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.”

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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

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.

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A new video shows Anonymous declaring its ‘biggest operation ever’ against ISIS

Anonymous has declared “war” on ISIS in response to the attacks in Paris that left more than 100 people dead.

Members of the online collective have posted a video. It continues the group’s work against ISIS, which began strongly after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January.

In a video posted soon after the attacks, a person claiming to represent the group warns members of Islamic State that it intended to hunt them down. It said it would “unite humanity” in the operation, which it said would use hacking to weaken the group.

“Anonymous from all over the world will hunt you down,” said the voice in the video, which included footage of the group’s ubiquitous Guy Fawkes mask and was in French. “You should know that we will find you and we will not let you go.

“We will launch the biggest operation ever against you.

“Expect massive cyberattacks. War is declared. Get prepared.

“The French people are stronger than you and will come out of this atrocity even stronger.”

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Warp drive looks more promising than ever in recent NASA studies

spaceship Interstellar-Distances

“Interstellar travel may still be in its infancy, but adulthood is fast approaching, and our descendants will someday see childhood’s end.” The Starflight Handbook

The first steps towards interstellar travel have been taken, but the stars are very far away. Voyager 1 is about 17 light-hours distant from Earth and is traveling with a velocity of 0.006 percent of light speed, meaning it will take about 17,000 years to travel one light-year. Fortunately, the elusive “warp drive” now appears to be evolving past difficulties with new theoretical advances and a NASA test rig under development to measure artificially generated warping of space-time.

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Alibaba Posts Strong Earnings in First Report Since I.P.O.

HONG KONG — Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce behemoth, reported on Tuesday a jump in profit in its first earnings announcement since its initial public offering in September.

Shrugging off a slowdown in the Chinese economy, Alibaba’s profit grew 16 percent from the same period a year earlier as the company’s sites benefited from the growing number of Chinese turning to the Internet to shop.

Shares in the company, China’s largest e-commerce retailer by transactions, have risen about 50 percent since it raised nearly $21.8 billion in the highly anticipated initial stock sale.

In a sign of the growing power of Chinese Internet companies, the listing surpassed the offering of Facebook, the American social media giant. Now with a market value of almost $250 billion, Alibaba is worth more than Facebook.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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‘The Sims’ designer creating new game for real life

Will Wright, the designer behind successful video game simulations including “SimCity”, “The Sims” and “Spore”, is at it again. Only this time, rather than controlling virtual people or creating space creatures, the protagonist of “HiveMind” is the actual player.

RALEIGH, North Carolina | Mon Jan 2, 2012 11:09pm IST

“HiveMind,” a group of cross-platform, cross-media online applications, is designed to turn a gamer’s everyday life into part of the interactive experience by building upon Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) and tapping into streams of personal information on phones, tablets, social networks and computers.

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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

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IBM: Mind reading is less than five years away. For real.

The world is changing fast–maybe faster than we ever thought. And within five years, science fiction is going to turn into non-fiction. We’ll be able to read each other’s minds, forget all our passwords, and create all our own  homes’ energy.

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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.

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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.

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Charlie Sheen: How Many People Applied for His Social Media Internship?

Charlie Sheen broke yet another record on Twitter.  The response to a simple March 7th Tweet by the former Two and a Half Men star requesting a social media intern is being called “historic” by the company hosting the ad,

In one hour, 95,333 wannabee interns or simply those fascinated by Sheen’s request, clicked through the Tweet and were then asked to apply online.

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Google’s code change shifts billions from losers to winners

NEW YORK– Google’s recent change to its search algorithm has dramatically shaken up the businesses of websites that moved up or down its search rankings. Sites whose rankings rose to the top found that their traffic and revenue soared — but the adjustment had an equally devastating effect on those that were dropped.

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The 1100 bhp Koenigsegg Agera R – with the world’s fastest roof box

Christian von Koenigsegg has once again created a hypercar of the highest order – the new Agera R features so much innovation that we’re not going to even attempt to squeeze it all into the introductory paragraph. The 5 liter, V8 bi-turbo engine is the lightest and most compact hypercar engine in the world, and produces 1100 hp on E85 bio fuel with peak torque of 1200 Nm spread over over a 3300 rpm rev range. It’s most notable feature though, is a Thule Roof Box which ensures you can take all your gear as well as having a show car with the standard roof when you get there.

Okay, so on regular 95 octane fuel it only has 910 hp which means you can still drive it anywhere, as the power spread with standard juice still offers more than 1000 Nm of torque from 2860 rpm to 6170 rpm – that’s Bugatti Veyron territory.

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The smartphone changed my life. This hyper-constructed, relentless little piece of plastic will forever manipulate my daily habits. Thanks to my Blackberry, I feel the constant need to have my e-mails and the web at my fingertips. Good or bad, I’m addicted and there’s no turning back.

