11.29.19

Will you be affected by Twitter’s crackdown on inactive accounts? Here are 5 things you need to know.

BY Michael Grothaus 2 MINUTE READ

Like many social media platforms, Twitter has a fairly large number of user accounts whose owners are no longer active on the service—and haven’t been in a long time. While these abandoned accounts don’t affect the average Twitter user, they do prevent users from signing up for Twitter handles that may have long been taken but not actively used.

That’s one of the reasons why Twitter has announced a cull of inactive accounts starting next month. But as the BBC reports, other reasons Twitter gives for its upcoming cull include that fact that inactive account holders are unable to agree to Twitter’s new privacy policies, and that by removing inactive accounts, the follower numbers of active Twitter accounts would better reflect the reality of just how many people are actually subscribed to their accounts.

Worried that your account may be culled? Here are five things you need to know.

1. The cull will begin on December 11. If you haven’t logged in to your Twitter account at least once in the six months prior to that, your inactive account will be culled.
2. The usernames (also known as Twitter handles) of culled accounts will then be made available to other people to register as their own. The handles of culled inactive accounts will not be available right away on December 11, however. Twitter says the handles will gradually become available for new users to register them.This likely means over a period of many months.
3. You don’t need to be actively tweeting from an account to save it. However, you must have logged in to the account at least once in the last six months to keep it active. As The Verge reports, Twitter is sending emails to users whose accounts are marked for the chopping block. Those emails read:To continue using Twitter, you’ll need to agree to the current Terms, Privacy Policy, and Cookie Use. This not only lets you make the best decisions about the information that you share with us, it also allows you to keep using your Twitter account. But first, you need to log in and follow the on-screen prompts before Dec. 11, 2019, otherwise your account will be removed from Twitter.
4. The accounts of deceased users will also be culled. This means that if your loved one passed away and you don’t want their tweets and account deleted, you must log in to the account to keep it active. As a Twitter spokesperson told The Verge, the company does “not currently have a way to memorialize someone’s Twitter account once they have passed on, but the team is thinking about ways to do this.”
5. If you’re giddy with excitement that a Twitter handle you’ve long coveted might soon be up for grabs, keep your expectations in check. Tons of people are going to be vying for the best Twitter handles that are going to be available again as a result of this culling. Many people will probably use bots or software to try to get their dream handle. What we’re saying is, you’re going to have a lot of competition.


Article originally appeared on fastcompany.com

10.09.19

Instagram dark mode is a thing. Here’s how to enable it.

BY Michael Grothaus 1 MINUTE READ

One of the most frequently requested features of Instagram over the years has been dark mode—and now, it’s finally here. Instagram quietly rolled out the feature on both iOS and Android last night. 


And using it couldn’t be easier. All you have to do is make sure you download the latest version of Instagram and that your iPhone is running iOS 13 and your Android phone is running Android 10. Dark mode on Instagram respects the system-wide dark mode settings on both operating systems, so the second you switch to dark mode in iOS 13 or Android 10, your Instagram app will also switch to dark mode. There is no way to toggle Instagram’s dark mode on and off in the app itself.

To enable system-wide dark mode on iOS 13 (and thus in Instagram): Go to your Settings app, tap Display & Brightness, and tap the Dark button
To enable system-wide dark mode on Android 10 (and thus in Instagram, too): Go to your Settings app, tap Display, and tap the Dark them button.

And of course, people couldn’t be happier about dark mode, as evidenced by all the posts on Twitter about it.

06.27.19

Robots Will Take 20 Million Manufacturing Jobs in the Next 10 Years Alone

BY Michael Grothaus 1 MINUTE READ

A report by the analysis firm Oxford Economics says that by 2030 robots introduced into the manufacturing sector will take 20 million jobs away from humans. Those numbers are especially bleak considering the report found that since 2000, robots have only taken 1.7 million jobs away from manufacturing workers. In other words, in the next 10 years, robots will take away over 11 times the number of manufacturing jobs from humans that they took in the previous 20 years.

