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Tech News

This Android app can test your phone’s water resistance without water

A user on Reddit, going by rayw_reddit, recently posted in the r/Samsung subreddit that they had built a new app to test water resistance for smartphones. The app claims to test the IP67/IP68 water-resistance seals without having to dunk the device in water. The creator says the app was designed to give people confidence that their expensive smartphone is water-resistant.

The app can also be used to hold repair shops accountable to ensure that water resistance has been restored after repairs. For those wondering how an app could test water resistance, it works by using the barometer built into the phone. The builder says that two community members at Reddit tested the app and confirmed its methodology is the same that Samsung service technicians use.

There are a few scenarios where the app builder says the creation can be particularly useful. One useful situation could be when a battery replacement is needed. In that situation, the user could run the app before taking it in for repairs to ensure the seals for water resistance are intact. When the device returns from the repair shop, the user can run the app again to see if the water-resistance seals still intact.

If the water resistance is no longer intact, the user can go back to the shop for repairs or a refund. Another potential use scenario is testing a used phone that is supposed to be water-resistant or a new phone with claimed water resistance. Water resistance is a big deal as phones are often exposed to liquids in day-to-day use ranging from spills to getting caught in the rain or splashing water on your device while washing hands. The app can be downloaded on Google Play.

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Tech News

New study offers clues about how Mars lost its water

Mars is known for its thin atmosphere, where CO2 dominates and provides most of the atmospheric mass and pressure. In fact, the pressure is similar to that in the Earth’s stratosphere, which is a layer of the atmosphere, at more than 30km above the surface.

But what about water? Water on Mars is currently found on the surface as a layer of ice – several kilometers thick – at the north pole. It also appears as seasonal frost at the coldest times of the year, and in the atmosphere as vapor and ice. Nevertheless, the Martian atmosphere is extremely dry compared to Earth’s, with about 100 times less water. While precipitation on Earth results in water layers several centimeters thick, water that would precipitate on Mars would only form a thin film of less than a millimeter.

New data now provides a better understanding of why there is (almost) no water left on Mars.

Water escapes from the Martian atmosphere

The evidence suggests that Mars was not always the cold, arid planet we observe today. There is plenty of evidence of water on Mars’s surface in the distant past – about four billion years ago. At that time, liquid water flowed in great streams and stagnated in the form of pools or lakes, such as in the Jezero crater explored by the Perseverance rover, in search of traces of past life.

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Computing

Spilled Water on Your Laptop? Here’s How to Fix It

If you’ve just spilled a liquid on your best laptop, time is of the essence. You absolutely must turn your computer off immediately and unplug it. If you have a removable battery, remove it immediately. Press that Power button until your machine shuts down. Do that now! Every second is vital in this situation.

OK, are you back with us? Here’s a more in-depth guide for how to handle this emergency.

In case of a wet laptop emergency

Step 1: Remove all easily detachable components. Unplug your mouse and any cables, and remove any flash drives and DVDs. Leave your laptop bare.

Step 2: Dry the outside of your machine. Open your laptop as far as it goes, hold it upside down to let any accumulated liquid drain out, and use an absorbent towel or a lint-free absorbent fabric to wipe wet surfaces until they’re dry. Do not try to dry the computer with forced hot air from a heat gun or hair dryer.

Step 3: At this point, we recommend that you take advantage of the warranty if it’s still applicable or take your machine to a repair shop. If your brand has a designated repair store (like Apple), give them a call or bring it in. Otherwise, look for local repair stores that specialize in your laptop brand.

The type of liquid that was spilled matters: Water is the least acidic, while sugary and alcoholic fluids are more conductive and more corrosive, and they can quickly cause permanent damage to your internal components. Either way, the goal is to mitigate their effects as much as possible by drying the computer immediately. If you don’t want to have a professional take a look at it for you, though, there are more steps you can take to try and dry your machine out. However, please take note that neither Digital Trends nor the author is responsible for any damage caused to your PC from taking it apart.

Break it down

While opening up and removing components from earlier laptops was easy, that’s not the case with modern-day laptops. We don’t recommend trying to take anything apart unless you have an older laptop model that’s not mainly glued together. That said, here are some steps you can attempt if your laptop allows it.

