How to Secure Your Webcam From Hackers?

Search one of these strings in Google. Chances are that you will find the live feed of an unsecured webcam.

inurl:/view.shtml
inurl:ViewerFrame?Mode=
inurl:ViewerFrame?Mode=Refresh
inurl:axis-cgi/jpg
inurl:axis-cgi/mjpg (motion-JPEG)
intitle:”Live View / - AXIS” | inurl:view/view.shtml^

A webcam, your webcam, may be secured unlike any of the public ones you may find. However, there are hackers out there who can easily get access to your webcam and feed it to the world. It is not at all difficult for them. With a bit of code, hackers can access any piece of hardware on your computer, and a webcam is no different.

How serious are the consequences of exposing your webcam? Well, if you have children at home and you want to protect their privacy, you cannot be serious enough about this. Your webcam should be yours and you should have complete control over it. There was a recent investigation by BBC, about a Finnish hacker who hacks and sells people’s webcams for money. Here is the webcast.

The impact of this is heavy on all of us. These webcam feeds could easily be sold to online porn sites or to people who are into sick stuff. It is the privacy of people like you and we that is at stake. Hence, I have compiled this article to let you know how to secure your webcam from external threats.

Here’s another video from BBC, showing exactly how easy it is to hack into webcams of old, infrequently updated computers:

Get Adobe Flash player

Pretty disturbing, ain’t it?

How to Secure Your Webcam?

Hackers will always try to find out your webcam and get control over it. You may not quite realize whether your webcam is in use or not. Most of the webcams come with the indicator LED that turns red or green or something when it is engaged. This should be known to you as the user. Here are the most important steps to do if you suspect your webcam could be under attack.

1. Update Your Software

Some computer technologies, such as Java, Flash, etc., can be used to directly control your webcam, and on most of these technologies, you need to provide permission to access your webcam. However, there are ways in which a hacker can work his way around this permission-giving. They can dupe unsuspecting users into giving permission through click-jacking or similar methods.

Updating your software is one of the most important things to do to stay secure. You may remember the recent security attack on Java, and the subsequent alarm. Old computers are extremely vulnerable and could in essence become part of botnets.

2. Use Security Software

We have recently covered some of the best and worst security apps for Android. You should check them out. For a regular PC, use something like Kaspersky, Norton, Trend Micro Titanium, or Bitdefender. I would personally recommend Norton and Kaspersky for antivirus and firewall. You also need an antimalware solution, and Malwarebytes is the best one for that. They have a free edition that you can run alongside your antivirus and firewall. As an additional thing, keep your security software updated all the time, just as you do with regular software.

3. Be Suspicious About Web Apps

You may come across a huge number of web apps on a day of browsing. You may cruise through the bad neighborhoods of the Net; you may come across websites and forums that follow unethical practices. You may be asked to run specific programs or apps that promise various things, such as a free virus scan, registry cleaning, computer protection, etc. These are possible click-jacking methods to make you install a malicious piece of software on your computer.

Make it a point to scan every file you download from the Web, and make sure you don’t open suspicious attachments even if they come from your friend. In short, do not execute a program or a script without verifying its source and scanning it with your antivirus program. Also, be suspicious about the people who promise technical help through the Internet. You may be asked to accept a remote connection or a screen sharing option. Do not give permission to these setups unless you are sure.

4. Wireless Security

If you are using wireless router at home for a Wi-Fi setup, please enable proper security on the router. If you are using Wi-Fi from a public hotspot, you should be wary of your situation. Use a solution like Wifisugar to protect your computer from public hotspot hackers.

In Conclusion

These are some of the most basic things to do to secure your webcam. However, two of the most important that you definitely have to do and are in your control are: first, not placing the webcam in a private place like your bedroom; and second, covering your webcam with something like a strip of electrical tape or disconnecting it from the computer altogether when you are not using it.

Another important thing that I would like most of the readers to consider is getting some information about how hackers work and what technologies and software you use are vulnerable to attacks. This information will keep your computer secure from every threat.

