Amazon Key camera feed can be disabled, security firm finds

Amazon Key camera feed can be disabled, security firm finds

Image: Amazon

People were understandably a little concerned when Amazon announced its new Amazon Key service, which lets couriers inside their houses in order to deliver packages without worrying that someone will steal them from the porch outside. Critics, though, worried that letting a stranger inside your house may be worse.

Not to worry, Amazon said, as the service works in tandem with the new Cloud Cam (and a new smart lock), so you could check in on your house at the time of delivery and see if anything was amiss. Sounds kinda sorta okay, right?

Naturally, there had to be a catch. Researchers from Rhino Security Labs recently told Wired that it’s relatively easy for unscrupulous couriers or random people from the street to use a simple denial-of-service attack program to freeze the Cloud Cam’s feed from any computer within Wi-Fi range. 

In other words, the courier or someone who followed him or her could possibly wait until after the package was delivered to freeze the feed and, right afterward, run into the house again before activating the lock. Worse, the Cloud Cam continues to show the last image captured, which makes it look as though nothing is happening onscreen. You can see the attack in action in the video below.

Amazon released a statement to TechRadar asserting that it would soon release an update to provide faster notifications if the camera goes offline, as well as defending other aspects of its Key program.

“Safety and security are built into every aspect of the service,” an Amazon spokeswoman said. “Every delivery driver passes a comprehensive background check that is verified by Amazon before they can make in-home deliveries, every delivery is connected to a specific driver, and before we unlock the door for a delivery, Amazon verifies that the correct driver is at the right address, at the intended time. We currently notify customers if the camera is offline for an extended period. Later this week we will deploy an update to more quickly provide notifications if the camera goes offline during delivery. The service will not unlock the door if the Wi-Fi is disabled and the camera is not online.”

Poor delivery

Amazon says it believes the findings currently pose little risk for customers, but that it is nevertheless taking action soon. In Amazon’s view, the problems lie with Wi-Fi protocols rather than its own software. Amazon also emphasized that their couriers aren’t allowed to move on to the next deliveries until the full process has been completed (including locking the door), but that technically doesn’t account for the issues described in Rhino’s scenario.

Still, if a courier does do these things, Amazon says, it’ll know exactly which courier was responsible, presumably due to the delivery schedule involved in the Key service procedures. The company will then notify the customer and take action. And if something does go wrong, Amazon said, it works with the customer to fulfill Amazon’s Happiness Guarantee if any products or property are damaged. 

For now, all we can do is wait to see what this patch will look like.


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HTC Vive’s ultimate tracking accessory is shipping out in December

HTC Vive’s ultimate tracking accessory is shipping out in December

We’ve seen many advances in virtual reality over the last couple of years, but the sad truth is that the consumer versions of the technology still do a bad job of mimicking the feeling of actually holding objects. Depending on what you’re doing, the usual paddles and wands often don’t cut it.

But that unhappy state of affairs changed a bit today, as HTC announced the first consumer tracker accessory bundles for the HTC Vive, which allow you to feel as though you’re using a real handgun in VR combat or making wicked serves in virtual tennis. 

The new Vive Tracker fits on top on all three of the new peripherals, which help establish a firmer midpoint between imagination and reality. They’re currently only available for pre-order, although HTC says they’ll start shipping at some point in mid-December.

On the move

The more interesting accessory is the Hyper Blaster, in part because it looks a lot like the Zapper that was sold with the original Nintendo Entertainment System for use with the game Duck Hunt.

The association is intentional, judging from the device’s colors and the fact that it’s sold with a horror game like “Duck Season” that’s clearly riffing on Nintendo’s 1984 game. Just fit the Vive Tracker onto the top of the Hyper Blaster, and it works in tandem with the trigger to make you feel as though you’re firing a real handgun. Amazon is currently the only place where you can buy the $150 bundle, which will come with the Hyper Blaster, one Vive Tracker and the game Duck Season.

