The Horrifying Vtech Hack Let Someone Download Thousands of Photos of Children

Adam Clark Estes

The latest details about a recent security breach at a kids’ toy company are in, and they are disturbing. A couple weeks ago, hackers successfully broke into the servers of connected toy maker Vtech and stole the personal information of nearly 5 million parents and over 200,000 kids. What we didn’t know until now: The hackers stole pictures of kids, too.

This is very bad. The hacker’s identity is still unknown, but he’s been updating Motherboard with details about the hack. When the story broke a couple days ago, the site reported that the hacker broke into Vtech’s servers and stole the names, emails, passwords, download histories, and home addresses of 4,833,678 parents who bought the company’s devices. The massive batch of data also contained the first names, genders, and birthdays of over 200,000 children. Motherboard’s Lorenzo Francheschi-Bicchierai identified the hack as “the fourth largest consumer data breach to date.”

Continue reading

Google plants Star Wars Easter egg

Google “a long time ago in a galaxy far far away,” and you’ll see one of the better jokes that Google has hidden in its search code.

Instead of the usual Google (GOOG) list of blue-fonted links against a sterile white background, the search term from the famous opening movie line summons a “Star Wars” style opening crawl, with the yellow-fonted links receding into space. Continue reading

Who’s minding the marijuana? Banned pesticide found in Colorado testing

(CNN)It’s been nearly two years since recreational pot was legalized in Colorado and the thriving pot industry has hit some hurdles in the form of potential dangers to consumers.

Pesticides that are illegal to use on marijuana plants in Colorado are being found in some recreational and medical pot products being marketed and sold to the public — leading to product recalls, plant quarantines and even a class-action lawsuit involving people who say they would not have inhaled the product had they known illegal pesticides were used on them.

Continue reading

The secret hackers trying to bring down ISIS

In July, a threat emerged from an ISIS-associated Twitter account with few followers. The account alluded to an upcoming terror attack at a beach resort in Tunisia. Just a month before, a similar attack left 38 dead.

It may have gone undetected if it weren’t for a rogue hacker group called Ghost Security Group.

Continue reading

Why the Bloomingdale’s Ad Was an Inexcusable Marketing Mistake

In a recent Christmas advertisement, Bloomingdale’s startled the world and sparked a slew of complaints on social media.

A woman is laughing, with her head tossed back at a holiday party. The man on her right, however, is strategizing, and even has a creepy look on his face. The caption?

“Spike your best friend’s eggnog when they’re not looking.”

As a direct-response marketing copywriter, my first response was, “Who the HECK allowed this to be green-lighted?” Any project of this size has to go through four to six people to even go to print. So I’m wondering where the managers were on this case. I’m wondering where anyone was.


Continue reading

Bitcoins: What are they, and how do they work?

Bitcoin is one of the first attempts to create a real-world currency with no governments, no central banks, and no rules

It started, and ended, with a click. With one touch of a mouse, a hacker managed to transfer 25,000 credits of online currency – then worth almost $500,000 dollars – to his own account. The transfer is visible on a public register; the original owner has publicised his plight online, but to no avail – the money is gone.

This hack, which happened in June 2011, was the first major online heist for Bitcoins, one of the world’s newest currencies, and the subsequent panic left many casual users reeling.

Continue reading

With Congress on break, SOPA fight continues

Members of Congress may be on vacation, but that hasn’t calmed critics who say an effort to stamp out online piracy would create an unprecedented threat to free speech on the Internet.

Far from fading from memory, the Stop Online Piracy Act (along with a related Senate bill) has become a rallying point for Web freedom advocates in a debate that has pitted Hollywood and other business interests against some of the biggest titans of the technology world.

Continue reading

App Downloads Break The 1bn Download Barrier Over Christmas

More than 1 billion mobile apps have been downloaded in a week for the first time.

The gargantuan download marathon was noted in analysis by mobile research firm Flurry.

Flurry estimated that in the seven days after 25 December more than 20 million iOS and Android devices were activated, and 1.2 billion apps were downloaded.

The record-breaking haul was completed in the week when more mobile devices were activated than at any other time of the year – most thanks to gifts given over the holidays.

Continue reading

Scott Thompson Named New Yahoo CEO

NEW YORK — Yahoo Inc. has named Scott Thompson, president of eBay Inc.’s PayPal division, as its new CEO, the fourth one in less than five years for the struggling Internet company.

Yahoo, which announced its choice Wednesday, has been without a permanent CEO since early September. It fired Carol

Continue reading

Chinese hackers target U.S. Chamber of Commerce, report says

The United States Chamber of Commerce, the country’s largest business-lobbying organization, was hacked by Chinese hackers, the Wall Street Journal is reporting, citing sources.

