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FBI issues warning regarding vulnerabilities and car hacking

The latest technology in our automobiles keeps us safer and offers added convenience, but do the risks of this technology outweigh the rewards?

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Tech updates increasing vulnerability

When my old car finally quit, the only “special” thing I wanted in my new-to-me car was a CD player. Technology has come a long way in the past ten years, but I still have the car with the CD player. However, I also use a FM transmitter to play my iPhone through the speakers. Newer cars come with a whole host of features aimed at keeping us safer and simplifying our lives through Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and more, but do the vulnerabilities and risks of these features, outweigh the rewards?

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The FBI weighs in

The FBI along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, have issued a safety bulletin addressing concerns that vehicles are being targeted more and more by hackers. While the latest issues of this have been resolved, they do want to make consumers and manufacturers aware of the potential problems. They stated in the bulletin: “The FBI and NHTSA are warning the general public and manufacturers of vehicles, vehicle components, and aftermarket devices to maintain awareness of potential issues and cybersecurity threats related to connected vehicle technologies in modern vehicles.”

Where are the vulnerabilities?

You may have heard about one of the more recent issues concerning the testing of the radio module. In August of 2015, a study [PDF] was published regarding researchers testing, targeting, and exploiting this particular device through attacking the vehicle through Wi-Fi and cellular connections. The radio module contained multiple wireless communication and entertainment functions and was connected to two controller area network (CAN) buses in the vehicle. Through their testing, researchers were able to shutdown the engine, disable the brakes and steering, trigger the door locks and turn signals, manipulate the tachometer, radio, HVAC, and GPS.

Vulnerabilities may exist within a vehicle’s wireless communication functions, within a mobile device – such as a cellular phone or tablet connected to the vehicle via USB, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi – or within a third-party device connected through a vehicle diagnostic port. In these cases, it may be possible for an attacker to remotely exploit these vulnerabilities and gain access to the vehicle’s controller network or to data stored on the vehicle. Although vulnerabilities may not always result in an attacker being able to access all parts of the system, the safety risk to consumers could increase significantly if the access involves the ability to manipulate critical vehicle control systems.

Worried? Here’s 5 ways to minimize the chances of being hacked

1. Ensure your vehicle software is up to date: If your manufacturer issues a notification to update, it’s important that you do, but, verify that the update is genuine. Verify any recall or update notices by visiting your car’s manufacturer website. Clicking through emailed links presents the opportunity for hackers to send malicious links. Also, be wary of receiving USB and SD cards via the mail. Hackers could use this method to introduce malicious software into your car. Instead, check on your vehicle’s manufacturer’s website to identify the latest software updates. Use your own USB or SD card where necessary to download and transfer information. You can always check with your dealer or manufacturer before updating.

2. Be careful when making any modifications to vehicle software: Unauthorized updates could create increased vulnerabilities and change the way your car works.

3. Maintain awareness and exercise discretion when connecting third-party devices to your vehicle: Most modern vehicles have a standardized diagnostic port (OBD-II), which provides connectivity to the in-vehicle communication. Keeping these third-party devices secure is critical as a hacker may target them remotely as a way into your other systems. Do not connect any unknown or untrusted devices to the OBD-II port.

4. Be aware of who has physical access to the vehicle: Treat your vehicle the same way you do an unlocked smartphone, or computer: you don’t let people you don’t know touch it. Be cautious of who you leave your vehicle with; it only takes a few moments to upload hacking software.

Improving cyber security

While there are risks with using any technology, you want to be especially mindful of your automotive technology. The last thing anyone wants is to lose control of your vehicle. While the chances of this are minimal, you can decrease them even further by being actively aware of whom you leave your car with, your surroundings, and your technology system.

The rewards of technology outweigh the risks, especially when you consider the increased safety benefits of advanced technology; however, there is always a chance someone will turn this technology to their advantage. The NHTSA is actively working on initiatives to improve cyber security in vehicles.

To increase your security, please, follow the FBI’s tips above, or you can reach out to local law enforcement and the FBI with questions and concerns via the Internet Crime Complaint Center, or file a complaint with them.

#ProtectingYourSmartCar

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

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Onboarding for customers and employees made easy

(TECH NEWS) Cohere enables live, virtual onboarding at bargain prices to help you better support and guide your users.

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onboarding made easy

Web development and site design may be straightforward, but that doesn’t mean your customers won’t get turned around when reviewing your products. Onboarding visitors is the simplest solution, but is it the easiest?

According to Cohere–a live, remote onboarding tool–the answer is a resounding yes.

Cohere claims to be able to integrate with your website using “just 2 lines of code”; after completing this integration, you can communicate with, guide, and show your product to any site visitor upon request. You’ll also be able to see what customers are doing in real time rather than relying on metrics, making it easy to catch and convert customers who are on the fence, due to uncertainty or confusion.

There isn’t a screen-share option in Cohere’s package, but what they do include is a “multiplayer” option in which your cursor will appear on a customer’s screen, thus enabling you to guide them to the correct options; you can also scroll and type for your customer, all the while talking them through the process as needed. It’s the kind of onboarding that, in a normal world, would have to take place face-to-face–completely tailored for virtual so you don’t have to.

