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Toys & The Internet Of Things

 Echo Dot smart-home device aimed at children, is entering a busy and growing marketplace. More than one-third of U.S. homes with children has at least one “internet of things” connected toy—like a cuddly creature who can listen to and respond to a child’s inquiries. Many more of these devices are on the way, around the world and in North America specifically.

The toys connect wirelessly with online databases to recognize voices and images, identifying children’s queries, commands and requests and responding to them. They claim to improv children’s quality of play, providing children with new experiences of collaborative play, and developing children’s literacy, numeric and social skills.

Privacy is a concern for all their users with devices but children are particularly vulnerable and have special legal protections. Consumer advocates have raised alarms about the toys’ insecure wireless internet connections—either directly over Wi-Fi or via Bluetooth to a smartphone or tablet with internet access.


1. Unsecured wireless connections

Some “internet of things” toys can connect to smartphone apps without any form of authentication. So a user can download a free app, find an associated toy nearby, and then communicate directly with the child playing with that toy. In 2015, security researchers discovered that Hello Barbie, an internet-enabled Barbie doll, automatically connected to unsecured Wi-Fi networks that broadcast the network name “Barbie.” It would be very simple for an attacker to set up a Wi-Fi network with that name and communicate directly with an unsuspecting child.

The same thing could happen with unsecured Bluetooth connections to the Toy-Fi Teddy, I-Que Intelligent Robot and Furby Connect toys, a British consumer watchdog group revealed in 2017.

The toys’ ability to monitor children—even when used as intended and connected to official networks belonging to a toy’s manufacturer—violates Germany’s anti-surveillance laws. In 2017, German authorities declared the My Friend Cayla doll was an “illegal espionage apparatus,” ordering stores to pull it off the shelves and requiring parents to destroy or disable the toys.Unsecured devices allow attackers to do more than just talk to children: A toy can talk to another internet-connected device, too. In 2017, security researchers hijacked a CloudPets connected stuffed animal and used it to place an order through an Amazon Echo in the same room.

2. Tracking kids’ movements

Some internet-connected toys have GPS like those in fitness trackers and smartphones, which can also reveal users’ locations, even if those users are children. In addition, the Bluetooth communications some toys use can be detected as far away as 30 feet. If someone within that range looks for a Bluetooth device—even if they’re only seeking to pair their own headphones with a smartphone—they’ll see the toy’s name, and know a child is nearby.

For instance, the Consumer Council of Norway found that smartwatches marketed to children were storing and transmitting locations without encryption, allowing strangers to track children’s movements. That group issued an alert in its country, but the discovery led authorities in Germany to ban the sale of children’s smartwatches.

3. Poor data protections

Internet-connected toys have cameras that watch kids and microphones that listen to them, recording what they see and hear. Sometimes they send that information to company servers that analyze the inputs and send back directions on how the toy should respond. But those functions can also be hijacked to listen in on family conversations or take photographs or video of children without the kids or parents ever noticing.

Toy manufacturers don’t always ensure the data is stored and transmitted securely, even when laws require it: In 2018, toymaker VTech was fined US$650,000 for failing to fulfill its promises to encrypt private data and for violating U.S. laws protecting children’s privacy.

4. Working with third parties

Toy companies have also shared the information they collect about kids with other companies – much as Facebook shared its users’ data with Cambridge Analytica and other firms.

According to consumer advice from the FBI, parents should carefully research internet-connected toys before buying them, and evaluate their capabilities, functioning, and security and privacy settings before bringing these devices into their homes. Without proper safeguards—by parents, if not toy companies—children are at risk, both individually and through collection of aggregate data about kids’ activities.


Comey Book Sales Top 600,000 The First Week

Comey book sales top 600,000 in first week
© Getty Image
Former FBI Director James Comey‘s new book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” sold more than 600,000 copies in its first week, including print, audio and e-books, according to the book’s publisher, Macmillan’s Flatiron Books.

Microsoft Acquiring Spotify

Microsoft Senior VP of Entertainment, Music & Gaming Jason Rutherford during a media presentation in Redmond, WA., March 30th, 2018

Microsoft has now finalized a massive, $41.8 billion acquisition deal involving Spotify.

Microsoft Corporation, one of the largest and most powerful tech companies in the world, is now acquiring Spotify in a deal valued at approximately $41.8 billion.

