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The Weekly Roundup 8.28 Edition

by Cassie August 28, 2015

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Senators Aim to Fund Tech that Disables Your Car if You’ve Been Drinking

Technology has been developed to tackle safety issues in many different ways. Recently, U.S. Senators are backing a bill that will fund the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS), a system that will disable a driver’s vehicle if he or she is intoxicated. The bill aims to give $48 million in funding over 6 years to develop the DADSS technology so that it can be implemented in all car models. The unique DADSS does not rely on the driver blowing into a Breathalyzer. Instead, the technology is able to detect alcohol on a person’s breath through a console above the steering wheel and test for alcohol in the blood stream through a sensor in the start button or on the wheel. This technology could be utilized in the vehicles of people who have been convicted of a DUI, to prevent them from driving while intoxicated. Ultimately, the DADSS wants to make our roads safer and help to eliminate fatalities caused by drunk drivers.

For the original article on Mashable.com, click here

Background Noise Could Strengthen Your Passwords

Online account breaches are one the biggest threats to modern personal security. Strong passwords can alleviate some of your risk, but new two-factor authentication methods may be your best bet to protect your personal information. Two-factor security sends a 4-digit pin to your phone when you sign into an online account that you must then type in along with your password. While this method is effective, it can be time consuming and tedious. Swiss researchers have developed a tool called Sound-Proof that will enable you to use two-factor authentication to secure your accounts without having to unlock your phone and search for a pin. Sound-Proof simply sends a signal to your phone when you log into an account and the phone and the computer record the noise around you. If the sounds match up, you are granted access to your account. Tools like Sound-Proof will hopefully spawn even more technology that will allow individuals to personally ensure account security.

For the original article on Wired.com, click here

Hyperloop Tube Moves Closer to Reality

The Hyperloop, a tube encased train proposed by Elon Musk, is inching closer to creation. This is evident by Hyperloop Transportation Technologies’ (HTT) new partnerships with the Swiss company, Oerlikon Leybold Vacuum and LA based engineering firm, AECOM. The aim of the project is to revolutionize travel by propelling passengers at speeds of up to 800 miles per hour in a partial vacuum. With the latest addition of Oerlikon Leybold Vacuum, it appears that HTT is preparing to move forward in the production of the Hyperloop. Craig Hodgetts, who is working on the project, believes that we could see the high speed train become a reality before 2030. We have seen Elon Musk spur on change in the automotive industry with his Tesla electric cars; his spirit of innovation may now reshape the way we travel long distances.

For the original article on Mashable.com, click here

School Bus Safety Tips

The back to school season is upon us, and many children will be riding the bus every day to and from school. Here are some safety tips to share with your children for their daily school bus commute:

  • Designate a spot for your children to wait for the bus that is away from traffic
  • In inclement weather, dress your kids in brighter colors so that the bus driver can see them more easily
  • Do not board the bus until it comes to a complete stop
  • File onto the bus one at a time so that no one trips
  • Find a seat quickly and use the safety belt if one is available
  • When you get off the bus, make sure to cross the street in front of the bus so the driver can see you
  • Follow the bus driver’s instructions and avoid distracting the driver


The bus can be a fun and exciting new experience for your child. Use these tips to make sure they are happy and safe on their ride.

For the original article on Centralmaine.com, click here




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It’s That Time Again! 6 Back to School Safety Tips

by Cassie August 26, 2015

Be Safe Going Back to School

We know. We know! It’s already August, and that means your family focus has honed in on one thing: it’s back to school time.

The start of school is exciting. It’s a flurry of activity – school supply shopping, clothes to buy, and there may be a new backpack in store. There are decisions to be made, perhaps a new bus stop to investigate, and a school lunch menu to pore over.

And of course, there are new safety concerns: street crossings on the way to the bus stop or school, heavy backpacks, and after-school hours home alone. Take some of the anxiety out of your preparations with our back to school safety tips:

1. Practice Walking Safety
Depending on their age – and provided your kids are conscientious about street safety – walking to the bus stop (or school) is a great way for them to learn personal responsibility. If you’re ready to let your children walk alone, be sure to practice the walking route a few times before school starts. Make sure they know the route well, including being familiar with potential danger areas. If you can, encourage your kids to walk with a friend or other children from the neighborhood.

2. Practice Bike Safety
If your kids ride bikes to school, our walking guidelines still apply; for example, be sure to practice the route in advance. Additionally, make sure your kids know to ride single file, on the right-hand side of the road. They should always come to a full stop before crossing the street, and should walk their bike through all crossings. Be sure they wear a helmet at all times.

3. Practice Bus Safety
If your kiddo rides the bus, much of their safety is taken care of but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few tips to impart: teach them to stand far from the curb – at least three steps is a good rule of thumb – and to always, always cross the street in front of the bus, at least 10 feet from the front windshield. And even though cars should be stopped both ways, your kids should always look left-right-left before crossing.

4. Stranger Danger
Even older kids may need a reminder: Always be aware of your surroundings, especially when walking alone. Remind walkers that if they ever suspect they’re being followed, or if a stranger ever approaches them on the street, that they should state aloud, “You’re not my mom/dad!” and immediately seek out a trusted adult or neighbor, or even a nearby business, library, police station or other public safety zone.

5. Backpack Wisely
What with binders, folders, notebooks and multiple subjects’ worth of textbooks, your kids’ backpacks bulk up fast. Keep their backs safe with an ergonomic model (yes, really! they exist), which will help distribute the weight. Also, keep backpacks to less than 20% of a child’s body weight, e.g. no more than 20 pounds for a 100-pound student.

6. Home Alone Precautions
We’re not talking comedic, movie-worth booby traps; we’re focused more on simple things you can do when your kids get home before you do. Precautions can be as simple as asking your kids to text when they get home, to notifying any stay-at-home-neighbors that your kids will be home alone for a few hours everyday (and letting your kids know that they can always contact said neighbors for help).

Also consider the advantages of smart home safety. New technology makes it possible for your locks to auto-text you when your kids walk in the door, or your camera security system to send you a video of your kids doing their homework. You can even set smart appliances to have a warm, nutritious after-school snack ready and waiting.

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The Weekly Roundup 8.21 Edition

by Cassie August 21, 2015

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This Hacker’s Tiny Device Unlocks Cars and Opens Garages

If the unlock button on your key fob doesn’t work on the first try, it may not be due to its batteries. A new device developed by hackers allows them to intercept your key fob’s wireless command and record it to be used on your car later. While this technique is not new to the hacking industry, this device makes it far easier to exploit signals from your key fob to easily break into your car at any time. The device is not just limited to cars, it can also be used to steal your garage door signal and break into your house. The device, called RollJam, does not have to actually be placed on the car or garage, it just has to be close enough to intercept the signal being sent when you press your opener. Automakers and garage door manufacturers have not done anything to combat this new device yet. Given the implications of RollJam, however, it is important that companies work to get away from common radio operated remotes.

For the original article on Wired.com, click here

New App Lets Anyone 3D Print “Do Not Duplicate” Keys

University of Michigan researchers have released a web-based app that lets anyone 3D print thousands of “restricted” keys that are specifically designed not to be copied. The app called Keysforge, was developed to demonstrate that given current technology, not enough is being done to protect business and apartment renters. The software can easily create a CAD file that can 3D print a key using only a picture of the key and a picture of the front of the lock. This is further proof that physical security measures, such as standard key operated locks, are outdated and need to be improved upon to enhance our safety. With 3D printing becoming more prevalent, it will be interesting to see what other industries are affected.

