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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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tesla

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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Loss of internet access is used as punishment for those who abuse it

(TECH NEWS) Internet access is becoming more of a human right especially in light of recent events –so why is revoking it being used as a punishment?

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Internet access

When one hears the word “punishment”, several things likely come to mind—firing, fees, jail time, and even death for the dramatic among us—but most people probably don’t envision having their access to utilities restricted as a legal repercussion.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what’s happening across the country—if you consider Internet access a utility.

In the past, you’ve probably heard stories about people awaiting trial or experiencing probation limitations being told that they are not to use the Internet or certain types of communication. While this may seem unjust, the circumstances usually provide some context for the extreme nature of such a punishment; for example, it seems reasonable to ask that a person accused of downloading child pornography keep off the internet.

More recently–and perhaps more controversially—a young man accused of using social media to incite violent behavior during country-wide protests was ordered to stay offline while awaiting trial. This order came after the individual purportedly encouraged people to “[tip] police cars”, vandalize property, and generally exhibit other “riot”-oriented behaviors.

Whether or not one reads this post as a specific call to create violence—something that is, in fact, illegal—the fact remains that the “punishment” for this crime in lieu of a current conviction involves cutting off the person involved from all internet access until a verdict is achieved.

The person involved in this story may be less than sympathetic depending on your stance, but they aren’t alone. The response of cutting off the Internet in this case complements other stories we’ve seen, such as one regarding Cox and a client in Florida. Allegedly, the client in question paid for unlimited data—a potential issue in and of itself—and then exceeded eight terabytes of monthly use on multiple occasions.

Did Cox correct their plan, allocate more data, throttle this user, or reach out to explain their concerns, you may ask?

No. Cox alerted the user in question that they would terminate his account if his use continued to be abnormally high, and in the meantime, they throttled the user’s ENTIRE neighborhood. This kind of behavior would be unacceptable when applied to any other utility (imagine having your air conditioning access “throttled” during the summer), so why is it okay for Cox?

The overarching issue in most cases stems from Internet provider availability; in many areas, clients have one realistic option for an Internet provider, thus allowing that provider to set prices, throttle data, and impose restrictions on users free of reproach.

Anyone who has used Comcast, Cox, or Cable One knows how finicky these services can be regardless of time of use, and running a simple Google speed test is usually enough to confirm that the speeds you pay for and the speeds you receive are rarely even close.

In the COVID era in which we find ourselves, it is imperative that Internet access be considered more than just a commodity: It is a right, one that cannot be revoked simply due to a case of overuse here, or a flaw in a data plan there.

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Tech News

Integrate language learning into daily browsing with this new extension

(TECH NEWS) Interested in learning a second language but struggling to find the time? This new extension helps you learn French with no added time commitment.

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Woman seated on couch with laptop open to Fluent, a language learning extension on Chrome.

Language education software has long struggled to help students who don’t have sufficient time to study and practice. Sparing ten minutes a day on Duolingo for language learning is a really big commitment for some folks, even during a quarantine (but hey, no judgement here). Fortunately, Fluent has arrived to eliminate your remaining excuses for being monolingual.

Fluent is a new browser extension that helps you practice French while you browse the web. By replacing words in your native language with vocabulary in your target language, everything that you read through your web browser becomes a tiny bit bilingual. Slowly, Fluent acclimates your brain to seeing and translating foreign words automatically by teaching them through contexts that you’re already familiar with. Right now it’s only available in French, but new language offerings are already in the works.

On their producthunt.com page, co-founder Ara Ghougassian says that Fluent “helps by removing the friction to practice; you install Fluent and instantly you’re learning new vocabulary right inside your browser. No apps, no notifications, no setting time aside to study.”

As a language learner myself, I love the idea of seamlessly integrating my studies into daily life. There’s nothing quite like being able to read in your target language. With Fluent, users are able to do that right away. Drills and flashcards are okay, but straight-up memorization isn’t a very engaging or intuitive way to learn.

That being said, if you’re serious about learning a language, it’s worth giving yourself a reality check here: There is no singular, effortless, or fast way to become proficient. There’s no avoiding the fact that real fluency does take considerable time and effort. Language learning is just like building up your muscles: You have to consistently exercise if you want to get stronger.

So while I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that you rely on Fluent alone to study, the extension is a great introduction to developing those habits in your language learning. This particularly helps folks who find the idea of picking up a new language from scratch intimidating. But if you’re just curious about French, you’ll love its bite-sized approach to learning new words (not to mention, the hint of French on every webpage means you’ll feel a little bit posh while you’re surfing the web)!

Language skills are a wonderful way to invest in yourself, expand your career prospects, and unlock doors to new cultures; Fluent makes it easy to get started on your journey. Bonne chance!

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Tech News

Goal-based project management tool simplifies your work life

(TECH NEWS) If you are struggling to keep tasks straight then this new tool Qoals allows for a simpler and more straightforward way to accomplish goals as a team.

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Qoals pitch

We all have goals – whether they be personal, professional, financial, etc. Anyone can set a goal, all it takes is having a thought and assigning it a certain level of importance. However, not everyone completes their goals due to the oft difficulties and confusions associated with execution.

Like anything else, if there’s a will, there’s a way. A new way has been found in the form of Qoals – a simple and straightforward tool that helps you to get aligned around business goals instead of an endless wall of tasks.

The ability to complete goals is done through: setting goals, adding tasks, collecting things, and tracking progress. With this, everyone on your team has access to this information to keep tabs on what’s happening.

With setting goals, you create and prioritize your goals, letting your team members know which ones are most important at that time. Goals can be prioritized with tabs such as: long term, short term, and urgent. By adding tasks, you can add and assign tasks to set a clear path in order to complete set goals.

In collecting things, you collect resources related to your goal and keep them in one safe place (again, this is accessible to your whole team). This doesn’t require uploading files, but simply including links to resources to keep everything easily accessible. Finally, by tracking progress, everyone on the team can see where you’re at with your goals – which saves time with the follow ups of “how’s Goal X going?”

Why did Qoals develop this goal-oriented approach? “It’s about time we simplify things,” according to the official website. “Get aligned around goals and let everyone know what’s important for the business. Add goals under various projects and start adding tasks and resources to make that goal happen.”

Additionally, Qoals boasts that this provides users with a birds-eye view of what’s happening with their team, allowing them to be more human-centric. You can create unlimited projects, set and track your goals, collected everything related to said goal, keep the discussion relevant, access your tasks with one click, stay connected to your team, and see what’s going on at a glance.
Qoals is currently in beta.

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