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2015 July

July 28, 2015

“Stagefright”: Major Security Bug for Android Mobile Devices

Android_robot.svgAndroid users should be aware of the recently announced “Stagefright” bug, which is a major security hole that allows for an attacker to execute malicious code on any Android device via a specially crafted multimedia (MMS) text message.

Many messaging apps, including Google Hangouts and the default Messaging app for Android, automatically retrieve MMS messages, so users do not even need to read the message for the malicious code to be executed.

While Google is pushing out patches to fix this security exploit, Android users will have to wait until their mobile carriers release those patches for their devices.

In the meantime, the Sophos Naked Security blog (which also has a good blog post covering the bug) has steps that users can take to avoid being affected by the bug:

  • Try asking your device vendor whether a patch is available already. You may be able to get ahead of the game.
  • If you can’t get a patch right now, find out when to expect it so that you can apply it as soon as you can.
  • If your messaging app supports it (Messaging and Hangouts both do), turn off Automatically retrieve MMS messages.
  • If your device supports it, consider blocking messages from unknown senders if you haven’t already.
  • If your SMS/MMS app doesn’t allow you to turn off Automatically retrieve messages, consider simply switching back to Android Messaging, which does.
July 24, 2015

More news from Pluto

This image is a mosaic of the dwarf planet Pluto in true color.

This image is a mosaic of the dwarf planet Pluto in true color.

NASA held a press conference today explaining and displaying some of the new data being received from their New Horizons spacecraft that recently flew by Pluto and its moons.

The image above is a showing the same face of the dwarf planet made famous July 14th but in greater detail both in color and topography. This resolution allows us to see features as small as 2.2 km in size or about double the clarity of the July 14th images. Additionally, Pluto’s atmosphere was imaged upon the spacecraft flying by which shows a hazy cover reaching upwards of 50 km above the surface which you can see in the link below.

For more information and images from the New Horizons probe, check out NASA’s website for the mission.

 

July 20, 2015

First legal FAA approved drone delivery a success

FAA logo - approved drone delivery for medical emergency.

The FAA recently approved a drone delivery in rural Virginia to drop off medical supplies.

On Friday of last week, the world of drones had a historic first when a unit operated by Flirtey picked up medical supplies from a regional airport in Virginia and flew them over rough, rural terrain before dropping them down to a medical clinic. There was no breakthrough technology at work here, although the 3D-printed tether that lowered the package down was a custom design. Rather, this was the first delivery approved by the US government, a harbinger of a world to come, where critical supplies and everyday purchases might very well be delivered on demand by drone.

For more information on this, check out Ben Popper’s article at The Verge.

July 9, 2015

A new photo of Pluto from the New Horizons spacecraft

Pluto as seen from the New Horizons Spacecraft taken July 7, 2015.

A composite image of Pluto as seen from two cameras onboard the New Horizons spacecraft from eight million kilometers away. Photo credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

The New Horizons spacecraft has acquired another view of Pluto from just under eight million kilometers away (roughly five million miles). As of today, the spacecraft will be about six million kilometers from the dwarf planet and will have its historic flyby on July 14. Pluto exhibits large swaths of dark and light material that most likely hydrocarbon-based perhaps frozen methane.

The Pluto flyby will be exactly that: the New Horizons will get as close as 12,500 kilometers from the surface of Pluto and will capture the best images anyone has ever seen of the dwarf planet and its main moon, Charon — then after about a day, will continue on to view other Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs). As the craft leaves the Pluto system, New Horizons will take some images as it passes through its shadow to verify the existence of an atmosphere. According to current spectroscopy, the atmosphere is primarily methane.

For more information on the new photo, check on this article from the BBC.

Additionally, JoshWorth.com designed a scale model of our solar system based on the Earth’s moon being 1 pixel in size. Click here for more.

July 8, 2015

Adobe Flash exploit now has a patch

Flash-Icon

(As reported on ArsTechnica.com: July 8, 2015)
Adobe Systems has updated its Flash media player to patch a vulnerability that attackers started exploiting soon after attack code leaked from the devastating Hacking Team breach.

As Ars reported Tuesday morning, the previously unknown Flash vulnerability was part of some 400 gigabytes of data dumped on the Internet by unknown attackers who hacked Hacking Team over the weekend. By Tuesday afternoon, the critical flaw was being targeted in the wild by an array of malware titles, including the Angler and Nuclear exploit kits, as first reported by Malwarebytes (and later documented by the security researcher known as Kafeine). The exploit has also been folded in to the Metasploit hacking framework.

The vulnerability is cataloged as CVE-2015-5119 and is active in Flash versions 18.0.0.194 and earlier. According to security firm Rapid 7, it stems from a use-after-free bug that can be exploited while Flash is handling ByteArray objects. The update is available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux systems. Adobe has credited Google’s Project Zero and Morgan Marquis-Boire, director of security, First Look Media, for reporting the critical bug and working to protect Flash users.

For more from this article, check it out on ArsTechnica.com

For links to the Flash updaters for Windows and Mac OS X, click here.

July 1, 2015

Frozen methane detected on Pluto

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The dwarf planet Pluto and its largest moon, Charon as taken by the New Horizons spacecraft from 11 million miles away. New Horizons will fly by the Pluto system on July 14, 2015. (Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI)

 

The New Horizons spacecraft from NASA/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory has confirmed observations from Earth-based astronomers that there is frozen methane on Pluto’s surface. The original observation was made in 1976 from NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.

In addition, new images show the view of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, from 11 million miles away. As it rotates, Pluto displays a strongly contrasting surface dominated by a bright northern hemisphere with a darker band along its equator. Charon has a dark polar region but there are some brighter surface variations at lower latitudes.

For more information on this news from New Horizons, check out this article from NASA.

How to make virtual reality less nauseous

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Researchers at Stanford University developed a prototype for a light field stereoscope in an effort to improve virtual-reality focus cues. The images used are standard images with varying degrees of focus in order to imitate natural vision. In real life, when you look at something, your eyes move and the lens in each eye adjusts to bring whatever is in front of you into focus. The idea behind this prototype is to bring two LCD fields into a stack which then is transmitted to each retina providing the illusion of depth and an allowance for the eyes to freely move around and focus on whatever they want in virtual space.  Current stereoscopic vision technology in virtual reality uses a slightly different images for each eye to provide a sense of three dimensional depth. Since the projections are displayed on a two dimensional screen that appear to be in front of you, it can result in nausea and dizziness also known as a vergence-accommodation conflict.

For more information about this research, check out this article from the MIT Technology Review.