Step 1: If you haven’t already, and your laptop allows it, remove the battery. Battery removal is typically accomplished by pressing a switch or button on the underside of your computer.

Step 2: If you’re concerned about liquid leaking through to the entire system — to components like your memory and storage drive — you can remove those, too. On some laptops, you’ll find panels that allow for their removal on the underside. However, in most cases, you must use a Phillips or Torx screwdriver to remove them. For the memory, press the side clips to eject each stick. With the solid-state drive or hard drive, you likely must undo more screws to free it from the frame. Be sure to detach it from the power and data connection ports or cables with care.

Step 3: Examine each component you’ve removed to check for any sign of wetness or corrosion. Any wet parts should be dried, but if the liquid is anything other than water, wipe it off using a clean toothbrush dipped in 99% isopropyl alcohol — this will dissolve gunk without causing liquid damage and evaporate without leaving a sticky residue.

Step 4: Once everything is clean and examined, and you’re sure you’ve brushed away any signs of corrosion, leave everything alone to air-dry for two to three days in a warm, dry area. A fan will hasten the drying process. Do not use a hair dryer, as this could cause static problems. Once you’ve picked your machine apart and given the components time to dry, you can follow the instructions in reverse to put your laptop back together and see if it works.

Hopefully, all will be well, but if not, take it to a repair center.

If your laptop cannot be taken apart

MacBook Air 2020 ports
Luke Larsen / Digital Trends

What if you have a Surface Book 3, MacBook, or any other laptop that you cannot take apart or even remove the battery? This situation drastically reduces your options, so you must take it to a repair center ASAP.

Between the time that liquid spilled on your laptop keyboard and the time that you take it to the store, here’s what you can do: Hold your machine upside down and use a towel to wipe dry any visible wetness. Then, lay it down on a dry surface, and give your laptop as much ventilation as possible — it may not help much, but it’s better than nothing while you wait for a water damage repair appointment.

Some people recommend putting your laptop in a big bag of rice, but that famous piece of advice has many substantial problems. First, a hygroscopic material like rice isn’t nearly as useful when dealing with liquids that have sugars, alcohols, or other substances besides water. Second, rice doesn’t efficiently absorb moisture trapped deep in your laptop, where problems happen. Third, rice can come with debris that can get inside your laptop and create even more issues.

Sometimes, it’s impossible to get to a repair store; emergencies never seem to happen during convenient moments. If that’s the case, then it’s crucial that you let your water damaged laptop ventilate and air dry for at least 24 to 48 hours before trying to turn it back on again. If you try to power on your PC before it’s ready, you’re asking for trouble. That can cause a massive short on your system and absolutely wreck your laptop.

Waterproofing options

To protect your laptop from a possible liquid spill in the future, we suggest buying a keyboard cover (<span style=”font-weight: 400;”>like this one from </span><span style=”font-weight: 400;”>KeyCover</span>) for your device. Or take things a step further and get a full shell for the top and bottom exteriors of your laptop. One more layer of protection is to carry your device around in a great laptop bag. Always be sure that your cover doesn’t block any ventilation holes on your laptop. If it does, use scissors to cut the cover’s skin to leave the ventilation space open.

For the folks who work in a workspace where laptop spills and moisture are commonplace, consider a ruggedized laptop. It can be tough to avoid spills completely, and this device comes with a sealed keyboard and added features to protect against that. Check out Dell’s Latitude Rugged Extreme Laptop for an example.

Editors’ Choice




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Tech News

Watch This RC Car Skip Across Water in Record-breaking Ride

As Guinness World Records go, this is surely one of the weirder ones.

It’s not clear exactly what compelled Mike Stallone to go for the “greatest distance driven over water by an RC (remote-controlled) car” record,  but go for it he did.

Stallone attempted the record on a lake near Richfield Springs, New York, sending his $930 Traxxas-made X-Maxx RC car — complete with paddle tires — racing across the water for an impressive 0.95 miles (1.53 km). The effort smashed the previous record of 0.42 miles (0.67 km) set by none other than Traxxas.

