Weekly output: wireless plans, cities meet 5G, GM + Honda, Twitter business models, Hack the Capitol, smartphone biometric locks, Tech Night Owl

This week saw a couple of long-running projects finally go online. It also saw a tweet I sent during a combative onstage appearance by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R.-S.C.) at the Atlantic Festival go slightly viral, as in 1,651 retweets and 2,843 likes. That one tweet doesn’t fairly capture Graham’s discussion–that’s why I posted it as part of a thread that wound up spanning 11 updates–but I fear most of the 185,556 impressions for the tweet in question did not result in my new readers sticking around to read the rest of that thread. Once again, Twitter is where context goes to die; in other news, water is wet.

10/1/2018: The Best Cell Phone Plans, Wirecutter

We posted yet another update to the guide to reflect the addition of tiered “unlimited”-data plans at all four carriers and tried to streamline the text a bit. And by the end of this work, we realized we would need to update the guide yet again in a few months, should changes we’re seeing in usage levels continue showing up in third-party studies.

10/2/2018: Why 5G Internet Is a Policy Minefield for Cities, CityLab

When I started interviewing people for this story, 5G wireless deployment was months away, but now it’s a commercial reality in four U.S. cities. Appropriately enough, I wrapped up work on this piece for this subsidiary of The Atlantic’s parent firm while attending that magazine’s conference in Washington.

10/3/2018: GM’s self-driving-car project will have Honda riding shotgun, Yahoo Finance

This writeup of GM’s Cruise Automation’s deal with Honda to co-develop its second self-driving electric car benefited from a quick interview with Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt I did right after their press call Wednesday morning.

10/3/2018: Twitter business models, Al Jazeera

The Arabic news channel had me to discuss this subject, inspired by the “We can’t believe this website is free” joke tweeted by Twitter’s own Twitter account. Right before I went on the air, I though to ask the interpreter if there was an Arabic term for “freemium”; he told me there was not, so we agreed that I would take a minute to describe that concept so he could translate it correctly.

10/4/2018: Hack the Capitol event reminds lawmakers that IoT security needs help, The Parallax

I wrote about this brief conference in D.C. about the security of industrial control systems from the week before in the light of… wait for it… Congress not acting on a vital tech-policy issue.

10/5/2018: Unlock your phone with your face or fingerprint? Here’s how to shut that off – quickly, USA Today

This how-to walks readers through quickly disabling the facial- or fingerprint-recognition unlock features in iOS and Android. A reader wrote to me afterwards to ask why I didn’t mention just restarting the phone, which will also disable those biometric unlocks; that would not be as quick to do, but I should have included that anyway.

10/6/2018: October 6, 2018 — Rob Pegoraro and Bryan Chaffin, Tech Night Owl

I talked with host Gene Steinberg about the puzzling mismatch between Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s story alleging a long-running Chinese campaign to hide spy chips on server circuit boards with increasingly direct denials by Apple, Amazon and others. There’s also some banter about transit in our roughly hour-long discussion.

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Weekly output: Black Hat hacks and security fixes, T-Mobile news, self-driving-car security, voting-machine security, fear of robots

Most of this week’s copy was reported and written the previous week at the Black Hat security conference in Vegas. Considering my own frequently-elastic interpretations of deadlines, I can’t complain about editors with their own crowded calendars taking a day or two to give their full attention to my own work.

8/13/2018: Hacks of Macs, Microsoft Cortana are two more reasons why you should install updates, USA Today

I used this column to synthesize my notes from a few different Black Hat talks that intersected to yield the same lesson: You are safer overall if you install security fixes for your apps and devices when they arrive instead of playing IT department and deciding which ones should wait.

8/13/2018: What could T-Mobile uncap for its next Un-carrier news?, Fierce Wireless

I wrote this curtain-raiser for T-Mobile’s Wednesday announcement twice when a late reply from one analyst and my tardy queries to others led me to file a 1.0 version that would make it into Fierce’s mid-day newsletter. The one you can read now includes quotes from those additional experts–none correctly forecasting that T-Mobile would make its next big push better customer service.

8/13/2018: How two car hackers plan to keep GM’s self-driving cars safe, Yahoo Finance

The single most entertaining talk at Black Hat was this presentation from Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek. You may remember them as the guys who hacked a Jeep Cherokee in 2015 to seize control of it with Wired writer Andy Greenberg at the wheel. The two now work for the GM subsidiary Cruise Automation, and at Black Hat they explained how they plan to stop the likes of them from remotely exploiting Cruise’s fleet of self-driving vehicles–in part by removing such attack surfaces as Bluetooth wireless and the FM radio.

8/14/2018: There’s more to election integrity than secure voting machines, The Parallax

Another Black Hat talk gave me one more chance to take a whack at the WinVote voting machines that infested polling places across Virginia–mine included–for a decade. This time around, I checked back with a couple of the experts I’d consulted for earlier coverage of electronic voting machines and learned that both wished they’d paid more attention before to such separate election-integrity issues as voter registration systems.

8/15/2018: Robot workers or human employees, Al Jazeera

I got a request from my usual guy in AJ’s D.C. bureau asking if I could talk about the prospect of robots taking human jobs–both in the private and defense sectors. I was in Boston at the time visiting family, but that proved to be no problem. Instead of them sending a car to my house to take me to their D.C. studios, they ran me over to a studio in downtown Boston, where I did my talking-head duty (overdubbed live into Arabic) wearing one of my brother’s jackets. Since I knew I’d only appear on camera from the torso up, I didn’t bother changing out of the shorts and sandals I’d put on that morning.