28 February 2023

Future Fords Could Repossess Themselves and Drive Away if You Miss Payments

Average car payments have been rising for a while. Although auto loan delinquency rates have been down since the height of the pandemic, Ford applied for a patent to make the repossession process go smoother. For the bank, that is.

The patent document was submitted to the United States Patent Office in August 2021 but it was formally published Feb. 23. It's titled "Systems and Methods to Repossess a Vehicle." It describes several ways to make the life of somebody who has missed several car payments harder.

It explicitly says the system, which could be installed on any future vehicle in the automaker's lineup with a data connection would be capable of "[disabling] a functionality of one or more components of the vehicle." Everything from the engine to the air conditioning. For vehicles with autonomous or semi-autonomous driving capability, the system could "move the vehicle from a first spot to a second spot that is more convenient for a tow truck to tow the vehicle... move the vehicle from the premises of the owner to a location such as, for example, the premises of the repossession agency," or, if the lending institution considers the "financial viability of executing a repossession procedure" to be unjustifiable, the vehicle could drive itself to the junkyard.


20 February 2023

Microsoft Defender for Business - help secure what matters

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17 February 2023

Self driving cars? More like self crashing cars!

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has sent Tesla a letter [PDF] in which it acknowledges Tesla will conduct a recall of the Full Self Driving Beta (FSD Beta) software in up to 362,758 cars, as the software is unsafe.

The issue affects the Model S, Model X, Model 3, and Model Y vehicles, some dating back to 2016.

The NHTSA asserts the software's bugs mean it "may allow the vehicle to act unsafe around intersections, such as traveling straight through an intersection while in a turn-only lane, entering a stop sign-controlled intersection without coming to a complete stop, or proceeding into an intersection during a steady yellow traffic signal without due caution."

"In addition, the system may respond insufficiently to changes in posted speed limits or not adequately account for the driver's adjustment of the vehicle's speed to exceed posted speed limits."

Autonomous cars are meant to be the future. I wouldn't touch one with a barge pole!


14 February 2023

#DustAndGlory - Lent reflections start next week


Walk with us through Lent. Discover resources that help us to explore how we can live well with the mess of everyday life. 

Dust and Glory encourages us to take a fresh look at the frustrations and failings that every day brings, seek to learn from them and grow closer to God through them.

Sign up to our free daily Lent reflection emails (except Sundays) straight to your inbox from Ash Wednesday (22 February) to Easter Day (9 April).

Or download the Dust and Glory app for free.
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08 February 2023

Chinese hardware spying on users - again

Don't buy an Android phone in China, boffins have warned, as they come crammed with preinstalled apps transmitting privacy-sensitive data to third-party domains without consent or notice.

The research, conducted by Haoyu Liu (University of Edinburgh), Douglas Leith (Trinity College Dublin), and Paul Patras (University of Edinburgh), suggests that private information leakage poses a serious tracking risk to mobile phone customers in China, even when they travel abroad in countries with stronger privacy laws.

In a paper titled "Android OS Privacy Under the Loupe – A Tale from the East," the trio of university boffins analyzed the Android system apps installed on the mobile handsets of three popular smartphone vendors in China: OnePlus, Xiaomi and Oppo Realme.

The researchers looked specifically at the information transmitted by the operating system and system apps, in order to exclude user-installed software. They assume users have opted out of analytics and personalization, do not use any cloud storage or optional third-party services, and have not created an account on any platform run by the developer of the Android distribution. A sensible policy, but it doesn't seem to help much.

The pre-installed set of apps consists of Android AOSP packages, vendor code and third-party software. There are more than 30 third-party packages in each of the Android handsets with Chinese firmware, the paper says.

These include Chinese input apps like Baidu Input, IflyTek Input and Sogou Input on the Xiaomi Redmi Note 11. On the OnePlus 9R and Realme Q3 Pro, there's Baidu Map as a foreground navigation app and the AMap package, which runs continuously in the background. And there are also various news, video streaming, and online shopping apps bundled into the Chinese firmware.

Within this limited scope, the researchers found that Android handsets from the three named vendors "send a worrying amount of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) not only to the device vendor but also to service providers like Baidu and to Chinese mobile network operators."

The tested phones did so even when these network operators were not providing service – no SIM card was present or the SIM card was associated with a different network operator.

"The data we observe being transmitted includes persistent device identifiers (IMEI, MAC address, etc.), location identifiers (GPS coordinates, mobile network cell ID, etc.), user profiles (phone number, app usage patterns, app telemetry), and social connections (call/SMS history/time, contact phone numbers, etc.)," the researchers state in their paper.