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Privacy

Watchdog Group Claims Smart Toys Are Spying On Kids (mashable.com) 56

The Center for Digital Democracy has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission warning of security and privacy holes associated with a pair of smart toys designed for children. Mashable reports: "This complaint concerns toys that spy," reads the complaint, which claims the Genesis Toys' My Friend Cayla and i-QUE Intelligent Robot can record and collect private conversations and offer no limitations on the collection and use of personal information. Both toys use voice recognition, internet connectivity and Bluetooth to engage with children in conversational manner and answer questions. The CDD claims they do all of this in wildly insecure and invasive ways. Both My Friend Cayla and i-QUE use Nuance Communications' voice-recognition platform to listen and respond to queries. On the Genesis Toy site, the manufacturer notes that while "most of Cayla's conversational features can be accessed offline," searching for information may require an internet connection. The promotional video for Cayla encourages children to "ask Cayla almost anything." The dolls work in concert with mobile apps. Some questions can be asked directly, but the toys maintain a constant Bluetooth connection to the dolls so they can also react to actions in the app and even appear to identify objects the child taps on on screen. While some of the questions children ask the dolls are apparently recorded and sent to Nuance's servers for parsing, it's unclear how much of the information is personal in nature. The Genesis Privacy Policy promises to anonymize information. The CDD also claims, however, that My Friend Cayla and i-Que employ Bluetooth in the least secure way possible. Instead of requiring a PIN code to complete pairing between the toy and a smartphone or iPad, "Cayla and i-Que do not employ... authentication mechanisms to establish a Bluetooth connection between the doll and a smartphone or tablet. The dolls do not implement any other security measure to prevent unauthorized Bluetooth pairing." Without a pairing notification on the toy or any authentication strategy, anyone with a Bluetooth device could connect to the toys' open Bluetooth networks, according to the complaint.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Humble Bundle Supports The EFF With A LEGO eBook Sale (humblebundle.com) 17

The EFF is describing it as "a break for your brain." An anonymous reader writes: Humble Bundle has announced a special "pay what you want" sale for four ebooks about LEGO from No Starch Press, with proceeds going to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, or to the charity of your choice. The ebooks include Beautiful LEGO (a compendium of creations by dozens of artists) and Medieval LEGO, which describes and recreates English history in the Middle Ages using LEGO blocks. Contributors who pay more than $8 also receive six more books, including "Forbidden LEGO" a more free-style building guide that one reviewer called "The Anarchist Cookbook of the nursery," as well as "The Cult of LEGO", a tour of the block-building community. And for a $15 donation, contributors receive six more ebooks -- bringing the total to 16 -- including The LEGO Christmas Ornaments Book and Steampunk LEGO.
Software

Dungeons & Dragons Inducted Into Toy Hall of Fame (npr.org) 51

Snowgen writes: NPR reports that Dungeons and Dragons has been inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame at the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, NY: "The nomination process for the Toy Hall of Fame is open to the public -- but to get in, a toy has to be approved by 'historians, educators, and other individuals who exemplify learning, creativity, and discovery through their lives and careers.'" "More than any other game, Dungeons and Dragons paved the way for older children and adults to experience imaginative play," says Curator Nic Ricketts. "It was groundbreaking. And it opened the door for other kinds of table games that borrow many of its unique mechanics. But most importantly, Dungeons and Dragons' mechanics lent themselves to computer applications, and it had a direct impact on hugely successful electronic games like World of Warcraft." The report adds: "The list of 12 finalists for this year's honors had included bubble wrap, Care Bears, Clue, the coloring book, Nerf ball, pinball, Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots, Transformers and Uno. When it emerged in 1974, Dungeons and Dragons was groundbreaking, says curator Nic Ricketts of The Strong. In addition to its own merits, the game created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson established a pattern for how similar role-playing games might work -- both on table-tops and, eventually, on computers and other devices."
Businesses

Family Sues Amazon After Counterfeit Hoverboard Catches Fire, Destroys Home (wtsp.com) 253

Three weeks after unboxing a hoverboard, it burst into flames. But is Amazon partly to blame? tripleevenfall quotes The Tennessean: A Nashville family whose $1 million home was destroyed earlier this year in a fire caused by a hoverboard toy is suing Amazon saying the retail giant knowingly sold a dangerous product... The lawsuit says the seller of the hoverboard listed online, "W-Deals," is a sham organization that is registered to an apartment in New York City that has not responded to requests from lawyers in the case. It alleges the family was sold a counterfeit product from China instead of a brand with a Samsung lithium ion battery they believed they were buying from Amazon . It says Tennessee product liability law holds a seller responsible if the manufacturer cannot be found.
Power

More Lithium Battery Product Recalls Predicted (mercurynews.com) 99

While "the vast majority" of lithium-ion batteries will never malfunction, lithium itself "is highly combustible and batteries made with it are subject to 'thermal runaway'," which can be triggered by damage -- or by bad design. An anonymous reader quotes the San Jose Mercury News: Battery and electronics manufacturers take numerous steps to try to mitigate such dangers... But while the industry has tried to make lithium-ion batteries safer, 'the technology itself isn't foolproof,' said Ravi Manghani, director of energy storage research at GTM Research... And there's reason to think that the problem could get worse before it gets better. Consumer demand for devices that are ever more powerful and longer lasting has encouraged manufacturers to make batteries that can hold even more charge. To do that, they typically pack the battery cells closer and closer together...

Since June of this year, educational toy company Roylco recalled 1,400 light tables designed for kids... Razor, Swagway and some eight other manufacturers recalled a total of 500,000 hoverboards. And HP and Sony between them recalled more than 42,000 notebook computers. All for similar reasons -- lithium-ion batteries that either had caught fire or which have posed a fire hazard... Other notorious examples include the several different Tesla Model S's that have caught fire, typically after crashes compromised their battery packs, and Sony's wide-scale recall a decade ago of the batteries that powered its Vaio and other laptop computers.

In a related story, Samsung's recall of their Note 7 is now expected to cost $5.3 billion.
Privacy

Woman Sues Sex Toy App For Secretly Capturing Sensitive Information (ctvnews.ca) 211

A woman in Chicago filed a class action lawsuit against the makers of a smartphone-enabled vibrator, alleging their devices "secretly collect and transmit 'highly sensitive' information." CTV News reports: The lawsuit, which was filed earlier this month in an Illinois court, explains that to fully operate the device, users download the We-Connect app on a smartphone, allowing them and their partners remote control over the Bluetooth-equipped vibrator's settings... The suit alleges that unbeknownst to its customers, Standard Innovation designed the We-Connect app to collect and record intimate and sensitive data on use of the vibrator, including the date and time of each use as well as vibration settings...

It also alleges the usage data and the user's personal email address was transmitted to the company's servers in Canada. The statement of claim alleges the company's conduct demonstrates "a wholesale disregard" for consumer privacy rights and violated a number of state and federal laws.

Slashdot reader BarbaraHudson argues that "It kind of has to share that information if it's going to be remotely controlled by someone else." But the woman's lawsuit claims she wouldn't have bought the device if she'd known that while using it, the manufacturer "would monitor, collect and transmit her usage information."
Privacy

Popular Sex Toy Caught Sending Intimate Data To Manufacturer (fusion.net) 195

In a world where thermostats, and smart locks can be hacked, and companies covertly record information, why should sex toys remain unaffected. Fusion is reporting that the We-Vibe 4 Plus, a popular vibrator sends a range of intimate data to its manufacturer. The sex toy uses a smartphone app, which lets a use control the vibration among other things. From the report: When the device is in use, the We-Vibe 4 Plus uses its internet connectivity to regularly send information back to its manufacturer, Standard Innovations Corporation. It sends the device's temperature every minute, and lets the manufacturer know each time a user changes the device's vibration level. The company could easily figure out some seriously intimate personal information like when you get off, how long it takes, and with what combinations of vibes. This was revealed on Friday at hacker conference Defcon in Las Vegas by two security researchers, who wish to be called only by their handles @gOldfisk and @rancidbacon. The two examined the app's code and the information being sent by the device over Bluetooth. In a statement sent by email, Standard Innovation Corporation's president Frank Ferrari confirmed that the company collects this information. [...]
Microsoft

