE COULD BE A GATEWAY FOR ADDITIONAL ROOTKITS
August 12, 2016 9:12 am

There has been a lot of buzz in the tech community recently about a particularly bad piece of Android malware called HummingBad. The malware infects Android phones when users accidentally download a malicious third-party app, or opt for an unverifiable download on a website which comes loaded with the HummingBad package.

Once HummingBad has infected the device, it establishes a persistent rootkit and takes over its native functions.  According to Check Point, an I.T. security company, once HummingBad has infected a device it can install fraudulent apps and even generate false revenue by tricking users into clicking fake ads and links. Check Point estimated that HummingBad was able to yield cyber-criminals nearly $300,000 a month, through this process of click fraud.

The group effectively controls an arsenal of over 85 million mobile devices around the world. – Check Point

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These types of click fraud campaigns are common, although often not as financially successful, and can present real issues when it comes to security. Rootkits are packets of malware that establish themselves at the core of the device, or “root,” and they are dangerous because they often hide their existence by maintaining the appearance of something that is not harmful. 

Many people whose devices have been infected with this type of malware are entirely unaware that they are being victimized by a cyber-attack, while at the same time their information is being stolen and sold to the highest bidder.

According to Check Point, the dangers of these types of malware go beyond individual users. Malware packages like HummingBad could be used to target government agencies and businesses. 

Emboldened by financial and technological independence, [cybercriminals’] skillsets will advance putting end users, enterprises, and government agencies at risk. – Check Point

According to Check Point, this malware attack was part of an elaborate scheme by the Chinese Yingmob, in which the malware was sending notifications to the Umeng tracking and analytics service.  Devices have been infected world-wide, with the primary number of infected users in China.

Malware attacks like this that rely on click fraud and that are money-generating are certainly dangerous, but what is perhaps even more frightening is the potential that these rootkits, and the access to your device, has the potential to be sold.  We are entering a time when access to certain peoples’ or companies’ device root is a highly valued black-market commodity.

“Check Point believes this dangerous trend will escalate as other groups learn from Yingmob and find new ways to achieve the independence they need to launch larger and more sophisticated attack campaigns in the future.” – Check Point

Regardless, taking the necessary precautions to ensure that a device does not become infected with malicious malware in the first place is the best step towards protection. Stay away from unverified third party apps, and make sure you know the source of files that you are downloading.

ON THE EVIE OF TECHNOLOGY
August 10, 2016 9:56 am

As organizers go, there are many ineffective ones out in the market. Some do too much, some not enough. Evie does something magnificent. Evie is able to find the middle ground of an app that helps you manage your phone, without overwhelming you.

Evie acts as an organizer of sorts, that completely does away with your home’s set up. It gives you option to find things in an easier and more orchestrated fashion.

While we are all used to the template of having all of your apps in your home screen, Evie allows you to remove all that clutter, while making the search for your top apps easy.

 

Evie’s initial function clears out the home screen while teaching you that by swiping down, a screen showing a search bar will open up. The search bar can be used in the same way that a computer’s search function works.

If that is too easy, by swiping right on your phone, a tab will open from the left side of the screen, that has all of your apps and widgets in alphabetical order. A more convenient way to look for apps, at least for me.

Now you are thinking, why would I download an app that completely will redo everything that I have already taught myself? An app that will reteach me to use my phone? Get it because it is something new, it is something that I am sure your friends don’t have. Just because we all have the same phone, it doesn’t mean that we can’t use them differently, does it? Give it a try and it could become your new best friend.

MESSAGE SAFELY WITH SESAME
August 3, 2016 9:48 am

In a post by Edward Snowden, privacy can mean the world to some people. I don’t know about you, but between the regular run of the mill paranoia and the media hyped overplayed Orwellian way in which the government seems to have control over our information, I am honestly a bit scared.

A bit. Not too much. That’s probably because things are so bad that I might’ve just gotten used to it.

Regardless, privacy is a big concern to a lot of people nowadays. It is something that companies try their hardest to maintain. The Apple vs. FBI case earlier this year goes to show the extent to which a company will stand their ground in order to keep some sense of reliability with their customers. If privacy is your worry, check out Sesame.

Sesame is an encrypted messaging app. While Messenger from apple is very good as is, it is not enough sometimes. The paranoid tin hat wearing version of me never thinks general encryption is enough. I have to stop watching Mr. Robot.

Sesame works just as you would think, they promote your right to “own all of your data and messages.” The app is great, you can customize little things, you can change who can and cannot save your messages, it has end to end security encryption so that both users are protected, a feature that Facebook JUST added that we talked about earlier this week.

