The state of California sued the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on Friday, demanding to see the data and research that was used to inform the Trump administration’s latest attempt to roll back future fuel economy standards.
Specifically, the Golden State asked to see all “documents concerning vehicle-fleet composition, new car sales, vehicle safety, battery technology, and other information that NHTSA and EPA used in proposing to roll back vehicle emission and fuel economy standards.”
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in September 2018 to both the EPA and the NHTSA. In its recent complaint, CARB says that NHTSA responded to the FOIA with incomplete information and with inadequate justifications for why it held back what it did. The EPA failed to reply at all, California’s complaint says (PDF).
Tunisian human rights activist Amira Yahyaoui couldn’t go to college.
Not because she couldn’t afford it; where she comes from, college is virtually free. She lost the opportunity to pursue higher education, to finish high school, even, when she was exiled from Tunisia at age 17, under the repressive regime of the country’s former President, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
As part of the Tunisian human rights diaspora, she was inspired to build Al Bawsala, a globally renowned NGO that fights for government accountability, transparency and access to information. Now, Yahyaoui has traveled thousands of miles to San Francisco to fight another battle near and dear to her heart: civic education, or in Silicon Valley terms, edtech.
“I always knew that I wouldn’t allow myself to do anything else before solving the problem in my country and today, Tunisia is the only Arab democracy in the world,” Yahyaoui told TechCrunch.
With that in mind, her focus has shifted to Mos, a tech-enabled platform for students to apply for financial aid. With backing from Uber co-founder Garrett Camp, his startup studio Expa, Kleiner Perkins chairman John Doerr, Base Ventures, Sweet Capital and others, Mos has closed a $4 million seed round and plans to take its recently-launched product to the next level.
The startup seeks to decrease American student debt, which totaled nearly $1.6 trillion in 2018, and digitize the antiquated government systems that deter students from applying for financial aid. For a one-time fee of $149 and about 20 minutes of their time, Mos helps students of all backgrounds maximize their aid awards.
“Our mission is to bridge the gap between citizens and government in a way that works with technology today,” Yahyaoui said.
Yahyaoui is applying what she’s learned building a government-fighting NGO to the startup world, and with the support of top-tier investors, she’s well on her way to proving an “uneducated” immigrant woman of color can write a Silicon Valley success story for the masses.
A face of the Arab Spring
Mos founder and chief executive officer Amira Yahyaoui.
After being forced out of her home country, Yahyaoui fled to France, where she lived as an illegal immigrant and continued to fight against Tunisia’s authoritarian leadership through her blog and an anti-censorship campaign she started online.
When social media sparked anti-government protests across the Middle East, Yahyaoui, still unable to reenter Tunisia, became a face of what was later called the Arab Spring. Her digital prowess, activist reputation and persistent efforts to highlight the Tunisian administration’s human rights abuses quickly made her a face of the movement.
On January 14, 2011, when the protests succeeded in making Tunisia a pioneer of Arab democracy and ended Ben Ali’s reign, Yahyaoi got her passport back and went home, immediately.
Back in Tunisia with newfound freedom, she had an agenda: To hold the governing agency charged with writing a new Tunisian constitution accountable.
Yahyaoui built Al Bawsala, translated as The Compass, an NGO focused on transparency and government accountability. Al Bawsala became one of the largest NGOs in the Middle East, a bona fide success that attracted numerous awards and cemented Yahyaoui’s status as a fearless advocate for human rights, a freedom fighter and one of the most influential Arab women in the world.
“I had to work probably 10 times harder to get to be the self-educated me I am today,” she said. “I saw way too many people getting their education refused and therefore their future ruined.”
Her global standing earned her a seat on the board of the United Nation’s High Commissioner For Refugees Advisory Group on Gender, Forced Displacement, and Protection, as well as the title of Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum and co-chair of the Davos Conference in 2016, a title she shard with Microsoft’s Satya Nadella and GM’s Mary Barra .
Three years later, with a resume enviable to any dignitary, Yahyaoui is leveraging her unique experience to lure in venture capitalists and use their cash for good.
Repairing a broken financial aid system
The Mos dashboard.
Mos is like if Turbo Tax married Typeform and had a baby, Yahyaoui explained. Not dissimilar to Common App, Mos lets students apply to more than 500 federal and state-based aid programs in minutes using a survey that matches them to every grant and scholarship program they qualify for, while simultaneously completing the FAFSA and state aid applications. To ensure every family is getting the most financial support possible, a Mos financial aid advisor reviews each case and negotiates with colleges for higher awards.
