Technology

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Hi Tech Shopping Automation

Many of us scoff at the thought of internet connected Refrigerators and other “IoT” kitchen appliances but it looks like we’ll be seeing them sooner that we think

Consider the following: Refrigerators that shop for you. Samsung wants your fridge to be more than just mere cold storage. Samsung’s Family Hub (at a paltry $4,788 at BestBuy so watch for advertised sales) aims to make it easier to order groceries. The Family Hub can order from a grocery store through the Groceries by Mastercard app. https://news.samsung.com/global/samsung-electronics-unveils-family-hub-2-0-and-smart-built-in-appliances-at-ces-2017

But you don’t need to buy an Internet connected fridge to get some of the benefits of a smart appliance. The Smarter FridgeCam (currently available for pre-order at $99.99) is a wireless camera that allows you to see the contents of your fridge and track expiration dates from a smart phone app. https://smarter.am/fridgecam/

Or, how about a “Magic” button for ordering groceries? Amazon wants to make replenishing family staple items as simple as pressing a button. Amazon’s DASH button might be the answer. You can reorder specific items that are available via Amazon’s Prime service with one button press. This service is exclusively available to PRIME members at this time. The option intrigued me so I logged into my Amazon Prime account and was very surprised to see just how many Buttons I had.

Most every food type item I’ve ever ordered as well as many other items I’ve ordered and re-ordered had a button assigned to them. All I had to do was enable 1-click ordering and simply click the desired button. Can’t get much easier than that…

Finally – many people are put off by all this technology so, if you like the old fashioned way of doing things, check out this Amazon.com item. It’s a 2 pack (100 sheets per pack) of pre-printed paper shopping lists that magnetically sticks to your fridge… cheap and effective – now where did I leave my pen? J

https://www.amazon.com/Set-Grocery-Lists-Notepads-Organizer/dp/B01LVW6GLX/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1498484654&sr=8-1-fkmr1&keywords=smarter+fridge+cam

Does Amazon Intend To Rule The World?

Amazon’s intended purchase of Whole Foods for $13.7 BILLION seems to push them towards their goal of opening a massive chain” of 2,000 grocery stores. Jeff Bezos is plotting his takeover of our brick and mortar retail industry.

In December 2016, Amazon unveiled a grocery store without lines or checkout counters. Amazon Go, a 1800-square-foot retail space located in the company’s hometown of Seattle, lets shoppers just grab the items they want and leave; the order gets charged to their Amazon account afterwards.

Amazon Go works by using computer vision and sensors to detect what items you’re taking out of the store. You start by scanning an app as you enter the Amazon Go shop. You do your normal shopping, and the sensors throughout the store identify the items in your cart and charge them to your account when you walk out the door. It’ll feel like shoplifting, except you’re actually being watched by more cameras than you can imagine.

The shop will stock most items you’d find in a local convenience store: snacks, drinks, premade food like salads and sandwiches, and grocery essentials like bread and milk. It’ll also sell Blue Apron-like meal kits that let you cook your own dinners for two.

On the consumer level, the benefits are obvious no waiting in line or fussing around with self-checking machines. But for Amazon, the company could potentially track you and your phone as you browse the store to track items you buy. By looking at your movements in the store as you shop, Amazon could analyze items you may have noticed or were potentially interested in buying (i.e., picking something up off a shelf and putting it back down.) Combine this with your Amazon.com browsing activities and the company could gear up to serve even more recommended products wherever you’re online.

This is all part of Amazon’s grand plan to become the logistics backbone of retail, both online and offline. More brick-and-mortar locations make it easier for the company to conduct grocery delivery through its Amazon Fresh brand. And as more customers begin turning to Amazon for groceries and everyday supplies, the lower Amazon can bring its prices as it scales upward and purchases inventory in larger amounts. The deeper these layers intertwine, the more likely a consumer is to subscribe to Amazon Prime, which will surely begin incorporating offline benefits to complement its free shipping and video freebies.