In a few weeks, I will be unlocked from a two-year cell phone contract and will no longer be confined behind the bars of my Blackberry. Don’t get me wrong, my basic, and somewhat beat up Blackberry served me well, but I feel as if I only dipped my toes in the capabilities of smartphones. With the recent buzz around Google’s Android platform and Apple’s iPhone 4 now available on Verizon, I think I’m ready for some change.

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Apple to unveil new iPad on March 2

(CNN) — It’s pretty much official: After months of anticipation, Apple on Wednesday sent out invitations to a March 2 press event where the company is expected to unveil the new version of its                                                                                                            iPad tablet computer.

The invite, e-mailed to members of the news media at about 11 a.m. ET, features a picture of an iPad-shaped device with a giant “2” in the center, seemingly a sly reference to the date of the San Francisco event and also to the device’s rumored name: “iPad 2.”

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Why Thunderbolt is so important for the MacBook Pro

ThunderboltI’ve had plenty to say about Apple’s bizarre, pro user-hostile MacBook Pro I/O roadmap over the years (witness the shock removal of FireWire 400 in late 2008 and the removal of ExpressCard from the 15″ in 2009) so it’s incredibly refreshing to write about the inclusion of Thunderbolt, a decidedly “Pro” I/O interface with seemingly no downside, in the latest refresh.

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Smart breaks out Forspeed concept ahead of Geneva Motor Show

A World War I issue flying cap and goggles might be standard equipment if smart‘s latest concept offering ever makes it to the showroom floor. The smart forspeed dispenses with a roof, adds in a bunch of intelligent electricity-saving features and offers an open-air driving experience coupled with the silence of a not-so-modest electric drive souped up and borrowed from the smart fortwo electric drive. Interestingly, it’s essentially an electric version of the smart Crossblade Limited Edition, which singer Robbie Williams championed back in 2002.

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Apple updates MacBook Pro family, Thunderbolt arrives

As predicted, Apple today revealed the details of its five new MacBook Pro updates – although the actual details are a little different to the rumors preceding the official announcement. The new line is said to be up to twice as fast as the previous generation, thanks to the inclusion of next generation quad and dual core processors and high performance graphics. A new FaceTime HD camera with three times the resolution previously offered and the high performance Thunderbolt (read LightSpeed) I/O technology are also included.

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Keyboard that uses sonar to protect sensitive data

While the simple act of logging off a workstation is an obvious way to protect sensitive data – like that used by healthcare providers, pharmacies, banks and government agencies – it is all too easy for users to forget and leave the data not only viewable, but also editable by anyone who happens to pass by. Custom keyboard supplier Key Source International (KSI) has developed a keyboard that does the remembering for you, logging out as soon as the user physically leaves the keyboard.

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Researchers develop device that remotely explodes IEDs using electromagnetic energy

Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) have attracted a lot of attention as a result of their use in Iraq and Afghanistan, but IEDs are used by guerillas and terrorist groups in many parts of the world, including Colombia. Being sensitive to the problem of IEDs, two Colombian doctoral students from the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) set about looking for a way to explode such devices at a distance. In collaboration with two Colombian Universities the EPFL students developed a device that can explode IEDs remotely by using energy from their electromagnetic impulses.

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Solowheel: self-balancing last mile transport for the upstanding commuter

The fat wheeled eniCycle, the stylish and graceful U3 from Honda or the slightly scary prospect of the UnoMoto have all shared more in common than being one-wheeled, self-balancing personal transport solutions. They’ve all had somewhere for the user to sit. Inventist’s Solowheel is a little different – you ride this electric unicycle standing upright, like a Segway or skateboard. It has a useful carry handle and fold-away foot platforms, is gyro-stabilized and the Li-ion batteries offer a range of about 12 miles between charges.

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Rolls-Royce set to show Experimental Electric Vehicle for the ultra-luxury segment

Rolls-Royce, one of the most enduring brands of automotive excellence, is developing a fully electric Phantom. The 102EX experimental vehicle will be shown in Geneva on March 1, and will tour Europe, the Middle East, Asia and North America this year to evaluate the opinions of its key stakeholders. The brand is launching a special web site which will be used to deliver information about the vehicle, the tour and to elicit stakeholder response.

The official Rolls-Royce press release:

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Confirms Electric Test Vehicle Project

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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.

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Latest PS3 Firmware 3.56 Already Hacked and Jailbroken in Less Than a Day

Although the new firmware 3.56 for PlayStation 3 is here, Sony has been proven the fact that it doesn’t take long for the hacking community to break it. In fact, it took less than 24 hours for hackers to break the latest firmware and obtain the security keys. The one behind this hack is an infamous Wii hacker, Youness Alaoui, also known as KaKaRoToKS, and so far, no charges have been pressed against him.

As you know, 3.56 brings a minor update that adds a security patch, and it also features a new encryption key that is capable of wiping out all current homebrew functionality. Due to this, owners of a jailbroken 3.55 PS3 are advised to skip the latest firmware update.

