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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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Check out the 2+2 Chevrolet Corvette that never was

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The 60s was an iconic era in the automotive realm in the United States, with some incredibly popular cars getting their start then Vehicles like the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, Chevrolet Corvette, and Dodge Charger, to name a few. Sometimes it takes one vehicle to change the industry and spawn many similar products from the other automakers. Case in point is Ford and its Mustang, which kicked off the pony car era eliciting responses with other iconic vehicles.

Another of the iconic Ford vehicles in the era that sold extremely well was the Thunderbird. The Thunderbird routinely outsold the Chevrolet Corvette. Early in its production, the Thunderbird was a two-seat sports car very similar to the Corvette. It grew in later generations, becoming a 2+2, offering a back seat to carry more passengers. The vehicle in the image above looks like the iconic 60s split-window Corvettes that are so valuable today, but there’s a key difference.

The difference is readily apparent when you look at the side view image in the Instagram post below, where General Motors Design shared photos of a one-off design buck. A design buck is essentially the shell of the vehicle used by automotive designers of the day to get the vehicle’s design just right. This particular example was never powered and never cruised the streets.

The car was a response to the Thunderbird, adding backseats to the Corvette in 1962. Sadly, the 2+2 Corvette was never built, and reports indicate the design buck was later crushed. Another interesting tidbit is that GM reportedly brought in a Ferrari to help with the styling and proportions of the car.

As for what finally became of the project, a GM executive named Bunkie Knudsen, who was part of the styling team but wasn’t a fan of the project, reportedly worked to get the project scrapped. He believed it would taint the Corvette brand and wouldn’t sell in large enough numbers to justify building it. The only Corvettes ever sold by GM have all been two-seat sports cars.

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Alpha Motors Superwolf is a completely decked out electric pickup

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Alpha Motors unveiled a new version of its all-electric pickup called the Superwolf. The difference between this particular version of the truck and the ones that have been shown before is that the Superwolf is completely decked out with all sorts of accessories you might expect to find only on the aftermarket. One of the more interesting accessories seen on the truck is tube doors similar to what you commonly see on Jeeps.

Superwolf also has custom KMC wheels with large off-road tires, a custom front bumper with tow rings and skid plates, as well as a complete roof rack featuring an LED light bar and large locking case. In the bed of the truck is a rack that adds more style to the truck and supports the roof basket.

Under the doors are also compact step rails that look like they are intended to protect the vehicle’s body while off-roading. The truck also features wide fender flares and looks fantastic in general. Other interesting features of the truck include a bed cover that appears to be made out of aluminum and a rack that spans the bed allowing for items to be attached on top of the bed itself.

Several other accessories are available for the truck, including a bed extension and more. Other than the accessories, Superwolf features a driving range of up to 300 miles per charge. It has two motors for four-wheel drive and can reach 60 mph in 6.5 seconds. The truck has a tow rating of 6724 pounds and features a rapid charger with battery cooling and heating.

The truck’s interior can hold four passengers and has a digital display for the driver along with the wide-format center display. Bluetooth connectivity and premium sound are also featured. Superwolf can be reserved now with a starting MSRP listed at between $48,000 and $56,000.

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Classic 1967 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 Trans Am racer heads to auction

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When it comes to muscle cars of the 60s, one of the most iconic is the Chevrolet Camaro. The value of a normal Chevrolet Camaro from the era is often very high. The value of this 1967 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 Trans Am is even higher as it’s an actual successful racing car from the era. This vehicle is the first of six Sunoco Trans Am Camaros that Penske Racing built.

This particular car has an extensive racing history with drivers Mark Donohue and George Follmer behind the wheel. The car has been completely restored by Kevin McKay in its iconic Sunoco racing livery. The car is said to be one of the most significant Chevrolet-powered racing cars ever built. Because of its rarity and racing pedigree, the car is expected to bring as much as $2 million at auction in Pebble Beach.

The car features a 302 cubic inch overhead valve V-8 engine and a single four-barrel carburetor. It’s estimated to produce 450 horsepower and has a four-speed manual gearbox along with four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes. The front suspension is independent wishbone with coil springs, while the rear has a live axle with leaf springs, a setup common in the era.

The racing series the car was built for required a 302 cubic-inch engine. The Z/28 was born due to the need to produce examples for homologation. The Z/28 became the Camaro performance production model, with 602 examples being built in 1967. The first 25 of those cars off the assembly line were sent to racers. This particular car was the 14th produced and was sent to Roger Penske.

This car is the first of only six Penske Camaros built between 1967 and 1969. The auction house says that over $330,000 was spent to restore the iconic car completely. The car comes with a file documenting its extensive racing history and photos of the car as it was discovered and during its restoration.

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