At the end of the day, Amazon wants to sell consumers any and every product it can, while having the network to move that product into a person’s home that very same day. With planned physical locations that cater to every style of shopping, the company is well on its way to realizing that vision.

Wall Street Journal report: https://www.wsj.com/articles/amazon-grocery-store-concept-to-open-in-seattle-in-early-2017-1480959119

Is A Video Phone On Your Tech Wish List?

The new Amazon Echo, now with a 7-inch touchscreen, could be officially announced as early as this morning (Tuesday May 9th, 2017) according to The Wall Street Journal. The device will support video calling as its new premier feature in addition to Alexa’s current plethora of “skills” and compatibility with smart home gadgets and popular services. It will also be able to place phone calls in a manner similar to Microsoft’s Skype.

The Wall Street Journal believes that Amazon will price its latest Echo at more than $200. The regular Echo speaker, first introduced in late 2014, currently sells for $149, with the Echo Tap and Echo Dot devices beneath it at lower price points. Amazon’s employees have been testing the new product for several months, and it’s expected to ship sometime in June. Images of the device first surfaced on Friday.

Calling features in the new Echo could be rolled out “in stages,” the report notes. Amazon is said to be experimenting with intercom capabilities between the various Echo products in a consumer’s home, for example. That would partially mimic the functionality of some third-party products like the Nucleus, which also supports Amazon’s Alexa platform. Recode previously reported on Amazon’s plans to turn the Echo into a phone.

Amazon’s flagship Echo is also likely to support “at least some” of the features offered by the Echo Look, a camera that can help users make fashion and outfit choices with the assistance of artificial intelligence. That product is currently available on an invite-only basis, whereas this new Echo will undoubtedly see a huge marketing push by Amazon. You can put an Echo speaker in every room of your house, but this is going to be the experience’s centerpiece. As Amazon’s tech rivals including Google and Apple try to play catchup at building a voice-controlled speaker “assistant,” the company is already moving on to the next piece of its Alexa strategy.

It’s been rumored for a while now that Amazon is working on a touchscreen version of the Echo speaker, and today we’re finally getting some evidence and a sense of what it might look like.

 

ISPs Abandon Copyright Alert System

You may have never even heard of CAS unless you or a family member regularly downloaded and shared copyrighted media. Last week, major ISPs ended their three-year-old “six strikes” program intended to discourage subscribers from sharing pirated movies, music, and TV shows.

The program, started in 2013 and officially termed the Copyright Alerts System, was designed to send out a series of up to six warnings to people who downloaded or uploaded copyrighted content using file-sharing services such as BitTorrent. It was administered by the Center for Copyright Information, a coalition of entertainment companies and major ISPs, which issued a statement last week explaining its decision to terminate the program.

“After four years of extensive consumer education and engagement, the Copyright Alert System will conclude its work,” according to the statement. “The program demonstrated that real progress is possible when content creators, Internet innovators and consumer advocates come together in a collaborative and consensus-driven process. CAS succeeded in educating many people about the availability of legal content, as well as about issues associated with online infringement.”

The program was primarily intended as an educational measure, since it did not require ISPs to cut off service to customers who shared illegal content more than six times. Instead, each ISP would introduce its own mitigation measures, such as throttling Internet speed, if customers did not respond to the notices.

The CAS tracked illegal file sharing using a fairly simple method: content owners scanned torrents for their copyrighted works, and logged the IP addresses of computers that shared them. While the Center for Copyright Information doesn’t elaborate on the CAS’s technical setup, the Electronic Frontier Foundation reported in 2012 that CAS used software from MarkMonitor to scan torrents.

Major ISPs participating in CAS include AT&T, Comcast, Cablevision, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon. Verizon declined to comment, instead referring requests to the Center for Copyright Information, while the other four companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Steven Fabrizio, executive vice president and global general counsel at the Motion Picture Association of America, suggested that CAS was being withdrawn because of its ineffectiveness at targeting the most egregious offenders.In a statement to Variety, he said that CAS “was simply not set up to deal with the hard-core repeat infringer problem. Ultimately, these persistent infringers must be addressed by ISPs under their ‘repeat infringer’ policies as provided in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.”

