Tag Archives: Google

Another reason to avoid smart homes: Harassment and abuse via your devices

smart home technology

From Yahoo (via Engadget): The New York Times recently published a report that revealed a disturbing trend of harassment and domestic abuse via internet-connected devices. In addition to using them to stalk and monitor their victims, abusers are also doing things like changing door-lock codes, turning lights on and off and boosting the thermostat to unbearable heat. In short, making their victims miserable.

On the surface, this seems like a relatively straightforward problem to solve: Just change your password or unplug the devices, right? Except the issue here is two-fold. Not only are the devices sometimes solely controlled by the abuser, but oftentimes making these changes will result in even worse abuse, especially if the couple is still living together. Asking these victims to stop using the devices is like telling them to just leave their abuser; these situations are usually much more complex, and the victims could be putting their lives in danger by doing either.

“It is very hard to give broadly applicable security advice to victims of domestic abuse, because every victim has to judge how much independence they have from their abuser and whether or not taking action to will cause them to back off or spur them to even more drastic action,” said Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

But let’s assume a scenario where there’s still some recourse. In that instance, pretty much every security expert Engadget interviewed said that the best tool one can have is an awareness of both their devices and surroundings. Everyone should know how many smart home products are in their house. If possible, they should get a unique credential and password for each household member so not one person is controlling the device. “Find out how it works, how it’s configured, how you can get into it and how they could be shut off,” said Jonathan Knudsen, a senior security strategist for Synopsys, a software and security company.

If the abusive partner has left the home and the remaining person wants to continue using the same devices — say it’s something difficult to remove like a connected doorbell or a smart thermostat — experts say they could try resetting them to factory settings.

“Make sure to hard-reset the device and update the username and password,” said Sam Levin, a community specialist for Independent Security Evaluators. At DEFCON, Levin also runs the IOT Village event, which helps researchers improve the security of smart home devices. “Another countermeasure not to be overlooked would be to replace any devices since they may have been physically tampered with in such a way that they would remain compromised even after a hard reset,” he added.

As mentioned, however, changing passwords and doing a factory reset aren’t options for everyone. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for domestic abuse.

“Women can end up looking paranoid,” said Ruth Patrick, a CEO of WomenSV, a Silicon Valley domestic violence program. This is especially the case with abuse involving the smart home because complaining about things like lights turning off and on can make someone seem crazy. To help curb this, Patrick suggests that victims work with a domestic violence advocate who’s savvy about these technologies. “Reach out to them or the police, and present yourself as a sane, competent person. Keep calm,” she said. “Get emotional support. Work with a therapist if you can.”

Additionally, Patrick advises abuse victims go as low-tech as possible. “If they have a sensitive appointment like interviewing attorneys or meeting a counselor, park several blocks away and put all the electronics in the trunk,” she said. Other tips include using a pad and paper to take notes, getting a flip phone instead of a smartphone and checking their belongings for trackers like RFID tags and Bluetooth fobs. Patrick also says they should avoid transportation like Uber or Lyft that uses an app, just in case that can be used to track them. “Even the Tesla app can be used to see where you’re going in real time.”

If they can afford it, Patrick recommends the use of a private investigator with expertise in counter-threat measures. The investigators can sweep cars and houses to make sure there are no hidden cameras or microphones, or signs of electronic tampering.

It’s unfortunate that victims have to go through such lengths to get away from constant surveillance, but this is the reality many abused people are living in. Even when tech companies run threat analysis assessments on their products, they often run tests against hackers or threat actors, not abusive exes. It’s not a topic that has come up in previous IOT Village events, according to Levin. There is research being done on the topic at the university level, but this is an issue that tech companies have mostly been silent on.

Read the rest of the story here.

See also:

DCG

Vogue magazine asks, “Should we still let children play with toy guns?”

It’s the “Classic Mother BB Gun Block.”

Pro-tip for the women cited in this article: We have THOUSANDS of strict gun laws already on the books. The problem is enforcement and those darn criminals who don’t obey them.

And if you’re interested in teaching your child about proper firearm safety instead of an irrational fear, there are LOTS of resources available. For example, see here, here, here, here, here and here.

From Yahoo (originally from Vogue): Over the weekend, on a party supplies run at Flying Tiger, the charming Danish discount store, my 4-year-old daughter’s eyes sparkled at the sight of a neon-color water gun. “Can I have that?” she asked—the same question she’d repeated at the sight of the modeling clay and princess crowns and silly straws.

