Cyber Security Today: Cities told to get smart, tracing stolen Bitcoin and Apple flaw in processing QR codes

Cyber Security Today - podcast feature

Cities warned to quickly embrace smart technology or risk being left behind in a “digital Rust Belt”; there may be a way to trace stolen bitcoin and the latest version of Apple’s IOS allows iPhone users to be suckered by malicious QR codes.

 

Cities have to embrace smart technology fast or they’ll be abandoned by younger generations, says Kansas City, Missouri’s Chief Innovation Officer. At the opening of the annual Smart Cities Connect conference this week, Bob Bennett predicted the smart cities “movement will be just an “interesting footnote in history” in around 10 years as municipalities embed technology in roads, set up public WiFi networks and expand use of the Internet of Things. However, he said, towns and cities that don’t get on the bandwagon will be left behind.

Toronto, Stratford, Ontario and Vancouver are among the Canadian cities with smart city strategies. The federal government is funding a $50 million smart towns and cities challenge contest. Deadline for entries is April 24.

Bitcoin enthusiasts love the supposed flexibility of digital currency – and, so far, its soaring value. But a number of robberies of Bitcoin and Etherium exchanges and digital wallets have taken some of the gloss of the currencies. The problem is while digital currencies are designed to eliminate the possibility forgery, they also limit the ability to trace stolen coin. Tracking solutions are being tried but they aren’t accurate enough. But there may be a solution, says a group of researchers. It dates back to a British court decision in 1816. Briefly, that ruling said money in a bank account can be tracked through a principle called ‘first in first out.’ A researcher has written software that applies this principle to the blockchain. The result, say backers, is a massive improvement in tracking precision. However, critics say it isn’t that simple. Among other things it has to be adopted identically by many countries. Stay tuned.

Finally, remember QR codes? These are the funny squares of black and white found on ads or web pages. Photograph one with your smart phone and you get product information or taken to a web site. Well, security researcher Roman Mueller said this week the newly-added QR scanning capability in Apple’s iOS 11 camera app has a flaw. The notification tells users that they are about to visit one web site, but they could be taken instead to a malicious site. For example, scan this code on a phone running iOS11, and the notification says it will open Facebook in Safari. Instead if you tap the notification to open the site, it will go to a site created by Mueller.

Mueller notified Apple in December, but says it hasn’t been patched yet. My advice for any smart phone user is be careful when you scan any QR code. Make sure the code is on a product, piece of paper or web site that is reputable or can’t be tampered with.

Cyber Security Today is produced by IT World Canada. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or wherever else you listen to podcasts.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including ITBusiness.ca and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@] soloreporter.com

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