What’s new in tech
Inauguration hack revealed
A Romanian couple hacked into the street-camera system of Washington, D.C., days before the 2017 presidential inauguration, said Drew Hinshaw and Valentina Pop in The Wall Street Journal. “The 20-something couple with a history of small-time scams” had sent hundreds of thousands of emails embedded with so-called ransomware “in an attachment disguised as an invoice.” By chance, the list of emails they bought included the Washington, D.C., police department, where a recipient “took the bait” and opened the attachment, giving the couple in Bucharest access to 126 of the 186 computers linked to the cameras “that keep watch over the U.S. capital.” The hackers tried to get $60,800 in Bitcoin as a ransom. Authorities tracked down the perpetrators because one used the same email address to place an online pizza order.
Missing Google’s old phone
I want the old Google Pixel phone back, said Mark Wilson in FastCompany.com. “In a single design iteration, the Pixel has gone from a quiet appliance to an aggressive, attention-hungry machine.” The old Pixel had a fingerprint reader on the back, letting you unlock the phone just by picking it up. The Pixel 4 instead has a face scanner and “Soli radar,” which enables it “to recognize hand motions and other gestures in air.” But it means “just walking by the phone will wake it up like an overeager puppy.” One feature from early Pixels I badly miss: The hardware “back” button. This was “a feature that was coveted by Steve Jobs.” It was eventually replaced by a virtual button. Now even that’s gone, and you have to search deep in the settings to bring it back.
Schools intensify surveillance
Schools have begun monitoring emails and documents of millions of American students “looking for signs of suicidal thoughts, bullying, or plans for a school shooting,” said Lois Beckett in TheGuardian.com. The surveillance tools can scan “anything students type in official school email accounts, chats, or documents” as well as web searches and internet usage 24 hours a day. “As of 2018, at least 60 American school districts had also spent more than $1 million on separate monitoring technology” to track students’ public social media accounts. The Children’s Internet Protection Act, passed in 2000, requires public schools to use internet filters and protect children from harmful content, but “what exactly this ‘monitoring’ means has never been clearly defined.”