I wavered for a beat. I’d come of age in the late ’80s and ’90s—the height of the backyard Super Soaker battle. And before that water gun became the hottest ticket at Toys “R” Us, my brother and I had wielded tiny green plastic water pistols filled and refilled with rudimentary plugs, sneakily shooting each other in the eyes. I remember all of this as pure, absurd fun.

“No,” I told my daughter, and briskly steered her on.

I offered no explanation in the moment—and I hadn’t really turned the question over in my head before—but my gut gave me my answer: that I didn’t want to introduce her to this or any other gun in a world that already seemed to be teeming with them in movies and video games, on TV and, most of all, on the news. Her fleeting interest in the toy gun was innocent, but, sadly, my view of it no longer was.

The water gun fights my brother and I used to have in the summer were from another era, maybe even another world—before Columbine and Parkland; Orlando and Sutherland Springs; and before these much-covered mass shootings rightfully reminded the public of the regularly occurring violence in lower socioeconomic and minority communities.

Back then, guns might have been just toys; now, it’s impossible for me not to see them as charged with the trauma of recent events.

I considered that same question again today—should we let our children play with toy guns at a time when the U.S. is grappling with the impact of gun violence?—when I saw the pictures of Prince George holding a rather realistic-looking black toy gun at an English polo match over the weekend. Part of the debate over toy guns has hinged on distinguishing them, clearly, as toys—so as never to be mistaken for the real thing. There are state laws, including one in New York, requiring toy guns be brightly colored, as opposed to black, aluminum, or silver. Perhaps for this reason, the photos stood out: to some eyes, the prince’s looked eerily like a real pistol.

“I gasped when I saw the photos,” an American friend said on Facebook.

And she has a reason to: America has a gun violence homicide rate that is 25 times higher than that of other developed countries, according to Everytown for Gun Safety; we outrank all other countries in the number of mass shootings that occur here; we own an estimated half of all civilian guns worldwide. A child wielding a toy gun in the U.K., where firearms are much harder to obtain, arouses a different sense of shock or unease than they might in America, though no less alarming—remember the brouhaha when Pippa Middleton’s friend pointed a firearm out of their convertible at a paparazzi?

There’s also the matter of who’s holding the toy gun. “The photo of Prince George juxtaposed with the story of Tamir Rice, a young black boy killed by police in Ohio because he had a toy gun in hand is an important part of the racial and white supremacy dynamics at play here,” Erika Soto Lamb, the founding and former head of communications for Everytown and Moms Demand Action for Gun Safety and a mother of two sons, ages 5 and 7, told Vogue. “It’s not safe for a black child in America to play with toy guns.”

Soto Lamb is a Texas native who was raised around real guns; she grew up playing cops and robbers and revering A Christmas Story—the irreverent classic in which mischievous young Ralphie Parker dreams of his very own BB gun. But she does not allow her two sons to play with toy guns of any kind. While at Everytown and Moms Demand Action, “when my life was a daily deluge of news stories about gun violence in America, and working with mothers whose children had been killed, it was simply untenable to come home and hand my children guns to play with,” Soto Lamb said.

When I began asking other parents today about kids and toy guns, many echoed her uneasiness. “My daughter is just 3, but I don’t think a gun can be an innocent toy in this day and age,” Anna Davies, a fellow writer in Jersey City, New Jersey, told me. “It’s much easier to just not have them in our lives.”

Another friend said she was “uncomfortable” when her 5-year-old daughter recently received a toy water gun in a birthday party goodie bag. One mother stealthily returned a “machine-gun” toy loaded with foam pellets that her son received at his own birthday party. “It was designed to look like the real deal,” she said. “I was so horrified, I immediately stashed it away while he was busy tearing into his other gifts.”

I can hear the other side now: that parents denying their kids toy guns are overthinking this. That a toy is still just a toy. But if Barbies arguably possess the power to body shame little girls, and princesses can mess with their sense of independence, then can’t guns, even if just subliminally, sanction violence? “I believe we have a cultural problem with guns in this country, and I don’t want to normalize the use of them,” Kathy Healy Champion, a mother of three in Connecticut, said. She doesn’t allow her children to play with toy guns. “I see it as a step in the right direction.”

After Sandy Hook, Soto Lamb says she began to view A Christmas Story through a different lens: “I realized that America’s problem with gun violence goes deeper than any laws, there is a cultural shift that needs to happen,” she said. “We give them blocks to inspire them to be builders, we give them paint to inspire artistic expression . . . what are we feeding our children, in the metaphorical sense, when we hand them toy guys to play with?

