Author: Claire Liam

Stop Eaves-Dropping Alexa; How To Stop Alexa From Listening In To Your Conversations?

While we can’t imagine our lives without digital voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, recent reports have raised concern that these household staples are not just unquestioning minions, ready to serve, they are listening more often than people realize. I mean after all, how else would they respond to the “Alexa” wake word in a heartbeat? This has got people asking how to stop Alexa from listening in on their conversations.

Not only content with eavesdropping, they are also recording snippets of conversations which may be reviewed by humans in order to gauge how well the systems fulfill commands. According to Bloomberg,

“The recordings are transcribed, annotated and then fed back into the software as part of an effort to eliminate gaps in Alexa’s understanding of human speech and help it better respond to commands.”

After the startling revelation, people are frenzied over their privacy and left to wonder how much they have given away to strangers. Let’s face it, advertisers already know our weaknesses and desires; how far until what we desire walks right up to our doorstep in a jiffy?

Wondering how to stop Alexa from listening into your conversations? Here are a few ways to take back control and make sure no-one in your household really listens to you; especially not workers at Amazon! Here’s how:

How to Stop Alexa from Listening?

Use The Mute Button

For people who think that the “mute” button on the Amazon Echo devices exists to lull us into a false sense of security, it’s not all that bad. If you still have doubts, the teardowns of the Amazon Echo Dot show reveal that no voltage passes through the mic circuitry when in the mute mode. This mute mode is legit to be sure. While Mics may not need batteries to work, they can at least not record when shut out of the rest of the Echo. If you don’t know where the mute button is, look for a circle with a line through it or a micro-phone icon.

When you are not actively using your Echo device, its prudent to keep it on mute. But there’s a catch to it: what use is Alexa if it can’t take impromptu across-the-room commands. Nevertheless, it keeps those hush-hush conversations privy. When on mute, a red line appears on the Show series screens or the LED ring shines red, so that you can be sure that Alexa is behaving.

Switch The Camera Slider

If you are using Amazon Echo devices with a screen, such as the Echo Show 5 or Echo Show smart displays, why not use a camera slider to obstruct the camera view with a layer of opaque plastic. You can still utter commands to Alexa but block the camera that enables voice chat through services like Skype, since it leaves a lot of users uncomfortable knowing that the camera (and in turn, an amused Amazon employee) could be spying on them.

Switch off the Drop-in feature

One of the most controversial features of the Amazon series is that it affords your household and your contacts the ability to just “Drop In” and start a conversation via two Echo devices, much like a phone call. This makes your Amazon devices act like a video and audio intercom. Someone in front of the Echo device in the living room can get through to someone in front of the show in the upstairs bedroom. Some experts have suggested that a connection, for instant a fellow Echo owner you have in your contact list, could listen in on your home conversations.

Here’s where the problem starts. You don’t necessarily need a phone call to connect the two devices when they can communicate with each other automatically. It’s not so much as Amazon workers listening into your conversations as your 7-year-old spying on you. To disable this feature, fire up the Alexa app on your phone, go to Settings>Device Settings. Tap on any device and tap Communication. Turn the toggle to off for Drop in.

Tweak Your Privacy Settings

“We take customer privacy seriously and continuously review our practices and procedures,” the Amazon spokeswoman wrote in an email Friday. “We’ll also be updating information we provide to customers to make our practices more clear.”

In the wake of the recent backlash about Amazon employees listening in to your Amazon interactions and requests to improve Amazon’s transcription and test out new features, Amazon is changing its settings in a new policy which took effect last Friday, so people can opt out of having their voice recordings reviewed by Amazon employees.

  • Fire up the Alexa App and tap the menu button
  • Go to settings and select “Alexa Account”, scroll to the bottom and tap on “Alexa Privacy.”
  • Under the blue banner that appears, scroll down to “Manage How Your Data Improves Alexa”.
  • Notice how the first three items have been set to ‘on’ by default. Toggle these (especially the ‘Use Messages to Improve Transcriptions’ and ‘Help Develop New Features’) to the OFF position.
  • Ignore the warning that says that “new features” may not work properly if you proceed to make your recorded commands slightly less accessible to Amazon.

Prune Your Call History

As a last resort, you can log into your history and wipe out all the conversations you had with Alexa, logged on your Echo. While it definitely doesn’t stop Alexa from listening to you or recording your conversations, it removes all previous records it had of doing so. To do so, go to Settings > Alexa Privacy > Review Voice History. You will be presented with a list of your most recent Echo interactions. Scroll to the Date Range box and select ‘All History’, then tap on the Delete All Recordings for All History link. This gets rids of every Amazon record on file. However, this may wreak havoc on the performance of Echo, or so the disclaimer says.

Amazon also allows deletion by voice, which lets you delete recordings simply by saying “Alexa, delete everything I said today,” or “Alexa, delete what I just said”.

