Some of the technology meant to help in your daily life may be hurting you as well. A modified USB cable could leave you connected to the bad guys. Your virtual assistant may be opening the backdoor for hackers. Particles released by consumer-grade 3-D printers could negatively impact your indoor air quality.
Most people know better than to plug a mysterious USB drive into their computer, but your power cable could also pose a danger. A security researcher has shown how USB cables—even ones that look like Apple’s Lightning cable—could hijack your machine.
Security researcher Mike Grover, who reportedly works for Verizon Media and goes by “MG” online, has developed modified Lightning cables that can hack your computer. The “O.MG cables” look and function like the standard Lightning cable that comes with the iPhone. However, software and hardware, including a wireless access point, are hidden inside the USB connector. When the cable is plugged into a computer, it can be triggered remotely to attempt to steal a user’s login credentials or install malicious software.
Though MG said he intends for the cable to be used by security researchers, he’s not just selling to them.
People rely on virtual assistants like Amazon Echo’s Alexa to help them out in their daily lives, doing everything from controlling smart home appliances to taking notes and keeping track of schedules to playing a favorite song list. But could our virtual assistants also leave us open to attack?
Hackers use “voice squatting,” taking advantage of homonyms (words that sound the same but are spelled differently) and input errors (words that are mispronounced) to register bogus third-party apps with voice keywords that sound similar to legitimate apps. For example, if there is a legitimate app called library, an attacker may create a listening app and register it under the voice keyword libary, a common mispronunciation.
These third-party apps can run in the background for long periods of time undetected. In addition to recording users without their permission or knowledge, voice squatting could be used to broadcast fake news or prompt users to divulge personally identifiable information.
The particles emitted from consumer-grade 3-D printers can negatively impact indoor air quality and have the potential to harm respiratory health, says a study from researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and UL Chemical Safety.
3-D printers typically work by melting plastic filaments and then depositing the melt layer upon layer to form an object. Researchers say the heating process releases volatile compounds, some of which form ultrafine particles that are emitted into the air near the printer and the object.
Toxicity tests showed that polylactic acid (PLA) particles are more toxic than acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) particles on a per-particle comparison, but the printers emit more ABS particles due to the hotter temperatures required to melt the filament. Researchers said the amount of emissions from ABS particles vary by filament vendor due to undisclosed additives.
The study also recommended some measures that can be taken to lessen the impact 3-D printers have on air quality, such as using them only in well-ventilated areas and setting the nozzle temperature at the lower end of the suggested temperature range for filament materials.
(Risk Alerts reported by CM Editor Kimberly Tallon)