It doesn’t have to be a real gun to spark debate: According to Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter, even emoji guns carry a certain charge that doesn’t necessarily belong in our texts or tweets: all of those companies scrapped their original gun emojis in favor of “water guns.” The TSA—Transportation Security Administration—recommends toy guns be packed with checked baggage; it bans “squirt guns, Nerf guns, toy swords, or other items that resemble realistic firearms or weapons.”

For some parents, the question of how to handle toy guns is ongoing—some allow just water guns and only of the bright-colored variety. Others have nuanced rules—that toy guns should never be pointed at people or used to pretend-kill someone. (But, then again, that’s usually the point of a gun, whether real or fake.) Some parents say the decision isn’t easy—one mother reluctantly allows her sons to partake in paintball gunning, so as not to make them feel left out among friends. The hardest part for Soto Lamb is banning water guns. “Water guns are really so fun, but let’s be honest, Super Soakers are basically assault weapon–style water guns,” she said. “We make do with water blasters”—long tubes with no trigger—“and water balloons.”

Several parents told me their concerns about toy guns tend to get dwarfed by their worry over real gun violence. Responding to some online backlash about Prince George’s toy gun, Davies said, “I wish the outrage would continue to be directed at the NRA, not Prince George and the royal family. Maybe if we lived in a society that had strict gun laws, our toddlers could also play with pretend guns. I think it’s actually something to aspire to—let’s become a society where guns are just as fantastical as lightsabers.”

DCG

Amazon’s Alexa recorded and shared a conversation without consent

amazon alexa

Alexa: Always on and always recording…

Another reason why there will never be an “Alexa” in my home.

From Seattle Times: An Amazon device powered by the Alexa voice software recorded a couple’s private conversation in their home and sent it to someone in their contact list without their knowledge, KIRO television reported.

A Portland woman told the TV station that two weeks ago, one of her husband’s employees called to say he had received audio files containing recordings of a conversation inside their house.

“I felt invaded,” said the woman, Danielle, who didn’t want KIRO to use her last name. She said every room in her house had been wired with Amazon devices to control things like the heating, lights and security system.

“A total privacy invasion,” she went on. “Immediately I said, ‘I’m never plugging that device in again, because I can’t trust it.’”

An Amazon spokeswoman didn’t immediately comment on the KIRO report.

In a statement to the TV station, KIRO reported, Amazon called the event “an extremely rare occurrence,” without elaborating on what had caused the files to be sent. It added, “We are taking steps to avoid this from happening in the future” and said Amazon takes privacy very seriously.

Alexa, the voice-activated software that resides primarily in Amazon’s Echo speakers, is an increasingly popular tool people use to play music, and to toggle wirelessly controlled home appliances. That popularity is predicated, in part, on customers trusting Amazon — and rival smart-device makers like Google and Apple — enough to invite a powerful array of corporate-controlled microphones into their home.

Earlier this year, some Alexa users were unnerved by what seemed to be spontaneous laughter from the devices. The company suggested people triggered the laughter by accidentally requesting it, and subsequently changed the prompt to make such unintended requests less likely.

See also:

DCG

Google stops all ads about Irish abortion referendum

googleFrom The Independent: Google will stop all advertising about the Irish abortion referendum amid fears of election interference.

The decision comes after increasing concern that online platforms like Google and Facebook can secretly be used to influence the results of elections and referendums.

Google is currently showing a range of ads about the Irish referendum, which will take place on 25 May. Anyone who searches for any related terms is likely to see a post with a link to a website, either in support of voting for or against the plan to legalise abortion in the country.

The ban will go into effect in the next 24 hours and will last until the campaign is over. It will not change what shows in normal search results, which at the moment is largely made up of news articles from a range of organisations, rather than information from campaigns on either side.

“Following our update around election integrity efforts globally, we have decided to pause all ads related to the Irish referendum on the eighth amendment,” a spokesperson said.

The announcement comes just a day after Facebook announced it would stop all ads that were being bought from outside of Ireland. The company said that “foreign entities” appeared to be trying to influence the result.

The news comes amid increasing focus on how online ads were used in campaigns like the Brexit referendum or the 2016 US election. Both Google and Facebook have launched changes in the wake of those events, intended on limiting the ways that outside actors can use political ads to influence elections.

Google explicitly linked the new changes to those efforts, though it did not make clear whether the change was the result of any particular ad.

DCG

Media Hogg hardest hit: NRA sees a huge surge in membership interest

NRA sticker

I renewed my membership and know plenty of you who did as well. Hope the NRA releases some good numbers soon.

