Category: Technology

Be skeptical about QR codes, warns the FTC

Illustration of a phone with yellow caution tape running over it.
Illustration by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warned the public against scanning any old QR code in a consumer alerts blog last week. Naturally, the warning comes down to security and privacy — bad actors can put QR codes in inconspicuous places or send them via text or email, then just sit back and wait for a payday in the form of money, logins, or other sensitive information.

The New York Times reported that John Fokker, who heads threat intelligence at cybersecurity company Trellix, says Trellix found over “60,000 samples of QR code attacks” in the third quarter this year alone. The Times wrote that the most popular scams involved payroll and HR personnel impersonators and postal scams, among others. Early last year, police in several Texas…

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Researchers made VR goggles for mice to study how their brains respond to swooping predators

Believe it or not, scientists have been using virtual reality setups to study brain activity in lab mice for years. In the past, this has been done by surrounding the mice with flat displays — a tactic that has obvious limitations for simulating a realistic environment. Now, in an attempt to create a more immersive experience, a team at Northwestern University actually developed tiny VR goggles that fit over a mouse’s face… and most of its body. This has allowed them to simulate overhead threats for the first time, and map the mice’s brain activity all the while.

The system, dubbed Miniature Rodent Stereo Illumination VR (or iMRSIV), isn’t strapped onto the mouse’s head like a VR headset for humans. Instead, the goggles are positioned at the front of a treadmill, surrounding the mouse’s entire field of view as it runs in place. “We designed and built a custom holder for the goggles,” said John Issa, the study’s co-first author. “The whole optical display — the screens and the lenses — go all the way around the mouse.”

Dom Pinke/ Northwestern University

In their tests, the researchers say the mice appeared to take to the new VR environment …read more

Apple may release M3 MacBook Air in March and refine its iPad lineup with new iPad Pro and iPad Air

Apple may release M3 MacBook Air in March and refine its iPad lineup with new iPad Pro and iPad Air

Apple is planning some big hardware drops for early 2024, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. In the Power On newsletter, Gurman predicts the company will release the next generation of iPad Pro and iPad Air in March — each of which is expected to come in two sizes — and the new M3 MacBook Airs. The Mac Studio and Mac Pro will likely be much later to the M3 party; Gurman writes that Apple won’t have these ready for release until at least the end of 2024, and they could even slip into 2025.

With the release of its new iPads, Apple is planning to make clearer distinctions between the models so the choices are less confusing for consumers, according to Gurman. The iPad Pro is expected to get Apple’s new M3 chip, an OLED display and come in two sizes: 11 and 13 inches. Apple will also release a new Magic Keyboard just for the Pro, Gurman says. The iPad Air, on the other hand, will come in a 10.9-inch version and a new 12.9-inch option, and use the M2 chip. The changes should make the differences between the high-end, midrange and standard iPads more obvious …read more

Apple’s third-generation AirPods are back on sale for $140

Apple’s third-generation AirPods are back on sale for $140

Apple’s third-generation AirPods are back down to their record-low Black Friday price. The discount on Amazon shaves $30 off the AirPods’ normal price of $170, making them just $140 right now. Given that this is the lowest we’ve seen these AirPods go for, they’re likely to sell out. Amazon is also running a deal on Apple’s second-generation AirPods Pro, or the latest version of the Pro earbuds, which are down to $200. The 20 percent discount isn’t the lowest they’ve ever dropped, but it’s still $50 off the usual price and only $10 more than the all-time low.

The third-generation AirPods were released in 2021 and completely refreshed the design. Apple shortened the stem, making the regular buds look more like the AirPods Pro, and tweaked the fit to make them more comfortable to wear. They’re lighter and angled in a way that’s meant to better hug the ear and deliver sound more effectively. In our review, we gave the third-gen AirPods a score of 88.

Apple’s third-generation AirPods also brought durability improvements to the non-Pro model. These AirPods and the charging case are IPX4 rated for water and sweat resistance, which is especially helpful …read more

Apple’s iPad plans for next year could be a lot less confusing

Image of the Apple logo surrounded by gray, pink, and green outlines
Illustration by Nick Barclay / The Verge

Apple is reportedly making some changes next year that it hopes will make it easier for people to fit a specific iPad to their needs. For instance, Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman wrote in his Power On newsletter today that the next iPad Air will get an M2 chip in addition to the larger second model that’s been rumored.