Read more: Latest PS3 firmware 3.56 already hacked and jailbroken in less than a day | GadgetLite – Latest gadgets and technology news
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Consumer holographic TV creeps closer to reality

Despite a relatively tepid consumer take-up, the buzz surrounding 3D television is still quite intense. But even the viewing improvements offered by stereoscopic technology may pale by comparison to the holographic goings-on at MIT. Researchers are taking the first steps toward making holographic technology a reality for consumers. Using primarily off-the-shelf components, the team has managed to capture, transmit and display a holographic subject on-the-fly.

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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

Google’s Art Project is Street View for the World’s Greatest Art Museums

Google’s Street View technology lets you stroll faraway boulevards and take in the architecture of distant cities. Now it will let you wander some of the world’s great art galleries, sampling a smattering of the world’s most popular artworks in super high-res.

Google Art Project has rolled the same tech it employs in its famous Street View cars through 17 famous museums including London’s National Gallery, Florence’s Uffizi Gallery, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, gathering 360-degree navigable imagery that lets users take a virtual walk through some of the world’s great art institutions. Missed the State Tretyakov Gallery last time you were passing through Moscow? No sweat.

The Art Project doesn’t allow you to tour all the museums in their entirety—that’s for paying patrons—but using a pared down Street View car known as “the trolley,” the mapped more than 385 rooms across the 17 galleries, collectively representing thousands of works. Many works have been individually imaged, allowing for a better resolution examination of individual works that allows users to zoom around a canvas.

Moreover, each gallery selected one work to image with extremely high-resolution “gigapixel” tech, allowing users to zoom in on features and details not even visible to the human eye (it’s a very Ferris-Bueller-at-the-Art-Institute-of-Chicago kind of experience). Indulge your cultured sidehere or check out the visitor’s guide below.


Japan Teams Up With Fishing Net Maker To Haul In A Catch of Space Debris

Space Junk An artist’s impression of space debris in low-Earth orbit. The U.S. government wants a better surveillance system to keep track of the thousands of space junk pieces. ESA

The proliferation of space debris surrounding our planet isn’t just a theoretical problem–flying extraterrestrial garbage can cause damage to satellites, manned and unmanned space missions, and even the International Space Station. So we’ve seen quite a few proposed solutions already, but this is one of the best: Japan’s space agency is partnering with a leading Japanese fishing net company to create a high-tech space net to capture all that unwelcome detritus above us.

JAXA, Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency, is collaborating with Nitto Seimo Co, a fishing net manufacturer responsible for the first strong knot-less net, on a very special kind of net. This one will be made of super strong 1mm triple-layered threads, which when extended will span several kilometers of space. The net will be launched with a satellite, and when detached, will begin orbiting Earth, collecting the miscellaneous engine parts, particles, and abandoned satellites that litter that region.

The Ways Science Is Fighting Snow

Geoengineering: Controlling the Weather Before It Starts

The Chinese and Russian governments have decided, with considerable chutzpah, to fall victim to harsh, snowy winters no longer. They’re not just figuring out new ways of removing the snow once it falls–they want to control the precipitation before it starts. In Beijing and Moscow, that means turning to cloud seeding, a technique in which planes spray clouds with various substances (silver iodide in China, a mix of cement powder, dry ice, and silver iodide in Russia) to cause water vapor to crystallize at different temperatures than it normally would.

The effectiveness of cloud seeding is slightly dubious–some experts cite a change in precipitation of only 20% at most–but it’s promising enough that the Chinese and Russian governments would attempt to use it in completely opposite ways. In Russia, the government seeks to limit precipitation: former Mayor Yury Luzhkov attempted to spray clouds in order to eliminate snow within his city’s limits. But in Beijing, a city suffering from a decade-long drought, cloud seeding was intended to spur precipitation, rather than prevent it–though Beijing residents don’t seem to thrilled at the prospect of crazy amounts of artificially induced snow.

British Airports Get First Holographic Helpers

Two UK airports have become the first in the world to introduce holographic announcers.

By Juliet Turner 3:09PM GMT 01 Feb 2011

Passengers at Manchester and London Luton airports will both be greeted by holographic staff from this week in a bid to reduce security bag check queues.

Recordings of actual employees John Walsh and Julie Capper have been appearing to travellers entering the security search area at Manchester’s Terminal 1 since Friday. The pair explain the liquid restrictions and remind passengers to have their boarding cards ready.

Dubbed “John” and “Julie”, the images were created by the same company which brought the chart-topping animated band Gorillaz to life on stage.

The new technology, developed with Musion, was launched as a world first by the airport’s bosses last week, only for Luton to unveil their own holographic announcers just days later.

“Holly” and “Graham” were introduced on Tuesday and were custom designed for Luton by Tensator, a British company that specialises in queue management and digital signage.

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