For the original article on Wired.com, click here

Earables: New Wearable Technology

The success of the Apple Watch is proof that wearable technology is, in fact, the direction technology is heading. Although, the Apple Watch just scratches the surface of how we will eventually use wearable technology in every day life. The Hear Active Listening System by Doppler is more than just a wearable upgrade to a device that you already own. The System actually augments the sound of the world around you to completely change the way you experience life. If you are watching a concert and want to heighten the sound of the bass or another aspect of the music, the Listening System will allow you to do that. Earables plan to allow technology to immerse itself in your every day routine without hindering your lifestyle or bothering you with the constant buzzing notifications we currently deal with on our smart devices.

For the original article on TechRepublic.com, click here

Solar Panels Double as Highway Sound Barriers

With the ever-changing technological landscape aiding the development of eco-driven utilities, we are seeing new, creative uses for energy conscious equipment like solar panels. An Eindhoven University of Technology team has taken solar technology to a new level, by lining the A2 highway with solar panels both as a way of producing energy and blocking the sound of the highway. Unlike typical solar panels that are usually placed on top of buildings, the solar panels used around the highway are cheaper, colorful and translucent. The experiment hopes to demonstrate the practical use of these panels, while also proving that they do not have to be an eyesore. If the experiment continues to be successful, we could see these panels become more widely used in other countries due to their energy producing and sound trapping capabilities.

For the original article on Wired.com, click here





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Home Security Checklist

by Cassie August 17, 2015

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The Weekly Roundup 8.14 Edition

by Cassie August 14, 2015

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The Top Passwords of 2014

With more personal information being stored online than ever before, account security has become incredibly important. Websites often force you to add symbols, letters and numbers to your passwords to decrease the possibility that someone can guess your account password. Therefore, it is alarming that the top passwords used in 2014 are reminiscent of the passwords you used on your first e-mail account. The top most commonly used password in 2014 was “123456” followed by the far more creative “password.” Obviously, these passwords are both easy to remember and to type, but more importantly they are easy to guess. The only upside to using these passwords to protect your personal information is the fact that, for many people, they are out of the realm of consideration. However, if you’re currently using any of these passwords to protect an online account, we strongly recommend you update your password to something stronger.

For the original article on Mashable.com, click here

Hacker Discovers Vulnerability in GM Vehicles

Hacker, Sammy Kamkar, who runs the popular YouTube page “Applied Hacking” recently demonstrated his ability to hack a 2013 Chevy Volt that was equipped with OnStar. Using a $100 device, Kamkar was able to trick the RemoteLink mobile app into linking with a fake Wi-Fi hot spot he had created. Once connected, Kamkar had access to car controls like locking, remote starting, tracking and accessing the personal information of the vehicle owner. This new hack demonstrates a severe vulnerability in the OnStar system that is installed in many cars. After being notified by Kamkar, GM is working to fix this OnStar weakness and expects to have a remedy soon. This new development makes one wonder how susceptible self-driving vehicles may be to hacking in the future.

For the original article on Mashable.com, click here 

Software That Sees If Your Brain is Busy

Between social media platforms and messaging apps, we are frequently hit with a barrage of notifications that can interrupt our concentration. A new software called Phylter aims to limit our distractions and thereby render us more effective, especially in the workplace. The software, which uses a headband to detect when you are concentrating on something, filters out notifications when you are focused and do not wished to be disturbed. Airplane Mode is the only current method for avoiding notifications without simply turning your phone off, but unlike Phylter, Airplane Mode actually blocks your messages from being received. Phylter hopes their new technology can be a more suitable solution to a distracted world.

For the original article on TechRadar.com, click here

The Shape-shifting House

Smart homes are an ever-increasing trend in the tech world, but we are learning that there are different degrees of “smart.” Architect Todd Fix has created a concept for a new smart home called the “Motus.” The “Motus” wants to take a giant leap forward in the realm of smart homes by adapting the home’s material based on changes in the weather. The home is a zero energy home that would be incredibly cost effective, once it was built. Building the “Motus,” however, is no small task and it’s certainly not cheap. Fix estimates that the home would cost between $3.5 and $10 million to construct, not including any repairs you would have to make if the house encounters functional issues. So while the house is a cool idea, at the present, less drastic home automation will do just fine.