The deal will make  Daniel Ek a multi-billionaire overnight, with a large portion in cash.  Other top-ranked executives like Martin Lorentzon and Sean Parker will mint billions on the deal, while also gaining a sizable share of Microsoft (MSFT) stock  Spotify counts an impressive 71 million paying subscribers, and more than 150 million total users.  Those numbers are big, but Apple is rapidly catching up.  In fact, at least one analyst has declared Amazon — not Apple or Spotify — to be the biggest streaming music service in the world, thanks to two very lucrative properties: Amazon Prime Music and Amazon Music Unlimited.

Best Buy Will Cease From Selling Cd’s Target Maybe next!


Digital music has hit the roof,  so Best Buy is officially pulling the plug on music CDs, and another Target may soon be next. Although CDs remain a relatively popular format worldwide, sales in the U.S. dropped more than 18% last year, prompting Best Buy to drop the format entirely.

Digital music sales overtook physical format sales in 2015, and that trend is likely to continue. Paid subscription services like Spotify and Apple Music are experiencing substantial growth, increasing by more than 60% in 2017.

 Billboard is reporting that the retailer has informed music suppliers that it will stop selling CDs and pull them from shelves on July 1. Although Best Buy used to be the top music seller in the U.S., nowadays its CD sales generate a relatively low $40 million per year.

Best Buy will continue to carry vinyl for the next two years, keeping a commitment it made to vendors. The vinyl will now be merchandised with the turntables, sources suggest.

Sources say that Target has demanded to music suppliers that it wants to be sold on what amounts to a consignment basis. Currently, Target takes the inventory risk by agreeing to pay for any goods it is shipped within 60 days, and must pay to ship back unsold CDs for credit. With consignment, the inventory risk shifts back to the labels.



Amazon’s Drone Can Self destruct In Emergencies

Drone by Amazon as depicted in the patent.

Image Credit: Amazon / USPTO

Amazon has been granted a patent for drone technology that allows the craft to strategically self-destruct in the event of an emergency.

A patent granted to Amazon reveal a self-destructing drone that is able to strategically disassemble in the air during an emergency to mitigate any potential damage from an otherwise fully-formed delivery drone, or as the patent describes it, “direct fragmentation for unmanned airborne vehicles.”

While programming a self-destruct sequence may seem like a curious safety feature, having a crashing drone break into pieces before impact can reduce the chances for significant property damage or injury to people on the ground. The feature would use the onboard computing system to analyze conditions to determine the best course of action.

Drone Tech

Amazon has big plans for its delivery drones that don’t involve ripping themselves apart in mid-air. The company was granted a patent in mid-October to allow drones to recharge electric vehicles, which would effectively give the world its first commercial roving fueling stations.

Facebook, is deploying drone technology to beam the internet to underserved areas, like rural regions around the world and even disaster-stricken places, which could allow enhanced communication for those who need it most. Another drone could similarly deliver much-needed help in a pinch by flying Automated External Defibrillators (AED) directly to the scene of an emergency, long before EMS crews would be able to arrive.

Spyware Apps That Sneaked Its Way Into Google Play & Spy On Users


Soniac was one of the three apps found on Google Play, according to a blog post published Thursday by a researcher from mobile security firm Lookout. The app, which had from 1,000 to 5,000 downloads before Google removed it.  Soniac had the ability to record audio, take phones, make calls, send text messages, and retrieve logs, contacts, and information about Wi-Fi access points. Google ejected the app after Lookout reported it as malicious. Two other apps—one called Hulk Messenger and the other Troy Chat—were also available in Play but were later removed. It’s not clear if the developer withdrew the apps or if Google expelled them after discovering their spying capabilities.  The apps are all part of a malware family Lookout calls SonicSpy.

Once installed, SonicSpy apps remove their launcher icon to hide their presence and then establish a connection to the control server located on port 2222 of arshad93.ddns[.]net.

The researcher said SonicSpy has similarities to another malicious app family called SpyNote, which security firm Palo Alto Networks reported last year. The name of the developer account—iraqwebservice—and several traits found in the apps’ code suggest the developer is located in Iraq. Additionally, much of the domain infrastructure associated with SonicSpy has references to that country. The phrase “Iraqian Shield” appears constantly. Lookout is continuing to follow leads suggesting the developer is based in that part of the world.

This Is What They Play Every Morning In North Korea


The Song Is Played On Loudspeakers Throughout Pyongyang




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