“Today, the biggest problem is people think they are not eligible for financial aid just because of how the thing is designed,” Yahyaoui said. “You’re supposed to just go ahead and fill a form that has 200 questions and then send it like a bottle in the sea and wait for months.”
Mos will complete a full-scale launch this summer and eventually tackle other nation’s college financial aid systems thanks to the new infusion of capital and the high-profile relationships Yahyaoui has forged in just one year living in the Bay Area.
Ultimately, it was Yahyaoui’s activism that granted her a ticket into the opaque world of Silicon Valley VC. As it turns out, angel investor Khaled Helioui, a fellow Tunisian immigrant in tech, was familiar with Yahyaoui’s work and when he heard she had relocated to the Bay Area to launch a technology startup, he wanted to know exactly what she was building. Today, he’s a Mos investor and board member and it was his introductions that helped Yahyaoui quickly and skillfully close her seed round.
An early angel investor in Uber, Helioui connected Yahyaoui with his friend Garrett Camp, the very wealthy co-founder and chairman of the ride-hailing giant, who was sold on Mos’s mission right off the bat.
“I think because Garrett is an immigrant, he knows what it is to suffer with bureaucracy,” Yahyaoui said. “He was a huge believer. He actually made it so easy for me because he said, okay, here’s an office, just stay and work.”
She was then introduced to John Doerr, the chairman of the esteemed VC firm Kleiner Perkins, known for his successful bets on companies like Google and Amazon. With Camp and Doerr on board, Mos didn’t struggle to raise additional capital; in fact, Yahyaoui was in an unusual position of being able to reject investors whose values and vision for Mos clearly didn’t align with hers.
Tearing down barriers
Yahyaoui, center, with the Mos team in San Francisco.
Yahyaoui isn’t in the startup business to get rich off students trying to navigate their way through the absorbently expensive process of applying to and attending college. She’s part of a growing class of founders out to prove that you can pair profits with good morals and lead venture-backed values-based businesses.
“I know if I created the same thing as an NGO, I could have already raised $100 million, but I like the accountability of business,” she said. “We can create businesses that are good for people.”
Yahyaoui’s story, from being exiled from her home country at a young age to fighting an authoritarian regime is not one that’s ever been told before in Silicon Valley.
In addition to being a trailblazing human rights advocate, she’s a woman, an immigrant, “uneducated” by Silicon Valley standards and a first-time tech founder that was able to walk into a meeting with John Doerr and walk out with a term sheet.
If she’s successful in building a global edtech business, she’ll be emblematic of the meritocratic culture The Valley has falsely claimed to uphold. Even if she’s not successful, she’ll have torn down barriers for other underrepresented founders and written a success story fitting for this new era of accountability in tech.
The HomeKit ecosystem may seem daunting and confusing if you’re unfamiliar with smart home products, their functionality, and their benefits, but getting started is actually simple and straightforward.
Learning the ins and outs of HomeKit after setup does take a bit of effort, but it’s not a difficult process and having interlinked electronics that can interact with each other and be automated can save time and really streamline your life.
What is HomeKit?
HomeKit is Apple’s smart home platform, which is designed to let you control various internet-connected home devices — ranging from thermostats and plugs to window blinds, light bulbs, and more — with Apple devices.
These days, more and more products are internet connected, which is why you’ve heard the phrase “Internet of Things.”
The Internet of Things is a confusing mix of “smart” products that connect to the internet and can be controlled by a range of different platforms, from Amazon’s Alexa to Google Home to Samsung SmartThings.
HomeKit is Apple’s “Internet of Things” solution that connects HomeKit-enabled smart accessories together in a way that lets you operate them using your Apple products.
What You Can Do With HomeKit
HomeKit isn’t a product or software, it’s a framework that links smart home products together and adds new capabilities to devices like lights, locks, cameras, thermostats, plugs, and more.
HomeKit lets you control smart home products using apps on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac, or simple Siri voice commands.
While controlling smart home products with Siri or with an iPhone is convenient, the real magic of HomeKit comes when you have multiple HomeKit-enabled products because you can control them all at once using scenes or set up automations so that they activate automatically.
You can, for example, create a “Good night” scene that makes sure the doors are locked, closes the garage, turns off the lights, lowers the thermostat, and then activates a night light whenever motion is detected. With automation, you can set individual HomeKit devices to come on or off at specific times, or you can set entire scenes, like the aforementioned “Good night” scene to come on at a set time.
