Tech Today w/ Ken May

Archive for March 5th, 2017

Hidden Backdoor Discovered In Chinese IoT Devices

Posted by kenmay on March - 5 - 2017

“A backdoor has been found in devices made by a Chinese tech firm specializing in VoIP products, ” reports TechRadar. An anonymous reader quotes their article: Security outfit Trustwave made the discovery of a hidden backdoor in DblTek’s devices which was apparently put there to allow the manufacturer access to said hardware — but of course, it’s also open to being exploited by other malicious parties. The backdoor is in the Telnet admin interface of DblTek-branded devices, and potentially allows an attacker to remotely open a shell with root privileges on the target device. What’s perhaps even more worrying is that when Trustwave contacted DblTek regarding the backdoor last autumn — multiple times — patched firmware was eventually released at the end of December. However, rather than removing the flaw, the vendor simply made it more difficult to access and exploit. And further correspondence with the Chinese company has apparently fallen on deaf ears. The firmware with the hole “is present on almost every GSM-to-VoIP device which DblTek makes, ” and Trustwave “found hundreds of these devices on the net, and many other brands which use the same firmware, so are equally open to exploit.” Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Microsoft’s big push into mixed reality involves headsets from multiple manufacturers (including ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo), and developer kits with Acer’s headset will begin a phased rollout this month. But Windows 10’s latest “Insider Preview” build already includes a mixed reality simulator with a first-person 3D environment that can be navigated with the W, A, S and D keys. Slashdot reader Mark Wilson writes: From the look of the changelog for Windows 10 build 15048 that was released a few days ago to Insiders, it looked to be little more than a bug fixing release. But in fact Microsoft has already started to include references to — and even a portal for — Windows Mixed Reality. We have seen reference to Windows Holographic in Windows 10 before, but this is the first time there has been anything to play with. It coincides nicely with Microsoft revealing that Windows Mixed Reality is the new name for Windows Holographic, and it gives Insiders the chance to not only see if their computer meets the recommended specs, but also to try out a Windows Mixed reality simulation. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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New York will offer $2,000 if you buy an electric car

Posted by kenmay on March - 5 - 2017

Believe it or not, New York hasn’t offered a financial incentive to buy eco-friendly cars. While over three quarters of the US has some kind of state-level discount, New York has made you ‘settle’ for the federal tax credit. Officials are about to sweeten the pot, though: months after approval, New York is launching a rebate program on April 1st that gives you up to $2, 000 if you buy an electric car or plug-in hybrid . If you can buy a car that also qualifies for the federal credit, you’re looking at nearly ten grand off the sticker price. The initiative wasn’t exactly on the fast track. April 1st was the deadline for launching the program — the state clearly put this off until the last minute, and staff at New York’s Energy Research and Development Authority are still hashing out the details of the rebate. Still, it could be vital if it goes according to plan. New York represents one of the larger potential markets for electric cars outside of California, and the added incentive could be important for the Chevy Bolt , Tesla Model 3 and future EVs just affordable enough that even $2, 000 could make a big difference. It’s particularly important for the Model 3, whose pre-orders are strong enough that you may not get a federal credit at all if you ordered relatively late. Via: Electrek Source: AP (US News)

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Streaming TV Sites Now Have More Subscribers Than Cable TV

Posted by kenmay on March - 5 - 2017

Nielsen reported this week that millennials “spend about 27% less time watching traditional TV than viewers over the age of 35, ” possibly threatening the dominance of cable TV. An anonymous reader quotes Axios: Streaming service subscribers (free or paid) increased again (68% in 2016 vs. 63% in 2014) and have caught up with the percentage of paid TV service providers (67%) for the first time ever, according to the Consumer Technology Association’s new study, The Changing Landscape for Video and Content. The rise of streaming services represents a shift in consumption habits towards cord-cutting, primarily amongst millennials. Some other trends are impossible to ignore. 2016 also saw a saw dramatic drops in the use of physical disks — from 41% in 2015 to just 28% — as well as another big drop in the use of antennas, from 18% to just 10%. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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More Fast Food Restaurants Are Now Automating

Posted by kenmay on March - 5 - 2017

An anonymous reader writes: Wendy’s is adding self-service ordering kiosks “to at least 1, 000 restaurants, or about 15% of its stores, ” reports the Los Angeles Times, while McDonald’s and Panera Bread are now planning to add kiosks to every restaurant. “Lots of restaurants, not just fast-food chains, are really trying to mitigate the costs of higher wages, ” says one market research firm, while also citing a survey which found 40% of millennials willing to use kiosks (compared to 30% of restaurant-goers overall). But in some cases this means more work for human employees. Quartz points out that McDonalds doesn’t plan to reduce its workforce after installing kiosks, and Panera Bread “has said that at some locations where it has ordering kiosks, it has actually increased human hours to help the kitchen keep up with the higher number of orders that come in through the more efficient ordering system.” Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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The US might not have had much success with cyberattacks against North Korea’s nuclear program , but that apparently hasn’t stopped officials from further efforts… not that they’re having much success. The New York Times has learned that then-President Obama ordered escalated cyberwarfare against North Korea in 2014 a bid to thwart its plans for intercontinental ballistic missiles. However, it’s not clear that this strategy has worked — and there may be problems if it does. The newspaper understands that Obama pushed both intelligence agencies and the military to “pull out all the stops” on cyberwarfare efforts to wreck missiles either before they launch or in the first seconds afterward. While evidence shows that North Korean missiles started floundering at a very high rate (the mid-range Musudan missile has an 88 percent failure rate) soon after, it’s not certain how much of that was due to American efforts versus the inherent riskiness of the missile designs. The US effort “accented the failures, ” according to the Times , but the launch rate has improved lately — and proper intercontinental missile tests might not be far off, if you believe North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. A large part of this comes from the natures of both the country and its missile efforts. North Korea is notoriously isolated from the internet (not to mention computing technology as a whole), and its missile systems are both mobile and shuffled around to confuse enemies. It’s not so simple as slipping malware into the computers at a fixed location, like with the Stuxnet attack against Iran — you need to find out where and when a launch will take place. President Trump hasn’t signaled if or how his administration might change this approach. Everything is still on the table, according to the Times . However, it might not want to press much harder. If a digital campaign is successful, it might give China, Russia and other nuclear-armed nations tacit permission to attack American nuclear launch systems. A belligerent country might be more tempted to launch a nuke if it knows that the US can’t respond in kind. Source: New York Times

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Enlarge / Medical Research: albino rat for animal experiments (credit: Getty | fotografixx ) With a straightforward chemical tweak, the addictive—and often deadly—opioid painkiller, fentanyl, may transform into a safe, non-addictive, targeted therapy . Researchers reported this on Thursday in Science . In rats, a chemically modified form of the opioid could only work on inflamed, hurting tissue—not the rest of the body. Plus, it wasn’t deadly at high doses, like the original, and it didn’t spur addiction-forming behavior in the rodents, researchers at Freie Universität Berlin reported. “This yielded a novel opioid analgesic [pain reliever] of similar efficacy to conventional fentanyl, however, devoid of detrimental side effects,” the authors concluded. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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