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App flaw let anyone access UK Conservative politicians’ data

Users entered the email addresses of major politicians, including Michael Gove and Boris Johnson, and promptly discovered info like mobile phone numbers. In some cases, people started messing with that data. One person changed Johnson's photo to a porn image, while another altered Gove's portrait to that of his former boss Rupert Murdoch. It was harder to obtain info for people who weren't politicians, but they too were vulnerable if you could obtain their email addresses.

CrowdComms, the Australian company behind the app, removed the login feature through an update to curb further abuse. The Conservatives, meanwhile, said they were "investigating the issue further." While it's not certain just who decided on the password-free sign-ins, many have criticized the party for a lack of oversight that might have caught such a glaring oversight before the app went live. This was easily avoidable, and may have had lasting consequences beyond the conference.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/09/30/uk-conservative-app-privacy-flaw/

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California’s new laws bolster security for connected devices

The two laws take effect on January 1st, 2020, so there's time for tech firms to build the features into their products.

Some industry groups are anxious about the laws. The California Manufacturers and Technology Association (which includes companies like ATT, Intel and Honeywell) told Government Technology in a statement that the state was "imposing undefined rules" and had allegedly created a "loophole" that let imported devices avoid the rules. The Entertainment Software Association, meanwhile, claimed that existing laws already covered reasonable privacy protection.

However, that's not how the politicians see it. Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, who introduced one of the bills, noted that foreign companies will still have to meet the standards regardless of where they make their devices. This is also about leaving companies to use "best judgment" for security on their own devices, she said.

You probably won't see devices with airtight security as a result of this. There's no mandates for encryption, for example. However, that's not really the goal here. This is more about preventing rookie mistakes, such as connected toys that transmit data with few if any safeguards. Cyberattackers may still get through -- they'll just have fewer obvious targets.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/09/30/california-connected-device-laws/

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Tim Berners-Lee project gives you more control over web data

After incidents like Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal, it'd be understandable if you felt like your data wasn't really under your control. Web pioneer Tim Berners-Lee hopes to put that data back in your hands -- he's been collaborating with people at MIT and elsewhere on a startup (Inrupt) whose open source project, Solid, gives you the final say over personal info. You can decide where the data goes, who's allowed to see certain elements,which apps can access that data. You can peek at the same data with two different apps, and share data with whoever you like.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/09/30/tim-berners-lee-solid-data-control/

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After Math: Hello Darkness, my old friend

Air pollution from vehicle exhaust pipe on road

7 degrees by 2100: The NHSTA released a study this week forecasting a massive rise in the planet's average temperature by the start of the next century. So of course the Trump administration is using that as an excuse as to why it's totally cool to roll back vital environmental regulations.

ATM close-up with male hand

$63,000 from one machine: You don't generally think of Connecticut as being on the bleeding edge of cyber-crime prosecutions but we live in strange times. This week, the state sentenced one Argenys Rodriguez to a year in the poke and two years of probation for his role in a 'jackpotting' ATM hack.

A Verizon Wireless store in the Herald Square neighborhood in New York on Tuesday, April 10, 2018. (�Photo by Richard B. Levine)

1.45Gbps: If Verizon's LTE speeds got any faster, they'd be able to travel back in time. See, it's funny because it's a Back to the Future reference and not because Verizon is the corporate behemoth that owns the media-advertising conglomerate that manages the technology news site that employs me. Corporate synergy, it's stupendous!

Voting machines are displayed in a Voting Machine Hacking Village during the Def Con hacker convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. on July 29, 2017. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

10 minutes: That's how long it takes your kids to hack into the voting machines used in federal elections. But don't worry, Congress has already taken the patriotic steps of *checks notes* doing literally nothing to harden our electoral system against foreign interference. Who's ready for some midterms?

$20 million: Elon Musk. This guy. The world's richest petulant child just settled with the SEC over his "funding secured" tweets, will pay a $20 million fine personally and step down as Tesla Chairman within 45 days and not seek the position for at least 3 years. Tesla itself will pay a second $20 million fine. But it's cool because Musk is also currently being sued by the DOJ and that rescue diver from the Thai Cave Soccer Team extraction because of his various other Twitter statements. Smoke more and tweet less, my dude.

105GB: Red Dead Redemption was a transformative gaming title, taking the brutal play style of the GTA franchise, applying a dusty veneer and neck-snapping twist ending to craft a digital Western classic. Its sequel promises to be even better but you're going to need to clear some space on your hard drive for it. The game is estimated to take more than 100GB storage, that's 10 - 20 percent of your allotted local space.

