TIME Security

What To Do When Your Email Gets Hacked

171110589
Person typing on a laptop. Benjamin Howell—Getty Images

First thing's first: Change your password

Last week, I got an email from a friend urging me to check out an amazing page. Between the grammatical errors and a link obviously pointing to a server somewhere in Russia, it was obvious that my friend’s email account had been hacked.

When I checked in with her another way, she already knew about the problem—the hacker’s message had gone out to her entire address book—and she was quite concerned. So I walked her through the steps for getting everything back in order.

Step #1: Change your password.

The very first thing you should do is keep the hacker from getting back into your email account. Change your password to a strong password that is not related to your prior password; if your last password was billyjoe1, don’t pick billyjoe2—and if your name is actually BillyJoe, you shouldn’t have been using your name as your password in the first place.

Try using a meaningful sentence as the basis of your new password. For example, “I go to the gym in the morning” turns into “Ig2tGYMitm” using the first letter of each word in the sentence, mixing uppercase and lowercase letters and replacing the word “to” with “2.”

Step #2: Reclaim your account.

If you’re lucky, the hacker only logged into your account to send a mass email to all of your contacts.

If you’re not so lucky, the hacker changed your password too, locking you out of your account. If that’s the case, you’ll need to reclaim your account, usually a matter of using the “forgot your password” link and answering your security questions or using your backup email address.

Check out the specific recommendations for reclaiming possession of your account for Gmail, Outlook.com and Hotmail, Yahoo! and AOL.

Step #3: Enable two-factor authentication.

Set your email account to require a second form of authentication in addition to your password whenever you log into your email account from a new device. When you log in, you’ll also need to enter a special one-time use code the site will text to your phone or generated via an app.

Check out two-step authentication setup instructions for Gmail, Microsoft’s Outlook.com and Hotmail and Yahoo!. AOL doesn’t support two-factor authentication yet.

Step #4: Check your email settings.

Sometimes hackers might change your settings to forward a copy of every email you receive to themselves, so they can watch for any emails containing login information for other sites. Check your mail forwarding settings to ensure no unexpected email addresses have been added.

Next, check your email signature to see if the hacker added a spammy signature that will continue to peddle their dubious wares even after they’ve been locked out.

Last, check to make sure the hackers haven’t turned on an auto-responder, turning your out-of-office notification into a spam machine.

Step #5: Scan your computer for malware.

Run a full scan with your anti-malware program. You do have an anti-malware program on your computer, right? If not, download the free version of Malwarebytes and run a full scan with it. I recommend running Malwarebytes even if you already have another anti-malware program; if the problem is malware, your original program obviously didn’t stop it, and Malwarebytes has resolved problems for me that even Symantec’s Norton Internet Security wasn’t able to resolve. Scan other computers you log in from, such as your work computer, as well.

If any of your scans detect malware, fix it and then go back and change your email password again. (When you changed it in step #1, the malware was still on your computer.)

Step #6: Find out what else has been compromised.

My mother-in-law once followed the ill-advised practice of storing usernames and passwords for her various accounts in an email folder called “Sign-ups.” Once the hacker was into her email, he easily discovered numerous other logins.

Most of us have emails buried somewhere that contain this type of information. Search for the word “password” in your mailbox to figure out what other accounts might have been compromised. Change these passwords immediately; if they include critical accounts such as bank or credit card accounts, check your statements to make sure there are no suspicious transactions.

It’s also a good idea to change any other accounts that use the same username and password as your compromised email. Spammers are savvy enough to know that most people reuse passwords for multiple accounts, so they may try your login info in other email applications and on PayPal and other common sites.

Step #7: Humbly beg for forgiveness from your friends.

Let the folks in your contacts list know that your email was hacked and that they should not open any suspicious emails or click on any links in any email(s) that recently received from you. Most people will probably have already figured out that you were not really the one recommending they buy Viagra from an online pharmacy in India—but you know, everyone has one or two friends who are a little slower to pick up on these things.

Step #8: Prevent it from happening again.

While large-scale breaches are one way your login information could be stolen—this summer, Russian criminals stole 1.2 billion usernames and passwords—they’re certainly not the only way. Many cases are due to careless creation or protection of login information.

Last year, Google released a study that reveals most people choose passwords based on readily available information, making their accounts hackable with a few educated guesses. Easy passwords make for easy hacking, and spammers use programs that can cycle through thousands of logins every second to identify weak accounts.

Picking a strong password is your best protection from this type of hacking. It also is prudent to use a different password for each site or account, or, at the very least, use a unique password for your email account, your bank account and any other sensitive accounts. If you’re concerned about keeping track of your passwords, find a password management program to do the work for you.

In my friend’s case, her passwords were pretty good and there was no malware on her computer. But she was careless about where she was logging in. On a recent trip overseas, she used the computer in her hotel lobby to check her email. That was a bad idea.

Computers in hotel lobbies, libraries and other public places are perfect locations for hackers to install key-logging programs. The computers are often poorly secured and get used by dozens of people every day who don’t think twice about logging into their email or bank accounts or entering credit card information to make a purchase. The best practice is to assume that any public computer is compromised and proceed accordingly.

This article was written by Suzanne Kantra and originally appeared on Techlicious.

More from Techlicious:

TIME technology

It Took Microsoft 3 Tries Before Windows Was Successful

Microsoft Windows 1.0
Microsoft Windows 1.0 AP

Windows 1.0 wasn't exactly a huge win — even with Microsoft Paint helping out

The first version of Microsoft Windows will be knocking on the door of its third decade Thursday when it turns the ripe old age of 29 — well past retirement in software years, given that Microsoft officially put it out to pasture in December of 2001. Still, looking back at Windows 1.0 offers exactly what its name implies: A window into how things used to be, and, in a way, how little has changed.

First announced in 1983, Microsoft Windows 1.0 wouldn’t make it to the consumer market for another two years — making it one of the first pieces of software to be dismissed as “vaporware,” a term actually coined by a Microsoft engineer a year before the Windows announcement, as a disparaging title bestowed upon a product that’s announced but never sees the light of day.

Windows 1.0′s big selling point was its Graphical User Interface (GUI), intended to replace MS-DOS-style command prompts (C:/DOS/RUN) with a computing style that looked much more like the multitasking, mouse-click-based computing most of us use today. It also came with software intended to show off its new graphical computing environment with what we’d now call “apps” like “Calendar,” “Clock,” and yes, of course, “Paint.”

Windows wasn’t the first operating system with a GUI as its primary feature. Microsoft rival Apple, for example, beat Windows to that punch by about a year when its Macintosh hit the market in 1984, and other “desktop”-style graphical interfaces were floating around before that. (Late Apple CEO Steve Jobs is said to have gotten a nudge towards the Apple desktop interface after visiting a Xerox facility in 1979.) But Windows 1.0 was marketed as an upgrade for people already running MS-DOS — and, in fact, it ran on top of MS-DOS, so anybody who wanted Windows had to have MS-DOS installed first.

So did Windows 1.0 fly off the shelves? Not exactly. Early reviews panned the product for running far too slowly — not the last time the tech press has made that particular critique. The New York Times wrote that “running Windows on a PC with 512K of memory is akin to pouring molasses in the Arctic.” Many reviews said the speed slowdown only got worse when users ran more than one application at a time — an ability that had been intended as a primary draw. And that weird mouse thing Microsoft insisted Windows users embrace? Lots of people hated it.

Despite those early hiccups, Microsoft didn’t just give up and close Windows — a smart move, given that computers running Windows operating systems now make up about 90% of the market. But not even Windows 2.0, released in 1987, set Windows on its path to world dominance. That spark didn’t come until Windows 3.0, released in 1990 to critical acclaim and widespread adoption, thanks to a redesigned interface and speed improvements. As TIME put it in the June 4 issue of that year, “Microsoft seems to have got it right this time.”

TIME Innovation

The 25 Best Inventions of 2014

Hoverboards, intelligent space craft, edible food wrappers, and much much more

—Welcome to TIME’s annual round-up of the best inventions making the world better, smarter and—in some cases—a little more fun.

 

  • The Real-Life Hoverboard

    justin fantl

    Hendo Hoverboard / $10,000
    Preorder at hendohover.com

    The hoverboard—a type of skateboard that levitates like a magic carpet—had been a pipe dream since its fictional debut in 1989′s Back to the Future Part II. Now California-based tech firm Hendo has built the real thing.
    Granted, there are caveats. Hendo’s hoverboard can float only an inch or so above the ground, and even then only over conductive material like copper or aluminum. Just 10 are being made to order (so far). And battery life is 15 minutes—barely enough time to zoom past your enemies à la Marty McFly.

    But the technology that powers it could be revolutionary. Using the $450,000-plus it raised on Kickstarter, Hendo founders Jill and Greg Henderson plan to develop magnetic “hovering” tech to stabilize buildings during earthquakes, protect valuable works of art and more. “The hoverboard is the first step to bringing this technology to the world,” says Greg.