You can even use Cohere to stage an actual demo for customers, which accomplishes two things: the ability to pare down your own demo page in favor of live options, and minimizing confusion (and, by extension, faster sales) on the behalf of the customer. It’s a win-win situation that streamlines your website efficiency while potentially increasing your sales.

Naturally, the applications for Cohere are endless. Using this tool for eCommerce or tech support is an obvious choice, but as virtual job interviews and onboarding become more and more prevalent, one could anticipate Cohere becoming the industry example for remote inservice and walkthroughs.

Hands-on help beats written instructions any day, so if companies are able to allocate the HR resources to moderate common Cohere usage, it could be a huge win for those businesses.

For those two lines of code (and a bit more), you’ll pay anywhere from $39 to $129 for the listed packages. Custom pricing is available for larger businesses, so you may have some wiggle room if you’re willing to take a shot at implementing Cohere business-wide.

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Smart clothing could be used to track COVID-19

(TECH NEWS) In order to track and limit the spread of COVID-19 smart clothing may be the solution we need to flatten the curve–but at what cost?

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COVID tracking clothing

When most people hear the phrase “smart clothing”, they probably envision wearables like AR glasses or fitness trackers, but certainly not specially designed fabrics to indicate different variables about the people wearing them–including, potentially, whether or not someone has contracted COVID-19.

According to Politico, that’s exactly what clinical researchers are attempting to create.

The process started with Apple and Fitbit using their respective wearables to attempt to detect COVID-19 symptoms in wearers. This wouldn’t be the first time a tech company got involved with public health in this context; earlier this year, for example, Apple announced a new Watch feature that would call 911 if it detected an abnormal fall. The NBA also attempted to detect outbreaks in players by providing them with Oura Rings–another smart wearable.

While these attempts have yet to achieve widespread success, optimism toward smart clothing–especially things like undershirts–and its ability to report adequately someone’s symptoms, remains high.

The smart clothing industry has existed in the context of monitoring health for quite some time. The aforementioned tech giants have made no secret of integrating health- and wellness-centric features into their devices, and companies like Nanowear have even gone so far as to create undergarments that track things like the wearer’s heart rate.

It’s only fitting that these companies would transition to COVID assessment, containment, and prevention in the shadow of the pandemic, though they aren’t the only ones doing so. Indeed, innovators from all corners of the United States are set to participate in a “rapid testing solutions” competition–the end goal being a cheap, fast, easy-to-use wearable option to help flatten the curve. The “cheap” aspect is perhaps the most difficult; as Politico says, the majority of people have a general understanding of how to use wearable technology.

Perhaps more importantly, the potential for HIPPA violations via data access is high–and, during a period of time in which people are more suspicious of technology companies than ever, vis-a-vis data sharing, privacy could be a significant barrier to the creation, distribution, and use of otherwise crucial smart clothing.

There is no denying that the Coronavirus pandemic has accelerated, among other things, technological advancement in ways unseen by many of us alive today. Only time will tell if smart clothing–life-saving potential and all–becomes part of that trend.

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Say goodbye to browser cookies – Google wants to give you ‘trust tokens’

(TECH NEWS) Google plans to do away with third-party cookies in favor of “trust tokens”. The question is, will they gain our trust?

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Privacy concerns should be at an all-time high with the sheer number of people working from home–something that may have been factored into Google’s recent decision to begin phasing out third-party cookies in their Chrome browser.

In doing so, Chrome would join browsers such as Safari and Firefox–two popular alternatives that have been more proactive about protecting user privacy in the past, according to The Verge.

Cookies, for those who don’t know, are small pieces of information stored on your computer by websites you visit; when third-party cookies are downloaded from these sites, they can track your activity across the internet, thus resulting in unpleasantries like targeted ads and location-based services appearing in your browser.

It’s all a little too accurate to your habits for comfort, so Google is proposing a separate solution: trust tokens.

No, trust tokens are not the newest form of currency on CBS Survivor–they’re “smart” iterations of cookies that will validate your access to a specific website without tracking you once you leave that page. This way, you get to keep your website-specific data–passwords, usernames, and preferences–without having your privacy encroached upon any more than Google already does (admittedly, that doesn’t sound like much of a change, but bear with us).

The real catch for trust tokens is that they don’t actually identify you the way that cookies do, and while some of the side effects of trust tokens may resemble cookie use–e.g., advertisers knowing you clicked on their ad–tokens are a decidedly less personal, more private way to access web content.

Google isn’t just throwing out third-party cookies as a gesture, it seems. Along with the announcement about trust tokens, Google mentioned that they plan to create more transparency around ads–specifically by allowing you to see why you’re seeing a specific ad and from whom and where the ad originated. An extension to help lend additional information about ads is also in the works.

These changes are expected to be implemented within the year. For now, though, you should stick to Firefox or Safari if you’re worried about cookies–you’ll be able to get back to your Chrome tabs soon enough.

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