For the original article on TechRadar.com, click here

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What’s the WORST Home Security Advice You’ve Ever Heard?

by Cassie August 12, 2015

The Worst Home Security Advice

There’s a lot of bad advice in this world, but in most cases, bad advice doesn’t result in awful consequences. Bad advice in the kitchen may mean hard-as-a-rock cake; bad fashion advice can make you look the fool; and bad movie advice means $15 and a few hours wasted.

Bad security advice? Well, that’s a whole other ball of wax. Bad home security advice can mean thousands in stolen goods, broken windows, and the loss of impossible-to-replace jewelry, antiques or heirlooms. Bad home security advice can mean breached WiFi networks and stolen passwords. And in the most tragic cases, bad home security advice can mean injury to your loved ones.

When it comes to home security, bad advice isn’t just bad – it’s disastrous. Here’s some of the worst home security advice we’ve ever heard:

1. A self monitored system is just as good as a monitored system.
Here’s the deal: DIY systems – and by that, we’re talking about mostly low-cost, wireless systems that notify you (or other phones) when an alarm is triggered – can be great as a basic system. But that does not mean they’re as good as a monitored home security system.

A monitored alarm system is directly connected to your security company, which will notify the police, the fire department, and the paramedics in case of emergency. Police notification can mean the difference between stolen goods and thieves behind bars – not to mention, monitored homes are about 15 times less likely to be burgled in the first place – but more importantly fire and ambulance notification can save the lives of loved ones. There’s no compare.

2. Change your password, and your smart home network is secure.
Most smart home devices – say, smart locks and smart appliances – are designed with ease-of-use, not network security in mind. But as the Internet of Things and home security become intertwined, it’s incredibly important to secure your smart home against hackers – hackers who could find their way into your network via your smart fridge.

To secure your home, first secure your wireless network, preferably via Wi-Fi Protected Access II (WPA2) protocol and a complex password. Give your network an unidentifiable name: think “UFO Space Station,” not “The Joneses.” And always, always change each device’s manufacturer password to a unique (as in, not shared with any other device) password.

3. Home Security – One & Done!
This one needs a bit of explanation. First, yes, sticking with one monitoring company for whatever you can – example: burglary, flood, and fire prevention – is a great idea. You’ll get a better package price, and won’t have to keep up with multiple companies.

However! The best home security is like an onion: it offers layer after layer after layer of security – layers guaranteed to make would-be burglars cry in frustration. Your best bet is to purchase the best home security system you can afford, and then layer on third-party extras like outdoor security cameras, Wi-Fi enabled doorbells, and even low-tech extras including interior door hinges (can’t be easily removed), strong window locks, and metal bars for your sliding door tracks.

Your turn: What is the worst security advice you’ve ever received?

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Weekly Roundup 8.07 Edition

by Cassie August 7, 2015

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Artificial Intelligence: How far should technology go?

Many top scientists believe that artificial intelligence is not just a possibility, but an inevitability. Viewed as an evolution of substantial scientific advancement, it does, however, bring cause for concern considering the opportunities available to weaponize artificial intelligence. The Future of Life Institute has penned a letter urging a ban on offensive autonomous weaponry (“killer robots”), signed by Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking and Steve Wozniak, to name a few. The group does not want to eliminate artificial intelligence or slow its progression, but rather, it wants to prevent a military AI arms race by countries and other organizations already developing autonomous AI weapons. Sorry gang, perhaps robotic super-soldiers from our favorite movies are not in the best interest of mankind after all.

For the original article on Mashable.com, click here

Bank Robber Captured After Starring in Horror Movie

It’s rare that a bank robber makes a career switch and becomes a horror movie actor, but Jason Strange did just that. What he didn’t think through, however, was the fact that a bank robber on the run should try to remain slightly less conspicuous. He was recognized by a U.S. Marshal of the Pacific Northwest Violent Offender Task Force when a picture from the set of the movie, Marla Mae, appeared in a local newspaper. The movie wrapped before Strange was arrested, so his scenes will remain in the movie. In fact, when asked about Strange, producer Brandon Roberts said, “He really nailed the audition.”