  • The Supersmart Spacecraft

    Mangalyaan, India's Mars Orbiter Mission, is prepared for its Nov. 5, 2013 launch into space.
    INDIAN SPACE RESEARCH ORGANIZATION

    Mangalyaan
    Developed by the Indian Space Research Organization

    Nobody gets Mars right on the first try. The U.S. didn’t, Russia didn’t, the Europeans didn’t. But on Sept. 24, India did. That’s when the Mangalyaan (Mars craft in Hindi) went into orbit around the Red Planet, a technological feat no other Asian nation has yet achieved. Building the craft cost India just $74 million, less than the budget for the film Gravity. At that price, the Mangalyaan is equipped with just five onboard instruments that allow it to do simple tasks like measure Martian methane and surface composition. More important, however, it allows India to flex its interplanetary muscles, which portends great things for the country’s space program—and for science in general.

  • A Reactor that Could Realize Nuclear Fusion

    Illustrations by Muti for TIME

    High-beta fusion reactor
    Developed by Lockheed Martin

    Nuclear fusion—the production of energy from the fusion of hydrogen nuclei—has always been the holy grail of energy: it’s endlessly productive and largely clean—and so far, it’s remained elusive. But in October, Lockheed Martin said it had achieved a technological breakthrough that will enable it to make compact fusion reactors small enough to fit on the back of a truck within a decade. The design uses “magnetic mirror confinement” to control the reaction. Absent further details on how it works, some outside scientists are skeptical. But if Lockheed really can produce a workable fusion reactor, the world of energy may never be the same.

  • Wireless Electricity

    Illustrations by Muti for TIME

    Witricity
    In development for Toyota cars, Intel PCs and more

    We already have wireless Internet and wireless phones. Why, then, are everyday appliances still shackled to the wall? To be sure, there are a few power-mat chargers for small gadgets like phones. But WiTricity, based in Watertown, Mass., is thinking big. Its technology—involving a plug-in coil that creates a magnetic field, which in turn powers objects as far away as 8 ft. (2.4 m)—has been tested on Toyota electric cars (with charging mats), Intel PCs (with charging pads) and more. Within 10 years, says CEO Alex Gruzen, rooms could be wired so that all appliances—lamps, TVs, stereos—pull power from a central charging base.

  • 3-D-Printed Everything

    justin fantl

    A machine that can build any object. It sounds like a sci-fi fantasy, but thanks to the rise of 3-D printers—devices that can build objects from digital blueprints, usually by layering plastic or other materials—it is rapidly becoming reality.

    That’s a boon for consumers and corporations alike. In the past year alone, middle-school students have 3-D-printed stock cars for physics lessons, scientists have 3-D-printed tissues for human organs, and GE has used 3-D printing to improve the efficiency of its jet engines. “This is one of those technologies that literally touches everything we do,” says Avi Reichental, CEO of 3D Systems, whose 3-D printers produce candy (as shown above) and musical instruments, among other objects.

  • Watches that Redefine Smart

    Justin Fantl for TIME

    Apple Watch / $349+
    Available early 2015

    Most smart watches have proved to be anything but: they try to shrink down the experience of using a cell phone, with clunky results. Apple’s Watch, by contrast, wholly reimagines the computer for the wrist, using a novel interface that combines a touchscreen and physical buttons. Besides telling time, the Watch can send messages, give directions, track fitness and make wireless payments. It’s also an attractive piece of fashion, with high-end Edition models that feature 18-karat gold. “Apple poured its heart and soul into the design,” says Robert Brunner, founder of San Francisco design studio Ammunition and a former director of industrial design at Apple. “It’s brave because they’re venturing into unknown territory.”

  • The Smartphone that Puts Privacy First

    justin fantl

    Blackphone / $629
    Available at blackphone.ch

    Nearly half of Americans don’t feel safe sharing private information over a cell-phone call, according to Pew. So how can phone owners conceal their data? Enter the Blackphone, a smartphone designed to put privacy above all else. The device, developed by the company of the same name and accelerated after the Snowden leaks, runs a customized Android operating system stripped of features that might make data vulnerable, like calendar sync. It also comes with software that encrypts calls, texts and browsing history at levels far beyond normal smartphones (which could make the Blackphone a target of law-enforcement officials, who say encryption technology makes it harder for cops to catch criminals). But even with a Blackphone, users should be careful about what they type or upload. As Blackphone CEO Toby Weir-Jones explains, “It’s dangerous to assume anything is a magic invisibility cloak.”

  • The Cooler that Powers Your Party

    IMG_0110.JPG
    Tara Johnson for TIME

    Coolest Cooler / $399
    Preorder at coolest.com (to ship in early 2015)

    For more than 60 years, coolers have done a fine job putting party refreshments on ice. But that wasn’t good enough for Ryan Grepper. “We wanted the cooler to be a place where people gather—to have all the things that make a space somewhere you’d want to hang out,” says the former medical sales rep.

