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Study Opportunities' Blog

The video edition

Hi. This week we're going to do things a little differently. Sure there's lots of news about the usual hacking and malware and brain implants, etc - and you can find those links at the bottom of the blog - BUT, this week we're featuring some videos that you can show your class on content related topics.

Creepy Doll section

Cayla is a doll. A doll that only costs $45 (less that R1000). She's smart. She listens to what you say and talks back - using the internet to answer questions.

C'mon guys - Cayla is a great idea for an interactive doll. BUT: she's listening all the time and has to send recordings of what's said to web connected computers for voice recognition to take place (and who knows what happens to the data then - is it deleted, stored, analysed and processed to gain advertising information?). On top of that sh has to be wireless and so uses bluetooth and wi-fi for connectivity. At least TRY to put in some security features to prevent remote access... This is what happens when you don't:

and this

German reaction: "Destroy Cayla".

Watch a social enter at work (first few minutes of the video)

How a GPU works

A great related video on the history of computer gaming:

How a foundry works (how a CPU is made)

Intel has an animated version with no commentary that you can talk over to explain to the class - much shorter and a bit more abstract.

McAfee : A quick definition of Phishing

Sensors in Android devices

This actually applies to all mobile devices.

Open Source software explained

How drivers work

Be warned: Advert for Dollar Shave Club starts at 3:13 in and takes up the rest of the video. Techquickie includes lots of short and accurate videos on other topics - multitasking, CPU, cache etc. If you like their style you have a good set of resources to use in class.

Also these videos (no direct link available).

Phew, That's a lot of videos and a long scrolling blog. Here's a quick summary of the weeks important news:

News Summary

That's it for this week.

Just because you can, doesn't mean you should

Welcome back. We all know that ICT is incredibly enabling. IT puts a lot of CAN into your world. This week we take a bit of time to think about responsibility and consequences. We look at three specific examples of where we can ask - 'you can - but should you?'. But first, let's start with some general news for the week:

Quick news summaries:

You can, but Should you: Monitor your staff?

Sensors are becoming smaller, cheaper and more powerful. Using them, people are developing systems to use energy and space in offices more effectively. To do this, the sensors need to track the movement of workers in the office. No workers in a room? OK, turn off the lights and climate control. Have an open plan office and need to manage work spaces, conference venues, meeting rooms, etc? Track who is where in the building.

The problem is that all technology can be used for many purposes. The same sensors that can tell you how many desks are empty and which meeting rooms are available can also be used to track how much time a worker spends at his / her desk. Some sensors can even tell how often people speak to each other. Big Brother is alive, well and coming to an office near you.

So the trade off is, once again, efficiency vs privacy. This is a topic within the frame of reference of your learners - and makes the whole privacy debate real to them. So why not give them the topic and get them to do a real debate in the class?

Some reference sites:

You can, but should you: Profit from fake news?

You live in a poor town in a poor country. There is an election in a foreign country that many people are interested in. You see an opportunity to create some 'news' web sites related to candidates in this election - and make some money off the advertising when people view your site. Your actions may have a significant impact on the outcome of that election. Should you go ahead and make money or not?

This topic is drawn mainly from a fascinating Wired article titled Inside the Macedonian Fake-News Complex. The article details the actions of a 17 year old who made $16 000 (more than R200 000) in four months feeding fake news to the American public during the elections. An interesting read - which raises interesting questions that you and your class need to be aware of.

You can, but should you: Watch porn online?

88 percent of the top 500 porn sites have tracking elements installed.

Finally, we all know that most school kids have looked at online porn at least once. You can be as shocked and in denial as you like - but surely it's better to be honest and upfront with the issue - and with them.

Articles detail how, no matter how you try to hide it, your porn viewing habits can be tracked - and all it takes is a hacker to put it out in public for the world to see... or blackmail you into a very uncomfortable situation. Check out Brett Thomas's Blog and Motherboard.

"If you are watching / viewing porn online ... even in Incognito mode,
you should expect that at some point your porn viewing history will be
publicly released and attached to your name."
-- Brett Thomas

Even if you don't feel comfortable debating the issue of porn, online porn and the viewing habits of the modern teenager - surely it is worthwhile to warn your learners of something that could potentially cause them (at minimum) great embarrassment in the future?

Solving the database problem of time

For the more technically minded. Running a global database is an immense technical challenge. But one of the issues that does not jump to the forefront of one's thinking is Time. How does a database track and manage user interactions (insertions, deletions, edits) on a global scale given the problems of different time zones - and the delays inherent in electronic communications? Only one company has solved this problem - Google. The database it developed is called Spanner, which it is making available to paying customers as a cloud service. Read about it at Wired.

Ransomware & Malware corner

Here's this week's Ransomware and Malware news.

  • Researchers show PLC (Programmable Logic Controllers, the small computers used in many industrial contexts) can be hacked and used to do things like hold the power grid to ransom.
  • And: The Hacker News has an article where researchers show that the water supply is also at risk.
  • Related: CSO Online has an article on worries that Ransomware will hit critical infrastructure. Interesting video on recovering from a Ransomware attack at the bottom of the article.
  • Prediction: Ransomware insurance will become a hot new thing.
  • Is your English poor? Are you worried your dating scam will be detected because of bad grammar / spelling? Don't worry, the Darknet has a solution. Krebs on Security has an article detailing how you can buy dating scam packs - full of templates, photos, letters, etc. to make it easy for you to steal money from a lonely person just looking to connect with that special someone.

Fake news corner

Here's a summary of fake news related articles for the week:

That's it for this week. Happy teaching!


Infographics, Fake news and Malware

Welcome back to the blog. A few housekeeping changes this week before we get into the news.

  1. We have decided to enable comments on a trial basis to get feedback from you on the type of news you want to see and to enable you to share ideas, resources, etc. So that comments do not make the posts too long, you need to click on the 'Comments' link at the bottom of the post to view / make comments on the post.
  2. To prevent spam and abuse we have, for the moment, made it so that comments containing links need to be approved before they appear - this is to help prevent the spread of malware / spam.
  3. When you view comments you can also access social media sharing links to each post. Sharing a post that you find interesting will help other teachers to discover and read the blog - and hopefully add value to their teaching as well. Please share if you think the post is worth reading!

Teaching about Fake News

It looks like 2017 is not only the year of fake news, but also the year in which we have to make an important change to the way we talk about the web and web content with our learners.

Yes, it is true that the web enables anyone to publish anything. Yes it is true that this has been a great enabler for people in general to express themselves and spread news that might otherwise be suppressed.

The thing is, the value of the content on the web depends very much on the sense of integrity and responsibility of those creating that content. The current trend of spreading blatant untruths without pause or hesitation or thought for the consequences devalues the web as a source of reliable content. We need to address this issue in the classroom. The least we (and our learners) can do is identify and refuse to spread fake news.

We know that Fake News has become an issue after the creation of both the CAPS and the textbooks and therefore resources for this topic are scarce. We will continue to feature 'Fake News Corner' in all the blogs throughout the year.

Why is Fake News spread?

Three main reasons are:

  1. To make money with sensationalist click-bait
  2. To further specific agendas and protect dubious people / actions / intentions by muddying the truth
  3. Genuine satire meant to create awareness and ridicule various topics.

This Weeks Fake News links:

  • MyBroadband : How to stop falling for fake news on Facebook.
  • Factcheck.org: How to spot fake news.
  • BBC: How do fake news web sites make money?
  • News 24: Alert - USA still requires Visas for South African Travellers
  • CNN: A video showing the very real impact of fake news on an individual refugee in Germany.

And, in other news - to show that accuracy and integrity is important, Wikipedia has banned the use of the Daily Mail (UK Newspaper) as a source because of its unreliability, bias and inaccuracy! Whatever you do, don't use the Daily Mail as a source to check the accuracy of something you think might be fake news! Read it at The Guardian.

Classroom Resources

This week we have a few InfoGraphics that could be useful for your classroom. Finding good material to print and put on your noticeboards / classroom walls is hard. Here's some useful stuff! To check out lots of other interesting infographics visit coolinfographics.com.

Make sure to tell your Art department that the Metropolitan Museum of Art has made 375 000 high res images of art free to download and use as you wish! What an amazing resource! They explain the move to 'open access' here.

Can you spot the phish? This article from CSO Online makes for a great classroom exercise. It shows a number of real phishing emails and asks you to try and identify why they are phishing mails. It also gives explanations that you can share with your learners.

