This 11-year-old wants you to know how vulnerable your electronic devices are.
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When 11-year-old Reuben Paul took the stage at the International One Conference, the audience didn't know what was in store for them.  

In front of the fascinated audience, Reuben proceeded to hack his teddy bear.

Image via AFP/YouTube.


The teddy bear Reuben hacked, which he named BOB (standing for Bear-of-Breaches), is no ordinary teddy bear: It can receive and send messages via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. By plugging a small computer called a Raspberry Pi into his laptop, Reuben was able to remotely control the bear — turning on its light and even its microphone.

"By turning on the microphone and leaving the light off, the teddy bear essentially became a spying device as I could record the conversation in the room," Reuben writes in an email.

"Theoretically I could stand outside someone's house and if the toy is in range, connect to any internet-connected devices ... and spy on them by recording everything that they are saying."

Sounds kind of terrifying, right?

Reuben doesn't regularly hack teddy bears, but he does try to spread the word about how easy it is to weaponize seemingly innocuous items.

Image via Mano Paul, used with permission.

Reuben's dad told The Guardian that Reuben's cyber skills started to show at age 6 when his dad explained how a smartphone game worked — and then Reuben realized that it used the same kind of logic as Angry Birds. He later learned how to hack a toy car.

When he was invited to speak at the conference in The Hague, Netherlands, the fifth-grader says he wanted to do something cool and unique. So with the help of his dad, Mano Paul (a cybersecurity expert), Reuben "researched the security of the teddy bear and found the insecurity."

Image via Mano Paul, used with permission.

His demonstration got quite the reception.  

"I went to Hague to share my research and experiences and did not expect any press," writes Reuben. "But when the local RTL news and Agence France-Presse reported the news and people all over the world came to hear of the dangers of insecure [internet-connected] devices, it felt good to have raised awareness."  

Reuben's goal is to get across an important message: To keep our kids safe, we need to be aware of the vulnerabilities of internet-connected devices.

Says Reuben: "In my generation, internet connected devices are making it into kids game room and my 5 year old little brother Ittai and I have a few of them. I wanted to make sure that they are safe for kids (like my brother) to use."

He notes that any internet-connected device can be weaponized if it’s "hackable" — i.e., if it doesn't have the right security defenses or they're not working properly.

He offers some tips for how to protect yourself online:

1. Read up and be more aware of security threats.  

2. Don't connect to access points that are public or that you don't know.

3. Check the privacy and location services settings on your devices (tablets, phones, etc.) and turn them off if you don't need them.

4. Don't talk. Don't take. Don't trust.

As in, don't give out personal information on social media; don't accept anything from someone you don't know ("because there is no free lunch in the real or the cyber world"); and don't trust anyone on the internet, as they are "cyber strangers."

5. Use strong passwords (and don't have a common password).

6. Connect to websites over secure channels.

7. Patch your systems with the latest security updates.

As for his plans, Reuben has a full slate this summer.

He has received inquiries from kids and their parents wanting to know more about cybersecurity, so with the help of his parents, he started CyberShaolin, a nonprofit that aims to "educate, equip, and empower kids and adults with the dangers and defenses of cybersecurity." They make videos that are understandable for kids and adults alike, and he plans to work on more during the summer.

He has also already received a number of invitations to keynote conferences around the world (including in Singapore, Poland, and Prague). And he wants to learn programming.

But don't worry — he's also got some "me time" planned. "Over summer," he writes, "I plan to play a lot of video games with my brother, read books and just relax."

Brothers Reuben and Ittai. Image via Mano Paul, used with permission.

As for his long-term goals? Reuben says he wants to use his cybersecurity knowledge and skills "for the good of humanity." His ideal job is as a businessman by day, making video games and apps, and a "cyber spy" by night, helping protect the country from cyber threats. He'd also like to become an Olympic gymnast.

He adds, practically, "I don't know if these will become realities, but for now, I am just going to take it one step at a time."

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."

In the autumn of 1939, Chiune Sugihara was sent to Lithuania to open the first Japanese consulate there. His job was to keep tabs on and gather information about Japan's ally, Germany. Meanwhile, in neighboring Poland, Nazi tanks had already begun to roll in, causing Jewish refugees to flee into the small country.

When the Soviet Union invaded Lithuania in June of 1940, scores of Jews flooded the Japanese consulate, seeking transit visas to be able to escape to a safety through Japan. Overwhelmed by the requests, Sugihara reached out to the foreign ministry in Tokyo for guidance and was told that no one without proper paperwork should be issued a visa—a limitation that would have ruled out nearly all of the refugees seeking his help.

Sugihara faced a life-changing choice. He could obey the government and leave the Jews in Lithuania to their fate, or he could disobey orders and face disgrace and the loss of his job, if not more severe punishments from his superiors.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Sugihara was fond of saying, "I may have to disobey my government, but if I don't, I would be disobeying God." Sugihara decided it was worth it to risk his livelihood and good standing with the Japanese government to give the Jews at his doorstep a fighting chance, so he started issuing Japanese transit visas to any refugee who needed one, regardless of their eligibility.

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