Beware of Doxware – A Ransomware Threat for 2018

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2017 saw the rise of some pretty significant Ransomware attacks.  You might remember “WannaCry”, which infected over 300,000 computers by locking the files on infected devices and promising their release through bitcoin payment.  Or maybe you’ll recall “Adylkuzz”, the ransomware virus that “created” Monero coins (or bitcoin cryptocurrency) using the infected machines.  And we can’t forget about “Petya”, that was similar to WannaCry in that it encrypted files on the infected PC.

With a new year comes new security threats.  “Doxware” is a ransomware threat that security experts fear could skyrocket in 2018.  Doxware is a type of virus that works in the opposite way of how we know Ransomware to work.  Rather than locking away the files on an infected device, Doxware scares users by threatening to publish files for all the world to see.  And you guessed it! The only way to stop the spread of the files is through payment.  Although the Doxware threat isn’t new, it’s one that arguably isn’t as prominent as the ransomware we’ve come to know today. At least not yet.

"People have become desensitized to common ransomware, where it just encrypts your files," says Marcin Kleczynski, a Chief Executive of Information Security firm Malwarebytes.  The new threat of Doxware ups the ante, and will once again put people on their toes.

After the increased popularity of Ransomware in 2017, people have begun to learn their lesson and backing up one’s files has become a little more commonplace. With Doxware, the safety of knowing your files are backed up is no longer enough.

To ensure you won’t fall victim to a Doxware attack or for that matter any type of ransomware attack, just remember to follow common and basic online safety habits:

  • Don’t click on suspicious links or attachments
  • Use strong passwords
  • Keep files backed up consistently
  • Use HTTPS plug-ins to ensure you’re browsing secure websites
  • Keep your PC updated with the latest security patches and anti-virus software

2018 is young, and the threats are real. Be proactive in your efforts to keep your information safe so you don’t fall victim to a new security threat this year.

(Story via Sci-Tech Today)

“Meltdown” and “Spectre” Vulnerabilities Affect Nearly All Modern Computing Devices

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Details are now available on two new security vulnerabilities that affect nearly all modern computing devices.

“Meltdown” and “Spectre” are the two vulnerabilities, and they affect Intel, AMD and ARM Holdings processors.   Nearly all devices that are powered by those processors, including laptops, smartphones, desktop PCs and servers can be affected. These bugs could allow for the access and/or theft of sensitive data from any affected device. In order to retrieve this data, hackers must run software on the devices being targeted.

The main problem with Meltdown and Spectre is that if a hacker can manage to access the PC and run code, they can gain access to any of the information on the affected device.

Patches are being put in place to protect against these vulnerabilities, although a patch for Spectre will be much more difficult due to the fact that it requires a redesign of the processor.  The U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team has issued a statement asking users to contact their software vendors  about ways to patch these vulnerabilities.


What are the Differences between “Meltdown” and “Spectre”?

Meltdown
Meltdown breaks the most fundamental isolation between user applications and the operating system. This attack allows a program to access the memory, and thus also the secrets, of other programs and the operating system.

If your computer has a vulnerable processor and runs an unpatched operating system, it is not safe to work with sensitive information without the chance of leaking the information. This applies both to personal computers as well as cloud infrastructure.

Source: https://meltdownattack.com/

Spectre
Spectre breaks the isolation between different applications. It allows an attacker to trick error-free programs, which follow best practices, into leaking their secrets. In fact, the safety checks of said best practices actually increase the attack surface and may make applications more susceptible to Spectre

Spectre is harder to exploit than Meltdown, but it is also harder to mitigate.


For More information on these two vulnerabilities, and ways you can patch them, visit: https://meltdownattack.com/

(Story via EdTech Magazine)

A Faster 3D Printer May Be On The Horizon

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3D Printing is a growing and revolutionary field that is growing rapidly.  Organizations use 3D printing for things like prototyping, marketing samples or even to produce products.  However, there is one major factor preventing it from working its way into the daily operations of an organization. The fact that its slow.  Most standard desktop 3D printers take over an hour to build just a small object. For 3D printing to grow in commercial or educational environments, a faster design may be necessary. 

