Parents have to imagine a home with a child inside, and all the windows and doors are open because the toy is opening doors to that child’s home, warns cyber security expert Hemanshu Nigam.
The FBI has issued a warning to American parents that high-tech children’s toys could be spying on them. The bureau posted an advisory on its website detailing the possible safety risks posed to youngsters by Internet-connected toys.
It says smart devices with sensors, cameras, and microphones could all be used to collect and store a child’s personal information.
Adding that they could become vulnerable to exploitation and identity fraud. That could happen if children reveal personal details in conversations with, or near, the toy.
RT spoke to Hemanshu Nigam, founder of SSP Blue, a leading advisory firm for online safety, security and privacy challenges, and asked him about the vulnerabilities of such toys.
RT: How real is this danger, considering the FBI thought it necessary to warn people about high-tech toys? Could you outline the worst case scenario of what could happen?
Hemanshu Nigam: There is an real worst-case scenario here: we are connecting our children to these toys, which are attached to the internet. In that sense, we are exposing them to anyone around the world. It is quite possible for the exploitation type of hacker to get into that toy and listen. Imagine, a child in a normal setting saying to their Teddy Bear that is connected, “Mommy is not home, she went to the grocery store, it is you and me, buddy, we are going to hang out and make some dinner” and things like that when they are playing with their toys. All of a sudden, the hacker knows the child is alone at the house and with the GPS connected to it – they know exactly where that child is alone at the house or is at a babysitter, or they are going on vacation, and where they are going to go so the house is going to be empty. There are all sorts of things that can happen. So, what you have to do is imagine a home with a child inside it and all the windows and the doors are open because of the fact that that toy is opening doors to that child’s home.
RT: What particular types of toys are vulnerable?
HM: There are quite a bit of toys coming out on the market, what people are calling IoT [Internet of Things] and what that means is that it is basically connected to the internet. That is all Internet of Things means, and those toys could be a cooking device or a fake cooking device, but it is connected because it is sending out signals that are going to gather some other connected information like a recipe: download the recipe that you want to try right now. It could be a Teddy Bear or any kind of toy that exists. They are trying to add 21st-century digital technology because that apparently is what people are buying and they are responding to the market demand.
There are privacy issues. And those are very real. I commend the FBI for writing an excellent public service announcement. And to be clear, that is what this is. It is a public service announcement. It is not an issue of an alert, or a threat or an attack or anything like that. Parents should pay very close attention to this public service announcement to protect their privacy, the privacy of their children. And that is true for any internet connected device that is in your house. – Jeffrey Carr, cybersecurity analyst, to RT
RT: What can parents do about it?
HM: One of the greatest things that parents can do is take control of this situation, be the parent you are in the physical world. In the physical world, you make sure anyone does not access your kid, there are locks on the doors, you check the front door and the back door before you go to bed at night. In this particular case, if you have a Wi-Fi or an internet connected device. It cannot work unless there is a connection to the internet: secure that internet, keep it updated, keep running anti-phishing, anti-virus software and make sure your password protecting the wireless routers which many people don’t like doing and they keep it open which means opening the front door.
A total of 3,918 illegal websites were shut down by China’s Internet watchdogs from April to June, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said in a statement Saturday.
The websites included those that published content that jeopardized national security, and those that spread violence, vulgarity or ungrounded rumors, according to the statement.
Up to 316 cases related to illegal websites were handed to judicial organs in the same period, the CAC said.
More than 810,000 illicit cyber accounts were also closed in the second quarter of the year, the statement read.
Moreover, 443 websites were summoned by cyber watchdogs for law-breaking while 172 received warnings, as part of cyber law enforcement that has been highlighted over the months, according to the statement.
Israel’s skin-colour scheme has proved unwelcome to many sectors of the population. For Ethiopians, racism has been the name of the game
GONDAR, Ethiopia – Recently in the northwestern Ethiopian city of Bahir Dar, I had the pleasure of encountering an Israeli tourist who was displeased by the superior fees charged to foreign visitors for entrance to the country’s museums, churches, and other sites. Ethiopian citizens pay much less.
Never mind that the per capita annual income in Ethiopia – $550 according to the World Bank’s last calculation – is less than the price of the average round-trip ticket from Tel Aviv to Addis Ababa.
According to the Israeli, the disparity in entrance fees was tantamount to “racism” – a curious choice of vocabulary, no doubt, for a white person hailing from a state that has racism rather down to an art, and even more curious in the context of Ethiopia in particular.
The Ethiopian community in Israel at present numbers about 135,000 people. The arrival of Ethiopian Jews to the Jewish state began in the 1970s, when, as a BBC article notes, “the Israeli secret service Mossad organised their immigration through refugee camps in Sudan,” where they were fleeing war, famine and persecution. In the 1980s and ’90s, the Israeli military staged two major covert airlift operations, dubbed “Operation Moses” and “Operation Solomon” respectively. After that, migration continued in slightly less dramatic form.
