Help This Email Bot Distract Scammers From Targeting Real Humans

iStock
iStock

Each year, online phishing scams cost Americans roughly half a billion dollars in stolen cash. One way to protect yourself is to train your eye to recognize fraudulent emails and delete them once they enter your inbox, but some experts recommend a more proactive way to deal with scammers: Engage with them. The idea is that the more time they spend answering your questions, the less time they’ll have to prey upon more susceptible victims. Sounds like a smart plan, but few people have the time or the patience to tackle the flood of spam they receive one message at a time. That’s why a New Zealand-based nonprofit developed a bot to help the cause.

According to Co.Design, Re:scam from Netsafe is designed to keep the person at the other end of the email chain distracted for as long as possible. Web users wishing to get in on the fun can forward their scam emails to me@rescam.org. From there, an artificially intelligent bot takes over the conversation. It’s programmed to ask questions that make it seem like an interested and naive respondent—a scammer’s preferred victim. But as the sample emails show, the scam never moves forward.

“Did I tell you I was moving?" the bot writes when it's asked to send its address. "We fell out with the landlord. Apparently we’re not allowed to have indoor plants in the attic cos it’s a fire hazard." It might offer to send Chevron petrol vouchers in place of cash, or to email a bank account number one digit at a time for security’s sake. It’s also capable of making bad jokes and typos just like a real person. “I understand the urgency. Time is money as they say. Does that make ATM’s time machine? Just a thought I had,” one response reads.

At some point the scammers will realize they’re being played and stop replying, but not before they’ve lost time that could have been spent going after someone else. So far, over 50,000 emails have been sent by Re:scam. All the while, the nonprofit has been analyzing the messages it receives so the data can be used to better fight scammers in the future.

If you’re lucky enough to have your inbox free of messages asking you to wire money to Nigerian princes, you can watch the video below to see how the technology works.

[h/t Co.Design]

How to Rig Your Android Phone to Play Old Floppy Disk Games

iStock
iStock

Owning a smartphone means you have thousands of games at your fingertips, but capturing the nostalgia of playing a game saved on a floppy disk isn't as simple as downloading an app. Reviving floppy disk games for the smartphone era is a bit more complicated, and YouTube vintage video game reviewer LGR shows you just how to do it step by step.

In this video, spotted by Kotaku, LGR takes an old floppy disk, the same kind you used in your computer class at school, and uses it to play a classic video game on a smartphone. This is made possible with an Android phone, a USB connector, an Android USB adaptor, and a portable floppy disk drive that's about as big as the phone itself. (The hardware doesn't work for iPhones, but if you're an Apple user there are plenty of ways to play old PC games online).

Just inserting the disk into the drive when it's connected to your phone isn't enough to start playing: You need to download a special app that mimics Microsoft's old disk operating system, like Magic Dosbox, for example. Once you have that on your phone, you can use it to open whatever game is saved to your floppy disk.

Because old PC games weren't made for touchscreens, the smartphone gameplay can be a little be a little awkward—but if you're willing to hook a floppy disk drive up to your phone, convenience likely isn't your goal. You can watch LGR's full instructions in the video below.

[h/t Kotaku]

The Blue Light Emanating From Your Smartphone Could Ruin Your Eyes

iStock
iStock

We already know that the blue light from our devices is a major contributor to insomnia. Now, a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports suggests that our ubiquitous screens pose an even more insidious threat. As Business Insider reports, looking at blue light all day can speed up the process that causes blindness.

For the study, researchers from the University of Toledo shined blue light—the same kind that emanates from smartphones, laptops, and tablets—directly onto eye cells. They found that the light transformed retinal molecules in the eye's photoreceptors into molecules that were toxic to the cells around them. The new, mutated retinal dissolved the membranes of nearby photoreceptor cells, ultimately killing them. In other words: Blue light can cause serious damage to the eyes.

Macular degeneration is what happens when photoreceptor cells in the eyes break down, as was the case in the researchers' blue light experiment. Unlike other some cells, photoreceptor cells in the retina can't regenerate, so if enough of them die, it can lead to permanent vision impairment or even blindness.

This process happens naturally to some people as they age, but blue light adds an unnatural element to the equation. If you spend enough time with your eyes locked to a screen, the quality of your vision could degrade much faster than it would otherwise.

The easiest way to avoid this outcome is to look at your phone less, which is easier said than done. A more realistic resolution to make is to avoid scrolling through apps or opening your computer in the dark.

[h/t Business Insider]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER