On September 12th, GM's director of global digital transformation Saejin Park gave a presentation to the Association of National Advertisers in which he described how the company had secretly gathered data on the radio-listening habits of 90,000 GM owners in LA and Chicago for three months in 2017, tracking what stations they listened to and for how long, and where they were at the time; this data was covertly exfiltrated from the cars by means of their built-in wifi.
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Luc Pauwels from Belgium's VRT News took his Vauxhall (GM) Opel Astra in for service, and a mechanic there disclosed that Vauxhall had asked him to flash the firmware of any diesel Opel Zafira to remove a defeat-device that caused it to emit 500% of the legal NOx limit -- an order that came down right after the Dieselgate scandal broke. Read the rest
Auto maker General Motors today announced a recall of some 1.4 million cars in which a known oil leak problem can cause engine fires. All of the affected vehicles are over 10 years old, and the oldest were model year 1997. Read the rest
Science Now reports on a project from David Walt (Tufts) and George Whitesides (Harvard) to come up with a steganographic text-encoding scheme that uses bacteria to encode messages and selective antibiotics to reveal them. It was conceived of in response to a DARPA challenge to devise non-electrical text-encoding, but its applications include adding text-based information to GM crops that can be read in the field (or in the market) to determine what's being grown.
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The new scheme replaces the fuse with seven colonies of Escherichia coli bacteria, each given a gene for a different fluorescent protein. When, and only when, these genes are turned on do the bacteria make these proteins and light up. The colors, including yellow, green, and red, vary based on which gene is expressed. All are clearly visibly different to the naked eye. With their colorful bacterial colonies in hand, the researchers then created a code using pairs of different colored bacteria. Having seven colors gave them 49 combinations, which they used to encode the 26 different letters and 23 alphanumeric symbols such as "@" and "$." They wrote a message by simply blotting pairs of colored bacteria in rows. To "print" the message, the researchers transferred the bacteria onto a plate containing agar, a bacterial growth medium, into which they pressed a sheet of nitrocellulose "paper" that immobilizes the bacteria.
At this point, the bacteria on the nitrocellulose paper remain invisible. But the message receiver can turn on the key genes and make the colors light up by pressing the nitrocellulose paper into an agar plate containing a chemical trigger that activates expression of the fluorescent proteins.