Microsoft Swaps Toy Gun Emoji For Revolver -- Days After Apple Does the Opposite (arstechnica.co.uk) 331

The pistol emoji has become a heated topic of debate among people. Apple's decision to replace the gun with a toy pistol is getting a mixed response. Amid all this, Microsoft has announced it is replacing the toy gun emoji with a symbol for a real revolver. ArsTechnica reports: This emoji change is part of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, which is rolling out now. The move has surprised some, as Microsoft and Apple had been seen as allies in an effort to dial down violence in emoji generally. In June it emerged that the two had successfully lobbied to have a sports rifle removed from the latest collection of emoji, as it was felt that two firearm symbols would be too many.Microsoft says it is only trying "to align with the global Unicode standard." The issue is that despite Apple's thought on the matter, when an iPhone (or iPad or a Mac) user sends a water pistol emoji, people with devices running non-Apple OS are only going to see a regular pistol. The article adds: Analysts had been worried that without standardisation between platforms, intent for violent emoji could be misunderstood. For instance, if someone sent an acquaintance a message using their iPhone offering to come around with some friends and some waterguns, that acquaintance might well misunderstand the thrust of the message if they were using an Android phone and saw a series of pistols.Emojipedia, an emoji reference website has a good suggestion: Apple: Don't change the pistol emoji. At least not today. Hide it. Unicode does not depreciate emojis, but there is no requirement to show all approved emojis on the keyboard. The pistol emoji could be removed from the iOS emoji keyboard without causing any cross platform compatibility issues.
IOS

Apple Replaces The Pistol Emoji With A Water Gun (cnn.com) 246

Apple has a announced a number of new emoji changes on Monday, but the most controversial new change is that the pistol emoji will be replaced with a green water gun emoji in the company's upcoming iOS 10 operating system: The water gun swap is not Apple's first foray into cartoon gun control. Earlier this year the governing body in charge of emojis nixed a proposed rifle emoji. It was one of a number of possible new additions, but Unicode Consortium members Apple and Microsoft argued against the Olympics-inspired gun, according to Buzzfeed. Last year, an organization called New Yorkers Against Gun Violence started a campaign to get Apple to replace its version of the pistol emoji. It launched a site, disarmtheiphone.com, and sent an open letter to remove the firearm emoji "as a symbolic gesture to limit gun accessibility." As it stands, Microsoft is the only major software company to use a toy gun emoji instead of a pistol emoji in Windows -- Google, Samsung, Facebook and Twitter all use realistic pistol emojis. Apple's iOS 10 will be released in fall, but you can download the iOS 10 public beta to be one of the first to wield the toy gun emoji.
Iphone

The Most Popular Product Of All Time 367

Apple announced Wednesday that it has sold more than one billion iPhones. To understand the magnitude of the milestone, Asymco's Horace Dediu has compiled a list of the best-selling products across several categories. From his post (link shared via email by reader JoshTops):Car model: VW Beetle 21.5 million; car brand: Toyota Corolla 43 million; music album: Thriller 70 million; vehicle: Honda Super Cub 87 million; book title: Lord of the Rings 150 million; toy: Rubik's Cube 350 million; game console: Playstation 382 million; book series: Harry Potter Series 450 million; mobile phone: iPhone 1 billion.
The iPhone is not only the best-selling mobile phone but also the best selling music player, the best-selling camera, the best-selling video screen and the best-selling computer of all time. It is, quite simply, the best-selling product of all time. It is that because it is so much more than a product. It is an enabler for change. It unleashed forces which we are barely able to perceive, let alone control. It changed the world because it changed us. And it did all that in less than nine years.
Update: 07/28 20:07 GMT by M :Dediu just told me that the list doesn't include consumable non-durable products.
AI

Amazon's Alexa Virtual Assistant Can Now Order Millions of Prime Products For You (thenextweb.com) 57