HomeKit setups, scenes, and automations can be as complex or as simple as you like, and now that HomeKit is in its fifth year of availability, there are all kinds of HomeKit products you can purchase. With a bit of time and some money, you can have a whole smart home ecosystem that’s streamlined, automated, and easy to control.
Setting It Up
Getting started with HomeKit is as simple as purchasing a HomeKit-enabled device, whether it be a smart plug, light bulb, AirPlay 2 speaker, Apple TV, HomePod, thermostat, or something else.
From there, open up the “Home” app, which comes pre-installed on all iOS devices. Tap on the “Add Accessory” button that’s on the main screen of the Home app, and then follow the steps after it opens up to the rear camera.
All HomeKit products come with a HomeKit QR code on them, which you need to scan with the camera. Scanning the HomeKit code adds a device to the HomeKit framework, and then you can follow a few additional steps to assign it to a room, a necessary step for organizing your HomeKit devices.
Types of HomeKit Devices
There are all kinds of HomeKit devices on the market, some that are more capable than others. The following HomeKit categories are available:
Apple maintains a full list of HomeKit-compatible devices on its website, complete with links, so this is the best place to get an overview of all of the different HomeKit devices that you can put in your home.
Smart home devices that are compatible with HomeKit will have “Works with Apple Homekit” labeling on the packaging to make it clear that they support HomeKit.
Security and privacy are topics that Apple takes seriously, and thus every manufacturer that creates a HomeKit-compatible device has to follow Apple’s security guidelines, better ensuring your devices are safe from hackers.
Apple’s commitment to privacy and demand that HomeKit products be secure is reassuring at a time when our homes are filled with smart devices that can hear us and see us.
For a long time, Apple required all HomeKit products to include a hardware-based HomeKit authentication coprocessor for HomeKit certification, and many HomeKit devices continue to offer this. In 2017, Apple began allowing manufacturers to obtain HomeKit certification with software-based authentication, but HomeKit is no less secure as a result.
All HomeKit devices use the same security features, including end-to-end encryption, non-reusable encryption keys, and two-way authentication (Apple verifies your HomeKit device and your HomeKit device verifies your Apple device) when connecting to a HomeKit setup.
A HomeKit camera, for example, sends video and audio streams directly to an iOS device and those streams are encrypted using randomly generated keys to prevent someone from intercepting your video feed.
All HomeKit data stored on your devices is fully encrypted, and HomeKit syncing between devices is done via iCloud and iCloud Keychain, both of which have their own security. Apple also must approve each and every device that gets the HomeKit labeling. In a nutshell, Apple has worked to make HomeKit a secure smart home platform that people can trust.
HomeKit is not without its bugs, though, and there have been some security snafus. In December 2017, there was a bug that left HomeKit accessories vulnerable to unauthorized access, but Apple was quick to fix it.
For those interested, the nitty gritty details about HomeKit security are available in Apple’s iOS Security Guide and are well worth checking out if you have security concerns about using smart home devices. [PDF]
Solving HomeKit Connectivity Problems
When using HomeKit devices, you might sometimes see an error that a device is unreachable in the Home app or have other problems connecting to a HomeKit product.
The Home app, and most HomeKit apps that accompany HomeKit products, provide very little info on why a HomeKit product isn’t working properly or connecting to your network, which can make troubleshooting HomeKit issues frustrating.
There are a few basic steps you can follow that will sometimes solve connectivity issues.
Make sure the HomeKit device has power, is turned on, and is in range of your router if it’s a Wi-Fi device.
Turn the HomeKit device off, wait a good 10 seconds, and turn it back off. Do the same thing with your iPhone or other device you’re attempting to use with HomeKit.
Check the Wi-Fi connection and reset your router. Make sure your iOS device is up to date, connected to the internet, and that you’re signed into iCloud.
Make sure your HomeKit device is on the right Wi-Fi band. There are a lot of HomeKit devices that are 2.4GHz while most devices connect to 5GHz networks, and that can sometimes cause problems. If you have a 2.4GHz accessory, make sure it’s on the 2.4GHz network. Steps for this will vary based on your setup.
Remove the device from HomeKit in the Home app and then re-add it by scanning it. For some HomeKit products, this is probably a last resort step because it eliminates scenes and automations.
Remove the device from HomeKit and reset it. This is a step that’s necessary when removing some HomeKit devices from a HomeKit setup. You’re going to need to consult the manual of your device because resetting is different on every product.
