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InfoSec News Nuggets 09/14/2020

Walmart begins testing drone deliveries for household goods and groceries

Walmart has started making its first deliveries by drone, launching a small pilot program this week in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The retailer will be delivering “select grocery and household essential items” using automated drones operated by Israeli startup Flytrex. Each of the drones can fly at speeds of 32 mph, travel distances of 6.2 miles in a round trip, and carry up to 6.6 pounds (that’s roughly “6-8 hamburgers,” according to converted units offered on Flytrex’s own website). A demo video of the drone shows how it lowers packages to the ground from 80 feet in the air rather than having to land itself. Flytrex received approval from the FAA to test food deliveries in North Carolina last year, with caveats that its drones only fly predetermined routes in the daytime over unpopulated areas.


New cyberattacks targeting U.S. elections

In recent weeks, Microsoft has detected cyberattacks targeting people and organizations involved in the upcoming presidential election, including unsuccessful attacks on people associated with both the Trump and Biden campaigns, as detailed below. We have observed that: Strontium, operating from Russia, has attacked more than 200 organizations including political campaigns, advocacy groups, parties and political consultants. Zirconium, operating from China, has attacked high-profile individuals associated with the election, including people associated with the Joe Biden for President campaign and prominent leaders in the international affairs community. Phosphorus, operating from Iran, has continued to attack the personal accounts of people associated with the Donald J. Trump for President campaign.


Kids’ Smartwatches Are a Security Nightmare Despite Years of Warnings

In a paper published late last month, researchers at the Münster University of Applied Sciences in Germany detailed their testing of the security of six brands of smartwatches marketed for kids. They’re designed to send and receive voice and text messages, and let parents track their child’s location from a smartphone app. The researchers found that hackers could abuse those features to track a target child’s location using the watch’s GPS in five out of the six brands of watch they tested. Several of the watches had even more severe vulnerabilities, allowing hackers to send voice and text messages to children that appear to come from their parents, to intercept communications between parents and children, and even to record audio from a child’s surroundings and eavesdrop on them. The Münster researchers shared their findings with the smartwatch companies in April, but say that several of the bugs they disclosed have yet to be fixed.


This tiny reproduction of Girl With a Pearl Earring is “painted” with light

Scientists have fabricated tiny “nanopillars” capable of transmitting specific colors of light, at specific intensities, which hold promise for improved optical communication and anti-counterfeit measures for currency. For proof of concept, they decided to digitally reproduce Dutch master Johannes Vermeer’s famous painting Girl With a Pearl Earring—just painted in light instead of pigment. They discussed their work in a recent paper published in the journal Optica. “The quality of the reproduction, capturing the subtle color gradations and shadow details, is simply remarkable,” said co-author Amit Agrawal, a researcher with the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST). “This work quite elegantly bridges the fields of art and nanotechnology.”


Bose Releases New Smart Glasses Ahead Of Apple’s Product-Launch Event

Bose has recently announced three new smart glasses in the Frames line, each of them designed to let users listen to music in a stylish, discreet way. The new devices from the famed audio company come days before Apple’s event and are obviously meant to take some attention away from the Cupertino tech giant’s audio devices. These were announced alongside new wireless earbuds designed to take on the AirPods Pro, AirPods and others The new Frames Tempo, Tenor and Soprano offer better designs and technologies compared to their predecessors, the Alto and Rondo. All three are compatible with smartphones and allow users to listen to their favorite playlists, engage in conversations and talk to their digital assistants, without having to place anything in or over their ears.


U.S. Company Faces Backlash After Belarus Uses Its Tech to Block Internet

Sandvine Inc., the U.S. company whose technology helped Belarus block much of the internet during a disputed presidential election last month, promotes its wares with a stark selling point: it can be used to “blacklist” as many as 150 million websites. The private-equity-backed technology firm demonstrated its equipment to a government security team in Belarus in May, two people with knowledge of the matter said, and its marketing materials boast of the blacklisting capabilities, according to documents reviewed by Bloomberg. The Sandvine equipment is also used to manage and secure networks, and its website blocking feature can prohibit users from accessing content deemed illicit, such as terrorist propaganda or child pornography, according to the documents.

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