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Have you seen Volvo’s newest connected car technology?

(TECH NEWS) Volvo has long been an innovator in safety and technology and their latest connected car is no exception. We hope other manufacturers draw inspiration from their launch.

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Volvo, reigning royalty of safety

Volvo is known for their ingenuity and safety and their latest connected car technology is no exception. Volvo’s Director of Connected Products and Services, David Holecek, recently discussed the new line at the IoT’s Europe World Conference 2016 wherein he touched on just a few of the amazing new car innovations Volvo has been focusing on. The central pivot point for these new features is the “digital key.”

What is this digital key?

The digital key allows you to access and share your Volvo by enabling you to use your phone (or smartwatch) as a key. This digital key will allow you to open and start the car with your phone, share your key with friends and family, and access car sharing services wherever you are in the world all through the cloud.

Volvo is also currently testing a Bluetooth-based technology in Sweden, planning to become the world’s first car manufacturer to offer car sharing to customers in a limited-edition car, in 2017 (which has since sold out). Volvo has also pioneered the first Bluetooth-based technology to allow Volvo owners to take delivery of items they order online directly to their car, no matter where that car is located and regardless of whether or not the owner is with the car, all through digital key technology.

For example, let’s say you’re at work and remember you need a gift for a friend’s birthday party. You could go online, order the item (from participating providers), enable digital key access, and have the item delivered to your car. Once the item is delivered to your trunk, the digital key expires and the company from which you ordered would no longer have access to your vehicle.

While only available in Sweden currently, this technology has the potential to be a complete game changer, not only for the automotive industry, but for the digital shopping experience on the whole. Provided they expand a bit more on how and when the keys expire and how you can protect yourself from digital key theft since it’s in the cloud.

More than the digital key – also about safety

The new features aren’t just about sharing the car; they are also about innovating convenience and safety. Your car can also exchange data through the cloud so your car will know when a service appointment is needed and can even book itself an appointment at your Volvo dealership.

You can enable the digital key to give service technicians entry without handing over your physical key, which is awesome if you’re in a hurry. You can drive in and leave it, and through the digital technology, they’ll already know who you are and what you need.

Volvo takes safety up a notch with the On Call app which gives you remote access and control over your car through your smartphone, tablet, or wearable device, meaning you’ll never lock yourself out of your car again. With On Call, you can locate your car, send directions, lock or unlock doors, check the fuel level, pre-heat/cool the cabin, call for assistance, and even use your Volvo as a wifi hotspot.

Volvo has engineered a Slippery Road Alert to detect icy roads as you drive and alert nearby drivers and road maintenance authorities to the danger through the cloud. There’s also a Hazard Light Alert feature, to warn you if another vehicle has their hazard lights on, enabling you to anticipate danger and traffic jams ahead. Volvo’s IntelliSafe Autopilot cars will use this cloud-based information to continually update and adjust to the surrounding conditions.

Is the digital key safe?

Worried about your information? Volvo states that your information will never be used for a service without your permission and all data is stored securely. Since all your data is stored in the cloud, you don’t have to worry about updating or backing up any information – it’s all done for you, automatically.

Volvo doesn’t explicitly state how your data will be stored and secured, so this may need a bit more fleshing out before handing out your digital key. I would assume all data is encrypted and locked away safely, but please read the terms and conditions when you enable this service before you start handing out your digital key.

Volvo’s new features are pretty amazing, but even more so because they could lead other automobile manufacturers to innovate similar features (just as they did with the seatbelt). When data is backed up to the cloud and has the potential to help other drivers on the road, that’s an amazing use of technology and I hope other manufacturers follow Volvo’s lead on this and their other safety features.

#VolvoTech

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

Want to know how your passwords could get hacked?

(TECH NEWS) While we all know that passwords can be hacked, it is rare that we know how they’re hacked.

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Ever wonder how passwords get stolen? I like to imagine a team of hackers like The Lone Gunmen from The X-Files, all crowded in some hideout conducting illegal computer business based on tips from rogue FBI Agents.

Turns out there’s a little more to hacking than waiting for Fox Mulder to show up with hints.

Most of the common tactics involve guessing passwords utilizing online and offline techniques to acquire entry. One of the main methods is a dictionary attack.

This method automatically tries everything listed in a small file, the “dictionary,” which is populated with common passwords, like 123456 or qwerty. If your password is something tragically simple, you’re out of luck in a dictionary attack.

To protect yourself, use strong single-use passwords for each individual account. You can keep track of these with a password manager, because no one is expecting you to remember a string of nonsensical numbers, letters, and characters that make up a strong password.

Of course, there are still ways for hackers to figure out even complex passwords.

In a brute force attack, every possible character combination is tried. For example, if the password is required to have at least one uppercase letter and one number, a brute force attack will meet these specifications when generating potential passwords.

Brute force attacks also include the most commonly used alphanumeric combinations, like a dictionary attack. Your best bet against this type of attack is using extra symbols like & or $ if the password allows, or including a variety of variables whenever possible.

Spidering is another online method similar to a dictionary attack. Hackers may target a specific business, and try a series of passwords related to the company. This usually involves using a search “spider” to collate a series of related terms into a custom word list.

While spidering can be devastating if successful, this kind of attack is diverted with strong network security and single-use passwords that don’t tie in easily searchable personal information.

Malware opens up some more fun options for hackers, especially if it features a keylogger, which monitors and records everything you type. With a keylogger, all your accounts could potentially be hacked, leaving you SOL. There are thousands of malware variants, and they can go undetected for a while.

Fortunately, malware is relatively easy to avoid by regularly updating your antivirus and antimalware software. Oh, and don’t click on sketchy links or installation packages containing bundleware. You can also use script blocking tools.

