New Algorithm Helps Prevent Cyber Attacks on GPS Technologies

Growing up in the digital age, we are no stranger to GPS technologies. Whether on our cell phones, embedded in our Fitbit’s, or programmed into our cars, most of us have utilized GPS tracking systems at some point in our lives. With GPS systems being so popular, it also makes them very susceptible to malicious cyber attacks. After conducting a new study at the University of Texas at San Antonio, two researches and a graduate student have created an algorithm that might be the answer to safeguarding our GPS systems.

In many cases, hackers and cyber attackers have recreated the GPS signal and tampered with items such as the time and current location of GPS systems. For many users, this is distressing since it could send people to incorrect locations or interrupt important data collection.

The researcher’s algorithm can identify false GPS signals and counter attack these signals as they are transmitted to your device. The best part about it? It is as easy as downloading an app onto your device. They are working currently on making this technology available for iPhone and Android users everywhere to protect our devices from GPS hacks.


Source: University of Texas at San Antonio. “New method to stop cyber attacks on GPS-enabled devices.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 March 2018. <>.

Freemium Games

Why You Should Be More Wary Of Freemium Games


Let me start off by saying that I hate Freemium games, I hate micro transactions, and I hate about 95% of games that have them. However, with the recent skyrocketing of popularity of free to play games like Fortnight, I’ve begun to wonder how these games came about and why they seem to be so lucrative and popular.

For those of you that don’t know, Freemium games are those where the base experience is free, but the game offers you things here and there that make it easier, less time consuming, or give you some sort of cosmetic improvement. All of these are purchased with real world currency.

But how does this work? It seems logical that people would just not pay money because they don’t have to in order to play the game, but clearly they do. This is because of the way these games are designed. Freemium games are typically designed in a way that draws the user in, then places some obstacle in their way in order to persuade them to purchase a power up or a loot crate. For example in a game called Score Hero, you start out cruising along and having a good time, but relatively quickly you hit a wall where the game becomes much more difficult  and you burn through your lives and the wait to get more is ludicrously long. This is the game encouraging you to throw some money their way by severely limiting your progress so that you can overcome these hurdles and continue your enjoyment of the game. This practice is the core of Freemium games.

Another strategy is to offer a level of exclusivity if a user pays money. This is usually a cosmetic thing and takes the form of weapon skins, outfits, or other cosmetic items that do nothing to improve your play or the game; they just look cool. This is made even more enticing through the use of loot crates. Loot crates contain all of the items listed above, and are either payed for directly or through the use of keys that the user must buy in order to unlock the crate. These crates drop items at random and draw the user in because of the chance that they could win something really cool.

Freemium games vary in their level of aggression when it comes to pursuing users and their money. Some are relatively harmless and just want to make a game and make money, but others can be pretty ruthless. Just read what this game developer said in an anonymous confession about how his team uses Facebook to hook users: “we take Facebook stalking to a whole new level. You spend enough money, we will friend you. Not officially, but with a fake account. Maybe it’s a hot girl who shows too much cleavage? That’s us. We learned as much before friending you, but once you let us in, we have the keys to the kingdom. We will use everything to figure out how to sell to you. I remember we had a whale in one game that loved American Football despite living in Saudi Arabia. We built several custom virtual items in both his favorite team colors and their opponents, just to sell to this one guy. You better believe he bought them. And these are just vanity items. We will flat out adjust a game to make it behave just like it did last time the person bought IAP.”


Google Introduces AI Into Warfare

As with everything else in the world, war is being technologically advanced little by little with artificial intelligence. The use of drones during combat has been a major controversial debate among people around the world. According to an article by Brandon Specktor on Life Science, Google has set up an agreement with the U.S Department of Defense (DOD) to create advanced software that will provide the drones with the superior ability to identify objects during warfare. The hoped for outcome of this software is to “improve America’s ability to win wars with computer algorithms and artificial intelligence”. Currently, drones have just been providing footage of combat zones in Syria and and Iraq which takes officials hours to go through. According to the DOD there are thirty-six classes of objects that are recognized within current drone footage. This new software will allow for the automatic detection of these classes, making the process shorter and more efficient. It’s incredible how military drones are now being adapted and designed to better assist deployed militants. Although the article states that these drones won’t be able to identify targets, there is still a concerning aspect to the increased capabilities of them.

Google reported they will be using TensorFlow programming in the drones as well. TensorFlow is known for being used to create neural networks, or computer systems that are based off of the human nervous system and brain adding that artificial intelligence aspect. According to Google, the software is only meant to identify images that will be looked over by humans, but what if this advanced system can do much more? It’s definitely a concerning thought especially when dealing with war and combat. My cousin has been deployed in Syria for 2 tours now and is personally alarmed by the introduction of AI into something that is so centered on human interaction and strategy. Personally, I agree with him and fear that war will eventually be completely machine operated. Even employees from Google are concerned with the abilities of these new drones. Who knows what types of immense destruction they could bring to our world.


