Geekly Update - 15 May 2019

Category: Tech-News

Does the newly-discovered Zombieload vulnerability give hackers the key to open the doors to your private information? Is Facebook listening to your every word and using them to target ads? And can you get a new high-end smartphone with an awesome camera for under $150? Get answers in today's Geekly Update -- it's jam-packed with the latest tech news. This issue is guaranteed to make you 146% smarter -- you'll see why. Read, think, and, comment!

The AskBobRankin Geekly Update

FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) is a staple of many tech news sites. Case in point is ZDNET's front-page headline: "Intel CPUs impacted by new Zombieload side-channel attack". The article starts by saying that "a Zombieload attack can effectively break all privacy protections..." but finally admits in a statement from Intel that it's "highly unlikely that Zombieload... would ever be used in a real-world scenario" because "exploiting these vulnerabilities outside of a laboratory environment is extremely complex." Bottom line, nothing to see here, folks. Move along, and keep your operating system up to date.

But in this case, there's no doubt. If you use WhatsApp, you need to update the app immediately. A serious vulnerability in the messaging app allows hackers to remotely inject spyware simply by calling a phone that has WhatsApp installed. The victim doesn't even need to answer the call, and the calls don't show in call logs.

Cyberhackers may want to think hard about finding a new line of work. After detecting the source of a cyber-warfare attack originating from Hamas, the Israeli Defense Force targeted the building with an airstrike. It's the first time that military force has been used against a cyber-warfare enemy.

For several years, rumors have spread that Facebook's mobile app is listening to what you say, and using your speech to display targeted ads. Facebook denies this, and experts who have investigated this claim have found no evidence to support it. But this CNET story says "Facebook doesn't need to listen to you to figure out what you're thinking".

Geekly Update - 05/15/2019

Amazon is definitely listening, though. The company is expanding availability of a new feature which turns Alexa-enabled devices into smart home security devices. Alexa Guard can detect the sound of glass breaking, as well as smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, and send an alert to the owner, or notify a third-party security monitoring service.

The flipside of those always-listening devices is not so comforting. Amazon has admitted that users of their Alexa-powered Echo devices cannot delete text transcriptions of the voice recordings stored on Amazon servers. The company says it is working on a solution.

Android pundits are gushing over the Realme X, an almost-premium phone with specs that challenge similar phones costing 2-3 times as much. The sub-$250 smartphone is only available in China at present, but the combination of specs and price point may signal a welcome downward trend in the cost of mobile phones.

Along those lines, Google's Pixel 3a smartphone, which launched recently at Google's 2019 I/O developer conference, has attracted kudos for its advanced features and low price. The phone retails for $399 but you get $100 to spend at the Google Store, and your price can be as low as $149 with an iPhone or other eligible trade-in. Reviewers especially rave that the Pixel 3a has one of the best cameras you can get on any smartphone.

You've probably heard about "link shorteners" like TinyURL or Bitly that take long, ugly URLs and provide a shortened form that's convenient for sharing in emails or social media postings. Last week, Make My Link Longer launched on Product Hunt to do exactly the opposite -- make URL links longer. Don't ask why.

The US Supreme Court has ruled that a group of iPhone users may pursue an antitrust lawsuit against Apple, alleging that the company unlawfully monopolizes the app market, with its App Store purchase model and policies.

Your thoughts on these topics are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Geekly Update - 15 May 2019"

Posted by:

Jay R
15 May 2019

Because I type text messages on FB, I see no reason that they would need to listen to me. I would suggest that they do listen to me if their life is too exciting or they suffer from insomnia.

Posted by:

15 May 2019

Your link to the Alexa Guard is messed up.

Posted by:

15 May 2019

Thank you for ALL that you do for us, Mr. Rankin.
Oh Gawd! Our daily pacifier has now become the concern of the Supreme Court. Aren't such common rulings normally apportioned to the EU regulators? Unless they have also become too busy sucking on their own pacifiers!

Posted by:

David B
15 May 2019

Hey Bob,

As always, thank you for being there. I have been with you since very early in your tourbus years.

I trust you will share with us when you discover the point of making URL links longer.

God bless!

Posted by:

16 May 2019

@DavidB >> Have you read any of the comments at the provided link? Some are funny.
Seems like a good (temporary) obfuscation technique for a hidden but real link.

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Geekly Update - 15 May 2019 (Posted: 15 May 2019)
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