Bitcoin Thieves Threaten Real Violence for Virtual Currencies

SAN FRANCISCO — The currency they were after was virtual, but the guns they carried were anything but. In the beach resort of Phuket, Thailand, last month, the assailants pushed their victim, a young Russian man, into his apartment and kept him there, blindfolded, until he logged onto his computer and transferred about $100,000 worth of Bitcoin to an online wallet they controlled. A few weeks before that, the head of a Bitcoin exchange in Ukraine was taken hostage and only released after the company paid a ransom of $1…

To Stir Discord in 2016, Russians Turned Most Often to Facebook

SAN FRANCISCO — In 2014, Russians working for a shadowy firm called the Internet Research Agency started gathering American followers in online groups focused on issues like religion and immigration. Around mid-2015, the Russians began buying digital ads to spread their messages. A year later, they tapped their followers to help organize political rallies across the United States. Their digital instrument of choice for all of these actions? Facebook and its photo-sharing site Instagram. The social network, more than any other technology tool, was singled out on Friday by the Justice…

Microsoft’s Cortana is finally on IFTTT

Microsoft keeps striving to find Cortana a place in the crowded smart assistant market, and despite losing a minor feature, it’s still adding functionality. Today, Cortana added IFTTT, and launched with interactions to link it up with 550 apps and devices. Cortana lags behind some of its peers in this field, too: Google Assistant added IFTTT functionality in October 2016, while Amazon’s Alexa included an IFTTT channel the year before. But if you’ve committed to Microsoft’s voice assistant, at least you can set up your own interactions — and create your own ‘applets’ for free now given IFTTT’s free ‘maker’ tier.

Authorities deactivate transit pass implanted in biohacker’s hand

Meow-Ludo Disco Gamma Meow-Meow couldn’t just toss away his New South Wales transit pass even after he found out that it got deactivated while he was on a trip to the US. See, Meow-Meow (yes, that is his legal name) cut the chip out of the travel card, encased it in biocompatible plastic and had it implanted under the skin on his left hand. The biohacker now plans to file a lawsuit against New South Wales’ transport authorities, not just to fight the decision, but also to help create laws around body-hacking tech. In…

How Mattel is using AR to let you preview Hot Wheels playsets

Taking a cue from Lego, Mattel is betting on augmented reality as a new way to entice shoppers. The company will introduce an AR app this fall, which will generate a virtual version of its Hot Wheels City playsets when you point your phone or tablet at their boxes in stores. The idea is to give kids and parents a better sense of how the set looks and functions without open anything up, and without retailers wasting precious floorspace on demo units. At New York City’s Toy Fair, the AR models…

IKEA and Teenage Engineering preview their collaboration on Instagram

Teenage Engineering is known for its wonky-looking yet functional synthsand speakers, while IKEA furniture fills college (and folks who still live like it’s college) apartments. Their powers combined has produced…some neat, boldly-colored speakers, actually. On its Instagram, Ikea just posted a sneak peek at their upcoming line of collaborated products built “so that you can host your party, wherever you may be.” Per the photo, the new line FREKVENS (translated to “frequency”) looks to include speakers, an LED box, a spotlight and, of course, speakers — all the tools needed to party. That might not be…

Salon magazine mines crypto-cash with readers’ PCs

News organisations have tried many novel ways to make readers pay – but this idea is possibly the most audacious yet. If a reader chooses to block its advertising, US publication Salon will use that person’s computer to mine for Monero, a cryptocurrency similar to Bitcoin. Creating new tokens of a cryptocurrency typically requires complex calculations that use up a lot of computing power. Salon told readers: “We intend to use a small percentage of your spare processing power to contribute to the advancement of technological discovery, evolution and innovation.”…

Google Chrome launches default ad-blocker

Google has launched an ad-blocker for its Chrome web browser that is designed to prevent “annoying” and “intrusive” ads being shown to users. Google announced the move to curtail full-page and auto-playing video ads, among others, last year. The choice of which ads to block will be determined by the Coalition for Better Ads (CBA) – made up of companies including Google and Facebook. Sites will have 30 days to remove disruptive ads before blocking begins. A survey of 40,000 US and European web users found that the most intrusive ads were…

MIT has a new chip to make AI faster and more efficient on smartphones

Just one day after MIT revealed that some of its researchers had created a super low-power chip to handle encryption, the institute is back with a neural network chip that reduces power consumption by 95 percent. This feature makes them ideal for battery-powered gadgets like mobile phones and tablets to take advantage of more complex neural networking systems. Neural networks are made up of lots of basic, interconnected information processors that are interconnected. Typically, these networks learn how to perform tasks by analyzing huge sets of data and applying that to novel tasks. They’re…

Which true wireless earbuds are worth buying?

With so many flagship phones leaving behind the headphone jack over the past two years, the need for a good pair of Bluetooth earbuds has only intensified. While the first crop of true wireless products had their share of comfort and connection problems, the selection improved dramatically in 2017, with companies like Bose and Bang & Olufsen coming out with sets that gave Apple’s AirPods a real run for the money. If you’ve been holding off on buying a pair because of cost, poor audio or because they just look ridiculous, it might finally…