 

7 Tech Products You Should Plan to Buy on Black Friday

Black Friday is a fun but often hectic way to kick off the holiday shopping season. Deals abound in every store and in every corner of the internet, but when it comes to gadgets, it can be difficult to sort out which promotions are worth the hype. It pays to be aware of a few do’s and don’ts of finding the best Black Friday deals. And it’s also useful to know that, as a rule, some kinds of tech deals are worth pursuing on Black Friday, while others are rarely worth the trouble.

Before you stock up on Black Friday fliers, read dozens of blog posts about the holiday weekend’s best promotions, or steel yourself to head to your local electronics store at some ungodly hour of the night or morning, it’s a good idea to know which kinds of gadgets you can really save money on during the Black Friday hype. Read on to check out the kinds of tech products that are worth buying on Black Friday.

1: Televisions

2: Budget-friendly laptops and Chromebooks

3: High-end smartphones

4: Tablets

5: e-Readers

6: Cameras

7: Video games, DVDs and Blu-Rays

To make your Black Friday shopping even easier, here’s a list of websites where you can find all the best deals from the comfort of your home.

Black Friday Ads (bfads.net)
If you’re not sure which store will have which deal, head to Black Friday Ads, which scans and tags Black Friday circulars from all the major retailers. Those circulars are then searchable, so you can, for example, see all the computer deals from Dell or electronics at Sam’s Club. It’s a little easier than sifting through newspaper circulars at your dining room table.

BlackFriday@GottaDeal.com
Black Friday@GottaDeal lists all the Black Friday ads as they are made available. You can search by category and see which stores have deals on electronics or televisions, for example.

Amazon.com
At Amazon, it’s not really Black Friday, it’s a month+ of deals. Things got started last week with a Black Friday Deals Store and over a dozen curated gift guides. Accessible through Dec. 22, the Deals Store features discounts on electronics, toys, clothing, kitchen items, and more.

Offers.com
On Offers.com, you can search by store or peruse Black Friday circulars ahead of the big day. Among other things, see which TVs will be on sale at Newegg and Samsung and which laptops you can pick up from the Microsoft Store or Amazon.

TechBargains.com
TechBargains.com is already compiling early Black Friday deals, but you can also shop by store, including Amazon, Dell, HP, and more.

BestBlackFriday.com
BestBlackFriday.com has the usual Black Friday deals fare— deals, ad scans, coupons, curated buying guides, and news — but also conducts market research, studies, and polls around the biggest shopping day of the year.

Brad’s Deals
BradsDeals.com mixes the usual Black Friday circulars with blog posts that provide tips and tricks ahead of Nov. 25.

DealTaker.com
At DealTaker.com, view a basic list deals from around the Web, including Black Friday offerings, which are bound to become more plentiful as we get closer to Nov. 25.

Have fun and stay safe!

 

 

A Friendlier “Craigslist”?

450 million people already visit “buy and sell” Groups on Facebook each month, and now the company is launching a whole tab in its app dedicated to peer-to-peer shopping.

Facebook Marketplace lets you browse a relevancy-sorted list of things to buy from people who live nearby and quickly list your own stuff for sale. Integration with Facebook Messenger lets you haggle or arrange a meet-up, and you know more about who you’re dealing with than on anonymous sites like Craigslist thanks to Facebook’s profiles.

Marketplace has launched in the US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand on mobile, but could roll out globally and on the web if it’s popular. There’s an unfortunate lack of a two-way rating system which helps discourage scamming and bad behavior. There’s also no native checkout option for transactions beyond ad-hoc payment through Messenger, which is annoying but promotes in-person exchanges instead of fraud-laden shipping.

While there’s no advertising pages allowed on Marketplace right now, Facebook could one day generate ad revenue if it lets businesses or people buy News Feed ads or sponsored placement for what they’re selling.

