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Could hackers *really* take over your car?

(Tech News) Technology is constantly evolving and making our lives easier. As with anything, it comes with a risk. Could hackers potentially take over your car?

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Can your car be hacked?

We all know you need to protect your computer against hackers, but what about other devices linked to wireless technology? We seldom think about the risks our cars pose; from OnStar to Sirius, our cars are doing more than just getting us from point A to B. As technology evolves, so should the appropriate security measures. This issue was recently addressed in regards to Zubie.

Zubie is a small box that plugs into your car’s On-Board Diagnostics (ODBII) port. By plugging in to your car, Zubie can tell you how well you’re driving and help you save money by offering tips on how to get the most out of your mileage. Sounds like a neat tool, but until recent, Zubie lacked security measures they desperately needed to prevent a user’s car from being hijacked.

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Unit 8200, an elite Israeli Defense Force, discovered the security risk which would allow hijackers to interfere with critical system operations like braking, steering, and engine controls. Zubie connects to a remote server over a GPRS connection, which is used to aggregate data and then send it to a central server.

This is also used to receive security updates. Unit 8200 discovered that the device was not communicating with the home server over an encrypted connection. As a result, it was possible to spoof the Zubie central server and send some specially crafted malware to the device, which could result in a lose of control for the driver, as well as a host of other problems.

The security risk does not apply solely to the Zubie, however

In 2013, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek demonstrated an attack where they compromised a Ford Escape and Toyota Prius and managed to take control of the braking and steering facilities. However, it had to be plugged into the vehicle. Which makes one wonder, if it was possible to accomplish the same thing, but without being physically tethered to the car.

That question was conclusively answered one year later, when Miller and Valasek conducted an even more detailed study on the security of 24 different models of cars. This time around, they were focusing on the capacity for an attacker to conduct a remote attack. Their 93-page report suggested that our cars weren’t as secure as once thought, with many lacking the most rudimentary cyber-security protections.

The Zubie vulnerability is a bit trickier. Although the vulnerability has since been patched, the weakness wasn’t about the car, but rather the third-party device that was attached to it. While some cars certainly have their own intrinsic vulnerability, adding third-party extras only increases the potential for hijacking.

With everything comes risk, so your car should be no different. If you take one thing away from this, let it be to take extra caution before adding the “latest and greatest” new toy to your car; simply make sure there is security software in place so that you can stay safe while enjoying the latest technology.

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.

Tech News

This tool is your ‘hack’ to a simultaneous live stream across platforms

(TECH NEWS) Ever wondered how companies host a live stream simultaneously across multiple social media platforms? Restream is your trick to doing the same.

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Man in front a red smartphone on a stand, setting up for a live stream.

Distributing live content on various platforms helps build your brand presence and grow your audience. But, how do you get that broadcast to live stream to several platforms simultaneously? And, how are other content creators doing it?

Well, the answer to both of these questions is — Restream Studio.

With this tool, you can stream live video to over 30 platforms, including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn, all at once.

You can also be the host of your own show and invite guests to join your live streams. And, even increase your brand awareness by slapping your logo on your live video.

So, how does Restream work?
First, you register on the website and connect your platform accounts. When you’re ready to stream, add two or more social media channels to your Restream Dashboard. Then, press start on your stream. You can stream using your webcam from a browser or your choice of streaming software, such as OBS Studio, SLOBS, Elgato, XSplit.

Now, ta-da! Your single stream is available on multiple platforms.

Cross-Platform Chat
Restream removes the hassle of switching between platforms to read and reply to messages. Comments from different platforms are available on a single screen, and you can differentiate between each one by the social icon logo attached to each message.

Also, you can display a chat feed on your live stream by using the Chat Overlay feature. This chat box is displayed on top of your video and makes for a much more engaging stream because everyone can take part in the conversation. And, if you want to give your chat box a little more edge, you can customize its look by using one of Restream’s 20+ ready-to-use templates.

Oh, and you don’t have to worry about any potty mouths! Offensive words can be masked out and nasty messages can be hidden from view.

Analyze Stream Performance
You don’t know how well your content is performing unless you analyze it. To measure your success, Restream places all your multiple platform insights on a single interactive dashboard.

The tool takes a look at these six metrics: streams, average duration, streamed time, chat messages, average viewers, and max viewers. In the dashboard, you can see an overview for each metric, but you can click on each one to see further detailed information.

To Restream or not to Restream?
Live streaming has come a long way since the radio broadcasts of the 1990s, and expensive and clunky equipment isn’t your only option now. There are easier and more cost-effective solutions to live stream across multiple platforms like Restream Studio.

So, if you’d like to give Restream a try, you can sign up for a 1-month free trial to get access to all their features. After your trial is over, you can still use Restream for free. The company offers a free plan that gives you access to stream to 30+ platforms using 1 channel per social platform.

If you want to continue using all the features you can upgrade your plan by purchasing a monthly or yearly subscription. With a paid plan, you’ll have access to features that give you the ability to add extra social channels, let you record streams, and remove Restream branding.

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Tech News

Chatbots: Are they still useful, or ready to be retired?

