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Rollin’ on the River
In Chicago, there exists an environmental startup
nonprofit group (501(c)( 3)) whose goals are to improve
urban waterway water quality and boost the natural
habitat within the riverbanks. The organization — known as
Urban Rivers ( urbanriv.org) — established a 600 ft floating
garden last year (the largest in the city) designed to provide
sanctuary for fish, turtles, ducks, otters, and other animals.
They are also planting a variety of native Illinois plant
This is all well and good, but the Chicago River flows
rather sluggishly, allowing it to become home to garbage,
fecal matter, and other undesirable items. Until very
recently, the Urban Rivers staff tackled the problem by
jumping into kayaks and doing a manual cleanup. This
proved unsatisfactory for many reasons, so they ingeniously
created Trashbot, which works sort of like a floating
Roomba, driving around and harvesting floating trash.
As can be seen, the prototype looks like something
concocted from pool noodles and spare parts, but the
team has visions of building a home base trash station,
installing a high power Wi-Fi station, and modifying the
design to withstand all seasons. A recent Kickstarter
campaign surpassed the goal of raising $5,000 to support
Trashbot development, but they are still happy to accept
Urban Rivers’ Trashbot.
Ransomware: Not Just for Computers
We haven’t heard of it happening in the real world
(yet), but at the last Kaspersky Security Analyst Summit
held last March in Cancun, a security researcher from IO
Active ( ioactive.com) demonstrated that robots can be
hacked to hit businesses and individuals with ransomware.
The company’s research has identified almost 50
vulnerabilities in a range of commercially available robots.
The demonstration was performed on a NAO robot from
SoftBank Robotics ( www.softbankrobotics.com), which
uses the same operating system as the better-known
The researchers uploaded ransomware to the NAO. As
a result, “by injecting custom code into any behavior file
classes, they altered the robot behaviors to be malicious.
Possible malicious behavior on an infected robot includes
complete interruptions in service, pornographic content on
the robot display, the use of curse words, even doing
violent movements. The infected robot could also be an
entryway into other internal networks at a business,
offering backdoor access to hackers and an entry point for
layer penetration to steal sensitive data.”
For those who might care, it was also noted, “In the
special case of sex robots — where privacy and intimacy are
a primary user concern — the lack of discretion when
contacting technical support, arranging pickup, and calling
customer care could incentivize users to pay a ransom for
the return of a robot rather than dealing with the
Don’t you just hate it when that happens?
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