When the virtual becomes reality: consequences of a digital world, and the growing need for cyber security
This last week has been very eventful for the tech world, and full of lively debate. When Amazon announced its plans to create drones that will be used to automatically deliver packages to customers in the not-so-distant future, skepticism abounded.
Can this system really be useful, or feasible?
Drone technology has a futuristic vibe to it. The vision of people walking down the sidewalk (already prepped with touch screen phones, and Google glasses overlaying virtual reality into their field of sight) glancing casually up at the sky as the busy hum of business robots fill the air is simply too whimsical. One is reminded of The Jetsons.
But caution should be used before writing off the technology as overly ambitious or unrealistic. As we have seen in the last decade, technology which was at one point a gimmick is often the way of the world – take for instance pocket computers, touch screens, voice interfaces, and (now it seems) augmented reality.
My concerns for Amazon’s technology lie elsewhere: how it could potentially be abused.
There is already a lot of doubt surrounding drones – they’re associated with spying, and government meddling. Who wants a whole package of cameras and sensors flying directly over their homes and land?
What’s even worse: even if protective laws were implemented, and penalties were enforced for abuse, how could people possibly demonstrate the offences? One assumes that a video-recording drone looks an awful lot like a regular delivery drone.
One bit of news this week which didn’t quite ‘fly’ over the tech radar was a concerning project by notorious-hacker-turned-security-researcher Sammy Kamkar, infamous for his creation of the “Samy Worm” in 2005.
The project, called ‘SkyJack’, is described by Kamkar on a page of the same name:
“Using a Parrot AR.Drone 2, a Raspberry Pi, a USB battery, an Alfa AWUS036H wireless transmitter, aircrack-ng, node-ar-drone, node.js, and my SkyJack software, I developed a drone that flies around, seeks the wireless signal of any other drone in the area, forcefully disconnects the wireless connection of the true owner of the target drone, then authenticates with the target drone pretending to be its owner, then feeds commands to it and all other possessed zombie drones at my will.”
This opens up a range of concerning possibilities.
Amazon drones are unlikely to fly completely automatically - quadcopters and similar vehicles are not yet nimble enough for such regular excursions. If a remote pilot is necessary to oversee the drone’s functions, then it is clear that Kamkar’s research demonstrates a real threat to the safety of airborne merchandise.
However, even if such delivery systems are fully automatic, a study performed at the University of Texas this year indicates that the drone could still be vulnerable. In the study, researchers managed to steer an entire yacht off course, not by changing the route or hacking into the navigational computer, but by broadcasting false GPS signals in order to make the ship believe it was going in one direction, when it was actually being led somewhere entirely different.
In both cases, we see a clear potential for Amazon drones to be compromised. And that is bad news – imagine jewelry, electronics, and other valuables being funneled from their intended destination. Not only could the merchandise be intercepted, but so could the drone, causing trouble both for Amazon and for the consumer.
But the problem manifest here transcends Amazon specifically – drones aren’t the only automatic vehicles that are currently under development. It has been over a year since a blind man drove through a fast food drive-thru, with the services of Google’s driverless car. Since then, autonomous cars have been legalized in no less than three states!
Simulation is becoming reality. Programs don’t just manage simulations and video games, anymore. Algorithms are being put to practical use. The abstract is becoming concrete.
Now, a program crash could mean a head on collision. A hacker could become a murderer.
With all these advances, I suggest that we should spend less time bickering over whether these things will come to pass, and more time figuring out what will happen if and when they do! Laws need to be passed. Security researchers need to be hired, in the public and private sector. Consumers and businesses alike need to be educated about keeping their systems safe, and uncompromised.
There isn’t a need to fear technology, as long as we manage it properly. That’s why I am not terrified of Amazon Drones, but I do worry whether we will be prepared to handle them if they become reality.
Several pictures were leaked last week that contained various images of the new Nexus 5, which were suppose to be for the listing of the LG G2.
The successor to the Nexus 4 , the Nexus 5 (points for creativity), was inside the leaked pictures with a LG sticker on the back. If you have been following the Nexus 5, you would know that it should be based of the newly released LG G2.
Although there has been controversy regarding LG compared to more popular brands such as Samsung or Apple, the LG G2 boasts a top-of-the-line phone in the form of a quad-core 2.2GHz Snapdragon CPU and an Adreno 330 GPU. The screen is 5.1 inches, and instead of the more popular hardware buttons, uses software buttons. And to top it off, 2 gigabytes of RAM, for even the most extreme multitasker.
The LG G2 has had almost exclusively positive reviews upon release, and if the Nexus 5 is based off of it, that can only mean good news to Google. The screen for the Nexus 5 has been revealed to be smaller than the G2 (5″ screen) but that could possibly be a better thing, as it might feel more comfortable in the palm of your hand.
The huge issue however, seems to be when Google told the world that the Nexus 5 will only have a 2,300mAh battery. Newer phones such as the Xperia Z1 as well as the LG G2, has 3,000mAh. The Galaxy S4 has 2,600. Compared to those figures, 2,300mAh is quite low for a flagship phone, which may prove to be a deal-breaker when compared to its stronger counterparts. It heavily depends on the pricing that Google is going for, as well as the software (KitKat)
The release date for the Nexus 5 hasn’t been revealed yet, although it is heavily speculated by Ausdroid, who claims to have a very reliable source that the date of both releases (The Nexus 5 and Android 4.4, KitKat) will be October 14th (my birthday!).
I’m leaning more towards the G2 still, I still do not know what KitKat will bring besides “performance tweaks”, and the 3,000mAh battery as well as its larger screen makes it more appealing, to me, at least. What do you guys think? Given the choice, what would you pick?