    The result is the world’s smartest all-purpose party starter. It stores food and drinks, sure. But it also touts a blender (“for vodkaritas,” Grepper offers), an LED lid light (“to see if you’re reaching for beer or Clamato juice”), a USB charger (“so nobody’s phone dies”), a Bluetooth speaker (for tunes) and big wheels designed to navigate many terrains (beach, parking lot). “I just want to make the coolest cooler out there,” says Grepper. Hence the name: Coolest Cooler.

    Since Grepper’s prototype first appeared on Kickstarter earlier this year, roughly 63,000 backers have contributed $13.3 million to make it a reality. It’s now the most funded creation in the site’s history, besting hits like the Pebble smart watch and Oculus Rift’s virtual-reality glasses.

  • The Chip that Stops Your Slouching

    Illustrations by Muti for TIME

    Lumo Lift / $100
    Available at lumobodytech.com

    You can probably guess why so many people have posture that causes back pain: “We simply forget” to stop slouching, says Monisha Perkash, whose company, Lumo BodyTech, created the ultimate reminder. Once users clip the Lumo Lift, a chiplike gadget about the size of a thumb, onto their shirt, it analyzes neck and spinal positions and vibrates when they’re less than ideal. Although the system isn’t perfect—it can buzz when you lean for necessary reasons, like taking a phone call—it has exceeded internal sales goals. Half of its users are women, which is impressive given that early adopters for gadgets often tilt male.

  • The Car that Makes Electric Enticing

    P90129197_highRes.JPG
    Fabian Kirchbauer

    BMW i3 / $41,350
    Available at BMW dealerships nationwide

    For the most part, electric cars have been slow, sexless and stolid to drive—or stunningly expensive. So when BMW, the self-described maker of “the ultimate driving machine,” announced it would start selling them, it had a high bar to clear. The I3 delivers. In addition to getting 70 to 110 miles (113 to 177 km) on a single three-hour charge, its novel design allows drivers to use a single ­pedal to both accelerate and brake (press down to go, ease up to stop), which results in more energy-efficient driving. And because so-called range anxiety—the fear of running out of juice on the road—remains a top reason people don’t buy electric, BMW is pioneering ways to ease customers’ doubts. Among them: an optional backup gas motor that can recharge its batteries in a pinch and a program that lends owners a gas-powered vehicle for longer trips.

  • The Tablet that Replaces Laptops

    IMG_0420lo.JPG
    Tara Johnson for TIME

    Microsoft Surface Pro 3 / $799
    Available at microsoft.com

    Microsoft’s latest “hybrid” bundles the power of a laptop into a svelte 12-in. tablet and can run desktop apps like Word, Excel and PowerPoint. That, as well as a slim, detachable keyboard cover and a built-in stand that makes the Surface usable on a desk, makes it more suitable than other tablets for professionals like doctors and businesspeople. No wonder organizations such as Coca-Cola and Seattle’s Children’s Hospital have adopted it in droves.

  • The Ring that Alerts You in Style

    The Ring that Alerts You in Style
    The Ring that Alerts You in Style Alice Keeney

    Ringly / $195+
    Available at ringly.com

    Like many professional women, Christina Mercando keeps her smartphone in her purse, which meant she was constantly digging it out to check for important notifications. But what if she could get that info from something she was already wearing, much as pants-wearing men can feel a phone buzz in their pocket? That’s the thinking behind Ringly, a line of rings that can be programmed to glow when wearers get an email from their boss, a text from their Uber driver or any number of other can’t-miss communications. Mercando, a former product and design manager at eBay, raised more than $1 million to realize her vision. So far, the concept is working: the first 1,000 Ringly rings, which debuted in June, sold out within 24 hours.

  • The Pillbox that Gets Personal

    Justin Fantl for TIME

    Pillpack / prices vary
    Available at pillpack.com

    “I grew up in a family that owned and operated a pharmacy,” says T.J. Parker, who knows firsthand how confusing it can be for people to track which meds to take when, especially if they fill multiple prescriptions. That’s why the e-pharmacy he runs now, PillPack, doesn’t traffic in bottles. Instead, every two weeks, patients are sent a dispenser, which has their medication—all of it—sorted into a ticker tape of tearable packets, organized by date and time. For now, service is limited to patients with multiple prescriptions. But Parker’s ultimate goal is to make the pharmacy experience simpler for everyone, even patients on short-term antibiotics.