With a new design from a group of MIT engineers, faster 3D printing speeds may be right around the corner.  This new design is a real game changer, as it would print 3D objects up to 10 times faster than devices that are commercially available now. This new design could print complete objects in just minutes, as opposed to hours.

In developing the new design for the 3D printer, Anastasios John Hart, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT determined there were 3 factors that limited the speed of desktop 3D printers:

  • The speed a printhead can be moved
  • The force pushing the printing material through the nozzle
  • The rate the material can be melted to make it flow

"Given our understanding of what limits those three variables, we asked how do we design a new printer ourselves that can improve all three in one system," says Hart. "And now we've built it, and it works quite well."

The “FastFFF” or Fast Fused Filament Fabrication system, has redesigned mechanisms in and around the printhead.  The printer also has an added laser to melt the filament faster as it passes through the nozzle. The result? 3D Printing speeds up to 10 times faster than current printing speeds.

Given the great achievement, there is still one detail the team of engineers at MIT still have to figure out.  By accomplishing speeds ten times fast than their 3D printing counterparts, they developed another problem with time.  The current design does not give each layer of plastic time to completely firm up before the next later was printed – leading to distorted or softened productions.

"We found that when you finish one layer and go back to begin the next layer, the previous layer is still a little too hot," says Hart. "So we have to cool the part actively as it prints, to retain the shape of the part so it doesn't get distorted or soften."

The team of engineers is optimistic that they’ll be able to figure out this problem – and when they do, this would be a huge development for the 3D printing industry.  Imagine repair technicians having the ability to 3D print prosthetics on-demand in minutes, or businesses having the ability to print a product in-person and on-demand for a customer?  With 95% of companies who use 3D Printers saying it gives them a competitive advantage in their strategies, this new 3D printing design could be a huge for the 3D-Printing industry.

(Sources: MIT via Eurekalert, Forbes)

Reading in the Digital Era

Image via Engadget

Image via Engadget

Reading has always been a valuable skill in classrooms. It influences how we interact with the world and it is still a medium by which many students learn. Now that reading is becoming more digital, it is important that educators start looking into how they can teach this important skill in a new digital age.

With the explosion of Facebook, Instagram, and other social media applications, students are actually engaging more with written language than ever before.  While this should be a success of sorts, the reading they do does not always push critical reading skills or challenges its readers with new vocabulary. The National Literacy Trust found that students who engaged in social media and blogs held a more positive view on reading and writing and that they were able to read and summarize better than those that were not engaging with the language. Educators need to tap into this new reading culture.

One way this can be achieved is by the use of digital libraries. Students as young as three are being encouraged to read by using digital resources that both push reading skills as much as they do other technological literacy. Products give students access to reading materials of their choosing. Educators need to understand that while curriculum set books are important, giving students the autonomy to choose books that interest them fuels a passion for reading. If students enjoy what they read, they will form a positive relationship with the content and see reading as a gateway to information.

Educators need to see the benefits that technology can bring to teaching reading and how forcing a child to sit and read a novel is archaic. Below are some examples of ways that the digital era can be incorporated into teaching reading:

  • The use of online dictionaries and vocabulary lists to help learn new words.
  • Hyperlinking complex words and phrases with videos, and other explanatory resources
  • Use of e-readers and other devices made for e-books
  • Using quizzes and fun, interactive games to test vocab retention and content basics
  • Edtech that allows for live feedback into reading achievements

What all the above suggestion have in common is that they combine traditionally “book reading” with the resources and benefits that come with the internet and technology. One powerful way that educators can approach teaching reading is by using analytical tools to monitor the way in which students read. By having an understanding of students’ reading habits, speed, and comprehension, educators can gain a better understanding of where the problems lie and tailor their teaching to best suit the needs of their students.

So, as we move towards a digital age, teaching practices need to embrace the benefits that come with technology. Edtech is being developed to meet these challenges, and through its use, students can feel validated in their choices and can foster a passion for reading. Educators need to move away from archaic reading methods and start to incorporate the skills that students already have, with the new ones they are acquiring. After all, you need to thank a teacher if you could read this article.