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 10:  Facebook co-founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify before a combined Senate Judiciary and Commerce committee hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill April 10, 2018 in Washington, DC. Zuckerberg, 33, was called to testify after it was reported that 87 million Facebook users had their personal information harvested by Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm linked to the Trump campaign.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

50 million users: Yeah, 2018 has not been a good year for Facebook.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/09/30/after-math-hello-darkness-my-old-friend/

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EU now recognizes digital IDs across borders

The move should mostly reduce paperwork, making it easier to enroll in universities, check your health records or set up bank accounts. You might even have the chance to create bank accounts in other EU countries without having to show up in person, although the European Commission is working with an expert group to prevent abuse for purposes like money laundering.

There are some broader implications as well. This could help you share only the data that's absolutely essential, which should be vital for blockchain-based identity systems where distributed trust is everything. It could also be used to bolster GDPR rules by either verifying ages or safeguarding children online without having to reveal any of their information.

It's going to be a long while before you can simply assume that your digital ID will work wherever you go within the EU. In practice, the new rules amount to an inconsistent patchwork. Even so, it may just be a question of when, not if, you can stop worrying about having physical identification close at hand.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/09/30/eu-now-recognizes-digital-ids-across-borders/

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Brain-to-brain network allows three people to share their thoughts

The network relied on a combination of electroencephalograms to record electrical activity and transcranial magnetic stimulation to send info. Only one person could both send and receive data, but they also couldn't see the full screen -- that was up to two people who could send thoughts to the receiver. Those two would issue commands to rotate a block by focusing their attention on LEDs flashing at different frequencies, modifying their brain signals. The receiver would not only know whether or not to change the block, but could even determine whether or not one of the senders was playing a trick.

This isn't telepathy by any stretch. It requires external intervention, and can only send one "bit" of data at a time. The technology could scale up to a much larger number of people, though, and it suggests that you could eventually transmit considerably more complex thoughts across groups. That could easily create confusion (not to mention raise serious privacy issues), but it could be useful for both new forms of communication and help scientists learn about the inner workings of the brain.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/09/30/brain-to-brain-network/

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How to safely charge and store lithium drone batteries


Although inexpensive batteries and chargers like these are tempting to buy, it's safer to invest in higher-quality versions to avoid a fire. Charging outside can also cut down risk. Photo: Signe Brewster

Charging is the most likely time for a drone battery to catch fire, so concentrate the bulk of your safety efforts there. According to the CPSC, more than half of the drone-battery incidents documented at hospital emergency rooms occurred while the drone was charging. Be particularly careful when charging batteries from a brand you're not familiar with. "I would just assume the cheaper ones are going to catch fire at some point," battery expert and Cadex Electronics product line manager Greg Funk said. "I wouldn't treat it like a cell phone and plug it in overnight and go upstairs to bed."

If you can, charge your batteries outdoors. Instead, Funk suggested, the single safest way to charge a drone battery is to do it outdoors. That's the only place you can be sure it isn't near anything else that can catch fire. An exploding battery also gives off toxic gases, which can be dangerous in an enclosed space. Just be sure to keep the batteries out of the sun so they don't overheat, and away from dried-out plants or other combustibles.

If you have to charge indoors, set up fire-containment measures just in case. Many pilots, like Brandon Reinert, choose to charge indoors and take fire-containment measures. If you can't charge outdoors, you can use any of a few different setups. Simon Cheng and Megan Proulx, who host the YouTube series Til Drones Do Us Part, charge batteries inside cinder blocks and keep a bucket of sand nearby to extinguish flames. The team behind FliteTest, another YouTube series on drones, suggests similar methods that use cinder blocks or an unsealed ammo can. If you must charge indoors and you choose one of these methods, make sure the setup isn't near anything else that can catch fire. Never seal a battery inside a fireproof container; all that energy needs to go somewhere, and sealing it off will just cause the container to explode. That's why good fire containment focuses on aiming flames and gases in a safe direction and then getting sand or water (yes, as Funk told us, you can extinguish a battery fire with water) on it as fast as possible.