A video (top) of the record-breaking ride shows the car motoring over the surface of the lake — sometimes only on its back wheels — as Stallone and his team control and track the vehicle from a nearby speedboat.

Traxxas’s X-Maxx RC car.

About halfway through, the car appears to momentarily disappear below the water, but the machine is far from done and motors on for another quarter of a mile or so before finally conking out and toppling over.

Stallone actually achieved the world record last year, but Guinness World Records has only now posted the video highlighting the achievement.

In his own video (below) of the event, Stallone is understandably ecstatic at the stellar performance of his plucky RC car, telling viewers: “That was absolutely amazing, I had no idea this big monster truck would be able to go that far … skipping on the water, and I was even able to do a wheel stand on the water, which really just shows the power of this truck.”

“Michael owned multiple Guinness World Records books as a child and has always dreamed of one day achieving a record,” the famous benchmarking institution said on its website. “He spent weeks preparing his truck and studying footage before driving six hours to the prime location to attempt the record.”

Another recent tech-related record attempt saw British stuntman Richard Browning don a jet suit and fly 100 meters in a bid to beat the fastest sprint time set by retired Jamaican runner Usain Bolt. You can watch the daredevil effort here.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
Tech News

Watch This RC Car Skip Over Water in a Record-breaking Ride

As Guinness World Records go, this is surely one of the weirder ones.

It’s not clear exactly what compelled Mike Stallone to go for the “greatest distance driven over water by an RC (remote-controlled) car” record,  but go for it he did.

Stallone attempted the record on a lake near Richfield Springs, New York, sending his $930 Traxxas-made X-Maxx RC car — complete with paddle tires — racing across the water for an impressive 0.95 miles (1.53 km). The effort smashed the previous record of 0.42 miles (0.67 km) set by none other than Traxxas.

A video (top) of the record-breaking ride shows the car motoring over the surface of the lake — sometimes only on its back wheels — as Stallone and his team control and track the vehicle from a nearby speedboat.

Traxxas’s X-Maxx RC car.

About halfway through, the car appears to momentarily disappear below the water, but the machine is far from done and motors on for another quarter of a mile or so before finally conking out and toppling over.

Stallone actually achieved the world record last year, but Guinness World Records has only now posted the video highlighting the achievement.

In his own video (below) of the event, Stallone is understandably ecstatic at the stellar performance of his plucky RC car, telling viewers: “That was absolutely amazing, I had no idea this big monster truck would be able to go that far … skipping on the water, and I was even able to do a wheel stand on the water, which really just shows the power of this truck.”

“Michael owned multiple Guinness World Records books as a child and has always dreamed of one day achieving a record,” the famous benchmarking institution said on its website. “He spent weeks preparing his truck and studying footage before driving six hours to the prime location to attempt the record.”

Another recent tech-related record attempt saw British stuntman Richard Browning don a jet suit and fly 100 meters in a bid to beat the fastest sprint time set by retired Jamaican runner Usain Bolt. You can watch the daredevil effort here.

Editors’ Choice




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Tech News

Spyra Two digital water gun lands just in time for summer

In 2018 a company called Spyra took to crowdfunding sites to get the money to build and bring to market a new take on the classic water gun. The original device was called the Spyra One, and the company is back with a new version called the Spyra Two. The first version of the water gun cost $133, and the company says that it delivered about 11,000 units at that price.

The new version launches next month and represents a significant improvement on the original. Spyra Two can fire bolts of water faster and further than the original and offers twice the battery life. Another significant improvement comes in the water pump that the builder says is quieter in the new version than in the original.

Like the original, Spyra Two features a self-pressurizing tank and a rechargeable battery that uses a USB-C port. The only downside compared to the original water gun is that the Spyra Two only holds enough water for 20 shots while the original held 25. Another downside is that the price has gone up.

While the original Spyra One sold for a not-insignificant $133, the new version sells for $159. Buyers can charge up to three shots at a time, each dispensing approximately a shot glass worth of water. The water gun can also be charged for a single larger blast able to travel up to 46 feet when aiming at a 45 degrees angle.

One of the more interesting aspects of the Spyra Two is one shared with the original in that it’s able to refill its tank itself from a swimming pool or tank of water. The tank size is 600 milliliters, and the battery is good for 90 refills and shooting about 2000 blasts.

