Smart Home Devices Are Easy to Hack. Here's How to Protect Yourself

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Alexa randomly laughing at us might be the least of our smart technology concerns. The latest bad news about smart home devices is that they're easy to hack, according to a team of researchers who did just that to prove these gadgets have serious security issues.

Off-the-shelf home security cameras, baby monitors, doorbells, and thermostats were among the devices hacked by cyber researchers at Ben-Gurion University (BGU) of the Negev in Beer-Sheva, Israel as part of ongoing research into detecting vulnerabilities in smart home technology. Once they broke in, researchers were able to play loud music through a baby monitor, turn on a camera remotely, and more.

"It is truly frightening how easily a criminal, voyeur, or pedophile can take over these devices," Yossi Oren, a senior lecturer in BGU's Department of Software and Information Systems Engineering, said in a press statement. According to Omer Shwartz, a Ph.D. student and member of Oren's lab, "It only took 30 minutes to find passwords for most of the devices, and some of them were found only through a Google search of the brand."

In a recently published paper, BGU researchers identified ways that both manufacturers and users leave their tech open to hackers. Many products come with common, easy-to-guess default passwords, which consumers then don't change, making it easy for hackers to break in. Cybercriminals can also gain access to entire wifi networks just by retrieving the password stored on one device. "It seems getting [smart] products to market at an attractive price is often more important than securing them properly," Oren said.

According to BGU researchers, you can protect yourself from being hacked by only buying from reputable manufacturers and vendors. And although it's tempting to get your device used to save money, secondhand tech might have malware installed. Keep your software updated regularly, and, as always, use strong passwords. The team at BGU recommends choosing a password with a minimum of 16 letters and not using the same password for more than one device.

Spending a Lot On Books? This Browser Extension Tells You if They’re Available at Your Local Library

artisteer/iStock via Getty Images
artisteer/iStock via Getty Images

If your battle-worn bookcase is groaning under the weight of all the books you've bought online, let us introduce you to a delightful browser extension that you didn’t know you needed.

As CNET reports, Library Extension is a free way to automatically see if the book you’re about to purchase can be checked out from a library (or libraries) near you. After you install it here—for either Chrome or Firefox—click on the tiny stack of books that appears next to your search bar, and choose your state and public libraries from the dropdown menu. Then, search for a book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Audible, or Google Books, and a box along the right side of your window will tell you how many copies are available. It also works on Goodreads, so you don’t even have to be committed to buying your next great read for it to come in handy.

If you’re not picky about book formats, you can add digital catalogs from platforms like OverDrive, Hoopla, and Cloud Library in your extension preferences, and your results will list e-book and audiobook copies among the physical ones. Once you’ve found something you’d like to check out, just click “borrow” and the extension will deliver you straight to its corresponding page on the library’s website.

For veteran library patrons, navigating various catalogs to find the perfect novel might seem simple—or even a little like hunting for treasure—but it can overwhelm a novice borrower and make them stick to one-click purchasing on familiar e-commerce sites. Library Extension takes the confusion out of the process, and gives you the opportunity to save some money, too.

Though the extension will only show you books, they’re not the only things you could be borrowing—here are 11 unexpected items you might be able to check out from your local library.

[h/t CNET]

The 20 Best States to Retire in 2020

Robert Clay Reed/iStock via Getty Images
Robert Clay Reed/iStock via Getty Images

Spending your workdays dreaming of retirement? It’s the ultimate goal of any longtime office-dweller, but figuring out when you’re ready to finally take the plunge is one of many questions aspiring retirees need to ask themselves before quitting the 9-to-5 grind for good. Determining where to retire is equally important, as you’ll need to think not just about affordability, but quality of life and health care as well.

Personal finance website WalletHub crunched the numbers on all 50 states to come up with an official ranking on the best (and worst) states to retire. Their experts looked at 47 different factors and enlisted the help of a panel of experts.

Ultimately, it turns out that the idea of retiring to Florida is still very much alive. The Sunshine State took the top spot in the poll, largely because of its affordability (it came in second in that category overall, with only Alabama besting it). But spending your golden years on a beach somewhere doesn’t seem to be for everyone; while Colorado and New Hampshire certainly have their warm-weather seasons, they also accumulate plenty of snow each year—which didn’t seem to matter as they clinched the second and third positions on the list, respectively. Here are the 20 best states to retire:

  1. Florida
  2. Colorado
  3. New Hampshire
  4. Utah
  5. Wyoming
  6. Delaware
  7. Virginia
  8. Wisconsin
  9. Idaho
  10. Iowa
  11. South Dakota
  12. Montana
  13. Pennsylvania
  14. Massachusetts
  15. Ohio
  16. Minnesota
  17. Texas
  18. South Carolina
  19. North Dakota
  20. Missouri

The news was far less happy for Kentucky, which claimed the last spot on the list (followed closely by New Mexico, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and West Virginia).

You can view an interactive version of the map below, and visit WalletHub to see more detailed information on each state’s ranking.

Source: WalletHub

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