Store batteries at around half their capacity to give them a longer lifespan. Photo: Signe Brewster

Drain batteries before storing them in a safe, temperate place. Store the batteries at or near room temperature in a location where you would spot a potential fire. If you have a healthy battery that isn't overheating and has no punctures or puffing, it should be safe to store, but spontaneous battery fires do happen. DJI, which sells well over half of all personal drones in use today, recommends that if you don't plan to use a drone for 10 days or more, discharge its battery to 40 to 65 percent of its capacity. A partial discharge reduces stress on the battery and helps give it the longest possible life, according to Cadex testing. Check your battery manufacturer's recommendations for discharging, which will prevent the battery from degrading.


Keep batteries from knocking around during transport, whether you're driving to a park or flying on an airplane. Photo: Signe Brewster

Keep batteries padded and secured in transit. As long as you monitor, charge, and store your batteries appropriately, they should be okay to transport without any extreme safety measures. Keep them secured in a place where they won't bump around too much. Our guide to the best drone accessories has the backpacks we like best for transporting drones and their batteries.

Pack your drone and its batteries in your carry-on baggage for a flight. If you plan to take a drone on an airplane, read up on the FAA's current rules (PDF) for batteries. Generally you can pack a lithium battery into a checked bag if it's installed in a drone, but you can't check spare batteries. Regardless, it's a good idea to keep a drone with you while you're traveling, to avoid losing it—so count on keeping your batteries in your carry-on luggage.


Drone-battery makers such as DJI usually recommend a flying-temperature range to protect batteries. Photo: Signe Brewster

Just as drone pilots have stories about charging batteries lighting on fire, many have stories about a crashed drone smoking or catching fire. Draining a battery too fast or crashing it into the ground inside a drone can cause the battery to fail dramatically—or simply to suffer from a shorter lifespan.

Avoid flying in extreme temperatures. To give batteries the longest life possible, follow the manufacturer's instructions for flying, which should include a safe temperature range and a lowest acceptable discharge level. DJI, for example, recommends you fly drones in temperatures ranging from -10 °C to 40 °C (14 °F to 104 °F)—a range similar to that suggested by many other drone brands.

Don't drain the battery too fast. Flying at full throttle for long periods—which can be preferable for some flying purposes, such as racing and agility—can also drain batteries so fast that they enter a dangerous process known as thermal runaway, where the materials inside the battery heat up and cause chemical reactions that prompt the battery to heat up even more.


Dispose of a cracked or puffy battery at a qualified waste center. Photo: Signe Brewster

Before and after flying a drone or charging a battery, take a moment to inspect the battery. If your drone's battery has any visible damage or is puffing out, you need to dispose of it. However, not every battery will show physical signs of damage. The pilots behind FliteTest recommend using an analyzer like the HobbyKing HK-010 to see a readout of the state of each cell in the battery and catch problems before they become more serious. A battery is marked with a voltage—say, 3.7 V—which should be consistent across all of its cells. Over time they might begin to get out of balance, something that some chargers can correct for to some extent. Cadex's Greg Funk recommended retiring any batteries in which the cells are out of balance by more than 0.1 V (100 mV), because it's a sign that some cells are weaker than others.

"These packs are prime candidates for overheating and possible fire as the individual cells can be taken outside their safe operating range during charge and discharge," Funk said.

Disposing of a damaged battery

Not every battery-disposal center has the facilities to handle damaged batteries. Photo: Signe Brewster

Research your options for battery disposal. Look at a site such as Recycle Nation or your county's website to find a drop-off center that accepts household hazardous waste. Check whether the collection center accepts batteries and then give the folks there a call to confirm that they will take a damaged battery—not all places will. Before turning the damaged battery in, be sure to discharge it as close to 0 percent as possible to decrease the chance of fire.

Picking a drone battery and charger

Although the steps we've outlined can help you avoid disaster, you can save yourself a lot of trouble by choosing the right batteries in the first place. On the Internet you can often find batteries and chargers for sale with little known about who makes them and who sells them, and some of these sketchy options carry an increased risk of fire. Batteries with lower-quality materials or corner-cutting designs are more likely to catch fire when crashed or when charged and discharged at high speed, as is common with drone batteries.

Look for safety certification and features. As tempting as it is to buy the cheapest batteries possible, Cadex's Greg Funk told us he recommended looking for batteries that are IEC 62133 (or equivalent) and UN38.3 certified to verify they are safe to use. Not every battery listing says whether it has the certifications, and sometimes you have to go digging through a manufacturer's website to find the certifications.