A Comparison of Three RSS Readers Out There: Feedly, Digg Reader, AOL Reader

Remember we reported the shutdown of Google Reader a few days back? It used to be one of the Google services that reached a few million people instead of a few hundred millions as Google wants its products to. Hence, the search giant decided to shut down the reader application, putting millions out in the street. We were gladly rescued by a overwhelmingly simple feed reader application known as Feedly.

Feedly

 

Feedly cloud reader

 

Feedly came and conquered. It does have an interface with which you can import all your feed content directly from Google Reader itself. Since it was one of the early adopters of Google Reader refugees, it had a major boost in its traffic and user stats.

With is iOS and Android apps, Feedly beckoned the readers who were desperately looking for a platform to place their feeds. And it worked. The application had a boost in traffic so tremendous that it had to make internal changes.

Alexa traffic stats of Feedly

 

Now the Feedly cloud application goes through regular maintenance and feature updates very frequently. It has a beautiful interface too that is quite a bit inviting.

Feedly color themes

 

Interface and a few options

 

viewing options

 

A number of color themes; various viewing options like Titles, Magazine, Cards, etc.; other options like Twitter and Facebook newsfeed; a finance module with which you can get live stock quotes on selected shares; a way to save the stories to read later; and absolutely easy to use interface make Feedly my favorite feed reader today.

Digg Reader

 

After Digg lost its mojo, it has been struggling quite a bit to get back into the game. Now, it is trying desperately to get some more users with the help of its new Reader application. Digg Reader went live a few hours ago. This reader also lets you import your feeds from Google Reader.

Digg reader page

 

In comparison to Feedly’s reader, this is how Digg interface looks. It does not have many customization options or viewing options. While Feedly does include the favicons of the particular website being added, Digg Reader simply shows that old, drab RSS icon for most of the feeds. The view was also not quite appealing to my eyes. It may just be my opinion.

The reader allows you to connect to your Facebook and Twitter accounts as well. Digg also has a read later feature like Feedly and it works with Pocket, Readability, or Instapaper to bring this feature. While Digg Reader is not quite exciting right now, it is still under development and may come up with more options.

AOL Reader

 

AOL, just like Digg, has rolled out a reader application for its users. The reader is still in the Beta phase, and you can sign up to get into the Beta queue. Due to this reason, we are currently not able to test it out and find its advantages.

AOL reader beta list

 

It seems that most of the features that Feedly already provides are given on AOL reader as well, such as various layout views; tagging options; importing from Google Reader or its OPML file; and an application programming interface (API). Soon to be released are also the iOS and Android apps. When the reader comes alive, we will be able to find out if there is any advantage to it.


[Update]

AOL Reader invite has come up. Here is the first screenshot:

AOL Reader beta

 

You can directly add subscriptions or sign in with your Google account to manage the RSS feeds in Google Reader through AOL Reader. I did sign in with my Google account and imported the feeds.

AOL reader reading in cards view

 

The view options as you can see don't seem to be too bad. It has similar view options as Feedly, List View, Card View, Full View, or Pane View. Pane view is like your Outlook email reader with the list view on the left pane and full view on the right pane.

Themes and settings of the reader are not as extensive as in Feedly. Its color scheme is also pretty drab at best.


 

Conclusion

 

As per our assessment, it seems that Feedly is unquestionably the best RSS reader in the market today. It has all the features and the most elegant user interface that is quite a bit inviting. Also, with its capability to incorporate well with a browser like Chrome, with its Feedly Mini applet, it is quite a bit useful.

Which Browser Do You Need? A Brief Look At Web Browser Compatibility to HTML 5

How many browsers do you know? From the old world text-based browsers like Lynx to the current topper in browser market, Google Chrome, there are innumerable browsers. Also, your hunt for the best and most compatible browser doesn’t end there. You have to know which browser works better based on the website you are visiting. Some websites have a certain type of content that doesn’t probably work with a browser you have. You may really need a number of browsers on your computer in order to view all kinds of websites.

In this article, let me tell you about the compatibility of each browser and give you ways to identify which browser works for your need.

Here is StatCounter’s global statistics of browser share from the beginning of this year.

