Early August Hacking News Roundup | TechWell

Early August Hacking News Roundup

News of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's hacking activities leads off this roundup of interesting hacking news. Also, see how an artist-hacker has successfully tampered with Teddy Ruxpin dolls and created something rather unsettling.

US Law Enforcement Now Using Common Hacking Tools
According to The Wall Street Journal, the criminal wiretap has just entered the “cyber age.” The business paper reports that US law enforcement officials are now using the tools and techniques of modern-day hackers to gather information on suspects.

Of course, with all the news of Prism and the newly revealed XKeyscore program, it isn't all that surprising that the FBI is using sophisticated schemes to thwart potential criminals.

What’s interesting in this report, however, is that the FBI’s techniques include the common scams you might come across each day, including the use of email phishing and attempts to direct people to infected websites as a means to install spyware.

From The Wall Street Journal:

The FBI develops some hacking tools internally and purchases others from the private sector. With such technology, the bureau can remotely activate the microphones in phones running Google Inc.'s Android software to record conversations, one former U.S. official said. It can do the same to microphones in laptops without the user knowing, the person said. Google declined to comment.

Hacker-Artist Creates Scary Teddy Ruxpin Toy
When I was a wee child, the popular talking bear Teddy Ruxpin was a huge hit. I never jumped on the talking-bear bandwagon, however, because deep down I was terrified at the thought of a stuffed animal coming to life and saying disturbing things. Well, my nightmares are now a reality.

Ars Technica reports that a Portland-based hacker named Sean Hathaway has created a modified version of Mr. Ruxpin that can speak whatever you program it to say.

The toy is dubbed BearDuino because it was built using the Arduino tool, “an open-source physical computing platform based on a simple microcontroller board, and a development environment for writing software for the board."

Hathaway used his own childhood fears of Teddy Ruxpin as a basis to create an art installation that featured the new, hacked versions of the bear.

Now, he’s decided to open the bears up to the public and “extend the life of the project by giving the bears away as BearDuinos and by publishing open-source code to make them come to life.”

The code used to hack and command the bears appears to resemble Java or JavaScript, so if you’ve got a hankering to make your childhood fantasies or nightmares come to life, you might want to order a BearDuino and code away.

If you want to be scared, I urge you to watch this video of a herd of hacked Ruxpins spewing forth creepy monologues taken from various blog postings throughout the Internet. If you’ve ever wondered what a disturbed and emotional Teddy Ruxpin would sound like on an analyst’s couch, here's your chance.

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