  • Bananas that Prevent Blindness

    Illustrations by Muti for TIME

    “Superbananas”
    Developed by the Queensland University of Technology

    In sub-Saharan Africa, up to 30% of kids under age 5 are at risk of going blind—among other conditions—for one simple reason: they don’t get enough eye-nurturing vitamin A. But what if the bananas that make up a lot of their diet could be re-engineered to deliver it? That’s the idea that struck Australian biogeneticist James Dale when he visited Uganda in the early 2000s. With backing from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Dale and his team began developing a vitamin-A-enriched “superbanana”; human trials start soon in the U.S. In Africa, they will be introduced using what Dale calls a “reverse Ponzi scheme” to spark adoption. Village leaders will be given 10 free superbanana plants to grow, on the condition that they give at least 20 new shoots to other villagers, who will do the same. “These bananas could potentially solve” a major health problem, Dale says.

  • The Wheel that Gives Bikers a Boost

    IMG_0306_wheel.JPG
    Tara Johnson for TIME

    Copenhagen Wheel / $799
    Preorder at superpedestrian.com (to ship spring 2015)

    We know that biking is good for us and good for the environment. But getting around on a bicycle can seem daunting, especially in a large city with a hilly terrain. To lessen that burden, Cambridge, Mass.–based Superpedestrian has developed the Copenhagen Wheel, a standard-size wheel—it can be attached to the back of most bicycles—that boasts a rechargeable, battery-powered motor. Depending on rider preferences, entered through a smartphone app, the motor can kick in power throughout the ride or just on hills. Sensors also track road conditions, air temperature and potholes, so cyclists can share real-time information about best routes. “Cities are reaching a limit in terms of how many more cars they can accept,” says Assaf Biderman, founder and CEO of Superpedestrian; indeed, studies like those from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute suggest that the U.S. has reached “peak car.” The Copenhagen Wheel, which has raised more than $6 million (partially through crowdfunding), may help make cycling a more viable alternative.

  • The Seamless Sign-Language Translator

    Illustrations by Muti for TIME

    MotionSavvy uni / $198+
    Preorder at motionsavvy.com (to ship fall 2015)

    For the millions of deaf people who cannot speak, everyday communication often requires costly human translators and tedious note writing. Enter the Uni, a tablet and attachment that leverages motion-sensing cameras and voice recognition to translate American Sign Language into spoken words—and spoken words into text—in real time. “The need for this is so great,” writes Ryan Hait-Campbell, CEO of San Francisco–based MotionSavvy, who is deaf. Roughly 200 Indiegogo backers agree: the company has raised more than $20,000 to date.

  • The Filter that Fights Ebola

    IMG_0538_sand stick.JPG
    Tara Johnson for TIME

    Hemopurifier
    Developed by Aethlon Medical

    What makes the Ebola virus so frightening is its speed. In a matter of days, it can pump out enough copies of itself to overtake the immune system. But the Hemopurifier, a specially designed cartridge that attaches to a dialysis machine, can tip the balance back in the body’s favor: its lectin filter attracts Ebola viruses and sucks them from the blood as it flows through. It’s been used only once, on a patient in Germany, but it did the trick—effectively curing his Ebola infection. In the future, doctors hope similar tech could be used on viruses like hepatitis.

  • The Selfie Stick (and Hairbrush)

    justin fantl

    If 2013 was the year in which selfie became a buzzword, then 2014 was the year selfies became a cultural phenomenon. Look no further than a recent Pew report, which found that at least a quarter of Americans have shared a selfie on a social-networking site (including Ellen Degeneres, Kim Kardashian and President Obama).

    Sensing a new market, several companies have launched devices designed to streamline the selfie-taking experience. Many of them, like a hairbrush that holds your smartphone, are more goofy than game changing. But the selfie stick (produced by multiple brands), which enables users to position their smartphone beyond arms’ reach to get better photo angles, “adds genuine value,” says Van Baker, a mobile tech analyst at the research firm Gartner. “I’ve seen a lot of people using it.”

  • The AC that Lowers Your Energy Bills

    _MG_6107.JPG
    Amy Lombard for TIME

    Quirky + GE aros / $279
    Available at quirky.com

    Americans spend more than $11 billion each year to blast their homes with air-conditioning, releasing 100 million tons of carbon dioxide into the air. Experts say a sizable portion of that is waste. IT consultant Garthen Leslie realized as much while driving to work last summer in Washington, past rows of empty-looking houses with humming window units that could not be turned on or off remotely. There had to be a better way. “So I sent an idea to Quirky,” he says, referring to the GE-backed site that turns people’s concepts into creations. Four months later, they had a prototype.

    The Aros air conditioner, which has sold nearly 50,000 units since its May 2014 release, is a provocative departure from the familiar window unit. For one thing, it’s elegant, with a sleek white exterior that’s almost Apple-esque. It’s smart too. Thanks to a companion mobile app, Aros can track owners’ movements via GPS and turn itself on and off depending on their proximity to home. It also tells people exactly how much money they’re spending to cool their residences. That’s how Quirky knows it’s working: so far, the company says, Aros owners who use the “smart away” feature that turns the unit on and off automatically have trimmed their energy use by nearly 10%.

