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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 Easiest Way To Back Up Your Android Phone’s Data

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Google’s service for saving and restoring photos and videos is called “Backup & Sync.” It works across all platforms. But the tool is pre-integrated into the Google Photos app for Android.

  1. To create a backup for your photo and video gallery, download and install Google Photos from the Play Store (if you haven’t already).
  2. You’ll be asked to sign in with a Google Account of your choice.
  3. After signing in, tap your profile picture in the corner to pull up the preferences.
  4. Next, navigate to Photos Settings > Backup & Sync and toggle the switch.
  5. Backup & Sync will automatically start saving your photos and videos to the cloud. Once the process is completed successfully, you will see a green accent and a checkmark around your profile picture.

Unless you’re on a Pixel phone, the storage isn’t unlimited. From June 1, 2021, Google only offers 15GB of free storage. But you can always buy extra storage or adjust the upload size to save space. To change the Upload size, scroll down the Backup & Sync menu and select Upload size. And pick from Storage saver or Original quality modes (via Google).

Also, you can specify individual folders if you don’t need to back up your entire gallery. Go to Backup and Sync > backup device folders and toggle your chosen folders from the list.

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Why Your Android Phone Goes Straight To Voicemail And How To Fix It

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If you need periods blocked off in your day to focus or relax, the Do Not Disturb Mode is a handy feature to have. You can either block all phone calls or only accept calls or messages from the contacts you want to hear from. If this setting is enabled, it also blocks app notifications, text messages, and alarms. But what if you forget to turn it off? Or switch it on by accident? Depending on who calls, you probably won’t hear your phone ring, and their calls will most likely go to voicemail.

Here’s how you can turn it off in three simple steps.

  1. Swipe down from the top of your screen to pull down your phone’s notification menu.

  2. Check if the Do Not Disturb button is enabled at the bottom right.

  3. If it’s on (the button will be lit). Tap once to turn it off.

Another way to turn off the Do Not Disturb function is to go through the settings menu on your phone.

  1. Go to the Settings app on your phone

  2. Hit Sound & vibration > Do not disturb > Turn on/off now.

  3. If you own a phone that is Android 8.1 and below, press Sound > Do not disturb. Toggle the switch on/off

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The Galaxy Note Is Dead, But Its Spirit Will Live On Every Year

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According to notorious tipster @Ice universe, Samsung mobile division head TM Roh was quoted as saying that the Galaxy Note will appear in the form of the Galaxy S Ultra every year. The direct implication here is that there will no longer be a Galaxy Note model moving forward. It also suggests that the Galaxy S Ultra models will retain the same form and features as the Galaxy Note, just like the Galaxy S22 Ultra released in 2022.

In terms of features, that basically means that the Galaxy S Ultra model will continue carrying an S-Pen inside its body. That design change started with the Galaxy S22 Ultra this year, in contrast to the previous Galaxy S21 Ultra generation, which had no room for the stylus inside. That same ultra-large phone distinguished itself from the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S22+ with its boxier design, similar to that of the latest Galaxy Note models. Whether that design will remain going forward is still unknown, but the exact appearance of the Galaxy Note was never its defining feature anyway.

This news, if confirmed to be official, will probably send mixed feelings to Galaxy Note fans. On the one hand, they will be relieved that the S Pen isn’t going anywhere, at least not yet. On the other hand, the brand beloved by professionals and creatives is finally being retired after almost a decade of service. The move will at least help consolidate Samsung’s Galaxy S brand and even make the S-Pen a staple of its flagship — and hopefully, it will at least stay that way for more years to come.

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