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fortune: Amazon added a new skill for its voice assistant Alexa on Friday, and it could help the e-commerce giant add even more revenue to its already billions in yearly sales from selling everything from toilet paper to toothpaste. With today's update, now you can tell Alexa you want to buy any one of its tens of millions of items that are sold on Amazon. The one caveat is that the item must be a Prime product, meaning it is fulfilled by Amazon and can be shipped to shopper's doorsteps within two days or less. So if your daughter or son wants a Elsa doll from Disney's Frozen movie, you simply ask, "Alexa, please order the Elsa doll from Frozen," and Alexa will suggest a toy that fits that description. You then say "yes" to continue the transaction, and Alexa will take care of charging your credit card, and shipping the product to your home. Quartz posted a story in early June in which it documents several concerns from parents that Amazon Echo is conditioning the kids of this generation to be rude.
Classic Games (Games)

Mattel Sells Out Of 'Game Developer Barbie' (cnet.com) 224

Long-time Slashdot reader sandbagger writes: The Mattel people have released a new Barbie doll figurine touted as Game Developer Barbie. Dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, she was apparently designed by a game developer.
It's already sold out on Mattel's web site, with CNET saying it provides a better role model than a 2014 book In which "computer engineer" Barbie designed a cute game about puppies, then admitted "I'll need Steven's and Brian's help to turn it into a real game," before her laptop crashed with a virus. Mattel says that with this new doll, "young techies can play out the creative fun of this exciting profession," and the doll even comes with a laptop showing an IDE on the screen. Sandbagger's original submission ended with a question. Do Slashdot readers think this will inspire a new generation of programmers to stay up late writing code?
Android

Obama Finally Ditches BlackBerry, Switches To Samsung Galaxy S4 (arstechnica.com) 138

Obama has finally been able to ditch his BlackBerry handset, something which he was stuck with for more than six years. Mr. President appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and told the audience that it was only this year that he was able to get a real smartphone. There's one caveat, though. The Android smartphone Obama has gotten is a "hardened" version, with pretty much all the unrequired features removed from it. Laughing with the audience, Obama said, the phone feels like the fake toy handset kids play with. ArsTechnica, citing documentations, claim that Obama is using a Samsung Galaxy S4 (a phone that was released in 2013), as it is the only smartphone currently supported by the Defense Information Systems Agency. From the report: The S4 is currently the only device supported under DISA's DOD Mobility Classified Capability-Secret (DMCC-S) program. In 2014, a number of Samsung devices were the first to win approval from the National Security Agency under its National Information Assurance Partnership (NIAP) Commercial Solutions for Classified (CSfC) program -- largely because of Samsung's KNOX security technology. And the S4, layered with services managed by DISA, is the first commercial phone to get approval to connect to the Secret classified DOD SIPRNet network. DISA has been working with vendors and the National Security Agency's Information Assurance Directorate to develop a Top Secret-capable mobile device for use by the Defense Department and the national leadership both on the move and within secure facilities. But currently, the highest level of classification that can be handled by commercial devices under the DMCC program is at the Secret level. Secretary of State John Kerry was a DMCC-S early adopter, and he served as a beta tester of the hardened Galaxy S4.
Security

US Toy Maker Maisto's Website Pushes Ransomware (pcworld.com) 26

An anonymous reader shares a PCWorld article: Attackers are aggressively pushing a new file-encrypting ransomware program called CryptXXX by compromising websites, the latest victim being U.S. toy maker Maisto. Fortunately, there's a tool that can help users decrypt CryptXXX affected files for free. Security researchers from Malwarebytes reported Thursday that maisto.com was infected with malicious JavaScript that loaded the Angler exploit kit. This is a Web-based attack tool that installs malware on users' computers by exploiting vulnerabilities in their browser plug-ins. It also steals bitcoins from local wallets, a double hit to victims, because it then asks for the equivalent of $500 in bitcoins in order to decrypt their files. [...] Researchers from antivirus firm Kaspersky Lab recently updated their ransomware decryption toolto add support for CryptXXX affected files. The attack code exploits vulnerabilities in older versions of applications such as Flash, Java, Internet Explorer, and Silverlight. At this point, it isn't clear exactly how many users are affected.
It's funny.  Laugh.