One of the other ways Apple is reportedly tackling the issue is to drop the 9th-generation model that’s been dangling off of the front of the lineup since last year’s pricier 10th-generation iPad redesign launched. Gurman says sending the 9th-gen iPad out to pasture will let the company “slowly phase out some of its older Pencils.” Presumably, the 2015 Apple Pencil will be the first to go, once there’s no Lightning port…

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Alex Jones and his conspiracy theories are allowed back on X

Alex Jones and his conspiracy theories are allowed back on X

Alex Jones is back on X five years after then-Twitter made the decision to permanently ban him and his show, Infowars, for violating the site’s policy on “abusive behavior.” Elon Musk — who last year said he wouldn’t unban Jones because of the conspiracy theorist’s insistence on calling the Sandy Hook massacre a hoax — created a poll on X over the weekend asking users to vote on whether Jones should be reinstated. 

The poll closed with a majority vote for “Yes.” As of Sunday, Jones’ personal account was once again active, and already retweeting Andrew Tate.

Jones is well known for pushing disturbing conspiracy theories, which in some cases have led to real world harm. He was sued by the families of Sandy Hook victims, who won close to $1.5 billion in legal judgments after testifying in court that they’d been harassed and sent death threats by his followers. But after Jones appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show on X last week, the conversation about his ban was reignited.

Responding to one …read more

Offworld ‘company towns’ are the wrong way to settle the solar system

Company Towns — wherein a single firm provides most or all necessary services, from housing and employment to commerce and amenities to a given community — have dotted America since before the Civil War. As we near the end of the first quarter of the 21st century, they’re making a comeback with a new generation of ultra-wealthy elites gobbling up land and looking to build towns in their own image

And why should only terrestrial workers be exploited? Elon Musk has long talked of his plans to colonize Mars through his company SpaceX and those plans don’t happen without a sizeable — and in this case, notably captive — workforce on hand. The same Elon Musk who spent $44 billion to run a ubiquitous social media site into the ground, whose brain computer interface company can’t stop killing monkeys and whose automotive company can’t stop killing pedestrians, wants to construct entire settlements wholly reliant on his company’s largesse and logistics train. Are we really going to trust the mercurial CEO with people’s literal air supplies?

In this week’s Hitting the Books, Rice University biologist and podcaster Kelly Weinersmith and her husband Zach (of Saturday Morning Breakfast …read more

Google finally gives ChatGPT some competition

A screenshot of the Installer logo on a green background.
Image: William Joel / The Verge

Hi, friends! Welcome to Installer No. 17, your guide to the best and Verge-iest stuff in the world. If you’re new here, welcome, so psyched you found us, and also, you can read all the old editions at the Installer homepage.

This week, I’ve been watching A Murder at the End of the World and (finally!) Barbie, reading about Gary Gensler’s war on crypto, robot trucks, and Taylor Swift’s world takeover, playing Puzzmo’s Really Bad Chess, and catching up on all the super-popular TikToks I missed this year.

I also have for you a new Mastodon app, a bunch of new AI tools, a whole new Fortnite universe, an espresso maker, and much more. And I have some thoughts about messaging. Let’s dig in.

(As always, the best part of Installer is your ideas…

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Apple confirms it has blocked iMessage exploit

Apple confirms it has blocked iMessage exploit

It was never going to last. Ever since it was launched this week, the Beeper Mini app, which let Android users get iMessage text support, was expected to be in trouble as soon as it caught Apple’s attention. And catch Apple’s attention it has. Yesterday, the entire Beeper platform appeared to be on the fritz, resulting in speculation that the iPhone maker had been shutting down the iMessage workarounds. As of this morning, Beeper Mini was still posting on X (formerly Twitter) that it was working on and potentially fixing the outage, but with an announcement from Apple today, all that may be for naught. 

“We took steps to protect our users by blocking techniques that exploit fake credentials in order to gain access to iMessage,” Apple said. “These techniques posed significant risks to user security and privacy, including the potential for metadata exposure and enabling unwanted messages, spam, and phishing attacks. We will continue to make updates in the future to protect our users.”

Though Apple does not mention any apps by name, it stands to reason that, given the timing of Beeper Mini’s launch and recent troubles, that this refers to the loophole the platform …read more

Apple responds to the Beeper iMessage saga: ‘We took steps to protect our users’

The chats show messages in blue bubbles.
Beeper Mini brought iMessage to Android. It didn’t last long. | Image: Beeper

A few days after the team at Beeper proudly announced a way for users to send blue-bubble iMessages directly from their Android devices without any weird relay servers, and about 24 hours after it became clear Apple had taken steps to shut that down, Apple has shared its take on the issue.

The company’s stance here is fairly predictable: it says it’s simply trying to do right by users, and protect the privacy and security of their iMessages. “We took steps to protect our users by blocking techniques that exploit fake credentials in order to gain access to iMessage,” Apple senior PR manager Nadine Haija said in a statement.

Here’s the statement in full:

At Apple, we build our products and services with industry-leading privacy and…

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