The country hit the hardest by this robot manufacturing revolution will, unsurprisingly, be China, where a bulk of the world’s manufacturing takes place. Here’s how many jobs are likely to be lost to robots in major manufacturing countries or blocs by 2030:

  • China: over 11 million
  • European Union: almost 2 million
  • United States: almost 1.7 million
  • South Korea: almost 800,000
  • The rest of the world: 3 million

Oxford Economics says that on average in the 29 most-advanced economies of the world, one robot takes away 1.6 human manufacturing jobs—making a robot worker a no-brainer for a company looking to reduce costs. But robots also disproportionately affect lower-income areas. In the lower-income areas of the countries in the study, one robot took away 2.2 manufacturing jobs. While in the richer areas of the countries in the study, one robot only took away 1.3 human jobs.


Originally published on fastcompany.com

05.14.19

9 Things You Need to Know About the WhatsApp Spyware Attack

BY Michael Grothaus 3 MINUTE READ

Facebook-owned WhatsApp is urging all of its users worldwide to update the app to the latest version of the software after it discovered that the app’s integrity had been compromised. The warning came after the Financial Times revealed that a vulnerability had been discovered that let attackers install spyware on iPhones and Android phones simply by placing a WhatsApp voice call to the user’s smartphone. Here are nine things you need to know about the attack:

  1. The spyware was allegedly created by the Israeli cyber surveillance company NSO Group. The secretive group creates spyware it sells to governments and law enforcement agencies around the world that allows them to take almost complete control of a device. Though the spyware was allegedly created by NSO, it’s not sure who the attacker is that is using the spyware to target WhatsApp users.
  2. The NSO software, called Pegasus, allows the attacker to extract all of the data on an iPhone or Android phone. This includes texts, emails, location data, contacts, browser history, and more. It also allows the attacker to activate the phone’s microphone and camera.
  3. What’s notable about the WhatsApp attack is that it was a “zero-click” or “no click” attack. That means the spyware was able to be installed on a smartphone by the attacker simply placing a WhatsApp voice call to the phone. It does not matter if the call was answered or not – a target did not have to open any message, answer the call, or click on any link. After the call was placed and the spyware installed on the device, the log of the call would be deleted so the phone’s owner may have never seen that a call attempt was made in the first place.
  4. Facebook discovered the vulnerability earlier this month and alerted US law enforcement to the attack last week. By last Friday, Facebook had addressed the exploit in WhatsApp on the server-side, which cut off the attacker’s ability to infect phones.
  5. Even though the vulnerability was able to be fixed by closing a security hole in WhatsApp’s infrastructure, the company released a WhatsApp update on Monday and is urging all users to upgrade to the latest version of the app out of an abundance of caution.
  6. The affected versions of WhatsApp include WhatsApp for Android prior to v2.19.134, WhatsApp Business for Android prior to v2.19.44, WhatsApp for iOS prior to v2.19.51, WhatsApp Business for iOS prior to v2.19.51, WhatsApp for Windows Phone prior to v2.18.348, and WhatsApp for Tizen prior to v2.18.15.
  7. It’s unknown how many WhatsApp users were infected with the spyware. But the FT is reporting that one target of the attack was an unnamed lawyer involved in a lawsuit against NSO that was brought by a group of Mexican journalists and a Saudi Arabian dissident.
  8. WhatsApp did not refer to the NSO by name, but upon confirming the attack the company said, “The attack has all the hallmarks of a private company reportedly that works with governments to deliver spyware that takes over the functions of mobile phone operating systems. We have briefed a number of human rights organisations to share the information we can and to work with them to notify civil society.”
  9. As for the NSO Group, the company told the Financial Times, “Under no circumstances would NSO be involved in the operating or identifying of targets of its technology, which is solely operated by intelligence and law enforcement agencies. NSO would not, or could not, use its technology in its own right to target any person or organisation, including this individual.”

In summary, the WhatsApp attack shows just how vulnerable our devices are to malicious attacks. The good news is Facebook and WhatsApp seem to think that all attack vectors for this specific attack have been shut down. However, it’s critical that all users of WhatsApp update to the latest version of the software right now to be on the safe side.

Originally published on fastcompany.com