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Your phone could be giving hackers all of the info they need

(TECH NEWS) A study in Newcastle UK has found that your phone data maybe be what sells you out to hackers.

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How do you hold your phone?

Hackers can get hold of your cell phone pin numbers and other passwords just from the tilt of the device when you type it in, a new research study shows.

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The culprit: your smartphone’s motion sensors.

Newcastle’s new discovery

The study, by computer scientists and security experts at United Kingdom’s Newcastle University, is causing an uproar in the entire tech community for its alarming findings.

In a report released this week, the study found that hackers can analyze your motion sensors and figure out your four-digit PIN with very high accuracy.

Researchers could correctly guess the pin 74% of the time on their first attempt, which increased to 94% accuracy after three tries. With only five attempts, the accuracy of the team was 100%.

Hackers love loopholes

This theoretical hack is possible because of a loophole in how web browsers share data between smartphones and websites. While highly sensitive information, such as location require explicit user permission, other data, such as device orientation, or size of the device screen (not seen as sensitive information) is shared with websites freely so that webpages can be responsive and interactive.

As shown by the researchers, such information is enough for a malicious website to hack into your device and decode your PIN.

Of the 25 sensors found to be playing a part in this issue, only a few require user permission before activating for certain apps. The rest are always on by default.

The devices

Dr Maryam Mehrnezhad, a research fellow in the School of Computing Science, said: “On some browsers, we found that if you open a page on your phone or tablet which hosts of these malicious codes and then open [another one], then they can spy on every personal detail you eventually enter.”

“And worse still, in some cases, unless you close them down completely, they can even spy on you when your phone is locked.”

Not practical

The public need not worry too much about this latest news, however. It seems that the methods used by the experts in the study itself faces many significant hindrances “in real life,” that would make the hack unlikely to be successful in the real world.

For example, the researchers needed a lot of data to train its hacking system, an artificial neural network, to acceptable accuracy levels.

Each user had to type 50 known pin numbers in, five times over, before the system learned enough about how users hold their phones to guess a hidden pin with 70% accuracy—a very unlikely scenario in the real world.

Stopping hackers early

Research studies like these are usually welcome by the tech world, as loopholes can easily be fixed before malicious parties can take advantage of such web weaknesses.

In 2014, for instance, hackers at the Hamburg Chaos Communications Congress demonstrated how pin codes could be extracted by simply taking a video of the user’s cornea movements, dubbed the “corneal keylogger,” as they entered data. Similarly, Firefox had loopholes that allowed hackers to track user activities via their battery status.

The latest sensors scare, although overhyped, shall need a sophisticated solution.

There seems to be no practical solution readily available. Apple and Google have been contacted about the issues by the university researchers, but there has been no official statements from either company.

#Sensorscare

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Barnil is a Staff Writer at The American Genius. With a Master's Degree in International Relations, Barnil is a Research Assistant at UT, Austin. When he hikes, he falls. When he swims, he sinks. When he drives, others honk. But when he writes, people read.

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How this tinkerer became a Full Stack Developer

(TECHNOLOGY) There are so many ways to become a Full Stack Developer – here’s the path a perpetual tinkerer took.

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brandtley mcminn

It all started with Legos. Long before he became a Full Stack Developer, Brandtley McMinn was a curious child with a mechanical mind, obsessed with Legos (as any mechanically inclined child is). He was a born tinkerer, raised in a home that was partially built by his father’s hands (a fellow tinkerer).

McMinn graduated from Legos to tinkering with lawnmowers, and eventually cars.

In high school, he picked up a programming course at the same time as digging into a book on game programming. Most stories would lead to someone becoming a world class game developer, but this combo was a false start for McMinn.

Like many others, he notes that false starts are common on the path to becoming a developer, and the key is to take a mental break and try again later.

And try, he did.

His senior year of high school, he joined the robotics club, and they needed a webmaster. On a whim, he took to the project and learned HTML and then CSS as the programming language was still new. This became his foundation.

Going to college for the game development program was another false start as he was blocked from taking those courses in his first year at Austin Community College due to prerequisite credits.

So the following year, he signed up for the Web Interactive program. He already had WordPress development under his belt, and he sought to add design skills and more technical knowledge to his repertoire, and to become a more well-rounded developer.

Today, McMinn is a Full Stack Developer for a company whose back end stack is Lumin with some PHP (which was already in his wheelhouse), and Angular on the front end.

He calls the combination comfortable and enjoyable.

His path was that of a curious tinkerer that blossomed into a skilled developer who is endlessly inquisitive and perpetually learning.

McMinn believes the biggest hurdle to becoming a Full Stack Developer is discovering your aptitude and interest.

He recommends experimenting with free or inexpensive online courses, asserting that someone that believes they’re interested in front end should to go to Udemy, find a course that has good ratings, and just try one – he says you could spend $10 on an afternoon-long course on Angular and know whether or not it’s for you.

Experiment. Dig. Keep digging. Keep testing.

McMinn says the trickiest part of becoming a Full Stack Developer is finding where you want to fit in, and then doing the work to discover your interests and aptitudes. There is no ideal path, but moving past this learning curve is tricky for many.