The other bundle is Racket Sports, which fittingly comes with properly weighted accessories resembling a tennis racket and a ping-pong paddle and feel as though you’re using the real thing. This bundle costs the same as the Hyper Blaster one, and it comes with a tracker, the two paddle accessories  and a code to download Virtual Sports. You can pre-order it on both Amazon and the Vive website, as well as from Abt Electronics, BH Photo, Fry’s, Gamestop, Micro Center and NewEgg.

Finally, if you want to push your immersion a bit further, you can also pick up $25 “TrackStraps” that let you tie Vive Trackers to your arms or legs in order to allow for full-body tracking. They may sound like the least expensive option, but in order to get the most out of them, you’re going to get to get two Vive Trackers, which can get pricey when you consider that the individual trackers cost $100 apiece. (You can currently only buy both the individual trackers from HTC itself and the TrackStraps from HTC partner Rebuff Reality.)

The new TrackStraps for the Vive. Image credit: HTC 

(Image: © HTC)

In fact, let’s admit it: the whole setup is kind of crazily expensive. The paddles help give the impression is becoming something like Nintendo’s once-popular Wii console, but to pick up everything here, you’re going to end up paying $300 on top of a virtual reality system that already costs $300. And that’s to say nothing of the $25 you may want to spend on two TrackStraps.

If it makes you feel any better, the entire package still comes out to about $350 less than what you’d end up spending on a new iPhone X. So that’s something … right?


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Amazon puts the kibosh on bundled streaming TV plan for now

Amazon puts the kibosh on bundled streaming TV plan for now

Image credit: Amazon

Remember when Apple reportedly tried to get a TV service off the ground but couldn’t get the networks to play nice? Amazon has been attempting to deliver much the same kind of package lately, but it’s been finding that it’s been running into the same tough combo of industry tradition and poor luck. And for now, at least, it’s discarding plans for a “skinny bundle” of top TV channels, according to Reuters.

More specifically, Amazon reportedly stopped pursuing the deal because such a service simply didn’t look as though it would be profitable with current bundles.

The basic idea behind the project was that customers would be able to pay for Amazon’s own curated bundle of popular channels without having to pay for the less-watched channels that usually come with traditional cable deals. It’s a cool idea, in theory, but the cable industry doesn’t want any part of it, or at least not in the way that companies like Amazon and Apple would have it.

Gettin’ crowded in here

Plenty of other “skinny bundles” exist elsewhere, of course, and in fact the market is getting a bit over-saturated with them. Just yesterday we reported on a new one, Philo, that includes only entertainment and educational channels instead of the sports channels that usually make these bundles so expensive. 

Others include Sling TV, Hulu Live TV, PlayStation Vue and AT&T DirecTV Now, and Google has managed to stand apart from Amazon and Apple by carving out its own spot in the woodwork with YouTube TV

For now, Amazon will apparently focus on its growing Amazon Channels service that already offers 140 channels, but the service still has relatively few big-name options. The idea is that you can subscribe to channels like HBO and Showtime through Amazon itself, but it’s still not the ideal plan that Amazon would have liked to have had with an all-in-one bundle.

Amazon is also investing heavily into its on-demand content offerings, analysts say, to the tune of around $4.5 billion in this year alone. The service has already had some hits with shows like The Tick and The Man in the High Castle, and earlier this week Amazon announced that it would be making a prequel series set in the Lord of the Rings universe as well.

Much like Apple, Amazon “is willing to wait,” according to sources. They further claim that Amazon is expecting traditional cable TV subscriptions to continue to fall, leading networks to go directly to Amazon and enroll in its Amazon Channels program.

The only question now is how long that wait will be.


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SNES Classic is in stock at Walmart starting Wednesday – act fast

SNES Classic is in stock at Walmart starting Wednesday – act fast

The SNES Classic Mini is sure to be one of the big gift hits of the holiday season, but the almost instant shortages have made it a pain to find. Previously we reported that GameStop will be getting regular shipments of the coveted console throughout the end of the year, but if Walmart’s more your thing, you can pick it on the retailer’s website tomorrow, November 15, through November 17 as part of a limited restock.

That gives you just three days to get your hands on one, which makes this kind-of an early Black Friday sale. The quantities are limited, so it’s probably wise to pick one up when the SNES Classic goes on sale tomorrow at 11am PT rather than waiting until Friday. Walmart is also limiting sales to one per customer. If past history serves as any indication, the units are going to go fast.

