This Week in Tech
Chaos and absurdity seem to abound in world events and politics (local and international) at present, so it seems only fitting to take this blog's title from a standpoint held by big corporations abusing copyright protection law to protect physical products. That's not all though, there's plenty more absurdity to come. So strap in, buckle up and enjoy the ride!
If you had to guess from previous posts where the title of this weeks blog come from I'm sure that you'd eventually arrive at: John Deere. Boing Boing has the details.
Hacking news and absurdities:
Fake news Dept:
Birds. Small, beautiful, fascinating and deadly.
To airplanes, at least. Birds being sucked into the swirling vortex of a jet engine can break turbine blades and cause a catastrophic failure of the engine. Which can kill the plane and, in the consequent crash, probably most of the people on board. So birds are a problem - especially around airports, where they are likely to come into contact with planes and their engines.
Enter the Robot Falcon - a drone that looks and flies like a falcon and is designed to scare birds away from airfields! Check it out at Atlas Obscura.
That's it for this week.
Welcome back. We hope you have had a good and welcome rest and are now gearing up to face a new year full of challenges and fulfilment.
Before we get onto other tech news, a quick reminder that we have a NEW version of the CAT Grade 10 book out - full of lots of updated, relevant information to keep your learners on track and well informed in their studies. If you haven't already done so, check out our catalogue, download our order form and get the new book - you'll be very glad you did!
Time to get skeptical
If 2016 taught us anything it is that people are terribly trusting an ill informed about the internet as a reliable source of news. The impact of fake news on the outcome of the American elections is just one example. It is our job as teachers to try to prevent out learners growing up to be gullible guppies who simply believe anything they see online and regard Facebook as their best (and only) source of news. We need to make them aware of the problem of fake news and teach them to be critical and skeptical of what they read online. Perhaps we need to get a weekly controversial news article and discuss whether it is real or fake - and how to tell the difference!
Motherboard has an article on the need to teach kids how to be skeptical of the internet.
The Joy of Tech has got a great cartoon (worth printing out and putting on your notice board) about the sad, sorry state of the internet with all its scams and abuse.
Levels of computer skills - in the first world
|This chart comes from a study by the international Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development group. The OECD conducted a study of 215,942 people across 33 countries from 2011-2015. The study tested the skills of people aged 16-65 to measure their literacy in job-related tech skills. Tests ranged from simple tasks like deleting an email (considered “below level 1”), up to figuring out things like “what percentage of the emails sent by John Smith last month were about sustainability?” (considered level 3).|
See the whole report here.
The work we do is important - even more so than perhaps you realise. All you need to do is look at the graph above, shudder, and know just what a difference you can (and are) making!
Computer security in 2017
What to expect? Keep it short an simple: Hacks, lots of them!
Try to remember how vulnerable computers are. Robert Morris, a founding developer of computer cryptography, had this to say about computer security:
The three golden rules to ensure computer security are:
do not own a computer;
do not power it on; and
do not use it.
Just a reminder of how bad things got in 2016: CSOOnline has an article detailing how Ransomware earned hackers $1 BILLION last year.
Also check out clickclickclick.click for a demonstration of how a website can monitor what you are doing on it. Turn on your sound for this!
New Hardware dept:
Two new drool worthy laptops have been announced at CES (the Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas every year at this time). They are the Razer Valerie with THREE screen built into it. This one is so new that pricing, tech specs and availability is not being supplied. In the meanwhile Acer has launched a gaming laptop with a 21" curved screen, 64Gb RAM, 2TB RAID SSD AND 1 TB HDD, with TWO Nvidia GTX 1080 Graphics cards. This beast of a machine costs R 144 000 and will be available from February on (so you better start saving now).
True or False?
This article on Boing Boing about a water cooler hanging because its updating Windows could be fake news - or not. Either way its pretty funny!
That's it for this week. May your preparations for the year ahead be going well.
We all take a lot of time and effort to teach our learners about Phishing - and about the more specialised, targeted "Spear Phishing" version of this type of attack. Well, it's time we added "Whaling" to that repertoire.
The term 'Whale' is often used in IT - and in business in general. A 'Whale' is generally a big spending customer - for example in all those 'free' games that you find available on mobile devices you are able to buy 'coins' or 'stars' or 'points' or something that will make it easier to progress through the game faster. Most people do not spend real money on these in game currencies - but there is a select group of users that do buy them - and they buy large. They are usually called 'Whales' - and they are where these companies make their money. Before science was sufficiently advanced whales were simply regarded as another type of fish - the biggest fish in the sea. So they are the biggest Phish for Phishers to focus their attention on as well. In the world of cybercrime a whale is typically a high level business person (CEO, COO, CFO, CTO = 'C' level executive, someone with 'Chief' in their title), politicians or celebrities.
The Whale phisher typically sends an urgent e-mail from a trusted colleague / business partner requesting urgent payment for some critical aspect of the business. The CEO then gives the order that payment be made, short-circuiting the usual paperwork... The phisher scores big. In May this year an Austrian aircraft company lost nearly € 41 Million (more than R 645 000 000) to a Whaling attack. The CEO and CFO lost their jobs. Read about it here.
MyBroadband.co.za has a story on Whaling and some tips from the FBI about how to avoid such attacks, whilst Social-Engineer.com asks 'Why go after minnows when you can catch a Big Phish?'. Finally CSOonline.com has got some examples of scams that CEOs could fall for (especially the spoofed 'from' addresses that rely on similar looking mis-spellings to seem as if they are from a valid source) - if you can stand their irritating multi-page slideshow format.
Fighting back against RansomWare
A great resource for learning about, identifying and fighting Ransomware is nomoreransom.org. They even have tools that will decrypt certain types of Ransomware attacks. A great resource for teaching about this type of malware.
Watch out for that cheap wireless keyboard
You better watch out, you better beware, Keysniffer is already in town.
Armed with a bit of smarts and a wireless dongle that costs less than R200 a hacker can not only intercept whatever you type on your keyboard (without even having to install key logging malware on your computer) from up to 70 m away, but they can also insert their own keystrokes to change whatever you are typing.
How is this possible? Well, makers of cheap wireless keyboards (those that use their own wi-fi dongle instead of Bluetooth) let the communication between the keyboard and the computer take place without encryption (or with poor encryption). Why? Because its cheaper and cheaper = lower price or more profits or both. Wired magazine has the lowdown on this new hacking exploit.
There is no such thing as anonymity or privacy on the web
Keep on telling your learners this fact. Repeat it until they think you are a stuck record. For those that say that they are savvy and have the skillz and the toolz to keep private - point out to them that the TOR browser and account they are using is probably compromised. Researchers recently found over 100 TOR nodes that were spying on their users... Tell them to read the article at The Hacker News. Then point out that the web is a large, wild, ungoverned place which is about as tough and secure as a bag made of wet toilet paper. They need to always assume that most of what you do, create, store, collect, download electronically is traceable and watchable and has probably been intercepted by someone somewhere.
A general Resource for all
The World Digital Library is a resource created by the US Library of Congress with support from UNESCO. It contains many digitised images, texts and maps that are interesting to browse through but could also be valuable resources for the History / Geography teachers at your school.
Building at 225 bricks per hour
3DPrint.com has an article about an Australian company which has created a robot that can lay 225 bricks in an hour - as much as a human does in half a day. Basically a truck loaded with bricks arrives at the building site, extends a robotic arm and starts laying the bricks according to the design programmed into it from a CAD model. There's a time lapse video of the robot at work near the end of the article.
That's it for this week.
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