Self starters will thrive as developers, McMinn says, and will dive in and have a desire to learn. People that can move past the inevitable false starts will flourish.

Personalities that prefer to silo themselves away from the team or that believe they know everything, will not likely thrive in the ever-evolving world of development, he notes.

So what’s next for McMinn? He has ample side projects and hobbies that he enjoys, that allow him to continue creating with his hands, and has the entrepreneurial itch, so we anticipate he’ll someday soon be the boss as he continues to tinker.

Connect with McMinn on GitHub.

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Brandmark makes branding and re-branding a breeze

(TECH NEWS) If you’re a small business looking for branding or to re-brand but don’t have the time nor budget, this tool can help you get it done!

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AI brandmanaging

AI is growing, now it can even be your own personal graphic designer.

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The new company Brandmark uses AI to create custom brand identities in minutes. All you need to do is describe your business and leave the designing up to them.

Brandmark

Brandmark describes their system as “more than just a logo,” as they aid people in developing an entire brand identity. This includes a complete style guide, color scheme and even a WordPress compatible website template.

It is the perfect tool for small businesses and entrepreneurs who may not have the budget to hire an in-house designer to join their team.

The creators of Brandmark have attempted to give the platform personal elements as well, so that you can understand the design decisions and even have the chance to make it your own.

Easy peasy

The process is as simple as it can get. All that Brandmark requires is for you to type in a few keywords that best describe your business. For example, a coffee shop might type in “coffee, hot, lounge, mocha, books, relaxation.” These keywords are anything that can be associated with your brand so it is important to include adjectives as well. Consider how you want customers to feel when they see your product or walk into your shop for the first time.

All of these details will help Brandmark create a unique and personal identity for you.

The creators of the tool wanted it to feel like a true designer. That is why they have developed a system that understands design principles. After creating a look, Brandmark will explain the design choice and how it relates to your brand. In addition, you have access to features that allow you to customize the design.

Just like any professional service, Brandmark provides a style guide that can be used to apply your brand - including logo, color scheme and font - to various type of products. Click To Tweet

For instance, the same coffee shop would know how to apply their logo to coffee cups, bags, mugs and menus by following the guide. In addition, website layouts are offered to get your online business started. It’s an all-in-one package to get your business up and running with a professional look.

Give it a shot

Brandmark is currently in beta testing and is available for anyone to sign up and try.

#Brandmark

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Yodatai: the intelligent chatbot that is will wind up any data lovers’ gears

(TECH NEWS) The newest chatbot is about to change your world for good. Yodatai is all about helping you, not pretending to.

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Makin’ waves

The digital data gurus at Knoema have recently announced their release of their messenger-first chatbot, Yodatai.

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This is exciting, as even though chatbots themselves are not new, Yodatai is the “first-ever AI interface to connect with both public and industry data corporate BI databases.”

Awwww, yeah!

Unless you are an analyst or data maven, you may be curious as to what is exciting about this release. After all, for many, the term “chatbot” does not have the best connotation- often bringing up memories of the essentially useless chatbots so commonly found in the “Help” section of a website. And, you know, spam.

But nay, dear reader, this isn’t that old AOL Instant Messenger chatbot you interacted with when you literally had nothing else to do (except for homework).

Yodatai, as far as I can tell, actually seems incredibly useful.

Yodatai

As Yodatai is a messenger-first bot, you can ask her (him? it?) questions directly from your messenger application of choice. Currently, Knoema states that the bot is fully compatible with Slack, Facebook Messenger, Skype, Telegram, Twitter and E-Mail.

It is likely that more messenger-services will be added to this list over time.

Need some information regarding crude oil manufacturing in the Middle East? Ask Yodatai. Need to fact-check a tweet? Send a tweet @Yodatai so the bot can lay the fact down on these fools. (Get it? Like lay the smack down? People still say that, right?) Drawing from Knoema’s ever-increasing database of public information (which the company quotes at “2.5 billion time series from thousands of sources”), Yodatai is sure to have information on pretty much whatever you need.

Connectivity: A+

Even more useful, however, is her ability to connect with private databases. Currently, the bot integrates with the Amplitude analytics platform and more pre-built integrations are in the works.

So, for example, if one needed to know the number of registered users for their website, they could ask Yodatai.

Similarly, if they needed some more in-depth information regarding a product or project, they could, theoretically, ask Yodatai. And, unlike the Jedi Master with whom she shares an eerily similar name, answers are provided in a full sentence, easy-to-read format. Proper syntax and everything.

She’s not a know it all… yet

There will be, of course, questions that Yodatai may be unable to answer. These more complex inquiries may require human assistance, and in the event of such a question being asked, the chatbot will transparently get Knoema’s data experts involved.

As stated on the website, “she learns from them.”

Maybe it’s just me, but images of an ultra-high-functioning, eerily coherent digital baby cannot help but spring to mind.

Yes, please

Needless to say, Yodatai will likely save a ton of time regarding data research and acquisition. No word has been given yet how much access to the chatbot will cost, but many will likely find the cost to be well worth it.

And, as a bonus, as she primarily deals with data, it’s unlikely she will attempt to eliminate humanity! Pretty solid win, if you ask me.

#Yodatai

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