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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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Anderson Cooper has interviewed hundreds of people, from top celebrities to heads of state to people on the street. He is fairly unflappable when it comes to chatting with a guest, which is what makes his reaction while interviewing inaugural poet Amanda Gorman all the more delightful.

Gorman stole the show at President Biden's Inauguration with a powerful performance of her original poem, "The Hill We Climb." People were blown away by both her words and her poise in delivering them, especially considering the fact that she's only 22 years old. But it's one thing to be able to write and recite well, and another to be able to impress in an off-the-cuff conversation—and Gorman proved in her interview on Anderson Cooper 360 that she can do both at a level most of us can only dream of.

In the interview, Gorman explained how she dove into research to prepare her poem to fit the occasion, and then how that work was disrupted by the attack on the Capitol.

"I'm not going to say that that completely derailed the poem, because I was not surprised at what had happened," she said. "I had seen the signs and the symptoms for a while, and I was not trying to turn a blind eye to that. But what it did is it energized me even more, to believe that much more firmly in a message of hope and unity and healing. I felt like that was the type of poem that I needed to write and it was the type of poem that the country and the world needed to hear."

After explaining how she used tweets and articles and messages about the Capitol insurrection to hone parts of her poem, she shared thoughts on reclaiming the power of words.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.