Could Fitness Tracking Apps and Devices Be Leading to Disordered Eating? Research Says so…

As a fitness aficionado, I set quite a score by my fitness watch. It tracked my burned calories, my steps, my heartrate, and my workouts. It permitted me to run marathons without having to lug my phone along to keep tabs on my pace and see how many miles I had run. It perked me up with motivators when I hit my move goal. It told me to get up after I had given in to lethargy and been idle for more than an hour at a time.

Similarly, I had literally been tapping in [to MyFitnessPal] every day for years. It seems innocuous when you are just starting out, but I can definitely say I got addicted. Every morsel that went into my body also had to be logged into my diary. I would fret over numbers since my Keto diet demanded macro management, I would find myself weighing something as insignificant as a lettuce leaf, I would worry if something I ate sent me over, I would feel wrecked with guilt if I fell behind my calorie goals for the day. Soon I started picking foods that I could input into MyFitnessPal, instead of eating home-cooked meals. Even when I had a binge, a total, utter of control (perhaps nothing more than a full scoop of ice cream), I logged it as best I could… it fueled my warped illusion of control – however, in reality, it was controlling me.

I felt I had to look, eat, train a certain way, since people were watching. I wanted to have a six-pack, be the strongest, leanest, the quickest. I worked hard and did get good at all of those things but as a consequence, I inadvertently fell victim to eating disorders. Within a few months, I was starting to burn more calories than I had eaten. Wrapped up in the complicated brain chemistry of motivation and reward, I would boast with pride when my calorie counter would go negative, or whenever I received a congratulatory message from some app!

In addition to counting calories, I was counting my steps as well, which further aggravated the compulsion to do a minimum number of steps and walk a certain distance each day. If I ever did more one day, it would become my new minimum the following time. Over time, I started getting so distressed because I never had time to do things as I had to get my steps in.

I tapped my progress obsessively – so obsessively, in fact, that my body was trimming off more than was needed. A couple of months down the lane, I started suffering from Panic attacks, mental and physical exhaustion, kidney problems, and migraines. After being hospitalized for days, diagnosed with “Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder”, and months of therapy, it dawned on me; What was I doing to my body?

The Link Between Disordered Eating And Fitness Tracking

Image result for my fitness pal

While apps like MyFitnessPal and fitness tracking devices can come in quite handy for some people, obsessing over calories burned and logging every morsel is nevertheless unhealthy. In fact, Heather Hausenblas, Ph.D., a professor in the department of kinesiology at Jacksonville University in Florida, highlights the importance of raising awareness about the role of fitness and calorie-counting apps in exercise addiction and eating disorders.

“For the most part, these apps do good,” says Hausenblas. “But for certain individuals, the constant checking and the obsession about it becomes really negative. With people who are on the cusp of disordered behaviors, it can push them over the edge.”

A 2017 study analyzing 493 college-age students found (via tracking devices and fitness apps) and disordered eating attitudes. Participants were entailed to note their calorie counts or fitness levels using tracking devices. “Individuals who reported using calorie trackers manifested higher levels of eating concern… Additionally, fitness tracking was uniquely associated with ED symptomatology,” researchers found, concluding that “for some individuals, these devices might do more harm than good.”

A Perverse Game Of Arithmetic

The number of connected wearable devices worldwide, of which health-focused wearables hold a significant portion, just pushed the 74 million threshold in 2019, and is projected to soar up to more than 1 billion by 2022. Even devices that are not inherently famous for their health-focus, such as the Apple or Samsung watch, have in-built exercise tracking, calories burn, and step count. This means that you don’t even have to invest in a wearable or smartwatch to track your fitness regime; data about your body comes at you unsolicited.

Dr Carolyn Plateau, a lecturer in psychology at Loughborough University, has deeply scrutinized the effect of health-focused apps and fitness trackers on regular users. Her most recent study explores the differences in mental wellbeing, disordered exercise, and disordered eating between people who record food intake and calories via these mechanisms and those who don’t. Here’s what she has to say,

“Our findings were interesting as they indicated that those who did track their activity or food intake showed higher levels of both disordered eating and exercise than those who did not. In particular, higher levels of purging behavior (e.g. excessive or driven exercise to control or modify weight or shape) was found among the tracking group.” 

Another psychotherapist specializing in eating disorders, Amanda Perl, backs up this study. According to Amanda, excessive exercising, strict dieting, and Calorie counting are synonymous with disordered eating, and fitness trackers and apps can exacerbate these symptoms in people who have had a history of eating disorders, or those too fixated on these things. Even worse, this obsession with goal setting and health-focused metrics throws balance to the winds, since trackers can aggravate feelings of self-loathing, failure, body shaming, and feeling out of control.

You may not instantly fall prey to disordered eating behaviors, but you may start setting impossibly high standards for yourself. By promoting an image of perfectionism, these apps take the reigns over your life and push you into an abysmal illusion that leaves you vulnerable to depression.

 These apps play on people’s desperation to control what goes into their body and the effect it has. At first it can be almost therapeutic to log what you’ve eaten, but it becomes a perverse game of arithmetic that drowns you in numbers. Constant monitoring of food intake and physical activity inadvertently triggers the symptoms of disordered eating and fuels our already prevalent obsessive and highly self-critical perfectionistic tendencies.

