7 Ways Your Devices Are Spying on You

7 Ways Your Devices Are Spying on You

Microwave ovens aren’t spying on us (yet), but plenty of other products seem to be. From smart TVs to tech toys for kids, there are a slew of common household items collecting data about our location, habits, and preferences — and some are more sinister than others. Here are some of the ways your possessions could be tracking your every move.

1. Your TV might be bugged by the U.S. government

According to the latest dirt from WikiLeaks, the CIA has developed a covert hacking program that can transform your smart TV into a bug. Once your TV is hacked by the program, it has the ability to enter into a “fake-off mode” in which the TV appears to be off but is actually on and operating as a recording device. The program, known as “Weeping Angel,” uses the TV’s speakers and camera to record what it hears and sees. Then it transmits these private living room conversations to the CIA server.

2. Your child’s doll could be bait for a cyberattack

Cayla is a sweet-faced American-made doll with big, blue eyes and Bluetooth technology. Not only is Cayla adorable, she’s also interactive. Everything Cayla hears gets transmitted to a voice recognition company that helps the doll to hold human-like conversations, much like the iPhone’s Siri. Unfortunately, this technology also makes the doll a prime target for hackers. In Germany, where hidden microphones and cameras are illegal, the doll has been pulled from store shelves and government officials have ordered doll owners to confiscate the toy. In Norway, a consumer group has released a warning about the doll’s vulnerabilities. Consumer complaints about Cayla have been filed in the U.S., though the doll remains on shelves in America and in several European countries.

3. Your shoes could help retailers figure out your age or social status

The British retail analysis firm Hoxton Analytics is pointing its facial recognition software to the ground. Instead of faces, the firm’s technology records shoppers’ feet as they walk in and out of participating retail outlets. The data is then analyzed to reveal a surprising amount of information, including specifics about a shopper’s gender, age, and social class. It’s all based on the shoes a person is wearing. According to Hoxton executives, the retail analysis technology can determine a person’s gender based on his or her footwear with 80 percent accuracy. The company asserts that the marketing technology is much less invasive than scanning shoppers’ faces, but its use has raised concerns among consumer advocate groups.

4. Your cell phone could be surveilling your every move

Cell site simulators, or stingrays, are commonly used by law enforcement agencies to geolocate the cell phone calls or text messages of criminal suspects and other persons of interest. The New York Police Department, for example, has used the stingray technology more than 1,000 times since 2008 to determine a person’s location by monitoring their calls and texts. It’s not only New Yorkers who are susceptible to this sort of secret surveillance. Stingrays are used by local police agencies across the nation, as well as the FBI and CIA.

5. A hacker could infiltrate your baby monitor

If you use a baby monitor to keep a watchful eye over your child at night, know that a hacker could infiltrate the device in order to spy on your child. In a recent horror story, a stranger hacked a baby monitor in Washington state and used the device to communicate with a three-year-old child, as well as to track the movements of people in the room. The toddler’s parents reportedly entered their child’s room one night and heard a voice on the baby monitor saying, “Wake up little boy, daddy’s looking for you.” The child had reportedly told his parents that he did not like the monitor because of the voice that spoke to him on it during the night. But it wasn’t until the parents heard the voice for themselves that they understood what their child meant.

6. Your refrigerator could make you vulnerable to an email hack

Samsung’s latest voice-controlled refrigerator can play music, stream movies, and sync your Google calendar onto a display screen. Sounds cool, right? But beware: Earlier models of the smart fridge have allowed hackers to break into its owner’s email accounts. That’s because previous security shortcomings have allowed hackers to access the refrigerator technology in order to steal users’ Gmail login credentials. Here’s the silver lining: Samsung’s latest model hasn’t had any reported hacking fiascos — not yet, anyway.

7. Your webcam could be recording you

If your webcam isn’t password protected — or if the password is easy to hack — you could be under surveillance. Hackers around the globe are known to gain access to the webcams of strangers in order to peek into the private lives of their owners. There’s even a creepy search engine that matches voyeuristic hackers with unsecured webcams, making it that much easier for devious internet users to violate the privacy of strangers.

12 Garage Sale Items That Sell Like Hotcakes

12 Garage Sale Items That Sell Like Hotcakes

Spring cleaning is in full swing, which means it’s out with the old, and in with the new. So why not earn some extra cash by throwing a garage sale and ridding your home of your unwanted items? Here are 12 perennially popular items that are sure to sell like hot cakes.

1. Gently used clothing, in good condition

Everyone needs clothes, and savvy shoppers know you don’t have to pay retail to look good. I once met a lumber “baroness” who confided in me that she bought all of her clothes at yard sales. Good quality holds up, and regular yard sale shoppers know that.