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Security

Turns out that Florida water treatment facility left the doors wide open for hackers

By now, you’ve probably heard the theoretically scary story of how hackers managed to infiltrate the computer systems at a water treatment plant in Oldsmar, Florida and remotely control the chemical levels — but it turns out that description gives the hackers far, far too much credit.

The reality? The water treatment plant itself left off-the-shelf remote control software on these critical computers — and apparently never, ever bothered to change the password.

An official cybersecurity advisory about the incident from the state of Massachusetts (via Ars Technica) explains that the SCADA control system was accessed via TeamViewer, the kind of remote desktop application an IT administrator might roll out to remotely troubleshoot computers — not something you’d generally want hooked up to a critical system. More importantly, and here I will just quote the Massachusetts report verbatim:

Further, all computers shared the same password for remote access and appeared to be connected directly to the Internet without any type of firewall protection installed.

Yes, just like Florida’s Department of Health, this Florida water treatment plant apparently didn’t bother to issue individual passwords for software that could give anyone complete access to any of their computers and their water treatment system.

In other words, any employee could adjust the entire town’s water supply on a whim from anywhere in the world. Which is probably what happened: former US cybersecurity czar Christopher Krebs testified earlier today that it was “very likely” an insider, possibly a disgruntled employee. Someone who would already have access, which wouldn’t make this much of a “hack” at all.

It’s not like the water treatment plant was even using that software, by the way: Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said the plant had actually stopped using TeamViewer six months ago, according to The Wall Street Journal, but still left it installed.

It should probably go without saying that you shouldn’t leave critical public infrastructure easily accessible from anywhere in the world, but the FBI is saying it anyhow, according to ZDNet; the agency sent out an alert today warning against TeamViewer, bad passwords and Windows 7, which Microsoft no longer supports with security updates but the water treatment plant still had installed.

Sadly, reports at Vice and Cyberscoop suggest that lax security (including TeamViewer specifically) and aging infrastructure are all too common at small public utilities, which may not have the budget, expertise or even the ability to control their own security systems, instead often farming them out to third parties.

The good news is that a plant operator quickly noticed the intrusion, reversed it, and it seems no one was harmed.



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Computing

Hacker Tries to Poison the Water Supply of a Florida City

A computer hacker attempted to poison the water supply of a city in Florida, local police  on Monday, February 8.

The unknown perpetrator was able to remotely access the water treatment system of the city of Oldsmar — population 15,000 — on Friday, February 5, and increase the level of sodium hydroxide (also known as lye) by more than 100 times. The chemical is usually used in small quantities to control the water’s acidity, but if ingested in large amounts could cause burns and other problems.

An attentive plant operator noticed the increased levels of lye, prompting the worker to take action to bring the level back to normal.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said during a press conference on Monday: “The hacker changed the sodium hydroxide from about 100 parts per million to 11,100 parts per million.”

While the plant operator clearly did great work to spot the anomaly and take corrective action, Gualtieri said systems are already in place to automatically check for tainted water, so in theory the poisoned supply would never have reached residents’ homes.

“Importantly, the public was never in danger,” the sheriff said.

Offering more details about Friday’s attack, Gualtieri explained how the worker had been using software that controls the chemicals and other operations at the water treatment plant. The software allows for remote access to allow authorized users to troubleshoot any system problems that arise.

At about 1:30 p.m., the worker noticed that someone had accessed the computer system, with the remote operator moving the mouse around the screen to open various software that controls the treatment of the water. In the space of around four minutes, the worker saw that the remote operator started altering the amount of sodium hydroxide entering the water supply. The worker could see this happening in real time, prompting them to immediately reduce the level of the chemical back to the regular amount.

Law enforcement, including the FBI, are now investigating the hack to try to determine if it was carried out from within the U.S. or outside the country.

The incident will surely come as a shock to those in charge of critical infrastructure, and provides a wake-up call to ensure proper measures are in place to prevent hackers from causing potentially untold damage. Indeed, Oldsmar Mayor Eric Seidel said during the press conference: “The important thing is to put everybody on notice … to make sure that everyone realizes that these kind of bad actors are out there, it’s happening, so really take a hard look at [your defenses].”

