A New Google Chrome Extension Can Make Sure Your Passwords Are Safe

iStock.com/ymgerman
iStock.com/ymgerman

Password hacks and other security breaches have become an unfortunate and frequent headline in recent years, with massive amounts of data being compromised. In 2018 alone, Facebook saw the personal details of 30 million of its users stolen. At this stage, it's becoming more unusual not to have at least one online account associated with a privacy disruption.

A new update for the Google Chrome browser may be able to keep you better informed of breaches and possible risks to your personal information. Dubbed Password Checkup, the extension matches your login credentials against a database of known compromised usernames and passwords. If your sign-in is no longer secure, you'll receive a warning to change your identification.

The obvious question is whether Password Checkup risks a security breach itself by regularly analyzing your username and password data. Google says that the information transmitted is encrypted and that the company neither recognizes nor retains any of your login data.

Password Checkup might be the most convenient way of keeping track of any compromised passwords, but it's not the only one. We previously told you about Pwned Passwords, a searchable database of vulnerable passwords, and advised on the use of password managers, which can use complex credentials that aren't as vulnerable to leaks.

Google relies on a pool of more than 4 billion compromised usernames and passwords for its security alerts. (The company, for the record, says it never pays for access to stolen credentials.) But it is by no means a definitive list. WIRED reporter Lily Hay Newman tested an account she knew had been exposed in a breach: Password Checkup didn't flag it.

While likely a valuable tool, Password Checkup and applications like it should be part of a multi-tiered approach to security that includes a strong—and unique—password for each site.

[h/t The Verge]

These ASMR-Ready Headphones Promise to Lull You to Sleep

AcousticSheep
AcousticSheep

What do hushed whispers, gently tapping fingernails, and Bob Ross’s voice have in common? They’re all examples of triggers that may cause what’s known as an autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), or, as Dictionary.com succinctly explains it, a “calming, pleasurable feeling often accompanied by a tingling sensation” that can be triggered by soothing stimuli. ASMR has recently been recognized as an effective relaxation technique for those looking to calm their nerves; now, ASMR enthusiasts and novices alike can experience it in the form of a sleep-ready headband.

Upon first glance, SleepPhones: ASMR Edition may look like just a fabric headband, but the device actually features flat speakers tucked into soft, stretchy, eco-friendly material. Unlike regular headphones, SleepPhones can be worn comfortably to bed, even if you sleep on your side, and they come preloaded with content designed to help you relax. They feature eight hours of built-in ASMR content by 16 different ASMR artists (or ASMRtists), including but not limited to tracks with rhythmic tapping and "peaceful Italian whisperings."

A close-up of the SleepPhones speaker technology
AcousticSheep

The speaker components of SleepPhones
AcousticSheep

Using SleepPhones is designed to be a stress-free experience. The speakers have the ability to play for 20 ad-free hours with a mere three-hour charging time in between. There are also zero cords involved, meaning you won’t get all tangled up as you lie down or if you have a tendency to toss and turn at night. The small button located in the back of the headband allows you to start, pause, or skip tracks and control the volume.

For people looking for ways to relax beyond yoga and meditation, ASMR may be the way to go. One study observed that subjects watching ASMR videos not only reported feeling that aforementioned pleasant tingling, but were also found to have reduced heart rates.

You can get a pair of your own SleepPhones on Kickstarter with a pledge of $75 or more. They come in three different sizes with seven colors from which to choose.

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The UK Wants to Use 'Noise Cameras' to Crack Down on Loud Cars and Bikes

iStock/Ales-A
iStock/Ales-A

Snarled traffic creates more than air pollution. Thanks to modified engines, mufflers, and exhaust systems on cars and motorcycles, congested roadways can become symphonies of belching and rattling. Now, the UK government is looking to do something about it.

According to the BBC, the Department for Transport is currently testing “acoustic cameras” that will measure the decibel levels of vehicles on public roads. If a microphone detects a vehicle producing an excessive amount of noise, a camera will photograph the source and the owner will be fined.

What defines excessive? That remains to be seen. The UK enacted a law in 2016 limiting new cars to no more than 74 decibels. It's primarily older cars and modified motorbikes that create noise disturbances and prompt complaints from people living nearby.

The trial equipment will also need to prove it can identify one vehicle's noise emissions from another's and single out cars from other possible sources of sound. If the trial results are promising, it's likely the "acoustic cameras" will be policing UK roads in the near future.

[h/t Jalopnik]

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