What you need to know
- The University of Colorado Boulder discovered a vulnerability with presidential alerts.
- Using LTE, the alerts can be easily spoofed and sent out to thousands of people.
- The test was performed successfully 9 out of 10 times.
Last October, the Federal Emergency Management Agency sent out the nation's first "presidential alert." Using the same alert system that delivers AMBER and weather alerts to your phone, the presidential alert allows the acting President of the United States to send messages to U.S. citizens in the event of a disaster or emergency.
Unfortunately, at least according to a study done by the University of Colorado Boulder, the system isn't nearly as secure as it probably should be.
Using nothing more than readily available hardware and open-source software, the team at the university was able to send a spoofed presidential alert to every single phone in a football stadium consisting of 50,000 seats. The spoofed message was successfully sent out nine out of the ten times it was attempted.
Commenting on its findings, the University of Colorado Boulder said:
The true impact of such an attack would of course depend on the density of cell phones in range; fake alerts in crowded cities or stadiums could potentially result in cascades of panic. Fixing this problem will require a large collaborative effort between carriers, government stakeholders, and cell phone manufacturers.
It's said that digital signatures could be added to the alerts, making it "far more difficult to send spoofed messages", but that it isn't a "magical solution."
How often do you turn off/restart your phone?
You know the phrase "turn it off and back on again," right? Well, how often do you actually do that for your phone?
Widgets and icon packs are fun, but a simple home screen is the way to go
Now that iOS 14 is out, there's been a renaissance in smartphone customization. Widgets, icon packs, and custom launchers are great, but you just can't beat one that's boring and simple.
Google's giving up too much ground in the smart home fight
We're in the thick of our fall launches, but after the tidal wave of new products from Amazon last week, Google's Launch Night In looks like it'll barely make a splash. That's not good, because Alexa and Ring are rapidly gaining on Assistant and Nest.
The Xperia 1 II is our favorite phone for shooting video
If video recording is your thing, then look no further than the Sony Xperia 1 II — it offers a large screen, three great cameras, and extremely robust manual video controls.