From Daily Mail: The NRA has seen a huge surge in membership interest in recent weeks, after drawing noisy backlash over the shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Google searches for ‘NRA membership’ have risen roughly 4,900 per cent since the week before the February 14 shooting, with new members flocking to support the gun owners’ rights group.

NRA President Wayne LaPierre announced last May that national membership had reached five million, but the group has not commented on the recent surge and didn’t immediately reply to calls from DailyMail.com on Sunday.

Though high-profile mass shootings often spur an increase in gun sales over fear of a crackdown, the Parkland shooting was different in the focus of vitriol that was directed at the NRA.

Some otherwise casual gun rights supporters said that the loud attacks on the NRA in the media by young Parkland survivors such as David Hogg drove them to sign up.

‘Thank you David Hogg for inspiring me,’ one Twitter user wrote. ‘I gifted my husband with an NRA membership. I felt now was an important time to support them,’ she continued, adding a screenshot of the membership confirmation email.

Other new NRA members said they were pushed to join because of perceived media bias and the rush to condemn gun rights in the wake of the shooting, in which 17 died.

‘After ten minutes of CNN’s town hall “debate” I had already searched for gun safes, the closest firearms dealer near me, classes on gun safety, and an NRA membership,’ wrote Robert Norman in a column for the Federalist.

NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch appeared at the CNN town hall just a week after the shooting, receiving boos and curses from the packed arena.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel piled on, drawing cheers from the crowd when he berated Loesch – days before information about critical law enforcement failures in Israel’s own department came to light.

‘The town hall was a display of tyranny,’ wrote Norman, on why it prompted him to join the NRA.

‘For tyranny has never come from a single person, but rather from a mob cheering for the destruction of liberty and rights from those with whom they disagree.’ 

After the CNN town hall, several national brands withdrew from partnerships to offer discounts to NRA members – companies including MetLife, Enterprise car rental, and Norton AntiVirus.

A new Morning Consult survey conducted last week found that net favorability ratings for those brands plunged when consumers learned of their moves to cut ties with the NRA – though the results were sharply split along partisan lines.

‘There is no one. NO ONE. Who joins the NRA for a discount on a rental car,’ Cleta Mitchell, an NRA member and former Oklahoma state lawmaker who sat on the NRA’s board from 2002 to 2013, said in an email to Time.

‘You can rest assured that the NRA will not lose a single member as a result of this,’ Mitchell said.  ‘If anything, it should spur people to join the NRA as a means of demonstrating that we who believe in the Second Amendment will not be bullied by these left wing multi-billion dollar corporations.’

DCG

Another Hollyweird project to boycott: Showtime’s SMILF

SMILF (which stands for “single mother I’d like to f*ck”) is a new Showtime show that debuts on November 5. The show’s premise:

“Bridgette Bird is a smart, scrappy, young single mom trying to navigate life in South Boston with an extremely unconventional family. She struggles to make ends meet, which leads her to impulsive and at times immature decisions. Above all, Bridgettte wants to make a better life for her son. SMILF takes on motherhood, co-parenting, and female sexuality through a raw and unfiltered lens. Don’t miss this semi-autobiographical half-hour comedy from the creative mind of Frankie Shaw, an original and fresh new female voice.”

The show stars libtard Rosie O’Donnell. From TVLine:

“SMILF stars Frankie Shaw (Mr. Robot) as Bridgette, a twentysomething from the south side of Boston “whose desires for relationships, sex and a career collide with the realities of young, single motherhood,” per the network synopsis. O’Donnell will play Tutu, Bridgette’s mother, who is described as “completely oblivious to social convention.”

Remember his about the TDS-infected O’Donnell:

Showtime must be so proud.

Another Hollyweird project I won’t be watching.

DCG

Twitter Sides With The Perverters

Read the Breitbart story here.

Elite puppeteers scramble to control the narrative

Like most people, I use Facebook, Twitter and other social media to enable communication. Facebook works for me to reconnect with friends and family and increase my sphere of influence. It has also helped me sell my artwork. And I use Twitter to enable announcements of certain kinds, LinkedIn to expand and strengthen my professional influence, and of course I use Google for a myriad 0f purposes.

These apps have grown to become seemingly indispensable. They’re cute and friendly and free of charge. What would we do without all the free Youtube do-it-yourself tutorials for home repair and such?

But increasingly the mask is removed, and we see another side of these cute, friendly, Pokemon-like characters. We see social media allowing islamists and violent revolutionaries to plan their evil deeds without any hinderance. And now we see Twitter trying to silence a brave Hollywood whistle blower.

Oh yes, did I mention the fact that these apps are free?