StatCounter Global Stats
Top Browsers Per Country from Jan to Mar 2013

Source: StatCounter Global Stats - Browser Market Share

As you can see Chrome is the world’s browser choice, while IE and Firefox are close behind.

Browser Layout Engine

 

Before we can go ahead and talk all about these popular and unpopular browsers you have lying around, we have to talk about the heart of a browser—what we generally call the layout engine.

The major browser engines that we have around are KHTML (used in Linux distributions), Trident (from Microsoft, forming the basis if IE), Presto (powering Opera), Gecko (Mozilla’s open source engine powering Firefox), and WebKit (which powers Apple Safari, Google Chrome, and almost all of iOS and Android smartphone browsers). Out of these browser engines the most important ones that we need to discuss are WebKit, Gecko, and Trident.

KHTML has never been popular in the major desktop environment, as Linux as an operating system has never been popular among end users. Heard of a browser called Konqueror? Presto has been dumped very recently by Opera Software in favor of WebKit.

The important thing to note is that all of these browser layout engines do support almost all of the general web markup schemes, stylesheet languages, and scripting languages. There are only minor exceptions, such as Trident’s slightly partial implementation of the noscript tag.

HTML Compatibility Checks

 

If you are a web developer and want to know whether your website works with popular browsers out there, go to Browsershots.org. Check your website in hundreds of different browsers, in Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux platforms to get screenshots of your page on them.

One of the latest developments in the Web is the advent of HTML 5, a thing you would know about if you were reading Blue Bugle. Most of the future websites will be compatible with HTML 5 specifications. As you are thinking right now, your browser also will have to support HTML 5 and other related standards to display the web page properly. How will you find out?

Go to HTML5Test.com and it will immediately tell you the HTML 5 score of your browser, like this:

html 5 score of Chrome

 

html 5 score of IE10

 

I use multiple browsers on my computer to browse as well as for various testing purposes. As you can see, Chrome 25, which is my primary browser, scores 463 points on the test, while IE 10, the latest incarnation of Internet Explorer scores 320 points.

The highest score ever was achieved by a more or less unknown browser known as Maxthon with one point more than Chrome 25. I had tested out Maxthon, which gave a tabbed-interface to IE, back when Firefox came into popularity for that tabbed browsing feature.

Here is a chart from HTML5test.com over the years. As you can see Chrome consistently is at the top.

HTML 5 score of browsers

 

One thing that differentiates browsers like Chrome and Firefox is that they are open-source. They are under development constantly, rather than through an iterative update as rolled out by Microsoft, Opera, and Apple for their browsers. This is one of the reasons why an open-source browser is the most compatible.

Following European Union Microsoft competition case, Microsoft was forced to open this website, browserchoice.eu, through which Microsoft tells the users about browsers other than IE that work well with the web standards and Windows operating system. In that list, you will find constantly updated list of some great browsers. Right now the list includes Chrome, IE 10, Firefox, Maxthon, Opera, Rockmelt (which is a Facebook-incorporated social browser, Lunascape, Comodo, Avant, Sleipnir, K-Meleon, SRWare Iron, in that order.

In Conclusion

 

It is quite difficult to say which browser is the best or if any browser you have on your computer is the best or not. During my tenure as a technology person working for AT&T, I encountered an old man who had a very basic system, with Windows XP, IE 6, and no software updates. He had decided that he no longer wanted to be confused by the non-stop software updates, new versions, and interfaces, so he stopped updating when he had what he thought to be the perfect configuration. All he used the system was for browsing news websites while having his morning coffee.

One day, that person had some issues with the AT&T website, and he enquired about AT&T’s Internet service, to find out if the issue is with his DSL. When I checked out his system configuration, I was appalled. He was unable to see the AT&T home page as the CSS was not loading properly. While it is a difficult thing to constantly check for system updates and cope up with new designs, interfaces, and new applications, it has quite a bit become a necessity rather than choice. I had to tell that person that he has to do a software update to have some of the latest features of websites to display properly.