There are no discounts as part of the sale. Just be happy you aren’t getting scalped on eBay.

Image credit: Walmart

(Image: © Walmart)

Want to know what the big deal is? Be sure to check out our review, in which we gushed at how “the palm-sized device is packed with almost every one of the best games produced for the system, and includes the bonus addition of the never previously released Star Fox 2.”

With the holidays almost upon us, there are of course many other Walmart Black Friday deals and Walmart Cyber Monday deals coming in the days ahead, so be sure to check those out if you haven’t already. 


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Future iPhones could have improved AR thanks to rear-facing 3D sensors

Future iPhones could have improved AR thanks to rear-facing 3D sensors

Apple is hard at work designing rear-facing 3D sensors for future iPhones, which could mean great things for Apple’s ambitions in augmented reality, according to a new report from Bloomberg.

The limitations of current AR technology as we see it on smartphones are clear. As I discovered when I tried to use Amazon’s new AR tool that lets you “place” items in your house before you buy them, the traditional camera-based approach does a good job of identifying straight lines for floors and walls but gets stumped when an object like a chair or a bed gets in the way.

Rear-facing 3D sensors could help with that, as they’d help deliver an experience that’s more akin to what we find on dedicated devices like the Microsoft HoloLens. As things stand, Apple’s ARKit (and Google’s ARCore) does a great job of easing the pathway for augmented reality development, but a sensor on the back of the camera would allow development to jump miles ahead.

The building blocks are already there, of course, as the current TrueDepth sensor on the iPhone X works by spraying its target — your face, usually — with 30,000 laser dots in order to make an instant 3D image. Expand that kind of power to a rear-view sensor, and we’re looking at technology that could potentially map out an entire room. 

The rear-facing sensors wouldn’t quite work like that, though. Apple instead plans to use “time of flight” technology that calculates the time it takes for lasers to bounce off the objects they encounter as they shoot out the phone. Numerous companies such as Sony and Infineon already make these kinds of sensors, and Apple is reportedly already in talks for partnerships. 

That could be fun for augmented reality-based games, but it’d also help make that Amazon app much more useful than I initially found it.

2020 vision

Don’t get too excited just yet, though. The sources who revealed the information said there’s a chance the sensors won’t make it into the final versions of the upcoming phones, so we might have to wait until the year after that.

At least for the iPhone. Considering the way the smartphone industry constantly riffs off of competing devices (to put it gently), we may see something like it from another manufacturer before then.


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iOS 11.2 will deliver faster wireless charging to iPhone X and iPhone 8

iOS 11.2 will deliver faster wireless charging to iPhone X and iPhone 8

If you’ve been impressed by the way your new iPhone can be charged wirelessly but haven’t been too hot on the comparatively slow speed at which it does it, you’ll be happy to know that a measure of deliverance is on the way in the upcoming iOS 11.2 patch.

When the update hits, you’ll be able to start charging your iPhone X, iPhone 8 or iPhone 8 Plus at 7.5 watts compared to the 5 watts all three devices currently charge at with Qi-based wireless charging peripherals.

MacRumors heard the news from accessory maker RAVpower and tested the claims using the Belkin Boost Up wireless charger that Apple sells and an iPhone X running the iOS 11.2 beta.

Power play

The good news? It apparently checks out. The phone jumped from 46% to 66% over the course of 30 minutes when placed on Belkin’s charger (which supports 7.5 watts), but took 30 minutes to jump from 46% to 60% when placed on a wireless charger that only pumps out 5 watts.

It’s not a massive jump — certainly not in the context of the 15 watts that some chargers are capable of — but it’ll no doubt make a massive difference when you’re trying to charge your stuff on the go.

You can currently only access the faster charging if you’re a developer or a member of the iOS public beta program. Considering that we’re now into the third beta release for 11.2, a full release shouldn’t be far behind.

