Are you driving a hackable Beemer?

HACKT?!!1one! (Auto Express)
HACKT?!!1one! (Auto Express)

This is one of those things it’s easy to ignore, but I’ve been aware of it for a while: increasingly sophisticated electronic systems in vehicles mean more hackable vehicles. The happy fella driving a shiny silver BMW off the lot today is piloting a 2-ton PC with a buttload of potential cyber security holes. From Auto Express:

Modern cars have a number of electronic control units (ECUs), which not only control infotainment services, but also the operation of the engine, transmission and safety features such as stability control and anti-lock brakes.

If someone can hack into the connectivity system, they then have access to all the car’s other ECUs because there is currently no physical or electronic barrier between them.

Harman, a technology firm presenting at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), says “car hacking” is already here, and troubling. Auto Express quoted Harman’s Sachin Lawande, who said car hacking is “a serious problem” because “[the] infrastructure of many cars was not designed with networking in mind.”

That means that once a car dials into the internet, it may be critically exposed. A hacker could worm their way into major vehicle functions. Harman presented on the subject at CES, naturally, because they’ve developed software for networked vehicles that will protect the car’s vital functions, an industry first.

Protections like Harman’s will likely be widely available in a few years. In the meantime, enjoy your fine German transportation and if a savage cyber attacker takes over while you’re tooling down the highway, I guess just buckle up and enjoy the ride, and hope the cops are careful with the stop sticks when they deploy them under your compromised status symbol.

[Auto Express]

Terrified of tech

Technology! (Image via
Technology! (Image via

I don’t know why, but I frequently watch Morning Joe. On the positive side, the show is often a group of smart people, close to my age or older, talking about interesting subjects. It isn’t the same old soul-dead gaze of the infotainment abyss staring back at middle America–you know, like the Today Show.

The MSNBC show is ridiculous and embarrassing, though, whenever the conversation touches on technology use and the Internet. Smart phone use. Twitter. Facebook. These things come up and Morning Joe goes to hell (the political discussions are for a totally different blog post, okay? And I probably won’t write that one), and I sprain my eyeballs from all the rolling. I could pick on all cable news for this kind of discussion. I simply watch Morning Joe so it’s my most familiar example of people in my age group talking about tech in the spirit  of those ape men in 2001: A Space Odyssey fearfully hooting and slapping at the Monolith at the beginning of the film.

Look, I thought I was late to tech things. I did.

In 1986 one of my best friends, John, was trolling dial-up bulletin boards and downloading scans of of naked women and I thought it was ridiculous.

“Okay, let’s go.”

“Dude, your computer is still on.”

“Yeah, I’m downloading a centerfold.”

“For real? Boobs? How long does that take?”

“Wow, it’s fast now–about 6 hours.”  

In the 90s an ex-girlfriend’s use of AOL chat utterly confounded me. She spoke of meeting interesting people and also weirdos and it was terrifying. Another friend’s computer graphic art seemed like magic, the way he could twist and contort a photograph into a cartoon.

Around late 1998 I began to catch up. By 2001 or so I was off and running with tech use, for better or worse, and happily hooting and slapping the heck out of all sorts of Monoliths.

I don’t learn new tech stuff as easily as my wife (it’s become a large and crucial part of her career as an educator), but I’m more likely than she is to want new gadgets and once I have them, use the hell out of them. My point is, I’m not afraid of any of it. While I admit that I have tough learning curve with certain elements of tech use (I mean things like light coding–HTML, CSS), I ascribe that to having ADD, not fear or even age.

After all, it’s the future. There are plenty of things about the future worth fearing–and many of those things are certainly tech related (hi, NSA, how you doing?)–but it’s always been that way and let’s deal with it. Suck it up and handle the future, it’s here.

I’m sick as I can be of most debates over technology use. Hand-wringing and pearl-clutching like “We’re a depersonalized society!” or “E-readers are evil, book and literature killing machines!” or “The devil will come and take your child to hell via Tumblr !” (I don’t know, this last I might buy). I’m tired of all that and intensely tired of other, related discussions, like ostentatious bullshit about “unplugging” or going on “digital diets.”

No, really, shut the fuck up about this stuff. Or, to be polite, please shut the fuck up.

Use your phone or don’t. Have only one app on it, whatever. Buy a damned flip phone, they still work fine. And are tougher than most smart phones. Reject it all and be a fully analog human if you want–much as I love tech I confess I sometimes like that idea, as well. I’m not evangelizing for the use of any tablet, computer, phone, smart watch, etc. I am evangelizing for the power of rejecting bullshit debates over settled questions, and rejecting them wholesale. The exact sort of debate I see every time a technology-related issue comes up on Morning Joe.

This stuff is here and you can use it or not. I’m going to, and I expect to still be using it when I’m 70, should I be lucky enough to live that long.

Humanity’s adaptability is one of our greatest super powers. Shut the fuck up and click or tap away, it’s more natural to do so than you may want to admit. Either way, let’s talk about something else, or something new.

Snapchat is stupid


Over a year ago I briefly had Snapchat on my phone  and here’s what I concluded before deleting it a day later: Snapchat is idiotic. It’s objectively a dumb thing, but a perfect example of how if an app developer kind of knows what they’re doing and develops an idea for an app that will–at the very least–function pretty well, they may have some success. Or even a huge hit, like Snapchat.

I admit, my thinking Snapchat is dumb may be an Old Fart Thing. I’m 46 now and have developed a few of those. But if you were sitting around 5 years ago, when smart phones with touch screens and apps like the iPhone were still fairly new, and someone said, “I know, a visual messaging app wherein the message vanishes in 10 seconds! Whaddya say?” wouldn’t you twist your lips into a furious snarl then preemptively beat the snot of the idea-haver to try and prevent them from ever sharing such idiocy with you again?

I would.

Doesn’t matter what I think about Snapchat, in the end, because it has been a hit. A lot of people have downloaded it and began immediately dispatching supposedly short-lived pics of their genitals and pets (hopefully never in the same shot) to friends and loved ones and generally having all sorts of dumb fun. I guess.

So of course it turns out the app is fucked. Those 10-second duration images are eminently and easily screengrabbable, for one thing. There have been a host of issues since the app’s debut that I could list. The worst, probably, is the most recent–the damned thing was pretty hackable, all along:

A site called has saved usernames and phone numbers for 4.6 million accounts and made the information available for download. In a statement to us, SnapchatDB says that it got the information through a recently identified and patched Snapchat exploit and that it is making the data available in an effort to convince the messaging app to beef up its security.

If you’re concerned that your own info has been compromised because you have Snapchat (because the temptation to send short-lived shots of your junk or mutt was just too damned irresistible, admit it) you can search for info here, at

Once you do, whether you find your info or not, delete the stupid thing (if you think about it, you could essentially use any other visually-oriented messaging app to do just as stupid stuff as you do on Snapchat) and go sit and think about your life. I mean, really.