The above documentary, produced by an individual but of professional caliber, is nearly an hour long, but from the beginning it hooks you in and is well worth it. It’s the story of Keith Jones, who was scammed out of $110,000 by a fraudulent investment firm. Since law enforcement did not initially do much with the case, Jones decided to take matters into his own hands and tracked down the criminals himself. His adventure led him from his home in Australia to Thailand.Read more
By now you may have heard about the scandal involving the sign language interpreter at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, who was apparently signing gibberish rather than actual sign language for the entire duration of his presence. Cara Loening, director of Sign Language Education and Development in Cape Town, South Africa, has called him a “complete fraud” whose signing looked like someone “trying to swat a few flies away from his face and his head.” But to really understand the extent of his duplicity (and to get a few laughs) check out this clip from Jimmy Kimmel in which he has an actual sign language expert attempt to interpret whatever it was that guy was signing.Read more
Since the Newtown school massacre, where Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, almost every state has enacted at least one new gun law. According to The New York Times, which has a nifty chart summarizing each state’s new laws, the majority loosen – not tighten – gun restrictions.
Nearly two-thirds of the new laws ease restrictions and expand the rights of gun owners. Most of those bills were approved in states controlled by Republicans. Those who support stricter regulations won some victories — mostly in states where the legislature and governorship are controlled by Democrats — to increase restrictions on gun use and ownership.
State Gun Laws Enacted in the Year Since Newtown [via The New York Times]Read more
In this example, the thief uses a fake – but very realistic looking – cover over the real Vodafone point-of-sale device. Though not also shown in the video, the underside of the device includes a tiny battery and flash storage card that lets the fake PIN pad record key presses as well as the data stored on the magnetic stripe of each swiped card.
Simple But Effective Point-of-Sale Skimmer [via Krebs on Security]Read more
Today, Pennsylvania law considers kidnapping to be a felony, but in 1874, it was a misdemeanor. Until the kidnapping of two young brothers: four-year-old Charley Ross and his five-year-old older brother Christian by two men. Christian was set free the same day, but Charley was not. The boys’ father went to the police, who didn’t take the case seriously – until, that is, the first ransom note showed up.
Somebody had written the message—ridden with errors in spelling, capitalization and punctuation—in black ink and an unsteady hand. “You wil have to pay us before you git him from us, and pay us a big cent to,” the note read. “if you put the cops hunting for him you is only defeeting yu own end.”
The second came five days later, stating the ransom amount: “This is the lever that moved the rock that hides him from yu $20,000. Not one doler les—impossible—impossible—you cannot get him without it.” (The sum of $20,000 in 1874 was the equivalent of about $400,000 today.)
With this demand, the letter writers recorded the first ransom kidnapping in U.S. history. They told Christian Ross to correspond with them through the personal advertisements of the Philadelphia Public Ledger.
Unfortunately, Charley Ross never returned home. Supposedly more than 700,000 fliers were distributed and the stories of more than 600 children who resembled his son were investigated. Well into the twentieth century, men came forward claiming to be Charley Ross, but the Ross family did not believe them.
That might have been it, had it not been for a Pennsylvania librarian who this year discovered 22 letters in her family’s possession, which turned out to be the original ransom notes in the case, long since thought to have been lost. How did her family come to have them? You’ll have to check out the Smithsonian’s Past Imperfect blog to find out.Read more
Someone should have advised this would-be thief that when you’re stealing gasoline, you should keep your nicotine addiction at bay and wait till you’re done before lighting a cigarette. The still unnamed 26-year-old was arrested in Millicent, South Australia, after he allegedly punched a hole in a car’s gas tank to steal gasoline at a car dealership. He might have gotten away with it, but he reached for a smoke, causing the gasoline fumes to ignite. The subsequent fire drew emergency crews and police, who found the man nearby without pants and burns on his legs. Three vehicles and a workshop wall were destroyed in the blaze, resulting in damage totaling $100,000. The man was charged will illegal interference of a motor vehicle and arson (hah!). See the above surveillance video on how it all went down.Read more
Leave it to the engineers at Honda to develop an air bag for your cell phone. They have developed a concept case, Case N, that deploys air bags around the phone if it is ever dropped, effectively protecting it from damage. Though it is real, since the case is literally enormous, there are no plans for it to actually be put into mass production (it’s likely all just a clever marketing plan to promote Honda’s new N-WGN mini car, which shares the same letter N-moniker and similarly unique air bag system), but it’s still a pretty cool concept. And who knows, maybe the engineering behind it could one day be used to drop supplies into disaster zones or other uses as yet unimagined. They’ve even created a parody video that depicts the air bag case’s development. (Since it’s in Japanese, fast-forward to 3:08 to see the case in action). Incidentally, although an air bag was not mentioned in the design, Apple did file a patent in 2011 for a novel way of protecting its iPhones and iPads from drop damage – up to and including the use of gas-powered thrusters to slow the device’s free fall speed.Read more
Security researcher Evan Booth has gotten some notoriety recently for figuring out how to build an assortment of guns, bombs, and other weapons from items freely available from airport shops – even from those located in the terminal area past TSA checkpoints. He has published 11 of his designs on his site Terminial Cornucopia, many of which show some true ingenuity on his part. Booth claims he shared these designs with appropriate authorities prior to publishing them online for the entire world to see, but received no guidance on whether steps would be taken to eliminate their availability at the airport or mitigate the risk of them actually being assembled into functioning weapons. According to Booth:
What if Terrorists See This?!
That’s a great question. An even better question is: What if they already know all this? All of these findings have been reported to the Department of Homeland Security (TSA) to help them better detect these types of threats. Furthermore, the next time you fly, you’ll be flying as a more informed consumer (and taxpayer, possibly) — one who is more equipped to demand better, more appropriate airport security.
Here are two nifty topics on passwords and cybersecurity:
- Telepathwords is a novel website that tries to predict your password, character by character, as you type it. It effectively tests the strength of your password based on how easy it is for the website to predict it. It’s pretty cool to use, too.
- The latest effort to get rid of passwords altogether is Nymi, a heartwave-sensing wristband. Bionym, founded in 2011, has developed a biometric recognition system in the form of a wearable wristband, Nymi. It is now available for pre-order for $79 for early 2014 shipping. What makes Nymi different is unlike other biotech authentication methods like fingerprint scanning or iris/facial-recognition systems, it doesn’t need the user to authenticate every time they want to unlock something. Since it’s a wearable device, Nymi makes authentication automatic as long as the wearer keeps the wristband on.