Newsbytes is back from a short break during which the series went through a minor facelift. From now on, the posts will be less frequent and more focused, which means that instead of a generic news overview, we'll concentrate on discussing one trending topic at a time. In this post, we're digging deeper into cyber security, which has recently received a lot of media attention.
Last week, Mashable reported that Amazon Echo gadgets can be ‘hijacked’ with electronic voice commands from external devices such as TVs and radios. The problem was detected when several users noticed their smart home gadgets responding to voice commands from a radio show, prompting ‘Alexa’ (the name used to activate the device) to reset the heat to 70 degrees or start playing a radio station's news summary. Although these commands caused no serious harm to device owners, the ability to control Alexa from a distance may prove costly once some of its new capabilities, such as voice-controlled bill payment and account balance enquiry become available.
A few weeks back, we wrote about MasterCard’s innovative new payment authentication method: selfies. However, as Inc’s contributor Neil Hughes argues, Amazon has been quick to catch on. The ecommerce giant now has a patent pending on a solution that eliminates the need for memorizing yet another password. Instead of having to remember countless of passcodes, it appears that users will soon be burdened with a bunch of quirky, provider-specific biometric authentication alternatives ranging from finger print recognition to retina scans. If granted, the selfie payment patent will secure the innovation to Amazon’s use alone, leaving competitors no choice but to come up with their own, equally as attractive alternatives.
Apple vs. FBI
According to several news outlets including Tech Insider, The Verge and Fortune, talk show host John Oliver really hit it home with his take on FBI’s recent request to have Apple unlock a dead terrorist's iPhone. Although the issue of homeland security vs. personal data privacy is complex to say the least, Oliver managed to demonstrate that there simply isn’t a way to hack into an iPhone without opening all iOS devices to a host of vulnerabilities. What’s more, Apple’s decision to distance itself from such situations isn't exactly breaking news: in fact, BBC reports that since 2014, the company's devices have been made virtually unhackable to avoid ethical debates much like this one.
Considering the public disagreement between Apple and FBI, it’s not hard to imagine why several Silicon Valley companies have taken action to protect the messages that pass between their users. Most notably, The Independent reports that Facebook is working on extending WhatsApp's encryption capabilities to voice messages. According to the Guardian, Facebook, Snapchat and Google are not only ramping up their own privacy measures but also openly siding with Apple when it comes to protecting user data from national governments. Only time will tell which side will come out as the winner.