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Exclusive-Ukraine calls on hacker underground to defend against Russia

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The government of Ukraine is asking for volunteers from the country’s hacker underground to help protect critical infrastructure and conduct cyber spying missions against Russian troops, according two people involved in the project.

As Russian forces attacked cities across Ukraine, requests for volunteers began to appear on hacker forums on Thursday morning, as many residents fled the capital Kyiv.

“Ukrainian cybercommunity! It’s time to get involved in the cyber defense of our country,” the post read, asking hackers and cybersecurity experts to submit an application via Google docs, listing their specialties, such as malware development, and professional references.

Yegor Aushev, co-founder of a cybersecurity company in Kyiv, told Reuters he wrote the post at the request of a senior Defense Ministry official who contacted him on Thursday. Aushev’s firm Cyber Unit Technologies is known for working with Ukraine’s government on the defense of critical infrastructure.

Another person directly involved in the effort confirmed that the request came from the Defense Ministry on Thursday morning.

Ukraine Defense Ministry representatives did not respond to a request for comment. A defense attache at Ukraine’s embassy in Washington said he “cannot confirm or deny information from Telegram channels” referring to the mobile messaging platform, and declined further comment.

Aushev said the volunteers would be divided into defensive and offensive cyber units. The defensive unit would be employed to defend infrastructure such as power plants and water systems. In a 2015 cyberattack, widely attributed to Russia state hackers, 225,000 Ukrainians lost electricity.

The offensive volunteer unit Aushev said he is organizing would help Ukraine’s military conduct digital espionage operations against invading Russian forces.

“We have an army inside our country,” Aushev said. “We need to know what they are doing.”

On Wednesday, a newly discovered piece of destructive software was found circulating in Ukraine, hitting hundreds of computers, according to researchers at the cybersecurity firm ESET. Suspicion fell on Russia, which has repeatedly been accused of hacks against Ukraine and other countries. The victims included government agencies and a financial institution, Reuters previously reported.

Russia has denied the allegations.

The effort to build a cyber military force is coming late in the game, Aushev acknowledged.

A Ukrainian security official said earlier this month that the country had no dedicated military cyber force, the Washington Post reported. “It’s our task to create them this year,” he told the Washington Post.

Reached late Thursday night in Ukraine, Aushev said he already had received hundreds of applicants and was going to begin vetting to ensure that none of them were Russian agents.

 

(Reporting by Joel Schectman and Christopher Bing; editing by Grant McCool)

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Apple Podcasts Update Enables Annual Subscriptions – PCMag

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Apple this week unveiled a host of fresh podcast tools for managing storage across devices, enabling annual subscriptions, and allowing creators to more easily distribute content through third-party providers.

With the release of iOS 15.5, iPadOS 15.5, and macOS 12.4, podcasters can now present annual subscription plans(Opens in a new window) alongside monthly offerings through the new plan picker, which appears when listeners tap “Subscribe” or “Try Free” on a show or channel with a subscription option. Annual plans are selected by default.

To make the move from monthly to annual subscription, open the Apple Podcasts app and navigate to Listen Now > Account > Manage Subscriptions, then choose your preferred program and upgrade to a 12-month plan. Changes can be made on a per-podcast basis. The picker also displays how much listeners can save with an annual subscription (if lower than the monthly alternative).

While you’re at it, check out Apple’s new automatic download preferences, available through your iDevice Settings app. Open the Podcasts tab and tap Automatically Download to choose how many episodes are saved for offline streaming: a certain number per show, all recent episodes, all new episodes, or none. Customize individual shows by tapping “…” on a program page, opening the Settings, and selecting a preference from Automatically Downloaded.

Users will be prompted to remove automatically downloaded episodes that don’t meet the newly selected criteria; those that were manually downloaded or saved will not be removed, though the app does recommend removing old downloads to free up storage space.

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Apple also introduced a new feature for podcast creators: Delegated Delivery(Opens in a new window) aims to save creators time and energy by letting authorized platforms publish free and premium episodes to Apple Podcasts on their behalf. Starting this fall, creators can use their favorite hosting providers’ dashboards to schedule the release of exclusive, early access, bonus, and ad-free content using WAV, FLAC, and MP3 files. Initial partners include Acast, ART19, Blubrry, Buzzsprout, Libsyn, Omny Studio, and RSS.com; more providers will be “announced in the future.”

While anyone can utilize the new feature—free to all creators through Apple Podcasts Connect—to publish gratis shows, a $19.99 annual Apple Podcasters Program(Opens in a new window) membership is required to share premium shows and episodes. Creators can check support for Delegated Delivery via the Hosting Providers page(Opens in a new window); interested providers, meanwhile, can contact Apple for more information.