(Story via The Edvocate)

8 Awesome Podcasts for Students

Image via Shutterstock

Image via Shutterstock

Podcasts used to seem like a fun way to reinvent radio, but now they are a lucrative medium with hits like Serial that have billions of listens. You can find podcasts on nearly every topic — from movie reviews to academic lessons to celebrity gossip — and in nearly every genre, from short fiction to in-depth journalism to comedy.

Podcasts are a great way to hook kids into learning about a topic. They draw listeners into the story in a unique way, providing different viewpoints from what students are usually exposed to. Teachers can use podcasts to supplement the curriculum with high-quality, free content. And you can find podcasts that will work for every grade level and subject area. The best part about all these podcasts? They’re free. Check out a few great ones to get started!

Wow in the World

Grades K–6

NPR’s new podcast just premiered a few months ago.  It’s the first NPR podcast to be aimed at kids, and the goal is to “guide curious kids and their grown-ups away from their screens and on a journey.” While the specific topics the podcast will cover remain to be seen, the creators say it will focus on important science and technology subjects and questions that families — or classrooms — can explore together.

Brains On

Grades 1–6

Brains On tackles questions and topics that are totally relevant to kids’ interests, including slime, dinosaur bones, fire, lasers, and airplanes. Teachers can encourage students to take one of the topics and research it more completely or to use it as a jumping-off point for science experiments and research-related questions.

Science Friday

Grades 6–12

This podcast covers a variety of complex science topics, which are great for high school students to use in research or when developing a project or paper. For middle school teachers, Kidsnet offers the Science Friday Kids’ Connection curriculum referencing the Science Friday material but in a form more digestible for that age group. Teachers can find any scientific subject covered in the archives, so no matter what you’re teaching, the podcast and accompanying curriculum can be priceless.

StoryCorps

Grades 6–12

One of the largest oral history projects of its kind, StoryCorps consists of more than 50,000 interviews from more than 80,000 participants. Students at just about any grade level or in any subject area could use the StoryCorps interviews in a variety of ways. In a National Teachers Initiative section, listeners can find interviews between teachers and students or former students. The interviews can be used as writing prompts, discussion topics, primary sources for research projects, and more. Students can even record their own stories.

This I Believe

Grades 6–12

This I Believe was a radio series on NPR (now archived) that focused on the writing, sharing, and discussing of people’s core beliefs through short personal essays. In the classroom, teachers can use This I Believe to get students to write about their own experiences. Personal experiences, beliefs, and values can make a rich foundation for classroom discussions, but you’ll want to make sure you’ve created a safe space for sharing. A companion book and website offer plenty of resources for teachers and students to work on personal essays.

Youth Radio

Grades 6–12

Youth Radio is not only a great podcast for students, but it’s also created by kids. The kid journalists of Youth Radio offer a very honest take on hot-button issues and current events, with perspectives that don’t often appear in the standard news world. Youth Radio segments can spark discussion on anything from Afghanistan to graffiti to the economy. Your students may even be inspired to start producing their own pieces.

Grammar Girl

Grades 9–12

Grammar is notoriously boring, but Grammar Girl, part of the Quick and Dirty Tips Network, manages to make it interesting, and English teachers everywhere are grateful. The website has transcripts of each episode, but the audio delivery is animated and friendly and probably of more interest to students. This podcast is best for middle and high school students and incorporates both traditional grammar questions and more quirky analysis of new types of grammar unique to social media, for example.

Hardcore History

Grades 9–12

Every teacher and student knows that, while history may not have been boring, history textbooks often are. Hardcore History with Dan Carlin is aiming to change all that, with honest and dramatic looks at historical figures and events that go far outside the basic historical outline many of us learned. While Hardcore History is not released on a predictable schedule and the episodes are often very long, it brings history to life in an invaluable way. History teachers who take the time to curate clips may find that their students have a whole new interest in learning.

These are just a few of hundreds of thousands of podcasts out there. Have any suggestions? Let us know in the comments.

(Story via Common Sense Education)

Can Selfie Videos Help Students Improve Written, Verbal Communication?

Image via FramePool

Image via FramePool

At Stratham Memorial School in Exeter, NH, second-grade students are improving their critical thinking skills by filming themselves discussing characters and concepts from their reading material.

These videos increase students’ understanding of the story’s characters and how they resolve problems. It helps add more detail about the reading passage and helps them reflect that in their writing. By watching other students’ videos they can further their understanding and discussion.

