David Kirkpatrick

March 10, 2010

The barcode as bulletin board

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:16 pm

Via KurzweilAI.net — Interesting idea, but boy does this seem ripe for abuse. Imagine a bored fourteen-year-old boy armed with an Android phone and this app left alone in a grocery store. Video message pron anyone? Or malware compromised webpage for that matter.

The Secret Lives Of Objects: StickyBits Turn Barcodes Into Personal Message Boards
TechCrunch, Mar. 8, 2010

Stickybits, a new iPhone and Android app that lets you scan any barcode and attach a geo-tagged message to that physical object, has been launched by Stickybits.

The barcode in a greeting card, for instance, could trigger a video message from the sender. One on a box of medical supplies could inventory what is inside. A business card with a code on it could link to a resume or LinkedIn profile.

The app lets you follow people and see their object stream, or get notified whenever one of your objects is scanned, moved, or new bits are attached to them.

Stickybits is similar to science-fiction author Bruce Sterling’s concept of “Spimes.”
Read Original Article>>

March 5, 2010

Detecting malware on mobile devices

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:01 am

Malware and other dark computer arts will become a problem for smartphones and other mobile devices. It’s definitely a matter of when, and not if. This idea to combat the problem seems pretty ingenious. The solution involves checking the device’s RAM for usage or anomalies that expose the presence of  malware.

From the link:

Yesterday at the RSA Conference in San Francisco, a researcher presented a new way to detect malware on mobile devices. He says it can catch even unknown pests and can protect a device without draining its battery or taking up too much processing power.

Experts agree that malware is coming to smart phones, and researchers have begun to identify ways to protect devices from malicious software. But traditional ways of protecting desktops against threats don’t translate well to smart phones, says Markus Jakobsson, a principal scientist at Xerox PARC and the person behind the new malware detection technology. He is also the founder of FatSkunk, which will market malware-detection software based on the research.

Most antivirus software works behind the scenes, comparing new files to an enormous library of virus signatures. Mobile devices lack the processing power to scan for large numbers of signatures, Jakobsson says. Continual scanning also drains batteries. His approach relies on having a central server monitor a device’s memory for signs that it’s been infected, rather than looking for specific software.

December 28, 2009

Tech threats v.2010 — scareware and smartphone exploits

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:51 pm

All the usual suspects — phishing, trojan virii, et.al. — will be around, but the proliferation of smartphones make that device a very enticing target for cybercriminals, and fake anitvirus scareware looks like a growth industry of sorts.

Smartphone security is going to be a major issue, particularly as mobile devices take over sensitive data functions, such as access to personal bank accounts, from larger, and hopefully quite secure, platforms like desktop and laptop computers.

As always, it’s a good idea to take a bit of time to understand the threats out there for any device you use and make sure to implement appropriate security measures for that device. The bad guys aren’t going away, they’re just adapting to the changing technology world.

From the link:

Another accelerating security trend is the wave of criminals selling rogue antivirus software. Fake antivirus software is often called “scareware,” since frightening the PC owner is often part of the scam. Rogue antivirus, which Symantec counts as a top threat going into 2010, is not only thriving, but criminals selling it are starting to display new tricks.

November 21, 2009

Mobile phones and driving just don’t mix

Even “hands-free” cell phone use. I’ve written on this exact topic for an insurance website and cited the same studies referenced in this article. I’m not even going to comment on the inanity of doing any sort of texting while driving — sending or receiving — but anyone who has ever spoken on a cell phone when driving (a group that includes pretty much anyone who has access to a car and a mobile phone) knows there were times that you lost total awareness of something happening on the road around you, be it a traffic signal, a missed exit, a near miss on a lane change, or something else. The kicker to all the studies is research has very conclusively proven it doesn’t matter if the cell phone use is hand-held or hands-free, it is simply more dangerous — much more dangerous — than driving sans mobile device.

From the second link:

Studies from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, for example, show that drivers are four times more likely to have an accident if they are talking on the phone — hands-free or not — while driving.

The reason, researchers say, is that drivers often become engrossed in their conversation, rather than focusing on driving, even if their hands are on the wheel. “Once a conversation begins, we don’t see a difference between hand-held and hands-free,” says Adrian Lund, president of the institute.

And from the first link, the pull quotes I chose for this web content created for an insurance aggregator client:

How dangerous is mixing driving with cell phone use?

The quick answer is pretty dangerous. The National Safety Commission released the results of a number of studies showing distractions, particularly cell phone use while driving, cause many accidents.

Here are two excerpts from the NSC alert:

“A study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute concluded that almost 80 percent of motor vehicle crashes and 65% of near crashes involve driver inattention within three seconds before the event. While the study looked at all different types of driver distractions, it listed use of wireless communication devices (cell phones and PDAs) as the most common form of driver distraction”

And,

“An earlier University of Utah study showed that a 20 year old driver on a cell phone had the same reaction time as a 70 year old. Regardless of age, drivers on cell phones were 18% slower in stepping on the brakes, and 17% slower in regaining their speed after braking. They also kept a greater following distance and slower speed than drivers who were not using cell phones, which contributes to congestion on the roadways.”

Based on these statistics a number of states have banned cell phone use that isn’t hands-free when driving, many more cities and towns have passed similar bans and new cell phone related ordinances are being enacted on a regular basis. The studies into the safety of cell phone use find there is little difference in the distractions created by hands-free or hand-held conversations when driving. It goes without requiring emphasis that texting while driving is very distracting and dangerous.

November 6, 2009

Texting and driving just don’t mix — even hands-free

An interesting blog post from Dan Ariely, a visiting professor at MIT’s Media Library on the “tiny irregularities” of texting while driving:

Sad story out in the New York Times describing growing concerns about texting while driving. In Britain, a woman was sentenced to a 21-month sentence after it was found that she had been texting while driving, which resulted in the death of a 24-year old design student. In many ways, texting while driving illustrates a case in which tiny, individual irrational decisions can accumulate and cause widespread suffering, not only for the individuals who are texting, but their unsuspecting victims. Unlike cases of drunk driving, in which the driver’s decision making abilities are impaired, drivers who text are at their full wits to wait until they’ve pulled over to check their texts, and yet in the process they routinely underestimate the risk they impose to themselves and others.

The professor was quite wrong, however, on one aspect of the issue:

… we can hope that cell phone companies are continuing to explore voice activation technologies that can read text messages aloud and also transcribe them from voice — thereby by-passing the problem altogether.

In researching web content I created for an insurance website, I came across this research that finds hands-free listening  to mobile devices is not much safer than hands-on cell phone use because the issue is the distraction of the usage, not merely taking eyes off the road ahead (all bold text my emphasis):

Five states currently ban the use of hand-held cell phones in favor of hands-free devices while driving. However, several studies have shown that there is little difference between the two when it comes to minding the road ahead. Both hand-held and hands-free devices involve listening. The act of listening is what distracts drivers from paying attention to the road. A study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University placed participants in a functional MRI scanner that allowed researchers to observe brain activity while the subjects “drove” on a computerized roadway. Without distractions, the area of the brain that lit up most was the area involved in spatial perception (knowing where you are and what’s around you). When the same subjects were tasked with listening to and correctly answering a series of questions as they drove, the area of the brain that lit up most was the area involving language comprehension, while activity in the spatial perception area of the brain decreased by as much as 37 percent. Multitasking places high demands on the brain.