Not to mention, Competition and comparison adds to the stigma about eating disorders being attention-seeking. Many individuals with eating disorders take to constantly comparing their weight, but now with social media and technology, time is irrelevant, and the comparison group is global.

Psychologist and eating disorder specialist Dr. Stacey Rosenfeld says that,

“Sufferers can compare their food intake against someone’s from another country who posted the data three months prior. The comparisons are infinite. So, if someone is trying to restrict their intake but didn’t do as ‘good’ a job as someone that posted their intake prior, this might fuel distress, resulting in increased restriction in order to alleviate the distress around the perceived failure.”

How to use Google Assistant to Run your Smart Home For you?

Google Assistant is integrated into millions of smart devices, smartphones, and speakers across the world, and has become almost as close to our hearts as Alfred was to Bruce Wayne or Jarvis to Tony Stark – and for good reason.

The list of things Google Assistant can do will leave your jaw hanging open. The super-awesome voice assistant can do anything from booking your appointments, replying to your emails, answering your general knowledge questions, to ordering grocery for you. But what has truly gotten us hooked to this nifty assistant is its ability to control our smart homes like a butler, acting as a single voice-activated hub for your outdoor security camera, smart thermostat, connected lightbulbs, doorbell, and everything in between.

When we say it never ceases to surprise us, we are not exaggerating. I just heard five minutes ago that if your TV is hooked up to a Dish Hopper receiver, your Google Assistant can now display the weather, your pictures, and what not with a voice command. Just this Wednesday, Dish rolled out a software update that added Google Assistant to its existing voice remotes. You can now control your TV by talking into a Google-branded voice remote. Push a button to talk to the remote to activate your smart home and ask your Tv the same questions that you would have asked a Google Assistant-equipped phone, smart display or smart speakers.

Regardless of whether you run the Google Assistant app on your Android TV, a Google Home Speaker, or your smartphone. You don’t have to have the brains of Ironman to command your connected home devices; not when you have Google Assistant at your beck and call. However, if you are still wondering how to use the Google Assistant app on your smartphone, our comprehensive guide will turn you into a smart home pro.

Where can I find Google Assistant?

A lot of people are under the misconception that Google Assistant is only available on phone, smart displays like Google Next Hub Max, the Google Home Hub, or on the extensive list of Google Home speakers, such as Google Home Max or the Google Home Mini. In addition, Google Assistant has also been integrated with a plethora of third-party devices. While it makes more sense to use a Google Assistant on your smartphones or speakers, any of these devices can be used to control your smart home., if you know how. Though you might not want to have to haul your body over to your car parked outside everytime you want to turn up the heat in the house.

How to set up Google Assistant devices?

However, only your tablet or phone will be able to connect your home devices with Google Assistant. Fire up the Google Assistant app on your device, tap the menu button and choose Settings. Next, tap “Home control” near the top.

On the page that pops up, add the ‘+’ icon, and choose which device account you want to link, such as Nest or Philips Hue. Depending on which option you choose, you will be directed to log into your smart device’s account. If you’ve already done so via Chrome on your phone, Google will ask for permission to connect to your gadget’s account.

After you have connected your smart home account, you will be presented with the complete list of available devices. 

Complete the setup process by following all subsequent steps. Once completed, you can set nicknames for your devices to help you identify each later on. This helps when you want to say, “Dim the lights in the bedroom” or “play some music in the kitchen”.  You can even assign devices to different rooms in your house, especially when you have a lot of different smart devices.  

Once the setup is complete, start asking Google Assistant to do things like “play me some soothing music”, “Turn up the thermostat”, or “Turn off the lights.” Ask your Google Assistant smart display or TV to “display the livestream of your security camera’s view”, “read you your favorite audiobook”, or play a particular video online.

A lot of brands have started working with Google Assistant, such as the latest Neato robot vacuums or the Philips Hue lightbulbs, not to mention products from Google-owned company Nest, such as Nest Cam IQ or the next-generation Nest Smart Thermostat-E.

How to Disconnect devices from your Google Assistant?

If you no longer want Google Assistant to control your smart devices, you can simply disconnect your account. Open the Google Homepage, tap the device>Settings> Remove device, and tap unlink.

How To Remove Suggested URLs From Google Chrome And Keep Your Browsing History Private

Chrome comes equipped with a repository of functions, all intent on making our lives easier; even the seemingly annoying autosuggestion of URLs in the Omnibox – the dual-purpose search and address bar – was intended to save you from typing out a full address.  For instance, if you are looking to visit TechwireHub.com, you start typing t, e, c, and chrome will automatically suggest Techwirehub.com. While it can be a real time-saver in a lot of instances, like when you are revisiting a site with a long address that you had previously overlooked to bookmark. However, it can be a real pain in the neck most of the time.