(TECH NEWS) Chatbots have proven themselves to be equally problematic as they are helpful – is it time to let them go the way of the floppy disk?

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Man texting chatbots leaning against a brick wall.

All chatbots must die. I’d like to say it was fun while it lasted, but was it really?

I understand the appeal, truly. It’s a well established 21st century business mantra for all the side hustlers and serial entrepreneurs out there: “Automation is the key to scaling.” If we can save time, labor, and therefore money by automating systems, that means we have more time to build our brands and sell our goods and services.

Automation makes sense in many ways, but not all automation tools were created equal. While many tools for automation are extremely effective and useful, chatbots have been problematic from the start. Tools for email marketing, social media, internal team communication, and project management are a few examples of automation that have helped many a startup or other small business kick things into high gear quickly, so that they can spend time wooing clients and raising capital. They definitely have their place in the world of business.

However promising or intriguing chatbots seemed when they were shiny and new, they have lost their luster. If we have seen any life lesson in 2020, it is that humans are uniquely adept at finding ways to make a mess of things.

The artificial intelligence of most chatbots has to be loaded, over time, into the system, by humans. We try to come up with every possible customer-business interaction to respond to with the aim of being helpful. However, language is dynamic, interactive, with near infinite combinations, not to mention dialects, misspellings, and slang.

It would take an unrealistic amount of time to be able to program a chatbot to compute, much less reply to, all possible interactions. If you don’t believe me, consider your voice-activated phone bot or autocorrect spelling. It doesn’t take a whole lot to run those trains off the rails, at least temporarily. There will always be someone trying to confuse the bots, to get a terse, funny, or nonsensical answer, too.

Chatbots can work well when you are asking straightforward questions about a single topic. Even then, they can fall short. A report by AI Multiple showed that some chatbots were manipulated into expressing agreement with racist, violent, or unpatriotic (to China, where they were created) ideas. Others, like CNN and WSJ, had problems helping people unsubscribe from their messages.

Funny, shocking, or simply unhelpful answers abound in the world of chatbot fails. People are bound to make it messy, either accidentally or on purpose.

In general, it feels like the time has come to put chatbots out to pasture. Here are some helpful questions from azumbrunnen.me to help you decide when it’s worth keeping yours.

  1. Is the case simple enough to work on chatbot? Chatbots are good with direct and short statements and requests, generally. However, considering that Comcast’s research shows at least 1,700 ways to say “I want to pay my bill,” according to Netomi, the definition of “simple enough” is not so simple.
  2. Is your Natural Language Processor capable and sophisticated enough? Pre-scripted chatbots are often the ones to fail more quickly than chatbots built with an NLP. It will take a solid NLP to deal with the intricacies of conversational human language.
  3. Are your users in chat based environments? If so, then it could be useful, as you are meeting your customers where they are. Otherwise, if chatbots pop up whenever someone visits your website or Facebook page, it can really stress them out or turn them off.

I personally treat most chatbots like moles in a digital whack-a-mole game. The race is on to close every popup as quickly as possible, including chatbots. I understand that from time to time, in certain, clearly defined and specific scenarios, having a chatbot field the first few questions can help direct the customer to the correct person to resolve their problems or direct them to FAQs.

They are difficult to program within the expansiveness of the human mind and human language, though, and a lot of people find them terribly annoying. It’s time to move on.

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Tech News

Get all your digital organization in one place with Routine

(TECH NEWS) Routine makes note-taking and task-creating a lot easier by merging all your common processes into one productivity tool.

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A desk with a laptop, notepad, smartphone, and cup of coffee settled into an organized routine.

Your inbox can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. Without organization, important emails with tasks, notes, and meetings can become a trash pile pretty quickly. Luckily, there are a lot of tools that aim to help you improve your efficiency, and the latest to add to that list is Routine.

Routine is a productivity app that combines your tasks, notes, and calendar into one easy-to-use app so you can increase your performance. Instead of having to switch between different apps to jot down important information, create to-do lists, and glance at your calendar, Routine marries them all into one cool productivity tool. By simply using a keyboard shortcut, you can do all these things.

If you receive an email that contains an actionable item, you can convert that email into a task you can view later. Tasks are all saved in your inbox, and you can even schedule a task for a specific day. So, if Obi-Wan wants to have Jedi lessons on Thursday, you can schedule your Force task for that day. Likewise, chat messages that need follow-up can also be converted into tasks and be scheduled.

To enrich your tasks, notes can be attached to them. In your notes, you can also embed checkboxes, which are tasks of their own. And if you have tasks that aren’t coming from your inbox, you can import them from other services, such as Gmail, Notion, and Trello.

To make sure you can stay focused on the events and tasks at hand, Routine makes it easy to take everything in. By using the tool’s keyboard-controlled console, you can access your dashboard to quickly see what tasks need to be addressed, what’s on your calendar, and even join an upcoming Zoom session and take notes about the meeting.

Routine is available for macOS, iOS, web, and Google accounts only. Overall, the app centralizes notes and tasks by letting you create and view everything in one place, which helps make sure you stay on top of things. Currently, Routine is still in beta, but you can get on a waitlist to test the product out for yourself.

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