Mark Zuckerberg apologizes for tone-deaf Puerto Rico virtual reality tour

A Facebook virtual reality presentation blasted by multiple critics as “tone-deaf” prompted an apology from CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday after it jarringly juxtaposed video-game-style avatars with live images of hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico and actual survivors.

Zuckerberg said missing from his presentation was a sense of empathy meant to raise awareness and spread the news about the company’s partnership with the Red Cross for recovery efforts.

“I realize this wasn’t clear, and I’m sorry to anyone this offended,” Zuckerberg said in a Facebook comment posted below the video on Tuesday.

“When you’re in VR yourself, the surroundings feel quite real. But that sense of empathy doesn’t extend well to people watching you as a virtual character on a 2D screen. That’s something we’ll need to work on over time,” he said in another comment.

What prompted outrage and criticism a day earlier was a cartoonish depiction of himself and Rachel Franklin, the company’s head of social virtual reality, taking a virtual reality tour of flooded areas of Puerto Rico.

“It’s crazy to feel like you’re in the middle of it,” a grinning avatar of Zuckerberg quipped during Monday’s presentation broadcast on Facebook Live to promote the company’s virtual reality “Spaces.” At one point, his avatar high-fived the avatar for Franklin.

Neither Zuckerberg nor Franklin were ever physically present in Puerto Rico.

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Google Kills Home Mini’s touch feature

The Google Home Mini’s top touch feature that allowed you to connect with Google Assistant has been turned off.

A Google spokesperson said that the company takes “user privacy and product quality concerns very seriously,” and wants to ensure anyone who uses the disc-like smart home device has “complete peace of mind.” So, all top touch features have been “permanently remove[ed]” from the device.

“As before, the best way to control and activate Google Home Mini is through voice, by saying ‘Ok Google’ or ‘Hey Google,’ which is already how most people engage with our Google Home products,” the company spokesperson said. “You can still adjust the volume by using the touch control on the side of the device.”

Google Home Mini comes with the Google Assistant built-in, which can be activated by voice. However, those who want to turn it on by touch were able to hold their hands down on the device and send off some requests to Google’s virtual assistant.

Earlier this week, however, some reviewers discovered that the device was actually recording everything a person was doing and then sending that information back to Google. Rather than wait for user input to tell Google Assistant to listen, the service instead recorded at will, creating a major privacy concern.

Google initially addressed the problem by saying a software fix would stop the smart home device from recording. Google also noted at the time that the problem affected units that were designed for those who were reviewing the device and wouldn’t be a problem in Google Home Mini units consumers would get when the device would go on sale on Oct. 19.

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Bitcoin Surges above $5000

Bitcoin surged on Thursday morning, blowing past $5,000 for the first time and setting a new record price above $5,200.

The rise is remarkable because there has been quite a bit of unfavorable news about Bitcoin in recent weeks. China, one of the biggest markets for Bitcoin, is shutting down trading. The Bitcoin community faces ongoing acrimony over how to scale the Bitcoin network. A contentious fork split the Bitcoin network in two in August, and there might be another schism in the Bitcoin community come November.

Finally, many experts believe that the broader blockchain world is in the middle of an unsustainable bubble. If that bubble pops, Bitcoin’s price is likely to fall with it.

A healthy ICO market creates demand for Bitcoin because Bitcoin is often used as an intermediary currency for token sales. Legal and logistical barriers make it difficult to sell a newly created cryptocurrency for conventional currencies like dollars or euros. But it’s relatively easy to sell a new cryptocurrency in exchange for Bitcoin. So people wanting to participate in ICOs often need to buy Bitcoins first, pushing up Bitcoin’s price.

Another possible reason for Bitcoin’s rise: the market might actually see forks as a good thing. The August fork split the Bitcoin network in half, creating a new cryptocurrency called Bitcoin Cash that was a perfect copy of the original Bitcoin network—including its transaction history. Anyone who owned one Bitcoin before the fork owned one Bitcoin after the fork and one unit of Bitcoin Cash. And surprisingly, the combined value of these two currencies was higher than Bitcoin had been worth prior to the fork.

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Fake Facebook Ads reportedly aimed at swing states

Some of the Russian-linked Facebook “fake news” that tried to exploit wedge issues during last year’s U.S. election was specifically targeting swing states, according to a new report.

Four unnamed sources “with direct knowledge of the situation” told CNN that certain ads were designed to reach potential voters in Michigan and Wisconsin, which ended up providing narrow wins for Donald Trump over rival Hillary Clinton. This is the first indication of which parts of the U.S. the ads were targeting.

The ads reportedly tried to promote division, such as by promoting anti-Muslim messages that would have been in line with the tone of Trump’s campaign.

Facebook says the ads cost their posters $100,000, and were seen by 10 million people. When paying to promote content on Facebook, it is easy—and indeed more cost-efficient—to direct it at a specific group of people, based on geography and political leaning, among other factors.

On the weekend, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg used the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur to apologize for the platform’s divisive elements. “For the ways my work was used to divide people rather than bring us together, I ask forgiveness and I will work to do better,” he said in a post on the service.

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Everything you need to know about the Apple Watch 3

The original model appeared in April 2015; the second generation, which included the Apple Watch Series 1 and Apple Watch Series 2, debuted in September of 2016.

It’s conceivable that Apple could bring out the next Watch this fall, but right now it’s pretty unclear. And a product introduction could come in a number of forms ranging from a major redesign to a minor, iterative upgrade. Plenty of other manufacturers will launch wearables during the second half of 2017, and it would be odd if Apple didn’t throw something new into the mix.

One major factor potentially impacting the timeline: the next iPhone. Apple usually unveils its new flagship during the first week or two of September. This year, however, supply chain sources are warning that the iPhone 8 and the iPhone 7S and 7S Plus, expected to be based closely on the current generation, are facing serious production challenges.

One rumored blockbuster upgrade is a cellular modem, which would enable calling and texting from the Watch without the need for an iPhone. In March, Barron’s published an article citing a semiconductor analyst’s research on the topic; he claims that the next Apple Watch will come equipped with a SIM card and support for LTE.

Since the run up to the second edition of the Watch, there has been (hopeful) speculation about a camera. According to 9to5Mac, Apple has considered building a camera into the Watch’s top bezel, making it the smallest device capable of running FaceTime.

Aside from giving the Apple Watch yet another competitive advantage in the market, this feature would finally fulfill the decades-old promise of George Jetson’s watch.

There are a few changes potentially coming to the Apple Watch’s display. One is a shift from the Apple Watch 2′s OLED display to Micro LED — a brighter and more efficient variation of the technology. Nikkei Asian Review has reported that Apple is piloting Micro LED technology for wearables, though it’s unlikely that the new panels would find their way into a final product until 2018. And DigiTimes has reported that Apple will move to glass-firm touch panels for the third edition of the Watch, leaving behind the touch-on-lens panels onboard the Apple Watch 2.

The original Apple Watch started at $349 for the 38mm model and $399 for the 42mm edition in the US. In March 2016, the company slashed prices by $50, dropping the entry-level price to $299. Today, the Watch Series 1 starts at $269 (38mm) and $299 (42mm) and the Watch Series 2 at $369 (38mm) and $399 (42mm). Barring a bombshell redesign, featuring cellular connectivity or an integrated camera, the consensus is that Apple will stick pretty close to the current pricing scheme with the Watch 3.

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LinkedIn Debuts Match-making services

The business-focused social network LinkedIn this week unveiled a new service that is basically like Tinder for finding a mentor. The new service aims to match members who are looking for career advice with those who can provide it.

Here’s how it will work: You tell LinkedIn what type of advice you’re looking for and your preferences for a mentor (someone in your region, for instance, or someone who works in a certain industry). The company will then recommend other members who have the interest and experiences to help. If you and your potential mentor both think it’s a match, you’ll be able to chat.

LinkedIn says the service is still in the “early phases” of testing. For now, it’s only available in San Francisco and Australia, but LinkedIn expects to wrap up testing and roll it out for all members “in the coming months.”

“This is a lightweight way to identify and connect with other members and it works well with the informal, casual nature of today’s changing workforce where you often need advice for certain situations such as job searching, salary negotiation or on the job questions,” LinkedIn says.

The service is free for mentors and mentees, so don’t expect to get paid if you’re the one doling out advice.

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Control Windows 10 with your eyes?

In a bid to improve the accessibility of Windows 10, Microsoft on Wednesday unveiled details on how it would let you control its operating system with your eyes.

The company introduced a beta version of eye control into Windows 10, which includes a launchpad that lets you choose between mouse, keyboard and text-to-speech options. Windows 10 will support the Tobii Eye Tracker 4C, with future eye-tracking cameras to come.

The move will enable people with limited or no ability to move their arms a chance to more easily use Windows 10. It’s part of a broader push by Microsoft, and the larger tech community, to make products accessible to more people.

Eye Control is aimed at “empowering people with disabilities to operate an on-screen mouse, keyboard, and text-to-speech experience using only their eyes,” Microsoft said in a blog post on Wednesday.

Users require eye tracking hardware by Tobii in order to try out the feature.

When Eye Control is launched a box appears allowing a user to choose to control the mouse, keyboard or text-to-speech feature with their eyes.

When the mouse function is selected, a user has to look at what they want to click on then select, again with their eyes, what action they want to take such as a left click or right click.

Typing works in a similar way. Users need to look at letters that they want to type. But Microsoft is also trialing a feature called “shape-writing” to help people type faster with their eyes.