We have all visited sites we would prefer not to have appear in our list of suggestions, perhaps it’s a site you didn’t like, or visited by accident. The list of suggested URLs can reveal your search history to someone watching over your neck or someone you share a computer with. If you are concerned about your privacy, you wouldn’t want other people to see which sites you have visited.  If any of those possibilities are making you sweat, here’s how you can prevent this from happening.

How To Remove A Single URL From Chrome Autofill?

If it’s a matter of just a single URL, follow the simple step-by-step instructions below to remove the suggestion from ever appearing again:

  • Fire up the Chrome app.
  • Type out the URL until the entry you want to erase appears.
  • Use the Down arrow key to highlight the entry.
  • Press Shift + Delete.
  • This will eliminate the URL from the autofill suggestions.

Delete URL Suggestions Manually

However, when you are looking to delete multiple suggestions from the same website, things get a bit complex. You can’t possibly hope to delete every one of them individually, unless you have all the time and patience in the world. Bad news: this labor-intensive task only works temporarily. In no time, Google will fill up its treasure-trove of suggestions again.

The fastest and easiest way is to wipe your browsing history to get rid of the URL suggestions permanently. Open the Settings menu, choose ‘More tools’, then ‘Clear browsing data’ to delete your entire browsing history. Alternatively, you can use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+Delete to open the same page, and check the box titled ‘Browsing history’ only. You can even specify the period within which your history should be erased and click on the ‘clear data’ button. However, this will still retain sites that are stored in your bookmarks. For that, right- click on those sites in the bookmarks menu and hit ‘delete’.

Delete URL Suggestions With A Browser Extension

If you frequently need to clear out your URL suggestions, why not download an extension that makes things a tad bit easier for you? For instance, the Click&Clean browser extension makes it far easier to delete saved URLs than navigating through the endless sea of Chrome’s settings.

Install the extension, click on the icon in your browser toolbar, navigate to ‘Clear private data’ and click the settings icon. In the Chrome section, click the trash can icon next to any data type that you wish to remove. Check the boxes pertaining to anything you would like to be able to delete from your browsing history and select the ‘Run cleaner’ button to remove them easily and in a hassle-free manner.

You can leverage the ‘Obliterate’ drop-down menu to customize the time frame for deletion as well. Once you have tailored the tool to your preference, in future, all you have to do is to click the Click&Clean button in the Chrome toolbar and select ‘Clear private data’ to get rid of everything that you have specified before; that too, in a single click.

Smart Home Gadgets for 2019

Turn your Condo into a Smart Home in 2019 with These Gadgets

We all loved to watch Tony Stark uttering commands to the winds, turning this on with a glance, that off with the swash of his hand. You could be the master of everything in your condo as well. Tech giants have bombarded us with gadgets that will supposedly make our lives better and easier, and smart condos have been increasingly emerging into the everyday. If you have been looking for a Toronto Condo for sale, here are a few gadgets you could invest in to truly enjoy “smart living”!

Nest learning thermostat

Nest learning thermostat

While we have been seeing a lot of saturation in the smart thermostat market, one that tops our list is the Nest smart thermostat. While it packs all the features of the original Nest, but with a less vivid display and cheaper parts which makes it more pocket friendly for condo owners. Not to mention, it works flawlessly with other Nest devices, such as the Nest security cameras and the Nest Protect, in addition to smart home gadgets from other brands as well. Here’s where it outshines competitors: The AI enabled thermostat learns about your activities as well as the heating schedules of your family, keeping your home at just the perfect temperature, while saving up on electricity bills. Undoubtedly one of the best smart home devices of 2019 for small condos.

Smart Air Quality Monitor

Smart Air Quality Monitor

Do you wish to have high quality air circulating throughout your condo, especially if you live in a bustling neighborhood? The Awair Glow works by tracking the key factors of your air quality, such as Chemicals, temperature, humidity, and CO2, and has a built-in night light. Based on the results, it takes smart actions to improve the air quality, such as turn on the humidifier when the humidity levels in a room fall low.

June Oven

June Oven

Want to cook like a gourmet chef? Who could have thought that one day we would have an oven that knows how to cook your food for you! Here comes the June Oven: a smart countertop oven with a built-in camera. The oven is equipped with programs for cooking a variety of specific foods, and its in-built camera identifies most of the foods you place in the oven. The oven automatically alters the time and temperature to perfectly cook whatever you place inside. The June Food Thermometer monitors and sends precise readings back to the oven to automatically change temperature, switch cook modes, and notify you when your food is ready. Its compact size makes it perfect for even a small condo kitchen.

iRobot Braava Jet 240

iRobot Braava Jet 240

Meet the Braava Jet 240; a tiny robot that mops and sweeps floors better than any sweeper, down to that last spot. It’s also the most affordable option in iRobot’s lineup. Specially meant for small spaces like micro condo kitchens and bathrooms, it works by spraying water and then switching between a plethora of different pads to clean quietly and effectively. It has an in-built navigation system and offers damp mopping as well. While it cannot scrub deep-set stains, if you are looking for a robot to keep your condo looking neat and clean round the clock, this compact little cleaner is your best bet.

