New remote unlock hack compounds VW’s problems

Has it ever been a bad year for Volkswagen! The German automaker is still dealing with the fallout of having duped thousands of customers with cars that weren’t as clean as they said they were, now we learn that a relatively simple hack makes it easy to break into most VW vehicles manufactured since 1995.

The news comes out of the Usenix security conference in Austin Texas, where University of Birmingham researcher Flavio Garcia and his team say they figured out how to remotely unlock nearly 100 million Volkswagen’s using some clever reverse engineering and a cheap radio scanner connected to a laptop. It was apparently tedious work, but relatively easy.

And the worst part is, once they figured out the VW hack they were able to create a second one that works to unlock millions of other vehicles made by Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Ford, Citroen, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Opel and Peugeot. What’s worse is that the semiconductor company that makes the chips used in these keyless entry systems has been recommending that its customers use newer algorithms for years.

Ok, that’s really bad … so what is VW going to do about it now? Well, we just don’t know. VW has acknowledged the vulnerability, but that’s all. In the meantime, if you own a VW made since ‘95, it’s probably the safest bet that you not leave valuables in your car – which you shouldn’t do anyway. And if you’re really concerned, you can always replace the factory security system with an aftermarket unit for a few hundred dollars.

Snapchat filter flub

Social media platform Snapchat is taking some heat today over what many consider a racially insensitive filter that many have taken to calling “yellow face.” When applied, the lens transforms faces with animated-looking slanted eyes, buck teeth and inflated, high-rise cheeks. We’re not sure how this slipped through, but Snapchat says the lens is retired and won’t be coming back.

You’d figure Snapchat would have learned after the Bob Marley-inspired lens released back on 4.20 backfired, but … apparently not. Something tells us we’ll another botched filter because Snapchat just doesn’t seem to get it.

Logitech flips the switch on home automation

Logitech has come out with a new device that might just give home automation the boost it needs among the average consumer. It’s called the POP Home Switch, and it is remarkably simple.

Let’s say you have Philips Hue smart lights, maybe August locks on your doors, and a handful of Sonos speakers, just for example.  The Pop switch will allow you to control those devices with the simple press of a button. Rather than have to pull your phone out of your pocket, launch the appropriate app, and then finally start controlling things, you can just program the Pop switch to carry out any number of instructions for all those devices.

Now turning on those lights really is like flipping a light switch. And if you just want to power up your speakers to play your favorite Internet radio station or Spotify playlist, you can do that to. Each Pop switch is capable of three different gestures, and each gesture – double click, single click, and long press – can be programmed to do something specific, or launch a coordinated series of actions.

One press could turn on specific lights, crank up the tunes, and lock the doors. Pretty slick. The Pop Home switch starter kit starts at $100, which gets you a Pop bridge and two switches. Additional switches will run $40.

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