TechMan: 'White Hat' hacker served all of us well

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White Hat down: Barnaby Jack, who died last week at the age of 35, was a good-guy hacker -- a white hat. He sought out security problems, not to exploit them for his own gain, but to expose them so they could be remedied.

His genius was finding bugs in the tiny computers embedded in equipment, such as medical devices and cash machines. At a hacker conference, he mesmerized the crowd by making an ATM spew out cash.

His work also showed that insulin pumps could be hacked to dump dangerous amounts of insulin into the blood of diabetics. The research prompted medical device maker Medtronic to revamp the way it designs its products.

Tech Talk: How safe are your credit cards?

On this week's "Tech Talk," The PG's Ced Kurtz and Laura Schneiderman talk about hackers who steal credit card numbers and sell them on the black market.(Video by Melissa Tkach; 7/29/2013)

In advance of the Black Hat hackers conference on Thursday in Las Vegas, Mr. Jack told Reuters he had devised a way to hack into a wireless communications system that linked implanted pacemakers and defibrillators with bedside monitors that gather information about their operations. The BBC reported that he said one technique could kill a man from 30 feet away.

The cause of Mr. Jack's death is pending the outcome of an autopsy but officials says there is no evidence of foul play.

The fight against bad-guy hackers has lost a good guy.

QR mania cools: Add the QR code to the list of tech innovations that never achieved their initial promise.

For a while QR codes were the craze -- little boxes filled with intricate patterns were appearing everywhere: in ads, in newspapers, including the PG, on packages and even on the sides of cars and trucks. But the ardor for them seems to have cooled.

According to the latest figures, a comScore study on QR codes, in 2011 only 6.2 percent of the total mobile audience in the United States had scanned a QR code on their mobile device.

What cripples the QR code? says, "QR fails on a couple key fronts. ... A user is forced to go through several steps to utilize a code. They must activate a QR reader, scan the code, accept, open the site -- often to discover the content delivered at the end just a shortcut to a brand website."

A classic case of too much effort for too little reward.

Money talks, privacy walks: Last week, the U.S. House voted 217 to 205 not to rein in the NSA's phone-spying dragnet. It turns out that those 217 "no" voters received twice as much campaign financing from the defense and intelligence industry as the 205 "yes" voters.

That's according to an analysis by MapLight, a Berkeley, Calif.-based nonprofit that performed the inquiry at Wired's request. The investigation shows that defense cash was a better predictor of a member's vote than party affiliation.

House members who voted to continue the program, on average, received 122 percent more money from defense contractors than those who voted to dismantle it.

Shoot a deer at Mercy Hospital from the Point: Ars Technica reports that Austin-based TrackingPoint, producers of bolt-action hunting rifles that use a large computerized scope to allow even amateurs to make shots at distances of up to 1,000 yards, plans to construct a technology demonstrator tentatively called the "Super Gun." It will have single-shot accuracy at distances of more than 3,000 yards -- about 1.7 miles.

Website of the week: is a website for user-created and uploaded do-it-yourself projects. Users post instructions to their projects, usually accompanied by visual aids, and then interact through comment sections.

License plate of the week: Seen in the South Hills -- OLD GEEK.

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