When it comes to talking about the best web browser out there, it is a difficult choice indeed. Among desktop computers, Chrome is the one you can go with. I would also suggest that you have a few others installed—Opera, Mozilla Firefox, and IE. In mobile platform, Dolphin browser is the best in Android. It is also available for iOS.

Other browsers for iOS are Safari (built in), Atomic and iCab. Within BlackBerry 10, you have the default BlackBerry browser that has scored the highest 485 points in HTML 5 test.

As you can see, it is somewhat difficult to choose the best browser if you are stuck with one that you love. You don’t want that especially in the computing world, where security threats are appearing practically every hour. Go with an open source browser like Chrome that gets constantly updated.

You Can Now Install Ubuntu Touch Developer Preview on Android Nexus Devices

Ubuntu devices

You have probably read about Ubuntu for smartphones in our earlier article about it. This is a groundbreaking new operating system that comes to smartphones from Canonical (the maker of Ubuntu). Ubuntu is one of the most popular of Linux distributions out there, among desktop computers. Now the platform is coming to smartphone world with the release of Ubuntu smartphones.

Yesterday, as expected, the developer preview of the OS was made available, with the source code and details of installing it on your phone. The version currently available is known as Ubuntu Touch Developer Preview. And this is important—Ubuntu Touch Developer Preview is only for developers and Ubuntu enthusiasts who want to try it out in real. It is not for an average smartphone user who doesn’t have good working knowledge of mobile operating systems.

Supported Phones & Tablets

Currently, Ubuntu Touch Developer Preview is supported only on Google’s Nexus line of devices, specifically Galaxy Nexus (Samsung), Nexus 4 (LG), Nexus 7 (Asus), and Nexus 10 (Samsung).

In order to install Ubuntu on your Android device, follow the steps and guidelines given at Ubuntu Wiki. Also, if you need to get Android OS back into the phone, you should have the appropriate image handy. Images can be found here.

What Do You Get?

Ubuntu is pretty limited in smartphone interface. It doesn’t have the capabilities like Android, and also it doesn’t have many apps for you to work with. This Developer Preview is intended only for Ubuntu developers and hard-core Ubuntu enthusiasts. If you install the OS, you get the following:

  • OS shell and basic apps
  • Phone-specific functions—connection to the operator, SMS, networking, & Wi-Fi
  • Working camera app for the front-facing and main camera
  • Accessibility through Android Developer Bridge

Thanks to QBKing77, I was able to get this video:

Conclusion

Ubuntu is highly enthusiastic about their move to the smartphone world. Canonical’s founder Mark Shuttleworth was quite a bit excited to share the news with the world. We have got our hands on the first of Ubuntu developer devices now, and we will soon see where the platform heads and how many apps it will gather. Competition is not easy now with BlackBerry 10 and upcoming Tizen.

A History of Tech Company Mistakes and Apologies!

All the time, these companies out there, Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and what not, come up with miscalculated product innovations and in some cases plain gaffes, and in the end, they end up apologizing to their customers for their mistakes. Let’s look at a few of the famous apologies in this post. We are not targeting regular apologies due to natural product failures, but outright gaffes and arrogant wrongdoings that caused companies to apologize.

Apple iPhone, the Original & Its Price

 

In 2007, Apple released its groundbreaking product, the iPhone for the first time and they set its price at 600 dollars. It should be noted that Apple iPhone became one of the hottest selling products in history, thanks to Apple fans that run into billions. Within two months, Steve Jobs, the deceased former CEO of Apple, slashed the price of iPhone from 600 to 400.

The millions and millions who purchased iPhone for 600 dollars stood with gaping mouths and fingers up their brain. They felt cheated in plain daylight. Apple CEO did not apologize, but he wrote to those customers.

steve-jobs-about-iphone-1-638

Mark Zuckerberg (CEO, Facebook) on Beacon, Facebook’s Ad Tool

 

In 2007, Facebook came up with a novel idea. That of letting your friends know of what you purchased online through Facebook. This app, known as Beacon was tremendously criticized by hundreds of thousands of users. Beacon program would simply talk about your purchases with your friends without your knowledge, and there was no proper way to opt out of this. Facebook said they made the program ‘opt-out’ rather than ‘opt-in’ because they wanted to enable people to share what they forgot to (amusing, isn’t it?) Here’s Mark’s apology:

zuckerburg-about-beacon-1-638

Nokia Lumia 920 Demo Video Fiasco

 