If none of these steps work, you’re going to want to contact the support staff for whichever product you’re having problems with to get further information on what to do for troubleshooting purposes.
Many HomeKit manufacturers have online troubleshooting databases, so in some cases, you can just Google for a solution.
There are more drastic steps to take, such as logging in and out of iCloud or resetting your entire HomeKit setup, but we recommend contacting a manufacturer before trying these last resort options just because of the hassle involved.
Have a setup question or a HomeKit issue you just can’t figure out? You might want to check out the HomeKit forums on the MacRumors site for additional help. There are quite a few HomeKit users on the forums, and most people are happy to help.
Want to offer feedback on this guide, ask for feature additions, or point out an error? Send us an email here.
The case follows a Chinese national, Yujing Zhang, who is accused of trying to sneak into President Trump’s private Florida resort Mar-a-Largo last month. She was caught by the Secret Service with four cellphones, a laptop, cash, an external hard drive, and a signals detector to spot hidden cameras, and a thumb drive.
The arrest sparked new concerns about the president’s security amid concerns that foreign governments have tried to infiltrate the resort.
Allegations aside and notwithstanding, what sent alarm bells ringing was how the Secret Service handled the USB drive — which cannot be understated — were not good.
Secret Service agent Samuel Ivanovich, who interviewed Zhang on the day of her arrest, testified at the hearing. He stated that when another agent put Zhang’s thumb-drive into his computer, it immediately began to install files, a “very out-of-the-ordinary” event that he had never seen happen before during this kind of analysis. The agent had to immediately stop the analysis to halt any further corruption of his computer, Ivanovich said. The analysis is ongoing but still inconclusive, he testified.
What’s the big deal, you might think? You might not think it but USB keys are a surprisingly easy and effective way to install malware — or even destroy computers. In 2016, security researcher Elie Bursztein found dropping malware-laden USB sticks was an “effective” way of tricking someone into plugging it into their computer. As soon as the drive plugs in, it can install malware that can remotely surveil and control the affected device — and spread throughout a network. Some USB drives can even fry the innards of some computers.
A Secret Service spokesperson said the device was “standalone,” but wouldn’t be pressed on details. It remains unknown why the agent “immediately” pulled out the drive in a panic.
It didn’t take long for security folks to seize on the security snafu.
Jake Williams, founder of Rendition Infosec and former NSA hacker, criticized the agent’s actions “threatened his own computing system and possibly the rest of the Secret Service network.”
“It’s entirely possible that the sensitivities over determining whether Zhang was targeting Mar-a-Lago or the president — or whether she was a legitimate guest or member — may have contributed to the agent’s actions on the ground,” he said, “Never before has the Secret Service had to deal with this type of scenario and they’re probably still working out the playbook.”
Williams said the best way to forensically examine a suspect USB drive is by plugging the device into an isolated Linux-based computer that doesn’t automatically mount the drive to the operating system.
“We would then create a forensic image of the USB and extract any malware for analysis in the lab,” he said. “While there is still a very small risk that the malware targets Linux, that’s not the normal case.”
Apple today released updated developer documentation letting developers know that as of macOS 10.14.5, all new software distributed with a new Developer ID must be notarized in order to run.
Apple plans to make notarization a default requirement for all software in the future.
Beginning in macOS 10.14.5, all new or updated kernel extensions and all software from developers new to distributing with Developer ID must be notarized in order to run. In a future version of macOS, notarization will be required by default for all software.
Notarization is a new concept introduced in macOS Mojave for apps distributed outside of the Mac App Store with the aim of protecting users from malicious Mac apps.
Mac app developers are encouraged to submit their apps to Apple to be notarized, and an Apple-notarized app includes a more streamlined Gatekeeper dialog to reassure users that an app is not known malware.
Apple provides trusted non Mac App Store developers with Developer IDs that are required to allow the Gatekeeper function on macOS to install non Mac App Store apps without extra warnings, but notarization takes it one step further.
With the new requirement in macOS 10.14.5, developers who are new to distributing Mac apps with a Developer ID will need to go through the notarization process for their apps to work on the Mac.
Apple late last year said that it would begin highlighting notarization status “more prominently” starting in spring 2019, and macOS 10.14.5 is apparently the update where that will begin happening.
The notarization process is designed for non Mac App Store apps and is not required for those that are submitted to the Mac App Store. More information on notarization can be found on Apple’s developer site.