Editors’ Choice




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Tech News

Hacker almost poisoned a Florida city’s water supply

Mainstream media news about hackers often portrays them as petty criminals out to make a quick buck or unconscientious agents working at the behest of some nefarious organization or government. Often, the effects of their actions range from comical annoyances to frightening privacy invasions but only a few have been considered life-threatening on a large scale. Unfortunately, that was almost the reality that citizens of Oldsmar, Florida faced when a hacker tried to poison the entire city through its water supply.

It was Friday morning when an employee at the city’s water treatment plant noticed his computer’s mouse cursor moving on its own. Familiar with the normal use of remote access by authorized personnel, the employee didn’t mind it until the operator noticed the same incident later in the afternoon, this time using remote access to increase the amount of sodium hydroxide or lye in the water from 100 parts per million to 11,100 parts. Lye is used to regulate the PH balance of drinkable water in small quantities is poisonous to humans at higher levels.

The worst-case scenario, fortunately, didn’t occur as the operator quickly returned the levels back to normal before it could have any effect. Even if that much lye got out, the plant’s redundant systems would have alerted them to such a situation and it would take 24 to 36 hours before the tainted water would even reach the city’s population.

Regardless, the incident caused no small amount of concern from both local and federal authorities. This is perhaps one of the few instances of a publicly reported hacking incident that was intended to cause physical harm rather than just pilfering data. Last year, there were reports of a ransomware attack indirectly resulting in a German woman’s death due to delay, though the actual cause was later clarified to be unrelated.

Authorities are still investigating the incident and have yet to determine whether the attack was done locally, nationally, or even outside the country. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has called on the FBI for assistance and wants it to be treated as a matter of national security.

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Categories
Security

Hackers tampered with a water treatment facility in Florida by changing chemical levels

Hackers successfully infiltrated the computer system controlling a water treatment facility in the city of Oldsmar, Florida, according to a report from the Tampa Bay Times. In doing so, the hackers were able to remotely control a computer to change the chemical levels of the water supply, increasing the amount of sodium hydroxide before a supervisor was able to catch the act in real time and revert the changes.

“At no time was there a significant adverse effect on the water being treated,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said during a press conference on Monday, which was later posted to YouTube. “Importantly, the public was never in danger.” Sodium hydroxide, commonly known as lye, is used in water to regulate acidity levels, the Tampa Bay Times reports, but in excess it can be dangerous to human beings because it’s the same inorganic compound used in corrosive household cleaners like Drano.

Although no one was injured, the incident is a disturbing example of hackers taking aim at public infrastructure with unclear intentions. Pinellas County is currently investigating the hack alongside the FBI and the Secret Service. Other nearby cities and towns have also been alerted to the potential threat.

It is not the first incident of water supplies being targeted — a water utility in Illinois was targeted by suspected Russian hackers in November of last year, while an attempted cyberattack on Israel last year that intelligence officials have linked to Iran involved attempts to manipulate the water supply, The Washington Post reported.

The Tampa Bay Times has a rather chilling anecdote in its report detailing the moment the remote plant operator noticed something was terribly wrong, when his mouse started moving on-screen without him touching it:

A plant operator was monitoring the system at about 8 a.m. Friday and noticed that someone briefly accessed it. He didn’t find this unusual, Gualtieri said, because his supervisor remotely accessed the system regularly.

But at about 1:30 p.m. the same day, Gualtieri said, someone accessed the system again. This time, he said, the operator watched as someone took control of the mouse, directed it to the software that controls water treatment, worked inside it for three to five minutes and increased the amount of sodium hydroxide from 100 parts per million to 11,100 parts per million.

The attacker left the system, Gualtieri said, and the operator immediately changed the concentration back to 100 parts per million.

The county says there are other safeguards in place that would have prevented direct harm to the 15,000 or so residents that rely on the Oldsmar plant for drinking water. For one, the water would have taken more than a day to enter the water supply, the sheriff says, meaning ample public warnings could have been issued in that time. There are also “redundancies in the system” that would have caught changes to the acidity of the water supply, the sheriff says.

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