Archive for May 14, 2018

Alexa Now Unlocks Yale Smart Locks

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 14, 2018 by itnerd

Yale Locks & Hardware today announced expanded support for Amazon Alexa with the addition of voice unlocking for its Assure Lock line of smart deadbolts when used with a compatible smart home hub or when used with the Amazon Echo Plus and a Yale Assure Lock with Zigbee.

The Alexa lock skill already allows Yale Z-Wave and Zigbee users to lock their door and check current lock status. With the addition of the new unlock skill, Yale Assure Locks can now be unlocked using Alexa voice commands. The unlock feature is turned off by default, and is enabled by verifying your Amazon credentials using the Alexa app. For voice unlock, users are prompted to set a four-digit voice code and then asked by Alexa to say that code to unlock. Alexa will only complete the unlock request once the correct voice code is provided. Unlocking can also be done directly from the Alexa app.

The Yale Assure Lock line includes a wide variety of keypad deadbolts in both keyed and key free versions. The line features Yale’s unique modular system that simplifies integration with a home automation or alarm system. Each Yale Assure Lock deadbolt can be purchased as a standalone PIN-controlled lock or with a Yale Network Module installed for smart home integration. Yale offers Network Modules for Z-Wave, Zigbee or HomeKit systems. The module simply plugs into the interior half of the deadbolt, and can be added or swapped at any time by the homeowner

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Libraries Come Together to Help Entrepreneurs Launch Businesses with Focus on Women and People of Color

Posted in Commentary on May 14, 2018 by itnerd

Starting one’s own business may soon become the most viable path to achieving the American dream. It is projected that by 2020 half of all workers will be independent freelancers, responsible for their own fortunes and well-being. Knowing this, the Urban Libraries Council is bringing together 12 public library systems from across the U.S. and Canada to explore ways libraries can reach and engage entrepreneurs in their communities — particularly people of color, women, immigrants and veterans. Entrepreneurs play an increasingly important role in growing local economies as technology continues to transform the labor market. However, barriers to resources and information prevent many individuals from pursuing or achieving entrepreneurial success. Public libraries are uniquely equipped to reach populations who are underrepresented in today’s entrepreneurial economy and most in need of guidance.

This effort is an extension of ULC’s collaboration with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to strengthen libraries’ capacity to support entrepreneurship.

The Urban Libraries Council also released a Leadership Brief titled Strengthening Libraries as Entrepreneurial Hubs, which you can read here.

The participating library systems have proposed the following projects to explore new approaches to reaching and engaging entrepreneurs in their communities:

  • Austin Public Library (Texas) will develop partnerships with local businesses and associations to offer workshops for starting and growing a successful small business, and will create a space for resources needed by entrepreneurial startups.
  • District of Columbia Public Library will develop a strategy to target library resources and partner-led programs toward citizens returning from jail seeking to become entrepreneurs.
  • Durham County Library (N.C.) will provide access to free co-working spaces that will feature innovative technology, resources and relevant programming.
  • East Baton Rouge Parish Library (La.) will develop a program to connect their business librarian to established and new entrepreneurs, to provide them with customized library resources to meet their specific needs.
  • Enoch Pratt Free Library (Md.) and Baltimore County Public Library will develop a program supporting economic independence through entrepreneurship for small, minority- and women-owned businesses by providing access to a collaborative network of library resources, services and partnerships that offer education, training and support services.
  • Kansas City Public Library (Mo.) will work to bring multilingual small business and entrepreneurship programs to immigrants and refugees in Kansas City.
  • King County Library System (Wash.) will develop and implement a holistic and equitable approach to addressing the needs of immigrant and refugee entrepreneurs through research into local economic development plans, sector strategies and demographics.
  • Mid-Continent Public Library (Mo.) will develop its Food Ed program that concentrates on the first steps of starting a food business.
  • St. Louis County Library will explore new ways to grow its monthly educational series that engages local entrepreneurs with outreach events, instructional sessions and a small business and nonprofit expo.
  • Toledo Lucas County Public Library (Ohio) will develop a more comprehensive understanding of the challenges facing aspiring women and immigrant entrepreneurs as well as how those obstacles differ for aspiring male entrepreneurs, and will analyze strategies to attract and effectively serve both groups.
  • Toronto Public Library will develop an entrepreneur-in-residence program and perform community outreach to newcomers in the community, focusing on women and refugees.

The Urban Libraries Council, founded in 1971, is the voice for public libraries and the force that inspires them to evolve. ULC creates the tools, techniques, and ideas to make ongoing improvements and upgrades in services and technology. ULC also speaks loudly and clearly about the value public libraries bring to communities, and secures funding for research that results in the development of new programs and services. And by serving as a forum for library leadership, ULC produces innovative ideas and best practices that ensure community impact.