The delightfully named (but in actuality awful) rainbow table method is typically an offline attack where hackers acquire an encrypted list of passwords. The passwords will be hashed, meaning it looks completely different from what you would type to log in.

However, attackers can run plaintext passwords through a hashtag algorithm and compare the results to their file with encrypted passwords. To save time, hackers can use or purchase a “rainbow table”, which is a set of precomputed algorithms with specific values and potential combinations.

The downside here is rainbow tables take up a lot of space, and hackers are limited to the values listed in the table. Although rainbow tables open up a nightmare storm of hacking potential, you can protect yourself by avoiding sites that limit you to very short passwords, or use SHA1 or MD5 as their password algorithms.

There’s also phishing, which isn’t technically hacking, but is one of the more common ways passwords are stolen. In a phishing attempt, a spoof email requiring immediate attention links to a fake login landing page, where users are prompted to input their login credentials.

The credentials are then stolen, sold, used for shady purposes, or an unfortunate combination of all the above. Although spam distribution has greatly increased over the past year, you can protect yourself with spam filters, link checkers, and generally not trusting anything requesting a ton of personal information tied to a threat of your account being shut down.

Last but certainly not least, there’s social engineering. This is a masterpiece of human manipulation, and involves an attacker posing as someone who needs login, or password, building access information. For example, posing as a plumbing company needing access to a secure building, or a tech support team requiring passwords.

This con is avoidable with education and awareness of security protocol company wide. And also you know, not providing sensitive information to anyone who asks. Even if they seem like a very trustworthy electrician, or promise they definitely aren’t Count Olaf.

Moral of the story? Your passwords will never be completely safe, but you can take steps to prevent some avoidable hacking methods.

Always have a single-use password for each account, use a password manager to store complex passwords, update malware, keep your eye out for phishing attempts, and don’t you dare make your password “passoword.”

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Should social networks fear Jumbo, the new privacy app?

(TECHNOLOGY) Although iOS only (for now), Jumbo has launched and could put a dent in some of the nefariousness of social media networks…

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Like virtually every other online outlet, we’ve both talked about web and app privacy and complained bitterly about the invariable fall of online rights. However, while we’ve been talking the talk, a company called Jumbo has been cyber-walking the cybersecurity walk.

Jumbo – an iPhone app focused on keeping your online trails as private as possible – has a simple premise: allowing social media users to manage their online privacy with a few taps rather than having to navigate each individual service’s infuriatingly complex labyrinth of privacy settings. Instead of having to visit each individual app you want to clean up, you can simply open Jumbo, select your preferences, and wait for the magic to happen.

Jumbo’s features range from cleaning up social media timelines and old posts to erasing entire searches or resetting privacy information; while it currently varies depending on the social media service in question, Jumbo’s one commonality is its simplicity.

The star of Jumbo’s presentation is its aptly-named Cleaning Mode—a feature which allows users to wipe anything from tweets to old Google searches. Jumbo’s developers also assure users that the ability to remove things like Facebook photos is in the works, making Jumbo’s efforts to clean up your digital life that much more ubiquitous.

It is worth noting that some users have encountered limitations on the number of tweets they can delete, so you may have to batch-remove information until this bug is resolved.

When using Jumbo, you’ll also find an encrypted back-up feature that allows you to download—or use cloud storage for—old photos and files. It isn’t as dramatic as Jumbo’s primary functions, but anyone looking to make a dent in purging their online footprints will surely benefit from being able to encrypt and save their information for a rainy day through one interface.

At the time of this writing, Jumbo is prepared to assist with privacy options related to Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Amazon Alexa, but the app’s developers intend to incorporate support for platforms such as Tinder and Instagram in the future.

While Jumbo is currently restricted to iPhones, Jumbo’s maker Pierre Valade has mentioned that an Android version is “on [their] list”. In the meantime, iPhone users should strongly consider taking Jumbo for a spin.

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How to opt out of Google’s robots calling your business phone

(TECH) Google’s robots now call businesses to set appointments, but not all companies are okay with talking to an artificial intelligence tool like a person. Here’s how to opt out.

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You know what’s not hard? Calling a restaurant and making a reservation. You know what’s even easier? Making that reservation though OpenTable. You know what we really don’t need, but it’s here so we have to deal with it? Google Duplex.

Falling under “just because we can do it, doesn’t mean we should do it,” Duplex, Google’s eerily human-sounding AI chat agent that can arrange appointments for Pixel users via Google Assistant has rolled out in several cities including New York, Atlanta, Phoenix, and San Francisco which now means you can have a robot do menial tasks for you.

There’s even a demo video of someone using Google Duplex to find an area restaurant and make a reservation and in the time it took him to tell the robot what to do, he could’ve called and booked a reservation himself.

Aside from booking the reservation for you, Duplex can also offer you updates on your reservation or even cancel it. Big whoop. What’s difficult to understand is the need or even demand for Duplex. If you’re already asking Google Assistant to make the reservation, what’s stopping you from making it yourself? And the most unsettling thing about Duplex? It’s too human.

It’s unethical to imply human interaction. We should feel squeamish about a robo-middleman making our calls and setting our appointments when we’re perfectly capable of doing these things.

However, there is hope. Google Duplex is here, but you don’t have to get used to it.

Your company can opt out of accepting calls by changing the setting in your Google My Business accounts. If robots are already calling restaurants and businesses in your city, give your staff a heads-up. While they may receive reservations via Duplex, at least they’ll be prepared to talk to a robot.

And if you plan on not opting out, at least train your staff on what to do when the Google robots call.

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