“You can form words by dwelling at the first and last character of the word, and simply glancing at letters in between. A hint of the word predicted will appear on the last key of the word,” Microsoft explained.

The feature is currently in the beta testing stage for the so-called Windows 10 Insider Preview Build, which is available for select users.

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WannaCry ransomware make out with $140,000

The WannaCry ransomware wreaked havoc on the roughly 300,000 affected PCs it locked up. But it proved to be lucrative for the hackers.

The people behind the ransomware withdrew roughly $140,000 in Bitcoin from three wallets on Wednesday. That’s an impressive total considering each affected computer asked for $300 in bitcoin.

WannaCry was one of the more high-profile cyberattacks in recent history, spreading in an unprecedented manner by using a sharing tool found in the Windows software. While Microsoft has patched this vulnerability in new versions of Windows, hundreds of thousands of PCs running older versions of Windows were affected.

International trackers set up a Twitter account to monitor and report any movement in the three accounts the hackers used. On Thursday, that account noted the accounts were drained and the bitcoins were transferred into larger joint accounts known as mixers. Though the bitcoin can still be tracked, mixers allow users to break up bitcoin transactions into smaller ones that are more difficult to trace.

Europol, the European investigative agency, declined to comment on the status of the WannaCry investigation. The U.S. Justice Department did not immediately respond to comment.

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Malicious code used to intercept and steal payment card data during online transactions

Scottsdale, AZ – November 14, 2016: With attacks that are now compromising online shops to scan credit card information, it seems as though encryption might not be the answer to keeping network data safe, says Jupiter Support senior tech analyst Vinay Patel.

This was brought to light after a Dutch researcher reported that almost 6,000 online shops, most of them built with the Magento content management system, have malicious code that intercepts and steals payment card data during online transactions. Among the websites was the online storefront of the U.S. National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC).

His research also showed that in many cases these compromises go undetected for up to a year. This has to do with the poor understanding of the problem by webmasters who believe that if their sites use HTTPS or a third-party payment processor the customer data is safe.

Upon investigation by web security firm Sucuri of a shop compromise that wasn’t detected by automated scans, it was detected that one of the site’s core files, called Cc.php, had recently been modified.

Malicious code was found to be designed to steal payment card data and stored inside an image file. “This technique of hiding data inside files with non-suspecting  extensions, such as image files, is not new and is intended to avoid detection,” said Patel.

“To obtain the stolen numbers, the attacker would not even have to maintain access to the site,” Sucuri researcher Ben Martin said in a blog post. “The image was publicly accessible. All the attacker would need to do is download the image from the website just like any other and view its source code.”

For more information on how to safely shop online, visit www.jupitersupport.com

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The “Internet of Things”… a blessing or a curse?

More than12 billion devices can currently connect to the Internet, and researchers estimate that by 2020 there will be 26 times more connected things than people

Scottsdale, AZ – November 14, 2016: A high-profile cyberattack has put the growing Internet of Things (IoT) space on alert, news reports say.

Last month a cascading string of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks took down parts of hundreds of sites including Twitter, Netflix, Spotify, Airbnb, Reddit and The New York Times — demonstrates record-breaking volumes that are overwhelming website defenses. The four-fold growth in attack size over the last year is being driven by hundreds of thousands of internet-connected devices hackers are adding to their botnets, according to industry sources.

With an estimated 21 billion devices expected to be connected to the internet by 2020, there is a critical need to ramp up the security of “things.” The Smart Card Alliance said it advocates for the addition of embedded security in IoT devices.

“Because the producers of these insecure IoT devices currently are insulated from any standards requirements, market feedback, or liability concerns, I am deeply concerned that we are witnessing a ‘tragedy of the commons’ threat to the continued functioning of the internet,” Virginia senator Mark Warner wrote in a letter to the US Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies after the attack.

Experts at Jupiter Support, a remote tech support organization, sense a vital need for consumers to change the passwords on their IoT devices. Neil Britto, CIO of Jupiter Support says the burden is even more on IoT companies to make sure their devices are highly secure, even if vulnerabilities are not necessarily solely their industry’s fault – with the first step being for companies to program their devices to require users to change passwords upon first use.

Security holes of IoT devices are present in any products running software, but IoT items are especially vulnerable, Britto said. He added that patching devices can fix security vulnerabilities without any user interaction, easily.

Playing safe:

  • Create a special guest network for a home Wi-Fi router that allows the creation of separate guest networks to keep untrusted visitors off the regular network.
  • Turn off Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) on the router, and on all IoT devices if possible.
  • Keep the firmware up to date on all IoT devices.
  • Choose passwords carefully and write them down if needed.
  • Refrain from carrying IoT devices to work or connect them to the employer’s network without permission from IT staff.

Visit www.jupitersupport.com for more information.

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