It also has one of the best features that I have ever seen on any app, ever. The “unsend” button. No matter how far back you send a message, you can unsend it. Fantastic isn’t it? It’s everyone’s dream button. How many times have you sent something and you wish you hadn’t. Let Sesame make that dream a reality, and in doing so, save you from getting in a lot of trouble.

The app is only available for from the App Store for now, but if you are lucky enough to have an iPhone, make sure to keep your information protected from the government fat cats and the oligarchs trying to destroy our society. As of the time of this post, it has been taken down an you can sign up to be put on a wait list for it here.

FACEBOOK MESSENGER ADDS END-TO-END ENCRYPTION
August 2, 2016 11:16 am

Encrypted web browsers and online privacy protection services are steadily increasing in popularity.  Many people browsing the web now wish to keep all of their online activity private. Tools like Tor and DuckDuckGo are used by many as a full substitute for more popular browsers and search engines. (i.e. Chrome, Google, Safari, etc.)  Naturally, messaging applications are incorporating methods for maintaining privacy as well.

Messaging services like WhatsApp and Signal have been on the tech scene for some time.  Now, Facebook Messenger is joining the ranks with the addition of Secret Conversations

According to Facebook, Secret Conversations in Messenger employs end-to-end encryption. This means that the messages you send will not be able to be accessed other than on the phone they are sent from and the phone on which they are opened.

End-to-end encryption can prevent numerous potential privacy dangers, including things like unwanted surveillance, malicious third-party intrusions and tampering with data. Without the cryptographic key, the encrypted information is extremely difficult to access. Theoretically, this means that even Facebook would not be able to access your messages, regardless if they are in the Facebook Messenger App.  Even with all that, even end-to-end encryption does not absolutely guarantee that these messages will not be leaked according to Facebook.

Keep in mind that the person you’re messaging could choose to share the conversation with others (ex: a screenshot).  -Facebook

Facebook has incorporated a function called “device keys” in which you can compare a key with the other person in the Secret Conversation, in order to make sure that the conversation will remain encrypted. There are some limitations to what you can send in a Secret Conversations, including the fact that as of yet, the new feature does not support group messages.

Secret conversations don’t support group messages, gifs, videos, voice or video calling or payments.  -Facebook

According to Facebook, the service is still in the preliminary phases and is being released on a “limited test basis.  That said, now that widely used messaging applications such as Facebook Messenger are incorporating end-to-end encryption as a primary feature, this may become the industry standard for messaging services developed in the future.

Featured Image Source – TechCrunch

TOR PROJECT COMBINES WITH HOME ASSISTANT TO PROTECT INTERNET OF THINGS
July 26, 2016 11:58 am

Many people know of Tor, and the Tor Network, as a way to preserve anonymity online.  What is less known is that Tor began as a U.S intelligence communications tool, but was repurposed in 2006 by the nonprofit The Tor Project

Since this transition, Tor has developed into a service that is used by multitudes of internet users across the globe.  Tor users can download The Tor Browser, which is free and open-source, to connect to the Tor Network and browse the web, or send messages, while keeping their information private and anonymous. 

Some people associate Tor with the dark web, and people who wish to browse hidden, unmonitored areas of webspace for official purposes, whether malicious or benevolent.  In actuality, many people that use Tor are simply normal, everyday individuals surfing the web.  The reasons behind using Tor are many: protecting against identity theft, maintaining online privacy, avoiding censorship, discussing socially sensitive information, etc.

According to The Tor Project FAQ, regular users include, but are not limited to: journalists, law enforcement officers, activists, military officials, business owners, bloggers, IT professionals, whistleblowers and many more. 

Using Tor protects you against a common form of Internet surveillance known as “traffic analysis.” Traffic analysis can be used to infer who is talking to whom over a public network. Knowing the source and destination of your Internet traffic allows others to track your behavior and interests. – The Tor Project

Now, The Tor Project is expanding its functionality to include privacy for “The Internet of Things” (IoT).  The Internet of Things is a term used to reference the interconnection of anything that has the potential to be connected to the internet, or that functions in a digital space.

“The Internet of Things” is the remote control and networking of everyday devices ranging from a family’s lawn sprinkler or babycam to a corporation’s entire HVAC system.” – The Tor Project

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By using Home Assistant, an automation platform that runs on the programming language Python 3, Tor is incorporating privacy technology into everyday life, rather than exclusively online. In regard to the digitization of everyday tasks, jobs and items, as well as the IoT, taking measures to ensure privacy now demands attention beyond monitoring your web presence.

This project was developed by Nathan Freitas, Executive Director of The Guardian Project, which also focuses on maintaining privacy through mobile device customization and the development of encrypted mobile applications.

Too many ‘Things’ in our homes, at our hospitals, in our businesses and throughout our lives are exposed to the public Internet without the ability to protect their communication. Tor provides this, for free, with real-world hard ended, open-source software and strong, state of the art cryptography. – Nathan Freitas

It may be a while before Tor users and people browsing regularly on the Tor Browser rival the number of people using more popular web browsers like Chrome, Safari or Firefox. That said, in regard to the speed at which technology changes, the development of Tor Home Assistant may be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ensuring privacy for everything, not just your computer.

For more information check out the Home Assistant page for Tor setup, dubbed “Home Assistant Cookbook.”

THE PHILANTHROPIC POETRY OF NAS
June 30, 2016 1:26 pm

Who’s World is This? (The World is Yours The World is Yours) It’s Mine It’s Mine It’s Mine, Who’s World is This?

This year, the world clearly belongs to Nas. Everyone else is just living in it.

Nasir Jones–better known by his stage name Nas–is consistently ranked among the top rappers of all time. He’s been spitting bricks about social justice for minorities and growing up in the Queensbridge housing projects since he dropped his 1994 Illmatic, an essential hip-hop classic. Since then seven of his records have been certified platinum–he is an undisputed master, an urban poet laureate.

Even Harvard University can’t deny his profound impact on culture.

In 2013, Nas forged a partnership with the Ivy League School, thus establishing the Nasir Jones Hip Hop Fellowship with the broad intention of funding scholars and artists who demonstrate exceptional creative ability in the arts, in connection with Hip Hop. Now I know what your thinking–Harvard?! But hip-hop is less than 50 years old, has introduced sampling to the general collective conscious, and has been a key factor in not only enabling people of all backgrounds to think critically about society, but also acting as a tool for minorities to offer a strong sense of community and an expression of life through the eyes of the silenced. The Hip Hop Archive & Research Institute and the W. E. B. Du Bois Research Institute will utilize the fellowship to bring in hip hop talent, fund projects, and allow the next generation of underprivileged poets to reach the pinnacle of academic achievement. It doesn’t stop there. In addition to helping pave the way for the next generation of hip-hop talent, Nas also wants to shake up the white and male-dominated tech sphere.

Nas isn’t alone in his assertion that Silicon Vally doesn’t have a diverse enough workplace–especially when you factor in that California is also one of the most diverse states in the country. Even Google admitted they needed to work on diversity when they released this report a few years ago. Then in 2014, the Internet services giant, along with Nas and software mainstay Microsoft, began collaboratively funding an initiative by The General Assembly (GA). The New York-based vocational program specializes in providing scholarships to underrepresented African Americans, Latinos and women that want to persuit a career in software engineering and web design. Pretty cool stuff Nas.

If you’re still unimpressed, Nas isn’t done giving back quite yet either. Nas will be hosting a free music festival for you New Yorkers this summer! In collaboration with his own Mass Appeal Magazine, Live At The BBQ will feature Ty Dolla $ign, DJ Shadow, Danny Brown, and Machine Gun Kelly.

DRONE RACING ON THE RISE AS COMPETITIVE SPORT

June 16, 2016 5:16 pm

In the last few years, personal drones have surged in popularity. In addition to being a pastime for hobbyists and people interested in RC technology, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are now being used in a variety of fields including film-making, package delivery, agriculture, news and even health care.

One group of drone enthusiasts have embraced the competitive potential of RC piloting, leading to the rise of a new sport: drone racing.

In drone racing, pilots race high-speed quadcopters around a predetermined course. The drones are equipped with on-board cameras that stream live video to pilots wearing FPV (first person view) goggles. This allows pilots to react quickly, and in real time, to the events of the race. The pilots complete laps while flying through brightly lit LED gates and around markers at speeds of up to 120mph.

Given that drones have the ability to hover, and move in 3-dimensional space, race courses are not limited to a circular arena. Drone races often take place in abandoned buildings, through the inside of stadiums or even around popular monuments or event expos. This presents an interesting dynamic for spectators, who will be equipped with similar video goggles allowing them to view firsthand what the pilots are seeing as they navigate the race course.

The drones are created as lightweight as possible using carbon fiber components and innovative engineering to keep them fast and agile. Some race series, such as those by the Drone Racing League (DRL), are restricted to the specially designed DRL Racer2, a 255mm high-speed quadcopter built for agility and endurance. Other competitions allow the use of multiple types of drones, as well as fully customized RC functionality.

DRL is taking drone racing to the next level as a competitive sport. The league combines the best FPV drone pilots in the world, advanced drone piloting technology and high-quality media coverage, giving the sport the same feeling as other major spectator sporting events. The DRL brings pilots from all over the globe, with top pilots from areas including the USA, Australia, Mexico and Brazil. 

According to ESPN, in the coming months drone racing has the potential to gain notoriety comparative to that of other major racing series such as Formula 1 and NASCAR. This August, as a result of a partnership between the International Drone Racing Association (IDRA) and ESPN, drone racing will be internationally distributed as the first IDRA event showcased by a major sporting network.

This event will take place on Governors Island, and has the potential to bring out the best of the best drone pilots as the winner will receive the title of the fastest drone pilot in the United States. In addition, ESPN3 will stream the upcoming 2016 World Drone Racing Championships, which offers drone pilots the chance to win prestige and a $200,000 cash prize.  

In many ways drone racing gives the same sensation as competitive e-sports; it’s entertaining, futuristic, has a devoted fan base and it’s hard to believe that it’s actually a sport. Who knows, in the next few years drone racing could really take off as the sport of the future.

Featured Image Source – Drone Racing League

LEARNING TO CODE WITH MINECRAFT
June 2, 2016 2:21 pm

Even if you haven’t played it, you’ve probably heard of Minecraft. For those unfamiliar, Minecraft is an open-world, sandbox game in which players can build 3D environments with various blocks. 

The game exploded in popularity after its release in 2011, and has since attracted a devoted following of players. IGN ranked Minecraft as the #3 best-selling game of all time, with 70 million copies sold over a variety of platforms (Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC, Mobile).

In conjunction with the Hour of Code movement and TeacherGamingMojang, the developers behind Minecraft, have learned ways to incorporate programming into the game. 

Hour of Code is a global initiative designed to introduce students to the fundamentals of computer science. Launched by Code.org and Computer Science Education Week, Hour of Code helps bring programming and computer science to students at the grassroots level. 

When starting out you don’t even have to purchase Minecraft. Simply visit https://code.org/mc, where after a short introductory video by Minecraft’s lead developer “Jeb,” you’ll enter a version of Minecraft. Using Blockly, a visual programming editor that displays bits of code as connected blocks, you will help “Alex” or “Steve” (The two Minecraft characters) navigate the Minecraft world by solving a series of puzzles.

Each time you solve a puzzle, you are given the option to view the code behind what you just created. The code you are writing, while helping Alex or Steve build a house or plant crops, is actually JavaScript, a programming language used for HTML, the Web and various other functions.  JavaScript is a popular language for people new to coding, so by using Minecraft, players can learn JavaScript fundamentals in a fun and interactive environment. 

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Learning programming with Minecraft is not limited to this online coding activity. MinecraftEdu, an independent learning project by TeacherGaming supported by Mojang, uses Minecraft gameplay to teach a variety of subjects. MinecraftEdu has an Hour of Code activity package as well, in which students use a Minecraft mod called ComputerCraft.

Created by modder Dan200, the mod incorporates interactive blocks dubbed “turtles” into Minecraft to teach students programming and computer science through new ways to interact with the game. MinecraftEdu comes equipped with ComputerCraftEdu, or the mod can be downloaded and applied to the regular Minecraft game. If students or teachers want to delve deeper into Minecraft-based learning there is now a full expansion of MinecraftEdu called Minecraft: Education Edition, which will be released as an early access program for educators this summer.   

To account for students without regular access to the internet or Minecraft, there is even an option for a printable MinecraftEdu board game! Another option is the Minecraft edition offered through Raspberry Pi. The Pi 3 comes pre-loaded with a version of Minecraft, that can teach players how to code with the programming language Python

It can be scary to dive into programming, especially if you have no prior experience with computer science. Game-based learning, like learning to code with Minecraft, is helping to alleviate some of these hurdles by making coding fun and interactive. These types of initiatives are changing the norms of not only what we learn, but how we learn. Who knows, in the next few years game-based learning and interactive e-learning activities could become standard over traditional teaching methods. 

BEME APP TAKES FRESH APPROACH TO SHARING ONLINE
May 25, 2016 1:01 pm

Most people use at least one form of social media, be it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or some other platform. Many of us are active on multiple networks. Simply put, the internet has changed the way we interact with others. A byproduct of this interconnectivity is the attention to our online presence. With editing and selection, social media users can create an online identity that may, or may not, accurately represent who we are. 

