May 23, 2019
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Google recalls its Bluetooth Titan Security Keys because of a security bug

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Google today disclosed a security bug in its Bluetooth Titan Security Key that could allow an attacker in close physical proximity to circumvent the security the key is supposed to provide. The company says that the bug is due to a “misconfiguration in the Titan Security Keys’ Bluetooth pairing protocols” and that even the faulty keys still protect against phishing attacks. Still, the company is providing a free replacement key to all existing users.

The bug affects all Titan Bluetooth keys, which sell for $50 in a package that also includes a standard USB/NFC key, that have a “T1” or “T2” on the back.

To exploit the bug, an attacker would have to within Bluetooth range (about 30 feet) and act swiftly as you press the button on the key to activate it. The attackers can then use the misconfigured protocol to connect their own device to the key before your own device connects. With that — and assuming that they already have your username and password — they could sign into your account.

Google also notes that before you can use your key, it has to be paired to your device. An attacker could also potentially exploit this bug by using their own device and masquerading it as your security key to connect to your device when you press the button on the key. By doing this, the attackers can then change their device to look like a keyboard or mouse and remote control your laptop, for example.

All of this has to happen at the exact right time, though, and the attacker must already know your credentials. A persistent attacker could make that work, though.

Google argues that this issue doesn’t affect the Titan key’s main mission, which is to guard against phishing attacks, and argues that users should continue to use the keys until they get a replacement. “It is much safer to use the affected key instead of no key at all. Security keys are the strongest protection against phishing currently available,” the company writes in today’s announcement.

The company also offers a few tips for mitigating the potential security issues here.

Some of Google’s competitors in the security key space, including YubiCo, decided against using Bluetooth because of potential security issues and criticized Google for launching a Bluetooth key. “While Yubico previously initiated development of a BLE security key, and contributed to the BLE U2F standards work, we decided not to launch the product as it does not meet our standards for security, usability and durability,” YubiCo founder Stina Ehrensvard wrote when Google launched its Titan keys.

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Lambs, the radiation-proof underwear company formerly known as Spartan, is now selling beanies

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Earlier this year, Spartan, the French manufacturer of a silver-lined underwear designed to block EMF radiation from cell phones and wireless routers, relocated to the U.S. and raised some capital from the Los Angeles-based investment firm, Science.

Now the company has relaunched as Lambs and is adding a radiation-proof silver-lined beanie to its $29-per-pair underwear already on sale in the U.S. The company’s goal is to capitalize on paranoia around the effects of cell phone radiation on health and possible links to cancer.

Any link between exposure to radiation from cell phones or wi-fi and cancer or other deleterious health effects is tenuous at best, according to the American Cancer Society, but that didn’t stop Lambs (nee’ Spartan) from launching at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2017 with a pitch designed to prey on fears about the potential health risks.

Indeed, there are no studies that definitively prove a link between radiation emitted by cell phones and cancer. The most serious health risk associated with cell phones is an accident caused by distracted driving, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The three co-founders Arthur Menard, Pierre Louis Boyer, and Thomas Calichiama were undeterred by the science and — spurred on by capital from Science — are expanding on their product line.

Since relocating to the U.S., the team went back to the drawing board and redesigned their underpants to align more with American tastes.

Now, the new and improved underwear and new beanie are going to be available to anyone who wants bacteria-resistant, silver-lined, underwear and headwear so they can wrap precious metals around their family jewels.

The company also plans to launch a line of t-shirts later this year. A line of women’s underwear is also on the roadmap.

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T-Mobile officially unveils its home TV service, TVision Home

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T-Mobile today officially unveiled its forthcoming home TV service, which will now be known as TVision Home. The service is the rebranding of Layer3 TV, a company T-Mobile acquired in 2017 to launch what it said would be a “disruptive new TV service” the following year. That launch, of course, had been delayed. Now it has an arrival date: April 14th, 2019.

According to T-Mobile’s new TVision Home website, the service will first be available in Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, L.A., NYC, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington D.C. metro, and Longmont, CO – areas Layer3 had been serving.

The service starts at $100 per month for over 150 channels, minus a $9.99/month discount for T-Mobile customers which will initially be offered to everyone. The channel lineup includes local broadcast stations, regional sports, and other traditional pay TV channels.

The TVision website says the full service has over 275 total channels available.

In addition, TVision Home includes a 400-hour HD DVR (with support for recording multiple programs simultaneously), voice control via either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, access to Nest security cameras,  a range of 4K content, and over 35,000 on-demand movies and shows.

Users will be able to set up profiles, personalize their home screen, and access their own DVR recordings separate from other household members.

Social media content will also be available through the TV, including your Facebook photos and videos and your Twitter feed.

The service itself also includes streaming apps like Pandora, iHeartRadio, XUMO, CuriosityStream, Toon Goggles, and HSN, with plans to add Netflix, YouTube, YouTube Kids, and Amazon Prime Video.

Unlike cable TV which requires running wires in other rooms of the house, TVision will instead offer “Lite Boxes” that connect to the main set-top box over Wi-Fi for $10/month each.


What’s missing, however, is the promised “disruption.”