One app being used for these sorts of activities, Seesaw, allows students to upload the videos for viewing by their peers, teachers and parents. This gives students a medium to express themselves in a way they want to be seen.

Along with a greater focus on technical skills in STEM disciplines, schools and districts have faced more pressure from employers recently to ensure students develop more critical and creative thinking. This selfie activity falls under both categories. It encourages students to improve their verbal communication skills and hone their writing chops.

This practice also takes inspiration from reality TV. While the “confessionals” on those programs are hardly educational, it gives students familiarity with what they are doing and sparks their creativity.

There are decades of research showing that reading and writing scores go up when kids what meaningful, authentic things to read and write about, which this selfie revolution is all about.

(Story Via Education DIVE)

6 Reasons For Adapting Virtual Reality in Education

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6 Reasons For Adapting Virtual Reality in Education

1.       The Exciting Evolution

Virtual Reality (VR) has the potential to evolve education as we know it.

It immerses students into their learning like nothing ever has before. It blocks both visual and auditory (if you have headphones) distractions in the classroom and has the ability to connect students to the material that they’re learning in a new and exciting way. To say its revolutionary may be underselling VR learning.

Schools need to begin embracing kids’ enthusiasm for technology used for entertainment, and leverage that into technology for “infotainment.” VR is the key. In order to be successful in a traditional learning setting, however, the VR content must be meaningful, engaging, and navigable so that the learning sticks.

2.       The Potential Models

Education standards in many schools must evolve to meet student where they are. Individualizing instruction for each student is the ultimate goal of teaching. Yet in many schools across the country, we’re still applying old school methods: students in rows, memorization, recitation, and regurgitation on tests. Demands on workforce readiness and post-education expectations require education to embrace change. VR has the potential to dramatically shift how teachers and students see education.

This is could help many students with learning disabilities, ADHD, and other learning challenges since it is immersive and engaging. The sheer fact that so many school districts now have a set technology budget is all the more reason to implement VR.

3.       The Required Shift

It’s not enough to put students in front of a computer and have them perform the same tasks.

If we’re viewing students as individual learners, then we need to allow them flexibility in educational pace, path, and content control. This can all be accomplished through a robust VR curriculum.

4.       The Standards For Quality

How to you judge quality VR content? Here are some ideas:

  • Curriculum should be rooted in ensuring learning is not occurred in a vacuum.
  • Diversity in topics—students should recognize what they’re seeing in VR to establish a comfort level, but also they should experience new things to deepen their knowledge and broaden their horizons.
  • Assessments that gauge students’ learning based on what they’re experiencing in VR settings. Learners should be able to demonstrate newly acquired or effectively reinforced skills. An integrated feedback loop so that teachers have access to their pupils’ results is important, too.
  • A variety of programming types (e.g., animation, video, interactive games, etc.) that stretch learners’ imaginations and stave off predictability. Students’ senses should be stimulated so that they are fully engaged and immersed in the lessons by compelling auditory and visual components.
  • Functionality that allows users to interact by rewinding, pausing, skipping, etc., so that they are learning at their own pace and in control of the content delivery—this is student-centered learning in action.
  • Highly capable, reputable platforms so that production pieces are well-supported and can be viewed seamlessly.

5.       The Students’ Perception Of Learning

 

6.       The Existing-And Future-Ecosystem Of Learning

A newer trend in schools is the use of flexible learning environments. It emphasized group work where students individually work on things and come together through their group to present their work together, each playing to their own strengths. VR fits in this model because it can easily satisfy the technology-driven portion of the lesson.

STEM and computer labs outfitted with VR technology that support an entire classroom would be even more beneficial. The benefits are exponential: students can work on lessons in VR, teachers can use their expertise and training in a more targeted manner, and overall everyone is learning and engaged. The flexibility is priceless; schools are already seeing big gains in students’ progress in student-centered learning.

Incorporating virtual reality in the classroom will be a work in progress. Quality VR content supports this goal because it will help further instruction and interest in the lesson content, while allowing teachers to pinpoint students’ needs and address them with more individualized attention—this is optimal for both students and teachers… the VR revolution is on the horizon.