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Ecobee releases two new smart thermostats with a classic glass face look – MobileSyrup

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A recent leak suggested that Ecobee might be working on two new smart thermostats. Now the Toronto-based company has officially announced its new Smart Thermostat Premium and Smart Thermostat Enhanced.

“Today’s introduction of Ecobee Smart Thermostat Premium and Ecobee Smart Thermostat Enhanced pushes the boundaries of the category to improve comfort, home health, and security, while continuing to deliver the energy saving features synonymous with ecobee.” reads the company’s press release.

Both of the new devices feature radar, which Ecobee says is its most advanced sensor technology to date, along with improved occupancy and motion detection and a 50 percent larger display that boasts Ecobee’s new UI (user interface). The Smart Thermostat Premium and Enhanced have been outfitted with a “stunning glass face and smooth waterfall edges” for a classic look and feel, whereas the updated radar can now detect motion from further away. The new radar, unlike an infrared sensor, is hidden inside the thermostat, providing a clean look for the device on your wall.

Both the new devices can be controlled with your Apple Watch or by integrating them with Apple Homekit+. What makes the Premium version better, however, is that it now shows the indoor air quality carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, and relative humidity with alerts to warn you if air quality inside your house is poor. The Thermostat will also share tips like ‘open a window’ to improve indoor air quality.

“Smart Thermostat Premium and Smart Thermostat Enhanced are Ecobee’s first products to be paper manual-free with a mobile-only approach to installation,” reads the Toronto-based company’s news release.

Both new smart thermostats are now available to order in Canada via Ecobee’s website. Follow the links to check out the Smart Thermostat Premium and Smart Thermostat Enhanced, available for $329.99 and $239.99, respectively.

Image credit: Ecobee

Source: Ecobee

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iOS 15.5 and macOS 12.4 bring updates to Podcasts, digital payments, and more – Ars Technica

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Enlarge / Apple’s Studio Display received a firmware update today to improve its webcam performance.
Andrew Cunningham

Apple released new software updates for all of its platforms on Tuesday. That includes the following:

  • iOS 15.5 for iPhones and the iPod touch
  • iPadOS 15.5 for iPads
  • macOS 12.4 for Macs
  • watchOS 8.6 for the Apple Watch
  • tvOS 15.5 for the Apple TV
  • HomePod Software 15.5 for HomePods
  • Studio Display Firmware 15.5 for the Studio Display
  • Swift Playgrounds 4.1 for iPad and Mac

These are almost certainly the last updates before the company’s annual developer conference, which is scheduled to kick off on June 6. Among other things, Apple will announce iOS and iPadOS 16, macOS 13, and watchOS 9 at the conference, but those updates won’t arrive until later this year.

iOS 15.5

Today’s iOS update offers just enough new user-facing features to earn that 15.x label instead of 15.x.x, which is usually reserved for bug fixes and the like.

All told, though, it’s a small update. The built-in Podcasts app gets “a new setting to limit episodes stored on your Mac and automatically delete older ones.”

And 15.5 allows the iPhone to be used as a point-of-sale device without any additional hardware, as reported in February.

Previously, vendors like farmer’s market stalls and home repair services used iPhones with attached add-on hardware from companies like Stripe to receive payments.

Now the iPhone doesn’t need those attachments; Stripe works just fine with an iPhone fresh out of the box.

Additionally, iOS 15.5 brings safety features in the Messages app meant to prevent children from being exposed to inappropriate content in the following new countries:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • New Zealand
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

macOS 12.4

On the macOS side, Apple names just two user-facing changes in its release notes. It adds support for Studio Display Firmware Update 15.5 (which claims to improve webcam performance on Apple’s new monitor), and the built-in Podcasts app gets the same new feature that iOS did.

However, macOS 12.4 includes more than 50 security updates under the hood, according to Apple’s support documentation.

watchOS 8.6

watchOS 8.6 is a relatively minor update. It expands some of the Watch’s health features—namely irregular heart rhythm detection and the ECG—to Apple Watch users in Mexico.

Other updates

Studio Display Firmware 15.5 attempts to address some user complaints about the monitor’s webcam quality. Apple hasn’t shared any details about what’s in the HomePod firmware update or tvOS 15.5.

There’s also Swift Playgrounds 4.1 for Mac and iPad. It’s not an OS update, but it landed around the same time. It allows users to use Playgrounds to build apps with SwiftUI on the Mac, and it deepens App Store Connect integration for publishing apps, among other things.

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