Facebook is betting big on Marketplace, considering its taking over a main spot in the navigation tab bar, replacing the Messenger shortcut in Facebook for iOS. That prime location could make Marketplace the digital version of impulse buys at the checkout counter.

Social Selling Facebook continues its unending quest to dominate the internet, creating its own versions of every popular activity on the web to absorb their engagement and profit potential. The more of the commerce experience it owns, the more it can earn indirectly through ads. It’s also working on a Shopping tab for buying from traditional retailers.

Facebook has been trying to win local commerce for almost a decade. In 2007 it first tried out a “Marketplace” for classified listings about things for sale, housing, jobs, and more. But Marketplace never gained enough traction and in 2009 Facebook transferred control to Oodle, the commerce platform powering it. It was shut down in 2014.

Then last year, Facebook took another swing, building a special “For Sale” post option to Groups, which almost a quarter of its 1.71 billion users now visit each month. In October 2015 Facebook began testing a “Local Market” feature that would evolve into the Marketplace.

Facebook Marketplace has three main features: Browse To Buy – Marketplace opens to a filtered feed of items you can buy from your community. Thanks to tags people add to their listings and Facebook’s text analysis AI combined with what Pages you like and stuff you browse on Marketplace, the listings you see are ranked based on relevancy. Pre-made Messages like “Is this item still available?” and “What condition is this item in?” make negotiation simpler.

Sell Your Stuff – Rather than having to set up a new profile, you can easily snap a photo of your item, add a description, set an asking price, and publish your listing.

Search Your Surroundings – Along with browsing specific categories like Household or Electronics, you can also search for something specific and filter what you see by location, category, and price or through a map. If you find something you want, you’ll see the seller’s approximate location, not their exact address unless they tell you. Marketplace will show you the most relevant items for you, even if you don’t know what you want.

No one else has been able to wrestle peer-to-peer selling away from Craigslist, but Facebook might have the best chance based on how Marketplace works.

3 Good Reasons You Might Want To Use Marketplace

Trust
: On Craigslist you don’t know anything about the buyer or seller you’re meeting beyond what they say in their listing and your direct communication. But Facebook profiles tell you tons. It’s tough for scammers with fake accounts to build up big numbers of friends, so if someone has plenty along with a filled-out profile, you can be pretty sure of who they are. That info or lack thereof could clue you in to whether you want to meet them in-person, which can be risky. Plus there’s more accountability and people behave better if they think you could give their name to the police, track them down at work, or shame them on social media.

A sorely lacking feature in Marketplace is a way for buyers and sellers to rate each other and note things like that the item was in worse condition than listed, the seller tried to jack up the price last-minute, or that the buyer showed up late or flaked out.

Convenience: People usually only go to Craigslist when they want something specific. Yet we already spend about 50 minutes per day on Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram. Marketplace will be one tap away inside Facebook, rather than getting buried under the “More” tab like many features.

By building the Marketplace into where we already spend our time, it’s like setting up a farmer’s market in the center of town. Users might skim through Marketplace simply because they’re bored. Thanks to the popularity of Messenger, buyers and sellers can easily chat without phone numbers.

It’s Free: Facebook also doesn’t charge a fee, so you can transact however you want and never pay extra.

Microsoft Offers Free Coffee for Web Browsing

The world’s most unpopular internet browser now comes with opt-in Super Stalking. Microsoft wants people to use its Edge browser so badly it will even pay people to use it.

EdgeWindows 10 and Edge users can earn credits that can be spent in the Microsoft online store on things like three months of advertisement-free Outlook and Amazon cards. But – Microsoft won’t let you just run Edge and cash in: they will monitor the user’s mouse and keyboard movements for “active use” of the browser. If you’re busy enough, Redmond will hand over credits, soon to be renamed points under a program detailed here.

It will take about 1,000 Bing searches and about 19 days to earn about $5 which you can put towards a Starbucks coffee. Microsoft will offer additional credits to users who click things like training videos, MSN videos on how to make s’mores, and other Microsoft promotional content.