Although details are scant, it appears that the hackers had access to the Chamber’s network for over a year before they were cleared out in May 2010, the Journal’s sources say. The hackers stole six weeks of e-mail from four Chamber employees who were focusing their time on Asia, and could have gained access to all

Continue reading

Adobe caves in to Apple — fewer blank spots on i-devices?

(CNN) — For decades — dating back to the 1980s — Apple and Adobe Systems have had a deeply troubled relationship. The most recent phase of their ongoing struggle has been over whether Flash (Adobe’s hugely popular proprietary format for adding animation, video, and interactivity to web pages) would run on Apple mobile devices.

Apple has always resisted putting Flash on the iPhone, because Flash has performed notoriously poorly on Macintosh computers.

Continue reading

Google’s Marissa Mayer Says Location Is Everything

Marissa Mayer is one of the most powerful women in tech. As Vice President of consumer products at Google, she’s the gatekeeper for all of the company’s new features and applications. She’s also one of the company’s most public faces, frequently appearing in media interviews and at events like South By Southwest.

This year, Mayer gave one of the featured keynote presentations at SxSW, speaking to a packed crowd at the Austin Convention Center in  a session called “Location, Location, Location.”

At the beginning of her address, Mayer asked the crowd to raise their hands if they’ve accessed maps on their phone today. Almost everyone did –evidence, Mayer says, that Google should be paying lots of attention to location technologies.

Continue reading

Pandora Eyes Global Market, Talk Radio

Pandora founder Tim Westergren envisions having news, weather and sports radio catering to local events.

By Mark Milian, CNN
(CNN) — Pandora is making some noise about its future plans.

Pandora Media aims to eventually expand its internet radio service to other countries and move into areas beyond music, such as news, talk and sports.

The long-term goals, along with illuminating details about the company’s financials and adoption rates, were outlined in a proposal for an initial public offering filed on Friday.

Continue reading

The 6 Biggest Stories in Tech, Social Media & Mobile This Morning

Welcome to this morning’s edition of “First To Know,” a series in which we keep you in the know on what’s happening in the digital world. We’re keeping our eyes on six particular stories of interest today.

Google Unveils Android Honeycomb

Google gathered press at its headquarters to officially unveil Android Honeycomb, the first Android OS designed specifically for tablets, on Wednesday. Among other things, the software enables users to encrypt all data on their tablets and protect them with passwords, a critical feature for business users.

Verizon iPhone Pre-Orders Begin

Existing Verizon customers can now place pre-orders for a Verizon iPhone.

WikiLeaks Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

A member of the Parliament of Norway says he has nominated WikiLeaks for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize.

Continue reading

Google catches Microsoft with pants down, copying search results

By Loz Blain

Google doesn’t have a lot of competition in the search world – it rose from obscurity in the late 1990s to its current position of utter dominance on the back of its clever results ranking algorithm; Google is the megalithic entity it is today, because for the last decade people have chosen its results over MSN, Yahoo and other search options. And now it seems Microsoft’s new(ish) search competitor, Bing, is copying Google results in order to make its own search results better. In an embarrassing sting operation, Google claims it has proven that Bing is taking Google search results and displaying them as if they’re coming from the Bing engine – and you’d have to imagine the guys at Google are absolutely delighted.

Search team engineers at Google have proven that Microsoft’s Bing is watching what people search for at Google, then altering its search results to match Google’s.

Google engineers had suspected for some time that Bing was looking over their shoulders – competitive analysis has shown an increasing number of top-10 Google search hits appearing in the Bing top 10, including a very noticeable correlation in #1 hits, but this could be explained away if Bing was operating on a similar search algorithm to Google.

Web search algorithms are incredibly complex. Not only do search engines have to find relevant results based on keyword searches, they also have to filter out spam sites designed to take advantage of search engine traffic, rank how influential and authoritative each result is, and perform a thousand other tweaks to help users get what they’re looking for.

One thing Google prides itself on is its ability to correct misspellings in the search box and return valid results for the correctly spelled search term – both for common misspellings and for others that have never been made yet. Type “Gimzag” into Google and straight away you’ll receive search results for Gizmag.

And it’s this ability to correct for misspellings, and Bing’s seeming ability to bring up the same answers not long afterward, that finally gave Google a place to strike.

The sting setup

Google engineers created around 100 bizarre search terms that it reasoned would never be used in an actual search – things like “hiybbprqag” and “mbzrxpgjys” – and wrote some sneaky manual code that pointed these search terms at particular pages.

The search terms didn’t appear anywhere on the results pages, so there was nothing but Google’s own search results to link these terms with the pages they brought up. So if these results started showing up on Bing, Microsoft would be caught red-handed stealing search results.

The Google engineers then went home, and booted up Internet Explorer with the Bing toolbar installed. They went to and started searching for the list of false search terms, and clicking on the results they’d planted.

By Loz Blain