Bemebemeconcept, a video-sharing application launched as a beta version in July of 2015, is re-envisioning the nature of social media. When sharing on Beme there is no way to edit what you are posting. You don’t even have to look at your phone. 

Created by vlogging icon Casey Neistat and former Tumblr VP of Engineering Matt Hackett, Beme is an attempt to bring authenticity back into social media. In the words of Neistat, “[Beme] is a platform to share your perspectives, to share your world with video, and to see other people’s perspectives via video that you can trust, that’s real.”

Here’s how it works: Beme uses the proximity sensor on your phone’s camera to begin recording videos up to 8 seconds long. By covering your phone’s sensor, Beme records what you are actually seeing and then automatically posts it online.  There are no filters, no hashtags and no way to preview clips. To take a selfie, flip the phone around and repeat the process.

You can also record by tapping and holding a camera icon within the app, but the video recording screen remains black until the clip is posted. This helps to counteract issues when recording with devices without a proximity sensor, or if covering the sensor makes it difficult to capture what you want to record, while maintaining Beme’s unfiltered nature.

Beme users can fill up their personal Beme profiles with clips for people to view and share reactions to other people’s videos. The result is a unique, unaltered insight into the way that people experience the world. When other users view your Beme videos the app even notifies you that, “1 person has spent [insert seconds] as you.” 

Beme has a lot of the same flavor as Casey Neistat’s daily Vlog. The videos of his life make a point to maintain an honest relationship with his audience. Although edited in Final Cut Pro X, all of Neistat’s YouTube videos have a raw and unscripted feel, the same sensation you get when using Beme. 

The app’s interface is intuitive, but may be challenging if using Beme is your first foray into social media. Other than a short introductory video and walkthrough after launching the application, Beme doesn’t give you much direction for navigating the app or posting your videos. That said, figuring out Beme’s nuances can be accomplished by tinkering with the app for a few minutes.

After encountering some issues following the initial launch, the Beme team went back to the drawing board and produced a product that is a fresh and innovative approach to social media. Now out of the beta-version, Beme is on full-release for iOS and Android platforms, and can be downloaded in the App Store and Google Play.

Enjoyable Casey Neistat vlog: breaking up is hard to do 

DUMP TRUMP, FIND LOVE
May 23, 2016 11:30 am

When Donald Trump announced his intent to run for president last summer, it was the best joke of the season. Like every time Jimmy McMillan, the “rent is too damn high” guy, runs for office in New York. It was a good bit and I just could not wait to see it crumble. As time and time passed though, you couldn’t escape the cold sore that was Trump. As a journalism student and an avid media intaker, there is not one day, or hour, in which Trump doesn’t come up. I thought I was safe at work, but even then the Trump disease seemed to have spread and infiltrated my offices. Said best by The Smiths, that joke wasn’t funny anymore.

Trump’s notoriety and constant inconstancy have apparently made him so popular among some Americans, that his shot at an American presidency are not altogether impossible. While media outlets like the New York Times have written articles condemning him and warning off against trump and even the Republican party themselves have been against his views, some people have simply given up on the fight. For all of you giver uppers, there’s a way to get yourself out of this political hellfire that will surely ensue. Maple Match.

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Maple Match iScreenshot_2016-05-15-12-13-49s a dating app that promises to find you a partner in Canada that will help you in your political escape out of the United States. You know how everyone jokes about moving to Canada if Trump becomes president? Maple Match is making that joke a reality. While the site is not up and running just yet, there is an official wait-list that’s ripe and ready to be filled with the inevitable hundreds of thousands of names. While there is no other information for the site other than the email wait-list, the hope that this isn’t just a social experiment is more than enough to get a Trump-enduced anxiety ridden voter to sign up.

While you may be thinking, Canada? Isn’t that country synonymous for being lame? You, my dear reader, are absolutely wrong. Canada is a country that offers so much. It’s got a great music scene, it is a prime film shooting location and it is the home of greats like Ryan Reynolds, Mike Meyers, Ellen Page, Drake, Justin Bieber and Tom Green. Canada also has prime minister Justin Trudeau to be proud of, and not to mention, easy on the eyes.

Now during this coming election, when you’re stressing out over the future of America, don’t build a wall around your heart, and don’t let “the Mexicans” pay for it. Instead, try out Maple Match, and get yourself your own Ryan Reynolds to help you in your time of politically-fueled-asylum-seeking.