Battery makers sometimes strip away extra safety features—forgoing a hard-plastic shell in favor of a simple soft-plastic wrapping, for example—to make budget batteries weigh and cost less. We strongly recommend that you look for brands with such extra durability features or other noticeable safety features, even if they cost a little more.

Opt for a programmable battery charger. Just as it's important to choose the right batteries, take care to choose the right charger. As drone pilot Oscar Liang writes, a programmable charger is worth the extra cost because it will allow you to perform more battery-management tasks, such as checking that the battery is charging and discharging as designed, and discharging it completely before storing it. Greg Funk also recommended using chargers made by the same manufacturer as the battery.

All drone batteries, from the cheapest no-name brands to more sophisticated ones made by drone manufacturers, can benefit from extra care to keep them effective and safe.

A note about DJI batteries

DJI's batteries cost more but tend to have more safety features than cheaper drone batteries. Photo: Signe Brewster

DJI drones are designed to work with the company's own "Intelligent Batteries." These batteries are more expensive than batteries for more basic drones, and because there are no authorized third-party batteries for DJI models, it can feel like the company is trapping you into buying its fancy batteries. But its batteries do have some built-in safety features and functions that provide extra protection compared with more basic batteries in less expensive drones or, in some cases, unlicensed replacements. According to engineers on the battery team at DJI, the company's batteries include measures such as the ability to prevent overcharge or over-discharge and the ability to monitor the battery's remaining capacity. Still, DJI batteries will degrade if you treat them poorly. Refer to DJI's battery care instructions and follow the same care guidelines you would for other drone batteries.

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Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/09/30/how-to-safely-charge-and-store-lithium-drone-batteries/

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Some iPhone XS units won’t charge until you wake the screen

Wireless charging appears to be normal.

We've asked Apple for comment on the issue. It's not certain if the problem is hardware- or software-related, although the company has fixed charging issues through software in the past. It just recently patched an Apple Watch bug that prevented devices from charging, for instance. We wouldn't be surprised if there's an update on the way in the near future -- while this isn't a crippling issue, it's more than a little irksome if you invested a ton of cash in Apple's latest smartphones.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/09/29/iphone-xs-charging-issues/

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Elon Musk settles with SEC over fraud charge

The settlement tackles Musk's behavior by "strengthening Tesla's corporate governance and oversight," SEC enforcement co-director Stephanie Avakian said.

We've asked Tesla for comment, and the measure is still dependent on court approval. However, it's not surprising that Musk would settle with the SEC so quickly, even after reports that he didn't want to stain his reputation with a settlement or be "untruthful" to himself. If the SEC was successful, Musk faced the prospect of both a fraud conviction and losing all control of Tesla. For someone so heavily invested in his companies (Musk has slept at the Tesla factory to improve production), the prospect of letting go is likely difficult to imagine.

There's also a degree of irony to the settlement. Musk had considered going private out of distaste for short sellers who were counting on a decline in Tesla's stock price. He's now obligated to send money to some of the very short sellers he was so determined to avoid. Still, it's a relatively small price to pay given what could have happened if Musk had fought the SEC charge to the bitter end.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/09/29/elon-musk-settles-with-sec/

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FL Studio gets its own dedicated music-making hardware

If you've spent any time tinkering in FL Studio (or Fruity Loops, for those of you who go way back) the Fire should look immediately familiar. Its 4x16 grid of pads look exactly like the ones you'll find in FL Studio's step sequencer, complete with little black notch. They're not just simple on-off buttons though, since they're velocity sensitive you can use them for finger drumming and even to play keyboard instruments in "note" mode.

Of course if all you could do was control the sequencer Fire wouldn't be that exciting. But there's also four knobs that can change anything from volume and panning to oscillator tuning or filter sweeps. And you can even browse and select samples from a small OLED screen without having to touch a mouse or keyboard. And of course there's all the controls you'd expect for record, playback, muting and soloing channels. It's not quite as comprehensive as Ableton's Push, but you can perform at least most basic tasks in FL Studio right from the Fire.

One unique feature here is the ability to combine up to four units into a single virtual control surface. That gives you an 8x32 grid of pads to play with, which should mean a little less scrolling and button pushing on longer loops and bigger projects.

At $199 is significantly cheaper than the comparable APC40 ($299) and it comes with the Fire Edition of FL Studio, which is really just a rebranded version of the $99 Fruity Edition. That version certainly has it's limitations (like no audio recording), but it's enough to get a budding producer started.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/09/29/fl-studio-akai-fire-music-controller/

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