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Ring Camera Hacker Harasses 8-Year-Old Girl Through Speaker

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  • An 8-year-old girl was taunted by a male voice when a Mississippi family’s Ring security camera was hacked.
  • The hacker played eerie music and encouraged the child to use a racial slur and destroy her room. 
  • Ring has claimed the incident didn’t occur because of a breach in their security system but rather because the family didn’t set up two-factor authentication. 
  • Several more Ring camera hackings have been reported in the past few weeks.

Camera Compromised

A hacker tapped into a Mississippi family’s home security camera last week and used the speaker feature to talk to an 8-year-old girl.

The video footage shows the child, Alyssa LeMay, walking into her bedroom after hearing eerie music from inside. Blaring from the camera’s speaker is Tiny Tim’s rendition of “Tiptoe Through the Tulips,” a song that was famously featured in the horror movie “Insidious.”

As Alyssa paces around trying to identify the source of the noise, the music stops and a voice comes from the camera, pushing her to say the n-word. 

“C’mon girl, can you say the magic word? N—–,” the voice says to Alyssa, who is white. 

She repeatedly asks out loud who is talking to her.

“I’m your best friend,” the voice responds. “I’m Santa Claus.” 

At one point the hacker also tries to coax Alyssa to destroy her room, telling her, “You can do whatever you want right now. You can mess up your room. You can break your TV.”

The little girl screams for her mother, who was out of the house at the time running an errand. Her father was home and rushed to the room to unplug the camera. 

Security Precautions Gone Wrong

Ashley LeMay, Alyssa’s mother, was horrified when she saw what happened. The 27-year-old had bought a pair of Ring cameras to install in the bedrooms of her four children, per a fellow mother’s recommendation. 

Ring’s indoor cameras have elevated features intended for security, including night-vision and a two-way talk system. LeMay made the purchase on Black Friday, hoping to help her children feel safe as she works overnight shifts in a hospital. 

The camera initially was a positive asset to the home, but just a few days after its installation, on Dec. 4, that sense of safety was abruptly violated.  

“I did the exact opposite of adding another security measure,” LeMay told The Washington Post on Thursday. “I put them at risk and there’s nothing I can do to really ease their mind. I can’t tell them I know who it is. I can’t tell them that they’re not going to show up at our house in the middle of the night.”   

When asked about the incident, Ring released a statement to WMC5, claiming that the hack wasn’t a result of a breach in their security system but rather it happened because two-factor authorization was not set up by the family.

“Due to the fact that customers often use the same username and password for their various accounts and subscriptions, bad actors often re-use credentials stolen or leaked from one service on other services,” the company said. “As a precaution, we highly and openly encourage all Ring users to enable two-factor authentication on their Ring account, add Shared Users (instead of sharing login credentials), use strong passwords, and regularly change their passwords.”

LeMay felt frustrated by Ring’s lack of answers when she contacted them.

“To be honest, it felt like they were trying to place the blame on me,” she told The Washington Post. “As a mother, I already feel guilty enough that I let this happen to my family… There’s just no need for that.”

This is not the first time that Ring’s security cameras have been hacked into. There have been multiple reports of security breaches in the past few weeks, from Georgia to Florida to Texas

Ring states that their mission is to “reduce crime in neighborhoods,” but the digital age has brought in new ways for hackers to virtually break into a home and cross lines.

“What’s so scary to us is that this person did not care that it was a young child,” LeMay said to The Washington Post.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (Vice) (ABC)

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SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section

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  • The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June. 
  • The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
  • Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary. 
  • It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.

College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay

College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.

Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”

The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary. 

While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S. 

Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.

With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.

The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test

In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.

In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.

According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.

For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The New York Times)

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Biden To Block Trump’s Order Lifting COVID-19 Travel Ban

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  • President Trump issued an executive order Monday lifting a ban on travelers from the Schengen area of Europe, the U.K., Ireland, and Brazil. 
  • Trump said the policy will no longer be needed starting Jan. 26, when the CDC will start requiring all passengers from abroad to present proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a flight.
  • The move was cheered by the travel industry; however, incoming White House press secretary Jennifer Psaki warned that Biden’s administration does not intend to lift the travel restrictions. 

Trump Order End To COVID-19 Travel Ban

President Donald Trump issued an executive order Monday ending his administration’s ban on travelers from the Schengen area of Europe, the U.K., Ireland, and Brazil.

That ban was put in place last spring in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus in the U.S. In his announcement, however, Trump said the policy will no longer be needed starting Jan. 26, when new rules from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention go into effect.

Starting that day, the CDC will require all passengers from abroad to present proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a flight.

The recommendation to lift the ban reportedly came from Alex Azar, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. According to Trump’s proclamation, “the Secretary reports high confidence that these jurisdictions will cooperate with the United States in the implementation of CDC’s January 12, 2021, order and that tests administered there will yield accurate results.”

It’s worth noting that the ban will stay in place for travelers from Iran and China. Still, Trump’s announcement was generally cheered by members of the travel industry who have been pushing to lift the ban and require preflight testing instead. 

Biden To Block Trump’s Order

Soon after the news broke, the incoming White House press secretary for President-elect Joe Biden, Jennifer Psaki, warned that Biden would block Trump’s order.

“With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel,” she wrote on Twitter.

“On the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26.  In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” she added.

With that, it seems unlikely that Trump’s order will actually take effect. 

It’s also worth noting that this is one of many executive orders Trump has issued just before inauguration day.

Source: Whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions

Some of these orders could soon be overturned once Biden takes office Wednesday. Biden is also expected to roll out his own wave of executive orders in his first 10 days as president.

See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (The New York Times) (CNN)

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New COVID-19 Variant Could Become Dominant in the U.S. by March, CDC Warns

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  • The CDC warned Friday that a new highly transmissible COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
  • The strain was first reported in the United Kingdom in December and is now in at least 10 states.
  • The CDC used a modeled trajectory to discover how quickly the variant could spread in the U.S. and said that this could threaten the country’s already overwhelmed healthcare system.

CDC Issues Warning

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the new COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.

While it is not known to be more deadly, it does spread at a higher rate, which is troubling considering the condition the U.S. is already in. Cases and deaths are already on the rise in nearly every state and globally, 2 million lives have been lost to the coronavirus. 

The variant was first reported in the United Kingdom in mid-December. It is now in 30 countries, including the U.S., where cases have been located in at least ten states. Right now, only 76 cases of this variant have been confirmed in the U.S., but experts believe that number is likely much higher and said it will increase significantly in the coming weeks. It is already a dominant strain in parts of the U.K.

Modeled trajectory shows that growth in the U.S. could be so fast that it dominates U.S. cases just three months into the new year. This could pose a huge threat to our already strained healthcare system.

Mitigating Spread of Variant

“I want to stress that we are deeply concerned that this strain is more transmissible and can accelerate outbreaks in the U.S. in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC told the New York Times. “We’re sounding the alarm and urging people to realize the pandemic is not over and in no way is it time to throw in the towel.”

The CDC advises that health officials use this time to limit spread and increase vaccination as much as possible in order to mitigate the impact this variant will have. Experts believe that current vaccines will protect against this strain.

“Effective public health measures, including vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, will be essential,” the CDC said in their report.

“Strategic testing of persons without symptoms but at higher risk of infection, such as those exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or who have frequent unavoidable contact with the public, provides another opportunity to limit ongoing spread.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (New York Times) (NBC News)

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