For the original article on Mashable.com, click here

Android Devices Vulnerable to Texting Hack

Do you own an Android device? Well, you and 950 million other Android users may be at risk for a new texting hack. Unlike e-mail hacks which require the receiver to actually open the message, this new SMS hack, discovered by research firm Zimperium, requires only that the phone receive the message, for hackers to gain access. What is most troubling about this development is that hackers only need your phone number to exploit this vulnerability. Fortunately, from what Google reports, the hack has not been applied outside the lab, but that does not mean it is not being used elsewhere. New Android updates are available to help address this issue, so make sure to update your phone.

For the original article on Mashable.com, click here

New Smart Window Can Block Heat or Light

Researchers from the University of Texas have developed a new window that can adjust its physical qualities to differentiate between light and heat. Smart windows in the past have been able to block heat from entering a room, but in doing so they also blocked light. The new window can stop heat from getting in on a hot day without forcing the owner to sit in the dark. Another key feature of the window is its ability to change between light- and heat-blocking in a few minutes, as opposed to the hours it takes other smart windows to adjust. With this new technology, smart windows could greatly enhance the energy efficiency of buildings in the future. Although they are not currently available to consumers, these smart windows have been deemed ready for commercial production.

For the original article on Sourceable.net, click here

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Are You and Your Loved One Immunized?

by Cassie August 6, 2015

Safe Immunization Season from My Alarm Center

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, so here’s your friendly reminder: are you and your family up-to-date on your vaccinations?

Of course, vaccines are a year-round kind of thing but this mid-year campaign encourages everyone to check in on their boosters, double-check with their family members, and encourage friends and extended family to get their shots. Here are a few things you should know:

Vaccines: Not Just for Kids

While most families and medical providers are diligent about keeping kids up-to-date on their vaccines, many adults fail or forget to get their boosters. But consider this: every year, thousands of adults in the U.S. fall victim to vaccine-preventable illnesses. The CDC recommends all adults get the flu shot and Td/Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis/whooping cough) vaccines and depending on your age, health and other circumstances, your doctor may also recommend boosters against chickenpox, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, human papillomavirus (HPV), MMR, meningococcal, pneumococcal and shingles.

Want to know which vaccines you need? Take this quiz.

Get Your Flu Shot

It’s the height of summer so it’s easy to forget that flu season is just a few months away. But it is, and it’s important to remember that the flu isn’t just an inconvenience – it can be dangerous and even deadly. Every year, a seasonal flu vaccine is developed to help fight the most virulent influenza strains; the vaccine is recommended for everyone 6+ months, and is especially important for children under 5, pregnant women, seniors 65+, and the immune-compromised (e.g. patients with asthma, diabetes, heart disease, or HIV/AIDS).

Planning to Travel?

A few vaccines – yellow fever, typhoid, rabies, etc. – aren’t part of the U.S. routine vaccination schedule, since certain illnesses are very uncommon with national borders. If you’re planning on traveling abroad, be sure to talk with your physician about extra vaccines you might need (this handy list will also help).

Here’s to a healthy year!

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Weekly Roundup 7.31 Edition

by Cassie July 31, 2015

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New Microsoft Lumias May Feature Iris Scanners

Following the dismissal of nearly 8,000 employees from Microsoft’s phone division, the future of Microsoft’s Lumia devices was unclear. New reports, however, suggest that the tech giant is prepping for two new phones, codenamed Talkman and Cityman, in the Lumia line. These new devices, expected to launch in September at the Berlin tradeshow, are reported to have Qi wireless charging and an infrared iris scanner. While Microsoft is not the first to employ an iris scanner in mobile devices, they still represent a small fraction of tech companies that have moved beyond fingerprint scanners. With such a high profile industry leader adopting this new technology, it’s only a matter of time before other companies follow suit.