  • The Prison Room that Helps Inmates Relax

    Illustrations by Muti for TIME

    “Blue Room”
    Developed by Snake River Correctional Institution in Oregon

    For 23 hours a day, the 200 inmates in solitary confinement at Oregon’s largest prison see nothing but a tiny, white-walled cell—an experience some research suggests can heighten mental illness and make prisoners prone to suicide attempts and violence. Last year, officials began letting some of them spend their free hour in a first-of-its-kind “blue room,” an exercise space where a projector plays video of open deserts, streaming waterfalls and other outdoor scenes. That imagery, says creator Nalini Nadkarni, who studies how nature affects behavior, is designed to calm prisoners, “much in the way we walk through a park” to relax. Inmates have responded so well that guards now use blue-room time as a way to pre-empt bad behavior.

  • The Tablet Toy that Gets Physical

    justin fantl

    Osmo / $79
    Available at playosmo.com

    Like many kids, Pramod Sharma’s daughter loves the iPad. But “when her face is glued to the screen, six inches away, all day long—I wasn’t too happy,” he says. (Studies have shown that too much screen time can lead to attention problems and obesity.) So the ex-Google engineer and his former colleague, Jérôme Scholler, devised a way to bring virtual play back into the real world. Osmo’s “reflective AI” attachment enables the iPad camera to interpret physical objects—allowing kids to mimic an onscreen pattern with colored tiles, for example, and get rewarded for doing it correctly (while also refining their motor skills). The toy, which debuted in October, has helped Osmo raise $14.5 million in capital and is now being sold in the Apple Store. “Many kids can play at once,” says Sharma, “so it becomes more interactive and imaginative.”

  • The Coaching Basketball

    Justin Fantl for TIME

    94fifty smart sensor / $200
    Available at 94fifty.com

    In sports training, as in business, there’s no more valuable asset than data. That’s why hoops pros use high-tech equipment to monitor everything from passing patterns to fatigue levels. This basketball aims to re-create those perks for casual players. It comes embedded with nine sensors and a Bluetooth chip that sends performance data to a mobile app—allowing players to measure, say, the arc of their jumpshot. If something’s off during game play, the voice of a coach (via the app) can even implore you to “go faster” or “snap your wrist.” “We get excited when we see someone improve,” says Michael Crowley, whose company, InfoMotion Sports Technologies Inc., makes the 94Fifty Smart Sensor. And apparently, that’s happening a lot: Crowley says InfoMotion has sold close to 100,000 balls.

  • Wrappers You Can Eat

    IMG_0445lo(2).JPG
    Tara Johnson for TIME

    Wikipearls / $4 for a pack of two
    Available at select Whole Foods

    “Edible wrapper” sounds like an oxymoron—unless you’re WikiFoods founder David Edwards, who has devised a way to encase yogurt, cheese, ice cream and more in shells strong enough to hold their shape (in water, heat and cold) until you take your first bite. The secret lies in science: Each shell is made of particles of dried fruit or other natural substances that are tiny enough to be electrically attracted to one another; they are combined with calcium and sugar to strengthen the form. Though the frozen-yogurt Pearls—the first WikiFoods product to reach mainstream stores, thanks to deals with Stonyfield and Whole Foods—are still packaged in biodegradable bags of two, Edwards’ ultimate goal is to sell them à la carte, like apples or peanuts, in an effort to reduce the world’s packaging waste.

  • Screens that Showcase Digital Art

    Illustrations by Muti for TIME

    Electric objects / $399 per frame
    Preorder at electricobjects.com

    “There are so many artists” making beautiful works on and for computers, says digital artist Jake Levine, referencing the burgeoning Tumblr community (among others). But putting that art on physical walls has been nearly impossible. Levine’s Electric Objects, which has raised almost $3 million in funding, aims to change that. The sleek, 22-by-13-in. flatscreens are wired specifically to display art. Their brightness dims in tandem with sunlight, and their matte finish blocks glare so they resemble actual paintings. And a companion smartphone app lets users switch what is displayed on a whim—eventually, Levine hopes, from a marketplace full of digital artwork.

  • Action Figures that Empower Girls

    justin fantl

    IAmelemental / $65 for a set of 7
    Available at iamelemental.com

    Studies have shown that girls’ career ambitions can be heavily influenced by their playthings. But when moms Dawn Nadeau and Julie Kerwin started searching for female action figures that were athletic and empowering—as opposed to dolls like Barbie, most of which cannot even bend their limbs—they were dismayed to find … none. (Well, aside from “hypersexualized figures for adult male collectors,” says Nadeau.) So using funds they raised on Kickstarter—$162,906 to be exact, more than quadruple their goal—they designed and commissioned a firm to build their IAmElemental series of action figures, meant to portray women as heroes with strong personalities. Each figure embodies a different “element” of heroism, like persistence or honesty. “The idea that girls could save the world—that’s a very powerful fantasy,” says Nadeau.