The new effort involves the renaming of Bing Rewards to Microsoft Rewards, and expanding it to cover Edge. Under the change, users who sign up before the pending switch from Bing Rewards to Microsoft Rewards will be promoted to level two, a title that can only be maintained by searching enough every day to earn that Starbucks coffee. Level two users get access to “exclusive offers” and get 10 per cent off certain Microsoft offerings.

As Internet browsers go, Google’s Chrome is the uncontested champion of the web browsing wars, with some 51.04% of the market, according to NetMarketShare. The analyst site places Microsoft’s Internet Explorer in second place with 21.76% , Safari with 11.12%, Firefox with 6% and Edge lagging behind them all at a dismal 3.91%. ‘Other’ web browsers account for 6.18% of the total.

For additional information: Get rewarded faster by browsing with Microsoft Edge. Earn points for every hour of active browsing with Microsoft Edge – up to 30 hours a month.

https://www.bing.com/explore/rewards-browse-and-earn

Hacking is Now a Well Run Business!

Here’s some more scary info. Looks like one can start their own online ransomeware business now with ZERO investment and very little effort: Ransomeware-As-A-Service

Cerber Ransomware Earns Over $2 Million with a little as 0.3% of victims paying up! A new report from Check Point software’s researchers showed that Cerber’s Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) affiliate program is a resounding success with more than 160 participants at current count, and that the combined direct sales plus affiliates was almost 200K in July, despite a victim payment rate of just 0.3%. That puts it on track to earn $2.3 million dollars this year, said Maya Horowitz, group manager of threat intelligence Check Point.

Aspiring criminal affiliates create their own campaigns using the Cerber platform and keep 60 percent of the profits. They also have access to user-friendly management tools, Cerber’s Bitcoin laundering architecture, and obviously the malicious code itself. Eight brand new Cerber ransomware campaigns are launched every day!

This means that there will be more and more such services, more and more attacks, even more than today. Just this week Symantec reported on a new RaaS that competes with Cerber. The new ransomware — dubbed Shark — is currently available for no charge in underground forums. Novice hackers that use the tool to extort money from victims pay only a 20% cut to the Shark developers.

Check Point researchers identified the IP addresses that infected machines used for data traffic with their C&C servers. They were also able to easily identify that the bad guys are probably based in or near Russia.

Currently, there are no infections in Russian-speaking countries and in the configuration of the ransomware, the authors, as default, chose not to operate on machines or PCs that have Russian as their default language. Obviously another indication of the hackers physical location.

This is a tried-and-true strategy of not getting picked up by the FSB, today’s equivalent of the KGB. As long as you don’t hack inside Russia’s borders, the Russian security forces leave you alone.

Follow The Money
What is interesting is that Check Point was able to extract the exact Bitcoin wallets assigned to every victim so that they could track the percentage of people who actually paid the ransom. The next step was to “follow the money” to one ultimate final central wallet through a network of other wallets that are part of Cerber’s Bitcoin architecture.

They followed these hundreds of thousands of different wallets. This is the first time that security researchers can say for sure what percentage of victims pay the ransom.

The people that actually pay ransoms was surprisingly low, compared to earlier estimates by other researchers, but it still pays off handsomely. A small team of four of five specialized cyber criminals can make between $300,000 to $400,000 each per year, which is at least 10 times more than they could earn in any legitimate enterprise where they live.

Bottom Line
So with the extraordinary amounts of money that can be made using these Ransomeware-As-A Service programs, we can all expect them to continue to grow and thrive in today’s internet security environment.

A simple method to “help” circumvent this particular attack vector would be to log into your hardware based firewall/router (you do have a hardware firewall right?) and block all incoming WAN traffic from Russian based IP addresses. You should probably block IP addresses that originate from China at the same time.

 

Hackers Eavesdropping –The Internet Of Things

Imagine the cybersecurity implications of a world in which hundreds of millions of people have a physical impairment and the corrective devices they use leave them internet-connected.

Thanks to the “internet of things,” that scenario is fast becoming reality in the form of internet-connected hearing aids. But like so many aspects of the internet of things, such devices carry upsides as well as big, potential data breach downsides, according to Phil Reitinger, the chief executive of the Global Cyber Alliance. He was formerly the Department of Homeland Security’s top cybersecurity official as well as CISO for Sony.

In an opening keynote presentation Aug. 2 at the Information Security Media Group’s Fraud & Breach Prevention Summit New York, Reitinger noted that unlike some internet of things devices – toasters come to mind – internet-connected hearing aids, which are still in their infancy, offer a lot of promise for improving users’ quality of life. When a user is watching a television show, for example, their hearing aids could identify the audio and instead of simply amplifying it they could begin downloading a live audio stream of the broadcast.

But what happens when internet-enabled hearing aids enter the workplace or any WiFi enabled environment for that matter? As with smartphones, the WiFi enabled hearing aids would be a natural target for attackers, because they could be exploited and used to facilitate remote surveillance, allowing hackers to “hear” whatever the wearer hears. And that would create risks for any such device wearer who works for an organization with access to classified or sensitive information. Without appropriate safeguards being put in place, we risk a future in which attackers could perpetrate targeted breaches with little risk of their attacks being spotted or traced.

In that sort of a future, “things like the DNC [Democratic National Committee] hack, are small potatoes … because a huge number of people are walking listening devices,” Reitinger said. “Everything is connected, everything is tied together.”

Security Essential: Think Big Our everyday lives will only continue to become more connected, with more data generated; that’s our inevitable internet of things future. But from a security standpoint, it’s possible to avoid some doomsday-style scenarios, provided we make some related moves, chief among them building networks that are as big as possible.

“Right now, I think the bad guys have almost all of the advantages,” Reitinger said. “But … it’s much tougher on the good guys than the bad guys. The bad guys operate at scale much better than the good guys.”

Is there money to be made in Pokemon extermination?

Citing a concern that Pokemon Go players are wandering into private property and near electrical equipment, power and utility companies in Florida have asked cybersecurity company LookingGlass to pull Pokemon off the map.

“We’re now in the business of killing Pokemon,” LookingGlass CEO Chris Coleman told CNNMoney.

He said clients have asked LookingGlass to help eliminate the game’s code to get rid of the little creatures in restricted areas. Clients have pinpointed eight locations, and Coleman’s team sends those coordinates to Niantic Labs, the maker of the game, asking that the critters be removed.

Police departments around the country have issued warnings to Pokemon players to stop trespassing on property belonging to businesses, the government or religious institutions. But no one until now has figured out how to rid their property of Pokemon.

The wildly popular smartphone game instructs players to explore their surroundings to collect Pokemon, then it projects digital images of the cute creatures into the real world.

It’s a wholesome, kid-friendly video game. But the merging of digital and physical realms has also caused awkward entanglements.

One teen in Wyoming stumbled upon a dead body in a river while playing the game. Two men fell of a cliff while trying to catch Pokemon with their eyes glued to their screens. Another player crashed into a police car, because he was playing while driving.

These types of accidents aren’t stopping people from playing the game, which has already broken records for its popularity.

Coleman said his cybersecurity company is in a unique position to help eliminate Pokemon(s), because he’s friends with a member of Niantic’s board of directors: Gilman Louie.

Louie is known in cybersecurity circles, because he was the first CEO of In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital firm that the intelligence agency uses to invest in state-of-the-art technology.

The next challenge for this popular application may come from a new product soon to be available to the masses called Pokédrone. Tech brand TRNDlabs has customized its miniature drone so Pokemon Go video game players can access Pokemon in difficult places and avoid walking into hazards.

The company’s rationale for this product is that sometimes the critters appear in hard-to-reach places, like in the middle of busy roads or hovering above bodies of water – making it difficult or impossible for avid fans to catch them.

Apparently there are disappointed fans all over the world because sometimes a Pokémon occurs on your screen but in reality there is no way for human beings to catch it. According to TRND Labs, the Pokédrone is the solution that delivers the power of catching them all!

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