For women’s and men’s, hang clothes up on a rack, rather than folded on a table or in a box. It makes it much easier for people to go through it, as well as to examine it for stains or tears. For kids’ clothing, folding it is fine, but it’s nice if the sizes are noted and sorted. Many garage-sale shoppers are resellers, and they may take you up on a “$__ per bag” offer.

2. Tools

My husband is like a moth to a flame when it comes to a garage sale with tools. He not only likes power tools, but also older, vintage ones that are not only still useful, but fun to collect and display.

When selling your old tools, have a power strip nearby so power tools can be tested, or have them charged up if used with a battery.

3. Furniture

If you live in a college town, furniture is sure to go fast. Also, with DIY projects soaring in popularity, more people are looking for furniture that can be remade. Bookshelves will always sell — even old, beat up bookcases can be used for storage!

Make sure any furniture you sell is clean. Old leather furniture can be spiffed up using a mixture of vinegar, olive oil, and a little lemon juice. Vacuum upholstered furniture and treat any spots. Also, suggest a price, but be open to negotiation.

4. Vintage dishes, glassware, and casseroles

Any Pyrex collectors out there? How about milk glass, or Spode? You may have some items hidden away in your cupboards that are hot.

When you go to sell these items, advertise using the brand name (i.e., Pyrex, milk glass, Corningware, etc.); add photos to your ad, too. Collectors will flock to you.

5. Garden tools

Spring fever also means that home gardeners are eager to start tilling, trimming, planting, and digging.

Be prepared to start up that old lawn mower, or be honest about what isn’t working. Handy folks may be willing to take a chance that they can get a broken item running again. We just bought a garden tiller for $15. It wasn’t running, but my husband knew how to fix it. Sometimes, a shovel blade or rake may be fine, but the wooden handles are rotting. You can purchase new handles at Home Depot or Lowe’s. But price these items accordingly, if a replacement is going to be necessary.

6. Shoes and handbags

Think nobody would want to buy your old shoes? Guess again. Shoes, especially if in good condition and carrying a popular brand name, sell like hot cakes at garage sales. Kids grow out of shoes so fast that size doesn’t matter. If they’re too big now, they’ll probably grow into them later. Handbags are also enormously popular — especially if it’s a designer label.

When selling shoes or old purses, obviously, clean and odor-free are necessities. If you still have the original boxes, that’s a plus. The key factor with shoes and bags is showcasing any designer brands. Put the designers in your garage sale ad, and place them front and center during the sale. Then watch the flock of shoppers arrive.

7. Costume jewelry

If your jewelry box is overflowing with costume jewelry and statement pieces you know you’ll never wear, a garage sale is the perfect place to unload them.

Find a rack of some sort to hang necklaces on (a coat hanger will do, in a pinch). Bracelets can go on a dowel. Just make sure to keep costume jewelry close to your cashier area because sadly, some folks will try to pocket it.

8. Games, toys, and bicycles

Have too many toys and games cluttering up the house? Give them a new home by selling them at your garage sale. Vintage games being popular at the moment, you should be able to easily sell Monopoly or Life. Before you sell these, make sure you have all the game pieces. “Lil’ Tykes” plastic furniture is always popular, too. Pump up bike tires for bikes you’re looking to unload, and give them a wash.

9. Books

It doesn’t matter how fancy or state-of-the-art e-readers become — actual books will always be easy to sell. Make the ones you no longer want super cheap — $1–$3 each — and they’ll fly off your shelves.

10. Appliances

I know, you just had to have a Magic Bullet, or a bread-maker, or a hand blender. And now they’re sitting on your kitchen counter, collecting dust. I’m guilty of this, too. Luckily, people love appliances, and you can probably unload them.

When you sell them, it’s a good idea to have a power strip handy so folks can make sure they work. They should also be spotlessly clean. Check eBay to see what they’re going for before pricing.

11. Camping gear

Purchasing new camping gear gets a little pricey. However, used gear is usually still in decent condition, since it only usually gets used a few times each year. Yard and garage sales are the best places to get it, and smart shoppers will snap it up.

Make sure to mention the items in your ad and include pictures. Open up tents so people can see the size.

12. Exercise equipment

So, you bought that trendy elliptical machine when you were still clutching the remains of your fitness resolutions. If you didn’t use it, that’s OK! time to get it out of your garage and into someone else’s.

Specify what you have, and put pictures in your ad. Basic exercise equipment, like weights, will usually go quickly, but older treadmills or exercise bikes may linger, depending on how you price them and how quickly you want to get rid of them.