Filleless Malware

We all know that anti-virus software works by scanning files on your storage for known signatures of viruses and other malware. The question is - what happens when the malware does not store itself as a file but simply loads itself into memory, leaving no trace for anti-malware software to find? The answer is that the malware becomes almost impossible to detect and eliminate. The scary thing is that, although a proven concept since 2015, fileless malware is hitting the news in a big way this week. It seems that a spate of this type of attacks against mainly banks has been detected in the last while. The good guys are going have to put in looooong hours to find a solution to this one!

Read about it at Wired and Boing Boing and the Hacker News.

The Ransomware Industry

CSO Online says the stats prove the move away from general malware toward Ransomware. Apparently there was a 6% decline in new types of malware last year - at only 60 million new varieties been listed. They proceed to give various reasons, but the astonishing fact is:

The number of attacks increased 167 times.
Not 167 percent -- 167 times, from 3.8 million ransomware attack attempts in 2015 to 638 million in 2016.

And if you are in any doubt about how Ransomware is becoming big business, read this eye-opener from Boing Boing about the customer service offered by the operators of the Spora Ransomware. They want to make sure you trust that if you pay your files will be decrypted...

Ransomware is not the only type of hacking going commercial. More proof that hacking is being run like a business is the offering of payment for insider information / passwords / logins. The Hacker News has the low down on how porn and credit card numbers is not all that you can buy on the Dark Web.

That's it for this week. We hope you'll start making use of comments and shares - if you think that what we've got to say is worth it!


You can't repair that!

DRM VS Right to Repair

You buy something, you own it. That means you have the right to fix it if it breaks, right? That's what you might think, but that's not always the case in the world of tech - and tech driven products (which can include anything from cars to combine harvesters). The right to repair problem in South Africa is mainly limited to cars - car manufacturers refusing to provide independent repair workshops with information / parts needed to repair vehicles - people must rather use the (more expensive) manufacturers repair service instead.

In places like America manufacturers can not only obstruct repairs by third parties but they can also sue you if you try to repair the product using a third party - or try to do it yourself. They claim the the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) protects the software in their product and that repairing it infringes their copyright.

The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) has a great summary article on the concept of why we need a 'right to repair' and Motherboard has a great article on how farmers are at the forefront of the fight for the right to repair in America. More great social implications material here!

Hacking news for the week:

Hacking prevention for the week:

  • Common Craft : a video on how to avoid identity theft - designed to be used for education.
  • CSO Online : a technical look how difficult it is to automate protection against phishing and spear phishing. More for your use than the classroom.

IT Divisions - how they see themselves and others

Good summary of how IT divisions see themselves on Imgur - but if you are worried about 'flipping the bird' or feel that your learners / colleagues / parents easily take offence then don't use it in class.

Your Pacemaker can snitch on you

Even devices that you think couldn't possible reveal details of your life can and do!

A man gets in some kind of financial trouble. Decides on an old but favourite criminal solution to the problem: burn down his house for the insurance money. When the fire is done and dusted, he has an insurance claim for around $400 000 in damages (well over R 4 million). He claims he managed to save some stuff from the fire by putting it in suitcases and chucking it out the window - and then lugging it to safety. Problem is, he has a pacemaker. Police got the data from his pacemaker and it shows no evidence of the strenuous activity involved. That and the fact that firefighters have identified that the fire was started from multiple points outside the house have led to the man being charged with arson and insurance fraud.

Article at Network World.

SHIMMERS: Chip & Pin cards can be skimmed

Now you can worry about your chip and pin cards not being safe in ATM machines and POS card readers. Hackers insert a circuit between the card and the chip reader. This captures the card data before passing it through to the ATM / POS device. The bad guys can then make a duplicate magnetic stripe version of the card.

Article and pictures at Krebs on Security.

Robots VS immigration / Globalisation

Trump says American workers are losing jobs to immigrants and globalisation (sending jobs to other countries where labour is cheaper). He has forgotten about (or simply doesn't know about) the real reason for job losses: robots and automation. CNN Money has a great article and video on the topic. The video is a perfect resource for the 'social implications of IT'.

Fake news corner

This dog seen at the protests against Trump's 'Muslim Ban' says it all:


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