While the influx of Ethiopian Jews may have assisted numerically in establishing Israel as the official homeland for Jews worldwide, thereby counteracting rightful Palestinian claims to the area, the resulting skin-colour scheme has proved unwelcome to many sectors of the Israeli population.
For Ethiopians in Israel, racism and discrimination have been the name of the game. Obstacles to a reasonably gratifying existence have included curtailed educational and employment opportunities, with many children forced into what has in recent years often amounted to a segregated school system. A March 2016 article in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported that, “among [Israeli] children finishing 12th grade in 2013 and taking exams, only 26 percent of students of Ethiopian origin achieved matriculation results enabling acceptance to university, compared with 52 percent of the general population”.
Fifty-two, it turns out, is a bit of a recurring number. In 2013, the same paper reported that “nearly 52 percent of Ethiopian-immigrant families [in Israel] are below the poverty line”. As would be expected, unemployment rates for Ethiopian Jews are higher and wages are lower.
Meanwhile, practices aimed at the societal exclusion of dark-skinned Jews have reportedly ranged from decisions by certain landlords not to rent properties to Ethiopian-Israeli families to a recurring denial of marriage licenses to Ethiopian-Israelis in the central Israeli city of Petah Tikva.
When Magen David Adom, Israel’s emergency medical service and blood bank, refused in 2013 to accept a blood donation from Ethiopian-born Israeli parliamentarian Pnina Tamano-Shata, the Israeli Ynetnews website noted that “[t]he staff then told her that she could donate blood, but her donation would be frozen, not used”.
Tamano-Shata, it bears mentioning, is a veteran of the Israeli military. Apparently, Ethiopians can bleed for Israel in combat but not for humanitarian purposes.
There are, however, other ways to extract blood. Of the many instances of Israeli police brutality against the Ethiopian community, last year’s beating by policemen of an Ethiopian Israeli soldier triggered street protests, to which police responded with stun grenades, water cannon and other harmful material.
Recently in Jerusalem, Ethiopians were once again seen protesting, this time against the Israeli government’s decision to cancel its plan to allow more than 9,000 Ethiopian Falash Mura to immigrate to Israel. The descendants of Jewish Ethiopians who converted to Christianity, the members of this particular group of Falash Mura were meant to reunite with family members already in Israel.
Indeed, the initial authorisation of the sizable migration may have come as a surprise to those acquainted with the Israeli medical tradition of forcibly administering contraceptive drugs to Ethiopian women, one by-product of which has been, obviously, to limit the size of the population in question.
Of course, the state of Israel has long been known for its adeptness at population control; just Google its attacks on the Gaza Strip. Which brings us to a subject that just might render the situation of Ethiopian Jews in Israel somewhat less than black and white: the Palestinians.
For even were the Ethiopians to miraculously attain equal rights in Israel, it wouldn’t change the fact that the state itself is predicated on the permanent denial of rights of the original inhabitants of the land, who have instead been treated to policies of ethnic cleansing. Incidentally, this very same incriminating term has also been invoked by Israeli-Canadian journalist David Sheen to describe Israel’s current policy vis-a-vis non-Jewish African refugees.
According to the British Independent, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2012 “warned that illegal immigrants from Africa ‘threaten our existence as a Jewish and democratic state’”. But you can’t threaten something that doesn’t exist in the first place.
CHONGQING, July 24 (Xinhua) — Paying for your groceries by scanning a QR code on your smart phone is a perfectly normal thing to do in China today.
As cold hard cash vanishes into the mists of time, it seems that the cashiers are about to evaporate too.
Over the weekend, Yiqi Shan, a cashier-free store in southwest China’s Chongqing metropolis, registered its 1,800th sale, two weeks after opening.
The 24-hour convenience store is on the first floor of an office building in an industrial park. It offers various beverages, fast food and snacks in a space of just 12 square meters.
First-time customers sign up by scanning a QR code at the entrance, choosing a password, registering their phone number and submitting a selfie. They are then admitted through a ticket gate similar to those at subway stations.
Scanning bar codes is hardly a highly skilled job and customers – honest customers – can do it just as well as any cashier. When the subsequent mobile payment is complete, another QR code is generated which allows the customer through the ticket gate and out of the store.
Deng Jie, deputy director of the company that owns the store, described three measures that have been taken to prevent shoplifting. First, the customer’s selfie is compared with the Public Security Bureau’s national ID database.
Second, every corner of the store comes under the steely gaze of surveillance devices that never sleep.
Third, if a customer somehow manages to escape from the store without paying, he or she receives a friendly reminder by text message requesting payment. If the warning is ignored, the customers is banned from the store and a black mark added to his or her personal credit record.
“The cashier-free store is the result of the coming together of new technology and consumer demand,” Deng said. Her technical team worked on the app for over three years with 300,000 yuan (44,000 U.S. dollars) poured into the project.
