Consumer Alert: The USB Killer

I’ve reported on some disturbing consumer trends, from sextortion to government hacking. Well, the disturbance keeps on coming. This is a consumer alert: the USB Killer is coming to a computer near you.

This isn’t a movie plot or a sci-fi novel. There really is a device called the USB Killer. It made news last year. Now, there’s an even stronger version floating out there. It sends 220 volts through a computer, whether it be a desktop, laptop or tablet. That much voltage kills a computer within a few minutes. According to it’s own creators, the USB Killer can destroy 95% of all computers. This includes Macs and other Apple based computers. Promoters say this killer device is for surge protection. But it could be used for more sinister purposes. There are things that equally add to the disturbance. One USB Killer promoter is rumored to by Dark Purple. He’s allegedly one of the most notorious hackers in Russia. We don’t really know the company behind this killer device. Tech media company Mashable contacted the mysterious makers. They’re based in Hong Kong. That’s all they were able to find out. The USB Killer will cost only $55.

The USB Killer’s creators are unknown. The USB Killer’s promoters could be Russian hackers. And it only cost $55 to destroy a computer. Yes, it could be used for surge protection. Let’s say you want to wipe out your own computer. To ensure nobody interferes with the data, and to ensure your privacy isn’t blasted on social media, you could use the USB Killer for good. But that’s the best case scenario. What’s the worst? A competitor, or even a disgruntal colleague or former employee, could wipe out important machines. This could sabotage or even destroy a business. A hacker could wipe out a computer, for money or for spite. Whole government agencies can wipe out critical classified information. What if Russian, Chinese, or Iranian spies go to Washington and use the USB Killer to wipe out critical military, security, or economic information? These are just a few of the malicious way this thing could be abused. Is the USB Killer a good idea or a weapon of destruction waiting to happen?

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Tracking Method vs. Privacy: Which One Will You Choose

Last night, I saw a rather disturbing technology based ad. Not only does it promote a tracking device, it describes how scary this device is.  It tracking method vs. privacy. Which one will you choose?

The device being promoted was the TrackR. It’s a GPS system the size of a quarter. You install the TrackR app on your smartphone. Connect the app to your device. Attach the quarter like system to your keys, wallet, phone, tablet, spouse, significant other, child, employee, or anything or anyone else you wish. If you lose something, open the TrackR app. Tap the ‘find device’ function. The app tells you where your misplaced item is. The ad gave the scenario of being in a big parking lost. You forgot where to park (okay, that is very real situation). The TrackR would tell you where your car is. Another scenario used is the stolen bicycle. You use TrackR app. The app leads you to where your bike is now. How much will this tracking device costs? That’s the most tempting, yet disturbing thing about TrackR. I hope this doesn’t encourage you to get it, but one can purchase a TrackR app online for as little as $29! No, I’m not giving you the address!

Okay, the ad doesn’t say attach the quarter size device on your spouse, child, employee, or any other human being. I’ll give them that much credit. But don’t you see where this can lead? Yes, you can find your wallet, phone, bike or car. Those are best case scenarios. Think about the worst. People can sneak this device onto an unsuspecting human being. They will be able to track that human being wherever they go. A violent ex can track down his wife/girlfriend. An enemy can track down an enemy. A bully can track down his victim. A sex offender can use this device to track a child. All he’d have to do is slip this on the child’s book bag or in his coat pocket. This is why I’m scared to death of TrackR and what it could lead to. We already have our government and foreign governments watching our every move. We already have surveillance watching our every move. Do we really need this? It’s tracking method vs privacy? Which one will you choose?

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McDonald’s Happy Meal Toy Alert

This is a McDonald’s happy meal toy alert. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), 29 million McDonald’s fitness tracker toys are up for recall. This comes after 70 complaints of child skin irritation, from rashes to blisters.

The CPSC recommends parents return this toy to McDonald’s and ask for a replacement toy and a desert, such as apple slices or yogurt tube. The toy was an attempt to teach kids about physical fitness. It was supposed to get them interested in fitness and technology at the same time, and do so at an early age. The plan backfired. One mother in Arkansas named Casey Collyar complained her son suffered burns. The son had the watch on for ten minutes. She thought the battery was the culprit. Through social media, Collyar urged parents not to get this dangerous fitness tracker. According to a McDonald’s leading spokesperson, the toys have been discontinued. A full investigation is being conducted. It’s also speculated certain skin allergies and sensitivities could be the cause. The Good Housekeeping Institute,  a popular consumer rights’ organization, suggested parents check the watch’s materials. They should be soft, durable plastics. Consumers should also switch up wrists.

You can’t fault McDonald’s for trying. This fast food franchise has been under the gun for making our kids and our nation obese. Is that true? Well, it’s debatable. I grew up on happy meals back in the day, and got toys too. We weren’t worried about obesity. But I believe McDonald’s was sincere in releasing this smart wrists toy. They wanted kids to be tech savvy at an early age. They should be. McDonald’s is sincere in trying to get kids healthy again. This toy was meant to get kids active and teach them the value of good health. There is an old saying: The road to (destruction) is paved with good intentions. Does this saying explain the McDonald’s toy fiasco?

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Leslie Jones Is Cyber Trolled Again

Last month, I reported on the cyber trolling woes of Saturday Night Live and Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones. Now, those woes worsen. Leslie Jones is cyber trolled again.

This time it’s far more serious. Hackers broke into her website and leaked nude photos of her. They hacked into her Tumblr account and took the photos from her iCloud. It didn’t stop there. They posted her drivers license, passport, phone number, and other personal information of Jones’. They put images of Harambe, the dead gorilla, posing with her and other celebrities. Please believe such images were photo-shopped. Since late July, Jones has been the victim of vicious cyber racist and sexist attacks.  Jones’ website,, is now defunct. Jones just got back from Rio as a guest social media commentator for the Olympics.  So far, neither Jones nor her people have responded to the latest round of cyber attacks and hack. Many speak out on her behalf. Ghostbusters director Paul Feig tweeted, “What’s happening to [Leslie] is an outrage.” Even Milo Yiannopulous, who was banned from Twitter for allegedly harassing Leslie Jones, now sympathies with her. He expressed distress and wishes her the best during this upsetting time.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time celebrity nude photos were released without their knowledge or approval. In 2014, nearly 500 celebrity photos, most of them nude, were hacked and leaked to the public. Only one person was arrested for this crime. Their lies part of the problem. Few people are being caught and prosecuted for this. If people feel they can get away with it, they’re going to keep doing it. We have to strengthen our laws and efforts to catch these crooks. This should be the happiest year in Leslie Jones’ life. She has a spot on the historic Saturday Night Live. She’s a star of a major motion picture. She landed a gig covering the Olympics. She’s one of the fastest rising stars in Hollywood today. She should be living the American dream. But because of these trolls, bullies and hackers, Leslie Jones’ American dream has become an American nightmare. The nightmare seems to have no end in sight. Is this our new normalcy (I hope not!)?

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Information technology support tips for small business

Small businesses rely on information technology to improve productivity, share information and reduce the time it takes to communicate. Despite how important information technology is to their success many small businesses don’t tend to manage it well.  For the most part this has to do with the depth of expertise and investment of time that […]

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The Heartbleed OpenSSL vulnerability and what it means for your security

The Internet is buzzing about one of the most widespread vulnerabilities seen in ages. The bug is called “Heartbleed” and it directly impacts all servers, network appliances and other devices that use OpenSSL 1.0.1 branch are vulnerable up to version 1.0.1g.  When exploited, Heartbleed allows attackers to read server memory in 64K chunks.  This can […]

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The impossibility of avoiding malware reactively

What if every day a new threat was on the horizon?  It would be seemingly overwhelming!  But what if every day tens of thousands of new threats were appearing, and the majority have yet to be identified?  Scary as that may seem we must face reality and realize that is the world we live in. […]

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Upgrading Microsoft Windows XP before support ends in April

It doesn’t seem like all that long ago that Bill Gates was on television touting Windows 98’s “Plug and Play” functionality as the new standard for installing hardware.  Unfortunately at the time Windows 98 was feeling a bit grumpy and decided to crash, rather than install the hardware, in front of a live audience and […]

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