Hiding from Webcam Hackers

FBI director James Comey has recommended that for our own safety and security we cover our webcams with tape. This is already a common practice at the FBI and government offices. All such offices have a tiny lid the opens and closes the camera. People in the know have this sort of thing. High profile tech people like Mark Zuckerberg. This is something that has been an issue for years, so it is somewhat surprising to some that authorities are only now saying something about it. Back in 2010 a school got in trouble for secretly videoing its students from the school-issued laptops.
The school confessed that its software took unannounced pictures of its students every 15 minutes. Investigators discovered that the school had taken about 56,000 such photos of its students. This is just one of many incidents. It has become so common and so lucrative that there is now a huge sector of the black market devoted to compromised webcams and compromised webcam material. Of the two, access to a compromised webcam is by far the most popular. Buying such access it is very inexpensive and easy to do.

Common scams involve placing a link via email. That link is connected to the software that hacks into a webcam. When you clink on the link it invades yours. This type of scam is called phishing. An immensely popular such program among webcam hackers is Blackshades. In 2014, the FBI arrested webcam hackers from 12 countries. All of these hackers had been using Blackshades. Videoing and taking pictures via the webcam is only one of Blackshades features. It also allows hackers to gain a lot of control of computers, including gaining full access to the individual’s pictures and documents, recording of everything said via the keyboard, and getting all of the passwords of the individual.

The 2014 FBI sting uncovered black market files that showed that Blackshades had been bought by many thousands of hackers in more than 100 countries. This is not limited to laptops. Any device with a webcam can be hacked and pictures and videos taken of you without your knowing it. So get something on there, whether it be tape, a sticky note, or even a simple but specially made privacy sticker.

End-to-End Encryption Comes to Facebook Messenger

Facebook’s latest technological update is an extra level of security for their Messenger app. They’re rolling out end-to-end encryption, as well as the ability to send messages which will automatically be deleted after a set time frame. While these features aren’t available to every user at the moment, they should be by September.

The feature won’t be turned on by default, as the encrypted mode doesn’t allow for features such as payment, GIFs, or video. Besides this, many users may consider encryption to be unnecessary for casual everyday conversations. It’s also only available for the mobile Messenger app, at least for now.

When explaining their decision to make the feature optional rather than default, Facebook vice president David Marcus stated, “It’s that extra layer that you’ll want for those special conversations where you send a Social Security number, a username or password, checking account information for a payment, medical data of some kind. For those types of things, you want to have a little bit more peace of mind. We feel like the approach for us, given how people use our product, is really the right one and the security experts out there have been very supportive of the approach we’ve taken.”

The technology they used is based on the Signal Protocol, which was developed by Open Whisper Systems. This decision was made based on the fact that building a new security system from scratch would result in more initial issues, while the free and open-source Signal Protocol has already established itself as a leader in cryptography.

How Technology is Making Uber Safer

For some commuters, Uber is the best thing that’s ever happened to them. If you don’t drive often, it’s easy to understand why someone might want to avoid a car payment. However, rideshare companies are not regulated the way taxi companies are and these concerns have prompted the company to make some changes. Since Uber is an app-based service, the driver’s and passenger’s phones are central to their safety efforts.

Drivers in 11 different cities will soon get to test some new safety features that revolve around what Uber refers to as the “four D’s.” These include driving while drunk, drugged, drowsy or distracted.

First of all, every ride is tracked from start to finish. This is accomplished via sensors on the phone that provide GPS, acceleration and gyroscopic data. Not only does this data make it harder for a driver to get lost, but it will also be used to remind him to put his phone back in the mount if movement is detected.

If a driver has been driving too long, a reminder will be sent to the driver to get some sleep. As of early 2016, Uber drivers are not allowed to use the app for more than 12 hours at a time. Previously, some drivers were known to work for more than 16 hours.

Daily reports provide drivers with information that can help them improve their driving, such as data showing excessive braking or acceleration patterns. The app even includes a speed display to make sure they know how fast they’re going at any given time.

Uber has also released new data to show what their impact has been on drunk driving. In many cities, they have become the leading transportation alternative for people who have had too much to drink. Studies show that drunk driving has declined significantly in cities where the company now operates.

Although this is a pilot program, the company’s goal is to make these features available in every city where they operate. When combined with other popular features such as their ratings system for both riders and drivers, Uber hopes to create a safer experience for everyone on the road. Thanks to modern technology, they’re setting a standard that was unheard of just a few short years ago.