PGP & S/MIME Email Vulnerable To Being Read By Third Parties Say Researchers

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , on May 14, 2018 by itnerd

A group of European security researchers have released a warning about a set of vulnerabilities affecting users of PGP and S/MIME. These are standards that prevent people from reading your email by securing and encrypting it. Except the researchers have shown that people can still read your email. Here’s the details from the EFF:

A group of European security researchers have released a warning about a set of vulnerabilities affecting users of PGP and S/MIME. EFF has been in communication with the research team, and can confirm that these vulnerabilities pose an immediate risk to those using these tools for email communication, including the potential exposure of the contents of past messages.

And:

Our advice, which mirrors that of the researchers, is to immediately disable and/or uninstall tools that automatically decrypt PGP-encrypted email. Until the flaws described in the paper are more widely understood and fixed, users should arrange for the use of alternative end-to-end secure channels, such as Signal, and temporarily stop sending and especially reading PGP-encrypted email.

The flaws seem to affect Apple Mail with GPGTools, Mozilla Thunderbird with Engimail, and Outlook with Gpg4win. You’re going to note that all those email clients have to be used with a secondary application or plugin for PGP and S/MIME to work. That’s because the problem is in how email program plugins handle the mail after it’s been decrypted, not in the underlying PGP/SMIME code. And only for HTML emails, and only in the email clients noted above. So if you are using a different email client then you are fine. Probably. If you understand how PGP/SMIME works, and are willing to do some manula work, then you are still fine.

Well see what all the affected vendors do to address this as I suspect a response will be quick.

DEVELOPING: Users Of Belkin’s WEMO NetCam Cannot Log Into Their Accounts

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 14, 2018 by itnerd

Thanks to a reader of this blog, I’ve been alerted to a problem with whatever back end service that runs access to Belkin’s WEMO NetCam products. After digging in to confirm what the user told me, I can say that the following is going on. Users of these cameras are unable to log in via their smartphones to view their camera(s) or change settings. And they sometimes get this error when they try to log in:

IMG_1521

Other times the app seems to hang. I was able to reproduce this myself and I validated that the ports that are referenced in the error message are open. Deleting and reinstalling the NetCam app does not resolve this.

Based on this thread on the Belkin forums, this started on May 12th and the moderator on the forum claims to have escalated the issue. It seems to be restricted to iOS devices at this time, and users can still log into the web portal at netcam.belkin.com assuming that they are using a browser with Flash installed. So users aren’t totally dead in the water, but this is far from ideal.

The reason why this reader reached out to me is due to the fact that he feels that disclosing this to the media is the only way to get Belkin’s attention. He has that perception because of my coverage of the Linksys WRT32X issues from last year and earlier this year. I am not sure if I truly accelerated a fix for that, but the fact that this reader feels that way is a problem for Belkin as that shows that people don’t entirely trust them. Thus I hope a fix for this comes quickly to restore the confidence of their customers.

Watch this space for updates.

UPDATE: A second thread on this topic with some not so happy Belkin NetCam users is also present on their forums. There’s also the suggestion that there is a “major” outage with WeMo products in general. But I cannot find any evidence that supports this.

UPDATE #2: There is some speculation on the Belkin forums that iOS 11.3.1 is responsible for this as people who have earlier versions of iOS appear to be fine. But using that logic, this problem should have appeared on April 25th or thereabouts when iOS 11.3.1 was released. But as far as anyone can tell, this issue appeared this past weekend.

UPDATE #3: Reports are coming in via the Belkin forums that WEMO Netcam users are able to log in now. I have confirmed this as well. I will continue to monitor this, but it appears that this issue is coming to an end. Likely via a back end fix.

UPDATE 4: Consider this issue to be resolved.

However, some points for Belkin on this that they should consider. Belkin has a Twitter handle called @WEMOCares which references another Twitter handle called @WEMOOutages. Neither have been updated in years. Which is bizarre because the former is referenced here. But to be fair, there’s a link that says @WEMOCares that goes to @BelkinCares and one that goes to @WEMOCares. Belkin should clean that up.

The reason why this matters is that I was looking to see if Belkin had posted any info on whatever happened to the WEMO NetCam and found nothing on any of their Twitter handles. And to find two of them that haven’t been used in years is very disappointing as it gives the impression that the WEMO line of products isn’t one that they care about. Not only that, but there was very little in the way of much communication from Belkin other than to say that the issue was escalated. That really isn’t a winning strategy in this day and age where transparency and communication wins the day 100% of the time. Belkin should take a good hard look at how they communicate to customers. I say that because the person who reached out to me did so because he thought that because I would publish this (which I did) it would get the issue resolved faster as it had been an issue for days apparently. There’s something wrong with the universe when a user of a product has to do that as it highlights that perhaps a company not only should be communicating better to its customers, but they also need to restore some trust as well.

Some food for thought for Belkin.