Drone Believed To Have Hit British Airways Flight 'May Have Been a Plastic Bag' (telegraph.co.uk) 120

Reader schwit1 writes: The drone that reportedly hit a British Airways jet earlier this week may have actually been a plastic bag, a minister has said. Transport minister Robert Goodwill admitted authorities had not yet confirmed whether what struck the Airbus A320 was a remote-controlled device. The collision on Sunday night is believed to have been at around 1,700 ft near Richmond Park in south west London, over four times higher than the legal height limit. The Air Accidents Investigation Branch is investigating, alongside the Metropolitan Police. But following his comments today, Mr Goodwill also dismissed calls for tighter rules on drone use to protect against terror threats insisting current rules governing drone use were strong enough.From a Quartz report: Motherboard's Jason Koebler dove into the data the FAA released last August dove into the data the FAA released last August, and found that, among other things, "a 'large vulture,' a 'fast moving gray object,' a 'mini blimp,' a 'red UAS or balloon,' and 'a UFO' were all classified as drones in the FAA's report." This led him to decide that, when it comes to verifiable sightings -- even from trained pilots -- "drones are the new UFOs."
Technology

People Often Deride Game Changing Technology as 'a Toy' (medium.com) 282

Steven Sinofsky, former President of the Windows Division at Microsoft, has cataloged how often game-changing technologies have been derided as toys. Some of the things he has included in the list include a PC, C programming, PC networking, GUI, color screen, AI, and internet video. He writes: As many have recognized, when inventions and innovations first appear they are often (always) labeled as "toys" or "incapable" of doing "real work" or providing "real entertainment." Of course, many new inventions don't work out the way inventors had hoped, though quite frequently it is just a matter of timing and the coming together of a variety of circumstances. It can be said that being labeled a toy is necessary, but not sufficient, to become the next big thing. This got me thinking about all the conferences, trip reports, and new products I have looked at over many years. Sure turns out that a huge number of things in my own career were labeled as toys -- not just by me, but by an industry at large. Check out the list on Medium.
Government

Oklahoma Video Vigilante Uses Drone To Wage War Against Prostitutes and Johns (bbc.com) 339

HughPickens.com writes: Chris Baraniuk writes at BBC that Brian Bates, known in Oklahoma as the "Video Vigilante," is taking credit for Amanda Zolicoffer's conviction on a lewdness charge after being caught on Bates' drone mounted camera in a sex act in a parked vehicle last year. Zolicoffer was sentenced to a year in state prison for the misdemeanor while the case against her alleged client, who was released following arrest in December, is still pending. "I'm sort of known in the Oklahoma City area," says Bates . "For the last 20 years I've used a video camera to document street-level and forced prostitution, and human trafficking." Bates runs a website where he publishes videos of alleged sex workers and their clients. "I am openly referred to as a video vigilante, I don't really shy away from that," says Bates adding that the two individuals were inside a vehicle and the incident occurred away from other members of the public. The drone dropped to within a few feet of the vehicle where it filmed a 75 year old in the front seat of the white pickup truck. The duo separated after Zolicoffer, who was identified by her tattoo saying "Baby Gangster," saw the drone hovering overhead.
United Kingdom

Amateur Scientist Builds Thermite Grenade Cannon (gizmodo.com) 97

YouTube personality Colin Furze has built a homemade cannon which he's filmed launching grenades filled with thermite, "an especially nasty chemical composition made of metal power and oxide that burns as hot as 2,500 degrees Celsius." Furze once co-hosted Sky1's program Gadget Geeks, and he's since made a new career demonstrating strange science projects on YouTube. Furze's other homemade devices have included a rocket-powered go-kart and a knife that can also toast bread while it's cutting.
China

Chinese Scammers Take Mattel To the Bank, Phishing Them For $3 Million (www.cbc.ca) 63

itwbennett quotes a report from The Associated Press: Mattel, the popular toy maker behind Barbie and Hot Wheels, was the victim of a phishing attack last year that nearly cost them $3 million. On April 30, 2015, a Mattel finance executive got a note from the new CEO, Christopher Sinclair, requesting a new vendor payment to China. Transfers required approval from two high-ranking managers; the finance exec qualified and so did the CEO. The transfer was made. The only thing preventing a total loss was the fact that the following day was a bank holiday. Details of the attack against Mattel come from a report by the Associated Press, investigating money laundering and other financial crime in Wenzhou, China.

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