VAR will be used in the 2018 World Cup

FIFA has approved the use of VAR, video assistant referee, in the 2018 World Cup in Russia. VAR has been a polarizing issue for soccer fans. The technology is being used across the world in the sports biggest leagues. Italy, Spain, the United States have started using the system, and now England plans to use it in their FA Cup tournament. VAR has seen varying degrees of success since it first started being used. There have been controversial call changes that have directly impacted the game. For example, Luis Suarez of Barcelona had a crucial goal disallowed by the video replay system that ended up costing his team the win. The game ended in a 2-2 draw.

Controversies like these have raised question of weather video replay technology like VARS should have any part in a sport that has traditionally been officiated in real time by human referees for generations. Many believe that video replay will slow down the pace of soccer, a game designed around fluidity and continuity. Extra stoppages will make the games choppier, deteriorating the identity of the sports.

Now VAR will make its debut on sports biggest stage this summer. FIFA claims that VAR will only be used to correct “clear and obvious mistakes”, but VAR has the power to disallow or allow goals, award or deny penalties, and give players red cards. That is a lot of power that can certainly impact the out come of a game. For decades, soccer has relied on the snap decision of a referee, and it has worked out well for the worlds most ubiquitous sport, can we really trust machines with shaky track records on the worlds biggest stage?

How is Fortnite making so much money?

As you probably all know the hottest game on the market right now is Fortnite. The weird thing that confuses so many people is that the game is completely free to play. With that said, Epic Games, the developer for game pulled in just about $126 million in the month of February alone. Its biggest competitor, Players Unknown Battleground (PUBG), pulled in $106 million in the month of February. Those statistics are very interesting regarding business models because while Fortnite is free, PUBG costs 29.99 yet Fortnite generated an extra $20 million dollars in revenue. This is because Fortnite offers a couple things that PUBG does not. First off, Fortnite is available on all platforms including Xbox, PC, PS4 and now mobile while PUBG is strictly on PC and Xbox only. With that said, right off the bat, Fornite will be exposed to more players no matter what. The second thing that is different is the design of the game. Fornite offers in-game purchases where players can get different costumes and extra accessories for around $10 while PUBG costs money to play the game originally and offers no extra in-game purchases. With the extra exposure and a being a free game, players become hooked on the game and are willing to spend more money. Clearly, Epic Games thought of this for a reason and it is paying off big time as they now own the biggest game out there right now generating the most money.

Where Is My Personal Data Safe?

Just like there are four seasons in a year, which occur every three months, it seems as if there is another company disclosing that x-amount of user’s data has been exposed to an unauthorized party — every three months. On Thursday, Under Armour had announced that roughly 150 million users of its MyFitnessPal app were affected by a company data breach. MyFitnessPal is an app where users can easily track their calories, workouts, and nutrients on a daily basis. I was drawn to this article because I am a user of the app and I was curious to read about another data scandal.

Under Armour has made the claim that even though the data was exposed to an unauthorized party, the usernames and passwords that were exposed have not been used to access the accounts of the MyFitnessPal users. But does this make it okay? Often times people use the same usernames and passwords for several different accounts. Can Under Armour confirm that the information leaked hasn’t had a trickle-down effect on my other accounts? While part of me wants to believe that there is an Edward Snowden of the hacking world and this person is just exposing the weak cyber security in place at these companies, another part of me wants to believe that this data is being sold on the dark web for people to mishandle. Either way, it is becoming more and more apparent that companies need to be doing more to ensure that the data of its users is secured.

While I did state that it feels that data breaches are beginning to happen more frequently, it doesn’t seem as if people care (or at least millennials). My friends and I discuss what is going on with these companies, but that doesn’t mean we stop using these apps or services. We act as if it’s no big deal. We are desensitized to the fact that unauthorized parties have access to our own personal data. The Facebook situation can be used as a prime example because all of my friends — myself included — still use the app. This is after it was discovered that Facebook knows a lot more about us than we originally thought and an unauthorized party had access to this data.

I wish I had the solution to these problems. I truly do. I wouldn’t do it for the money I would do it because it’s right. The #DeleteFacebook movement on Twitter is pointless and a terrible ploy by the company to save its dying business. In times like this, we need to work together as a country to work out these problems. If we don’t act quickly, we could see another blog like this in a few months from now.


What is HDCP and How Does it Affect You?

The other night I sat down at home and saw that the new Star Wars was available for digital purchase. I hadn’t seen the movie in theaters so I decided to buy it and watch it. All good right? Wrong. As the movie was buffering an error popped up saying I could not watch it in High Definition (HD) because my system did not meet HDCP requirements. HDCP which stands for High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection is a protocol on computers, cable boxes, blu-ray players, video cables, monitors, and TVs. HDCP has been around for a while its purpose is to prevent pirates from intercepting the video data when it travels from a source such as a computer or Blu-ray player to a destination TV or monitor by using a digital handshake through the approved cables. If there was a device between the source and destination attempting to copy the content the handshake will fail and the video will not be sent.

Trying to protect digital content from pirating is fine, however in the case of HDCP it does more harm than good normally. Three years before HDCP was first FCC approved for use it was already proven to be breakable Scott Crosby and associates at Carnegie Mellon University. Six years after its release anyone could go online and get the master key and break HDCP v1. The point here is that anyone trying to record or pirate the content was able to with ease, but an honest person trying to rent a movie might not be able to watch their content without expensive upgrades especially since each device needs to be HDCP approved. In conclusion HDCP punishes the honest users for trying to view digital content, whereas pirates can simply break the protocols or view the content from a previously recorded source.



Machine Learning in Amazon Go Store

Recently, Amazon has released a cashier-less grocery store public in Seatle, WA. Although its an experiment, its popularity cannot be underestimated as people from all over the city wanted to experience the evolution of “grocery shopping”. Instead of having a checkout section, a smartphone app and hundreds of camera are used. Using Computer-Vision algorithms and Machine Learning together, it is possible for it to figure out what the customer is picking up and charge the credit card connected to the Amazon account.

It first started off as an experiment and for the past year, Amazon employees have tested the technology by buying different kinds of mood and see if everything is accurate. Amazon currently dominates the online marketplace, and with its acquisition of Whole foods and the success of the cashier-less store. Amazon may also revolutionize regular retail shopping. Eventually, Amazon hopes to open up more stores in different locations. Regardless of how crowded it is, the customer controls how long he/she wants to spend in the store. With this logic, it makes shopping very convenient.Amazon is not the only store that is working on cashier-less shopping. A company in China has tested an autonomous store, and a company in silicon valley is working on its own cashier-free store.

However, there are some downsides of this revolution. It may seem weird to scan a QR Code when entering a store and it would definitely take time for people to get used the efficiency of the store. With the lack of human contact, it may be a little unnerving for customers. Additionally, if the autonomous store spreads all over the country, it would make a lot of people lose their jobs as a cashier.

Guest Speaker Drew Wham described how good ML use cases work. Amazon Go is using Machine Learning and Computer Vision together to make our shopping experience seem easy and seamless. The advancement in Computer Vision and Machine Learning shows that there is unlimited potential in using it to make our lives better.




We Want Privacy, but Can’t Stop Sharing

In this New York Times article, Kate Murphy talks about how there is no privacy on the internet. She mentions how the controlling authorities do not care because it proves a guilty conscience. ‘If you aren’t doing anything wrong, then you should not mind.’ This viewpoint of the higher authorities puts the general population in a very unwanted and uncomfortable position. However, most people do not seem to notice the consequence of this issue. From Snowden’s revelations to the Equifax hack depicts the vulnerability to cyber snooping abundantly clear.

As time passes, people are seeming to realize how public data might be used against them. Someone might not get a job due to a social media post. There has been little discussion on privacy and why its important to an individual because all the attention is on the legal aspects of privacy and how it restricts global trade. There is no legal agreement that categories information as private information. Additionally, it’s hard to argue for privacy when people eagerly share their personal information on social media. In class, we learned that the Fair Information Practice Principles governs the US Privacy laws. However, what we lack is a foundation that helps the general population and not just the corporations.



Self-Driving Car Kills Pedestrian: How Safe Is This Evolving Technology?

In the LiveScience article, Brandon Specktor talks about how a Pedestrian was killed by an Uber self-driving car in Arizona. A 49-year old woman was crossing the street on a Sunday night when the self-driving car struck her. Unforuntantly she did not survive her injuries. There was a human safety driver inside this vehicle. However, neither the driver nor the self-driving car detected the pedestrian.

This proposed the question: how safe is this evolving technology? It is hard to tell since there was an actual human safety in the car as well. In the article, it is stated by Peter Hancock that “more than 90 percent of car crashes in the U.S. are thought to involve some sort of driver error.” In this case, one might say that a self-driving car may be better because it may eliminate these errors but after this tragedy, it is hard to tell if either a human driver or an autonomous car can stop things like this from happening. However, studies have shown that crashes involving self-driving vehicles often have to do with unpredictable or even distracted human behavior. For example, the only other time a person has been killed by a self-driving car with a human safety driver in it was when a tractor-trailer swerved in front of the car and the breaks did not engage fast enough.

I personally do not believe that I will use a self-driving car in the near future. However, this is not because I believe that I would be risking my life while in one, but it is more of a personal preference. Individual behaviors are always an issue when someone is operating a vehicle. At times a person’s behavior is so unpredictable that not even a sensor on a self-driving car or a human eye can react fast enough. Even though situation in this article was very tragic it did not make me think that we should get rid of self-driving cars. If we did that then we might as well get rid of cars altogether.