Amazon sees Alexa devices more than double in just one year

Found on CNet News on Monday, 06 January 2020
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The e-commerce titan announced Monday that there are now "hundreds of millions of Alexa-enabled devices" in customers' hands worldwide, a massive increase from the 100 million it announced last January.

One issue that may stifle Alexa's popularity is privacy. Amazon and other major voice developers faced mounting criticism last year for failing to let their users know they use human reviewers to listen to a small number of user recordings.

Ring, Amazon's video doorbell company, has also faced criticism for security lapses and its partnerships with local police departments.

Alexa can never be so good that should be considered to buy such a spying device.

We calculated emissions due to electricity loss on the power grid

Found on Ars Technica on Friday, 27 December 2019
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We calculated that worldwide, compensatory emissions amount to nearly a billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents a year, in the same range as the annual emissions from heavy trucks or the entire chemical industry.

Surprisingly, very few countries included transmission and distribution losses in their national commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emission as part of the 2015 Paris Agreement. Our analysis found that only 32 countries mention grid efficiency.

So in all fairness, these emissions need to be included when calculating the CO2 footprint of e-mobility.

Spectrum Customers Stuck With Thousands In Home Security Gear They Can't Use

Found on Techdirt on Tuesday, 24 December 2019
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Customers received a good reminder last week of why it's not worth buying home security and automation services and products from their ISP. Charter Spectrum, the nation's second biggest cable provider, has announced it's shuttering its home security services as of February.

The problem: customers spent thousands of dollars on much of this Spectrum-branded gear, and while the hardware they received supports smart home standards like Zigbee, they're built in such a way as to be locked to Charter's (soon to be nonexistent) systems, rendering them useless.

Walled Gardens. Enjoy your small bubble until some company decides to make it pop and leave you alone with all the bits and pieces.

Uh-oh: Advanced driver assistance systems are making us all bad drivers

Found on ZD-Net on Monday, 23 December 2019
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The point of advanced driver assistance systems, of course, is to increase traffic safety and driving comfort. But it's important to remember that this is automation at an intermediate level, not full automation. What that means is there's still a huge safety burden on the driver to maintain control of the vehicle and situational awareness.

The implication is that over time, these safety systems really can erode our attention. And that's dangerous, because it could indicate both that we're becoming less conscientious behind the wheel and that technologies meant to keep us safe will actually have diminishing returns over time.

Drivers are relying more and more on assistance services and that can end in risky situations which the driver normally would not have entered.

Internet of crap (encryption): IoT gear is generating easy-to-crack keys

Found on The Register on Monday, 16 December 2019
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The team believes that the reason for this poor entropy is down to IoT devices. Because the embedded gear is often based on very low-power hardware, the devices are unable to properly generate random numbers.

The recommendation is that IoT hardware vendors step up their security efforts to improve the entropy of these devices and make sure that their hardware is able to properly set up secure connections.

"Using a single cloud-hosted virtual machine and a well-studied algorithm, over 1 in 200 certificates using these keys can be compromised in a matter of days."

Unless the companies behind IoT devices can be held financially responsible for damages caused by weaknesses of their devices, nothing will change.

5G Is More Secure Than 4G and 3G—Except When It’s Not

Found on Wired on Saturday, 14 December 2019
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Researchers have also pointed out that some flaws in 5G allow for "downgrade" attacks in which a target's phone connection is manipulated to downgrade to 3G or 4G service, where hackers could use unresolved flaws in those older networks to carry out attacks.

The security and privacy gains of 5G will make a real difference in protecting users from manipulation and threats like tracking attacks. And as a massive horde of new internet connected devices comes online through 5G, features like network slicing will hopefully help manage their security. But there's never a magic security solution that solves every problem. And it seems likely that 5G has its own challenges on the horizon.

Or you could just not put everything online. A much bigger threat than the connectivity itself is what your apps and IoT devices send out. Compared to that, tracking by downgrading 5G is almost harmless.

KeyWe Smart Lock unauthorized access and traffic interception

Found on F-Secure on Friday, 13 December 2019
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The KeyWe smart lock suffers from multiple design flaws resulting in an unauthenticated - potentially malicious - actor being able to intercept and decrypt traffic coming from a legitimate user.

There are no mitigations to the issue at the time of writing. The only way, although inconvenient for the end user, is to pair a mobile device that will be as far from the device as possible and use a physical key/touchpad only.

Always remember: 99% of the products which claim to be "smart" are just really, really dumb; and useless.

Non-unicorn $700 e-scooter shop Unicorn folds with no refunds – after blowing all its cash on online ads

Found on The Register on Thursday, 12 December 2019
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In a savage blow to the notion of nominative determinism, e-scooter startup Unicorn is shutting down after blowing all its money on Facebook ads.

To add insult to injury, none of its 350 orders will be shipped, and the firm isn’t able to provide full refunds for the scooters it failed to deliver.

"A large portion of the revenue went toward paying for Facebook ads to bring traffic to the site."

"And as the weather continued to get colder throughout the US and more scooters from other companies came on to the market, it became harder and harder to sell Unicorns, leading to a higher cost for ads and fewer customers."

Did CEO Nick Statt really just admit that they got surprised by an unforeseeable change in weather that people just call "winter" and that this, combined with sending most money to Facebook, killed their business?

Magic Leap’s early device sales aren’t looking good

Found on Techcrunch on Sunday, 08 December 2019
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The Information‘s Alex Heath is reporting that Magic Leap managed to sell just 6,000 units of its $2,300 Magic Leap One headset in its first six months on sale, a figure made worse by CEO Rony Abovitz’s internal claims that he wanted the startup to sell at least one million units of the device in the first year.

The company has now raised around $2.6 billion in venture funding from firms like Google, Alibaba and a slew of other investors.

Not even $14 million earned for $2.6 billion invested. Solid business structure.

Elon Musk: Tesla Cybertruck already has 200,000 pre-orders

Found on Ars Technica on Monday, 25 November 2019
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The new pickup is expected to begin production in about two years. Tesla says it will start at $39,900 for a model with 250 miles of range.

The signup rate for Cybertruck pre-orders—200,000 orders in four days—isn't quite as impressive as for the Model 3 in 2016. Tesla had received 150,000 pre-orders for the Model 3 within hours of the unveiling event and had 275,000 orders in hand a few days later.

For something so ugly, every single dollar is wasted.