Nokia released Lumia 920 smartphone with a new camera technology known as PureView only a few days ago. They demonstrated the camera with a video (supposedly taken with Lumia 920). But if you look at that commercial, you will see a van with a regular film camera mounted that has captured the entire video. Here’s the video slowed down to show exactly what is happening (thanks to the uploader, smartypunk):

It proved to be such a shame to Nokia and they put up an apology soon enough. Here is the text:

nokia-lumia-920-apology-1-638

Google & Jews

 

Our search giant once returned results that insulted Jews in great detail. The first result for search term ‘Jew’ in Google was ‘jewwatch.com’, an anti-Semitic website proclaiming that they keep a close watch on Jewish communities. Google apologized soon enough. Here it is:

google-apologizes-jews-1-638

Other controversies were there with Google, including “she invented” (Google it), about 600 GB of private Wi-Fi data being taken by StreetView cameras, etc.

Whole Foods

 

The Whole Foods Market CEO, John Mackey was a well-respected businessman of his time. He, however, managed to get a wrong idea into his head that would kill his good name. He went into Yahoo! Finance forums, and created a pseudonym, ‘Rahodeb’ and started praising his company and criticizing the competitors. He had to apologize of course (in two sentences though). We couldn’t find the apology from the website, so we fished it out from Archive.org.

The Apple Maps Fiasco

 

Apple came up with Maps to use with iPhone’s iOS 6. Apple Maps was full of mistakes that anybody could spot. And now Apple fired the guy who worked on Maps, and Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, apologized. You can read about the complete Apple Maps fiasco here.

Microsoft’s Perverts

 

In June this year, Microsoft was releasing its cloud hosting platform, Windows Azure, in Oslo, Norway. And in the party that ensued, ‘cloud rap’ lyrics included “The words ‘Micro’ and ‘soft’ don’t apply to my penis & vagina.” MS had to apologize in these words:
Azure team:

This week's Norwegian Developer's Conference included a skit that involved inappropriate and offensive elements and vulgar language. We apologize to our customers and our partners and are actively looking into the matter.

 

And MS corporate communications team chief Frank Shaw tweeted:

This routine had vulgar language, was inappropriate and was just not ok. We apologize to our customers and partners.

 

At another time, Microsoft’s code implementation of HyperV virtualization product (read about this and others in Microsoft History) for Linux contained the term ‘Big Boobs’ in coded format. It contained “0xB16B00B5” and “0x0B00B135”. Since Linux code is open source, anyone could spot it.

Apple’s Poor Apology

 

In July this year, Samsung had a court case with Apple regarding design patent infringement of Apple iPad by Samsung products. Apple lost this case and the judge ordered Apple to post an apology. And Apple did. Here’s their apology. Tell me if it reads like one!

apples-fake-apology-1-638
Not only did Apple apologize like a moron, but also it hid the Apology well in the website so that no one could easily spot it. As expected, the judge did not approve the given apology. And Apple had to come up with a better one. (They removed the original apology and it is no longer available in the website, which is why I have saved this PDF.) They managed to come up with this one, and the text is as follows:

apple's apology to samsung

 

Still, what a pathetic apology, won’t you agree?

[Updated: Feb 17, 2013]

Google Doodle for Asteroid

 

CNET picked up this story. In response to the happy news that an asteroid called DA14 sped past the earth at nearly 17,000 miles overhead without causing any damage to our ecosystem, Google posted the following doodle above its search box.

Google Asteroid doodle

 

However, hours later, a meteor struck down on Russia injuring hundreds of people. Google's happy doodle immediately became a sadistic joke, and they removed it.

Conclusion

 

As you can see, the companies are not beyond errors. Some like Apple Maps are pretty funny mistakes indeed. When we see more of such gaffes, we will laugh out loud and will let you guys know here.

[Image: CNET]