Channel ‘Matthias’ has produced and uploaded a hilarious parody on the Apple iPhone 5S, which you can watch below.
The video pokes fun at Apple’s upcoming 5S and 5C, and the media circus surrounding it. The yearly ritual never ceases to enchant some, or mystify others. While bigger updates to Apple products, such as the iPhone 2 and 4, have brought in significant new features and upgrades, others – like the 4S – proved barely any different from their predecessors.
The video briefly jabs at the iPhone 5C, an upcoming cheaper, multicolored version of the famed smartphone.
The release date for the 5C and 5S have not been confirmed by any official sources, but the products are expected to debut at a September 10 event called by Apple.
While the next generation iPhone will almost certainly be a 5S rather than a 6, it may not be as boring an upgrade as Matthias predicts. Among other things, the next iPhone may include a fingerprint scanner, NFC, and wireless charging. All the same, the Matthias pattern certainly is not unusual, and typifies many iPhone releases.
Internet giant, Google, tried to crumble the virtual foundations of wiretapping and privacy laws this Thursday, according to this article by the Calgary Herald. Apparently, Google has been scanning the contents of users’ emails to provide user-specific advertising. Though the company claims that all the emails are processed by a computer and never read by humans, the fact remains that at least one Google engineer has abused his power by spying on teens using Google Voice and GMail. Those who trust all their internet usage to Google, such as searches, emails, social activities (Google+), and voice calls or texts (Google Voice); should think twice about their privacy. According to a quote from a Google attorney, users should expect that they do not have a high level of privacy when using GMail. If you or your friends are conspiracy theorists, I recommend using Yahoo! Mail. Or, if you simply like the idea of people not reading your private correspondence.
According to some rumors coming from the Wall Street Journal, Apple may be testing prototypes of 4.8″ and 6″ iPhones. Just me talking, a 6″ screen is way too big, especially without increasing the width. Of course we all know where this idea is coming from, Apple’s main rival, Samsung.
Head on over to the WSJ to read more!
Following 30 days of fake logos to hype up the reveal, Yahoo rolled out their new logo today, and related the design process that apparently went into the thing, which would put Jony Ive to shame.
On this day 6 years ago (Sept 5th 2007), the iPod Touch was released at the music event called The Beat Goes On. This wasn’t too far out from the June arrival of the iPod’s big brother, the ever-cooler iPhone. As almost anyone knows an iPod Touch is basically an iPhone with no cellular signal. And yes, for you hardware junkies, there are quite a few less noticeable differences in the hardware. Steve Jobs called the iTouch, “Training wheels for the iPhone.”
But we’ve seen a lot of changes through the years in the iTouch, haven’t we? the first generation iPod was quite bit thicker, (I know this is subjective but) uglier, didn’t have a camera or even a speaker. Even now there isn’t that much attention directed at the iPod Touch, it seems its always the other iOS device. It isn’t marketed as heavily as the iPhone and iPad, and many features supported by those two aren’t supported by the iTouch. However it seems to have a pretty big following from people who want an iPhone with no monthly bill.
HDMI Licensing, the company behind the compact audio/video interface connector, recently announced HDMI 2.0.
HDMI 2.0 has a bandwidth 18 Gbps, allowing the user to stream 3840×2160 at 60 FPS. The standard also allows for 32 audio channels and can handle up to 1536kHz audio sampling, dual video streams for different users (you can play PS3 on half the screen, watch TV on the other half), multi stream audio as well as support for 21:9 screens. HDMI 2.0 was described to “[add] key enhancements to support market requirements”.
The most interesting part however, is that HDMI 2.0 supports backwards compatibility, using the existing connectors on the current 1.x versions. Another thing to note is that HDMI 2.0 features will work with existing HDMI cables; however, higher bandwidth features requires a more powerful HDMI cable (“Category 2″). Also, quoted from the FAQ, HDMI 2.0 is built on top of HDMI 1.x and that any device wanting to implement 2.0 must have 1.x as a requirement. So that’s cool.
Let me know in the comments which style of posts you prefer – quick and simple, straight to the point, or long descriptive articles like my previous Android KitKat one!
On the 3rd of September, Android Chief Sundar Pichai tweeted that Android, the world’s dominating mobile platform, has recently passed the one billion activation mark, a milestone in the tech world industry.
Back in May 2011, there was a hidden message on one of the Google IO announcements, which suggested that the next Android version would begin with the letter K. There was speculation over what the letter K was named after to those unfamiliar with how Android names its operating system versions, it’s after a dessert – 2.3 was Gingerbread, 3.0 was Honeycomb, 4.0 was Ice Cream Sandwich, 4.2 was Jelly Bean. (Fun fact: They’re also in Alphabetical Order, since C for Cupcake)
The letter K was expected to be “Key Lime Pie”, but to our surprise the next version of Android was named KitKat! Google has recently partnered with Nestle, leader of chocolate candies and bottled water, to create Android-themed KitKat. There will be 50 million editions of Android KitKat, which upon purchase enters you to win Google prizes, including a Nexus 7. There are also limited edition versions of KitKat that looks the same as the picture above.
Not much has been announced regarding the software portion of this announcement however, if you go to Android’s official site, and scroll down, all that is present is “It’s our goal with Android KitKat to make an amazing Android experience available for everybody.”
The word “everybody” makes me feel like KitKat will be compatible for almost every phone- Google didn’t use ‘everybody’ anywhere else in previous Android versions. This is pure speculation however, and I don’t expect anything surprising to come out of it – but I’ll be sure to write about it if it does!