    Corrections appended Nov. 20, 2014, to clarify the title of WikiFoods founder David Edwards and funding figures for the Copenhagen Wheel and Electric Objects.

    Read next: 5 Unique Winter Warming Gadgets for Under $50

TIME Security

London Police and NYC Prosecutors to Swap Staff in Cybercrime Fight

Cybercrime costs the United Kingdom some $40 billion a year, and the United States more than double that

Leading prosecutors in New York and London police plan to embed staff in each others’ offices, officials said Wednesday, increasing transatlantic collaboration in an effort to combat cybercrime.

The New York County District Attorney’s Office and the City of London Police will exchange one staff member each this spring, with the intention that the program will likely expand in the future.

The New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. made the announcement at a Wednesday cybersecurity symposium at the New York Federal Reserve, where Adrian Leppard, City of London’s police commissioner, gave a keynote address.

The goal, officials said, is to expand joint cyber investigations in two of the largest financial centers in the world, where firms are ripe targets for cyber criminals. “The same people that are hitting us in New York are very likely hitting Adrian in London,” Vance said. “A collaboration between our two agencies would make really good sense from an investigative standpoint and also make sense from a security standpoint.”

Leppard said that cybercrime costs the United Kingdom some $40 billion a year, and the United States more than double that.

The two offices worked closely together this summer to break up an international ring of hackers that attacked over 1,600 StubHub users’ accounts and purchased more than $1 million in tickets.

MORE: Here’s How Hackers Stole Over $1 Million From 1,600 StubHub Users

“Our international partnerships, in particular our ongoing collaboration with Commissioner Leppard and the City of London Police, reflect a changing landscape and the understanding that cybercriminal attacks will not be limited by state or national borders,” Vance said.

TIME Companies

Amazon Vows to Run Its Cloud Entirely on Renewable Energy

Operations At An Amazon.com Inc. Fulfillment Centre And An Argos Distribution Warehouse On Cyber Monday
An employee walks over a logo on the floor of Amazon's fulfillment centers in Rugeley, U.K., on Dec. 2, 2013 Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

It's a major commitment for the world's biggest cloud-computing company

Amazon on Wednesday vowed to run its cloud-computing division completely on renewable energy, following in the footsteps of tech giants Apple, Google and Facebook in making a comprehensive environmental pledge regarding its data services.

The company said that its web-services segment would aim to achieve 100% renewable-energy usage in its global infrastructure footprint, but didn’t set a deadline for achieving that goal. Amazon is the largest cloud-computing company in the world, and its web-services segment has been offering IT infrastructure to businesses since 2006. Netflix, Spotify and Pinterest all use the Amazon cloud, among other top websites.

Amazon Web Services already uses 15% clean energy, according to a Greenpeace study released in April. That’s less than Google, Facebook and Microsoft, though Amazon has disputed the accuracy of Greenpeace’s report.

It may take years for Amazon to implement its clean-energy policy, as it will be costly to move the large amounts of energy consumed by the company’s cloud to renewables. Facebook, for instance, said that only 25% of its power would come from renewable sources by 2015.

Amazon Web Services’s U.S. West (Oregon) region was carbon neutral as early as 2011, and three other Amazon regions are carbon neutral today as well.

TIME Media

Spotify Streams Will Soon Be Included on the Billboard Charts

SWEDEN-MUSIC-COMPANY-SPOTIFY
This photo illustration shows the Swedish music streaming service Spotify on March 7, 2013 in Stockholm, Sweden. Jonathan Nackstrand—AFP/Getty Images

1,500 streams will count as a sale

Streams from music streaming services like Spotify will soon be included on the charts that rank music album sales.

Billboard and Nielsen SoundScan will begin including streams in the rankings of the Billboard 200, the album charts that are the weekly benchmark for success in the music industry, The New York Times reported Wednesday. The new ranking formula will equate 1,500 streams from an album on services like Spotify, Beats Music and Rhapsody as a sale. Online downloads of ten or more individual tracks by consumers will also be counted as an album sale.

The inclusion of more digital services will likely help move acts that appeal to younger audiences further up the charts. Legacy acts whose audiences mostly buy CDs, however, could be negatively affected.

The music charts are increasingly being influenced by online music services. Last year, Billboard announced that it would begin including music streams in its Hot 100 ranking of the most popular singles.