For the original article on Mashable.com, click here

Sony Drones for Business

Gone are the days of data collection relying solely on user submitted surveys and on-site observation. Sony’s latest endeavor looks to take surveying to the skies with autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles. These new drones, brought about by Sony’s partnership with the Japanese company ZMP, have image capture and cloud-based data processing capabilities. These are not your standard off-the-shelf drones that allow you to take cool videos for your Facebook page; Sony’s drones will not be on sale to the average consumer. Still, with more uses for drones beyond just warfare being discovered, it’s only a matter of time before the drones available to the public get some cool new capabilities.

For the original article on Mashable.com, click here

15% of Smartphone Apps Can Scam You

Many people are guilty of downloading large amounts of mobile apps that, though rarely used, still cause a tinge of guilt when it comes time to delete them. Maybe purging our phones of unnecessary apps is a little more important than we might have thought. A new study by ad fraud detection firm, Forensiq, has found that 15% of apps can launch operations in the background of your phone even when they aren’t open. These operations not only artificially inflate user numbers of the app, but also drain your battery and use your data without your consent. The purpose of this fraudulent activity is to entice advertisers to pay for ads within the applications, based on an inaccurate perception of the users they will be able to reach. To protect yourself from these hazardous apps, try to avoid apps by lesser-known developers and read app reviews for mentions of excessive data drain.

For the original article on Mashable.com, click here

3 Best Ways to Protect Your Social Security Number from Thieves

With recent news that hackers made off with over 21 million Social Security numbers from the Office of Personnel Management, it’s important to remember to always protect your Social Security Number. Here are some useful tips to help you guard your identity:

  1. Keep the information secure:

- Avoid saving your number in your phone, delete old messages and shred any documents that contain personal information

  1. Keep your account secure

- Make sure to keep close watch on your bank account and always report any suspicious activity

  1. Consider identity protection services:

- For around $10 a month, you can have a reputable company monitor your account and assist you in the event your account is breached

For the original article on Mashable.com, click here

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Home Security Cameras and What Has Been Caught on Tape

by Cassie July 30, 2015

Today’s home security cameras are pretty amazing. They can see hundreds of feet. They can pan and rotate. They’re motion activated. They have night vision. They can connect to WiFi, upload to the cloud, and text you with alerts.

And they can capture some pretty amazing video, too.

You guys, we just can’t even. These videos are hilarious, terrifying and awe-inspiring. And what’s even more incredible is that they were all caught by security cameras. Here are 6 of our favorites:

1. A Thief, Caught in the Act

Just try not to laugh. A man’s home security system catches a woman stealing an Amazon delivery right off his porch. Don’t worry; he gets his revenge.


2. Wind, Rain or Shine… or Hurricane

We may huddle inside during a serious storm, but security cameras are always on duty. This incredible footage captured a boat in North Carolina, torn from its moorings – and then flung skyward – during Hurricane Irene.


3. A Cacophonous Lightening Strike

And speaking of storms, CCTV cameras once again prove to be fearless. This time, a camera catches lightening in the act. Turn down your volume, folks – this one’s going to be loud.


4. Delivery Gone Wrong

We’ll bet you’ve already seen this classic video, which details a UPS deliveryman stealing an iPad. Makes you think about all those items lost in the mail, doesn’t it?


5. Poor Criminal

This one’s funny enough to almost make you feel bad for the would-be burglar. Almost. Watch as a man not only fails at robbing a building society, but can’t find his way back out to escape. Oops.


6. Skirting the Law

A peculiarly skilled criminal in Costa Rica casually walks away with a TV… up her skirt. Despite her slick moves, this security footage was instrumental in catching the thief and her accomplice.


7. Doing What They Do Best

A North Carolina couple originally installed their cameras to check on their pets, but what they caught on video during a holiday vacation was something else entirely: three thieves, who weren’t aware that their faces had been caught on candid camera.



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