  • Don’t let iOS 11 problems get you down – we’ve got solutions


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Amazon Prime Video may soon have a free tier with ads [Update]

Amazon Prime Video may soon have a free tier with ads [Update]

Update: Not so fast, says Amazon. In a statement sent to The Verge, the online retail/everything giant said, “We have no plans to create a free, ad-supported version of Prime Video.”

It left it at that, but with AdAge’s report providing a decent amount of details, it may not be too long before we see a free version of Prime Video become available anyway.

Original article below…

Amazon is a little late to the world of on-demand TV streaming, but AdAge reports that the massive online retailer is trying to catch up by developing a free tier for its Prime Video service. 

Much like the least expensive version of Hulu (or, you know, regular TV), the potential service would be supported by ads.

In the US and UK, Prime Video is generally advertised as a side perk of Amazon’s popular $99/£79 Prime membership service, but it’s also possible to buy a standalone monthly subscription. 

This, in fact, is the only way to access the service to Australia (for AU$5.99). Considering that Prime Video is now available in more than 200 countries, this could be a more profitable venture than it may initially sound like.

Channel surfing

To sweeten the deal, according to an anonymous source, Amazon is toying with the idea of letting third-party content creators make their own channels, allowing Amazon and the creators to share a portion of the ad revenue.

It’s a significant move, as Amazon also seems eager to use the free tier to extend its content library far beyond what its studios currently provide. The report claims that Amazon wants to “dive into back catalogs of TV and movie studios” in order to provide more content for children, along with shows focused on cooking, travel and other activities.

Wall Street analysts claim that Amazon will have already spent a whopping $5 billion on content by the end of the year, so this would also be a way to recoup some of that cash aside from merely hoping its shows will entice customers to sign up for Prime.


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GameStop pulls PowerPass plan that let you rent all the used games you want [Update]

GameStop pulls PowerPass plan that let you rent all the used games you want [Update]

Update: GameStop has temporarily suspended its “PowerPass” used-game rental program and told employees to pull down all related signage and store it, according to according to a new report from Kotaku,  

On the bright side, the cancellation appears to be temporary, although there’s no word as to when the program might be reinstated.

The reasons for the suspension aren’t clear, but employees suggest that the computers in the stores aren’t set up to handle the program. There may be some truth to this, as GameStop released a statement announcing that it was temporarily pulling PowerPass “based on a few program limitations we have identified.”

GameStop is allowing anyone who already enrolled in the program to return the pass and any games they had checked out for a full refund. In addition, they’re allowed to take home any pre-owned game they choose.

Original story…

The shift to a digital marketplace hasn’t been too kind to GameStop, so now the brick-and-mortar video game outlet is attempting to focus on rentals in addition to its usual sales of new and used boxed games. 

As reported by Mashable and confirmed by TechRadar, GameStop is introducing a subscription-based model called “PowerPass” that will let subscribers rent as many games as they want (one at a time) for the price of $60 (about £45 / AU$80) for six months. 

At the end of that six-month period, you’ll be able to keep the last game you rented for free. You’ll also need to be a member of GameStop’s PowerUp Rewards program, which fortunately has a free tier. 

A GameStop representative confirmed to TechRadar in an email that PowerPass is currently limited to the US. When asked if the company planned to extend the service worldwide, the representative said, “Not at this time.” 

Below you’ll find the original leaked ad that was posted by a user named Virtua on ResetEra:

Image credit: ResetEra
(Image: © ResetEra)

In effect, this partially puts GameStop in direct competition with RedBox, which already enjoys a bit of an edge in the game rental business with its widely dispersed units. You can usually only buy the games that are “hot” right now from RedBox machines, but you can also usually find them in remote, tiny towns where GameStop would never think of opening a store.

In implementation, through, GameStop’s service is a bit more like that of GameFly, the internet-based physical game rental service that’s been around since 2002. Both services are subscription-based, and both allow you to get your hands on almost any kind of game you want, regardless of release date.

Watch out, GameFly

GameStop’s service offers a couple of advantages over GameFly’s. For one, GameStop’s physical stores should continue to exist, which means it should be easy to drive over to your local outlet and pick up the game you want when the impulse strikes you. 

With GameFly’s mail-based system, you’ll still have to wait a couple of days to receive the disk, even if you live close to one of its distribution centers.