Venture capitalists believe cashier-free stores could be “the next big thing,” and Deng’s company plans to open 25 more this year in various parts of the country, with 200 franchised stores in Chongqing.
Earlier this month, Alibaba opened its first brick and mortar store “Tao Cafe” in the company’s hometown, Hangzhou, capital of east China’s Zhejiang Province. A long queue of curious customers soon formed.
In Shanghai, cashier-free stores are already a part of the landscape. BingoBox Minimarkets, 15-square-meter box, have been installed in many residential communities.
Customers open the door by scanning a QR code, select fresh fruit and daily necessities and check out by e-payment, pretty much a clone of the Yiqi Shan system. There will be 5,000 BingoBoxes in place by the end of August, according to the company website.
The focus of the retail industry is shifting from price to customer experience.
“‘Restructuring’ could become a key word for retail,” said Zhang Yong, CEO of Alibaba. “The flow of production, relationships between sellers and customers, and the shopping experience will be revolutionized to the extent that every customer is identified, understood and served.”
In a bid to solve the international famine problem, scientists in Finland have managed to produce protein using unorthodox methods. The first batch of protein produced using electricity and carbon dioxide is expected to become a forerunner for future hunger relief solutions.
The new revolutionary method, which is a collaboration between the Lappeenranta University of Technology and the Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) makes it possible to generate the nutrient virtually anywhere energy is available, which is projected to become a sustainable solution to famine and the earth’s environmental problems. Additionally, the electricity-generated protein could also be used as animal feed, which would help release cropland for forestry, Finnish national broadcaster Yle reported.
“All the ingredients are practically taken from the air. Therefore, this technology can in the future be used in, say, deserts or other areas where there is a food shortage. Another alternative could be a kind of household appliance that allows consumers to produce protein for their own needs,” leading VTT researcher Juha-Pekka Pitkänen told the Finnish daily Hufvudstadsbladet.
Furthermore, the research team estimated that energy from the sun can be used up to 10 times more efficiently than it is at present. Today’s protein-producing processes rely primarily on photosynthesis in plants, such as soybeans. According to Pitkänen, the Finnish method is a more direct path to the sun’s power compared with photosynthesis. As a rule, single-cell organisms are predominantly protein and 20 percent carbohydrates.
According to Lappeenranta Technology University professor Jero Ahola, the new production method does not require specific conditions with an exact temperature, humidity or soil type. Additionally, it could potentially become completely automatized.
“It requires no pest-control substance, and it allows us to avoid environmental footprint, such as leaks into water systems or the formation of powerful greenhouse gases,” Jero Ahola said.
At present, the main obstacle is the relatively slow production rate, which has to be sped up for the product to become more competitive. Today, the production of 1 gram of protein takes around two weeks.
According to Pitkänen, the ultimate goal is to establish a container-sized facility than can produce up to five kilos of single-celled protein a day. It will take be another two to three years before the new unit is up and running, Pitkänen argued. Then, the plan is to scale up by constructing more containers and increasing the size of the reactors. Hopefully, the project will reach its full commercial potential in 10 years.
The joint Food from Electricity study is part of the wide-ranging Neo-Carbon Energy research project in Finland that seeks to develop a completely renewable and emission-free energy system. The study is funded by the Academy of Finland and will run for four years.
Bolivia’s President Evo Morales has been in office since 2005 | Photo: Reuters
Since 2006, a year after Morales came to power, social spending on health, education, and poverty programs has increased by over 45 percent.
Bolivia’s President Evo Morales has been highlighting his government’s independence from international money lending organizations and their detrimental impact the nation.
“A day like today in 1944 ended Bretton Woods Economic Conference (USA), in which the IMF and WB were established,” Morales tweeted. “These organizations dictated the economic fate of Bolivia and the world. Today we can say that we have total independence of them.”
Bolivia’s popular uprising known as the The Cochabamba Water War in 2000 against United States-based Bechtel Corporation over water privatization and the associated World Bank policies shed light on some of the debt issues facing the region.
“The Bank and the IMF have been requiring these countries (in the Global South) to accept “structural adjustment,” which includes opening markets to foreign firms and privatizing state enterprises, including utilities,” the New Yorker reported.
At the time, the World Bank had stated, “Poor governments are often too plagued by local corruption and too ill equipped” and “no subsidies should be given to ameliorate the increase in water tariffs in Cochabamba.”
The New Yorker, reported, “Most of the poorest neighborhoods were not hooked up to the network, so state subsidies to the water utility went mainly to industries and middle-class neighborhoods; the poor paid far more for water of dubious purity from trucks and handcarts. In the World Bank’s view, it was a city that was crying out for water privatization.”
Some of Bolivia’s largest resistance struggles in the last 60 years have targeted the economic policies carried out by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
Most of the protests focused on opposing privatization policies and austerity measures, including cuts to public services, privatization decrees, wage reductions, as well the weakening of labor rights.
Since 2006, a year after Morales came to power, social spending on health, education, and poverty programs has increased by over 45 percent.