LG’s Self-cleaning Closet

LG's Self-cleaning Closet

Do laundry days leave you dismal? Want a smart cabinet that can “refresh” your crumpled laundry for you? Sounds too good to be true. No, the elves don’t sneak in and do the deed! We have the LG self-cleaning closet; a freestanding wardrobe with in-built hangers and a steamer that automatically move around to de-wrinkle your clothes. The closet gizmo doesn’t exactly wash your dirty laundry, its TrueSteam technology “eliminates over 99.9 percent of the germs and bacteria found in clothing to keep one’s wardrobe hygienically clean,” according to the official website. Hot air is pumped through to keep all your clothes wrinkle-free and dry, while moving hangers shake off offensive odor. This translates into much less laundry days since you can reuse worn clothes more than once.

Nest Hello

Nest Hello

While its fun and all to reminisce the good old days when our doorbells would play merry tune, 2019 gives us a doorbell packed with a160-degree-wide-angle camera and an inbuilt microphone to double as a security system. Nest Hello’s video doorbell is a Wi-Fi connected device that offers two-way speaker communication, facial recognition, and round the clock streaming of high-quality footage. Knock Knock…Who’s there? Just kidding, we already know!

Ikea Smart Blinds

Ikea Smart Blinds

Do you sometimes wish that the blinds would automatically close when the sun shines through? Or perhaps open themselves when you need some natural light to seep in. Meet Ikea’s voice-activated, smartphone-connected blinds, compatible with Google home, Alexa, and Siri, as well as Ikea’s own Tradfri smart home system. Set to be released in October, their affordable price has made them perfect to be installed in your condos.

The Pod smart bed

 The Pod smart bed

The smart sleep specialists 8 Sleep has come up with a new innovation to give you the best chance of a good night snooze! The Pod learns the temperature that makes you the most comfortable when you sleep and adjusts itself accordingly. It can also wake you up by gradually raising the temperature of the bed, bidding adieu to the shrill ringing of alarm clocks. For a $5 monthly subscription, you can get a connected app to collect data from sensors embedded in the mattress while you sleep and analyze it to better adapt to your preferences. Thankfully, Alexa compatibility makes everything controllable by voice.

iKuddle smart cat litter tray

iKuddle smart cat litter tray

Keeping pets in a compact space can get… well smelly. While its release date is not yet confirmed, this Kickstarter project has got a lot of condo owners hooked. The idea of a sensor-activated, self-cleaning litter tray could make it a whole lot easier to keep pets in your condo. The device detects when your cat enters the tray, a hand scoops up the soiled litter, seals it in an airtight bag, and sprays deodorant to get rid of lingering odors.

Eco Dish Cleaner

Eco Dish Cleaner

The Eco cleaner cleanses dishes with the help of ultrasonic waves by ionizing the food particles. For those aspiring to reduce their carbon footprint, this eco-friendly technology converts all food scraps into compost for plants. All your food waste is transformed into healthy soil for your plants. The compact and portable gadget will fit in even the smallest condo kitchen and will revolutionize the family’s dining ritual. What further makes it sustainable for urban lifestyle is that this gadget uses solar technology for charging the battery.

Orro intelligent light switch

Orro intelligent light switch

There are lot of wifi-enabled lighting systems available online these days, Orro’s is the first of its kind that leverages in-built self-learning technology to get to grips with how you like to light your home and anticipate your mood lighting needs in advance. It understands your lighting preferences and senses when someone enters or leaves a room. Not to mention, it considers the amount of natural light entering the room and the time of the day before making lighting decisions. It also connects to smart hubs and acts as an extension to their voice recognition capabilities.

Is WhatsApp Offering 1000 GB Of Free Data On Its 10th Birthday? Don’t Fall For The Scam

WhatsApp just turned 10 and this hasn’t escaped the notice of cybercriminals. It appears that some party-poopers are not interested in the cake; they are just looking for ways to exploit the anniversary.

ESET Researchers received a WhatsApp message offering 1000GB of free internet data to celebrate the 10th Birthday of WhatsApp. Unsurprisingly, it’s not a case of WhatsApp generosity as it is purported to be, and nor is the offer genuine. It is a scam that many unwittingly fell prey to.

Given that 10 is a big number and gifts to loyal members were in order, it would be a piece of cake to get an unwary user carried away by the fraudulent promotion.

What does the message say?

The message says, “WhatsApp Offers 1000GB Free Internet!” with a link to click for more details. Here’s what raises the red flag; the link isn’t an official WhatsApp domain, which makes us suspicious that all isn’t what it seems. However, given that many businesses have a propensity to run their promotions through third party organizations, in an attempt to validate fraudulent plays like the one we are just talking about, it’s not surprising to see that so many people clicked through.

Those who did, found themselves at a landing page, carrying the WhatsApp logo, and announcing: “We offer you 1000 GB free internet without Wi-Fi! On the occasion of our 10th anniversary of WhatsApp.” Not only is the message poorly composed, it is overlaid by a hideous yellow countdown sticker, listing the number of rewards left, creating a sense of urgency, and a survey question on the side asking how you found out about the offer.

Once the user is done answering all the questions, a pop-up explains that the promotional message must be shared with at least 30 other WhatsApp users before the user qualifies for the promotional giveaway.

Is any malware installed?

Upon further delving into the matter, ESET researchers found no evidence of any malicious software running at the back, or of any scraped personal information that could be changed at any time by the perpetrators. For now, the culprits seem content to “rack up bogus ad clicks that ultimately bring revenues for the operators”, asserts ESET. As expected, the fraudulent campaign is hosted by a domain that houses a plethora of brand-led so-called promotional offers from famous brands like Rolex, Nestle, and Adidas.

“What strikes us right off the bat here is that the URL that comes with the message is not an official WhatsApp domain,” the researchers said on Monday. Even though it is not uncommon for brands to run promotions through third parties from time to time, it is always prudent to check the company’s website to make sure any promotion is valid and real.

Can WhatsApp prevent this kind of scam?

This is yet another instant that proves how deep the degeneration of digital marketplace is. Even a highly secure app like WhatsApp can be vulnerable to easy exploitation by malicious actors. Some say that the “freemium” pricing strategy that offers free of charge services to all users, has been detrimental to both cybersecurity and privacy.

Even though ESET has guaranteed that the scam hasn’t phished for credentials, who is to say this won’t be the case next time as well. This seemingly innocuous prank could have done so much more damage. If that happened, you could end up losing significant sums of money and access to internet accounts– because hackers could gain control of your online identity. Cyber-boffins also warn that the scammers could potentially install “malicious software” on your device as well via the link.  

“The whole 1000 GB for WhatsApp 10th birthday seems legit,” Thornton-Trump says, “I mean who pays for WhatsApp? It’s a great attack to phish for credentials to WhatsApp and then pivot to other services on the largely correct assumption a common password will be used across all the victim’s accounts.”

So, the question remains: How can WhatsApp make sure this kind of scam doesn’t happen again?  The only thing WhatsApp can do is start a cyber counterintelligence campaign, go out in public and admit to users that this is a scam. Education seems to be our only hope in circumventing such wide scale frauds.

OK, Google, that would be all! How to Turn Off Google Assistant?

Ok, nobody’s being thankless here. If this entire topic is making you uneasy like when Diego shut down ‘mom’ in the Umbrella academy, leaving us all floating in mixed emotions, hear me out. While at times, Google Assistant can be a really helpful tool to help you organize your life and navigate your gadgets, it can get a little on our nerves when it dispenses unsolicitous opinions, so it’s good to know How to turn off Google Assistant for these situations.

For me personally, the most exasperating moment is when Google Assistant wakes up without me having asked for it. It appears almost every time I unlock my phone, which I do a lot in a day. 99% of the time, I really don’t need it, and have to swipe it away before I can perform the actions I want. Perhaps I have accidentally pressed the Start button on my smartphone which activates the Google Assistant.

As soon as it is activated, it captures your voice, comprehends the instruction and comply. The worst part is when your smartphone is in your pocket and yet you somehow activate Google Assistant by accident without even being aware of it. Let’s say, you are in the middle of a serious conversation, you happen to have inadvertently activated your voice-activated companion, your device might pick up a fragment of something you have said, and suddenly answer you!

Trust me shouting out “get lost, Google”, “you suck, Google”, never works, I have tried. This is because the option to disable Assistant is hidden in layers of menus. After many annoying and embarrassing episodes, I have put together this guide to help you turn off Google Assistant!

How Do I turn off Google Assistant?

First things first, you need to fire up your Google app. You will have no trouble locating it on the home page or in your app drawer, since all Android phones will come with this pre-installed. Look for this app icon.

Once you have opened the app, tap on the “More” button in the bottom right corner, which has three horizontal dots above it.

Search for “settings” in this menu somewhere at the bottom of the list.

Once opened, select ‘Google Assistant’ in the next menu.

Select ‘Assistant’ in the Google Assistant options menu. scroll down to the bottom to see the list of all devices it is used on. Select the ‘Phone’ option in the list to control how the app will be used in your phone.

Look at the top Toggle labelled ‘Google Assistant’? tap on it to deactivate it for your whole device.

tap on the Toggle to turn off Google Assistant on your device.

Phew, now that you have succeeded in subduing your over-helpful friend, your can rest easy knowing that your phone won’t be eaves dropping on your conversations. Now when you actually want to summon the Google Assistant, either by squeezing your phone, or pressing down on the power button, a search bar will appear to let you type in your request manually! Much less invasive!

Kim Kardashian Just Got a Deepfake Taken off YouTube, but can you?

Paul Shales is a computer programmer by day and takes care of run-of-the-mill operations for a bank. By night though, he creates deepfakes that portray Kim Kardashian freestyle rapping, President Donald Trump as a tantrum-throwing pageant contestant on “Toddlers & Tiaras”; and Elon Musk as a weird, giggly baby.

Paul’s shenanigans are just for fun, not meant to scare or malign anyone. There do however exist, on the internet, a gazillion videos that portray people doing things they never even thought of doing. Real faces, real people, so close to photorealistic footage; caught up in entirely unreal events.

These “deepfakes” are videos fabricated using a particular kind of AI. Inevitably, they had their roots in a thriving online market for superimposing celebrity faces on porn actors’ bodies, but now they pose a bigger threat. People are increasingly voicing concerns over their impact on our already fervid political scenario. These concerns have prompted the US congress and the British government to look into ways of regulating them.

Check out this video purporting to show Kim Kardashian West mocking her fans for violating copyright and showing her support for a shadowy organization known as “Spectre”. Hopefully, you see a blank!

YouTube stepped up and took down the deepfake on Monday, which gives us some hope in the fight against deepfakes, but the method is unlikely to help much as such videos continue to target an ever-greater number of people every day. The video, posted by anti-advertising activists Brandalism, was removed only after a copyright claim by publisher Condé Nast, since the original was posted somedays back by the publisher’s Vogue magazine.

Henry Ajder, head of communications and research analysis at Deeptrace, an organization currently devising a system to detect deepfakes on the web, has raised concern over the increase of deepfakes being uploaded to YouTube. The Kardashian copyright claim sets a new precedent for when such videos can be removed, but the matter is more complex than it appears to be. Who decides if such manipulated videos are being used ‘fairly’? Taking videos like these make tech companies vulnerable to tirades of accusations of taking away freedom of expression.

He further added that,

“It certainly shows how the existing legal infrastructure could help,” Henry Ajder, head of communications and research analysis at Deeptrace, told Digital Trends.  “But it seems to be available for the privileged few.”

But does this all mean that deep-fakes are subject to copyright claims? If so, like we have the Kardashian video to show for it, it would make for a simple reason to take down misleading fake videos. YouTube hasn’t yet confirmed that it is coming out a new policy to mitigate such deepfakes.

While this seems like a new weapon in our arsenal, there is still a long way to go before we can wage war against deepfakes. For one, a huge company like Condé Nast can effortlessly make a copyright claim on YouTube any day, but for me and you, we are not so fortunate. If someone made a deepfake of you, by recording you doing something but then manipulating it, there’s no copyright claim to make since they are the ones who have recorded the footage.  

Even worse, what if someone takes your pictures off any social media platform and make a video of you doing or saying something you never did? Well, it’s already happening all over the world. Women have seen the worst of it so far, including those whose faces have been pasted on the bodies of adult stars. Once a video has gone viral, what can one do about it. According to Aider,

“The legal recourse to take down deepfakes of individuals are sparse. We don’t have the infrastructure in place to deal with these problems.”

We appreciate what YouTube has done but not everybody seems to be following up. For instance, Another Brandalism video deepfaking CEO Mark Zuckerberg as praising Spectre has garned over 100,00 views on Instagram. The original video was a Zuckerberg interview on CBS News. Even though CBS has requested Instagram to remove it on grounds of an “unauthorized use of the CBSN” trademark. However, its sad to see the Zuckerberg deepfake still online on Brandalism’s page, while the Kardashian video is still online on both Twitter and Instagram.

Another Doctored Pelosi video slurring her speech, highlights the threat of deepfake tech.

While Youtube did take it down, it remains on Facebook with a note tagging it as fake. Such a malicious video, focused on slighting one person, seems much more a threat than the Kardashian one, which some people found plain funny. YouTube will shut down misinformation when pushed, but Facebook would prefer not to be an arbiter of truth.

What chance does people like us stand!

The Latest Version of Monopoly Is Cracking Down On Cheaters With A New Voice-Controlled Banker

For most people, Monopoly is less a board game and more a device that fuels family feuds. Almost every family breaks out the box around the holiday season, but it inevitably always ends in arguments and fallouts, followed by hours of not talking to each other.  A new study proves that it causes more fights than scuffed boats in an old west saloon.

On a creepy note, internet is replete with morbid tales of stabbings, break ups, and flipped tables after someone has stretched the rules (If you have heard of the 60-year-old New Mexican woman who repeatedly stabbed her boyfriend after accusing him of cheating at Monopoly.).

In an attempt thwart every Monopoly game from turning into fisticuffs, the Monopoly team recently conducted a survey of 2,000 board game players to find out the top ways fans cheat on the sly.

Monopoly decided to step up and turn the tables on avid cheaters. The upcoming Monopoly Voice Activated Banking Game, projected to be available by 1st July, 2019, adds a voice-activated top hat that acts as an omnipotent banker who oversees the game’s financial transactions. Under its stringent scrutiny, even the most ruthless thieves don’t stand a chance!

Basic gameplay is the same; you skip around the board, purchase properties, and construct houses and hotels on which your fellow players pay a rent when they land on them. Only, here, you Press one of the buttons on the hat and utter a command like ‘pay rent on Whitechapel road’ and leave it to Mr. Monopoly to respond and transfer the payment to an opponent’s account.

Let’s say you just landed on Trafalgar Square, you simply press the button that represents you as a player and let the top hat know of your intent; it will automatically subtract the requisite amount from your balance. Same goes for when you pick up a community card that entails you to pay your taxes or when “it’s your birthday and each player has to part with 10”.

Hasbro promises faster and more infallible gameplay as players will be able to trade and buy properties as well as erect hotels and houses faster through voice commands.

From the product description, we know that the set includes a game-board, 22 Title Deed Cards, 16 hotels, 16 houses, four Reference cards, one Get Out of Jail Free card, two dice, four player tokens, and a game guide. The board game accommodates two to four players at a time and is suitable for ages 8 and up.

For me, the silver lining is not having to slag off the thankless job of “banker” on to a Math-nerd friend. Now, you can trust the voice-activated hat to manage all your money and properties. Oh and since it doesn’t connect to the Internet, shed off all worries about eaves-droppers at Hasbro listening into you sayig horrible things to your family in a rage. Thank God for that. Fortunately, the game doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, so it won’t hurt to try it out on your next family rendezvous and fingers crossed, our voices won’t carry two blocks!

Oh, and just like good old  Mr. Monopoly, or formerly Rich Uncle Penny bags, the disturbingly anthropomorphic hat shouts “bankrupt” at you unceremoniously! Now that’s hilarious; I mean if it’s happening to your sister… ahem, I mean any opponent!

How to Save An Image from Google Docs?

Extracting and saving images from the web is generally a piece of cake. All you have to do is right click and choose ‘Save as.’. But have you ever tried to save or download an image from Google Docs? It’s a whole different story. It is downright exasperating to say the least. There is no apparent way to select and download a few images directly from a docs document. Fortunately, we have worked around this drawback. Here are 5 simple ways to download images from any Google Doc.  

1. Publish to the Web, then Save Images One-by-One

If you only want to extract a few images, this method is your best bet:

  • Open your document in Google Docs, click on File > Publish to the web found on the top left corner.
  • Click on the blue Publish button. Does your doc incoprorate confidential data or private information. Remember to stop publishing once you have got your images.
  • A pop-up window appears. Click OK to continue.
  • See the link that appears? Copy and paste it into a new tab on your web browser. Hit the Return or the Enter key to load the page.
  • A web page will appear with the content of your doc. Locate the images that you want, right click on each, click on “Save Image As…” Specify the destination where you wish to save those images.
  • Voila. You have got your images, but the work isn’t finished yet. Go back to your Google Docs document, again click on File > Publish to the web, see the “Stop publishing” button under Published content & settings”? Click on it and check OK on the pop-up, to stop publishing your doc. 

2. Save The Images to Google Keep

This option is by far the least hassle-some. Google Keep is a note taking app that has recently been integrated with Google Docs. This comes down to the fact that you can save docs document images directly to the sidebar, from where they can be downloaded and saved directly without any frills. Here’s how you can save an image to Keeps:

  • Right-click on any image that you want to download in a Docs document, and click on the “Save to Keeps” option.
  • Your picture is saved to the sidebar, as shown in the screenshot below.
  • To save the image, simply right click on the image from Keep sidebar, and click on “Save as”, specify a destination for the image, press the save button, and you have successfully downloaded the image.

3. Use A Snipping Tool

You must be familiar with the Snipping tool if you use Windows, or maybe you know Grab if you have a Mac. Both let you select a portion of your screen and capture it. This can help you take a snapshot of the image you want to download and save it as a copy.

  • Open the Google Doc from where you want to download the image. Also make sure the image is in the center of the screen for best capture.
  • Fire up the snipping tool.
  • Select New and outline the image with your mouse cursor. This tool lets you capture the snapshot of your selected image.
  • Click on File>Save as, specify the destination where you wish to save the file, give it a meaningful name, and click on Save.

While this is a relatively easy way to download an image, the images need to be manipulated to resemble the original sometimes. So, we can’t really say we are downloading here, we are just making a copy. However, this method is one of the easiest and fastest, and if you only occasionally need to download images from Google Docs, why bother grappling with Doc add-ons to extract images from Google Docs, when you have such a great trick up your sleeve.

4. Extract Pictures from Documents With Add-Ons

If you frequently need to download images from Google Docs, install an add-on that extracts pictures from Docs. Image extractor is a great add-on you can use. Install this add-on to begin.

  • Once downloaded and installed, fire up the document from where you wish to extract images. To start, click on Add-ons > Image Extractor > Start to open the sidebar.
  • Select the image you wish to download from the doc.
  • The Image Extractor add-on pops-up in your browser’s right sidebar. Choose the image you want to save, select it and click the “Download Image” button. The image will be downloaded to your browser’s download folder. Voila! Easy as a breeze.

5. Download as Office Word, then Reuse the Images

You can use this method whenever you want to reuse the images that you have downloaded from Google Doc in Microsoft Office Word. Here’s how to do it:

  • Select File > Download as > Microsoft Word (.docx). This converts your Google Doc to a word format. The word Doc will retain all your content and formatting, including the images.
  • Fire up the exported Word document and then cut, copy, or save the images as you want.