Even T-Mobile’s own press release says the average cable bill today is $107.30 per month. With a service that starts at $90 per month and then charges for additional TVs and premium channels on top of that, it’s not doing much better – even if it removes the hidden fees like activation or early termination fees. (T-Mobile will also help pay off your satellite TV contract up to $500 if you want to switch over without dealing termination fees.)

However, T-Mobile does promise that its prices won’t increase over time – which is something even the modern-day internet TV providers like Sling TV, DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, and others can’t say, as they’ve all rolled out prices increases in the past year.

But those internet TV services still offer a better deal beyond lower prices – they also let you watch through their app wherever you are, not just inside the home. T-Mobile’s service, meanwhile, will include a companion app for iOS and Android for in-home streaming only. When traveling, you’ll have to use the various channels’ standalone apps to access TV content, after authentication.

That means it’s more like a traditional pay TV provider, as users will be directed to apps – like ABC, HBO Go, NBC, ESPN, Starz, or HGTV, for example – when they want to watch TV on the go.

TVision Home today works over a broadband connection, but is designed for the soon-to-come 5G future where TV can be delivered over a wireless service – like, say, the one offered by the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint.

The company touts the promise of the merger, if approved, saying the combined entity would have the power to bring high-speed broadband via 5G to over half of U.S. households by 2024.

“TVision Home is about so much more than home TV… it’s TV built for the 5G era,” said Mike Sievert, COO and President of T-Mobile, in a statement. “With New T-Mobile, we’ll bring real choice, competition, better service, lower prices and faster speeds…right into your living room. And – speaking of speed – while the Cableopoly innovates at the pace of the cable companies, we’ll innovate at the pace of the internet to give customers more value and more freedom more quickly.”



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Pi Charging rebrands as Spansive, opens up to partners but drops plans for its own padless wireless charger

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Pi Charging is changing course and changing names. It’ll now be known as “Spansive”.

As Pi, the company had been working on a cone-shaped wireless charger that would sit on a desk and allow the user to charge devices placed within about 12 inches in any direction. It would require a case to work with existing devices, with the trade-off of not requiring the user to place their device directly on top of a charging pad. They showed this device at TechCrunch Disrupt SF in 2017, where the company won the Startup Battlefield competition.

After extensive user testing, co-founder John MacDonald says they heard two common complaints from testers. First, the cone charger, when surrounded by charging devices, took up too much space on tables and counters. Second, no one wanted to use a dedicated charging case in place of the brand name cases they already had. As built-in wireless protocols like Qi grew more and more commonplace, the company came to realize its current approach wouldn’t work.

“Qi is just not designed, even philosophically if you talk to people at the Qi standard, it’s not focused on one foot, two feet of range.” says MacDonald. “It’s really focused on surfaces and areas rather than volumes.”

MacDonald tells me that while they had let potential buyers sign up for an email list to claim a cone device later, the company never accepted money for pre-orders. According to Crunchbase, the company has raised over $14M from investors; MacDonald says those investors will maintain their stakes in Spansive, with the rebrand changing nothing about its cap table.

As a focus of its rebranding, the company will also be opening up to outside partners who might want to integrate the volumetric tech from Pi’s cone charger into their own products, with wireless headphone makers mentioned as a potential example. MacDonald says the company has seen considerable interest from potential partners, so it’ll be a key part of the brand moving forward.

Though Pi — or, I should say now, Spansive — is dropping plans for its own cone charger, it’s not dropping out of the consumer wireless charging space. It’s working on a product that MacDonald says the company will announce this summer, focusing on charging multiple devices simultaneously without the need for a case, and on compatibility with Qi devices.  Spansive also sent over this teaser-y render, which appears to show an iPhone (or a device with a similar antenna band) resting on top of a charging base:


While it’s disappointing to see the cone charger get shelved, wireless charging is clearly a very tough space. Just last week, Apple canceled plans for its AirPower wireless charger over a year after it was announced, saying the device ultimately wasn’t meeting the company’s standards.

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Google brings Chrome OS Instant Tethering to more Chromebooks and phones

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Tethering your laptop and phone can be a bit of a hassle. Google’s Chrome OS has long offered a solution called Instant Tethering that makes the process automatic, but so far, this only worked for a small set of Google’s own Chromebooks and phones, starting with the Nexus 6. Now Google is officially bringing this feature to a wider range of devices after testing it behind a Chrome OS flag for a few weeks. With this, Instant Tethering is now available on an additional 15 Chromebooks and more than 30 phones.

The promise of Instant Tether is pretty straightforward. Instead of having to turn on the hotspot feature on your phone and then manually connecting to the hotspot from your device (and hopefully remembering to turn it off when you are done), this feature lets you do this once during the setup process and then, when the Chromebook doesn’t have access to a Wi-Fi network, it’ll simply create a connection to your phone with a single click. If you’re not using the connection for more than 10 minutes, it’ll also automatically turn off the hotspot feature on the phone, too.

Tethering, of course, counts against your cell plan’s monthly data allotment (and even most “unlimited” plans only feature a limited number of GB for tethering), so keep that in mind if you decide to turn on this feature.

You can find the full list of newly supported devices, which include many of today’s most popular Android phones and Chromebooks, below.

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