For another, GameStop’s plan is significantly less expensive as GameFly’s base subscription plan allows you to rent one game at a time for $15.95 per month. That means you’d end up paying $95.70 in the same period that you’d be paying GameStop $60. Not bad.

Considering what GameStop has to work with, it’s a smart move, particularly if it’s considered as a complement to GameStop’s existing model rather than a replacement.

Signups for PowerPass begin on November 19, which means the service is rolling out just in time to make a great Christmas present.

PowerPass will also launch ahead of the GameStop Black Friday deals, from which we’re expecting great things this year. 


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The next generation of Apple HomePods may support Face ID

The next generation of Apple HomePods may support Face ID

It’s a bit of a no-brainer that we’ll eventually see Apple’s Face ID on more future iPhones and iPads, but what about other devices like the upcoming HomePod smart speaker? According to Japanese news organization Nikkei, we could be using our faces to unlock personalized settings on the device as soon as 2019.

Nor is this some sketchy rumor. The source is David Ho, the president of Inventec Appliances, which is the company that’s actually responsible for making both HomePods and Apple’s AirPod earbuds.

Granted, it’s a bit of a “could-be” thing, as Ho’s exact words are that trends suggest that “engineers are designing smart speakers that will not only come with voice recognition but also incorporate features such as facial and image recognition.”

Analysts, though, interpret this to mean that Ho is referring to the next generation of HomePods after the model we’re supposed to see hit shelves in a few weeks. Specifically, analyst Jeff Pu of Yuanta Investment Consulting thinks we’ll see Apple’s nifty 3D-imaging sensors on the speakers the year after next.

Next verse, same as the first

Yet these speculations aren’t entirely new. As 9to5Mac points out, rumors that the HomePod could use facial recognition technology were swirling about as early as the middle of last year, but Face ID was nowhere to be found when we saw the actual device. There’s a chance, of course, that Apple was merely waiting to see what the response to the tech would be with the iPhone X before applying it to other products.

As for that first-generation of HomePods? The year is almost up, and we still don’t have a clear date from Apple as to when we’ll see it. At WWDC, though, Apple claimed it should start shipping at some point in December.

Clock’s ticking.


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Apple could be making a more affordable iPhone X for 2018

Apple could be making a more affordable iPhone X for 2018

The iPhone X is only a few weeks old but already the rumor mill is starting up about next year’s iPhones. 

Noted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of the KGI Securities firm is back with a new round of predictions about the next iPhone, just a week after he predicted that we’ll see two new iPhones with OLED displays in 2018. Think of these as the iPhone X 2, at least for now.

That much hasn’t changed, but as MacRumors relates, Kuo’s research into the Apple supply line has now led him to predict that we’ll also see a third 6.1-inch phone with a TFT-LCD display next year. 

Importantly, though, this won’t really be a “backwards-looking” phone like this year’s iPhone 8 and 8 Plus; instead, the LCD phone will adopt the iPhone X‘s basic form factor, sensor “notch” and all. It will display images at around 320 or 330 pixels per inch.

As Kuo sees it, this device will cater to the “low-end” and “midrange” markets (and yet, Apple being Apple, he predicts that they will still cost somewhere between $649 / about £495 / about AU$851 and $749 / about £571 / about AU$982). Kuo doesn’t make any predictions about the prices for the two OLED phones, but considering that the iPhone X sells for $999 / £999 / AU$1,579, there’s little doubt that the bigger of the two will certainly be much more expensive.

Three’s a crowd

In fact, Kuo also provided a few more details about the two OLED phones. The smaller 5.8-inch model, he says, will display images at 458 pixels per inch with a resolution of 1,125 x 2,436. The larger 6.5-inch version, though, will display images at around 480 to 500 pixels per inch.

If you’re new to the party, Ming-Chi Kuo has made a name for himself for having an astonishingly accurate track record for these kinds of predictions, thanks to his network of sources embedded along Apple’s supply line. 

He’s not always right, but Kuo so often hits the mark that it’s tempting to believe that the few times he’s been wrong were the result of changes of plans on Apple’s part rather than false information.


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