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Can you trust the personal Internet of Things?

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Some of us are really excited about a world of human-implantable Internet of Things (IoT). I’m not keen on it. You see, a few years back, in the TV series Homeland, the US Vice President was assassinated by a terrorist who hacked into his heart pacemaker. 

Could that really happen? Yes. 

Also: The internet of human things: Implants for everybody and how we get there

Fatal security problems

In 2017, MedSec, a medical technology security company, found that Abbott Laboratories’ St Jude Medical defibrillator or pacemakers could be remotely attacked by hackers. At about the same time, Johnson & Johnson admitted one of its insulin pumps had a  security vulnerability, which could be exploit to overdose diabetics with insulin. Since then, these Implantable Medical Devices (IMDs) have been patched. But who knows how many other such potentially fatal security problems may lie hidden within medical devices?

Also: How smart contact lenses will help keep an eye on your health

Actually, Karen M. Sandler, executive director of the Software Freedom Conservancy, has a good idea of how many: Too many.  As she explained, “All software has bugs and all software is vulnerable.” We know that. But did you know that, according to the Software Engineering Institute, there is one bug for every 100 lines of software? And did you know that pacemaker in your chest has about 70,000 lines of code? Scary, isn’t it?

But, as Sandler pointed out, “free and open software tends to be better and safer over time.” Unfortunately, all IMD software is proprietary.

What does it run?

Sandler, aka the cyborg lawyer, is close to this problem. You see, she has an enlarged heart from a condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This mean she could suddenly die at any moment. But, thanks to a pacemaker/defibrillator, she should be OK. When she first saw one, her question to her doctor, who had implanted thousands of these, was: “What does it run?”

Also: This swallowable chip uses glowing bacteria to spot hidden illnesses

The doctor, of course, didn’t have a clue. He wasn’t even sure it had software in it. Next, the company representative came in, and he didn’t know either. But, he assured her that “these devices are very, very safe and fully tested.” To make a long story short, she found medical professionals hadn’t even thought about software issues and IMD vendors won’t talk about their software.

Don’t think anyone is checking up on IMD software outside the vendors. They’re not. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t review IMD source code, nor does it keep a repository of source code. You have to trust your device vendor, which Sandler compared to having a cat guard a fish store.

A black mystery box

Sandler’s OK with having a device in her body — after all, it’s keeping her alive. But she’s “not comfortable with the idea of having proprietary software literally screwed into her heart.”   

Also: These tiny, ultra-low power chips are helping scientists to understand your mind                                                 

Think about it. How would you feel about having a black mystery box in you? I know I’d hate it.

As Sandler explained, these medical “devices are the worst of both worlds. They have closed and proprietary software on them that no one can review, and at the same time, they are broadcasting remotely without any real security.”

Sandler noted that you can’t turn off most IMD defibrillator wireless functionality. The same is true of most personal IoT devices.

Sandler explained that it’s important to have a “right to not broadcast or be connected.” She said, “One of the main points is that we cannot really consent to something we have no viable alternative to.” This is a real worry, because with a network connection with unknown security, your device is much more vulnerable to attacks.

She wants to have the opportunity to examine the code and its algorithms, but with the proprietary software used in her body, she doesn’t have it. And neither does anyone else. Also, as she pointed out, with “IoT software which talks to everything else, often unnecessarily, we are introducing even more vulnerabilities.”


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No thanks

Sandler came out about her search for IMD source code and safety in 2012 at the linux.conf.au conference. Since then, she’s always asked, “Hey, did you ever get your source code?” And the answer is: “No, she hasn’t.”

Also: This robotic arm for multitasking can be controlled with thoughts

So, for me, at least, I’ll get a IMD with proprietary software if I must. But volunteer to have an implantable device with no idea what’s going on in its software, and it could be attacked wirelessly? No thanks.

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The 12 Cheapest Productions Cars Ever Made

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Nobody said that a cheap car must be a terrible one, and the Volkswagen Type 1 Beetle is proof. Created before WWII and put into production under British management after the war, the VW Beetle went on to be one of the best-selling cars of all time, according to Autoweek. They are basic, small, and austere, but dependable, capable, and enjoyable cars to many.

The genesis of the car was in the idea of producing a “people’s car” for the German public, something the average German could afford to buy and use on the newly laid Autobahn highways. With plans interrupted by the war, German industry had been decimated and also needed economic activity to rebuild. Volkswagen commenced production to get its people behind the wheel, but also exported the cars to increase much-needed trade, and it became a success (via Hemmings).

In developed markets where the VW sold, it was often the cheapest car available. Thanks to its simple design and robust engine, people took millions of them home, even creating subcultures of fanatical drivers, and it continued to be made in 2003 in Mexico.

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Elon Musk Made This Video Game When He Was 12 Years Old. Here’s How You Can Play It

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In 1995, Musk was on his second day at Stanford University when he and his brother abruptly dropped out, dove into Silicon Valley’s emerging Internet boom, and started Zip2. This company provided city travel guide information to prominent online newspapers. Four years later, Compaq Computer Corporation bought that company for $307 million in cold hard cash and another $34 million worth of stock options (via Biography).

He immediately took that money and co-founded the online bank X.com, which later consolidated with Confinity to become PayPal (via Business Insider). In 2002, eBay bought PayPal for $1.5 billion. Musk pocketed around $175 million from that venture, turned around, and created SpaceX. See the pattern?

Musk was born in Pretoria, South Africa, in 1971. When he was young, his parents feared that he had a hearing problem (via Biography), but it wasn’t that he was intentionally ignoring them. Instead, he was getting so utterly wrapped up and focused on his own thoughts that he wasn’t aware they were calling out to him. He was later diagnosed with the autism spectrum disorder known as Asperger’s syndrome. Symptoms include not responding to their name and obsessive interest in certain subjects, both of which were present in Musk.

In 1979, when Elon was around eight years old, his parents divorced. He and his siblings went to live with his mother because, according to Musk, his father was a “terrible human being.” However, he also calls his dad a “brilliant engineer,” and believes he got his computer and engineering skills from him.

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The Best Cyber Monday Laptop Deals 2022

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The ASUS TUF Gaming F15 laptop was awarded as one of our preferred affordable gaming laptops of 2022, and Cyber Monday deals from Best Buy slash the price even further. Through the online retailer, this ASUS model falls from $1,079.99 to $699.99. Something about the removal of the comma makes anything seem like a much more reasonable investment! Another ASUS deal at Best Buy brings us the ROG Zephyrus 144Hz 14-inch gaming laptop with 16 gigabytes of RAM and an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 graphics chip for $500 off — that’s $899.99 rather than $1,399.99.

Directly through Lenovo, there are a few some impressive laptop deals. You can save a whopping $2,010.00 on the ThinkPad T14s Gen 2 14-inch in storm gray color for a grand total of $849. There’s over $2,200 to be saved on the same model,  but in black. Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6 14-inch is 65% off — that pitches the price by $2,350.00 to $1,259.00.

Target’s only Cyber Monday specific deal is for the HP Victus 15.6-inch 144Hz gaming laptop, which was originally listed for $829.99 but has fallen to $589.99. That’s another gaming laptop that earned a spot on our best affordable gaming laptop rank. However, there are a number of unspecified sales and clearance deals that slash laptop prices by as much as $500 at Target, such as the Acer Aspire 3 15.6-inch laptop with 8 gigabytes of RAM for $249.99. 

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