[New York Times]

TIME Companies

Yahoo Will Be Firefox’s Default Search Engine Until 2019

A screen displays the logo of the open-s
A screen displays the logo of the open-source web browser Firefox on July 31, 2009, in London. Leon Neal—AFP/Getty Images

"Most significant partnership for Yahoo in five years"

Yahoo and Mozilla have announced a strategic five-year partnership making Yahoo the default search engine for the Firefox browser, according to a Wednesday statement on Mozilla’s blog.

The agreement, called “the most significant partnership for Yahoo in five years,” will introduce an enhanced search experience featuring a “clean, modern and immersive design” for U.S. Firefox users starting next month. The partnership will also open up the door to explore other product integrations between the Internet company and the Internet browser.

“We’re so proud that [Mozilla has] chosen us as their long-term partner in search, and I can’t wait to see what innovations we build together,” said Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer in the statement. “At Yahoo, we believe deeply in search – it’s an area of investment, opportunity and growth for us.”

 

TIME Smartphones

Here’s What Happens to Your Spine When You’re Constantly Texting

Spine Phone Texting
Kenneth Hansraj

A spinal surgeon explains why your cell phone habits are hurting your neck

Your Candy Crush addiction might be harming your neck more than your productivity, according to new research.

Looking down at your phone can add up to 60 pounds of pressure on your spine, depending on the angle. That’s according to a new study from spinal surgeon Dr. Kenneth Hansraj and published in Surgical Technology International.

People spend two to four hours per day on average with their heads tilted downward in activities like texting and reading, the study said. Over the course of a year, that time adds up to 700 to 1,400 hours of excess stress on the cervical spine, or up to 5,000 hours for high school students. Over time, this causes a hunched-forward position and increases the risk of spinal wear and tear.

It’s “nearly impossible to avoid the technologies that cause these issues,” Dr. Hansraj wrote in the report. But people can take preventative steps by looking at their phones while maintaining good posture, defined as having one’s ears aligned with their shoulders.

 

TIME Retail

Shoppers Just Don’t Care About Credit Card Hacks

Major Retailers Begin Black Friday Sales Thanksgiving Night
People shop at a Target on Thanksgiving night November 22, 2012 in Highland, Indiana. Tasos Katopodis—Getty Images

Target and Home Depot both reported great earnings reports this week

If Target and The Home Depot are still reeling from the collective breach of 96 million customers’ credit and debit cards, it didn’t show in either company’s earnings reports this week.

Target posted $17.73 billion in revenue on Wednesday, beating one Wall Street consensus forecast by $17 million. That paled in comparison to Home Depot’s rosy earnings report on Tuesday, which showed store sales in the U.S. climbed by 5.8% in the third quarter. Breaches? What breaches?

Target’s dataclysm receded into the rear view mirror as the company revealed that expenses related to a credit card data breach late last year had plateaued at $153 million. The market rallied around its stock, driving up the share price by more than 6%. The Home Depot’s breach, though, was bigger and more recent. The verdict?

“We believe the breach is firmly behind [Home Depot] with momentum heading into 4Q,” wrote J.P. Morgan analyst Christophers Horvers. That assessment comes two months after Home Depot’s September announcement that 56 million credit card accounts had been hacked and upwards of 53 million email addresses were stolen. The only major business fallout for the company, as far as analysts could detect, was a curious blip in traffic toward Home Depot’s chief competitor, Lowe’s. “Perhaps the breach provided some traffic benefit,” Horvers speculated, before moving onto the retailer’s solid sales growth.

If neither shoppers nor shareholders ultimately punish big businesses for data breaches, will companies move to prevent them before they occur?

“In the end, the market’s behaving completely rationally,” says Avivah Litan, a security analyst for Gartner. “It’s still a pain in the neck for everyone, but there’s very little actual fraud committed as a result of these breaches.”

Litan says that hackers like those who pilfered credit card numbers at Target and Home Depot typically have a very short window of opportunity — less than one month — to rack up fraudulent charges before banks detect the suspicious activity. These heists tend to run in the range of $10 million, and shoppers rarely ever bear the costs. Instead, banks split the sum with the affected retailer, where any remaining cash vanishes into the fine print of the company’s quarterly earnings reports.

The real question, then, is why credit card hacks continue to make front page news. In the grand scheme of online theft, Litan says, what happened to Target and Home Depot shoppers is small potatoes — identity thieves have pulled off heists at ten times the scale of credit card fraud by going after medical and tax records. However, credit card hacks on retailers get lots of public attention because so many people can be affected so quickly.

“Stealing 50 million cards is just as easy as stealing 100 cards,” Litan says. The sheer number of stolen cards conjures up an image of a whole nation of shoppers exposed and helpless. But these crime stories tend to end with about as much drama as a third quarter earnings report.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser