The UpStream

Fruitfly Lives for a Decade Undetected on Macs

posted Saturday Jul 29, 2017 by Scott Ertz

Fruitfly Lives for a Decade Undetected on Macs

For many, many years, there has been an insidious misconception about Macs that has managed to outlive its own safety. If you survey Mac users, you will find that many of them believe that Macs are impervious to malware and viruses. In the past, there was a little truth to the myth - not that it was impossible, just that no developers cared enough about the nonexistent market. Outside of schools, no one really had a Mac, so writing malicious software had no value.

After the success of the iPod and iPhone, Apple began to see an increase in sales. Those sales are not enough to be excited about for Apple, but they are enough to get hackers interested. In the last 15 years or so, many malicious programs have been developed for macOS, but the myth of safety has continued. In fact, Apple themselves turned the myth into a lie when they used it in their marketing for Macs.

Following this lie, a piece of malicious software, called Fruitfly, was developed and released to the Mac ecosystem. The developers have since disappeared, but the software has not. In fact, the software, which logs keystrokes and can take over a computer's webcam and keyboard, is still out in the wild.

As part of Black Hat USA 2017, researchers turned on a server to receive data from any infected computers, and to their surprise, at least 400 still-infected computers called in to let the developers know all that had happened in the years since they last called home. This virus, which seems to specifically target biomedical computers, has flown under the radar for as long as a decade.

The reason why it has been missed could be because of the almost complete lack of antivirus in the Mac ecosystem, because of this pervasive lie. No matter the product, don't believe the hype: assume everything can be compromised, because if your DVR can help take down the internet, anything is possible.

YouTube to Kill Editor and Slideshows in September

posted Saturday Jul 22, 2017 by Scott Ertz

YouTube to Kill Editor and Slideshows in September

When it comes to the internet, features for big services com and go. During Marissa Mayer's time at the helm of Yahoo, new purchases were made and closed existing products. It is just part of doing business - deciding what is being used and what is worth shuttering.

Google has been going through its own shuttering process, most notably Google Fiber. This week, YouTube has announced that we will soon see some of their offerings go away. First to be cut is the web-based editing feature. As it turns out, less than 0.1% of all YouTube creators were using the web-based editing product, a feature which as been around since 2010, but even I was unaware existed. It's important to note that the trimming capabilities of "Enhancements" will remain.

The slideshow feature, another one I was unaware existed, but explains why there are so many identical looking slideshows on YouTube, will hit the cutting room floor, as well. Since slideshows have seen waning interest in general in recent years, a win for me as I have always hated slideshows, it makes sense for the company to end support for the slideshow composer.

Both offerings will be removed on September 20, 2017. Make sure to finish any projects that are in-progress before the services go away for good.

It Looks Like a Pricing Investigation Might be Underway into Amazon's Policies

posted Saturday Jul 22, 2017 by Scott Ertz

It Looks Like a Pricing Investigation Might be Underway into Amazon's Policies

Last week was Amazon Prime Day, and the company was very happy with the results. One of the issues that we pointed out was that some products were more expensive during their Prime Day deal than they had been the day or two previous. We pointed to one product in particular, which was $20 more than it has been in recent days.

Consumer Watchdog, whose name clearly describes their purpose, issued a study that showed that, like on Prime Day, the pricing listed on Amazon is often misleading. Of the 1000 products tested, about 46% of the products showed that the reference price for a sale were higher than during the quarter leading up to the sale. This means that Amazon's product listings falsely showed a greater sale discount than the customer was actually receiving, exactly what was noted during Prime Day.

A letter was sent to the Federal Trade Commission following the study, urging an investigation into the issue. While the FTC has not commented on whether or not they will be investigating this claim, it is likely that they will. Amazon is in the process of purchasing Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, a company that has its own issues with consumer groups. As part of that purchase, the FTC will be running investigations, so this will likely be part of that existing process.

Amazon has responded to the report, saying,

The study issued by Consumer Watchdog is deeply flawed, based on incomplete data and improper assumptions. The conclusions the Consumer Watchdog group reached are flat out wrong. We validate the reference prices provided by manufacturers, vendors and sellers against actual prices recently found across Amazon and other retailers.

Have you ever experienced false pricing on Amazon? Let us know in the comments.

Public Augmented Reality No Longer a Crime in Wisconsin

posted Saturday Jul 22, 2017 by Scott Ertz

Public Augmented Reality No Longer a Crime in Wisconsin

Since Niantic released Pokémon GO last year, it has caused a lot of people and organizations to consider how it impacts them and their resources. Wireless networks have seen increased data consumption, which has resulted in increased bandwidth in heavy usage areas. Some churches have seen increased property usage, which has given them opportunity to reach out to new people. Some restaurants and business have seen increases in attention, to which they have reached out looking for new customers.

One place where increased usage has been more confusing than anything has been in public parks. Many cities, counties and states have embraced the increased awareness of the parks, and even worked to create events. Some parks have created Pokémon GO meetups, luring Stops at their own cost, to get people out and engaging in the parks. It has been well-received by most people across the world.

Milwaukee County in Wisconsin, rather than embracing the popularity of the game, decided to pass a law requiring that augmented reality game makers receive special usage permits to allow for games to be played in their parks. Without question, this law was bound to be challenged in court, if not by Niantic itself, by another AR game maker. That is exactly what happened, with a federal suit being filed by Candy Lab, maker of Texas Rope 'Em, another AR game with similar features to Pokémon GO. The suit was brought on First Amendment grounds, with prior restraint being placed on speech. The county argued, saying,

Texas Rope 'Em is not entitled to First Amendment protection because it does not convey any messages or ideas. Unlike books, movies, music, plays and video games-mediums of expression that typically enjoy First Amendment protection - Texas Rope 'Em has no plot, no storylines, no characters, and no dialogue. All it conveys is a random display of cards and a map. Absent the communicative features that invoke the First Amendment, Candy Lab has no First Amendment claim.

The player simply views randomly generated cards and travels to locations to get more. That is not the type of speech that demands First Amendment safeguards.

A federal court disagreed with the county's argument this week, declaring the law to be in violation of the Constitution. US District Judge J.P. Stadtmueller issued an injunction this week, preventing the county from enforcing their law, one that was nearly impossible to enforce in the first place.

The timing of the ruling couldn't be better, with this weekend being the big Pokémon GO Fest in Chicago, with events happening globally through Monday evening. Being able to play in Milwaukee parks will give plays more opportunity to engage with other trainers.

Cortana Thermostat: The Best of Today and Tomorrow

posted Saturday Jul 22, 2017 by Scott Ertz

Cortana Thermostat: The Best of Today and Tomorrow

Microsoft has made no secret of the fact that they want Cortana, their voice-powered, Halo-inspired personal assistant to be everywhere. She premiered of Windows Phone several years ago, made her way to the desktop with Windows 10 and has expanded from there. Harman Kardon is building a speaker named Invoke, while HP is also building a Cortana-powered speaker.

Cortana isn't just about voice - her powers of AI and neural networks extend her capabilities to learning about all manner of data, and making decisions based on that information. To show off this technology, Microsoft has paired up with Johnson Controls, possibly the best-known name in HVAC electronics, to produce a Cortana-powered thermostat called GLAS. This device, shown off in a YouTube video from Microsoft, is taking a very different approach to a smart home control than Nest or its competitors.

While Nest decided to make a thermostat that looks similar to a traditional device, Johnson and Microsoft decided to make GLAS look more appropriately Cortana. It features a square, semi-transparent LCD touchscreen that is set slightly off the wall. The styling gives the appearance of a heads-up display, which is how Cortana appeared in the original Halo games.

As for functionality, Johnson uses Cortana's processing to determine HVAC usage, scanners to determine room usage and makes determinations on where, where and how much to run the air conditioning to maintain proper temperatures. Unfortunately, there is no word on whether this is a concept device or if Johnson Controls plans on bringing it to market. Based on the massively positive comments on the video, though, Johnson would be nuts to not make this happen immediately.

Hit the break to see the video, or let us know what you think about the GLAS.

A Legacy Console War has Ignited with SEGA's New Mini Genesis Announcement

posted Monday Jul 17, 2017 by Allante Sparks

A Legacy Console War has Ignited with SEGA's New Mini Genesis Announcement

It has finally happened ladies and gentlemen! In the light of Nintendo releasing updated (and mini) versions of their classic consoles, another classic company plans to do the same. I don't know about you all, but after the SNES Classic was announced I was really pumped. Many of my favorite classics are pre-loaded onto the system (Metroid, Super Mario, Donkey Kong Country) including my favorite game of all time (Yoshi's Island) and even one game that has not actually been released before (Star Fox 2 a game that hand been canceled before it was released). But after that announcement, I talked with some people about how cool it would be if SEGA were to follow suit and release a mini Genesis with pre-loaded games just like Nintendo is doing.

Well my friends, as if the gods of gaming hath rained their blessings upon my beckoning call, SEGA (with a helpful partnership with AtGames) is now releasing a mini Genesis console. Not only that but there are two versions of the console: one branded "Classic," which comes with 81 pre-loaded games and two wired controllers and will sell for $59.99, and another branded "Flashback," which comes with 85 pre-loaded games, two wireless controllers and HD (720p) output, and will sell for $79.99!

Are you ready for the real kicker? You're all probably like me and have some Genesis cartridges in a box or tucked away somewhere that hasn't seen daylight in decades, right? Well, it's time to dust them off and give them some sunshine because both console versions are fully compatible with the cartridges! Yes, you read that correctly: you can play your classic game cartridges on your brand new mini console, a feature that sets this new Genesis apart from the NES and SNES mini systems. The pre-loaded games will include classics like: Altered Beast, Sonic the Hedgehog, Mortal Kombat and Golden Axe. However, there are some hidden gems in there as well like Vectorman, Phantasy Star, Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine (one of my faves), and Super Thunder Blade.

Get your pre-ordering fingers ready because they go live Friday, July 28th!

It is important to note that the games do vary between consoles, so we have included the full lists after the break.

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