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New Amazon Astro robot turns out to be a spy with chicken brains

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The developers of the first versions of the robot have a low opinion of their brainchild.

Amazon has a new robot – a small cyber pet named Astro, reminiscent of the iconic Star Wars character R2D2 and designed to help guard the house. However, in reality, the robot is a real nightmare in terms of both functionality and cybersecurity.

The $ 1,000 new product is an “Alexa on Wheels” and looks very cute on the outside, but on the inside it is a collection of wires and hardware components designed to collect as much data about users as possible. This is reported by the Motherboard edition, which managed to communicate with informed sources and get acquainted with the documents related to the project.

When Astro first starts working, users should introduce all the inhabitants of the house to it by showing their faces and showing their voices. Thanks to this, the robot will know who is supposed to be in the house and who is a stranger in it.

According to Kristy Schmidt, Amazon Senior PR Director for Products and Services, the Astro is designed to “process a lot of data, including images and raw sensor data, collected by the robot as it moves around the house.” As Schmidt explained, this helps Astro respond quickly to the environment in which it finds itself. In addition, the visual ID is stored on the device, and the robot “recognizes” the hosts by processing the data internally.

According to the documents reviewed by Motherboard journalists, a large amount of data collected by the robot is necessary for its “security function” to work.

So, if necessary, Astro can be transferred to the “patrol” mode, in which he will spy on strangers and record suspicious activity in the house in the absence of the owners. When, while moving around the house, a robot stumbles upon someone whose face is not stored in its database, it follows on its heels, collecting and storing all possible data until the owner orders him to stop.

With the help of a dedicated application, Astro allows users to view live video from home while they are away.

The robot can be used in conjunction with the Amazon Ring home security system, doubling the intelligence network of US police departments. After pairing with Ring, the robot begins to respond to security-related events by patrolling the house if an alarm is triggered.

Apart from its “espionage” activities, Astro also does not work very well. Several developers who worked on previous versions of the robot reported that its functionality was very limited.

“The Astro is terrible and will almost certainly dash down the stairs if the opportunity presents itself. Human detection is unreliable at best, making home security laughable. As for such an absurd cost, the device is too fragile. retracted position, and when this happens, it is impossible to send the device back to Amazon, “- said one of the developers, who requested anonymity.

All of the above makes buying a robot both creepy and useless at the same time. It’s like tying the wheels to a bulky camcorder and letting it wander around the house awkwardly. Moreover, Astro does not even know how to vacuum.

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Security

Hundreds of malicious Tor nodes are used to de-anonymize users

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Malicious servers were added to the Tor network on an ongoing basis, and there were hundreds of them.

Since at least 2017, a mysterious attacker (or group), tracked by cybersecurity experts as KAX17, has been adding malicious servers to the Tor network, acting as entry, intermediary, and exit nodes. How thinks a security researcher using the pseudonym Nusenu, the campaign aimed to de-anonymize users.

Nusenu, which itself is the Tor node operator, discovered malicious activity in 2019, but says KAX17 has been in effect since at least 2017. According to Nusenu, malicious servers with no contact information were added to the Tor network on an ongoing basis, with hundreds of them. At its peak, the network included over 900 malicious servers.

In general, servers added to the Tor network must contain contact information (such as an email address) so that Tor administrators or law enforcement agencies can contact node operators in the event of misconfiguration or reports of abuse. Despite this rule, servers without contact information are often added to the network, mainly to maintain their numbers.

KAX17 servers are located in data centers around the world and are mostly configured as exit and intermediary nodes, with only a small number of them operating as exit nodes. As Nusenu notes, this is strange enough, since most attackers who manage malicious nodes configure them as exit nodes, which allows them to modify the traffic. For example, the BTCMITM20 group managed a network of thousands of malicious exit nodes to attack users visiting cryptocurrency-related sites.

According to the researcher, KAX17 collects information about users connecting to the Tor network, and then determines their routes. Nusenu reported its findings to the Tor Project last year, and the servers were removed from the network in October 2020. Soon after, another group of exit nodes appeared in Tor with no contact information, but whether it was associated with KAX17 is unclear.

In October and November 2021, the Tor Project also removed hundreds of KAX17 servers. Neither Nusenu nor the Tor Project have speculated yet on who is behind KAX17.

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US State Department employees’ smartphones underwent hacker attack

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The iPhones of at least nine Ugandan US State Department employees have been hacked by spyware from Israel’s NSO Group.

US diplomats in Uganda have been targeted by a software tool developed by the Israeli firm NSO Group. If the fact of espionage against employees of the US State Department is confirmed, serious problems await the developer of the “master keys” for the iPhone.

Spyware, developed by the Israeli company NSO Group, has been used to hack iPhone smartphones by at least nine US foreign policy officials. This was reported by Reuters, citing sources. As the newspaper notes, this is the largest known hacking of the devices of American officials.

According to the agency, the hackers were only interested in department employees who either worked at the US Embassy in Uganda or dealt with issues related to the situation in this country. So far, it has not been possible to find out exactly who hacked the smartphones. In turn, the NSO Group said that they do not have information that their equipment was used for the cyberattack. The company also said that it is interested in cooperation with all governments and is ready to provide the required data.

As reported by Bloomberg, the fact of hacking was confirmed by Apple, which sent appropriate notifications to the victims.

As previously reported, Apple went to court in November and wanted to obtain a permanent injunction against the use of software products, services and devices by the NSO Group.

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Microsoft has recalled changes in Windows 11 that made it difficult to change the default browser

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The new Windows 11 developer build now offers a simple button to switch default browsers.

Microsoft has revoked changes earlier in Windows 11 that made it difficult to change the default browser. As reported by The Verge, a new test build of Windows 11 now allows users to set Chrome, Firefox, and others as their default browser with a single button.

Earlier this week developer Rafael Rivera discovered new changes in Windows 11. Instead of changing individual file extensions or protocol handlers for HTTP, HTTPS, .HTML, and .HTM, Windows 11 now offers a simple button that lets you switch default browsers similar to Windows 10.

Microsoft has confirmed that the changes were intentional and are currently being tested.

“In Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 22509, released through the developer channel on Wednesday, we have optimized the ability for Windows Previewers to set the default browser for apps that register for HTTP, HTTPS, .HTM, and .HTML,” said VP of Marketing for Windows Aaron Woodman.

As previously reported, Microsoft is making a huge effort to increase the number of users on its Edge browser. In the middle of last month, Microsoft blocked certain methods to quickly change the default browser in Windows 11. The blocking was implemented in Windows 11 developer build 22494 and directly affected EdgeDeflector, which is used by hundreds of thousands of people. As Microsoft admitted to The Verge, the blocking was intentional.

Microsoft is still testing new changes in Windows 11 to make it easier to switch the default browser, but when they will become available to users is unknown.

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